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The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) can confirm that work is now well underway on an assessment of the damage arising from recent flooding.

Last week Sinn Fein Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA requested an assessment to be made of the damage caused to farming by recent flooding. We can now confirm that inspections began last week, and are continuing throughout this week.

These inspections are concentrating on the worst affected areas in the following river catchments: the Moyola, the Lagan, the Upper Bann, the Blackwater, the Maine and the Sixmilewater. Priority is being given to seed and ware potatoes and arable crops.

We would encourage farmers who have suffered damage from flooding to contact DARD, during office hours, on 028 6634 3172. Callers will be asked to provide details of their business ID; their field references, if possible and details of the crops affected. An inspector will arrange a visit to assess the damage.

Any farmer seeking technical advice should contact their local Development Adviser and look out for published management notes providing information on dealing with adverse weather conditions in the farming press.

There will also be a facility to give the same details to the department on our website at: http://www.dardni.gov.uk

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Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty today said that nationalists and republicans would be disappointed as once again the SDLP put selfish party political point scoring above the need to see powers on policing and justice transferred. His comments came after the SDLPs Margaret Ritchie criticised Sinn Féin for standing up to rejectionist unionism and demanding delivery on outstanding aspects of the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreement.

Mr Doherty said:

"In recent weeks in a desperate attempt to make themselves seem relevant the SDLP have resorted to increasingly bitter and pathetic attacks on Sinn Féin. Today Margaret Ritchie criticises us for standing up for national and democratic rights. She criticises us for standing up to negative and rejectionist unionism. She criticises us for seeking to ensure that the two governments honour their Good Friday and St Andrews Agreement commitments.

"Nationalists and republicans will once again be disappointed by the attitude being displayed by the SDLP. In order to engage in petty political point scoring Margaret Ritchie and her colleagues would prefer to align themselves with the most reactionary elements of political unionism rather than join with Sinn Féin and demand the delivery of peoples basic rights and entitlements.

"The root of the SDLP attacks is of course a struggle within the leadership of that party to accept the changed political landscape. Rather than accept the will of the electorate who have placed Sinn Féin in the position to negotiate and deliver for them, the SDLP have decided instead to sit on the political sidelines and snipe." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has slammed the Department of Education for approving extensions to many schools while knowingly not providing adequate funding for the extensions to be built. Senator Doherty said he is aware of at least 26 schools in a regional area that have been given approval for school extensions but cannot proceed with building due to inadequate funds.

Senator Doherty was speaking today after learning that the current funding given to schools is €1,200 per square meter despite the current cost for commercial being €2,700 per square meter. In the meantime funding for extra unavoidable costs has been withdrawn.

He accused Fianna Fáil of cynically exploiting media opportunities while depriving communities of much needed school places.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said, "As I said earlier this week, substantial investment in education must be part of the Government's long term economic strategy. This must include proper investment in school buildings and ensuring stable learning environments for our children to be taught in.

"The current funding allocation for schools seeking extensions due to overcrowding is €1,200 per square meter or less than half of the cost of commercial building which is currently €2,700 per square meter. While the Department of Education had set aside additional funding available for unavoidable extra costs, no application has been successful in acquiring this funding. Many schools have applied but cannot get a response from the Department. This is unacceptable.

"As a result of this builders are refusing to start work on site for genuine fear that they will not get paid for their work. This funding was also allocated for the removal of asbestos in schools which means the suspension of it could be putting the very lives of our children at risk. I have been informed of at least 26 schools in one region that have been given approval for extensions but cannot proceed with building due to inadequate funding.

"Many schools have had to resort to the use of portacabins to teach children as their current school buildings are too full. However, as the Department will not sanction the rental of these cabins, schools are having to purchase them at a cost of €80,000 to €100,000. However, planning guidelines will not allow these cabins to remain on school grounds after five years meaning this funding is being spent on short term solutions while no long term solution exists.

"This situation is unsustainable and the Minister must act. Fianna Fáil have cynically exploited positive media opportunities by announcing funding for these schools when they knew that the funding they were providing was not going to cover the costs of the projects required and the extra school places would not be delivered.

"Funding for school buildings must be brought in line with current commercial building costs to ensure that our schools can deal with increased numbers of students and guarantee a stable learning environment for our children.

"This must be just one part of an overall substantial funding package for our education system as part of a long term economic strategy to build the knowledge based economy that we so often talk about." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Cathal Boylan MLA has expressed his concern that all those entitled to winter fuel payments are not claiming their allowance.

