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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has sent his and his party’s condolences to Irish actor Liam Neeson on the death of his wife Natasha.

 “People in Ballymena and the wider North Antrim area are extremely proud of Liam Neeson’s achievements in acting and on the ‘big screen’ during his distinctive career.

“The thoughts and prayers of the entire community here are with Liam and his family at this difficult time.

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CAITRÍONA RUANE APPROVES SCHOOLS' AMALGAMATION

The Minister of Education, Caitríona Ruane, has approved the amalgamation of St MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower; St Aloysius’ High, Cushendall and St Comgall’s College, Larne.

The Minister said: “I have considered very carefully all aspects of the development proposal and I have decided that amalgamation of the three schools is in the best interests of the children.

“In examining the proposal for an amalgamated school, several potential site options have been identified and this work has still to be concluded. My department will continue to liaise with the trustees and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools on the site issues.

"In any case, in view of the intention to amalgamate in September and the current capacity at Garron Tower, the amalgamated school will operate on a split-site basis between Larne and Garron Tower. I would wish to see it build on the strong collaboration work which has already been happening with other schools in the Larne area.

"In a new school environment all pupils will have access to a broad and balanced curriculum and enhanced educational and social learning experiences. I wish all those involved with delivering education to the children in the area every success.”

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Sinn Féin MP and party spokesperson on rural affairs, Pat Doherty, will host a Farmers Forum in Greencastle Community Centre on Thursday 26th March at 7.30pm.

The Forum will be addressed by Sinn Féin MEP, Bairbre de Brún and Conor Heaney, Special Adviser to the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew MP.

Commenting ahead of the gathering, the West Tyrone MP said "As a member of the Agriculture & Rural Development committee in the Assembly, I am acutely aware of the major issues affecting the rural community. As such, I have taken the initiative of organising this meeting to provide farmers with a forum to speak directly to their MEP.

Mr Doherty added "Whilst the forum is geared towards the farming sector, I am conscious that the needs of rural dwellers are multi faceted and include matters such as planning and funding for rural community groups. To facilitate this, I have invited along individuals who can answer questions on rural planning (PPS21) and the Rural Development Programme - which will open for applications in the NW cluster area at the end of April.

In extending an invitation to all farmers and everyone involved in agri-businesses and the wider rural community, Mr Doherty said "Events like the Farmers Forum allow my party to engage directly with people at grassroots level and to take on board their needs and concerns.

"This meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7.30pm, will act as a very powerful forum to help inform our party of the many issues of concern facing the rural community.

"The aim of the meeting is to ensure that the needs of the rural community are conveyed directly to those who have an influence on the key decisions affecting their community and I strongly encourage everyone who has an interest in rural affairs to attend".

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Minister Michelle Gildernew, MP MLA, has confirmed that the free pilot collection scheme for aborted material, which has been in operation since mid October last year, will close on 31 March 2009.

Following the completion of the pilot scheme, its success will be evaluated and recommendations made on the scheme’s future with options for any re-introduction.

The Minister said: “The uptake of this scheme by farmers has been very encouraging, with the number of abortions reported substantially increased.

“As we know, abortions are the number one sign of brucellosis and every abortion notified improves our chances of early detection of the disease. Farmers can also be reassured that all the benefits and assistance that both they and my department have gained from the pilot trial will be taken into account in our evaluation.

“The fight against brucellosis is a two-way street and it is only through heightened co-operation between all of us that we can continue to drive brucellosis levels in the North downwards. I also wish to take this opportunity to urge farmers to continue to show responsibility for disease control by reporting all bovine abortions to their local Divisional Veterinary Office while the scheme is being assessed.”

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has turned down a proposal to grant-aid Clogher Valley Integrated School.

Clogher Valley Integrated Primary School is an independent integrated school currently situated in Fivemiletown.

Commenting on the decision, Ms Ruane said: “Each development proposal for a new school is considered carefully, based on all the information available. This includes evidence that any new school will be viable in the longer term and also its potential impact upon existing provision. Declining enrolments and surplus capacity in existing schools in the Clogher Valley areas have led to concerns about the sustainability of another school. It is of particular concern in this context that the school has not, to date, been able to achieve the minimum intakes required. The indications from the information available are that it would not be able to do so in September 2009 which raises a question on ability to demonstrate long-term viability.

“I have a duty to encourage and facilitate integrated education and have regularly done so. I understand that this news will be disappointing for the school, its pupils and parents who support integrated education. In reaching this decision I must consider the prospects for sustainability and the educational interests of all the children concerned.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has confirmed that the party have written to the Chief Electoral Officer Douglas Bain challenging legislation that excludes Irish citizens born in the North but living abroad from being able to vote in the European elections in June.

Documentation from the Electoral Office stipulates that in order for people from the North but currently living abroad to get on the electoral register that they must be British citizens.

Ms de Brún said:

“The Good Friday Agreement provides for the legal right of people in the North to have their rights as Irish citizens fully recognised.

“This means that there should be no barrier to Irish citizens from the North from exercising their democratic right.

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The Department of Education has announced a tender to provide counselling services in post-primary schools.

Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane said: “Building on the success of the Independent Counselling Service for Schools, which has been fully operational from January 2007, my department has launched the next phase of this initiative in order to increase access for post-primary school pupils. Schools have a key role to play in offering support and help to young people who may be experiencing a difficult time in their lives. Children may experience a range of problems relating to a number of issues both in school and their personal lives.

“It is therefore vital that professional counselling services remain available in schools with easy access to all. Continuing with the Independent Counselling Service for Schools will provide an essential service helping our children to lead happy and fulfilling lives.”

Under the terms of the tender, schools are grouped into 11 regions and a counselling team will be based in each region. Counsellors will come into schools and pupils will have access to school-based independent counselling support. The tender will be advertised by Central Procurement Directorate and interested companies must register at https://e-sourcingni.bravosolution.com/web/login.shtml to download documents. The closing date is 3.00pm on 17 April 2009.

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for a portion of the money confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau annually to be ring fenced to secure the future of the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing non Garda phone-line. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing phone-line would in turn secure increased seizures for the Criminal Assets Bureau and that both programmes could compliment each other.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "In 2007 the Criminal Assets Bureau secured over €10million for the exchequer. Just a fraction of this money would secure the future of the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing non Garda confidential phone-line.

"The future of the phone-line, which has been a major success, is in doubt after the Minister announced that no more funding will be allocated to it when the €300,000 allocated this year runs out.

"If a fraction of the money annually generated for the exchequer from CAB could be ring-fenced to secure the future of the phone-line it would in turn secure a return for CAB through tip offs and resulting seizures. Both projects could compliment each other significantly to the benefit of the communities on the coal face of the drugs crises and to the exchequer.

"At the end of the day the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing initiative has been a huge success at a very low cost. The Government should do all in its power to secure its future." ENDS

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Commenting on the rising levels of unemployment, Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson ,Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) said that he believes that there is more that can be done to arrest the situation.   Speaking today Mr McLaughlin said:   “The most recent figures for unemployment has shown an increase of more than 18,500 (75.7%), over the last year being added to the unemployment register. That’s over 1,500 a month.    "I agree with The Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Forster, that there is no quick fix. But for example, if her party colleague, Gregory Campbell, would reverse his unilateral decision to axe the construction of a stadium at the Long Kesh site, it alone would provide over 2,000 construction jobs and a very significant number long-term service jobs.    “There are also questions to be answered by the banking sector about its committment to assisting the economic recovery.  Banks are not assisting local enterprise and individual business people quite as enthusiastically has they expect the taxpayer to help them.  Small to medium enterprises, despite providing over 90% of jobs in this economy, are finding it extremely difficult to access financial support through the banks.   “ In terms of enhancing capacity, I believe that there is a need for increased numbers of available apprenticeships and for retraining and upskilling opportunities for those who have been made redundant in order to be prepared for economic recovery.    "There are other factors that are inhibiting the Executive's ability to tackle the economic downturn such as the lack of fiscal powers. And I am of the firm belief that our longterm recovery will only be achieved through collaboration on an all-Ireland basis. “All these issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. While there may not be any quick fixes to our unemployment concerns, I believe that if we focus on the issues that we can influence we will hasten the recovery.With the right attitude and committment we can impact on the high levels of unemployment.”

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Sinn Féin south Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has condemned those responsible for violence in the lower Ormeau area last night.

Speaking this afternoon Mr Maskey said,

“I utterly condemn last night’s trouble as well as those people who put lives at risk by firing shots at a car in the area.

It is clear that there were a number of serious issues in the area last night, mostly as a result of alcohol consumption. No area should be subjected to louts who are intent on holding it to ransom.

A lot of good work between the community, the PSNI and other statutory agencies has been taking place over the last number of months to ensure a safe and secure community in the lower Ormeau.

This violence took place along with the trouble in the Holyland area; I want to send a very clear message out that these incidents and the people responsible are not reflective of the community in the south of the city.

I would urge anyone with any information regarding last night’s incidents to contact the PSNI.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will visit Limavady tomorrow for a briefing on the £18.5 million available for the North West through the Rural Development Programme (RDP).     Ms de Brún will meet with the Mayor of Limavady Borough Council, Cllr Brenda Chivers, who will host a briefing by Chief Executive of Limavady Borough Council, Liam Flanagan and senior staff regarding the local roll out of Peace III and the Rural Development Programme.     Speaking ahead of the visit Ms de Brún said:     “There are significant funds available for our rural communities through the Rural Development Programme and the roll out of Peace III funding.     “Anyone who is interested in tapping into this financial assistance should make sure that get in touch with the council and the Local Area Groups (LAGs) responsible for distributing much of this funding. Sinn Féin will offer support and encouragement.”     The £18.5 million funding is allocated across rural communities in Limavady Borough Council, Derry City Council, Omagh District Council and Strabane District Council. Sinn Féin Councillor Paddy Butcher is the chairperson of the North West cluster of the Rural Development Programme Joint Committee, which governs the distribution of the fund locally.     Ms de Brún added:     “For the first time the allocation of these resources was heavily influenced by need with 50% of the allocation being determined by deprivation indices. This is an example of a Sinn Fein Minister in Michelle Gildernew skewing resources on the basis of objective need.     “I would encourage people in rural areas to come forward and develop their ideas, particularly in relation to improving competitiveness, improving the environment and improving the quality of life in rural areas.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will meet with the North West’s leading Irish language Arts and Cultural organisation - An Gaeláras, in Derry City tomorrow, Thursday 19th March.     Ms de Brún will meet with An Gaeláras staff to discuss future funding opportunities at 10.45 am and visit the site of the An Gaeláras state-of-the-art Irish language Arts, Culture and Business Enterprise Centre on 37 Great James Street in the city at 11 am.     Ms de Brún will also meet with representatives of Derry City Council, City Centre Management, Chamber of Commerce and ILEX (12 noon to 1.30pm) to discuss a range of issues including a bid for World Heritage Status for to Derry City’s Walls; the City of Derry Airport; City Centre Regeneration and opportunities for European Investment.     Speaking ahead of the visit Ms de Brún said:     “The economic development of the North West is being driven forward by the creative energy of local people.     “Sinn Féin have long recognised that there must be a special focus on the regeneration of the North West. I was happy to persuade the European Parliament Regional Development Committee to visit the North West and see the potential for the future.”     Commenting on the innovative An Gaeláras initiative Ms de Brún said:      “This state-of-the-art Irish language Arts, Culture and Business Enterprise Centre demonstrates the drive and determination of the Irish language community to be at the heart of the regeneration of the North West.     “This project is of major strategic importance to the Irish language community and to the city as a whole; it is symbolic of a language community which is eager to reach out to all communities and its development is an invitation to all to use the centre and to take ownership of the space as a community building.” ENDS     Note to Editors     The An Gaeláras project, which will cost in the region of £3.4m has been in the planning and fundraising stages since 2002 and is widely recognised as one of the most important advances in the recent history of the Irish language community on the island. The main construction work commenced in January 2008 and is due for completion in May 2009.    The new centre will be the largest of its kind on the island and will include a Multipurpose Arts Centre with 200-seat theatre; Irish language bookshop; Café and bistro; Business Incubation Suite; Project development space for Irish language projects; and Classrooms.

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Responding to the NIE statement of intent to proceed with planning permission for the Cavan-Tyrone Electricity Interconnector to be placed over ground, Cathal Boylan, MLA for Newry and Armagh, has said; 

‘The statement from NIE has confused many people who have contacted me believing that this is the end of the matter. It is felt that now they have stated they will be applying for planning permission that the erecting of pylons across the Armagh and Tyrone countryside will be a foregone conclusion, but in fact that is not the case.’ 

The Sinn Féin representative continued; 

‘This type of planning application will be treated as an Article 31, which means the Minister of the Environment will have the final say on the outcome. So the matter is not cut and dried. NIE also have to overcome the hurdle of a united front from land owners opposed to their current plans.’ 

‘The NIE statement provided nothing new, people always knew that it would be more expensive to underground. That is not the issue, the concerns are on possible health implications and people feel that in order to ease those fears then cost should not be a factor. Sinn Féin will continue to support SEAT and NEPP in the 26 counties on this matter.’

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Speaking today as Fine Gael launched its proposal for a graduate tax Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty said the highlights that party’s hypocritical approach to the campaign against the reintroduction of third level fees. Senator Doherty said the graduate tax is third level fees in disguise.

He said, "While preaching to third level students that he is totally against the reintroduction of fees and will be fighting along with them, in reality it is quite clear that Deputy Hayes is talking out of both sides of his mouth on this issue.

"What Deputy Hayes and his Fine Gael Party have proposed today is simply third level fees in disguise.

"The graduate tax, or as it is called in Australia ‘the Higher Education Contribution Scheme’, is a scheme whereby students have their fees paid for upfront by the government and then pay back the amount owed through extra taxation.

"The Australian system has grown so complex that it needs approximately AUS $5 billion to overhaul and comes as a response to a 272 page review of the system. The Higher Education Contribution Scheme as a system is broken and flawed. Originally created to increase access, it has the opposing affect. Students finish university steeped in debt and many students will never earn enough to repay their loan.

"Should a graduate tax system be implemented it would be upwards of a decade before any cost would be recouped by the state, so the argument that this system would be able to fund the sector is completely flawed.

"Sinn Féin is very clear on its position. We will not accept fees through the back door by increasing the registration fee, we will not accept fees through the front door by full-on tuition fees, and we will not accept fees through the side door by way of this fundamentally flawed graduate tax.

"Higher education benefits the entire society and should not be subject to these disgraceful attacks from the government and the Fine Gael party. It should be paid for through a fair and progressive taxation system." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has criticised the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan after he refused to take steps to ensure that banks change the penalty system they impose on customers who wish to change their mortgages from fixed to variable rates to avail of cuts in the European Central Bank rates.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh had raised this issue with the Minister in a Parliamentary Question but he refused to intervene.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also called on the Minister to ensure that the banks are passing on the benefits of the cuts in European Central Bank interest rates to their customers.

He said, “The Government has a duty to ensure that the tax payer gets the maximum value for money for its bailing out of the banking sector.  If the penalties charged for moving from fixed to variable rate mortgages were substantially reduced, thousands of mortgage holders could benefit significantly from the current attractive European Central Bank rates.

“Given the current economic climate the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan should ensure that the recently nationalised Anglo Irish Bank, and those banks that have been recapitalised at the expense of Irish tax payers, substantially reduce the penalties to allow more people move to the variable rate.

“In a climate of massive job losses and increased home repossessions this move would help thousands of struggling families whose hard earned taxes helped create the Celtic Tiger and have now bailed out the banks.  The move would also mean more money in people’s pockets and enhanced spending which is essential if job losses in the private sector are to be stemmed.

