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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



Latest Statements

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Speaking today during the Dail Committee debate on the Finance (No2) Bill Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty described the Bill as “the wrong way to fund job creation”.

Deputy Doherty sought to replace the pension levy with an alternative source of funding job creation by standardising pension tax reliefs at 20%. His amendment was ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The core element of today’s anaemic Finance Bill is the imposition of a 0.6% levy on pension funds for the next four years. The Government plans to raise €470 million a year with the levy.

“It is Sinn Fein’s view that this is the wrong way to fund job creation.

“The pension levy proposal is deeply inequitable. It excludes the Approved Retirement Funds used by many high earners to invest in their pensions. It also makes no differentiation between the pensions held by ordinary workers and those of high earners.

“Today I sought to amend the Finance Bill to replace the levy with an alternative source of funding job creation. My proposal was to standardise pension tax relief at the lower rate of 20%. This would generate a greater level of revenue for the state to invest in job creation. It would also do so in a more target and fair manner.

“Based on figures from a 2009 ERSI report on pensions, standardising pension tax reliefs would generate an additional €1.1 billion, of which €616 million would come from the top 10% of earners.

“Indeed the same report estimated that in the same year, 82% of all pension tax relief went to the top 20% of income earners, demonstrating the grossly unequal nature of this relief and the need for its reform.

“Of course Sinn Fein would invest this money in a very different way to that outlined by the Government last week. However in the context of the Finance Bill before us the government has a clear choice between raiding the pension funds of all and targeting new revenue rising at those who can afford to pay the most.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Ulster Martin McGuinness has expressed his condolences to the family of veteran Republican Liam Kelly, who passed away in the USA yesterday. Liam Kelly was a leading member of Saor Uladh and was elected as an abstentionist Stormont MP in the 1950s and also as Senator in Dublin.

Mr McGuinness said:

“Liam Kelly devoted his long life to campaign for Irish independence. He was an IRA Volunteer and subsequently a leading member of Saor Uladh. He was also elected as an abstentionist Stormont MP and as a member of the Seanad in Dublin.

“Even after Liam left Ireland for the USA he retained a high interest in Irish affairs. Other members of the Kelly family have played a central role in the Republican struggle going back to the Fenian Movement.

“Liams late son in law Gerry Loughran, also originally from Dungannon, was held in high esteem as a Sinn Féin councillor in Monaghan.

“I wish to extend my condolences to the Kelly family, and in particular his wife Peggy, on the death of Liam and I pay tribute to the many decades of service he gave the Irish people.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Conor Murphy MP, MLA (Newry/Armagh) has called for the potential of the Credit Union Movement to be released to assist in economic recovery

 Mr Murphy said: "The Credit Union movement was introduced to Ireland in the 1960’s by community activists concerned at the disadvantage experienced by working class people in accessing credit. The Credit Union Movement emerged because many working class communities were in the grip of money-lenders and did not have financial collateral required by banks as security against borrowings.

"In the present economic downturn government focus seems to be on protecting the interests of the Bondholders of large financial institutions – the modern day equivalent of the 'Moneylenders' and ‘Loan Shark’. There is little attention being given to assisting those most directly affected by the present financial conditions – the Small to Medium Sized Business (SME’S) and the workers whose labour made a major contribution to the economic prosperity enjoyed by developers, speculators and yes – banks over the recent decades.

"I believe that what is required rather than large banks far removed from local economic reality, are small local banks. This system – local saving banks or ‘Sparkassen’ as they are known in Germany- can form an integral part of a strong economy - imbued with a sense of community empowerment they could provide finance to the SME sector which is the heart of local economies. Between June 2009 and March 2011 German ‘Sparkassen’ loaned £15.6billion much of which went to SME’s. I also believe that we have the nucleus for such a local banking system in the Credit Union Movement. Being community based, Credit Unions are probably the most secure of financial institutions given the fact that they are not driven by the pressure to deliver massive dividends to Bondholders. If given the power to extend operating credit facilities to SME’s I have no doubt it would inject major impetus for growth into local business.