Mr Boylan said:

"There are people over 60 who do not realise that they are entitled to claim this money, they have been paying taxes all their lives and now should avail of this payment especially in the present economic conditions.

"What most people don't realise is that this payment is age related and not means tested, if anyone is 60 or over in the week - 15th to 21st September 2008, they are entitled to claim this money.

"Tere are some exemptions such as being in residential care or hospitalised long term but the vast majority of those over 60 are eligible for this allowance, to find out if your eligible for payments and to claim contact either your Pension Centre, Jobs and Benefits office, Social Security office or telephone 08459 151515 or for text phone users 0845 601 5613 with the lines being open Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 4.30pm.

"Ayone who is already receiving payments will still automatically be paid the allowance but I would urge all others who feel they may fall into the category for payment to make a claim." ENDS

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Commenting on the announcement that Invest NI Chief Executive Leslie Morrison is stepping down, Sinn Fein Economy Spokesperson Mitchel McLaughlin said that an opportunity for change of policy, remit and direction is now available to the Executive.

Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) said:

"The departure of Leslie Morrison from Invest NI presents a new opportunity to the Executive to deliver on its obligation of removing regional disparity in economic investment in the North.

"Leslie Morrison and his predecessors unfortunately inherited the legacy of regional disparity in investment which was institutionalised by the Unionist regime at Stormont, was not addressed under Direct Rule and to date Invest NI has failed to properly tackle the issue.

"There is now a new opportunity for the Executive to make new appointments and simultaneously to change the remit, policies and direction of Invest NI so that investment is directed to areas of greatest need and that investors are actively encouraged to locate in these areas." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for Upper Bann John O'Dowd tonight called on those responsible for a series of violent incidents in the Craigavon area to stop their activities and allow the area to return to normal.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Over the course of today there have been a number of hijackings and attacks on both PSNI and local residents in the Craigavon area. There have been unconfirmed reports of a number of shots being fired. The people behind these incidents are anti-social and anti community.

"If any of the republican micro groups are part of any of these incidents then they should publicly accept responsibility and explain how hijacking local people's cars and disrupting everyday life in the community advances one iota the goal of Irish reunification.

"I would call on those behind today's incidents in Craigavon to reflect on the damage caused to the local area by their actions and desist from should activity in the future." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty, responding to news that plans to eradicate child poverty have stalled due to problems in identifying those most in need, has called for the introduction of free meals and books in schools as an intermediary measure. Senator Doherty said this would take pressure off parents who are struggling to meet the costs of educating their children.

Speaking today he said, "Tackling child poverty must be a top priority for the Government and while I recognise the difficulties in targeting those most in need this does not mean that everything must come to a standstill. There are measures that can be taken while a strategy to target those children most at risk is devised.

"As an intermediary measure I would suggest that the Government introduce a school meals programme and a system to deliver free school books to all children. This would help to alleviate the pressures faced by many parents who are struggling to meet the rising costs of educating their children.

"If the Government is genuinely serious about tackling child poverty then it must re-look at its current childcare policy with a view to reversing the current trend which has seen many community based childcare providers close down.

"The new Government policy has led to a situation where those on low and middle incomes are pulling their children out of childcare facilities as they cannot afford the payments without Government assistance. This has had a knock on affect on the provider as they are provided with a staffing grant linked to the numbers of children in the crèche. As the number of children in the crèche falls the provider loses more funding and many are having to close down altogether.

"The Government must re-look at this policy while taking on board the concerns of those working in childcare delivery." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey today said that it is important that the DUP now act upon the commitment they made in Downing Street in June to enter a period of intensive discussions to resolve the outstanding issues.

Mr Maskey said:

“It is well known that there are a number of outstanding issues arising from the St. Andrews Agreement which need to be resolved. In June this year in Downing Street the DUP committed themselves to entering into a period of intensive dialogue with Sinn Féin to resolve these issues.

“This process of intensive engagement has not materialised satisfactorily. Now that Mr Robinson has returned from his holidays it is vital that he brings a focus to the DUP approach and that the process necessary to resolve outstanding issues now finally gets underway in a serious way.

“If this happens and the necessary political will is demonstrated then I am convinced that progress can be achieved and outstanding issues effectively addressed.” ENDS

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Antic social activity at interfaces must stop now - Ó Donnghaile

Sinn Féin's East Belfast Representative Niall Ó Donnghaile has condemned those involved in numerous nights' trouble at interfaces in East Belfast.

