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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has refuted the claim by Labour Party Chief Whip Emmet Stagg that Sinn Féin is incorrect in its interpretation of the provisions in the Constitution which would allow for a referendum on the NAMA Bill. Deputy Morgan said that the Labour Party should be supporting a referendum on NAMA and that the public would be puzzled that the Labour Party preferred to take "pot-shots" at Sinn Féin rather than concentrate their fire on NAMA and the Fianna Fáil/Green Government.

Deputy Morgan said:

"Labour Party Chief Whip Emmet Stagg is wrong when he claims that Sinn Féin has misinterpreted Article 27 of the Constitution which provides a mechanism for a referendum on NAMA. In his statement Deputy Stagg cites Article 23 which is concerned with the time for the consideration of Bills in the Oireachtas. He then refers to Article 32 which has nothing to do with this issue at all, although this may be a proof-reading error on the Deputy's part, an error that hardly qualifies him to accuse Sinn Féin of 'skimming' the Constitution.

"Let us be very clear. Sinn Féin wants the NAMA Bill rejected in the Dáil and in the Seanad and we are doing all in our power to mobilise against it inside and outside the Oireachtas. Our appeal to TDs and Senators was to indicate their support for a Petition to the President under Article 27 in the event that that becomes necessary. Obviously if the Bill is rejected there would be no need for such a move and that is what we want to achieve first and foremost.

"The Labour Party should be supporting a referendum and many people will be amazed that, rather than concentrate their fire on NAMA and the Fianna Fáil/Green Government, Labour prefers to take pot-shots at a Sinn Féin proposal advanced in a genuine effort to put further political pressure on this discredited Government." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has accused the Department of Foreign Affairs of a “massive abuse of tax payers' money” and called on Mícheál Martin to publicly explain “why €564,922.00 of tax payers' money is being used to promote a Yes vote in the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum.”

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“In response to a Parliamentary Question this week Minister Mícheál Martin revealed that €564,922.00 of taxpayers' money has been awarded to Language Communications Ltd for the purposes of running ‘a public information campaign to inform and promote awareness of the European Union and Ireland’s membership of the European Union.’

“This is a thinly-veiled attempt by the Minister and his Department to mis-spend taxpayers' money in an attempt to secure a Yes vote in the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum.

“The government and opposition both have a responsibility to ensure that the public are informed on the politics and policies of the European Union. However, that the Minister has allowed such a large sum of public money to be used in this manner in the run up to the October 2nd referendum is nothing short of an abuse of his Department's funds.

“Language Communications Ltd is using this money to host ‘public information’ meetings and to publish ‘public information’ leaflets promoting the impact of EU policy county by county.

“At the public meetings speakers are advocating support for the Lisbon Treaty and the information contained is both biased and one sided.

“At a time when funding for front line public services is being cut, this abuse of tax payers’ money is yet another example of the government's cavalier disregard for probity in the use of public funds. The Minister must explain his position.’ ENDS


Note to editors: the PQ and Ministerial Reply on which this statement is based is contained below.

Question No. 792

Parliamentary Question - Dept Details

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details and costs of a tender recently awarded to a public relations company to provide information about the workings of the European Union in advance of the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

* For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 16th September, 2009.

Ref No: 31623/09

REPLY

A request for tenders was published on 17 April for the provision of project management and consultancy services to advise and assist the Department of Foreign Affairs in the planning and execution of a public information campaign to inform and promote awareness of the European Union and Ireland’s membership of the European Union.

Deepening public understanding of the EU and maximising public awareness of Ireland’s role in the Union is an ongoing strategic priority for my Department.

The deadline for submission of tenders was 11 May 2009. Fourteen tenders were received and detailed consideration was given to these tenders in accordance with the normal public procurement rules and with a view to ensuring value for money.

It was decided on 22 May to award the contract to Language Communications Ltd. The contract value was €564,922.00, inclusive of VAT. The bulk of that amount was allocated to cover the cost of advertising in a range of local and national media. The contract was signed on 19 June 2009.

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Sinn Féin representative for east Belfast, Niall Ó Donnghaile has criticised the Housing Executive for showing clear inequality to Irish language speakers throughout the north.

Mr Ó Donnghaile’s comments come after he was contacted by a constituent and Housing Executive tenant after they received a leaflet from HE called ‘Housing Executive – Improving communication for all’.

Speaking today Mr Ó Donnghaile said;

“I am more than delighted to see the Housing Executive attempting to improve communication and information sharing with their tenants, I commend them for that. However I do note that several languages are contained in the ‘Improving communication’ document with the exception of Irish.

On further investigation I also discovered that the Housing Executive’s website is available in numerous languages, and rightly so, but not available in Irish.

Given the ever-growing amount of Irish speakers throughout the north and indeed the legal protection guaranteed to Irish and Irish speakers under current equality legislation, the European Charter and the Good Friday Agreement I find it amazing that while on one hand the HE are attempting to improve communication, they are overlooking 10% of the population who speak Gaeilge.

I will be writing to both the Housing Minister Margaret Ritchie and the Chief Executive of the Housing Executive Paddy McIntyre, urging them to rectify this problem as soon as possible and thereby allowing them to further improve communication with the Irish speaking population across the Six Counties.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking at a Lisbon Treaty debate hosted by the National Women's council Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald said that women would be disproportionately affected by the downward pressure on wages that will result from the ratification of Lisbon.

McDonald said:

“Forty per cent of people who rejected the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 did so because of concerns over workers’ rights. Low paid workers are rightly concerned about the downward pressure on their wages. They are concerned with the anti-worker direction of both the European Commission and the European Court of Justice.

