Sinn Féin TD, Martin Ferris, spoke in the Dáil tonight in support of his party’s motion in support of the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries.
“One of the key issues that needs to be addressed in relation to the Magdalene Laundries is the role of the state. That covers the state’s abdication of responsibility on the one hand, and its role in covering up for the mistreatment and injustice meted out to the victims.
“All aspects of the state’s role have been covered in a comprehensive report prepared for the Justice for Magdalenes Committee.
“Among the disgraceful facts that emerge from that report are that Government Departments and public companies utilised the services of the laundries. Indeed Áras an Uachtarán used one of the laundries. The report documents these transactions from as recently as 1980 and 1981.
“That in effect amounted to the state utilising the services of what were in actuality indentured servants. Indeed some might use even stronger words to describe the status of the women and girls who worked in the laundries.”
Deputy Ferris appealed to the government to vote in favour of the motion and to delay no further in giving the women the justice they deserve.
Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe brought attention to the case of Bethany Home survivors during Sinn Féin’s Private Members Motion in support of the Magdalene Women’s campaign for justice and redress.
The Tallaght based TD detailed some of the awful abuses which took place in Bethany Home on defenceless women and children. Crowe also called on the government to listen to Bethany Home Survivors Group and open an independent investigation into abuses that took place in the home.
Deputy Crowe said: “Tonight as we discuss this motion it is extremely important that we remember the survivors of another brutal Christian residential institution, who were also failed by the State.
“The women and children who survived shocking abuse in Bethany Home are also elderly, and they have fought bravely and courageously for an independent inquiry to examine what happened in this residential home.
“Between 1922 and 1949, more than 220 children died in Bethany Home and 219 were buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery. I pass their plot very regularly and cannot understand why this government will not open an inquiry into how our State failed these defenceless children.
“It also reminds me of what Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch said when she was in opposition. At the time she called on the government to “do the decent thing and end this outrage”, sentiments that were supported by her cabinet colleagues. Yet these same Deputies are in a position to do in their words, “the decent thing”, but are sitting on their hands and refusing to honour their promises to the elderly survivors of this institution.
“It is well past the time that the Justice Minister Allan Shatter and his cabinet colleagues step up to the plate and do the right thing by the women and children who faced the most appalling abuse when imprisoned in the Magdalene Laundries and Bethany Home; two of the most disgusting institutions this State has ever seen.
Commenting on the resignation of Minister of State for Primary Care Róisín Shortall, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
"The resignation of Minister of State for Primary Care Róisín Shortall is a body blow to the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition.
"It's Minister Reilly and his cuts regime who should be going, rather than a junior Minister.
"When the row between Ministers Reilly and Shortall erupted we stated that there was deep dysfunction at the helm of our Health Services. The resignation of Róisín Shortall bears this out in the most dramatic fashion.
"The charges against the Coalition in former Minister Shortall's resignation statement are very serious - especially for the Labour Party. She charges that they are not adhering to their own Programme for Government, including its underlying principles and commitment to health reform.
"How can a Minister who will not publish the criteria for selection of primary care centre locations deliver the much more extensive and widespread Health reforms - supposedly based on equity - promised by both parties in Government?
"Under Health Minister James Reilly we have seen the continuation of the harsh regime of health cuts begun by Mary Harney. Promised reforms and other commitments have not been delivered. Clearly this is a Minister who would not heed the conerns of his own junior Ministerial colleague. Still less does he heed the growing concerns of patients and healthcare workers across our Health system who warn of the damage being done by the relentless cuts.
"This Coalition has adopted a futile and anti-people economic strategy of austerity that attacks public services, most especially our health services. That is more than enough reason for every Labour Minister to resign and for every Labour Deputy to withdraw support from this Government." ENDS
Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on Minister Phil Hogan to apologise to the Traveller Community and to the family named in his letter to residents of Bonnettstown, Co Kilkenny. He made the call following Minister Hogan's admission that he lobbied Kilkenny County Council against housing a traveller family but was not able to give any justification for this action.
"It is very clear Minister Hogan was giving voice to prejudice in his actions. Through lobbying the council against a family with whom he has no argument he has given legitimacy to racist ideas.
“Travellers are one of the most marginalised groups in Ireland. They suffer with higher levels of unemployment, ill-health and lower educational attainment as well as discrimination and vilification in the media, politics and wider society. Anti-Traveller sentiment is regrettably common and the Minister, by his action, has given it legitimacy.
“He should apologise for his actions and his refusal to admit wrongdoing in numerous media engagements today. I cannot see how he can be trusted to oversee a department which deals with housing.
On 30 March the home of a Traveller family was burnt out in Kilkenny before they could move in. It was undoubtedly a racist attack. Phil Hogan should be working to counteract the hatred which caused that attack."
The quality of the provision for educational assessment, training and research at the Middletown Centre for Autism is outstanding.
That was the key finding in an inspection report on the Middletown Centre published today. As the centre delivers specialist autism support, training and research on an all-Ireland basis, the inspection was completed jointly by the Education and Training Inspectorate from the north and the Department of Education and Skills Inspectorate in the south.
The inspection examined the work undertaken by the centre to provide educational support to children, professionals and parents of children with autism.
It concluded that “The centre is meeting very effectively the needs of the young people, their peers, parents and professionals and has demonstrated its capacity for sustained improvement".
The report also highlights the “effectiveness of leadership and management in securing improvements and developing the quality of the service provision as very good” and both Inspectorates believed that the provision provided by the Centre offered “excellent value for money”.
Education Minister, John O’Dowd said: “I welcome this very positive joint inspection report that recognises the excellent work being carried out by the Middletown Centre for Autism in supporting the educational needs of children with autism through direct support, training and research.
“In particular, I would like to acknowledge the ongoing work and commitment of the staff at Middletown who have continued to deliver a high quality service that rightly receives recognition within the report. “I am confident that the expansion of services agreed by the North South Ministerial Council in June will allow the centre to build upon the work highlighted by this inspection in the years ahead.”
Only through local decision-making can the Common Agricultural Policy be tailored best to suit the circumstances of the local industry, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill MLA has said.
Speaking at a joint reception with Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine at the National Ploughing Championships in Wexford, Minister O’Neill strongly emphasised regional flexibility going forward.
Giving an assurance that as CAP negotiations intensify she would continue to promote local views on shaping the framework, the Minister said: “There is the need for an adequate budget, and for that budget to be distributed fairly. I will continue to argue for an adequate allocation both for Direct Payments and Rural Development measures.
“The move to a flat rate payment will also result in a substantial redistribution of support between farmers. A smooth and gradual transition towards a flat rate regime is absolutely essential to enable businesses to adjust to the challenges that this will bring.”
Turning to the greening proposals, the Minister said: “I am in favour of ensuring that the CAP continues to deliver environmental public goods. The issue is how we can ensure this in a pragmatic and achievable way. Farming across Ireland is predominantly grass based, with around 90% of land in permanent pasture. If this was the case across the EU, the proposals on greening would be significantly different, which illustrates the difficulties in trying to frame common EU proposals.”
The Minister also addressed the issue of the proposed definition of an active farmer which she said she had suggested an option to the Commission. She added: “I have also made positive suggestions relating to the greening proposals which would improve targeting and ease of implementation, and I would advocate changes in simplification.”
The joint DARD - DAFM reception at the National Ploughing Championships was attended by ploughing association officials from both north and south, representatives from local farming unions and rural bodies, government and agency representatives, members of the ARD committee and exhibitors on the DARD stand.
Completing a two-day visit to Ireland’s largest outdoor trade exhibition which annually attracts more than 180,000 visitors, Minister O’Neill described the event as an impressive showcase for agriculture.
She said: “This is the second time I have attended the exhibition and it underlines for me the importance of the agricultural industry to our economy, both now and in the years to come. It also serves as a reminder, if ever we needed one, that we must work hard to ensure that the viability of this industry is never undermined.”
A strong, sustainable agricultural sector will benefit every citizen on this island.
That was the message from the Sinn Féin team at the National Ploughing Championships today.
The Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, along with local Sinn Féin rep Oisin O’Connell launched the party’s plan for the revival of the Irish Sugar Beet industry in New Ross today.
Mr O' Connell, the Chairperson of County Wexford Sinn Féin and a local tillage farmer, has called for the construction of new bio-refinery plant for the production of sugar and ethanol from sugar beet and grain in New Ross.
Mr O' Connell said;
“The collapse of the Irish sugar beet industry in 2006, brought about by the loss of our national quota and the closure of our processing plants, not only adversely affected tillage farmers and others directly involved in the sector, but also had a knock on effect right across Irish society. People sometimes forget that a successful industry like sugar can have huge benefits for all of society.
“The IFA estimates that farmers and farm families spend €8 billion per year in our economy. It’s thought that 300,000 jobs are supported by the agriculture, food and related industries. For every €100 of agriculture output there is a further €73 of output to the wider economy. It's very evident that a strong agri community can lift a stagnant economy like ours and help get people back to work."
Deputy Doherty pointed to the job creation benefits of revitalising the industry:
“What we need is investment in sustainable, lucrative industries like sugar beet processing. Sinn Féin is proposing the construction of a new bio-refinery plant for the production of sugar and ethanol from sugar beet and grain at a cost of €350 million. It will create 5,000 jobs and be profitable within the first year. Why? Because to be so gainful sugar beet prices need to be above €570 a tonne. When you take that sugar beet prices currently stand at €850 per tonne for imported sugar, the revival of our domestic sugar beet industry makes total economic sense.
“There are obviously those out there who may feel different. I know many beet farmers were stung hard when Greencore sold their industry away. In order to make this industry work they will need to be certain guarantees. No one company should ever again be allowed to control 100% of the Irish quota. Beet growers and those working directly in the industry must have access to fair profits. The industry will need to be safeguarded and never again sacrificed for the personal profits of select individuals."
“In the coming weeks and months Sinn Féin will be seeking to meet with interested parties whether they be ex beet farmers, rural community groups or agri contractors, to discuss how best we can resurrect the Irish sugar beet industry. In 2015 the current EU quota scheme changes and we will have a window of opportunity to revive our domestic sugar sector.”
Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said that the core issue of respect has not been dealt with and direct dialogue is needed regarding the Ulster Covenant parade past Carrickhill and St Patrick’s Church.
His comments follow a meeting with the Carrickhill residents to discuss the Parades Commission determination.
Gerry Kelly said:
“The residents feel that the Parades Commission determination has rewarded the organisers and bands for their breaching enmasse of their previous ruling against the bands playing music on August 25th.
“The residents still want dialogue and that dialogue should happen now. This is the first of several parades to mark centenaries that will add to the over 30 Loyal Order parades that the residents face every year.
“We also have the leaders of unionism saying that those talks between the residents and the Orange Order should take place. So lets start those talks.
“While the residents are disappointed in the determination it also states: ‘However, the Commission is disappointed that there has not yet been direct contact between the parade organiser and Carrick Hill residents. The Commission expects this to be rectified in the near future’.
“The Loyal Orders need to heed this and engage with the residents in face-to-face talks.
“The residents will be holding a protest within the boundaries of the Parades Commission determination but the core issues are not resolved.
“What everyone wants is calm and for our part Sinn Féin will be there to support the residents. This issue can be resolved but for that to happen face-to-face dialogue needs to take place between the parade organisers and the local residents.”