Mr Ó Donnghaile said,

"Over the past number of nights we have seen incidents of trouble on both sides of the interfaces in East Belfast. This activity must stop, young people need to know the very real dangers involved in this sort of behaviour, and both communities are opposed to this and want to see it stop.

A lot of good work is going on to try and prevent trouble and thankfully we have had a relatively quiet summer. These young people, determined on wrecking wherever they choose, are putting that good work under pressure. I call on them to reflect on what they are doing, but in particular I call on parents to know where their children are and to talk to them about the very real dangers of this sort of activity on an interface.

The community in the Short Strand does not want this and those engaged in this activity on the interface are not reflective of this community, they are as likely to break windows in this area, and have done, as they are anywhere else."

CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh Councillor Brian McCaffrey has said that Sinn Féin will use the next council meeting on Monday 1st September to raise concerns about rural planning policy and demand that the Environment Minister Sammy Wilson immediately publishes a rural planning policy that meets the needs of the people of this district.

Speaking today Cllr McCaffrey said:

"The DUP have singularly failed in delivering a vibrant and sustainable rural planning policy. Former DoE minister Arlene Foster `chickened out` of making decision on rural planning when she had an opportunity to address the needs of the rural west.

"Her successor as Environment Minister, Sammy Wilson should immediately publish a rural planning policy that meets the needs of the people of this district.

"Citizens of this rural county have suffered enough because of this moratorium on rural planning. We need to see a rural planning policy that meets the needs of the rural dweller both farmer and non-farmer alike.

"The needs of the non-farmer, which makes up some 60% of the rural population, must be properly addressed.

"The sustainability of many of our local communities requires a renewed injection of life brought into them. Without a dynamic rural planning policy that can both protect the environment and support rural regeneration that will be more difficult." ENDS

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;                   Sergent                     Garda             Total
31/12/2003               2                                  7                      9
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Following yesterday’s publication of a major HSE report highlighting an increase in the number of people seeking drug treatment in the southeast Sinn Féin Waterford City Councillor David Cullinane has demanded the government prioritise the provision of front-line services in the next National Drugs Strategy.

 

Speaking from Waterford Cllr. Cullinane said

 

“The southeast has a chronic shortage of drug addiction Counsellors’ and has just a single methadone clinic for the entire region.

 
“Sufficient funding to secure frontline services must be a priority deliverable from the governments National Drugs Strategy.

 
“Government and the HSE are hindering the delivery of the curre#160;                  7                      9
31/12/2005                   2                               12                     14
31/12/2006                   2                              nt National Drugs Strategy. The HSE recruitment ban or ‘employment controls’ are preventing the replacement of staff who have left existing drug treatment services and in addition it is preventing the introduction of new much needed services even where funding for same has already been approved.  

 

“By its own admission the HSE are short more than 350 detox and rehab beds.  They have less than half the beds currently required. There is a lack of treatment services across the board in the Southeast.

“Under Budget 2008 finance to the Drugs Initiative/Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund which includes the NDS is to be €64 million. Contrast this figure with the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund which is to receive €76.6 million it is clear where this government’s priorities lie.

 


31/12/2007               2                               12                     14
Drugs Unit
 
Date                           Sergent                     Garda   &="msonormal"> “The Regional Drugs Taskforce is under-resourced while the Waterford City task force receives no funding at all. It is crucial that adequate funding is provided for community drug based initiatives and programmes and for increased community gardaí.”

“The new National Drugs Strategy must ensure that funding to frontline services is sufficient and secure.  Staff should not be unduly hindered with endless paperwork as is currently the case when seeking funding.
 
"It is not surprising that this latest HSE report shows that 64% of those seeking treatment for addiction were treated for alcohol problems. However any move to include alcohol under the remit of the NDS must be given very careful consideration.

 

“While there are obvious advantages for the treatment of poly-drug users involvin#160;         Total
31/12/2003               1                                  4                     5
31/12/2004                   1                                  5                     6
31/12/g alcohol, there is a real danger that illicit drugs would get lost alongside the nation’s mammoth and culturally entrenched problems with the legal drug of alcohol.  Funding to the NDS would have to been increased by many multiples if such an extension were to be at all feasible.