“The fact is that a large proportion of low paid workers are women and they will, without question, be disproportionately affected by the downward pressure on wages that would result from the ratification of Lisbon Treaty.

“The Lisbon Treaty, particularly through the Protocol on the Internal Market and Competition gives further strength to the Commission and Court in their drive to force down wages and conditions.

“Under the guise of making the EU the most competitive economy in the world they are pursuing a race to the bottom agenda in workers terms and conditions that is bad for individual employees and the economy overall.

“The government failed to act on the mandate which they were given to ensure workers rights were protected in the Lisbon Treaty. They failed to demand the inclusion of a social progress clause as was proposed by the trade unions.

“Women voters need to look at the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for themselves and their families. No one should feel forced by scare tactics or bribes, such as the claim by Fine Gael that they will legislate for the right to collective bargaining in exchange for a yes vote, to support a Treaty which fails on such a fundamental issue as workers’ rights.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has once again called for more support for the struggling dairy sector.

Today in Strasbourg MEPs adopted a resolution calling for more concrete action from the European Commission to help ease the burden on dairy farmers. Speaking from the parliament Ms de Brún said:

"The crux of the matter remains the huge discrepancy between what consumers are paying for dairy products and what the farmer is receiving for his produce. The longer this situation is allowed continue the deeper the problems in our dairy industry will grow."

"I have already raised this issue directly with the European Commission myself and now welcome the fact that the majority of MEPs are sending the Commission the same message." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today voted for a resolution condemning the recent anti-gay law set to come into force in Lithuania in 2010.

The controversial law, which is the same as Margaret Thatcher's now disowned Section 28, is called 'The Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information' and bans what it refers to as 'propaganda of homosexuality and bisexuality ...from schools and any other places where it can be accessed by young people.'

The European Parliament resolution condemns this law and reiterates the European Union's commitment to equality and non-discrimination regardless of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Concern regarding the law was raised by MEPS across the Parliament, and de Brún backed a call from the European Parliament's intergroup on LGBT requesting the Parliament's President Jerzy Buzek to write to the Lithuanian authorities registering the concern of MEPs with the intention that the law be reviewed before it enters into force.

de Brún said:

"This law has no place in twenty-first century Europe and I hope that our actions here in the European Parliament will make the Lithuanian government reconsider their proposals.” CRÍOCH

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Responding to comments made by Jeffery Donaldson in the wake of Sinn Féin publishing its proposals on Community Cohesion, Sinn Féin Assembly member John O’Dowd said that it was telling that Mr Donaldson failed to explain why his party disagreed with any of the contents of the document. He went onto say that DUP opposition to the equality agenda lay behind their refusal to support a CSI strategy.

 

Mr O’Dowd said:

 

“Sinn Féin yesterday published our proposals on Community Cohesion and tackling sectarianism within our society. This came after months of trying to get the DUP to come on board and adopt such a strategy. And of course comes after the DUP agreed to such an approach in the Programme for Government and have subsequently tried to run away from that commitment. It is also telling that Jeffery Donaldson’s own party removed him from his position as a Junior Minister such was their confidence in him dealing with this issue.

 

“I think that it is telling that rather than focus on any of the actual proposals in the document and tell us why he objects to them Jeffery Donaldson decides instead to criticise Sinn Féin for bringing proposals forward and making them public.

 

“It is the role of a political party to formulate policy and publicise it. So let Jeffery Donaldson enter into the real debate.

 

  • Why does his party oppose measures to tackle sectarianism?

 

  • Why does he oppose measures to tackle racism?

 

  • Why are they blocking the CSI strategy?

 

  • Why do they oppose a Bill of Rights?

 

  • Why are they opposed to Equality measures?

 

“Let the DUP come clean and tell the public that their opposition to this is actually based on opposition to the Equality and Human Rights agenda which must underpin future good relations.

 

“In the meantime Sinn Féin will continue to argue for good relations, affirmative action on tackling sectarianism and racism and a society underpinned by equality and human rights.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described NAMA as a “bailout for the greediest and the most corrupt in Irish society”. He said the biggest losers would be the unemployed, ordinary mortgage holders and the least well off who will be hit by savage Budget cuts. He called for nationalisation of the main banks and the development of a State bank.

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“There is no doubt whatsoever about who Fianna Fáil and the Greens are serving with this rotten Bill. It is a bailout for the greediest and the most corrupt in Irish society – the bankers and the speculators whose boundless avarice has devastated the Irish economy.

“Throughout the Celtic Tigers years, Fianna Fáil-led Governments pampered this elite group. They allowed them to benefit from massive tax breaks at unknown cost to the State. They allowed them to determine the State’s housing policy – a policy which was no policy but to let the market drive everything. And boy did that market drive. It drove property prices to unreal and unsustainable levels.

“It drove a frenzy of greed for profitable property, inducing many who could not afford to do so, to borrow to buy in the grossly inflated market. It drove debt to levels previously unknown in this country. It was fuelled by cheap loans supplied by a banking system corrupted by the culture of greed that saw massive salaries, bonuses and perks lavished at all senior levels in the financial institutions. And finally the locomotive was driven into a wall and we are now left to deal with the train wreck that is the Irish economy.

“Who are the biggest losers in all of this? Not the bankers and the property speculators who did the crime because they will never do the time. Not the politicians who facilitated them because no-one in Fianna Fáil or the PDs and now the Green Party ever admit any responsibility for anything and they are never made to pay the price for their disastrous policies and disastrous management.

“No, the real losers in all of this are over 400,000 unemployed people in this State, they are the families saddled with massive mortgages, many of whom are being evicted from their homes, they are the people who never had the chance of a decent home during the Celtic Tiger years, they are the weaker sections of the community who are about to be punished most by the savage Budget cuts now in preparation.”

Setting out Sinn Féin’s proposals to address the banking crisis, Deputy Ó Caolain said:

“Sinn Féin believes the only way to deal with the current crisis is to nationalise the two main banks, AIB and BoI, with the potential of turning these two banks into a state bank. This will offer far greater security for the taxpayer. Bad loans can be dealt with in the context of nationalisation and the state can make informed decisions about whether these loans should be foreclosed or managed. We may need to set up a bad bank to deal with the toxic loans within the nationalised system. The government can then decide on a process of recapitalization and restructuring, and deliver the management control that will ensure resumed lending.

“The restructured banking sector envisaged by Sinn Féin goes far beyond just restoring normality to the system. There was nothing normal about a sector that systematically overcharged customers, was complicit in tax evasion and routinely withdrew access to financial services from working class and rural areas because of profit pursuit. As well as intense regulation of the sector, Sinn Féin wants to see a banking system that contributes to the greater good of an economy that serves society as a whole. We also want to see all those who participated in and encouraged the practices that brought about the current crisis held to account and criminal convictions pursued.

“Nationalisation is preferable to repeated recapitalisation, which is excessively costly for the taxpayer yet leaves the government with no real say over how those banks are run. It also deals with any potential losses that could be incurred by the taxpayer, having left the banks in private lands and bought the bad loans off their balance sheets.

“If recapitalisation of a state bank or the nationalised banks is required this could be funded through national bonds which (unlike bank bonds) would be guaranteed. EBS, Irish Nationwide and Irish Life and Permanent must be examined to see if they can function with recapitalisation and the State taking a stake alone or need to have their business wound up and/or transferred to the other two banks.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech follows:

National Asset Management Agency Bill 2009

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Dáil leader

I want to begin by urging the Fianna Fáil/Green Government to do its duty to the people and to make a commitment here and now that if this legislation is passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas it will support a Petition to the President under Article 27 of the Constitution to put the NAMA Bill before the people in a referendum.

by the Houses of the Oireachtas if it “contains a proposal of such national importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained”. If ever there was such a Bill then this is definitely it.

So here now is the real challenge to Fianna Fáil backbenchers and the Green Party. If the Government will not put this Bill to the people and if you, the backbenchers and the Greens, are as exercised as you claim to be about this Bill then go to the country – either in a referendum on NAMA or pull the plug on this disgraceful, discredited and bankrupt Government and allow the people to vote in a General Election.

The people are watching this debate and they are watching how those they elect are serving them – or if they are serving them at all.

But there is no doubt whatsoever about who Fianna Fáil and the Greens are serving with this rotten Bill. It is a bailout for the greediest and the most corrupt in Irish society – the bankers and the speculators whose boundless avarice has devastated the Irish economy.

Throughout the Celtic Tigers years, Fianna Fáil-led Governments pampered this elite group. They allowed them to benefit from massive tax breaks at unknown cost to the State. They allowed them to determine the State’s housing policy – a policy which was no policy but to let the market drive everything. And boy did that market drive. It drove property prices to unreal and unsustainable levels.

It drove a frenzy of greed for profitable property, inducing many who could not afford to do so, to borrow to buy in the grossly inflated market. It drove debt to levels previously unknown in this country.

It was fuelled by cheap loans supplied by a banking system corrupted by the culture of greed that saw massive salaries, bonuses and perks lavished at all senior levels in the financial institutions.

And finally the locomotive was driven into a wall and we are now left to deal with the train wreck that is the Irish economy.

Who are the biggest losers in all of this? Not the bankers and the property speculators who did the crime because they will never do the time. Not the politicians who facilitated them because no-one in Fianna Fáil or the PDs and now the Green Party ever admit any responsibility for anything and they are never made to pay the price for their disastrous policies and disastrous management.

No, the real losers in all of this are over 400,000 unemployed people in this State, they are the families saddled with massive mortgages, many of whom are being evicted from their homes, they are the people who never had the chance of a decent home during the Celtic Tiger years, they are the weaker sections of the community who are about to be punished most by the savage Budget cuts now in preparation.
All of this need not have happened. There were many of us, including Sinn Féin, who urged a different direction. Trade unionists, people in the community and voluntary sector, other parties of the left, economists with a social conscience urged policies based on the principle of equality and driven by need, not greed.

Over a decade ago, in November 1998, in our Pre-Budget Submission, we in Sinn Féin pointed out that the banks here enjoyed a return on their equity that was double the European average, making them among the most profitable banks in the industrialised world.

We said that ultimately the banks should be nationalised so that the Irish people would be the true beneficiaries. We also proposed an increase in Corporation Tax for Irish retail banks with resulting tax funds earmarked for community and local development projects in the most disadvantaged areas throughout the State.

Of course, instead of this, we saw bank profits continuing to soar, a belated, limited and short-lived bank levy, successive banking scandals which ripped off the customers and the taxpayers and, as we now know, collusion between the banks and the property speculators as they inflated the property bubble.

Now the same corporate criminals are to be bailed out by this Government using the people’s money. That’s what NAMA is in a nutshell. It is supposed to address the crisis caused by a corrupt system but NAMA itself may well turn out to be the source of the next decade’s tribunals.

Higher taxes are coming, something the establishment parties have railed against for years - but they won't be to pay for better public services. They will be disappearing into the NAMA black hole created by a Government refusing to take the obvious step of nationalisation to address the banking problem.

The basic concept of NAMA is flawed and this legislation to introduce it is flawed through and through.

The focus point for most commentators has been the price NAMA will pay for toxic loans it transfers from the banks onto the taxpayers' balance sheet. This is the argument around what discount NAMA should get on the €77 billion worth of bad loans on the banks' balance sheets.

Will the Minister advise the House how much of that €77 billion was used in the actual purchase of sites and land banks and employed in actual development works? In other words how much of this €77 billion is accrued unpaid interest?

The legislation says that for these loans NAMA will not pay current market value - what would be repaid to the banks if the properties the loans are on were sold immediately. Instead it will come up with estimates based on 'long-term economic value'. The moves by ACC Bank against the developer Liam Carroll have actually done the Irish taxpayer a huge service. After being dragged to the courts, Carroll had to admit that if forced to repay his loans he would only be able to repay a quarter of their worth. That is based on the fire sale of his properties at their current market value.

Whatever price is paid for the bad loans, risk will transfer from shareholders and creditors to the taxpayer. This transfer of risk creates a real danger of 'moral hazard' in the future - that is, the banks engaging in risky lending behaviour because there are no consequences.

NAMA is incapable of meeting the twin objectives of achieving the best value for the taxpayer and exposing the taxpayer to the least risk possible. The debt to which NAMA is exposing the taxpayer is €54 billion - a third of our GDP, and that’s before we re-capitalise. And make no mistake about it these financial institutions will need to be recapitalized.

The Irish taxpayers’ expense far exceeds the bank-related debt taken on by Sweden in its bad loan management in the '90s - 8% of its GDP. This will have implications for our sovereign credit rating - we have already been downgraded by several ratings agencies - and will incur increased debt servicing costs, potentially in the region of billions annually.

This legislation contains numerous problems. These include a reliance on the banks acting in 'good faith' to give all the information on the loans to NAMA. The Minister for Finance is to have sole power to appoint NAMA board members. NAMA will be empowered to 'work with developers' to finish projects, potentially lending them taxpayers' money to do so. NAMA will also have compulsory purchase order powers to help developers complete projects if there are so-called 'ransom strips' or contested land in the way. Power is given to the Minister for Finance to overturn 'independent' valuations of loans made by NAMA.

And then there are the operational concerns. NAMA won't have the expertise to reclaim debts, as it is not used to working in this sphere and the staff it recruits may still be loyal to their former bank employers. There is the prospect of developers’ loans being nursed for decades while ordinary loan-holders are forced to pay back their debts or face repossession. NAMA will be another huge Government cost at a time when other organisations of significant public importance are being amalgamated or abolished. As for the notion that a levy will be introduced on the banks if NAMA makes a shortfall - we don't know how a 'shortfall' will be defined, much less what the levy would be.

The Government has put forward NAMA as an alternative to nationalisation but almost all commentators are agreed that even after NAMA, nationalisation might still be the outcome. That is because even after the loans are taken off the books of the banks, there is nothing to guarantee against more loans becoming impaired as interest rates increase. Further liquidity problems may arise, so the State will go down the route of equity capital shares that may be so large that banks are nationalised by proxy.

The Government claims that cleaning out the banks via NAMA will bring about a return to normal bank practice and lending. We are told we need NAMA for the economy to return to normal and anybody anti-NAMA is either politically and economically naïve, anti-patriotic, or both. But this rests on the assumption that private bankers are committed to restoring our economy through providing credit and that they will place this above the interests of bank shareholders. Will banks lend when they manage to get their hands on cash via the NAMA-issued transfer bonds?

A code of conduct for banks covered under the State guarantee scheme on lending to small and medium enterprises was published by the Financial Regulator last February and took effect in March - but SMEs say the banks continue to deny loans and credit.

It's not certain what 'normal' is when it comes to banks' lending practices, but it is certain that banks do not fulfill the role of public investment. Historically banks lend too much and too easily in booms and lend too little and too cautiously in recessions.

My colleague Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Arthur Morgan has rightly asked where is the NAMA for ordinary people? When homes and small businesses are being repossessed the length and breadth of the state, when people are facing negative equity and economic hardship, the Government can stand over bailing out banks and developers alone.

The Department of Finance's Guide to NAMA exposes the fundamentally flawed thinking behind NAMA. Frequently Asked Question no. 2 reads: "How can you justify this further bail-out of the banks for assets and not prevent banks from increasing mortgage rates?"

The answer:
"It is true that the banks in most instances will not be paid the current market value but will be paid a price which is in accordance with the long-term economic value of each asset. With regard to mortgage rates, the interest rates reflect commercial market realities as banks must pay more to access funds in wholesale retail markets. The Government has no role to play in the commercial day-to-day operation of banks here and believes that it is important that the banking sector has a market presence and operates within market discipline and constraints."

Surely if banks were operating in normal market conditions with discipline and constraints they would not be under a blanket state guarantee and in the middle of shifting all their bad loans off their books onto the taxpayers' heads at a bargain price for themselves?

One of the most incredible aspects of NAMA is that it is outsourcing the property management aspect to private development firms. Had it been used as a property management company, the State could have used land seized on defaulted loans for vital infrastructure, social housing provision or tourism development.
We now have the crazy situation where people throughout the country are sitting in homes and business premises in negative equity, and worse, are being evicted as their property is repossessed. The property managed by NAMA should be available to local authorities to house people evicted as a result of banks moving against them. However, the NAMA-owned property, paid for by taxpayers, is to be managed by private development companies - tenders have already been put out to attract such companies. This revelation is highly suspicious and will lead many to believe that the taxpayer is again being deceived and robbed by the Government, banks and developers.