Commenting on figures from the HSE showing the level of hospital bed closures and the number of patients who are ready to be discharged from hospital but for whom there are no residential care places or adequate care in the community, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:
“The level of both hospital bed closures and delayed discharges of patients is shrinking the capacity of our hospitals. This makes a nonsense of the ‘efficiencies’ signalled from the recent talks with consultants who are prepared to work more flexibly. If the hospital beds and staff are not there then the consultants will not be able to treat more patients.
“While the HSE gives the figure of 852 hospital beds closed, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation figure is over 2,400. When we add this to the 680 beds occupied by patients who should be discharged we see the great number of beds unavailable to cater for the many thousands on hospital waiting lists.
“This situation is made worse by the closure of hundreds of public nursing home beds and the cuts to home care packages. It all adds to the distress, especially for older people whose hospital treatment has been completed but who are left in limbo because there are inadequate services to support them when discharged from hospital.
“The unsustainability of the current coalition cuts regime is becoming more apparent every day.”
Cullinane criticises lack of action on ground rents
The government needs to live up to its pre-election commitments to abolish ground rents, says Sinn Féin’s Senator David Cullinane.
The Waterford senator was speaking during a Seanad debate yesterday evening (27 September 2012) seeking their abolition.
“Ground rents are an anomaly, however, they are far from a benign anomaly. They are a hangover from our colonial past and it is shameful that almost 100 years after the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, citizens have to pay rent to absentee English landlords.”
“In Waterford, there are citizens under pressure on account of this anomaly. There are citizens in Lismore Park, Lismore Lawn and Lismore Heights in Waterford being pursued by their landlord for this ground rent.”
“Those who are bearing the real brunt of this ground rents fiasco are private homeowners who find that their ground rent leases are about to expire and they are faced with the choice of buying out their ground rent lease - paying one eighth of the value of their home to the ground rent landlord - or renewing the lease. People are faced with demands for huge sums from their ground rent landlords and this is causing severe hardship for many people.”
“Before the last election both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste committed to bringing forward legislation to ensure the abolition of ground rent and the Labour Party previously brought forward a Private Members Bill on the matter. Following the resolution of the Shirley case, which had previously held up legislation, there is a need for action.”
Sinn Féin Councillor for Lisburn Arder Carson has stated that the withdrawal of the DUP motion calling for the Orange Order to be given the freedom of Lisburn City was the only option given the divisive nature of the move.
Speaking today Cllr Carson said:
“It is clear the DUP were left with no option but to withdraw their motion calling for the Orange Order to be given the freedom of the city.
“This from the outset was a divisive motion. How could a motion which wanted to see an anti catholic organisation, who have played no positiverole in the peace process reach the support of all those who live in and represent the Lisburn area.
“The Orange Order have it within their gift to change this, move our society forward, and dealwith the handful of contentious marches through engagement with the residents of those communities affected.
“The DUP should be encouraging such a move instead of bring motions of this nature forward to this council. I welcome the fact that they have now withdrawn it realising they could not see it passed due to lack of support.
“Had the SDLP turned up to vote in the full council meeting where the motion was first proposed the DUP might have realised this earlier.”
Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey and Laganbank Councillor Deirdre Hargey have welcomed the determination from the Parades Commission which has restricted a loyalist parade when returning from Belfast city center away from the Market and lower Ormeau areas.
Speaking after the publication of the determination, Alex Maskey said:
"I have no doubt that local residents will welcome this determination with some relief.
“From the outset there was a strong feeling that this was a mischievous application which was deliberately intended to raise tensions in the city while the main Ulster Covenant Centenary parade is taking place.
“Along with local community representatives, Sinn Féin made representations to the Parade Commission on the basis that this was a deliberate change in an initial application by an organisation which is believed to be closely aligned to loyalist paramilitaries. We were of the firm view that should this parade go ahead unrestricted it would seriously damage well established community relations.”
Councillor Hargey added:
"We would certainly now hope that Saturdays Ulster Covenant Centenary parade, which we recognise as an important event for the unionist community, can pass off without incident. The communities in inner south Belfast have led the way in many respects in developing positive working relationships and indeed have a number of projects to be completed in the time ahead."
Speaking from the Ploughing Championships in New Ross today Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty has accused the government of “deliberately delaying publishing the interdepartmental report on the third level grants issue.”
Deputy Doherty said “it is clear that the government is avoiding this issue in a week where they would have to go toe to toe with thousands of farming families here at the Ploughing Championships.
“Sinn Féin is fundamentally opposed to any proposed classification of farms as capital assets. This proposed policy is not only inherently unfair but it fails to take into account a number of factors, including how farming incomes and related assets fluctuate on a monthly basis. Put simply, it would be a very unfair way of assessing applicants and would be yet another barrier to students wishing to further their studies.
“The report of the inter-departmental committee was due to be published in September but there is still no sign of it. The question has to be asked – is the government deliberately delaying publishing this report so they do not have to face the inevitable backlash from rural Ireland? Is this to spare the blushes of government representatives visiting the Ploughing Championships who would undoubtedly be met with huge opposition from the thousands of farming families here this week?
“I am calling on the government to publish this report, debate its findings and make themselves accountable to the rural communities who elected them.”
Following last night’s statement by a number of European finance ministers that the ESM bailout fund will only deal with future banking problems, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said it is clear now that the government’s negotiation strategy with the EU on the states banking debt is in tatters.
Deputy McDonald said:
“When an agreement was reached on bank debt at the European Council summit in June the Taoiseach described it as a ‘seismic shift’. The Tánaiste described the deal as a ‘game changer’.
“The government told the Dáil and the Irish people that this deal would, through the ESM, lift the burden of bank debt from the Irish taxpayer. They told us that this deal was to be retrospective.
“Sinn Fein warned that this is not what the European Council’s statement said. We said the government was over selling the implications of the agreement for Ireland.
“Last night’s statement from the finance ministers of Germany, Holland and Finland states that the new permanent EU bailout fund, the ESM, would only be able to deal with future banking problems, and not those which occurred in the past.
“It is clear the government’s so-called negotiation strategy on the banking debt is now in tatters. It has not sought a bank debt write down despite pre-election commitments.
“Labour and Fine Gael continue to pay out unguaranteed bondholders in full. Next week another one billion euros will go to unguaranteed bondholders in AIB.
“Government’s approach has been one of smoke and mirrors. Now at the end of 18 months of bluff and hyperbole it seems we are back to square one.
“The Taoiseach needs to set out clearly once and for all what exactly is its strategy to remove the burden of bad bank debt from the shoulders of the Irish people?” ENDS
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on Minister Hogan to explain himself. He made his call following the revelations that the scandal prone Minister may have lobbied Kilkenny Co. Council to obstruct the housing of a traveller family.
The particular family were living in crowded unsuitable conditions.
A letter was sent in Minister Hogan’s name from his constituency office on his headed paper naming the family and telling residents that the Minister and a local Fine Gael councillor had worked to block the family from housing in Bonnettstown, Co. Kilkenny.
"This Minister still refuses to meet the Priory Hall residents, who have been out of their homes for almost a year. A Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government should be meeting the housing needs of people rather than obstructing them.
“Minister Hogan has some very serious questions to answer about the letter sent to residents of Bonnettstown, whether he lobbied Kilkenny County Council and if so why?”
The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA today highlighted the vital contribution social enterprises can make to business growth.
Martin McGuinness was speaking at the Bryson Charitable Group Annual Conference in Belfast. Addressing the conference the deputy First Minister said:
“Stimulating entrepreneurship remains an important challenge in our economic growth. Creating a supportive and enabling environment for social enterprises to thrive, will play an important role in regenerating communities and balancing our economy.
"Martin McGuinness continued:
“Bryson Charitable Group, and other local social enterprises, are valuable sources of services and employment for disadvantaged neighbourhoods and individuals. They play an important role in providing a supportive environment to those furthest from the labour market.
“Bryson Charitable Group, through its social business units, makes a collective effort to achieving our long term vision for the economy through embarking upon major social and economic challenges. The Group’s success demonstrates the social enterprise model can and is delivering a positive impact.“The measures put in place through the Executive’s Programme for Government and Economic Strategy will see the social economy sector go from strength to strength over the coming years.”
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has said that Minister Ruairí Quinn is wrong to press ahead with proposals to include capital assets when means testing student grants in the 2013-2014 academic year.
Speaking today Deputy O’Brien said;
“The current means testing arrangements for third-level grants is based on income only but Education Minister Ruairí Quinn seems determined to change this criteria and include ‘certain capital assets’ when assessing student applications.
“His refusal to rule out assessing farmland and business premises is a serious cause for concern, particularly amongst rural communities and small business owners.
“Including capital and productive assets for student grant applications will unfairly penalise farmers, landowners and people who are self-employed.
“It would also be a further blow to rural Ireland as it will prevent many students from farming backgrounds from availing of grants to help pay of their third level education.
“Minister Quinn is failing to take into account a number of factors, including how farming incomes and related assets fluctuate on a monthly basis. His proposals would be yet another barrier to students from lower income backgrounds from pursuing their studies in higher education.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the Minister’s Youth Guarantee flagship proposal is worthless unless properly funded.
Speaking to the Minister in the Oireachtas Committee this morning Deputy Ó Snodaigh pointed out that the European Commission has budgeted just fifty cent for every young person unemployed across the EU in a scheme the was hailed by the minister earlier in the week.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said;
“In the Minister’s presentation she makes much of the proposal for a ‘Youth Guarantee’ and describes Youth on the Move as the EU’s flagship initiative.
“But can the Minister tell us what finance has been allocated to this? A recent report from the International Labour Organisation, on the possibility of a youth jobs guarantee, put the cost of a jobs action plan in Ireland at €435 million.
“The reality is that the European Commission has allocated a budget of just €4 million to implement its Youth Guarantee.
“That’s just over 50 cent each for the 7.5 million young people across Europe that are neither in employment, education or training.
“In the absence of funding the Youth Guarantee is a scheme that's going nowhere.”
Speaking on the issue of appointments to the judiciary today, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the appointments process needs drastic reform and that public confidence in the justice system is contingent on a judiciary which is free from political control or political or other bias.
The Donegal North East TD said;
“Sinn Féin is committed to the establishment of an independent and impartial judiciary which is representative of the community it serves. The sheer number of politically affiliated judges adds to an already embedded public perception of the judiciary is an elite to whom the law of the land does not apply equally. This has been exacerbated by perceived inconsistencies and poor sentencing decisions in a range of areas including drug-related crime, domestic and sexual violence in particular.
“Judicial independence requires that the judiciary must be independent of other branches of government. They must be free of political and other bias when adjudicating. It is high time that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board should be required to publish an annual report to include information on candidates who are selected for appointment.
“We are calling for the establishment of a fair and accountable appointment and removal process for the judiciary which involves meaningful lay participation representative of the public interest.
“Sinn Féin believes that judicial independence is undermined by the current appointment process in the 26 Counties. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) was established in the wake of the controversial appointment of Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court in 1994, and was meant to have removed sole discretion for judicial appointments from Government.
“However there is still political involvement in the appointment of the judiciary, as the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board merely provides a list of seven qualified candidates to the Government who makes the appointments of judicial office holders.
“Sinn Féin believes that appointment procedures should be transparent to enhance public confidence in the process. This Fine Gael/Labour Government promised to be a reforming government and put an end to the ‘jobs for the boys’ culture, but looking at their judicial appointments so far it is clear many of their political cronies have received jobs from them.”