"The Executive is already on record in support of increased fiscal facilities for Credit Unions. Credit Unions have since the early 60’s provided accessible finance for families and individuals and would if properly empowered through legislation be able to provide a lifeline to SME’s and local economies in the present context. They could also provide much needed investment in social economy projects that would help regenerate communities.

"But once again the fact that we are dependent on bureaucratic British Treasury Rules that do not take account of our unique economy serves to highlight the need for fiscal powers to be transferred to the Assembly. I am calling on the respective Finance Ministers North and South to explore the possibilities of empowering the Irish League of Credit Unions to offer the financial services required by SME’s that would act as a stimulus to the island economy. CRÍOCH

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Agriculture Minister, Michelle O'Neill MLA, has launched a new initiative to improve disease prevention measures at local ports.


The measures involve the provision by DARD’s Veterinary Service of automatic Vehicle Disinfection Units (VDUs) at the ports of Larne, Belfast and Warrenpoint. These units will be activated during an outbreak of epizootic animal disease such as Foot and Mouth Disease in Britain and will be used for disinfecting traffic exiting the ferries. They were designed and installed in-house by DARD’s Rivers Agency.

The new installations, which are based on a design used at ports in the south, replace equipment put in place during the outbreak of FMD in 2001 but which has now reached the end of its useful life. Three new units have been installed in Belfast, two in Larne and one in Warrenpoint. The units are strategically placed to ensure that all traffic exiting the ferries must pass through them before leaving the port.

Speaking at the launch in the port of Belfast, the Minister explained: "The purpose of disinfection measures is to kill off any virus that might be carried on vehicular traffic and thereby help prevent the disease entering the North of Ireland. Whilst the threat from disease is currently low, the world today is a much smaller place and we have traffic coming through our ports from all over the world. Neither I nor my Department can afford to be complacent and we must therefore be prepared to meet that threat if and when it becomes a reality.

"The cost to the public purse here of the 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease was £24million with an additional £5.3million indirect costs to the food chain. Statistics indicate that we have had a major incursion of disease locally every 7 to 10 years and my predecessor Michelle Gildernew fought several animal disease scares ranging from FMD to Bluetongue. I am determined to continue her Fortress Ireland approach to ensure that I do all I can to protect both our industry and economy.”

Discussing the development of the new VDUs, the Minister explained: “These new measures are an excellent example of best practice which I hope other Executive colleagues could consider from similar type projects that their officials are currently working on. Officials from Veterinary Service engaged with Rivers Agency colleagues to design and build these new units at a modest cost of £150,000, rather than external consultants which saved the Department approximately £30,000 of the taxpayer’s money. Veterinary Service also liaised closely with officials in the south and was able to adopt a best practice model from measures already in place there. So the project is a major success on both cross-border co-operation and inter-agency within my Department.”

In conclusion, the Minister also paid tribute to the Harbour Authorities and Ferry Operators saying: "We in DARD value the co-operation received from our Portal Industry Partners in regard to installation of these new disease prevention measures. I look forward to enhancing those linkages over the next four years. "

She added: “The development and launch of this new initiative today at our ports is very good news for both the industry and travellers at the ports. It provides a new swifter system for disinfecting vehicles and is a great success story in terms of utilising existing in-house expertise, which will allow the savings made to be used elsewhere during the current tough economic conditions.

“However, we must not be complacent and although today’s new equipment installation will be a significant step forward to help us keep disease out at local ports, we must always remain vigilant against the threat from epizootic disease.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has urged voters in west Belfast to make a “special effort today to come out and vote for Paul Maskey in the Westminster by-election.”

Mr. Adams said:

“The people of west Belfast go to the polls today for their third election in as many months. Like those this is an important opportunity to elect a republican candidate who can effectively represent the needs and interests of the people of this historic constituency.

In 1983 I was the first Sinn Féin MP elected to Westminster.

I was pleased and honoured to represent this constituency.

Now Paul Maskey is picking up the baton. As a former Councillor and an MLA Paul has demonstrated time and again his ability to defend the rights of citizens and to ably represent them.

He will bring a wealth of talent and experience to the job of MP.

