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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



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Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe today joined Vodafone workers outside a store in Grafton Street who were protesting at the company’s decision to sack over 130 workers and move the jobs to India and Egypt.

Deputy Crowe, who welcomed next week’s adjournment debate secured by his party colleague, Gerry Adams, TD, urged the government to take decisive action to ensure that as many of these jobs as possible are protected and to ensure than anyone made redundant by Vodafone receive their redundancy entitlements.

Deputy Crowe said:

“The decision by Vodafone to cut its workforce by 130 comes at a time when 443,400 citizens are unemployed will come as a massive blow. Vodafone clearly have no loyalty to the people of this State despite the public funds and tax exemptions the company has received over the past number of years.

“Since its arrival in Ireland, Vodafone’s profits have reached €2.2 billion and last year alone they made a profit of €120m. Their policy therefore, seems predicated on using public funding to make huge profits then dump the workforce who made it all possible in the first place.

“This is the unacceptable face of globalisation and the government must review this type of operation.

“Today, my party colleagues and I joined with Vodafone workers protesting at these cuts. The government must act on this issue immediately.”

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Sinn Féin’s group leader in the Seanad, David Cullinane has stated that there is an urgent need for a discussion on housing as soon as possible.

Noting the 1% drop in housing prices which was highlighted in figures released by the Central Statistics Office, he highlighted the fact that the market had clearly not 'bottomed out'.

Senator Cullinane said:

”I feel a debate is urgently needed on the area of housing generally, in both the private and public sphere. This is an issue which cannot be allowed to disappear off the agenda. Might I remind the house that with the fall in new developments, there is a proportionate fall in applications under part V of the Planning act, which is affecting the stock of social housing. What this in effect means that we have thousands of empty houses, and thousands of people on waiting lists. The government needs to examine this urgently.

“Likewise, we need to re-examine the issues of home adaption grants, capitation grants, which have all but dried up, and also the issue of debt forgiveness and mortgage arrears.

“All of these issues are obstacles to citizens in claiming their right to housing and ought to be discussed.''

He also noted that the publication of the terms of reference of the Taxi Review group was due, and noted that this was equally an issue which the Seanad needed to debate.

“We have seen much coverage of the taxi industry in recent times, highlighting some of the unsavoury practices which have occurred in the industry. However it’s also important to remember the difficult situation that many taxi drivers find themselves in, with the streets simply flooded with taxis, due to the folly that was de-regulation.''

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Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly said the Government’s Jobs Initiative is a far cry from the promises of Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the recent general election.

Senator Reilly said the additional €40 million of additional spend in the jobs initiative stands in stark contrast to the €200 million senior unsecured bonds paid by Anglo Irish Bank less than two weeks ago which will see investors who bought the bonds back in December make gains of as much as 13%.

Senator Reilly said:

“The jobs initiative was, in the words of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, a down payment on commitments made in the programme for government. But it was obvious that the people of this State were short-changed.

“It is a far cry from the election promises of both Fine Gael and the Labour Party from which this Government secured its ‘secure and stable mandate’.

“Last week the Taoiseach identified the greatest resource of our nation was our people. He was right to say that it will be the Irish people who will build this economy. Yet the policies of this government and the last are forcing our greatest asset, our young people onto planes for England, Australia and America.

“We need investment proportionate to the scale of economic crisis we face. Instead of investing in our economy to increase competitiveness billions are spent on failing banks and servicing unsustainable debt.

“The meagre additional €40 million of additional spend to this jobs initiative stands in stark contrast to the €200 million senior unsecured bonds paid by Anglo Irish Bank less than two weeks ago which will see investors who bought the bonds back in December make gains of as much as 13%.

“So much for Albert Einstein’s ‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.’

“The starting point for a responsible plan is to properly invest in job creation, with growth as our priority and we must remain vigilant against a downturn caused by crippling austerity measures.

“The Statement of Common Purpose of this government quotes Albert Einstein.

“It doesn’t take an Einstein to recognise that this plan has failed to learn from the past; will not provide for the unemployed of today; and falls well short of providing economic growth and hope for the future.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh has today stated that his party will vote against the “cynical and inappropriate” Social Welfare and Pensions Bill.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said that the inclusion of the restoration of the minimum wage in the Bill masks what amounts to a 16% cut in the state pension.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Before the election Fine Gael and Labour made a commitment to protect the state pension. Róisín Shorthall in May 2010 said that ‘the Labour Party will vigorously oppose any attempt to cut the state pension’. The measures contained in this Bill to raise the state pension age to 68 actually amount to a 16% cut in pension entitlements.

“The tactic of including the restoration of the minimum wage in the Bill is cynical in the extreme and is an attempt to muddy the waters to distract from the far-reaching attack on the state pension.

“This is yet another u-turn from a Government which has totally abandoned all of its pre-election commitments.

“There is no way Sinn Féin can support this Bill. We will have no choice but to vote against it.

“Tomorrow Sinn Féin will table an amendment on the Finance Bill to restore the minimum wage. We believe that this is the appropriate avenue to do this as the cut originated in a Finance Bill. I am calling on all parties to support this important amendment tomorrow.”

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Raymond McCartney MLA (Sinn Féin, Foyle) following the debate in the Assembly on the need for the A5 Aughnacloy/Derry Dual Carriageway to proceed as originally proposed has called on the Business Community across the North West to publicly voice their support for this crucial piece of infrastructure.

Raymond McCartney said:

“This project has been campaigned and lobbied for, for decades and now just as it is on the verge of delivery the dissenting voices – in my opinion, largely politically motivated dissenting voices – have raised objections to the project. I can understand and sympathise with the individual landowners who will be adversely affected by the construction but unfortunately their situation is being used by politicians whose parties have historically and actively worked against infrastructural development West of the Bann.

“It has only been in recent years that there has been a concerted effort to develop and regenerate the North West with the establishment of Ilex. Ilex has been tasked with bringing about a much-needed jobs creation strategy and to end regional imbalance, disparity and inequalities. There has been input from all the parties, the business sector, the civic sector and the community and voluntary sector. There has been input from OFMdFM, DETI and Invest NI. Throughout that regeneration process, I have not heard a single dissenting voice in the north-west arguing against the need for a dual carriageway.

“I believe politicians, Council, Ilex, business, education, Chambers of Commerce and all other groups and organisations determined to see the North West grow and prosper should say with one voice – ‘we will no longer be treated as a no go area for industry’. 

“The Executive, of which these Parties are members, have said that job creation is at the heart of the Programme for Government. We are continuously told that in order to attract Foreign Direct Investment we need proper infrastructure. The Executive has told us that the way to address this is to tackle regional disparity through good infrastructure. Now the unionist parties are telling us that we don’t need 21st century roads to attract jobs to the North West.

“The Minister’s Party is most vocal in its opposition to a project that will inject impetus to economic regeneration and save lives yet he himself is proposing to spend an estimated £100Million to save a few minutes at a roads junction in Belfast. We have seen a lot of political and petty point-scoring around this project and I believe those who are arguing against it do a disservice to the people and the region that this road will service.”

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has underlined the vital role of effective leadership in local schools.


The Minister was speaking as he presented certificates to over 200 graduates of the Professional Qualification for Headship (PQH) programme at a ceremony in Belfast today.

Addressing attendees at the event, the Minister said: “Schools are amazing places where our children and young people develop as individuals and acquire the skills and attributes they need to be the citizens of the future.

“And right across the north, principals are central to the success of our schools. By displaying effective leadership, they inspire both pupils and staff members to do the very best they can on a daily basis. Principals also have the opportunity to effect continuous positive change in schools and in doing so leave a lasting legacy by helping children achieve to their maximum potential.

“So it is very important that we recognise those teachers who have worked hard to attain the PQH certificate which provides them with the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes they need to take the step up to headship.”

The Minister continued: “This is the thirteenth PQH graduation ceremony that has been held in the north, with over 1,600 people having achieved the certificate to date. It is pleasing to note that almost 40% of these graduates are now serving heads, and over 60% of those appointed to headship for the first time last year were also PQH graduates. It is because of tangible results like these that my Department funds the Regional Training Unit, that delivers the programme, in the order of over £2million per year and this funding will continue.

“It is testament to the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication of teachers that they can study for and achieve the PQH in addition to balancing the demands of their work. I pay tribute to all those who have graduated from the programme and also their families and colleagues, whose support is crucial throughout. I wish today’s graduates the very best for their future careers and hope to see more teachers enter the programme next year.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today slammed so-called Directory Companies "which appear to be established for the sole purpose of extorting revenue from hard-pressed businesses, particularly small businesses". 

Speaking in Strasbourg as the Parliament prepares to debate a resolution on the issue Ms de Brún said:

"I receive many requests to help constituents with the threatening letters they are getting from companies which appear to be established for the sole purpose of extorting revenue from hard-pressed businesses, particularly small businesses. The threats which are received are often the cause of stress, frustration, and even sometimes financial loss.

"Citizens find it difficult to understand that the EU can not directly take action against these misleading directory companies as the power to do so rests with the individual countries. However, we do have a duty to offer some way out of the situation that many people find themselves in.

