Developing countries have made great strides in the last year in meeting the climate challenge but the EU and US need to inject new momentum after a disappointing start to the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, said Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún.
Speaking from the UN Conference, Bairbre de Brún, MEP, said:
"If the richer countries of the world can reduce their own emissions and provide financial and other support for actions in developing countries, then developing countries have shown that they can and will bring forward new ways of working."
"Neither the EU nor the US have brought the kind of proposals needed to the Poznan conference so far. The EU climate and energy legislation has not yet passed and may not be as strong as it should be and the new US administration has not yet taken over. Both the EU and US will need to do a lot to catch up, including scaling up finance and investment flows for adapting to tackling climate change and for adapting to the change already taking place."
The rescue packages put together in response to the financial crisis show how countries can find major finance at short notice to deal with pressing needs.
"We must mobilise on the same scale if we are successfully to stop catastrophic climate change from occurring. It is no longer a question of whether we can but of whether it is a big enough priority for us," continued Bairbre de Brún.
"Two messages must come out of the UN climate talks in Poznan this week. Firstly, that fighting climate change, promoting sustainable development and stimulating the global economy can and must go hand in hand. Secondly, that the debate is no longer about whether the world can find finance rapidly to tackle climate change but how to raise it, how to manage it and how to spend it.
"We heard in Poznan this week of many exciting and innovative actions in China, Brazil, Indonesia and other developing and emerging economies. If we want to increase the scale of these actions, we need to be prepared to support them through cooperation, technology transfer, finance and capacity building. We in Europe have recently provided significant incentives for our industries to move towards green technologies and Barak Obama has promised to do the same when he takes over as US President. We need to learn the lesson that industry in developing countries needs similar incentives, but that it is up to the richer countries to help." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald this afternoon launched a multimedia exhibition highlighting the issue of homelessness and the housing crisis in Ireland’s capital city.
The exhibition entitled ‘No Fixed Abode’ features the work of 26 year old Fran Veale, from Dublin, who has been a documentary photographer since 2001. His work and features have been published in The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Irish Daily Mail, Sunday Business Post, Irish Examiner, Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. The exhibition also features the work of photographer and Community filmmaker Brendan Dowling.
Speaking ahead of the event the Ms McDonald said:
“Perhaps one of the hardest facts on homelessness for me to accept as an MEP for Dublin is that 955 children in our capital city are facing into Christmas without a home, and half of them are living alone in state care. In total there are at least 2,500 homeless people across the city of Dublin. For most of spending Christmas at home with our families is a given.
“It is time for this to change.
“Earlier this year myself and four other MEPs secured majority support for Written Declaration 111 to end street homelessness throughout the EU by 2015. The Declaration is now policy of the EU Parliament enabling us to actively pressure the European institutions and member states to deliver on the 2015 commitment.
“The Irish government’s homeless strategy ‘The Way Home’ and its imminent implementation plan must also put a renewed impetus on meeting its objective of ending long term homeless by 2010.
“But such solutions must be set against the lack of progress by central government in adequately funding social housing provision, and the acknowledgement that homelessness if the most acute form of housing need.
“To date the Irish government has a poor record of meeting social housing needs in general and homeless housing, failing to meet social and affordable housing targets by as much as 40% in recent years. But this can change. A conclusive and rights based approach by government would simply be to enshrine into law a legal right to housing for those in need.
“Dublin City Council’s (DCC) record of housing homeless people is an example, to both central government and Dublin’s three suburban local authorities, of what can be achieved when you set your mind to it. It has ensured that 24% of its housing allocation has been made to homeless people each year over the last three years. The hard work and dedication of DCC front line staff and voluntary service providers is to be applauded.
“Ending long term homelessness in Ireland by 2010 can be achieved. A political commitment to a programme of delivery can provide a home for the 955 children of this great city who tonight have no home of their own.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on all TDs and Senators to sign a national petition which was launched today to grant ethnic status to travellers. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Government to mark Traveller Focus Week by reversing its policy of non recognition of travellers as a distinct ethnic group.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Government's current policy limits the protections available to Travellers under national, European and International law.
He said, "A national petition to grant ethnic status to Travellers was launched today on World Human Rights Day, by the Irish Traveller Movement (ITM). I would urge all Oireachtas members to sign this petition.
"The government should mark this year's Traveller Focus Week by reversing its policy of refusal to recognise the Traveller community as a distinct ethnic group because travellers continue to experience significant discrimination.
"The refusal to officially recognise their ethnicity limits the protections available to travellers under national, European and International law and denies Travellers protection for their cultural rights and access to basic services.
"This is evidenced, for example, by the failures of local authorities to provide transient accommodation and the disproportionately poor health outcomes amongst the community." ENDS
Commenting on the UNICEF Report published today which finds that the 26 Counties come last in a league table of the 25 OECD countries in terms of provision of early childhood education and care, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said it is "a direct result of Irish Government neglect".
He said, "UNICEF has found that this State is bottom of the league table of 25 OECD countries in terms of the provision of early education and care for our children. This is a direct result of Government neglect over the past decade. I have no doubt that this will be seen as one of the greatest failures of policy by Fianna Fáil-led governments during the 'Celtic Tiger' years when they refused to put in place high standard care and early education accessible to all children.
"This week parents, children and childcare workers demonstrated in Dublin and Cork in protest at the Government's Community Childcare Subvention Scheme.
"The ill-conceived scheme is creating divisions between children from families who receive social welfare payments and those who do not. It is a totally inadequate way to fund community childcare and as a result many crèches are closing. Creches have been burdened with bureaucracy to administer the scheme. The Government has also completely failed to address the disgracefully low pay of childcare workers in the community sector.
"The UNICEF Report is a wake-up call that should prompt people to renew campaigning for high standard early childhood care and education as a right." ENDS
Speaking from Brussels where EU leaders are attending the December Council meeting Sinn Féin Lisbon Campaign Director and EU candidate for the North West Cllr. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has described the proposed deal that Brian Cowen is to agree the basis on which to re-run the failed Lisbon Treaty in Ireland as a "sham that not only fails to address the reasons why the people rejected the Treaty but it's a package of proposals that deliberately seeks to sell the Irish people a pup."
Speaking from Brussels Mr. Mac Lochlainn said:
"Whilst the Irish people have yet to be informed what the terms of Brian Cowen's negotiations with his EU peers are, one thing is very clear. The Taoiseach has no intention of addressing the Irish electorates concerns on key issues in the treaty such as workers rights, public services, democracy, the loss of key vetoes, tax sovereignty and neutrality.
"Not only has the Taoiseach refused to ask EU member state leaders to re-negotiate the Treaty at any stage over the last 6 months, he has actively encouraged them to proceed with ratifying Lisbon. At no point did he even consider the option of using the mandate given to his government by the people for the good of the country. He has done the very opposite by endeavouring to create a sense of Irish isolation in Europe so as to force the Irish peoples hand. This tactic has not worked to date and will not work into the future. The Irish people like the French and Dutch before them have legitimate concerns that must be addressed.
"Elements of the package to be agreed have been outlined in today's media. Whilst we have yet to see the deal we do have a sense of its main components. Not content with ignoring the Irish electorates mandate the government in now intent on selling them a pup.
"Claims that Ireland cannot keep its permanent Commissioner under existing Nice rules are simply untrue. The fact is that the EU Commission can retain its current make-up of a Commissioner per member state under the existing rules. Under the Nice Treaty the EU agreed to reduce the number of Commissioners when the number of member states reached 27. However the detail of this was left to the Council to decide. Nice did not specify how many Commissioners there would be or how they would be rotated. These decisions were left to the Council acting unanimously. Therefore under the present rules, the Council can decide to leave the Commission at its current size. Ireland can veto any efforts to reduce the number of Commissioners. I
"Declarations are not worth the paper they are written on as they are not legally binding. Unless 'protocols' are secured and ratified by all members states the agreement reached is worthless. There is no 'third way' between declarations and protocols as has been suggested this morning. Any suggestion of a third way is a convoluted attempt by government and the Yes campaign to justify re-running the very same treaty that the people rejected in June.
"Securing an opt-out or protocol in the area of security and defence may be welcomed but it will not be sufficient to address the concerns voiced by hundreds of thousands of workers, farmers, small businesses, the development sector, women and young people on their unease with the direction Europe is taking. And the issue of the Future of Europe is a critically important one.
"It is my form view that Brian Cowen is underestimating the deep anger out there at the arrogance of his government and their mishandling of the current economic crisis. The Irish people voted for a better deal and they rightfully expected the country leader to make that better deal happen. Not only has he failed to get a better deal for the people he has failed to even initiate negotiations.
"Almost one million people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. There is no doubt that those who voted against the treaty and whose interests and concerns have been ignored will make their views known in next year's European elections." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke has learned that another Public/Private Partnership housing scheme has collapsed in the Capital. Councillor Burke learned this afternoon that the private developer associated with the proposed redevelopment of Croke Villas in Ballybough has pulled out of the scheme. The Dublin City Councillor described the news as a "devastating blow" to the over one hundred families affected.
Cllr. Burke said, "I learned this evening that the developer associated with the redevelopment of Croke Villas has abandoned the scheme. This has left over one hundred families high and dry. It is a devastating blow -- especially coming as it does on top of Christmas. In effect the residents of Croke Villas have been led up the garden path for the last two years by the Council and this private developer. It's a disgrace.
"It shows the folly of such schemes and I believe a serious rethink is needed in relation to all other such schemes. It is clear that public/private partnership just does not work. This is the fourth such scheme to be abandoned in the recent past and along with it the hopes of the long suffering residents of these areas.
"I am calling for the Council to immediately include the Croke Villas scheme under the terms of reference of the task force set up to deal with the other collapsed schemes. It is crucial that the Minister for the Environment and Government step in and shore up the yawning gap that now exists in terms of funding." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called on the Dáil to decline a second hearing for the Health Bill 2008. Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Bill seeks to implement one of the most callous, ill-considered and bungled decisions ever made by a Government in this State.
He said, "Sinn Féin is totally opposed to this Bill. It seeks to implement one of the most callous, ill-considered and bungled decisions ever made by a Government in this State.
"With great fanfare a Fianna Fáil-led government provided automatic entitlement to the medical card for everyone over 70 and they never ceased to boast of the benefits they had provided to older people, of which this was the centre-piece. Then in a rushed Budget they revealed again the fundamentally flawed approach that underpins so much of their policy. That approach sees vital public services not as rights but as benefits or favours which can be given and taken away at will.
"Still on the issue of costs and savings, in the Seanad on 29 October the Minister stated that there were 10,000 more recipients of over-70s medical cards than there were over-70s in the State. "That is probably because people have passed away who are still factored into the equation," she said. What a damning indictment of the Minister, her Department and the HSE that for all their bureaucracy they have been unable to ensure that GPs were not being paid medical card fees for thousands of deceased patients.
"The Bill is a most retrograde step. It flagrantly breaks the commitment made in the Fianna Fáil/Green/PD Programme for Government which actually promises to extend the medical card.
"The partial climb-down by the Government does not go far enough. Universal medical card entitlement for the over 70s should be fully restored. I commend senior citizens for making their voices heard so loudly and so clearly. They rocked this Government and led to the partial climb-down which, I stress again, does not restore the right that has been taken away.
"We in Sinn Féin approach this issue from a point of principle and on the basis of healthcare as a right. We say that access to health services should be based on medical need and medical need alone. We want to see this State moving towards a universal public health system where all citizens would be entitled to healthcare services free at the point of delivery. This Bill moves in the opposite direction.
"We want to see a universal system funded from fair and progressive taxation because we believe that when people are working they pay their taxes so decent public services can be provided for them and for their families. They pay taxes to ensure that they are provided for in old age and that all children, and all those who are unable to work or are out of work, are properly looked after.
"We are constantly challenged when we call for better health services and wider entitlement. 'Who will pay for this?' The question should be 'Who paid for this?' and the answer is 'The pensioners of Ireland. They paid for a decent health service in taxes during their working lives.'
"If the Government is looking for savings then instead of taking away medical cards let them take away tax breaks from the developers of private hospitals. That tax break cost €10.6 million in 2006 and that saving alone would have funded 6,000 extra medical cards. We don't yet know the figures for 2007 and 2008.
"Finance Minister Lenihan said his Budget was a 'call to patriotic action'. Minister Lenihan and Minister Harney should recall the patriotism of our senior citizens who worked all their lives, who paid taxes at much higher rates than people paid during the Celtic Tiger years, who made sacrifices so that their children and their grandchildren could enjoy a better Ireland. And their reward is this regressive and unpatriotic Bill. We reject it and we urge every Deputy with a conscience in this Dáil to reject it also." ENDS
Commenting on today's figures from the Central Statistics Office on broadband connection, Senator Pearse Doherty has said that the latest CSO data only serves to highlight the continued failure of the Government broadband strategy.
Senator Doherty said, "The CSO figures shows that despite hundreds of millions of euro being spent on broadband, Government has failed to connect a huge number of Irish people and businesses. The latest attempt to provide broadband through the national broadband strategy is equally as flawed as every other Government project to date.
"In my report called 'Awakening the West: Social and economic Inequality' I made a number of recommendations to ensure that not only were all areas that remained unconnected included in the national broadband strategy but that broadband speed and application is enhanced.
"The National Broadband Strategy must be reviewed to include all those areas that have been identified as black spots by local authorities despite providers claiming that they are connected.
"Broadband speeds must be brought to at least 2megabits per second with a view to increasing this to a minimum of 5megabits per second by 2011.
"The report also recommends that the state provides financial support to pilot next generation broadband schemes in at least three towns in each of the ten western seaboard counties in which broadband infrastructure allows." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has stated that the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should refocus efforts to deliver these rights to the people of Ireland and those who come to our shores.
Speaking today on Human Rights Day Mr Maskey said:
"The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlight that this is a document that is as relevant today as it was sixty years ago.
"This was a document designed to provide and enshrine a framework for the protection of human rights across the globe including the right of life, free conscience, legal redress and equality. The document has given direction to many governments, political parties, NGO's and others across the world.
"However on the 60th Anniversary of this document we don't have to look to far to see that fundamental human rights are being abused in Ireland. Only this week the revelation of abuse of Filipino fishermen, alongside the breaking up of a human trafficking ring operation across Ireland or asylum seekers and immigrants being held in prison facilities are all serious breaches of rights enshrined in the Declaration.
"We all must refocus our efforts to live up to and provide protection for people under these rights. A rights based approach needs adopted in both public and private spheres to protect the most vulnerable in our society. It would provide protections for groups that have been most marginalised. The rights of the disabled, elderly, children, women, ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged, among others, must be safeguarded if we are to deliver an Ireland of Equals."
The Finance and Personel Committee Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has explained today that explained the Committee for Finance and Personnel is calling for an urgent rethink on senior civil service pay. That is the message following an investigation into the award of over £1m in bonuses which over 75% of senior officials received.
The Committee Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA explained, "The Committee has scrutinised the bonus scheme for senior civil servants and has looked at their underperformance in a range of areas, including managing finances, projects and sick absence.
"We believe that, while any pay strategy should include a system of performance incentives and rewards, it also must be robust, transparent and 'fit for purpose'.
"Moreover, the Committee was alarmed to note that senior civil servants here earn over 22% more than their private sector equivalents. This represents a considerable pay premium compared to other regions.
"By contrast, the junior grades in the Civil Service, who comprise around three quarters of the total and whose pay is negotiated locally, are paid on a par with those in equivalent private sector positions.
The Committee is recommending to the Minister of Finance and Personnel that there should be an independent review of the existing pay system for senior officials to assess whether it is 'fit for purpose'.
Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has expressed concern at a significant increase in the number of people presenting at hospital with the potentially fatal desease botulism this year. A response from the Minister for Health to a Dáil question from Deputy Ó Snodaigh has shown that since January 2004 only six cases of botulism have presented at hospitals in the state however five of them have been post January this year. Four of these cases were among injecting drug users.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh called on the Minister to launch an investigation into the cause of this cluster of cases including the possibility that a bad batch or highly purity batch of heroin is the cause.
He said, "Botulism is a potentially fatal disease caused by a botulinum toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Since January 2004 just six cases of botulism have presented in hospitals in this state. Five of those cases presented this year and four of them were injecting drug users with presumed cases of what's called wound botulism.
"Published medical studies point to a number of possible causes, better described as risk factors, contributing to cases of wound botulism. It can be caused by contaminated batchs of heroin or higher purity heroin because more acidulant (e.g. citric acid) must be used to make it soluble which increases the likelihood of skin wounds, or skin popping or muscle popping which also increase the likelihood of wounds.
"The Minister must launch an investigation into the cause of this cluster of botulism cases including the possibility that a certain batch of heroin is the contributing factor. If this is found to be the case then a publicity campaign must be embarked upon in order to warn drug users that there is a potentially fatal batch of heroin on the streets and every effort must be made to take this batch off the streets.
"If this batch of botulism is found to be caused by bad practice on the part of drug users then the Minister needs to initiate a targeted public health information campaign for drug addicts around safer injecting habits.
"Health workers must also be made aware of the likely presentation of botulism at hospitals and of the precautions that must be taken when dealing with these cases." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA for Newry and Armagh and party spokesperson on welfare issues, Mickey Brady, has slammed the current proposals that the British Government are attempting to bring forward with regards to benefit changes.
Speaking today Mr Brady said:
"These proposals that the British Government are attempting to bring forward surrounding benefit changes are definitely not a 'fair deal'. It will penalise the most vulnerable in society and make them jump through excessive hoops to receive what they should be entitled to. Targeting mothers with young children is particularity unacceptable and attacks the fabric of the family.
"The British government needs to explain in the current economic downturn where the extra jobs are coming from that they are attempting to force people into or what safeguards they are putting in place so that those who cannot find a job do not lose money.
"That the British Minister James Purnell stated that "virtually everyone has to do something in return for their benefits" is preposterous. Benefits are a safety net for those who have fallen into hardship or to protect families, not something to be earned.
"The simple fact is that jobs seekers allowance is little over £55 per week and income support amounts to not much more. How can these be reduced when the British government state that these are subsistence level payments? To face a reduction in these amounts will lead to further poverty.
"I also find it hard to believe that those who receive it would not like to avail of opportunities to work however the right conditions need to be in place before this can occur.
"What the British government should be investing in is making flexible working arrangements for families with children available and building these into everyday working practices, investing in skills and training programmes for those who have lost jobs due to the economic crisis and providing a much wider range of child care at much more affordable prices. These measures need to be enacted before any of the current proposals are even considered."
Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has said that tackling educational underachievement is a key priority for the North South Ministerial Council.
The minister was speaking after the education sectoral meeting of the NSMC held in Dublin. She said; "The North South Ministerial Council has important joint work to do across a number of key issues in education. Tackling underachievement in education is a key priority for me and the council. We need to have mechanisms in place to promote equality and ensure every child and young person, from whatever background, has access to education of the highest standard.
"The NSMC meeting agreed the initial work programme for the recently established joint Educational Underachievement Working Group. The group will have an early focus on interventions to support parents and families help their children with education; identification of best practice in schools serving disadvantaged communities and carry out joint work to explore the particular challenges facing children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. These will include Traveller and newcomer children, children with learning or other disabilities and children suffering social impacts, such as alcohol, drugs and violence against women and children, all of which affect their ability to do well at school.
"I am pleased that my department and the Department of Education and Science will jointly host a conference next year on Best Practice in Traveller Education to highlight the particular needs of this group."
The North South Ministerial Council meeting was hosted by Batt O'Keeffe Minister for Education and Science and attended by Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Junior Minister in the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister.
During the meeting ministers were given updates on the work of the Middletown Centre for Autism, including plans for new buildings.
Foyle Sinn Féin, MLA, Martina Anderson, has welcomed the next stage of the Bill of Rights process as the Human Rights Commission finally made its recommendations on what the new legislation should contain. The HRC advice was handed over to the British secretary of state, on International Human Rights Day (10th December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.)
Martina Anderson said,
"Sinn Féin will take time to fully assess the Commissioners Report before giving any detailed comment, but I nevertheless welcome today's development as another key step in realizing one of the outstanding commitments in the Good Friday Agreement."
The St Andrews Review agreed on the best way forward to enact legislation that would ensure that the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups are protected in law. The resulting Forum agreed a report, on which the HRC has used to provide advice to the NIO.
Ms Anderson continued,
"It is disappointing and unfortunate that two of the 10 Human Rights Commissioners formally dissented, without giving reason, from the report which was handed over today (Wednesday) to the British Secretary of State.
"And to those members of the DUP and UUP who continue to oppose a Bill of Rights, I would ask them to explain to their electorate, why they reject key rights for the people that they represent."
"For instance, the DUP and UUP opposed the right to a decent standard of living, including adequate food, water, fuel and clothing."
"Both parties also rejected the right to the highest possible standard of health and social care."
"They opposed the right to a decent home that is safe and affordable."
"They also oppose the inclusion in a Bill of Rights, the right to work and to enjoy a fair wage and proper conditions."
"They have rejected the right to a sustainable, healthy and safe environment or the right to adequate social security and pension."
"However, I hope that, particularly in the current economic climate, they will now begin to realize that a strong Bill of Rights would provide a powerful tool to make a huge difference to the lives of all our people."
"If implemented, a Bill of Rights would compel government to take whatever possible steps it can in order to address the economic and social problems which face our people."
"This isn't about Republican rights, nationalist rights, unionist or loyalist rights - it is about rights for ALL."
The Foyle MLA added,
"A Bill of Rights would compel future governments to legislate and provide whatever resources it can to comply with the contents of a Bill of Rights.
If they failed to do so, they would have to explain why and demonstrate when they are going to take appropriate action.
So what does the DUP and UUP fear in that?
Don't they want their people to have equality?
Don't they want their people to have prosperity?
Don't they want their people to have a Better Future?
These are questions which unionist politicians must answer. Sinn Féin is fully committed to continue to champion the rights of All."
"The Bill of Rights is a fundamental part of the Good Friday Agreement and I believe it represents an incredible opportunity to make a real and positive difference to the lives of all our people. I welcome the handover of the Human Rights Commission advice, as the next stage in this long process."
"The onus is now on the British Government to legislate on the Human Rights Commission's advice and not to allow yesterday's men and women to prevent us securing a shared and better future, for all of our people." ENDS
Pressure was stepped up today on Defra Minister Mr Hilary Benn MP to be pro-active with the European Commission by requesting the re-introduction of export refunds for dairy products.
With concern heightening over low milk prices the Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, and the Finance Minister, Nigel Dodds, went to London to put their case directly to Mr Benn at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Their move follows correspondence with both Minister Benn and the Prime Minister.
Minister Gildernew said:
"We all recognise that the price which dairy farmers are now receiving for their milk is not sustainable and that action is needed urgently to help them in these difficult times. Otherwise many of them may go out of business. In recognition of this serious financial situation we are calling for more imaginative and creative action, similar to that provided for the wider economy, to address the crisis in the dairy sector."
Minister Gildernew also met a delegation from Dairy UK in Belfast this morning.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen to use every urgency in bringing forward the establishment of the All-Ireland Consultative Forum agreed as part of the Good Friday Agreement and endorsed by the popular vote of the people. Deputy Ó Caoláin said there is great concern that this integral part of the agreement has not yet been progressed in any real and substantive way.
He said, "We all welcome the recent progress in the agreement reached between Sinn Féin and the DUP. One hopes this will bring about the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast, and that other outstanding matters will be addressed appropriately and soon.
"We all want to see the Executive and the All-Ireland Ministerial Council functioning in full. Would the Taoiseach accept that responsibility for an all-Ireland consultative forum does not lie only with the Executive and the Assembly? Does he accept that this forum is one of a number of key outstanding and long overdue elements of the Good Friday Agreement, which is now over ten years in being? There is great concern that this integral part of the Agreement, as endorsed by the popular vote of the people, has not yet been progressed in any real and substantive way.
"Will the Taoiseach accept too that there has been minimal movement towards the introduction of a charter of rights, and that this is also an issue that requires greater urgency and pro-active address?
"There must be engagement and a realisation of the benefits for all. Will the Taoiseach confirm that every urgency will be employed in bringing forward, and to fruition, the establishment of the civic forum?" ENDS
Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has today charged Environment Minister John Gormley of doctoring housing figures released by his department in an effort to hide the depth of the country's housing crisis. The Deputy was responding to figures released under the Department's three-yearly 'real needs' estimated housing statistics.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"Figures released by the Department show that numbers on the housing list have increased by 30% since 2005 and have doubled over the last decade. These are shocking facts that illustrate clearly the failure of successive Fianna Fáil led governments to use the last decade's wealth for the benefit of working families and the vulnerable in Irish society.
"However what adds salt to the wounds of these figures is the fact that the numbers of families on the housing list actually exceeds the figure of 59,000 as stated by Minister Gormley.
"Dublin City Council's figure for those in need of social housing is 11,000 yet the figure given in the Department of the Environments report shows a figure of 4,500. The reason for this is that the Department of Environment instructed Dublin City Council to remove a number of household types from the department figures.
"Those living in local authority housing experiencing over crowding or material unsuitability were removed from the Departments housing list figures as were households living in private rental accommodation. In some instances the housing of these households is adequate for their needs however for others their current accommodation is totally unsuitable for their needs.
"It is unacceptable that Minister Gormley has sought to deliberately hide the extent of the Ireland's housing crisis from the members of the Oireachtas and the general public. It is also shocking that by removing such categories from Departments figures the government is essentially acknowledging that these peoples needs simply do not matter. It is a short term approach that only serves to light sugar coat a very bitter pill.
"This government has an appalling record of meeting social housing needs. It has failed to meet its own social and affordable housing targets by as much as 40% in recent years. Ireland needs a conclusive and rights based approach by government which could be simply achieved by enshrining into law a legal right to housing for those in need." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún (Ireland) and GUE/NGL colleague Roberto Musacchio (Italy) have been participating in discussions at the UN climate change conference in Poznan since the beginning of this week with representatives from NGOs, political movements, the European Commission and the United Nations.
To date, these discussions have focused largely on the final stages of negotiations on the new package of EU legislation on climate change currently taking place between the Commission, Council and Parliament in Brussels. These talks will have a huge impact on negotiations between now and the decisions taken in Copenhagen in December 2009, and discussions in Poznan greatly reflect this.
During a first briefing with MEPs this morning, EU Commissioner Dimas provided updates on the current state of play on the climate package before talking about the negotiations in Poznan. The results achieved in Copenhagen next year are likely to be determined by decisions taken this week in Brussels, he said.
Bairbre de Brún warned against the dangers of the EU going back on commitments made in Bali under the pretext of the current economic crisis and job losses.
"The financial crisis should be an incentive to develop renewables, improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. More action could mean a new industrial revolution creating more employment. The EU must go with this new thinking and provide leadership here in Poznan as it has done in the past." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has welcomed the fact that electricity is be produced from a former landfill site on the North Foreshore in North Belfast. The plan to develop a network of pipes to gather methane from the site to produce electricity will see a reduction in methane entering the atmsophere alongside a positive usage for this waste.
"Given the current high price of electricity and its dependency on the price of world oil and energy prices this is a welcome initiative, producing electricity from what we all would consider waste.
"There has been a debate about the use of the North Foreshore site and the landfill that is situated there has raised a fair amount of controversy over the years. This development now sees a positive, green contribution come from the former landfill which will benefit people locally.
"It is a cleaner and greener way to produce electricity and will benefit Belfast as gases that would have previously entered the atmosphere in the Belfast Area are now been harnessed for a beneficial use.
"In terms of energy production we must be examining new and innovative ways to produce the electricity that we need in sustainable and environmentally friendly manner."
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald this morning challenged the Taoiseach in advance of this weeks EU Council meeting during which it is expected that he will announce his intention to re-run the Lisbon Treaty. Ms McDonald has accused the Taoiseach of sitting on his hands for the last six months adding “Brian Cowen has at no stage taken the helm on the issue of Lisbon.”
Speaking from Leinster House the Dublin MEP said:
“This week Brian Cowen will confirm what we have known all along. That he has no intention of addressing the Irish electorates concerns on key issues in the treaty such as workers rights, public services, democracy, the loss of key vetoes, tax sovereignty and neutrality. And it is also clear that he will be supported in this by the Green Party, the Labour Party and Fine Gael.
“At no point during the last six months did the Taoiseach ask any EU leader to re-negotiate the Treaty, nor did the Taoiseach even consider the option of using the mandate given to his government by the people for the good of the country.
“Meaningless declarations or ‘legally binding assurances’ are not worth the paper they are written on. It is ridiculous for Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin to state that the government will be seeking ‘legally binding assurances’. There is no such thing. Unless protocols are secured and ratified by all members states the agreement reached is worthless.
“Securing a permanent Commissioner or an opt-out in the area of security and defence as has been suggested will not be sufficient to address the concerns voices by hundreds of thousands of workers, farmers, small businesses, the development sector, women and young people on their unease with the direction Europe is taking.
“Today’s hand-wringing by Fine Gael and the Labour Party on the government’s ineptness in handling Lisbon is opportunistic and fundamentally dishonest. Both parties campaigned alongside the government for a yes vote in advance of the referendum and both have also played a key part in Brian Cowen’s choreography to prepare the country a re-run of Lisbon. And no doubt both will campaign again with the government when it puts Lisbon to the people for a second time.
“There is deep anger out there at the arrogance of this government and their mishandling of the current economic crisis. This will be worsened if the government pursue such a high handed, undemocratic course. The Irish people voted for a better deal. Such a deal could have been delivered by this government.
“Almost one million people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. I have no doubt that those who voted against the treaty and whose interests and concerns have been ignored will make their views known in next year’s European elections.” ENDS