Like all the recent elections this one is important. In the Assembly, local government, Dáil and Seanad elections Sinn Fein made important gains and our ability to represent the interests and needs of our constituents, and to advance our political goals of Irish unity, equality and justice, were significantly enhanced.

So, today come out and vote for Paul Maskey and elect a public representative who will work for all the citizens of west Belfast.

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Junior Minister, Martina Anderson MLA (Sinn Féin Foyle) speaking at the opening of the Pensioners Parliament today praised the contribution that older people make to society.

Martina Anderson said:

“Older people make an enormous contribution to the betterment of society in a number of ways – not least through volunteerism. Many older people in a voluntary capacity give of their time, experience, knowledge and expertise to a range of groups and organisations. Others support ill or housebound relatives or act as child minders and even look after neighbours in need of assistance.

“The Voluntary and Community Sector in particularly are greatly enriched by the major contribution made by older people. These are ordinary people making an extraordinary contribution to their community and to society. They more often than not go unrecognised and will tell you that their reward is the sense of gratification they have from just knowing that they are making life a little bit better for others.

“I am privileged to have met people here today who represent the community and voluntary sector and I applaud your contribution to building a better society for everyone.

“The pensioners Parliament provides older people with a forum in which to identify and debate the issues that are important to them and to influence the policies and services that impact on their lives. I wish the Pensioners Parliament the very best and look forward to receiving a report on its deliberations.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed the decision by the Attorney General to reopen the inquest into the murder of Gerard Slane and has called for the British government to co-operate fully with it.

 

Mr. Adams said: “The British government continues to refuse to hold the inquiry promised at Weston Park into the murder of Pat Finucane. That murder and the killing of Gerard Slane and Terence McDaid, and many more, are linked together through the involvement of UDA leader and British agent Brian Nelson.

 

The formal and informal use of collusion involving British state forces and unionist paramilitaries was widespread. The Brian Nelson case provides one detailed example of how it worked at an administrative and institutional level.

 

For decades the British government has sought to conceal collusion, deny its existence and stall on the Pat Finucane Inquiry. The British government should now fully co-operate with this inquest. ”

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Commenting on the news that the Attorney General has agreed to call a fresh inquest into the murder of West Belfast man Gerard Slane, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly said:

“Brian Nelson, FRU and the RUC Special Branch are at the heart of Gerard Slane’s murder in 1988. His family have fought a long campaign for the truth. Time and gain they have been deliberately frustrated in this by British State concealment and cover-up.

“The Stevens Report examined in detail the circumstances surrounding the murder of Gerard Slane. As a first step in revealing the truth the British government should publish the Stevens Report. It is also important that the British government co-operates fully with the new Inquest including senior figures within the British system including the head of FRU Brigadier Colonel Gordon Kerr.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support the Slane family and other families bereaved through the British state policy of collusion.”

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Following a contentious debate in the Seanad today on the proposed introduction of water charges, Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, said that that tweedle dee and tweedle dum politics is alive and kicking, with all parties except Sinn Féin voting in favour of water charges.

Speaking in the Seanad today, Senator Ó Clochartaigh drew the Minister for Environment Phil Hogan’s attention to the gross inequality such a charge would cause for lower income families.

Sinn Féin suggested the alternative of investing the €500m that would be spent on installing new meters should be used to upgrade the diabolical water infrastructure in the state which haemorrhages 58% of the systems treated water before it reaches any domestic dwellings.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh also stated Sinn Féin could not accept any justification for the introduction of such a stealth tax.

“I must reject such a proposal which will clearly inflict hardship on the least well off in our society. Many people are already struggling to pay their bills as it is, and are under huge burdens; the same people are footing the bill for the government’s failed banking policy.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh also drew attention to blatant U-turn of the labour party whose leader made a pre-election promise that no water charges would be introduced on his watch.

He said

“It is becoming very apparent that the Labour party in government are no different to their predecessors and are willing to dance to the Fine Gael tune to the detriment of the ordinary Irish people.”

Videos

Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


Photos

Gerry Adams at Hungerstrike rally in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh