Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Central Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on Dublin City Council to clarify exactly what customer details it has provided to Greyhound following the Office of the Data Protection Commission announcement that it is investigating the Council.
Deputy McDonald said:
“Sinn Féin consistently opposed the privatisation of Dublin City Council’s waste collection service and many of our reasons for doing so have come to pass.
“Since Dublin City Council transferred the service to Greyhound my constituency offices in North Strand and Cabra have been inundated with calls by residents who not only have not had their rubbish collected they were not aware of Greyhound’s contractual conditions.
“Increased charges are on the horizon, the waiver scheme may be in jeopardy, the company’s payment method is causing a problem and to rub salt into the wounds it appears the Council management may have provided information about debts owed to Greyhound Recycling and Recovery.
“Dublin City Council management need to publically clarify, as a matter of urgency, exactly what customer details it has provided to Greyhound about its 140,000 customers and if debt information was provided the Data Commissioner must ensure that Greyhound does not add this information to its customer database.”
Speaking at today’s Public Accounts Committee Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD expressed grave concerns about the government’s failure to provide a coherent strategy to ensure critical services such as health are not decimated when up 9,000 workers retire from the public sector over the coming weeks.
Deputy McDonald said:
“Each time we ask Government Ministers what will be the real time impact of the public sector exodus over the coming weeks we are told it will all be alright on the night.
“Yet Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin admitted this week in the Dáil that he does not definitively know how many will leave the public sector by the end of February as workers availing of the grace period are required to give just one month’s notice.
“HSE Chief Cathal Magee spoke today about funding available for 400 new mental health workers but when questioned admitted to me that at least 500 current mental health workers, 389 of whom are nurses, will leave the HSE at the end of next month which will result in a net loss of 100 staff.
“The HSE has not hit its staff ceiling with 85% made up of front line workers and at least 3,500 will leave the health sector by the end of next month yet it appears there is no coherent strategy to deal with this reality not only within the HSE but across all Government Departments.
“The HSE National Service Plan for 2012 clearly states that budgetary cost reductions required and accumulated reductions in front line staff will impact increasingly on frontline services. There is no doubt this will be replicated across the State with the projected losses of 1,500 teachers, 730 from local authorities and 297 Gardaí. Up to 9,000 public sector workers are due to leave the service, the majority of whom will be from the front line and will not be replaced.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government Brian Stanley TD has said that the government has forced rural householders to foot the bill for their incompetence.
Deputy Stanley was speaking this afternoon after the Water Services Bill was passed by the Dáil.
Deputy Stanley said:
“This government is refusing to take any responsibility for failing to comply with an EU directive that is over 35 years old. Instead they have rushed through a piece of legislation that will force householders to foot the bill for upgrading their septic tanks to standards which have yet to be published.
“In an Orwellian twist, Minister Hogan will send an army of inspectors out into the homes of rural Ireland to inspect septic tanks. These inspectors will then assess the septic tanks against standards that as yet only exist in the minster’s imagination.
“Sinn Féin has repeatedly demanded that Minister Hogan publish the standards so we know exactly how this legislation will impact on rural households. We have also called on the minister to give us details on how he expects householders to upgrade septic tanks when families simply cannot afford to do so. Upgrading may cost anything up to €17,000. But again the minister has at best been vague and at worst dismissive of people’s financial concerns. In fact the bill contains threats of fines up to €5,000 for those who cannot comply with the upgrades.
“The passing of the Water Services Bill represents a bad day for rural Ireland. Unfortunately, in a desperate measure to avoid real debate the government guillotined the debate at every opportunity. We were forced to vote today having only been given time to debate 8 out of a total of 56 amendments. This is not democracy.
“Sinn Féin will continue to actively campaign to make sure septic tank standards are just and fair and that financial assistance will be provided to those who need it.”
Responding to reports that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has attributed the economic crash in Ireland to people going mad borrowing, Sinn Fein spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn said such a fundamental misunderstanding on behalf of an Irish Taoiseach showed an appalling lack of economic knowledge.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said the statement reflected the fact that this government has no grasp of the origin of the Irish economic crisis and no clue how to fix it.
“News reports are quoting Enda Kenny at the World Economic Forum as saying that the problem with our economy was that ‘people went mad borrowing in a system that spawned greed, went out of control and led to the crash’. This is an appallingly ignorant synopsis of the crisis and falls into the usual clichéd response offered by those who want to protect the economic status quo – that we were all responsible, that we all went mad and that we caused the mess ourselves.
“The fact of the matter is that people were aggressively cajoled into borrow large sums of money during boom times to buy homes, the prices of which had been driven through the roof because of successive government policies which encouraged property speculation. This government’s policy, which also altered the tax system for the worse, is at the heart of the Irish recession, along with the flow of cheap capital into Irish banks from the European banking system.
“There may have been some people borrowing for selfish reasons. The question must be asked, why were they lent the money? Again we come back to the banks wanting to push their cheap credit supply. However the majority of borrowing by ordinary people was for house purchasing.
“This week we have had the Finance Minister claim emigration is a life-style choice. We have had the Social Welfare Minister imply unemployment is a life-style choice. And now we have the Taoiseach claiming the recession was caused by people going mad borrowing.
“And this man is speaking for and on behalf of the Irish people at an international conference.
“This remark is offensive. I believe the Taoiseach owes an explanation to the Irish people, now expected to carry the tab for the failure of his government and the last, and the banks, for these remarks.
“If the Taoiseach doesn’t know what caused this crisis then how can he possibly provide a solution? This explains why the government is ready to sign up to an austerity treaty.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has said the Housing Executive needs to explain the rationale behind their intention to establish a Belfast City Centre housing waiting list.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“I have asked the Housing Executive what was the reason behind this change in policy and how it would impact on those already waiting on housing in areas of high demand like West and North Belfast
“Because of the severe shortage in housing in these areas, some families are doubling up in one house, which is a throwback to the 1950s.
“The Housing Executive have said that the city centre will be neutral in terms of allocation but this flies in the face of allocating on need.
“The Housing Executive have questions to answer, not least, was political pressure brought to bear to move to this position?
“The long waiting lists for housing can’t be ignored on a whim or for some political agenda. Equality and objective need has to be at the heart of any decision making process around tackling the housing waiting list.”
Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has today met with the campaign group SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids).
Deputy Ó Snodiagh met the group as part of the consultation process for his report on the Single Working Age Payment for the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection.
Speaking after the meeting today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“The Single Working Age Payment could be the single biggest change to our social welfare system in the history of the state.
“I am delighted to have been appointed rapporteur for the committee to compile a report on the consequences of amalgamating all social welfare payments into one single payment.
“I have been meeting groups that would be most affected by such a move including SPARK who have been doing great work on behalf of single parents throughout the state.
“It is important that all of those affected are afforded an opportunity to voice their opinion on such a fundamental proposal.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has again called for the release of Marian Price and Martin Corry from Maghaberry prison.
Both are being held after the British Secretary of State revoked their licences. Raymond McCartney said:
“Both Martin Corry and Marian Price are being held following the revoking of their license by the British secretary of state. This is unacceptable.
“If there is evidence against someone it should be presented and tested in a court of law. Sinn Féin have continuously raised this matter with the British Government and the Department of Justice including at meetings this week.
“We will also be making representations to the Life Sentence Review Commission when they come to examine both these cases in the coming weeks.”
Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris TD was thrown out of the Dáil this morning during Leaders’ Questions for demanding the Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore answer questions on whether grants will be made available for remedial works to septic tanks.
Deputy Ferris said:
“The government is rushing through the legislation which will introduce septic tank charges. Fifty amendments have been tabled by all parties but the government guillotined the debate last night.
“This morning my party colleague Mary Lou McDonald challenged the Tánaiste to say whether or not there would be grant aid for people to upgrade their septic tanks. The Tánaiste refused to answer the question.
“It is absolutely shameful that the day after the government allows the hand over of €1.25 billion of taxpayers’ money to Anglo bondholders, yet another tax will be foisted on already struggling people.
“This is a bare-faced attack on rural communities and my party will fight it every step of the way.”
Commenting on the report issued today by the Police Ombudsman into the use of Tasers by the PSNI, Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board member Pat Sheehan said that Tasers are a lethal weapon and continued use by the PSNI will inevitably lead to someone being killed.
Mr Sheehan said:
“People will be rightly sceptical of any reports conducted by the Police Ombudsman’s Office under the leadership of Al Hutchinson. There is no community confidence in his ability to do this important job and he should go without further foot dragging.
“On the issue of Tasers it cannot be disputed that they are a lethal weapon and their continued use by the PSNI will inevitably lead to someone being killed.
“The PSNI need to be able to deal with public order incidents without resorting to lethal force, be it Tasers or plastic bullets.
“An acceptance of their use will see them used as an alternative to restraint and that is unacceptable. Those firing them do not know if the person they are targeting has a heart problem or any other illness which could heighten the chance of it being fatal.”
Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has visited Holy Rosary Primary School where he officially opened a new outside play area.
Speaking during the visit, the Minister said: “I welcome the opportunity to visit Holy Rosary Primary School and unveil a plaque officially opening this newly installed play equipment.
“The pupils and parents of the school raised a substantial amount towards the cost of installing these facilities through various fund raising events and I wish to congratulate each and every one of them for this achievement. The different components chosen by the children and teachers will aid the development of motor movement skills of the pupils while also allowing them to have fun.”
Concluding the Minister said: “This school also plays an important part in the community. A Home School Association has been formed consisting of parents working with teachers to raise funds while enhancing the school community. It provides an excellent opportunity for parents to get to know the school and become active in school activities.”
The Minister also visited Oakwood School and Assessment Centre where he met with teachers and pupils. The Minister had the opportunity to view the facilities of the school and hear first-hand about the good work being undertaken there.
Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodiagh TD has accused Minister Burton of misleading the public on cuts to CE Schemes. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the minister’s announcement of a review of the cut before Christmas was made simply to get her own party back-benchers off her back.
“The cuts announced by this Labour Party Minister are decimating the Community Employment Scheme and attacking the communities who depend on them.
“You decided to cut the CE training and materials Budget by 66% in Budget 2012. Under severe pressure you announced a review before Christmas leading many of those affected to believe they had been saved from the cut. But that was not the case at all. The cut was made earlier this month. Do you accept that you announced the review and misled the public simply to get your own party’s back-benchers off your case?
“Do you agree that the fact that you are now conducting a review also demonstrates that you had not bothered to assess the impact this cut would have when you decided to make it?
“You also made a commitment that no CE project would be allowed to close in advance of the conclusion of the review. Rather the projects experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the 66% cut are to go cap in hand to the department and beg for some emergency funds.
“Last week an angling park for people with disabilities employing 23 people gave notice of imminent closure as a consequence of the cut. In the eleventh hour you reduced their cut from 66% to 25% until the conclusion of the review. Do you agree that this is a very shabby way to do business and to treat people?
“In the Budget you announced a cut to the Community Employment Programme of €41.5 million. You have determined to make a cut in region of €27.5 million to the training and materials funding. In essence, have you not decided on the outcome of your review before it even got underway?
“You promised that no community employment project would be let close in advance of the conclusion of the review. Will you be forcing the closure of projects afterwards?”
Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson, Deputy Seán Crowe believes clarity is needed from the government over whether it is serious about reversing the threat of budget cuts to teaching posts in DEIS and other schools.
The Dublin South West TD was commenting after challenging education minister, Ruairí Quinn TD on the matter during a meeting of the Dáil’s Education Committee.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“In response to my questions regarding what the review into cuts to DEIS schools hoped to achieve, Minister Quinn again gave vague answers that failed to convince.
“There are serious concerns arising around the substance of the review, particularly in relation to the possible loss of 428 pre-DEIS legacy posts.
The terms of the review are unclear, causing concern that DEIS schools will be forced to compete with one another in order to retain their current staffing levels.
“I sought assurances that the review would not recommend cuts across other key services in the primary school budget but his responses did not inspire confidence that this would be the case.
“At today’s meeting, Minister Quinn came under close scrutiny and there is growing scepticism that the government is serious about protecting schools that are to the fore in tackling educational disadvantage. The growing descent amongst the government back-benchers shows just how badly the minister has handled this matter.
“The current confusion over what is happening is demoralising for teachers, parents and children. Clarity is needed and we need a clear commitment from the minister that DEIS and other schools, which have a proven track record, are protected from budget cuts.
“The minister has already admitted to making a mistake in how he has dealt with this issue. He must not make matters worse by prevaricating after making the decision to hold the review. He needs to realise the gravity of the situation and the impact these cuts will have on some of our most vulnerable children. It is their right to a decent education and a good start in life that must be the priority. Anything less is unacceptable.”
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill warmly welcomed the increase in agricultural income for 2011, indicated by DARD figures published today.
Commenting on the figures, the Minister, said: “It is encouraging to see a rise in overall farm income, which shows that the agricultural industry is continuing to do well in these difficult economic times.”
The Minister added: “However, the continuing high costs of inputs, such as feed, fertilizer and fuels, and weakening euro will continue to challenge the industry.
The Minister continued: “It is also encouraging that in 2011 farm income was greater than Single Farm Payment (SFP). However, SFP still represents 87% of farm income which underlines the importance of the forthcoming negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
“There is no doubt that we need a strong, well funded CAP that provides support and fosters improved competitiveness without overburdening us all with red tape and I am committed to fighting for these outcomes in the ongoing CAP reform negotiations.”
The Sports Minister and Disability Sports NI today announced that four Paralympic teams will be training and competing in an International Wheelchair Basketball Challenge in Antrim
80 athletes from Italy, Poland, Great Britain and Turkey will compete in the pre-Paralympic Games training event from the 6th-9th February at the Antrim Forum.
Encouraging the public to view the event and get involved, Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “We are hosting four of the best wheelchair basketball teams in the world, all of whom have qualified for the 2012 Paralympics.
“This training camp comes on the back of successful badminton, boccia and table-tennis pre-games events which not only bring elite athletes to the North but also generates much needed economic benefits.
“This event demonstrates strongly that we have the facilities and expertise to be part of the Olympic and Paralympic dream.”
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill, today met with the Chief Constable to discuss the action being taken to address the issue of ongoing attacks on Loughs Agency staff.
After the meeting with Matt Baggott, Minister O’Neill said: “Last month I met with the Justice Minister to discuss the issue of Loughs Agency staff being intimidated and assaulted while carrying out their duties by preventing poaching in the Foyle and Carlingford Areas. I have seen for myself the excellent work that the Agency’s staff do in protecting the Foyle and Carlingford fisheries, and the significant amount of poaching related equipment that Agency staff have confiscated.
“At today’s meeting with the Chief Constable, we discussed these issues in further detail and I have heard about what the PSNI is doing to ensure that these unacceptable attacks do not continue. We agreed to establish improved liaison between the Garda Síochána, Loughs Agency and the PSNI and I welcome the efforts that the PSNI and the Garda Síochána are making to address the issue.”
At the meeting the Minister also raised the issue of rural crime.
She said: “I am concerned at the increasing levels of crime in rural areas, in particular the theft of farm equipment and livestock rustling across the north. I recently raised these concerns with Minister Ford and call on the Chief Constable to ensure that effective action is being taken on the ground to prevent this trend continuing.”
During the meeting the Minister also urged the PSNI to use DARD Direct Offices to ensure that crime prevention information is more easily accessed by farmers, and the Chief Constable agreed to take up this offer.
Speaking today in a Seanad debate on the Review by the International Expert Commission on the North-South Interconnector, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly said:
“At often huge personal cost, financial and otherwise, community representatives have challenged and matched the unlimited resources of the state's apparatus in their journey to get these cables undergrounded.
“The lack of a definitive recommendation as to whether the electricity cable should go above or below ground leaves wide open the avenue for the Minister to instruct Eirgrid to underground these cables.
“Indeed, unlike Eirgrid who have vehemently opposed the undergrounding of the interconnector, the key finding must be that the expert commission found that undergrounding the inter-connector is a ‘realistic solution’.
“Not that it was impossible. Nor that it would cost 20 times the cost of overgrounding. This endorses what we in Sinn Féin and the campaigning communities have consistently stated and it flies in the face of EirGrid assertions.
“EirGrid need to now accept that undergrounding these cables is viable.”
The Sinn Féin senator questioned the minister on the next steps in relation to the Interconnector, with particular reference to the Memorandum on Security of Energy Supply he intends to produce:
“Will this memorandum be enforced by the Minister or will it simply be an advisory note, to which Eirgrid and the planning process can choose themselves whether to have regard?
“If EirGrid had their way there would not have been a report. If EirGrid had their way we would have massive pylons erected already. If EirGrid had their way the people of this State would still be fed the story that undergrounding was not possible or feasible.
“EirGrid should not be allowed plough ahead with their plans, especially when they have been shown to be wrong on the issue of undergrounding.”
Senator Kathryn Reilly
Tel: 01 618 3171
Email: [email protected]
Back to the drawing board for the septic tank bill
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, speaking during today's Dáil debate demanded that the government, “go back to the drawing board on the septic tanks bill.”
Dáil Deputy Stanley claimed: “The government is on the run from this issue. They have ducked, dived and deceived. They have guillotined the debate here in the Dáil. They refuse to engage in any real discussion. They know they are wrong. They know this bill is wrong and they know they will lose any debate.
“The campaign against this bill has been well-organised and is having a very positive effect. Minister Hogan has had to concede that the government will have a four-week consultation process before any standards are published. He conceded that some grants will have to be made available to assist householders in upgrading their septic tanks and he has also reduced the cost of an appeal from €200 to €20. While all these concessions are welcome we still believe this bill is fundamentally flawed.”
Stanley explained: “We firmly believe that the standards by which the septic tanks will be assessed must be agreed and published before any bill is agreed. We also believe that a grants scheme must be established to assist householders having their septic tanks upgraded.
“Sinn Féin is also opposed to any attempt by the government to criminalise rural Ireland by issuing fines to householders who are unable to comply with an order to upgrade their septic tank. Families will not be able to afford this upgrade, which can be anything up to €17,000. It is essential that grant are made available rather than dragging law-abiding citizens through the courts an imposing hefty fines on people.”
Speaking during a lunchtime rally outside the Dáil, Deputy Stanley urged rural Ireland, “to redouble their efforts in campaigning against this bill. We will not let you be criminalised by a government more concerned with bailouts and bankers than its own citizens. We have an opportunity, over the next four weeks, to put manners on the government. Standards must be fair and must also include a financial assistance for those who simply cannot afford the required upgrading of their septic tanks.”
In conclusion Stanley told the rally: “Sinn Féin will continue to oppose this bill right throughout the debate. We have amendments that are solution-based and will ensure a common sense approach.”
Speaking in the Dáil this evening on the handover of €1.25billion for an unguaranteed Anglo bond, Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín tackled each of the government’s arguments for paying the sum of money.
Deputy Tóibín said it is not true to say that the Troika has forced the government’s hand on the issue and that the handover is not part of the Memorandum of Understanding.
Deputy Tóibín said:
“I would like to clear up a number of untruths the government has spun today in order to deflect their handing over of 1.25 billion euros of Irish money to private bond holders. The government has stated that the troika have forced it. This is not true.
“Paying the unsecured, unguaranteed bondholders forms no part of the Memorandum of Understanding. The only reference to bondholders in the Memorandum of Understanding is that the government seeks to discount subordinated (junior) bondholders.
“The Troika will not ‘pull’ the money we borrow under the programme if we do not pay these bondholders. It would not be breaking the agreement we entered into with them.
“The government then shifts its position and says well it’s not in the memorandum of understanding but the EU and ECB told us to pay bondholders, that the ECB has provided massive liquidity to Irish banks and we can’t upset them.
“Besides the fact that Anglo Irish is a dead bank and commercial debt should be dealt with in a commercial fashion the simple truth remains, Ireland is unable to pay these bonds.
“Also the Greek Government is currently negotiating a discount of up to 70% with bondholders in the private sector, and the ECB has not withdrawn liquidity. We are fulfilling programme requirements over and above what the Greeks are doing, we cannot be treated any differently.
“Pulling liquidity from Irish banks would precipitate financial armageddon across the European banking sector. It is the link between Irish and European banks which saw the liquidity provided in the first place.
“The government then say we don’t want to be Greece, we don’t want default written over our heads.
“When Minister Noonan entered into negotiations with the ECB this week on a reduction in some of our banking debt (Anglo Promissory Notes), the sovereign bond market rates fell to under 6%.
“We were punished by the markets not because we threatened default and our inability to pay. We were punished by the markets because it was fantasy to say we would pay everything when we clearly cannot.
“The government then claims that we the opposition want us to not pay these bonds, but they won’t tell us how they’d make the immediate deficit balance that would be required if we didn’t pay the bonds and the Troika took away our loans.
“But as I have said bondholders are not in Memorandum of Understanding from which our line of credit comes. Our objective is to remove the Troika by getting back to the markets.
“Our policies, which we would implement after negotiating a new Memorandum of Understanding would bring about deficit reduction quicker than the government and in a more sustainable way as set out in our pre-budget submission. Our policies would grow the economy as opposed to the government’s policy of strangling the economy.
“The government would have us sign up to an anti-investment austerity treaty in Europe which will mean austerity budgets in perpetuity.
“Sinn Féin wants to see our budgets decided democratically and on the basis of our economic cycle not the election cycle of France and Germany.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Social Welfare Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD will meet with the SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids) campaign group tomorrow in Leinster House.
The meeting is part of the consultation process for Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s report for the Oireachtas Social Welfare Committee on the Single Working Age Payment.
SPARK is a diverse group of single parents living in Ireland who have united together to protect our children from the radical policy changes introduced in Budget 2012.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh will be available for a photograph with the group tomorrow at 12noon at the Kildare Street entrance to Leinster House.
For more information contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.
The government has failed to draw down a facility from the EU for millions of euros of finance for small businesses according to Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín.
In March of last year the EU established the European Progress Microfinance Facility. An initial budget of €100 million is expected to leverage to a total amount of €500 million in micro-credit. This will be realised in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group. The fund would supply loans of up to 25k to micro enterprises.
Today in the Dáil Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Peadar Tóibín asked the government how much had been drawn down so far by the state from this programme to allow badly needed credit into the Irish small business sector.
Speaking afterwards Deputy Tóibín said:
“There are 180,000 micro-business employing 10 people or less in this state. This sector, more so than any other, is collapsing due to the evaporation of demand, rigid cost structures and the glacial flow of credit into the system.
“I asked the minister if it was true that the government has so far not drawn down any money from this micro finance scheme. The Minister refused repeatedly to answer. As a result I have contacted the EIF and have been informed that 11 countries have drawn down funds so far but Ireland is not one of them.
“This is a shocking situation given the epidemic level of business closure, the near half a million of people unemployed and the 70,000 people leaving the state last year that the government has remained completely inactive to date on this issue.” CRIOCH
By way of final answer Minister Jon Perry stated that First Step had drawn down funds from the European Investment Fund. This is true but First Step has not drawn down funds from the EU Progress Microfinance Facility.
First Step are a Not for Profit, non-governmental group who do excellent work providing lines of credit to mainly unemployed people when setting up a business. Last year they provided €1.5 million in total and have 3.5 employees. Due to capacity and through no fault of their own their ability to provide the level of microfinance on their own is however grossly disproportionate to the size of the problem.