“The Government should also ensure that all Irish banks are in fact passing on the benefits of recent cuts in the European Central Bank interest rates to its customers.” ENDS

Note to editor: Question tabled by Deputy Ó Snodaigh and Minister Lenihan’s response follows:

DÁIL QUESTION NO   176

To ask the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to change the penalty system imposed by banks on people with household mortgages who wish to change from a fixed rate mortgage to the variable rate to avail of more attractive rates; if he has discussed this matter with the banks over the past few months; if he will impose a change in banks now nationalised or recapitalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

*    For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 10th March, 2009.

Ref No: 10132/09

REPLY

Minister for Finance ( Mr Lenihan) :

I have no function in setting interest rates. My function is to provide an appropriate legislative framework for regulation of the financial services sector.

The choice of mortgage product ultimately rests with consumers in light of their assessment of the terms and conditions that their lending institution offers. The decision of borrowers is influenced by a range of factors such as their personal preferences and their own assessment of the relative merits of fixed and variable rate mortgages.

Generally mortgages are for long periods. To some consumers a fixed interest rate on a mortgage offers peace of mind in that the borrower benefits from certainty regarding the cost of their mortgage, does not need to be concerned with changes in mortgage interest rates and accordingly he or she can budget more confidently.

Where a bank offers a fixed rate over a certain period it incurs additional costs in obtaining fixed or other funding in respect of the loan over the period. The additional costs will reflect both the market view in relation to future trends in interest rates for the period and the fact that longer term deposits generally attract higher interest rates than short term. In addition, if a borrower wishes to break a fixed interest rate contract prior to the end of the agreed term in order to change to a variable interest rate contract, it will generally result in funding costs for the lender concerned.  The lender in turn will seek to recoup these costs from the borrower. These funding costs do not require the Financial Regulator’s approval. However, the Financial Regulator’s approval must be obtained for any additional administrative type charges imposed on borrowers for breaking fixed rate contracts.

I have not discussed this issue with any representatives of the banks and I have no plans to seek to impose this requirement on any credit institution.

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Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA today visited the Wood Energy Visitors’ Centre at Brook Hall Estate on the outskirts of Derry.

The Wood Energy Visitors' Centre is managed by Rural Generation Ltd and is recognised as a ‘centre of excellence’, demonstrating wood fuel in a range of applications. It consists of conference facilities, office accommodation and exhibitions on wood energy, pellets and other energy crops from biomass.

Following a guided tour of the facilities the Minister said: “I was very interested to hear how developing sustainable energy is vital to our economic, environmental and social well-being, and is fundamental to our future sustained growth and prosperity.

“At a time when there is a heightened awareness of environmental issues and the benefits of renewable energy, the Wood Energy Visitors’ Centre provides a great opportunity for local people to learn about the benefits of wood energy. The Centre uses wood pellet room heaters and a wood fuelled boiler system to provide heat thus demonstrating the effective use of wood as a fuel for space and water heating.”

The Minister concluded: “In September 2008, my Department established an Agricultural Stakeholder Forum on Renewable Energy. The purpose of the Forum is to facilitate the review of the Department’s Renewable Energy Action Plan and to advise on a short to medium term Departmental strategy for renewable energy. I look forward to receiving their advice and recommendations which will inform a refreshed Departmental strategy on renewable energy. I would encourage farmers to put to good use the opportunities available and reap the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the open letter from 16 of the world’s most experienced investigators and judges to the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council calling for a full international investigation into alleged abuses of international law during the recent conflict in Gaza and Southern Israel.

Ms de Brún, who has recently returned from a cross-party MEP fact finding mission to Gaza, said: 

“Having witnessed first hand the situation in Gaza and spoken with many Palestinians on the ground there I see a clear need for a commitment to international human rights standards.

“Many of the people I met and talked with don't feel there is any safety or security for their future and want a commitment that the same thing will not happen again as happened in the three week air assault and ground offensive in December and January. This must include mechanisms of accountability.

“A number of Israeli human rights organisations have indicated evidence of international humanitarian law breaches, and questions about the behaviour and policy of the Israeli forces, including the deliberate targeting and killing of civilians and the denial of emergency medical aid to the injured.