“Successful pilot schemes must be mainstreamed without undue delay and with the necessary additional funding.  The Justice Minister has indicated that the Dial to Stop Drug dealing scheme is to be rolled out.  We have been calling for this since 2006. This must happen without further delay and like its successful pilot in Blanchardstown it must be a confidential ‘non-Garda’ line.  It is this characteristic which allows it to serve as a bridge between communities and Gardaí.

“Under the new National Drugs Strategy communities and Joint Policing Committees should have a role informing the allocati2005                   1                                  5                     6
31/12/2006                   1                                  6                     7
31/12/2007             &on of Garda resources and Garda operations in particular those of the national and local drugs squads. I have made the case directly to Chief Superintendent Mr. Pat Murphy for a doubling of the local Drugs Unit. This unit currently stands at 8 and in my view are not sufficient to deal with the growing drugs problem. I have made a detailed submission to the local garda division plan suggesting positive changes in many areas.”
 
“For any new drug strategy to be successful it is absolutely essential that the Government recognises the gravity of the drugs crisis and matches it with the adequate resources to combat it.  This has not been the case heretofore as evidenced by the pitiful resources put into the current National Drugs Strategy.” ENDS

Note to Editor – Please find below a response received from the Minister for Justice by Sinn Féin regarding the make #160; 1                                  7          up of the Waterford drugs unit. It shows the personnel strength of the Waterford district in total and of a number of units.

Date               Chief Supt    Supt   Insp    Sergt  Garda             Total31/12/2003            1                 2          5          22        120              150
21/12/2004           1   &

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has said substantial investment in education must be part of a long term plan to reverse the current economic downturn. Senator Doherty said the fact that many parents are taking on debts to fund their children's education in the direct aftermath of an economic boom is an indictment of the Fianna Fáil's management of the Celtic Tiger Economy.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said, "Recent reports on the cost of education in Ireland even without third level fees have finally put the myth of free education in Ireland to bed. One study has shown that the cost of educating a child up to and including third level is €61,000 while another shows that many parents are taking on debts to fund their children's education.

"Coming in the direct aftermath of the biggest economic boom this state has ever seen this is a huge indictment of Fianna Fáil's management of the Celtic Tiger Economy.

"Forty-five percent of parents said they are prepared to take out loans to fund their children's education, a drop of twelve percent on last year's figures. This shows that, as the economy slows many parents, particularly those on low and middle incomes, cannot afford to give their children the education they would like meaning that children from more prosperous backgrounds have an unfair advantage over those from poorer backgrounds.

"At a time of economic downturn it is essential that those on low and middle incomes are protected. The current 'back to school' allowance is totally inadequate and needs to be increased. Similarly, the third level grants system is failing our third level students and also needs to be increased.

"On top of the costs of uniforms and books and other equipment, parents have the added burden of feeling that they should contribute to the costs of running and maintaining their children's schools. This is completely unacceptable and a failure of the state. The capitation grant only covers 50% of school running costs leaving boards of management and parents to fundraise for the remaining 50%. Sinn Féin is calling for the capitation grant to be doubled to take away the added burden on parents.

"The Government is currently spending €36million on prefab accommodation for school children despite being blissfully unaware how many are being taught in this type of building. This is a complete waste of money and should be re-invested in a proper school build programme.

"Sinn Féin would also like to see the €80million that is currently provided annually to private schools redirected to the public education system to ease the burden on low and middle income earners.

"Substantial investment in education must be part of a long term plan to reverse the current economic downturn. If we are to truly become the knowledge based economy that we so often talk about then investment in education must be forthcoming. The Government must not use the decline in the economy as an excuse for cuts in education or even to stall investment at current levels." ENDS

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Responding to Minister of State for Europe Dick Roche's comments that the government may re-run the Lisbon Treaty referendum Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald described the statement as "another example of a government without a plan."

Speaking from Leinster House the Dublin MEP said:

"Minister Roche's comments are yet another example of a government without a plan to tackle the political reality that the Lisbon Treaty is finished. There is no political crisis as Minister Roche has suggested. There is simply a political task to be dealt with. The Irish people, like the French and Dutch before them, have rejected this Treaty. A new deal now needs to be negotiated.

"But rather than step up to the job at hand the Irish government has repeatedly tried to connive and convince a re-running the Lisbon Treaty. Minister Roche's comments are just the latest in a string of silly season kite-flying exercises.

"Minister Roche states his comments are personal. What nonsense! He also states that the Irish cannot simply sit on our hands and keep saying no. The only people who have sat on their hands since June 12th is the Irish government and those who supported them in their Yes to Lisbon campaign.

"Immediately following the success of the No campaign Sinn Féin sought a meeting with the Taoiseach and submitted to the Irish government a detailed series of recommended changes to the Treaty that reflected the concerns articulated by the people during the campaign.

"We have since published this document entitled 'A Better Deal for Ireland and the EU' which addresses issues such as the loss of a permanent Commissioner, declining democracy within the EU, the strengthening of key vetoes, the removal of all self amending clauses, public services and workers rights and a number of aspects of common foreign and defence policies.

"Sinn Féin is the only political party to have produced such a document. The others have chosen instead to spend the passing months finger pointing and indulging themselves in a blame game.

"These are all practical and deliverable demands. Sinn Féin's Better Deal document offers the Irish government a very real way to tackle the political debate it must have with the EU Commission. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our solid proposals with the Taoiseach in advance of October's summit.

"It is time the Irish government stopped trying to circumvent the Irish people and instead knuckled down to the job at hand. The Lisbon Treaty is finished and rerunning the proposition for a second time is simply not an option." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fisheries, Martin Ferris TD, has strongly condemned the decision by Údarás na Gaeltachta to close its marine research subsidiary, Taighde Mara Teo. The Kerry North TD said that it represented not only a blow to the development of aquaculture in the west but a lack of faith in the future of marine based enterprise.

Deputy Ferris said: "At the moment I am engaged in a series of consultations, authorised by the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries, on the future of farming and fishing in the West. I have met a number of people interested in the area of aquaculture especially given the current crisis within the sea fishery. Therefore to close Taighde Mara sends a negative signal to the sector.

"It is clear that there is an official attitude which is almost defeatist in relation to the coastal economy in the West. This is yet another indication of this and another sign that something urgently needs to be done if the tide of decline is to be reversed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member and chairperson of the DCAL committee Barry McElduff today said that comments made by Jeffery Donaldson expressing regret that the six counties would miss out on 2012 Olympic action because of the failure to proceed with the Maze/ Long Kesh stadium ignored completely the fact that all of the delays are because the DUP is internally split on the issue.

Mr McElduff said:

"Many people will have been surprised today to hear the DUP Junior Minister Jeffery Donaldson expressing regret that the six counties will miss out on 2012 Olympic action because the Executive has not yet moved on the Maze/Long Kesh stadium.

"The reality of course is that this has not happened because the DUP is split wide open on the issue. Edwin Poots, Gregory Campbell, Nigel Dodds and Peter Robinson have messed around with this issue and have yet to even bring a paper on the Long Kesh site to the Executive.

"Jeffery Donaldson's comments could be taken more seriously if his party were not blocking the multi sports stadium and with it a massive capital investment which is much needed in the current economic climate." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called for an increase in Garda patrols, particularly on foot and on bicycle, in areas suffering from high levels of violent crime.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh was speaking today after one man was shot dead and another injured in Finglas last night. He said more Gardaí must be freed up for the fight against crime and called for action from the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Unfortunately shootings in Dublin have become an all too regular occurrence. The fact that many shootings are taking place in public places, such as last night's shootings in a pub in Finglas, shows that the criminals responsible have absolutely no fear of being caught. This is partially because of a lack of Gardaí in the communities where they operate.

"Sinn Féin has been calling for higher Garda visibility in communities that are suffering from high levels of crime. We want to see extra Garda patrols, particularly on foot and on bicycle in these communities.

"It is time for Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to act on violent crime. His settling in period has come to an end. I am calling on him to give his evaluation of operation anvil as its effectiveness is well and truly in question. If the overtime ban is negatively effecting the operation then the current deployment and use of Garda time must be re-examined in light of this.

"Sinn Féin is currently in the process of putting together our submission to the Garda Policing Plan for 2008. In it we will again be calling for more Gardaí on foot and on bicycles in communities that are suffering from high levels of crime.

"The process of civilianisation of administrative Garda duties must be expedited to free up Gardaí, to get them out from behind desks and onto the streets to tackle serious drug and gun crime." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said there is widespread and growing concern among republicans at the failure to transfer policing and justice powers from London to Belfast which should have happened by May of this year. He said the Irish Government needs to "get its act together" with regard to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Deputy Ó Caoláin was speaking today (Sunday) in Templeport, Co. Cavan at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the death of James Crossan, Sinn Féin Organiser for Co. Cavan, who was murdered by the RUC on 24 August 1958.