Sinn Féin believes the only way to deal with the current crisis is to nationalise the two main banks, AIB and BoI, with the potential of turning these two banks into a state bank. This will offer far greater security for the taxpayer. Bad loans can be dealt with in the context of nationalisation and the state can make informed decisions about whether these loans should be foreclosed or managed. We may need to set up a bad bank to deal with the toxic loans within the nationalised system. The government can then decide on a process of recapitalization and restructuring, and deliver the management control that will ensure resumed lending.

The current upheaval in banking will undoubtedly have an impact on the staffing numbers at the banks. While a clear-out of those at the highest levels of the banks whose reckless mismanagement brought about the current banking crisis is required, Sinn Féin recognizes that the vast majority of bank employees played no role in the corruption and bad management that pervaded the sector. The Government should work with the IBOA and other trade unions representing these workers to ensure the retention of the maximum possible number of jobs in banking and to ensure that employees who lose their jobs receive proper redundancy packages and the opportunity to retrain.

The restructured banking sector envisaged by Sinn Féin goes far beyond just restoring normality to the system. There was nothing normal about a sector that systematically overcharged customers, was complicit in tax evasion and routinely withdrew access to financial services from working class and rural areas because of profit pursuit. As well as intense regulation of the sector, Sinn Féin wants to see a banking system that contributes to the greater good of an economy that serves society as a whole. We also want to see all those who participated in and encouraged the practices that brought about the current crisis held to account and criminal convictions pursued.

Nationalisation is preferable to repeated recapitalisation, which is excessively costly for the taxpayer yet leaves the government with no real say over how those banks are run. It also deals with any potential losses that could be incurred by the taxpayer, having left the banks in private lands and bought the bad loans off their balance sheets.

If recapitalisation of a state bank or the nationalised banks is required this could be funded through national bonds which (unlike bank bonds) would be guaranteed. EBS, Irish Nationwide and Irish Life and Permanent must be examined to see if they can function with recapitalisation and the State taking a stake alone or need to have their business wound up and/or transferred to the other two banks.

The issue of ordinary bank shareholders is a sensitive matter. While many of these shareholders benefited quite well during the boom period for the banks, many reinvested dividends in order to secure their future and have lost much of their pensions. However, the interests of the taxpayer/public shareholders cannot be held hostage to the interests of private shareholders. The most appropriate way to protect vulnerable shareholders/pensioners is to ensure that no cuts take place to State pensions or other social protections and that the State pension is increased. In doing so you protect equally those who have lost life savings through risky investments and those who never had the money to make investments or build up a private pension in the first place.

Sinn Féin opposed the Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 which sought to grant the Minister for Finance the power to extend the guarantee beyond 2010. While other states ran guarantees for longer while securing their banking systems, none had the extensive guarantee with the lack of appropriate conditions that we have. A blanket guarantee is not the way forward for the banking system.

We believe that the Public Accounts Committee should be tasked with carrying out a full investigation of malpractice in the Irish banking system over the last decade. Its findings should inform better regulation of the banking sector. Malpractice and even criminality by the banks led to this crisis. Yet there have been no arrests, no fines, no admissions or findings of guilt. All those responsible must be investigated and prosecuted where the evidence warrants.

The Minister for Justice must disclose to the Dáil if there are current investigations being undertaken by either Gardaí or the Criminal Asset Bureau and the public must be kept informed of criminal proceedings being taken against those guilty of corporate malpractice. Those at the highest level of the banks over the last number of years and suspected of culpability in mismanagement and fraud must be removed from their positions and new management installed in the nationalised banks.
Other measures should include:

Whistleblowers legislation to cover workers in the financial services and banking sectors.

Intensify regulation of the banking sector and make it independent.

Enhance the role of credit unions through reform of legislation to allow them to expand their work as community-based not-for-profit services supporting social and economic development.

Legislate for the right to a bank account, as has been done in the Netherlands, France and other states, to enable people without a bank account to open an account at a financial institution of their choice.

Enable An Post to provide basic banking services, including a basic bank account. Basic bank accounts are simple, low cost, 'no frills' current accounts designed for those who are financially excluded.

Provide greater support to MABS to deal with the increase in personal debt and those seeking help in addressing personal financial crises.

Emergency action on banking is required. But it is emergency action to rescue the peoples' economy, not a rescue for the bankers and developers who have devastated it. Providing fresh capital is only part of the solution. Even more important is providing new leadership at the banks, leadership which puts the public interest first. We need a banking system that serves the people.

NAMA has nothing to do with improving Irish society. The ultimate point of it is to socialize debt and privatize profit. This Bill should be rejected. This Government should be rejected. Let the people have their say.

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Addressing the European Affairs Committee of the Oireachtas this morning, Sinn Féin Dáil group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that “despite the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by 53% of the electorate last year the government is returning to the people with exactly the same proposition as before. It is the same Treaty and so people should give the same answer, a resounding No.”

Deputy O Caoláin said:

“On June 12th 2008, almost 900,000 people in this state rejected the Lisbon Treaty. They did so because they believed that it was a bad Treaty and because they wanted a better deal for Ireland and for Europe.

“What did the government do? Just like their mismanagement of the economy, they prevaricated, sat on their hands and failed to act appropriately.

“As a result they have not secured a single change to the text of the Lisbon Treaty. On October 2nd we will be voting on exactly the same treaty as we did last year.

“If it wasn’t good enough for the electorate then why on earth should it be good enough for us now?

“Fianna Fáil and their supporters in Labour and Fine Gael are also using the economic crisis to scare people into supporting the treaty.

“We are told that if we vote no we will lose investment, jobs, and support from our EU counterparts.

“The truth is very different. The cause of this recession is the failed economic policies of this government and their counterparts across Europe. Many of these failed right wing politicians were responsible for negotiating the Treaty and many of their failed right wing policies are contained in the Treaty.