“I welcome this call for a full investigation into breaches of international law in Gaza during the recent conflict there.” ENDS

Notes:

1. Bairbre de Brún met with number of  Israeli human rights organisations including B'tselem (The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), Gisha (The Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement) and the Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territories of Physicians for Human Rights.

She also met with international organisations including UNRWA and Human Rights Watch.

2. The letter is signed by 16 of the world's most experienced investigators and judges, who between them have led investigations of crimes committed informer Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Darfur, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, East Timor, Lebanon and Peru. The list includes Antonio Cassese (First President and Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Head of the UN Inquiry on Darfur) and Richard Goldstone (Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda and Chairman of the UN Inquiry on Kosovo), as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Dr. Mary Robinson.

The signatories say that they have been ‘shocked to the core’ by events in Gaza, and argue that they ‘have seen at first hand the importance of investigating the truth and delivering justice for the victims of conflict and believe it is a precondition to move forward and achieve peace in the Middle East’.

The letter calls for the establishment of a United Nations commission of inquiry into the Gaza conflict that:

  • has a mandate to carry out a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation of all allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict;
  • acts in accordance with the strictest international standards governing such investigations;
  • can provide recommendations as to the appropriate prosecution of those responsible for gross violations of the law by the relevant authorities. 

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has stressed her commitment to campaigning for the protection of our wildlife and natural habitats.

Speaking today ahead of a meeting with the RSPB at the Belfast Harbour nature reserve at 2pm Ms de Brún said:

“Belfast Lough is an Area of Special Scientific Interest and one of many that the RSPB take an active involvement in managing or sustaining.  Many rare species and migratory birds use the wetlands and grasslands at the Lough as a feeding site.

“The European Union has key pieces of legislation and directives surrounding such sites.  I have already asked questions in the European Parliament about progress in implementing this legislation and I am happy to further explore with the RSPB today how best this legislation can be utilised to protect and enhance such areas across the north and further afield.

Note to Editor

Ms de Brún will meet with the RSPB at the Belfast Harbour RSPB nature reserve to discuss issues around the future of the Birds and Habitats Directive and the Natura 2000 network.

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Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA yesterday attended the Speakers lunch as part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington.   In conversation with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden the Sinn Fein leader presented President Obama with a booklet of his election campaign and of his family especially made by children and young people in west Belfast.   Gerry Adams said:   “Two weeks ago I was asked to visit Saint Gerard’s Resource Centre in the heart of West Belfast. Saint Gerard’s is a wonderful school for children with special educational needs.   The pupils wanted me to bring a message from them to President Barack Obama. During President Obama’s election campaign the children, like many others, were inspired by the President’s message of hope and change.   They put together a booklet of drawings and paintings and words about the President and his family.   I was very pleased to be able to hand it over to President Obama.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA for South Belfast Alex Maskey has condemned those responsible for yesterday’s violence in the Holyland area of the city.

Sinn Féin representative for Balmoral and south Belfast DPP member Vincent Parker also blasted those responsible for the havoc.

Speaking this morning Mr Parker said,

“Firstly I condemn those responsible for yesterday’s violence, they have caused untold trauma to the people who live peacefully in the area everyday and that includes students as well as long term residents.

There is an onus on the PSNI to ensure that they respond in a proportionate and responsible way.

What we also need to realise is that the many private landlords in this area have a duty of care to the other residents of the Holyland; they must ensure that those people renting their properties are responsible for their actions; the Universities must also act if it discovered that any of their students were involved in this trouble.

I particularly want to put focus on the many bars and licensed premises which must ensure that they act responsibly in relation to all of this. Many bars were providing cheap drink from very early in the day; many also had offers in store, this only goes to inflame the situation.

We need a joint up approach from the City Council, the DSD, the DOE, community groups as well as the PSNI; this is something that Sinn Féin has called for on numerous occasions. Yesterday’s trouble must act as a catalyst to ensure that the overwhelming majority of citizens in the Holyland can live safely in peace. The actions of a small number were in stark contrast to the thousands of people taking part in yesterday’s celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day in the City Centre.

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