During the course of his speech Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

"There is now widespread and growing concern among republicans at the failure to transfer policing and justice powers from London to Belfast in due time.

"When Sinn Féin changed our policy on policing in the North, accepting that a new beginning was being made, it was with the prospect that policing and justice powers would be transferred by May of this year. It is now the end of August and we do not even have a date for transfer. This is totally unacceptable.

"Our negotiators are doing their utmost. But the DUP, the British government and the Irish government should note that the patience of republicans should not be taken for granted.

"Our Ministers are not in the Executive to fill seats, to make careers or to be administrators. Their mandate is to bring about lasting and fundamental change. That is why Sinn Féin put them there.

"If we are forced to conclude that change will not be forthcoming from the Executive then we will have no option but to pull out our Ministers and seek to put pressure where responsibility ultimately lies, which is on the British Government in London.

"It is time also that the Irish Government got its act together. We need to see a renewed and reinvigorated approach. The reality is that the Irish Government has been soft-pedalling on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement because it equates progress with electoral advances for Sinn Féin.

"No doubt Fianna Fáil in particular will object to this analysis of their approach. Very well, then, let them prove us wrong.

"Let them exert public pressure for the transfer of policing and justice powers, as well as the other outstanding issues, including Acht na Gaeilge.

"Let them prioritise the all-Ireland agenda and step up the development of our economy and infrastructure, our public services and business sector on an island basis.

"Above all let them set out a programme for ending partition and reuniting the island and people of Ireland. For our part, we look forward to working with them on that programme." ENDS

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Local Sinn Féin Enniskillen Councillor Pat Cox has said that the reported closure of 8 maternity beds in the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen on September 1st will have a massive impact on local expectant mothers and families.

Cllr Cox said:

"The reported decision to close 8 maternity beds at the Erne Hospital will have a devastating impact on local expectant mothers and families.

"Even before threatened loss of these beds maternity services at the Erne are struggling to meet the needs of the community.

"I am concern that expectant mothers will face even greater pressures and hardship at a time when they need the maximum support.

"The loss of this capacity at the hospital also increases concern that many local people have about the shape and composition of services that will be sustained when the new hospital is built." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has said that hundreds of homeowners across the north affected by the recent flooding should have been told about the risks when they were applying for planning permission.

Mr Molloy said:

"This is totally a unacceptable situation. Local people have built their homes after being given planning permission by the Planning Service only to now find out that their homes are built in an area vulnerable to flooding.

"It is simply not good enough for Planning Services to say that the Rivers Agency did not have enough capacity to make the necessary assessments. Planning Services are the body responsible for giving people planning permission and they need to take responsibility for ensuring that when people build their homes that they have all of the information required to make an informed decision.

"This situation underlines the need for a radical shake-up of not just the entire planning process but also much greater scrutiny of Planning Services.

"Sammy Wilson needs to make sure that the Planning Service is able to deliver a professional service that meets the standards expected.

"These people who were given planning permission to build homes in the flood plains or even pushed down into these vulnerable areas by the Planning Service should be compensated." ENDS

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Local Newry and Mourne Councillor Pat McGinn welcoming the Public Information meeting taking place in Corrinshego this Thursday night 7-30 (28 August) on the new bypass and the impact on the community locally has urged residents in the hancellors Road, Corrinshego, Altnaveigh and Martins Lane areas to attend the meeting which will include presentations from Roads Service and Contractors about the road layout and ongoing works.

Cllr McGinn said:

"This is the first of a series of meetings with residents and groups from communities living along the stretch of road now being developed. Another one is expected to take place in Carnaget/Parkhead shortly.

"It will be an opportunity for local residents to hear at first hand the exact outline of the proposed road layout and the programme of work involved. It is also an opportunity for people to raise in an appropriate fashion, particular issues of concern directly with those involved.

"Whilst we all accept that this is a major works project, we must balance that with the needs and entitlements of local communities directly impacted."

Cllr McGinn also said that he expected Roads Service personnel to present their findings and proposed model in relation to traffic flow and pedestrian access at the Egyptian Arch, in the near future.

"Roads Service are aware of the concerns that both myself and local residents have raised. We now need to be given the opportunity to view the proposals and respond to them" said the Sinn Féin elected representative. ENDS

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