“The proposition before the people on October 2nd is exactly the same as that voted on in June 2008. It is the same Treaty and so people should give the same answer, a resounding No.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams is in Cork today to launch the party’s Lisbon Treaty referendum Munster billboard and poster campaign for a NO vote.

Mr. Adams said:

“Lisbon and NAMA are bad deals for the Irish people and should be rejected. Yesterday the government revealed the detail of its plan to bail out the Banks and the Developers with €54 billion of taxpayers’ money. This is grossly unfair. There is no NAMA for ordinary citizens.

The government – whose policies played a significant part in bringing this state to the point of bankruptcy and which failed to renegotiate the Lisbon Treaty – are asking people to trust it.

“The government clearly got it wrong on the economy and on Lisbon. The only sensible response is to reject this government and reject NAMA.

“Sinn Féin’s billboard and poster campaign is aimed at highlighting the content of the Lisbon Treaty and its implications for Ireland and the EU.

“Unlike many on the Yes side our posters reference the articles of the Treaty on which we are basing our claims.

“Lisbon equals lower wages;

“Lisbon equals less power;

“Lisbon equals more military spending;

“Lisbon equals crushing family farms;

“Articles 6, 28, and 188 along with the Protocol on the Internal Market and Competition will equal lower wages, less power, increased military spending and crushing family farms. These are just four of the many articles that make the Lisbon Treaty a bad deal for Ireland and the EU.” ENDS

Note to editor:

Lisbon equals lower wages: In recent years the European Commission has enacted policies and the European Court of Justice has made judgments that have the effect of driving down wages.

The Protocol on the Internal Market and Competition contained in the Lisbon Treaty provides both the Commission and the Court with an even stronger mandate to undermine workers pay and conditions.

Lisbon equals less power: The Council of Ministers is supposed to be where European countries meet as equals. Not so. Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty changes the way in which key decisions at the Council of Ministers are taken. Irelands voting strength would be reduced to 0.8% while Germany’s would increase to 17% and Britain’s would increase to 12%.

Lisbon equals more military spending: Article 25 and 28 contain four separate obligations on military spending. Article 28(c)(3) states ‘Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy.’ The same article also states ‘member states shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities’.

In addition Article 25b(d)(3) states ‘The Council shall adopt a decision establishing the specific procedures for guaranteeing rapid access to appropriations in the Union budget for urgent financing of initiatives in the framework of the common foreign and security policy.’ While Article 25(d)(3)(TEU) states Preparatory activities... which are not charged to the Union budget shall be financed by a start-up fund made up of Member State’s contributions....”

While the overall increase in expenditure arising from these new obligations will be a matter for the Government there is no doubt that they will lead to increased military spending in the future.

Lisbon equals crushing family farms: The European Commission has for many years been pursuing an agenda of aggressively promoting free trade over fair trade.

A series of EU Trade Commissioners from Pascal Lammy, followed by Peter Mandelson and now Catherine Ashton have been promoting an agenda at the WTO that would be devastating for Irish and European family farms and rural communities.

Article 188, gives the Commission power to initiate and conduct negotiations including international trade agreements, makes Qualified Majority Voting the general rule in the conclusion of such trade agreement, and effectively ends the Irish government’s veto on ‘mixed trade deals’.

While Article 2 (b) gives the EU exclusive competence over commercial policy, including the negotiating of international trade agreements. Taken together these articles effectively removes the current Irish government veto on mixed international trade agreements making it easier for the European Commission to impose its free trade over fair trade agenda in future international trade talks.

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Responding to Deputy Timmy Dooley’s acceptance of his challenge to a debate on the Lisbon Treaty, Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh today said:

“I am delighted that Deputy Dooley has taken up my challenge for a public debate on the Lisbon Treaty. I have booked a room in Buswells Hotel for next Wednesday and Thursday evening in the hope that Deputy Dooley is available on one of those evenings for a debate.

“I look forward to a robust head to head debate with the Deputy facilitated by an independent chair and in the presence of both the public and the media.” ENDS

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SinnFéin MLA and spokesperson on Tourism Paul Maskey has stated that the relaunch of the Ulster Way by Environment Minister Edwin Poots has missed a vital opportunity to expand and enhance the tourism potential of Ireland, both North and South, because a politically narrow approach was taken.

Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

“The relaunch of the Ulster Way by Edwin Poots has missed out on a vital opportunity to enhance tourism development in Ireland by taking the decision to restrict the route to only six counties of Ulster.

“Instead of expanding and enhancing the Ulster Way to bring in three extremely picturesque counties of Ulster, namely Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, anyone lifting a map of the Ulster Way will see that the route actually walks along the borders of these counties and not once does it enter them.

“We only have to look at the highly successful cross border approach to the water ways of Ireland to realise the tourism potential that exists. It would not have taken a massive amount of time or investment to link with already established walkways in these counties and replicate this approach.

“However due to a politically narrow decision by the DUP minister to keep it within the six counties this opportunity has been missed. This short-sightedness will undoubtedly impact on the overall experience for tourists and walkers alike and indeed on the much needed revenue that could have been garnered.”

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Sinn Féin MLA for Upper Bann, John O’Dowd, has welcomed the ruling by the Coroner that the PSNI must release reports into the killings of six unarmed republicans in 1982.

Speaking following the ruling Mr O’Dowd said:

"This ruling is a welcome step forward in the families 27 year campaign for the truth into the killings of their loved ones.

“Despite effort by the PSNI to delay this further by 6 months the fact that they have now been instructed to hand over the report s within seven weeks is the right decision.

“However it is a concern that these reports may be redacted by the PSNI. They must be brought forward with full disclosure as the families have called for. Anything less will not be exposing the full truth into these killings by the RUC.”

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Latest job figures highlights North Wests economic isolation

Sinn Féin MAL for Foyle Martina Anderson has stated that the figures of joblessness released today only reinforces the sense of isolation that people living in the North West are experiencing.

Speaking today Ms Anderson said:

“While I understand that the economic downturn is affecting us all the figures released today show that 5,000 people in Derry, which amounts to 7.2% of the working population, are unemployed. Furthermore 6.7% in Strabane and 6.5% in Limavady are currently unemployed. This only serves to reinforce the sense of economic isolation that people living in the North West are suffering.

“The years of massive underinvestment into the area and the lack of a co-ordinated and comprehensive approach by bodies such as Invest NI have only exacerbated this problem.

“We need to see strong and decisive incentives and initiative placed before the Executive. A good example is the new A5 Western Transport Corridor project that will bring greater access to the North West, provide much needed employment and infrastructural links and breakdown the economic isolation that is a reality.

“However, there are further investment opportunities that must be explored by other departments such as an increase of inward investment and the possibility of decentralisation of governmental and statutory bodies to areas west of the Bann that will provide long-term employment opportunities. “

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Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris, speaking in the Dáil this evening, said the government was robbing the Irish people of approximately €12,000 from every man, woman and child with its NAMA proposal. He said the actions of the government could not be put down to ineptitude claiming that they know exactly what they are doing and they have a tradition of doing it.

Martin Ferris said:

“We’ve found out today that NAMA is going to cost the Irish people €54 billion. That’s approximately €12,000 for every man, woman and child in the state and that is before recapitalisation. If we use the recent Liam Carroll example in the high courts, that €77 billion worth of loans would be lucky to be repaid at €20 billion, yet this state is paying €54 billion for them.

“It is robbery, but it is a necessary robbery, according to the elected representatives sitting opposite. The banks lent too much to a small number of profit-mad, greedy developers and the government cheered them on with billions in tax-breaks, and now our banking system has collapsed. Capitalism brought about the downfall, but we can’t let capitalism sort itself out. The taxpayer must step in with €54 billion and bail out the banks, the developers and the most corrupt government in the history of the state. We can privatise profit, but we must socialise debt.

“We can’t put any of this down to ineptitude. This government knows exactly what it is doing to the Irish people. Fianna Fáil has a tradition of stealing from the taxpayer and then lying about it. But what they’ve done to date is nothing compared to what they’re planning to do. Not only are you robbing this generation, but the next and the one after that too.

“Sinn Féin has been calling all summer for a referendum on NAMA. You cannot put through a Bill of this magnitude without asking the majority of people on the island if they support it. We all know why Fianna Fáil won’t support a referendum – they know asking people to vote yes to NAMA is akin to asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

"However we are calling on all TDs and Senators to sign the petition for a referendum which we have circulated to call on the President to hold a referendum. This issue is of such importance that it is imperative we ask the people what they want.

“There is a way out of this black hole that Fianna Fáil has dug for the country along with its friends the developers and speculators. That way is nationalisation. It will cost money, but it will not cost what NAMA is costing and the taxpayer will own the banks and be able to clear them out once and for all.

“Sinn Féin is not interested in temporary nationalisation like the Labour party. We would not hand back these banks to the very sector that ruined them. We would instead create a state bank which will foster the economy and give ordinary citizens the right to a bank account and a secure and affordable mortgage.

“The people do not want the government's solutions to the economic crisis it caused. Fianna Fáil and the Greens no longer have their mandate. If they proceed with NAMA, if they push through all the cuts in the report from An Bord Snip and if they deliver the Budget the whole country is expecting them to deliver, they will have ruined us. They should put themselves to the test, call an election and see if the people support their policies.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, speaking from Leinster House as the Dáil reconvened to discuss NAMA said opposition parties had to do everything in their power to prevent the passage of NAMA. Commenting on the ejection of the party’s spokesperson for Finance Arthur Morgan TD from the Dáil, Mr Adams said that Sinn Féin’s representatives would do everything within their power to give voice to the public anger over NAMA and the demand that its passage be stopped.

Mr Adams said:

“It is incumbent on every opposition party to fully express their opposition to NAMA which will cost approximately €12,000 for every man, woman and child if it is allowed to be pushed through. And that is before the cost of recapitalisation is taken into account. Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are determined to pass this Bill with the slimmest of majorities. They must be stopped.

“The anger among ordinary people who are facing repossession of their homes and businesses, who are living in negative equity and up to their neck in debts, is palpable. They are furious at what the government is trying to do. As shown by Arthur Morgan TD today when he challenged the Taoiseach, Sinn Féin’s representatives will do everything within their power to give voice to the public anger over NAMA and the demand that its passage be stopped.

“I took the opportunity while at the Dáil today to challenge the Minister for Finance. I told him that what the government was doing was economic madness, bailing out banks without guarantees to citizens. It is grossly unfair. There is no NAMA for those on dole queues or facing repossession of their home. I put it to him that the banks should be nationalised so that instead of taxpayers’ money being used to bail out rich bankers, the state would control the banks and ensure that credit was available for medium and small businesses.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan, speaking after being ejected from the Dáil today, said it is his duty to put on record that the Taoiseach lied to the Irish people about the causes of the economic crisis and that the government was not being warned about the dangers of the property bubble.

Arthur Morgan said:

“I am elected by the people to represent the people. That is a lesson Fianna Fáil and the Greens could do with learning. The people do not want NAMA and I am not going to participate in a farce in the Dáil where the opposition spokespeople register their views but the government pushes NAMA through with a slim majority. People are demanding that the Taoiseach be honest about the extent to which he was aware when he was Minister for Finance about the impending economic crisis. People who are facing home reposession, whose businesses are being forced to shut down and those that are finding themselves thrown onto the dole queue feel betrayed by this government.

