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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha, a member of the City's Council's Budget Consultative Group, has said that Sinn Féin will oppose the proposed rent increases for Council tenants contained in the Draft 2014 Budget issued by management.

Councillor Mac Donncha said:

"Sinn Féin will not be supporting a draft Budget that seeks to impose a 7% rent increase for Council tenants in Dublin City. This proposed rent increase comes about directly as a result of Fine Gael/Labour Government cuts to local government funding and of the so-called local property tax which it is proposed to pass on to tenants in the form of rent rises.

"We have also been told that a new 'National Rents Scheme' in 2015 will see council rents in Dublin rise by 14%. Dublin City Council management wants to front-load this with a 7% increase in 2014.

"Sinn Féin will strongly oppose any such rent rise for tenants. Throughout the recession Dublin City Council has managed to keep rents at a moderate level yet here we have central Government again usurping local democracy in order to impose austerity on hard-pressed communities. Neither Council management nor Councillors should facilitate this.

"The draft budget also contains other cuts such as drastic reductions in Government grants for homeless services and disabled person's (housing adaptation) grants. These are totally unacceptable."  ENDS

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Reacting to the comments from the Head of the European Commission José Manuel Barrosso, the Sinn Féin EU Midlands Northwest candidate Matt Carthy said the remarks demonstrate the failure of Ireland’s Yes men and women at European level including in the EU parliament.

Carthy urged voters in next May’s election to elect MEPs who will stand up for Ireland's interests.

He said;

“José Manuel Barrosso’s comments come as no surprise to me.   Throughout this crisis the EU has failed to take any account of the interests of the Irish people.  Yes, the Fianna Fáil Government must take a large part of the blame for the crisis which we are in, as must the current government for failing to stand up for the Irish people particularly by not insisting that bondholders be burnt. 

“However it is time that the EU and those such as Barrosso admitted that weaknesses at the heart of the Euro put fuel on the flames of the Irish banking and property bubble.  By setting interest rates at a level that suited dormant German and French economies when the Irish economy was overheating they made the situation in Ireland far far worse.

“Without the ECB and the Eurozone, Irish banks would not have had access to the funds at low interest rates which they over lent to the Irish property sector.  It is not good enough for Barrosso to wash his hands of any responsibility.  The EU must also accept responsibility for pushing a culture of light regulation which allowed the Irish banks to act irresponsibly. And it must accept responsibility for the consequences of its opposition to the burning of bondholders. 

“If elected to the EU parliament next May I will not be a Yes man like other sitting MEPs who have sat on their hands as the EU has treated Ireland appallingly.  I will not stand by and let Ireland be bullied by Barrosso or those such as former ECB chairman Jean-Claud Trichet. I will fight for a better deal for Ireland.”

ENDS

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Sinn Fein's EU candidate for the South constituency of Ireland Liadh Ní Riada stated today that the comments of European Commission President Maunel Barroso regarding bank recapitalisation are a product of the government's failure to stand up for Irish citizens at European level.

She also said that his comments are an attempt to avoid any responsibility at an EU level for the recapitalisation of Irish banks.

Ní Riada said:

“Jose Manuel Barosso’s comments today are partly the product of a weak Irish Government and a deep-rooted failure to defend the interests of Irish citizens at European level. It highlights the glaring lack of principled leadership from those representing this state in dealings with the institutions of the European Union.

"Our Government and our current MEPs have failed to stand up for Ireland on this issue. They vowed to achieve the separation of banking and sovereign debt. This never materialised. It seems to me that they readily accepted defeat on that score. It serves as a warning about what can happen if those wielding the power in Europe are allowed to implement an agenda without genuine challenge or critical engagement.

"Mr.Barosso has made it quite clear that retroactive recapitalisation of Irish banks is not something on the agenda in any substantive way. His comments are an attempt to avoid any responsibility at an EU level for the  the €65 billion injustice against the ordinary people of this state.

"We didn't cause the banking crisis but the debt has been firmly fastened to our shoulders and those of future generations. Mr Barosso has effectively confirmed that us, our children and our grandchildren will be forced to pay back the debts of financial gamblers. This is a debt that simply does not belong to us.

"What have we received in return? Austerity and savage cuts to our social infrastructure from complicit parties such as Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

"The government is happy to expose the sick, the elderly, children and vulnerable working families to the harsh climate that this has created while protecting the wealthy elites with equal vigour.”

ENDS

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Commenting on the death of Marie Fleming, the Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said: 

"I extend deepest sympathy to the partner, family and friends of Marie Fleming. Marie's ordeal touched the hearts of people across Ireland and beyond. Her courage and that of her partner won widespread admiration. We owe it to her memory to approach with compassion and realism the debate on the issue of assisted suicide, conscious always of those who suffer such painful ordeals as that endured by Marie. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the last night’s comments from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso put the issue of retroactive recapitalisation of Irish banks in serious doubt.

Deputy McDonald was speaking today after Mr Barroso said the Euro was a victim of irresponsible practices in the Irish financial sector and that the European Banking Union was for the future and not retroactive.

Ms McDonald said;

“Mr Barosso’s comments are an attempt to place the blame for the financial crisis firmly at Ireland’s door and to remove any responsibility from Europe.

“He is sending a strong signal that retroactive recapitalisation of Irish banks is not going to happen.

“This is a very sad reflection on the state of play in the negotiations that the government tells us are underway.

“Far from negotiating retroactive recapitalisation, the government has not advanced past the point of convincing the European Union that it carries some responsibility for the financial crisis.

“Enda Kenny needs to make it clear to the European Commission that Europe played a major role in the financial crisis in this state and therefore carries a significant responsibility.

“These comments are deeply disappointing and show that the government has overplayed the possibility of retroactive recapitalisation.”

ENDS

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Responding today to comments by European Commission President Manuel Barrosso on Irish bank recapitalisation, Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams TD said:

“EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso now appears to be definitively ruling out retroactive recapitalisation. His words leave this Government badly exposed.”

Deputy Adams accused the government of having “miserably failed to defend and promote the interests of Irish citizens.”

Gerry Adams TD:

“The most important issue facing this state is dealing with the unsustainable bank debt, foisted on our citizens by a Fianna Fáil Government which crashed the economy and gave away the state’s economic sovereignty.

 

“It has been Sinn Féin’s consistent position that the Government needs to assertively pursue historic recapitalisation of Irish banks to attain the maximum benefit for the citizens of this state.

“Despite the fact that the Fine Gael/Labour Government promised that retroactive recapitalisation of Irish banks was on the table after the so-called ‘game-changing’ June 2012 EU summit, it failed to pursue this with any seriousness.

“European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso now appears to be definitively ruling out retroactive recapitalisation. His words leave this Government badly exposed.

“This is further evidence of the failure of the Government’s EU negotiations strategy and its reliance on spin over substance.

“This Government has, once again, miserably failed to defend and promote the interests of Irish citizens.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has welcome clarification by Minister Varadkar that there are no plans to introduce multiple tolls on the M50. The clarification followed a news report today that despite previous denials the Minister would be implementing NRA proposals on new tolls in the New Year.

Deputy Ellis said;

“This is good news as just six months ago Minister Varadkar said there were no plans for these charges. Multiple tolling on the M50 would be a disaster for motorists, particularly those commuting long distances to work. Families are already hard pressed and this news means that simply getting to work is going to cost more.

“If there are real problems with overcrowding at peak times on the M50 then the solution is to improve public transport rather than punish commuters who have no option but to drive to work.

“This government has cut public transport budgets, increased fares numerous times and the Minister has a record of stoking industrial disputes in companies like Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus. A serious change in approach from the government is needed to get people out of cars and on to public transport and punitive measures like tolls are not appropriate especially in these difficult times.”

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Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams TD has called for support for a Christmas initiative by young Irish emigrants campaigning for the right to vote in the 2018 Presidential election.

The ‘Toast for a Vote’ campaign aims to get Irish citizens all over the world to raise a glass to giving emigrants the right to vote in Presidential elections.

The young Irish emigrant group, ‘We’re Coming Back’ is encouraging Irish people at home and abroad to take part in a simultaneous toast this Christmas weekend, by raising a glass to an emigrant vote, and to submit a photo online.

The Facebook campaign has over 500 people taking part in ‘The Quiet One 2013’ and the group is hoping many more people will join in at the weekend.

Sinn Fein President and Louth TD Gerry Adams said:

“I think the ‘Toast for a Vote’ is a fantastic idea. I recently attended events in London and New York attended by large numbers of the young Irish people forced to emigrate as a result of the disastrous policies of successive Irish Governments.

“Young Irish citizens scattered across the globe don’t want to be away from their families, especially at Christmas. Many rightly believe that the government has adopted forced emigration as a policy choice.

“It is time now that the Irish Constitution reached out to the children of the diaspora scattered around the globe.

“Sinn Fein has long demanded the right to votes in Presidential Elections for Irish emigrants.

“I commend the We’re Coming Back group for their imagination and initiative and I urge everyone to support the ‘Toast for a Vote’ campaign.”

ENDS

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Responding to the announcement about an EU wide banking union today, Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD said the Irish people deserved to hear from their government what they were doing to separate banking debt already incurred in this state, from sovereign debt.

He said the party had concerns about the details of the banking union, but the important issue of retrospective recapitalisation of Irish banks was still not being dealt with.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Twice this week the government has glossed over the retrospective recapitalisation of Irish banks that it promised was on the table after the ‘game-changing’ June 2012 summit - once in their medium term economic strategy and now with talk about the EU wide banking union. Where is the ESM in all this?

“While a common resolution regime for future bank failings is important, we as a State cannot move on until our legacy bank debt, caused by our government bailing out our failing banks with taxpayers’ money, is addressed.

“I am concerned about the details of this banking union and will study them further in the coming period. It does appear to have altered from the original plan. The single deposit scheme appears to have been dropped and the complexity of the issue means shutting down failing banks will be nowhere near straightforward.

“I am concerned that the cost of bailing out a failing bank is still to be initially born by the sovereign while a common fund, which Ireland will contribute to, is to be established over the next ten years. Reports say this fund will amount to €55 billion. Bearing in mind the government put €65 billion into the Irish banks.

“We have always cautioned that the banking union could just be another step towards a federalised Europe and European politicians have implied this in various speeches. What we do not want is a banking union that gives Europe all of the rights, but none of the responsibilities.

“We do want to see a common resolution regime which sees failed banks closed without incurring a cost for the taxpayer and we want harmonization of regulation. However, the most important issue for us right now is the address of Ireland’s bank bailout, which this government continues to ignore.”

ENDS

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The Minister of State for the Gaeltacht has indicated that he intends to appoint the successive Irish Language Commissioner without delay. Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said that if this is the case, an open and transparent process is essential.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said;

“Former Irish Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, resigned on the grounds of the lack of due support he received in his role from the government. This represented a clear vote of no-confidence in the government and the first time in the history of the state that someone at the level of Ombudsman has resigned.

“The Minister must address the serious issues raised by Seán Ó Cuirreáin before appointing a successive Commissioner.

“Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley, however, indicated to me recently in the Seanad that he is pressing ahead with the appointment of Ó Cuirreáin’s successor. There is much concern that this will be a political appointment of someone not as strong on the full implementation of the Official Irish Language Act as Seán Ó Cuirreáin was. The Minister also said that the detail of the post had been clarified and that he intended to seek offers without delay.

“I am calling on the Minister to publish these details as soon as possible so that we can evaluate them. I am calling for an open process of candidate evaluation, so that the most appropriate person for this most important role is appointed. An example of this approach was the appointment of Emily Logan to the Ombudsman for Children post. This role was openly advertised, and she went through a series of interviews before her appointment, even with children on the interview panel, and it is clear that this was a very beneficial process.

“Wouldn’t it be great to see a similar process implemented in the appointment of the new Commissioner, where interested candidates could be openly interviewed by public figures from the Irish language community, or from the Oireachtas Irish joint-committee?

“This would be a great way to garner the trust of the Irish community in the process of the appointment of the Commissioner and to ensure that this will not be a political appointment.”

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Speaking at a sitting of the Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Committee, Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane urged the new chair designate of the IDA Fran Ryan, to address unemployment in the South East as a matter of urgency.

Senator Cullinane said:

“I welcome the appointment of Mr Ryan and I wish him well in his new role.

“But as a native of Waterford it would be remiss of me not to bring to his attention the appalling high levels of unemployment in the town and in the South East in general.

“This region has been particularly affected by the recession and the economic decline. On all the indicators - unemployment, jobs losses, it is above the national average.

“Perhaps even more importantly, in terms of job creation, inward investment and funding it is also doing abysmally bad.

“I would therefore call on Fran Ryan to study the South East Economic Development Strategy (SEEDS) which was recently published by this very Committee.

“The SEEDS report makes a number of key recommendations to kick start the recovery of the region.

“These include a call for the IDA to immediately establish a regional office in Waterford and to appoint a Director for the South East.

“In and of itself however this is not enough. The South East needs a regional Director who is going to implement the findings of the Report, which outlines a very specific and step by step strategy for development.

“Frank Ryan has a wonderful opportunity now to tackle what can only be described as a policy of uneven and unequal regional development.

“The South East has paid a huge price for this and it is time for change.

“The IDA needs to be proactive. The people of the South East Waterford are entitled to work and a future as much as anyone else and they should not be discriminated against because they live outside of the Greater Dublin Region.”

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Sinn Féin TDs today walked out of the Dáil with other opposition members in protest at the wholly inadequate provision of time to debate the Water Services Bill.
Speaking ahead of the walk-out Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the manner in which the government is handling the Water Service Bill is an insult to the people of Ireland.
Addressing Minister Ruairí Quinn, who was in the Taoiseach’s chair for Order of Business, Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
“Nearly two years after what you called the ‘democratic revolution’ of 2011 and for all your talk of reform you bring into this Dáil one of the most far-reaching bills in years and you want to ram it through in a couple of hours on the last sitting day before the Christmas recess. 
“This Water Services Bill is an insult to the people of Ireland and the way you are handling it in the Dáil today is a further insult. 
“This Bill is to facilitate the imposition of water charges on householders across this State. You have given us no idea how much will be charged but we do know that - like the so-called Local Property Tax - no account will be taken of people’s ability to pay. 
“This week the Dublin City Manager in his report exposed the chaos that this is going to cause if you try to force the transfer of water services from all local authorities to Irish Water on the 1st of January.
“We will not be facilitating this attack on democracy and we totally reject this Bill and your bulldozing of it through the Dáil today.”

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Deir Aire Stáit na Gaeltachta go bhfuil sé i gceist aige duine a cheapadh i gcomharbacht ar an Coimisinéir Teanga gan mhoill. Má tá, ba chóir gur próiseas oscailte, trédhearcach a bheidh ann, dar leis an Seanadóir Shinn Féin Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

Deir sé:
“Ba vóta mímhuiníne sa rialtas a bhí in éirí as Seán Ó Cuirreáin mar Choimisinéir Teanga ar an mbunphrionsabail nach raibh an tacaíocht cuí aige ón rialtas. Seo an chéad uair ariamh gur éirigh duine ag leibhéal Ombudsman as i stair an stát.
“Ní mór don Aire dul i ngleic leis na fadhbanna tromchúiseacha a d'ardaigh Seán Ó Cuirreáin sula gceapfar comharba air. 
“Chuir Aire Stáit na Gaeltachta, Dinny McGinley in iúl dom sa Seanad le déanaí go bhfuil sé ag brú ar aghaidh le comharba a cheapadh ar Ó Cuirreáin áfach. Tá an-imní ann gur ceapachán polaitiúil a bheidh ann, go roghnófar duine nach mbeidh chomh láidir ó thaobh cur i bhfeidhm Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla is a bhí Seán Ó Cuirreáin. Deir an tAire freisin liom go bhfuil na 'sonraí beagnach déanta' agus go bhfuil súil aige 'a bheith ag lorg tairiscintí gan mhoill'.
“Tá mé ag iarraidh ar an Aire na sonraí sin a fhoilsiú go luath le gur féidir linn iad a mheas. Tá mé ag iarraidh go mbeadh próiseas oscailte ann le h-iarrthóirí a mheas agus le deimhniú go gceapfar an té is feiliúnaí don ról fíorthábhachtach seo. 
“Bhí eiseamláir den cur chuige seo ann nuair a roghnaíodh Emily Logan mar Ombudsman na Leanaí. Fógraíodh a post sin i gcomórtas oscailte, chuaigh sí tríd sraith agallaimh sular ceapadh í, fiú le páistí ar chuid de na boird agallaimh agus ba léir gur próiseas iontach tairbheach a bhí ann.
“Nach mbeadh sé iontach a leithéid a fheiceáil arís maidir leis an gCoimisinéir nua, go mbeadh agallaimh ann leis na h-iarrthóirí a mbeidh suim acu sa phost le ionadaithe pobail ó saol na Gaeilge, nó fiú ó chomhchoiste Gaeilge an Oireachtais. Is bealach an-mhaith a bheadh ann le muinín pobal na Gaeilge sa bpróiseas ceapachán don gCoimisinéir nua a neartú agus cinntiú nach ceapachán polaitiúil a bheidh ann.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Tourism and Sport, Sandra McLellan TD has expressed her concern at the recent cut backs to funding for the Sports Council. Spending to the Sports Council will be reduced by 3% on 2013.

Speaking today during the course of Questions to the Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport, the Cork East TD, enquired whether the Minister had taken in to account recent hikes in rates at the major Sports Stadia in Dublin when making this cut.

“Sports plays a huge role in Ireland, socially and in many other respects.”

“For example the cost of detaining 1 young person in Oberstown for a year, is €278,000. On the other hand, when the FAI ran the Late Night Leagues in Dublin, there was a massive 49% reduction in Garda Call outs. This cost a mere 15,000.”

“However, there has been a clear link evidenced all over the world between investment and success in sport.”

“Success isn’t the only positive benefit from investment, but clearly the exploits of Rob Heffernan and Jason Quigley this year are a great lift to the Nation in what is a difficult time.”

“The cut to funding for the sports council is an almighty blow and I believe will set back the excellent work so many of these key bodies are dealing with.”

“Paddy Barnes, our two-time Olympic medallist has criticised the Sports Council for failing to invest in the IABA, with substandard facilities, and having recently failed to send a female team to a world championship due to lack of funding.”

“Now there will be even less funding available, and it will potentially harm the prospects of our high performance programme. What’s more is that we have seen consecutive cuts in this area in recent years, with a 6% cut last year.”

“It should also be borne in mind that this cut to funding comes at the same time that there has been a significant increase in rates levied on the major sports stadia in Dublin. The Aviva Stadium and Croke Park received a rates Bill which was five times larger than last year, with rates for the Aviva going from €437,000 to €2.36 million, and Croke Park from €528,000 to €2.112 million.”

“These increases will amount to €3.5 million between the GAA, the IRFU and the FAI, which is a reduction of over 50% of the funding the organisations received from the Irish Sports Council last year.”

“The Government should have taken this into account when making such a major cut, which comes on top of significant cuts in previous years.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has accused government senators of feigning concern on issues such as homelessness and poverty in the pre-Christmas period, whist supporting government policy that engenders such hardship.

Speaking in the Seanad today, Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:

“Government Senators in the pre-Christmas period are feigning concern on many issues including the number of people who are homeless, of those needing supports from charities, helplines and social services.
“I reminded government Senators today that much of the hardship is due to successive cuts to budgets that they have fully endorsed. 
“I fully agree that the number of people homeless in Ireland is unacceptable, that having 90,000 people waiting on housing lists is unacceptable, that the increased dependence on voluntary organisations as St. Vincent De Paul, Simon, and many others is very worrying and that services like the Samaritans are doing incredible work in supporting people in difficult circumstances. But it smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order when government Senators express their concern in the Seanad when they opposed measures Sinn Féin and others have put forward to alleviate these very difficult situations for people.
“We brought forward legislation this year to have Equality Budgeting measures taken into account when budgets are being allocated which was opposed by the government. We sought to have inability to pay clauses and poverty proofing measures included in legislation on many occasions which the government turned down. We put forward proposals in the run up to the budget to alleviate the pressures on low and middle income families which were roundly rejected. Instead this administration of Fine Gael and Labour representatives has continued the austerity economics which were championed by Fianna Fáil and the Greens when in government.
“The political amnesia now of government Senators is disingenuous to say the least, as they play to the media gallery with their concern for citizens in the run up to Christmas whilst having supported the cuts to vital funding which could have actually made a real difference.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Michael Colreavy TD, has welcomed the announcement by Minister Rabbitte regarding the use of the ESB network to enhance the provision of high speed broadband. New legislation will allow the ESB to engage in the electronic communications sector.

Deputy Colreavy said:

“I very much welcome the Minister’s announcement and hope that it will expedite the provision of high speed broad band in parts of the state where there is a marked deficiency in service. I would also hope that the Minister’s sticks to his commitment to state-led investment in projects, such as broadband provision, where the private sector has been unwilling to engage.

“I would also hope of course that unlike the situation we now have with Bord Gáis Energy that the ESB network and retail distribution is retained in public ownership”.

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has welcomed today’s announcements by Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín that the funding agreement has been reached with the GAA on the new Casement Park stadium project and by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan to give planning approval to the landmark development.

The West Belfast MP said:

“These are welcome announcements that will help regenerate West Belfast and create employment in the area.

“It is another important step in the Stadia projects brought forward by the Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

 “The construction of a 38,000 capacity state of the art stadium on the Casement Park site will be a huge boost for the GAA in the city and County Antrim and will bring longer term and wider economic benefits to an area in much need of investment. This area has suffered from years of under investment and neglect. 

“Sinn Féin have met with residents over the last number of years to hear their concerns and have facilitated meetings between them and the GAA and DCAL. We have also raised those residents concerns with both the GAA and DCAL.

“Over the coming period, as the building work gets under way, further residents concerns need to be taken on board and dealt with in a sensitive manner.

“People throughout greater West Belfast and the city as a whole have bought into this project. The new Casement Park will be an excellent stadium where we can display and enjoy all that is best in our native games for decades to come.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has reacted angrily to recent developments in the South Eastern Health Trust that has seen local patients and staff left worried that vital Accident & Emergency services will be removed from the Downe Hospital.

Following an emergency meeting in Down District Council this evening, the South Down MLA has said:

“With no consultation with public representatives, staff, patients or the wider local community, the South Eastern Trust continues to hide behind closed doors in relation to the proposed cuts to the A&E services at the Downe in Downpatrick.

“We have not been presented with facts or figures, or reasoned explanations as to why A&E’s doors may shut in a few days’ time, indeed the only information the public is privy to at present is rumours regarding the availability of doctors.

“The Minister for Health Edwin Poots and South Eastern Trust officials must present the need for change to the public in South Down – they must have the courage of their convictions to consult with our local community.

“People in Downpatrick tonight are rightly annoyed and angry at this situation – some have even described the actions of the HealthTrust officials as ‘cowardly’ – I don’t think many would disagree at this stage.

The local MLA has also now contacted the Health Committee at Stormont requesting help in ensuring the proposed cuts are reversed:

“I have written to the Chair of the Stormont Health Committee in an effort to halt this process over the Christmas recess and I have asked the Health Committee to meet with the Minister and the South Eastern Trust as a matter of urgency.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has described comments by SDLP MLA Joe Byrne where he outlined his party’s view that the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) should be directed towards the farming community rather than community projects as beyond belief and foolish.

 Mr. McAleer said,

 “As a member of the DARD committee, I feel it is important to state that DARD has a remit for the entire rural community – farmers and the non farming rural dweller alike.  

 “That remit is not alone decided by DARD but also by the European Union which includes measures such as the Rural Development Plan in order to address poverty and quality of life issues affecting everyone in rural areas.

 “As well as paying £250m per year directly to farmers in the form of Single Farm Payments the CAP also provides funding through Pillar II Rural Development Programme for rural community infrastructure. 

  “The Rural Development Programme has been used for the wider rural community to provide basic services like broadband, rural transport and childcare in isolated country areas. 

  “I find it amazing that the SDLP are arguing that rural development should lose these monies and that all monies go directly to farmers, something the farmers would not advocate themselves.

 “Are they arguing that rural broadband not be upgraded, rural shops and post offices close or that public transport routes cease, and rural education and health initiatives be abandoned?

 “It is obvious this policy is ill considered when on one hand they are lauding the greatness of projects like the Garvaghey GAA centre which was part funded by the Rural Development Programme, whilst at the same time criticising DARD for funding so called ‘social, sporting and cultural’ projects in rural areas. 

 “DARD has led the way in supporting rural projects and in encouraging other departments to play their part.    It is incredibly important that all stakeholders, farmers and non-farmers, work together for the greater good of our rural way of life.  An effective and well-tailored CAP reform package can help us to collectively achieve the goal of a vibrant and prosperous rural community. 

 “Sinn Fein will continue to work towards building vibrant rural communities despite a 22% cut to the rural development budget by the British Tory Government.

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis has today stated that the new figure for housing need in the state is clear evidence the government has failed to properly tackled the long running housing crisis.

He was responding to the release of the Summary of Social Housing Assessments 2013 which found housing need had trebled in a decade standing now at just under 90,000 households.

Deputy Ellis said;

“Anyone involved in housing or familiar with the crisis could not be shocked by these figures but they are an utter condemnation of government policy. Over one billion euro has been cut from housing since 2008 as well as cuts to basic social welfare payments and rent supplement.

“These cuts have led to local authorities being unable to provide homes, repair vacant homes or even to properly maintain currently occupied housing. People who are housed right now are living in worse and worse conditions, with damp walls and unreliable plumbing and heating.

“It has been made much harder for people to get on waiting lists and some areas have seen people taken off unbeknownst to them, but still numbers rise. Waiting times for housing have never been longer in recent memory. One in five applicants wait five years to be housed, one in ten wait at least seven. I have a number of people in my area waiting in excess of ten years.

“The solution is real investment in social housing. The Minister claims to be doing this but she has cut 60 million euro from housing in 2014.

“Local authorities are the best way to solve the crisis, they must be empowered to raise funds for social housing through trusts and begin a new era of public provision. The other option of hoping private landlords will provide real social housing is pure fantasy.”

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