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Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Jonathan O’Brien has today called on the government to stop the cuts to the community and voluntary sector.

He was speaking during a Sinn Féin private members’ motion which calls for protection for this sector which is so vital to communities across the state.

Deputy O’Brien said:

“As everyone in this House knows, the community and voluntary sector in this State plays a vital role in providing much needed and essential services which the State is unwilling or unable to provide.

“The sector works with the most disadvantaged in Irish society, trying to build a more cohesive and equal Ireland.

“And just as everyone in this House knows the valuable contribution the sector makes, they also know that the sector have been forced to absorb the severe cuts which recent budgets inflicted.

“As it stands all the indications are that the community and voluntary sector will again be facing further cuts in the upcoming budget.

“Organisations and workers have been forced to absorb these cuts through redundancies, 3 day weeks, pay cuts and service reductions.

“Speak to anyone involved in the sector and they will tell you that they have already crossed the point where these cuts have resulted in the loss of vital services and programme’s to some our most disadvantaged communities.

“The loss of services is having a huge impact on the very fabric of communities which are already trying to deal with the fallout of increasing unemployment, increased drug abuse and early school leavers.

“I am calling on the government to stand by their pre-election commitments, stand by the people and stop the cuts to the community and voluntary sector.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on jobs, enterprise and innovation, Peadar Tóibín TD, has tonight called on the government, “to call a halt to the slash and burn approach to the community and voluntary sector.”

Speaking this evening in support of Sinn Féin's motion opposing the cuts to the sector, Deputy Tóibín praised the sector, saying,

“The services provided by this sector are the services which could not or would not be provided by the state or private sectors. These projects are the glue keeping families and communities together.

“The ongoing war of cuts being waged by this government and its predecessors is unacceptable. It is time the cuts imposed in recent budgets be reversed. In opposition Labour applauded and supported many these projects. But since taking office their silence has been deafening.

“Tonight's motion gives Labour TDs an opportunity to grow back bones, stand up and be counted. Do not let yourselves be hoodwinked like the previous junior partners in government.

“The government should recognise the potential the community sector has in delivering vital services and creating employment. Community based drug services, crèches, youth services, senior citizen support groups are all vital to the protection and development of our communities. In fact the current policies of austerity being pursued by this government make these services even more vital.

“The government should abandon their band aid solutions of An Tús and reinvest in the community and voluntary sector. Community Employment Schemes need to be expanded. Special CE Scheme places, employing 1000 people who are in recovery from drug addiction need to be increased to 1,500 and mainstream CE places increased from 22,000 to 40,000.”

In conclusion Deputy Toibín called on the government to “respond positively to the Labour Relations Court findings which recommend that the state has responsibility to those employed in the Community and Voluntary Sector. Legislation must be introduced to allow for collective bargaining and guarantee trade union recognition. Both these rights are being denied to over 50,000 workers in direct contravention of the UN Charter of Human Rights.”

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Following reports in the media today that the government intends to cut social welfare by €1 billion, Sinn Féin public expenditure and reform spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald challenged the Taoiseach in the Dáil to reaffirm his pre-election promise not to cut social welfare.

Speaking in the Dáil Deputy McDonald said:

“Following today’s reports in the media of significant cuts to social welfare, the Taoiseach must address the issue of proposed cuts to rent supplement which keeps a roof over 95,000 households.

“The local authority housing stock is woefully inadequate and any cut to rent supplement would cause huge difficulty and suffering to people who are also struggling.

“The Government is keen to talk about social welfare fraud. What they mean is irregular payments, including departmental error. The Taoiseach might look at the extravagant salaries paid to special advisers which are sanctioned by the government and are in breach of its own caps. One special adviser to the Minister for Social Protection is in receipt of a salary of €127,796.

“In the absence of the published comprehensive spending review and with the Taoiseach refusing to give any affirmation to the House that he will not cut welfare, all we are left with conjecture.

“No one wishes to see any social welfare payment scammed, as the Taoiseach puts it. Equally, no one should cast aspersions on welfare recipients by constantly using the term ‘fraud’ when the correct term is "irregular payments" or in layman’s terms departmental error.

“The fact remains there is largesse for the Minister's adviser and cuts to very meagre social welfare payments. No one in the Oireachtas is living on the basic social welfare payment of €188 per week. That is reality, from which the Taoiseach seems sadly divorced.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Michael Colreavy TD today (Wednesday) commented the release of the EU Commission Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) Reform legislative proposals.

Deputy Colreavy said:

“After months of speculation, waiting and various leaks, I am delighted that the Commission’s proposals have finally been released. At last we can finally get on with debating and negotiating.

“Upon initial inspection it appears there are some welcome proposals including the sharing out of the pillar one budget amongst member states. There are however some proposals which I am not entirely happy with, namely the greening of pillar one and the possible negative impact on the competitiveness of the agricultural industry.

“It is important now that we all work together, from all parties, from all parts of the island to ensure that our farmers get the best possible deal. They deserve no less.”

ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson Brian Stanley urged the Taoiseach to seek to raise the EU’s target on reducing CO2 emissions from 20% to a more ambitious 30%.

Deputy Stanley also said the Government should support and incentivise the use of tidal and wind energy with a view to exporting sustainable energy to the rest of Europe.

Deputy Stanley said:

“I would ask that the Government seeks to raise the EU´s target on reducing CO2 emissions from a 20% to a more ambitious level of a 30%

“Studies have shown that such a 10% increase in the target would reduce Europe’s yearly oil and gas imports by €40 billion whilst simultaneously encouraging a much-needed uptake in green technologies.

“A legally-binding 30% target would inevitably encourage the move to cleaner renewable energy and subsequently increase fuel security, a move that, given our natural assets, would benefit Ireland greatly.

“As a small Island nation we have a wealth of potential sources of renewal energy in tidal and wind power. EU studies have demonstrated that we have more potential for these forms of sustainable energy than most other EU states.

“We need to support and incentivise the use of such energy. Research has demonstrated that through wind power alone Ireland could become an exporter of sustainable energy to the rest of Europe. However we need to get the investment and infrastructure in place.

“This type of energy could be trapped and used for the benefit of our industry and our people.

“An Taoiseach, these changes would have an impact not only on our economy but on our natural environment.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has today described lending restrictions placed on Credit Unions by the Registrar of Credit Unions as a “blunt instrument that will push families into the hands of money lenders.”

He made his comments during a Dáil debate on the Central Bank and Credit Institutions Bill.

Deputy Doherty said:

“More than 50% of Credit Unions across the state have had lending restrictions imposed on them by the Registrar of Credit Unions. These restrictions have been imposed without any clear rationale, criteria or consistency.

“As a consequence, financially sound Credit Unions are unable to extend loans to long-standing customers who, in the view of their local Credit Union manager should be granted a loan.

“These restrictions are a blunt instrument that risk damaging both the Credit Union movement and the many thousands of members who depend on their Credit Union loans throughout the year.

“The regulator has a responsibility to regulate. However his job must not descend into micro-managing the individual lending decisions of individual Credit Unions. Where lending restrictions are applied they must be based on clear criteria and be applied consistently.

“I am also concerned with some of the confusing information that has found its way into the public domain in recent weeks with regard to the Credit Union movement.

“Credit Unions provide an invaluable service to millions of individuals across the country. They are rooted in our community and in many cases allow families to manage their increasingly finite resources.

“Claims made by the Minister for Finance last week in the Seanad to the effect that Credit Unions were in need of recapitalisation funds of between €500 million and €1 billion has caused alarm are unhelpful. Such comments run the risk of unsettling credit union members and creating negative consumer confidence.

“I understand that only a very small number of credit unions will need financial assistance and will need to be dealt with immediately.

“The broader issue of restructuring and regulating credit unions must be left to the Commission on Credit Unions and the Oireachtas, without unnecessary interference from the Registrar of Credit Unions. The financial position of a very limited number of small credit unions must not be used by the regulator to impose an agenda on the credit union movement that is not in keeping with its community bond and not for profit ethos.”

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Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane called for the implementation of the EU missing children’s hotline in Ireland on an all island basis.

The Minister gave a commitment in the Seanad today to have the hotline up and running in 2012. Senator Cullinane said this commitment must be backed up with funding and met at the earliest opportunity.

Speaking in the Seanad Senator Cullinane said:

“Sinn Fein is please to co-sponsor this motion calling for the implementation of the missing children’s hotline.

“I personally call for this not only as a political representative but as a parent who is concerned at the states track record on child protection.

“The EU missing children’s hotline is now operational in 16 member states. The hotline is a specialised service which works very closely with the police in each member state, and the operators of the line would be in a position to offer advice and support to their callers.

“Ireland has a legal obligation to “make every effort” to ensure that this hotline was up and running as soon as possible. However, there is very little evidence of effort on the Government’s part.

“The ISPCC has been campaigning for the setup of this hotline for years, but their resources are overstretched as it is and they cannot afford to run the hotline without help.

“So it is apparent that we have the number, we have an agency with vast experience in the field ready and willing to operate the hotline, but we don’t yet have any commitment on funding from the Government.

“The cross border movement of sex offenders continues to pose a grave risk to the most vulnerable in our society. In theory, it is possible for a registered sex offender from the six counties or overseas to enter the 26 counties unimpeded and “lose” themselves, and vice versa.

“Child protection therefore is an issue which demands co-operation on an all Ireland basis, and also throughout Europe. We welcome the set up of the North-South Child Protection Hub but believe that the ethos behind this innovation needs to be pushed further.

“It would be entirely possible for a child to be taken in Dublin and brought to Larne ferry terminal and be removed from the country within three hours.

“The expedient setting up of the missing children’s hotline is a priority. It should not be delayed any further. Furthermore, the phoneline should be operated on an all island basis. This is the most practical way forward, and the one most likely to prevent the movement of a missing child across the island.” ENDS

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Describing the latest increase in unemployment figures released today as worrying, Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Conor Murphy MP, MLA (Newry/Armagh) said that more needs be done to reverse the trend.
 
Conor Murphy said:
 
“While there is no quick fix to the issue of unemployment there are measures that could be pursued more rigorously. While the official figures show a further increase of 500 unemployed I believe that the real increase is much higher. For instance these figures do not take account of those who chose to emigrate rather than sign on the dole.

"Instead of extolling the fact that numbers here may be less percentage wise than those in Britain or the South, Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster needs to focus on means of reversing the upward spiral in unemployment figures.

“For instance Banks are still not assisting local enterprise and individual business people quite as enthusiastically has they expected the taxpayer to help them.  Small to medium enterprises, despite their potential for job creation are finding it extremely difficult to access financial support. Local entrepeneurs are being frustrated in their efforts to create employment because they can't access financing and the focus is firmly fixed on Foreign Direct Investment rather than encouraging and expanding local enterprise. More pressure needs to be put on the financial sector to assist in job creation by relaxing the suffocating conditions placed on borrowers.

"Government departments such as DETI and Employment & Learning need to direct resources at assisting SME's to expand both locally and into export markets as well as equiping those who find themselves unemployed to acquire new skills and assistance to get back into the workforce. All Ministers should be instructing their Departments to look at their procurement practices in detail to see if there are measures that could be taken that would ensure that Public Contracts maximise opportunities for local employment.

"I believe that the official unemployment figures mask the fact that we are losing our best trained craftspeople and professionals to other economies. We need to prepare now for a recovery by ensuring that those who chose to stay have the opportunity of apprenticeships, retraining and up-skilling.

“It is clear thus far, that British government economic policy is not providing the impetus required to kick-start our recovery. British government economic policy is designed to grow the economy of the island of Britain - we, if taken into consideration at all are only peripheral to any policy development. We need the economic levers to design and develop our own economy in collaboration with the rest of the island. We need the transfer of maximum economic powers from London to the Assembly so that we can manage  our own economic destiny.

“In the meantime there should be better collaboration between the Executive and Dublin Ministers on joint procurement and delivery of goods and services to eliminate duplication and waste with the savings invested in an all-Ireland jobs creation strategy.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has welcomed the news that four top internet providers have now introduced options to stop pornography from their sites.

Mr Flanagan stated,

“The internet is now part and partial of everyday life and these new options will allow parents to block unsuitable sites from children.

“Family use of the Internet grown daily and no matter how much supervision is given children are still able to access pornography or similar sites.

“With the advent of internet phones, electronic tablets and laptops it is near impossible to supervise children at all times.

“The news that four of the top internet service providers have now introduced options that will allow parents to block these types of sites is to be welcomed.

“This will allow parents the confidence that their children can access the internet for educational and recreational use without having access to sites that are unsuitable for children.

“It is important that our children are protected from these sites and I welcome the decision that also allows parents to report sites with suspect content to the providers.

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Speaking in response to the first fiscal assessment by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that the Fiscal Advisory Council’s proposals to cut a further €4 billion from the domestic economy over the next four years suggests that they are not living in the real word.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The government’s recently established Fiscal Advisory Council has released its first report today. While some of the report has merit, its proposal to cut a further €4 billion from the domestic economy over the next four years in addition to the €11.8 billion already agreed by the government suggests that they are not living in the real word.

“There is simply no social or economic rational for adopting such a policy. The Council says it would bring the State’s budget deficit down to 1% by 2015. However what the report does not say is what the cost to ordinary people would be if such a course of action was pursued.

“You don’t need a PhD in economics to predict the human cost of an extra €4 billion in cuts over four years. Unemployment and emigration would continue to rise. Vital front line services would continue to be dismantled, deepening the crisis in our health and education systems. More staff would be lost in emergency services.

“In turn mortgage arrears and household debt would continue to rise, incomes would continue to fall and consumer spending would decline leading to further job losses and long term domestic recession.

“When he established the Council in July Minister Noonan told us that it would provide an independent assessment of the government’s budgetary plans. Unfortunately the Minister failed to appoint a single expert from outside the economic establishment. None of these individuals has a record of alternative thinking or critical engagement.

“At the time Sinn Féin warned that this lack of independence would result in another publically funded think tank issuing reports to justify government policy. In fact, if today’s report is anything to go by, what we have got is much worse. A body that proactively works to outdo the government in an attempt to take the bad look off government policy.”

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Sinn Féin's spokesperson on the arts, Sandra McLellan, has called on the government to recognise the immense contribution that local community arts projects make to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the state and labelled the continuing assault on funding for such schemes “shocking”.

Speaking in the Dáil on Sinn Féin's motion supporting the community and voluntary sector, Deputy McLellan said:

“Policy makers, arts practitioners and researchers have long suggested that participation in arts activity can result in a broad range of positive effects. These range from increased self-confidence to increased educational attainment, from social cohesion to reduced offending behaviour. Some of the benefits derived from the arts, such as increased self-esteem and mental wellbeing, are primarily personal or individual benefits, while others, such as developing community identity, occur at a community level.

“We are minded of some ground breaking arts projects which have broken down barriers and been vehicles for understanding and absolute transformation, for example, Féile an Phobail in Belfast, Music for the Mind in my home county of Cork, or RTÉ’s popular Music Changes Lives programme which documented how the simple act of learning to play a musical instrument changed the lives of a group of young children. Similar projects are happening in communities right across the state, yet this Government is determined to cut them out of existence.

She concluded:

“In times of crisis the services these groups provide are in even greater demand. They deserve recognition. They deserve appropriate support and encouragement. That the government intends to continue its assault on them is a shocking reflection on their idea of what counts for a society.”

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Dublin City Council has served notice on residents in the Priory Hall apartment complex in Clongriffin that their homes are unsafe to live in. Local Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha has described the situation as “a massive scandal” and called on Housing Minister Willie Penrose and Dublin City Council to ensure that the residents are properly housed and that the developer is forced to carry out the extensive works needed to make the apartments safe.

Cllr. Mac Donncha said:

“Priory Hall residents have now been told that their homes are unsafe to live in on fire safety grounds. This is a massive scandal because from soon after these apartments were first occupied it was clear that the developer, Coalport, had cut corners and had built a sub-standard development. Now the individuals and families living in over 85 apartments face leaving their homes.

“The developer was allowed to do this because of the disgracefully lax regulation of building in this State – so-called self-regulation which allowed rogue developers to put up sub-standard apartments and houses. That is why there is now a moral obligation on the Government and the local authority to ensure that all residents of Priory Hall are provided with adequate alternative accommodation and that the developer is forced to carry out the extensive works needed to make the apartment complex safe.” ENDS

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Responding to the publication today of the government’s long awaited Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group report, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that the groups recommendations were “a deep disappointment” and were “short on detail and short on solutions.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“Today’s report from the Interdepartmental-Working Group Mortgage Arrears is a deep disappointment, particularly for the 100,000 or more families currently unable to service their mortgage repayments. The report completely fails to understand the depth or the urgency of the problem. It also fails to provide anything close to a comprehensive solution to the issue of mortgage distress.

“The report proposes a number of schemes such as split-mortgages, mortgage-to-rent and mortgage-to lease which if established may assist a small number of people in mortgage distress. It also proposed a strengthened mortgage advice service for those in distress.

“However its core proposal is to leave those in mortgage distress at the mercy of the banks and saddled with decades of unsustainable debt. Across the country tens of thousands of families who have been waiting to hear what the government intended to do will today be plunged even deeper into despair.

“After three expert group reports produced over almost two years it is incredible that the reports main conclusion is to leave the resolution of this problem to the banks. Clearly the government has learnt nothing.

“While rightly ruling out a blanket debt forgiveness scheme for all those in negative equity as unaffordable, the report fails to even consider more targeted debt resolution and restructuring mechanisms such as debt-for-equity swaps, or other proposals that would be overseen by an independent distressed mortgage resolution body.

“Considering the billions of Euros of public money given to the banks by both the last and current government there is simply no credible argument against the banks shouldering their fair share of the burden of mortgage distress.

“It is also worth noting that the report explicitly rules out a number of proposals that the Fine Gael and Labour government have committed itself to in its Programme for Government. Increasing mortgage interest supplement is ruled out. Extending mortgage interest relief is ruled out. Transforming MABS into a personal debt management agency with strong legal powers is ruled out. There are also no proposals dealing with insulating mortgage holders from ECB interest rate rises.

“It is also unclear how the proposed mortgage-to-rent and mortgage-to-lease schemes will be funded and what impact this funding will have on the already depleted local government housing budgets.

“During next week’s debate Sinn Féin will take the government at its word and outline a series of additional proposals which we believe do provide the basis of the comprehensive solution needed by those families most at risk of losing their homes.

“Widespread forbearance is not an option. Leaving this matter to the banks is not an option. Serious consideration must be given to targeted debt resolution and restructuring with banks absorbing part of the cost in order to enable people to protect their family home.”

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Speaking in a debate in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on European affairs Padraig Mac Lochlainn criticised the government’s ineffective approach to the European partners at a time when almost half a million Irish citizens are out of work.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn called on the government to “act and assert the will of the Irish people”.

He said:

“The spectacle of yet another Franco- German summit in recent days sends a clear message to the world about the current status of the European Union as a so called partnership of equal sovereign states.

“Ireland’s citizens have been forced to accept punishing austerity budget after budget over recent years. Along with the citizens of Greece and Portugal, we have been forced to bailout the banking system in the core, powerful European countries and have it labelled something else to the rest of the world.

“Our elected political leaders are reduced to playing the bold child who must sit on the stairs until their disappointed parents are satisfied that they have learned their lesson.

“All the while that this circus is going we have unemployment continuing at 14.4%. Almost half of those on the live register have been unemployed for a year or more. We have 80,000 young people on the live register and at least 40,000 of our people are expected to emigrate this year.

“Another way is possible. That way is about putting the needs of our people before the needs of bankers.

“It is time that we began the process of shaping a Europe that serves the people. And I believe it is time for the government to act and assert the will of the Irish people.

“Our sovereignty is not in the gift of others. We need to assert our sovereignty.

“I hope that this government will act but I travel more by hope than expectation.”

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Responding to reports that the government is to target rent supplements for spending cuts in the Budget, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh cautioned against cutting the payment which he says would only end up piling more hurt on already struggling people.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also said that the local authority housing stock is grossly insufficient to meet the scale of the housing need that exists.

He said:

“Any change to the rent supplement scheme must take account of two things. Firstly the payment is designed to be paid only to those people who cannot afford accommodation and secondly the local authority housing stock is grossly insufficient to meet the scale of housing need that exists.

“The Minister has spoken repeatedly of her plans to transfer people from rent supplement onto the Rental Accommodation Scheme. That might give rise to a saving on her own department's balance sheet but it will actually cost the state more.

“Instead of contemplating cuts to rent supplement that would impoverish families on the brink of homelessness, all the relevant actors must come together, including the Departments of Social Protection, Finance and the Environment, so that a lasting solution to the rocketing rent supplement bill can be found.

“NAMA and other vacant properties must be used to increase the local authorities housing stock. This costs money upfront but the resulting savings on rent supplement and revenues raised through differential rents would be worth it.”

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Sinn Féin vice-Chair of the Assembly Justice Committee, Raymond McCartney MLA (Foyle) has voiced concern at developments today at Coleraine Court when charges against a number of men involved in the Loyalist mob killing of Kevin McDaid have been reduced from murder to manslaughter.

Raymond McCartney said:

“People in Coleraine and further afield were rightly outraged at the time of this vicious killing which given the circumstances surrounding the attack could only be described as a sectarian hate crime.

“This development today will be devastating for the family of Kevin McDaid and will send out a message that sectarian attacks will not be pursued with the full rigour of the law. Reducing the charges to manslaughter will be perceived as a mechanism to ensure that the mandatory life sentence for murder is not available. The fear will be that this decision will result in inappropriately light sentences and another family fighting a lengthy campaign for justice for a loved one. It is ironic that this announcement coincided with the British governments insult in once more refusing the Finnucane family access to a full independent Inquiry into the murder of Human Rights Lawyer Pat Finnucane.

“The PPS has a responsibility to now give the family a detailed account of how it reached this decision.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Spokesperson Gerry Kelly has slammed the British Government’s reneging on an inquiry into the murder of Human Rights Lawyer Pat Finucane as an insult to the family.

“After a period of engagement between the Finucane family and the British Government in which a review of the evidence was never on the table or proposed as a solution, the offer of this is an extreme act of bad faith

"It is in the interest of everyone in our society, including all who seek to engender public confidence in the new beginning to policing and justice, that an effective, independent inquiry is held into the killing of Pat Finucane by agents of the State."

"The Finucane family command respect and goodwill for the dignity and determination which they have shown during the last 22 years. Their campaign for an inquiry has won support across the world because of the way in which it has been conducted and the concerns it raises.

"The British establishment has always resisted an inquiry despite giving earlier commitments to conduct one. As far back as 2001, the British government gave commitments to the Finucane family at Weston Park which they later reneged upon.

"The reality is that the killing of Pat Finucane in 1989 by agents of the British state reflects the nature of the conflict which was conducted in our country. It reflects upon the British system for guiding, directing and controlling the conflict and many of those killed during it.

“The remnants of that system are still around today. In fact, there are cases before the courts even now which show how the system of Special Branch controllers, handlers and agents has had a septic effect on policing and justice, even in recent times.

“Throughout negotiations with the British government, Sinn Féin has supported the demands of the Finucane family as we have the demands of many other families, not as concessions but as entitlements and we will continue to do so.” CRíOCH/END

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Commenting on today’s Prayer of Annulment debate in the Assembly on the issue of Single Accommodation Rate for Housing benefit Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson and member of the Social Development Committee Fra McCann MLA (West Belfast) said:

“It is regrettable that the DUP, UUP and Alliance combined to defeat this motion to annul proposals to implement new regulations that will reduce by half the Housing Benefit entitlements for thousands of vulnerable single people. The proposed changes to Housing Benefits for single people under age 35 could result in a chronic increase in homelessness. Increasing the age range from 25 to 35 for those having to share accommodation could see up to 6000 presently in receipt of the Single Accommodation Rate have their benefits reduced by 50% leading to undue hardship and resultant health problems!

“Evidence has shown a clear relationship between unemployment and rates of suicide. Studies indicate that unemployed people are two to three times more at risk of suicide. The people who will lose their homes as a result of these proposals are already at greater risk of suicide. The loss of their home will increase that risk even more.

“Men under the age of 35 will be the most adversely affected; the same social group that carries the highest risk of suicide here in the north. Many of those who will lose their homes do not have the kind of family ties that might support them in a crisis. The figures for women are less but, for those affected, the loss of their home will be just as traumatic.

 

 “All of the political parties seem to be in agreed opposition to this legislation but some fear that to break what is referred to as parity will risk the British Treasury seeking to recover the difference elsewhere in our Budget. We should not allow the British government to exercise the so called ‘parity’ rule in a manner in which disadvantages the most vulnerable in our society. Parity must mean parity of outcome! One size fits all payments do not deliver parity when the higher fuel, food and energy costs here are factored into the equation.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking after raising the closure of St Brigid’s Nursing Home in Crooksling, Co Dublin, under Topical Issues in tonight’s session of the Dáil, Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe said:

“For months there have been concerns that the HSE was planning to close St Brigid’s and now these fears have been realised. Yet until yesterday’s announcement, the government refused to give a straight answer and clarify the situation despite the fact their decision will have a profound impact on very vulnerable people, many of whom have spent a good part of their lives being cared for in the home.

“The 2009 EIQA Report into St Brigid’s praised the dedication and work of its staff and their views reflected those of the relatives whose loved ones were residents of the home. One of the residents of Crooksling has been a patient since she was seventeen. Now in her mid–seventies; she has no relatives and has only ever left the place on short trips arranged by the staff.

“There are many other residents who have spent twenty and thirty years in the Brittas based care home and some have been moved from private nursing homes, because they were receiving substandard care. Every unit at Crooksling treats a percentage of patients with psychiatric conditions and many are resident there having been refused entry to private nursing homes because of the severity of their illness.

“It is also wrong that staff and relatives got no advance official notice of the closure and only heard what was happening through the media. The HSE’s failure to communicate their decision with the people most affected showed a lack of common decency and courtesy. Their conduct has made the announcement of the closure all the more traumatic.

“Over the past five years a significant amount of money was spent on this facility yet when questioned the Minister could not provide a breakdown of what was spent. There are also fears that other long stay nursing homes will meet a similar fate and one of the consequences of this decision will be that, because Crooksling will no longer take patients from Tallaght and St James’s Hospitals, critical bed space will be unavailable for lengthier periods of time. This means it will be difficult to for high dependency patients to find alternative care. Already the Minister has only been able to confirm that the Inchicore facility can only accommodate 50 patients, a shortfall of at least 30.

“If the Minister does not reverse this decision then he will have failed the staff and patients of Crooksling. At the very least, the transfer of residents and staff to Hollybrook Community Nursing Unit in Inchicore and other units around the Dublin/Mid Leinster area must be carried out sensitively. The HSE must also honour its commitment and ensure that families will not be forced to pay additional costs for the care of their loved ones whenever they are relocated.

“Every effort must be made by the government to ensure staff find alternative employment close to where they live. Of further concern is the fact that some members of staff have lived at the facility for many years and will now have find a new home as well as a new job.” ENDS

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Speaking in an Assembly debate today on ‘Dealing with the Past’ Sinn Féin Victims Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) said that if you only ask some of the questions you will only establish some of the truth.

 

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

 

“Sinn Féin is very mindful of all of the difficulties involved in truth recovery, particularly for victims and their families and we accept that there is a requirement that all of us address the tragic human consequences of the past. However Sinn Féin rejects any attempt to create a hierarchy of victims and survivors. All victims and survivors must be treated on the basis of equality

 

“In the above context, a Truth Recovery process should be independent of the state, combatant groups and political parties.

 

“Sinn Féin would argue that if you only seek evidence from some of the protagonist groups, or if you only ask some of the questions, then you will only establish some of the truth. The establishment of an Independent International Truth Commission is the best way of taking this issue forward. Clearly the willingness of all former combatants to voluntarily participate will be greatly enhanced if the Commission is seen to be independent, to have an international dimension and to be fair and equitable.

 

“This would be the responsibility of the British and Irish Governments, however the critical issues of independence and credibility require that there should be maximum involvement from the United Nations or a similar international organisation in the process.

 

“It is for those who disagree with our proposal to bring forward better ideas. So far, none of the propositions that have been set out have addressed the issue of objectivity and independence of the process.

 

“This in Sinn Féin’s opinion is the most effective way to harvest all of the fragments of recoverable truth and assemble the ‘MOSAIC OF TRUTH’ for all in our community.

 

“An insistence that there can be a selective approach will in effect ensure that this stalemate will continue, probably indefinitely, unless there is an approach which makes no distinctions between the suffering of all victims and survivors and by extension the roles and responsibilities of allprotagonists’ in the conflict.

 

“British Government legislation, institutions, agencies and personnel have over a period of four decades fashioned structures, practices and procedures to ensure that the truth about its activities during the conflict is withheld from public scrutiny. So far the approach of the British Government has been to challenge, frustrate and drive up the cost of inquiries so as to make them politically unacceptable. If we are to have a credible truth recovery process this approach must change.” CRÍOCH

 

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