“This government has consistently lied about the causes of this crisis and are now lying about the solutions. They were warned about the dangers of the property bubble. We warned them. We raised this issue repeatedly over a long number of years in the Dáil.

“I will oppose NAMA and Bord Snip and the government’s plans for budget 2010. I am saying what the vast majority of people on this island want said. The Government has no mandate implement NAMA. Sinn Féin is committed to doing everything in our power to stop this bailout of bankers and developers coming into law. This is exactly what we will do. There is an alternative – that is the nationalisation of the banks and the establishment of a state bank.” ENDS

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Speaking in response to Fianna Fai's TD Timmy Dooley's claims regarding Sinn Féin’s Lisbon Treaty posters, Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh said:

“Sinn Féin can stand over each of the claims we are making in our Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign posters. In fact we have cited the articles and protocol on which we are basing our claims in each poster.

“Contrary to what Timmy Dooley claims it is in fact the Yes side that is refusing to engage on the actual content of the treaty choosing instead to use disingenuous claims which suggest that the referendum is somehow about our membership of the EU rather than the type of EU we want to build.

“I would be happy to debate the impact of the Lisbon Treaty on wage levels, rural Ireland, militarisation and Ireland's power in the EU institutions with Deputy Dooley anytime and anywhere. If Deputy Dooley is confident in his position he will take up this challenge and agree to a public debate on this and other issues related to the Lisbon Treaty.

“Sinn Féin’s poster campaign is aimed at highlighting the content of the Lisbon Treaty and its implications for Ireland and the EU. We want to provoke a debate on and public knowledge about what the Treaty says and does. Unlike many on the Yes side our posters reference the articles of the Treaty on which we are basing our claims.

“I look forward to Deputy Dooley’s response to my challenge.” ENDS

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Speaking ahead of the return of the Dáil today Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said his party will do all in its power to stop the passage of the NAMA legislation through the Dáil. Deputy Ó Caoláin publicly called on TDs and Senators to sign a petition to the president for NAMA to be put to a referendum. He said the Fianna Fáil and the Green Party cannot be allowed to take €15,000 off every man woman and child in the country with a simple majority vote in the Dáil.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “TDs returning to the Dáil this week are faced with a dilemma of unprecedented proportions in Irish history. After years of economic mismanagement and a culture of corruption which have caused record levels of unemployment and economic chaos this current Fianna Fáil led Government is attempting to legalise corruption with its NAMA legislation. This cannot be allowed to happen.

"I and my party colleagues will do all in our power to prevent this legislation from passing through the Oireachtas. We will use every opportunity available to us to stop NAMA. This includes the possibility of disrupting Dáil business if necessary.

"This week my colleague, Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan, published a petition to the president which calls for a referendum on NAMA should this legislation be passed. It requires the signature of a third of TDs and a majority of Senators and I would encourage all Oireachtas members to sign it today in the name of democracy.

"NAMA proposes to cost every man woman and child in the country somewhere in the region of €15,000. It would be simply wrong and absolutely unfair for Fianna Fáil and the Green Party to use their slender Dáil majority to take this type of money off people without their consent. It should go to a referendum and the people should decide the best way forward.

“Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s claim yesterday that NAMA was they only way forward was a disingenuous attempt to scare the public into supporting NAMA and to get his back benchers in line ahead of the Dáil debate. The reality is that there is an alternative that will provide better value for taxpayers’ money.

"Sinn Féin is firmly of the view that nationalising the banks is the fairest way forward with the best possible return to taxpayers as the State will then own the banks. This is also the best way forward for the economy as we could then ensure that the banks begin lending again and oiling the cogs of the rusting economy." ENDS

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Clones area Sinn Féin Councillor, Pat Treanor, has called on management at Grove Turkeys to explain the drastic cut in pay and conditions of workers employed at the Smithboro’ plant.

Accusing some employers in the country, including Grove Turkeys, of using the economic downturn to strip workers of hard won conditions and pay, Cllr. Treanor says that he has been contacted by former Grove workers who have been offered minimum rates of pay and contract employment just two weeks after these same workers received their redundancy payments.

Pointing out that workers are being left with no option but to accept employment on these reduced terms, Councillor Treanor said:

“Former workers at Grove Turkeys that I have spoken to are very angry that they were made redundant when there clearly was plenty of work for them at the factory. Since January 2008, when Grove announced a rationalisation plan involving reducing their workforce from around 200 to 70, these workers were left in a terrible situation by the parent company (Kerry Foods).

“In addition to 130 workers and their families facing the dole, 85 farmers producing turkeys had to make alternative arrangements.

“The workers were initially laid off for nine weeks. They were then brought back for two weeks before being laid off again. Some were offered work for the Christmas market before being let go a third time. They were brought back for a number of three-day-weeks.

“The company then proposed to pay redundancy only at the part-time working rate, but were forced to pay the basic statutory two weeks per year worked.

“Just two weeks after receiving these payments, some have again been offered work at the factory, this time under a contractor and at a reduced rate of €8.65/hr.

“This is a scandalous way of treating men and women workers who have given the best years of their working lives to Kerry Foods and Grove Turkeys,” said Councillor Treanor.

“Needless to say, there are many people who will take whatever work is available in the current economic climate, even at minimum pay rates. Grove management knows this and it is a dreadful reflection on the company that cynical advantage is being taken of people’s genuine desire to work.

“The practice of stripping workers of their hard-won conditions and pay must be challenged and reversed” the Sinn Féin councillor concluded. ENDS

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