"The fact that the European Parliament is having this debate and adopting this resolution can at least offer some comfort to the businesses affected, by reassuring them that they are not alone and that they are right to refuse to pay.

"However, the Commission needs to be more pro-active in ensuring that Member States implement EU measures which aim at cracking down on such activity." ENDS

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While welcoming the stay of execution given by the Government for Galway, Waterford and Sligo regional airports, Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has said that Minister Leo Varadkar will have to revisit the issue again before the end of the year.

In response to an all-party lobby before yesterday’s meeting, Minister Varadkar reversed the massive cut inflicted by the previous administration and reinstated the operating grant for Galway and Sligo Airports until the end of 2011.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:

“Minister Varadkar must be given credit for listening to the real concerns of airport representatives and all of Galway’s TD’s and Senators together when we met with him last week. By speaking with one voice we were able to convince the Minister that this was a matter of strategic regional development and not one for political point scoring.

“I would be hopeful that a similar approach between now and the end of the year would be successful in securing vital funding to help withdraw the need for state intervention in a planned manner over the next few years so that these airports can deliver on the tourism and business potential of our regions in a self-sustaining manner.

“The team at the airport have made it clear that they can make the airport viable in a couple of years with interim state support. This will allow the area to develop its tourism and business initiatives and secure the 160 jobs that depend on Galway Airport. Not to reinstate this grant made no economic, social or strategic sense and it is good that the Government listened to all those that made a case for its retention.” ENDS

Caithfidh an tAire Varadkar féachaint arís ar mhaoniú do na hAerfoirt Réigiúnacha

Cé go bhfáiltíonn sé roimh an fhuascailt ó bhuille an bháis a thug an Rialtas d’aerfoirt na Gaillimhe, Sligeach & Port Láirge, deir an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh go mbeidh ar an Aire Iompar, Leo Varadkar, dul ag tóraíocht maoiniú arís sula mbeidh an bhliain caite.

Mar thoradh ar stocaireacht ilpháirtí a rinneadh air roimh cruinniú an lae inné d’iompaigh an tAire Varadkar an cinneadh tubaisteach a bhí glactha ag an Rialtas a chuaigh rompu siar agus thug an deontas reachtála ar ais d’aerfoirt na Gaillimhe & Shligigh go dtí deireadh 2011. ‘Caithfear creidiúnt a thabhairt don Aire Varadkar gur éíst sé leis an gcás macánta a chuir ionadaithe ón Aerfort agus gach duine de Theachtaí Dála agus Seanadóirí na Gaillimhe os a chomhair, nuair a bhuail muid leis an tseachtain seo caite. Mar gur labhair muid d’aonghuth bhí muid ábalta cur ina luí ar an Aire gur ceist forbairt regiúnach straitéiseach atá anseo seachas daoine a bheith ag iarraidh bheith ag scóráil pointí polaitiúla. Bhéinn dóchasach go n-éireoidh le feachtas den chineál céanna as seo go deireadh na bliana chun maoiniú a chinntiú go ceann cúpla bliain eile agus é a laghdú go céimniúil, nó go mbeidh an t-aerfort abalta seasamh ar a dhá chos féin, mar atá pleanáilte acu. Tabharfaidh sin seans do na haerfoirt seo na deiseanna atá ann ó thaobh forbairt gnó agus turasóireachta di a thapú chun borradh eacnamúil sna réigiúin a chuir chun cinn’, a deir Ó Clochartaigh.

‘Rinne foireann an Aerfoirt soiléir é gur féidir leis an Aerfort a bheith féinseasmhach taobh istigh de chúpla bliain le tacaíocht réasúnach stáit san idirlinn. Beidh seans ag an gceantar fostaíocht agus turasóireacht a chur chun cinn agus an 160 post atá ag brath ar an aerfort i nGaillimh a chaomhnú anois. Ní dhéanfadh sé ciall ar bith ó thaobh na heacnamaíochta, cúinsí sóisialta nó straitéise di gan an deontas seo a chur ar ais in áit agus is maith an rud gur thug an Rialtas aird ar na hargóintí sin agus orthu siúd a bhí ag troid ar son na haerfoirt seo’, a deir an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh.

CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Planning spokesperson Cathal Boylan MLA has welcomed the increase in the maximum fine for demolishing listed buildings or felling trees under a preservation order to £100,000.

Mr Boylan stated,

“For too long the fines imposed on those who ignored listed status or preservation orders were not a deterrent for unscrupulous developers who were happy to pay a meager fine rather than adapt their development to incorporate the listed building or preserved trees.

“This new level of fine will not only act as a deterrent but will go some way to preserving our natural and building history and ensure it is maintained for future generations."

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Gerry Adams at Hungerstrike rally in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh