Speaking today from Sinn Féin’s Head Office in Dublin National Chairperson and MEP Mary Lou McDonald outlined the party’s Lisbon Treaty Referendum Campaign spend.
The Dublin MEP said:
“Political parties and campaign groups alike should be required to submit a declaration of expenditure to the Standards in Public Office Commission following a referendum campaign.
“There is a responsibility on all of us who campaigned for and against the Lisbon Treaty to be transparent in how individual campaigns were financed and monies spent.
“Sinn Féin’s total campaign expenditure for the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign was €118,907.68. The bulk of this spend was on campaign posters which cost €66,871.10 to produce. In addition the party spent €20,231.70 on media advertising and €27,939.53 on printed materials.
“The campaign was funded by Sinn Féin centrally, with much of the financial outlay on printed materials repaid by party’s local organisations, a €20,000 contribution from Sinn Féin’s EU parliamentary group GUE/NGL and a public appeal for donations, the largest of which was €650.
“It is worth noting that the distribution of all the party’s campaign literature was done by party activists and supporters over the course of the campaign. Over half a million leaflets were delivered throughout the state, dozens of public meetings were held and public representatives’ engaged in outreach meetings with various organisations such as trade unions, farming and rural Ireland groups and the development sector.
“Last week Sinn Féin publishedits annual financial statements for both the north and south. Political parties in the north are required under law to provide a full income and expenditure annual financial statement to the electoral commission.
“Sinn Fein believes a similar requirement should be in place here in the south with political parties having to submit annual financial statements to the Standards in Public Office Commission. However in the absence of such legislation political parties should publish annual financial statements as Sinn Féin has done making them associable to the public and media.
“Referendum campaigns should not be treated differently to election campaigns, therefore the same obligation should be in place. Be it a political party or a campaign group transparency in campaign expenditure should be the norm.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has praised the flood emergency response over the last 48 hours and urged the rural population to remain patient as recovery efforts continue.
Since Saturday afternoon the Rivers Agency has taken over 1,300 flooding calls, dealt with 300 flooding incidents and issued over 22,000 sandbags to householders. Work by Rivers Agency staff is on-going in response to local flooding incidents and all the government authorities remain on high alert.
Discussing the flooding situation, the minister said:
"In the space of several hours on Saturday we were faced with the entire rainfall that we normally experience for the month of August. The scale and impact of this extraordinary event, which was of a different scale to last year's flash flooding, has caused particular distress to many farmers.
"Widespread flooding of land has caused disruption to farmers, with some experiencing loss of crops or livestock. I am also very aware of the implications that the extreme rainfall could have for this year's harvest and intend to work with stakeholders to assess whether this will have a sustained effect on the industry.
"An enormous debt is owed to the combined efforts of the emergency services, my own Rivers Agency staff, Roads Service, local councils, Housing Executive and NI Water to assist those affected. We are all working very closely in the Executive to ensure that everything that can be done will be done for those badly affected by the flooding." ENDS
Sinn Féin Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has announced that an application for grant-aided status for Bunscoil Uí Chléirigh, Dungannon, has been approved.
Commenting on the decision, Caitríona Ruane said:
"The Department has a statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish medium education and I examine each proposal on a fair and consistent basis.
"There is evidence of a demand from parents to have their children educated through the medium of Irish, with a successful naíscoil already operating in the area. I have therefore decided to award conditional approval of grant-aided status to the school and wish the school every success in the future in delivering a quality education for its pupils through the medium of Irish."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA has expressed concern after discovering that some students graduating from university are having their diplomas withheld because the Student Loan Company has failed to pay their fees.
Mr O'Dowd said:
"This is an unacceptable situation; graduates have worked hard for their degrees yet are not able to get the award from the university because the Student Loan Company has not paid the relevant fees.
"While universities have long used this mechanism to ensure that all outstanding money owed to them is paid the situation is placing more pressure on students who now have such huge levels of debt when they leave university.
"Parents of students I have spoken to have taken out loans and paid upwards of £1,300 by credit cards directly to Universities to ensure that their son or daughter has the honour they deserve of graduating and receiving their diploma they worked so hard for instead of receiving a blank scroll.
"Parents in this situation now have to pay off those Credit Card bills and loans as several weeks later the Universities concerned have been unable to reimburse them as the Student loan company has still not paid outstanding accounts.
"I am calling on the Higher Education Minister Reg Empey to directly intervene and contact the Student loan company and use his Ministerial office to bring pressure on them to pay all outstanding accounts.
Concluding Mr O Dowd said
"Sinn Féin are not alone in highlighting the damaging impact of tuition fees in creating barriers to university education but now we see that graduates are being penalised at a time when they are trying to secure that all important first job." ENDS
As part of a new recruitment drive in Newry and Armagh, Sinn Féin has launched a new website and a 'Text to Join' initiative.
Sinn Fein's MP for Newry and Armagh, Conor Murphy has said,
"Sinn Féin is the fastest growing political party in Ireland. We are activist based and have members all over the country. Our task is to build a country where all the people are treated equally regardless of religion, income, gender, ethnicity or geography.
"There are countless roles for everyone to play in our rapidly growing party. From joining and adding to the important work of local cumainn, to assisting our hard-working election teams, through to helping the party grow in tandem with developing technological advances. These are only some of the areas where Sinn Fein would like to harness the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of everyone to achieve our aims and take society in Ireland confidently into the coming years and decades."
"Currently people can phone, 'walk in' or send an email to apply to join Sinn Féin. The email system in recent times has been the most successful."
"We recognise that almost everyone has a mobile phone so why not 'Text to Join'? The party has set up a 5 digit number and from now on people can text 'JOIN' followed by their name and address to 60060 and apply to 'Join by Text'."
Commenting on the website Mr. Murphy said,
"Our new website (www.newryarmaghsf.com) will contain daily news updates on the activities of our elected representatives and activists. It also contains information on our elected representatives so that the community here can find out more about their councillors and assembly members. Furthermore in the 'Policies' section of the website, visitors can read up on Sinn Féin policy on a wide range of issues."
''We believe that these recent developments will bring more people to Sinn Féin in order to help us build an Ireland of Equals." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Antrim and Policing Board member Daithi McKay today said that Ian Paisley Juniors remarks concerning the PSNI shooting so called dissident republicans on sight, were his latest attempts to become relevant after his dramatic fall from ministerial office.
Mr McKay said:
"Since Ian Paisley Junior suffered the humiliation of being forced from Ministerial Office, his contributions to pubic debate have been increasingly nonsensical and irrelevant. This latest outburst certainly falls into that category.
"It also exposes a failure of sections of the DUP to come to terms with the new political realities and a failure to learn the lessons of the past. The PSNI is not the unionist militia it replaced. The days of paramilitary policing have gone with the RUC and cannot return.
"The way in which people will be convinced about the futility of carrying on pointless armed actions which do not contribute to any strategy to achieve Irish unity is to demonstrate clearly that politics works. That means the DUP entering into real partnership government. It means the DUP recognising that there will be no return to unionist majority rule and it means the DUP accepting equality." ENDS
A delegation of Basque youth is touring Ireland this week. The group which is being hosted by Ógra Shinn Fein will be engaged in a number of public meetings, and will also use the mobilisation to learn of the peace process in Ireland. Along with their hosts from Armagh Ógra Shinn Fèin they met with Newry and Armagh Sinn Fèin MLA Micky Brady to discuss the current political situation, with the parallels between Basque Country and the North of Ireland being highlighted.
Following on from this meeting there was a tour of South Armagh with points of interest being shown to the visitors who were impressed with the demilitarisation of the area, with the removal of watch towers being the most evident sign of this.
One of the Basque youth said "We have seen images of these towers on television and the internet and to now see them gone is a significant development, like here the Basque people want a peaceful solution to the conflict in our country. Despite this, the Spanish and French have continued in their campaign of repression, torture and arrests. We denounce these repressive acts, which show the Spanish and French belligerence to working on a meaningful peace process in the Basque Country."
"We look to the positive progress which has been made by the Irish people through the Good Friday Agreement and we are keen to study its successes."
Speaking of the Basque visit to Armagh, local Ógra Shinn Féin chairperson Damien White said:
"From past visits to the Basque Country I know that the Basque struggle is our struggle, we support the rights of the Basque people to national self determination and delegations like this are important to keep the Irish people informed of developments in the Basque country."
"The current repression and human rights abuses against the Basque youth are appalling and it is an inspiration that despite this torture they continue to mobilise confidently towards their objectives."
"The Basque youth are one of the most inspiring and innovative movements globally, we can learn many lessons from their vast experience and through visits like this we can enable them to learn from our struggle in Ireland and for Ógra members to learn from theirs."
"We in Ógra Shinn Féin stand shoulder to shoulder with the struggle for Basque freedom and independence. The reluctance of the Spanish and French governments to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Basques is unacceptable and does not go anyway in resolving the ongoing political conflict in the Basque country." ENDS
Speaking after today's meeting of the Assembly's Regional Development Committee, Sinn Féin Assembly member Raymond McCartney praised the immediate action taken by Minister Conor Murphy to convene the Government Crisis Management Group over the weekend and again yesterday to assess the impact of the floods and determine the relief response.
Mr McCartney said:
"Within the last fortnight citizens have experienced extreme flooding which has created great hardship for families and huge inconvenience around the main centres of population in both Dublin and Belfast where motorways carrying major traffic flows have been disrupted.
"It is devastating for families and communities who have been worst hit by the extreme floods experienced over the weekend. The Met Office have confirmed that this has been the wettest August ever recorded and I want to pay tribute to the efforts of all the agencies, emergency services and their staff who through their planned response prevented any serious injury or fatalities occurring.
"The Committee heard today from the various agencies engaged in the ongoing flood relief measures throughout the six-counties including the Roads Service, Water Service and the Rivers Agency.
"It is important that we assess the extent of the problem and the response to that as global weather patterns continue to change. As on previous occasions where extreme hardship has been caused by flooding the Government approved at Sunday's emergency meeting the introduction of a Compensation Scheme of one-off payments to households affected worth one-thousand pounds.
"Myself and my Party colleagues on the DRD Committee welcome the immediate action taken by Minister Conor Murphy to convene the Government Crisis Management Group over the weekend and again yesterday to assess the impact of the floods and determine the relief response, including an independent and full investigation into the failure of the Westlink Underpass to cope with the floods." ENDS
Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty continues his tour of the west tomorrow when he visits Galway, Connemara and the Aran Islands.
Senator Doherty is on a consultation tour in order to inform an Oireachtas Report which he is compiling on "What is required to develop the counties along the west coast of Ireland, both in economic and social terms."
Speaking today he said that he is particularly concerned at the neglect off our island communities of the west coast.
Senator Doherty's schedule for tomorrow is below and he is available to the media in between engagements. Contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the seizure of €200,000 worth of heroin in Dublin last night but expressed concern at the recent spike in heroin seizures saying that this is a sign of significantly increased amounts of the drug entering the state.
Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "While I welcome the significant seizure of heroin in west Dublin last night I also want to express concern at the recent spike in the number of heroin seizures. Increased drug seizures are generally seen as signifying increased amounts of drugs entering the state.
"This view is backed up by the fact that the amount of heroin addicts seeking treatment has doubled to almost 10,000 in the last ten years.
"It is imperative that the Gardaí continue target heroin dealers in the fight against drugs. While much of the media focus has rightly been on the cocaine epidemic the heroin crisis has continued to grow relatively unnoticed. This cannot continue.
"Sinn Féin is currently in the process of preparing our submission to the Garda Policing Plan for 2009 in which we will be calling on the Minister for Justice to ensure that tackling the heroin crisis is given greater priority in 2009." ENDS
Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has announced has announced details of a Coalisland Civil Rights March to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the original march.
The March will start in Coalisland at 3pm on Saturday 23rd August and unveil a commemorative stone to all those took part in the Civil Rights Campaign including those who lost their life.
There will also be an exhibition on Saturday and Sunday 23rd & 24th August in the Coalisland Heritage Centre.
Speaking ahead of the events Mr Molloy said:
"Forty years ago Coalisland was at birth of the Civil Rights Movement. It is fitting that we will commemorate the original march in the town.
"In 1968 there was a huge optimism that here Ireland we could challenge the corrupt unionist state and bring about real change. It was a belief that the world was changing that echoed not just around Ireland but across the world.
"Sadly the Civil Rights Movement and its basic demands for housing, jobs and democracy were met with all the violence of the unionist state.
"We now have an opportunity to build a future based on equality and mutual respect.
"In 1968 unionism failed to rise to the demands for change and we have a situation today that again challenges unionism.
"Unionists know that if they want an Assembly and Executive taking meaningful decisions then they need to share power with republicans in a partnership government of equals. Anything less is not acceptable and anything less will not work.
"There are of course still major inequalities across our society. There is a huge crisis in housing and unequal economic development across the north. But these are issues that the Assembly and Executive can deal with if unionism can, unlike 1968, rise to the challenges and demands for equality." ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson Pat Doherty MP MLA speaking after visiting a number of farms in his constituency affected by the flooding has said that the Flooding Compensation Scheme being administered by the Environment Minister Sammy Wilson will do nothing to alleviate the hardship facing many farmers.
Mr Doherty said:
"This flooding will cause genuine hardship for farmers who have lost crops or livestock and affect key farm projects such as the need to finish building slurry tanks by the end of year deadline.
"I have been inundated with calls from the farming community.
"I know that many farmers are looking at the Wet Weather Scheme that was previously in place and also highlighting the long delays associated with it.
"I also know that there are very tight EU guidelines about state intervention but while the Executive has re-activated the Flooding Compensation Scheme that will make up to £1000 available to householders I believe that the Executive must also look at the situation facing farmers.
"I also know that many businesses have been affected by the flooding and they too need to be looked at.
"The Executive needs to look at all of the available options and put in place measures to assist everyone affected by the flooding." ENDS
Louth Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan has called on the Government to introduce measures to alleviate the hardships that thousands of small farmers are facing due to un-seasonal weather conditions. Deputy Morgan said recent heavy rainfall has made conditions unbearable for many farmers.
He said, "Due to the adverse weather conditions recently thousands of crop farmers are facing tough times as entire harvests have been wiped out. Many livestock farmers are also being severely hit as they are unable to harvest silage etc. This, along with rising input costs, means many farmers will soon be in serious financial difficulty. The hardship will be felt most by those with small and medium sized farms.
"I know of one small farmer in my own constituency who has lost much of his harvest having put down his fertiliser when expecting good weather only for it all to be wash away in the rain at a huge cost.
"It is imperative that the Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith brings forward proposals to alleviate some of the hardships being faced by these farmers and their families." ENDS
Model farmers across the North are being asked to apply to become Focus Farms within the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA said today.
Through the RDP, a range of farm businesses will be selected to become Focus Farms. This coaching and mentoring scheme will introduce farmers to a series of new and emerging technologies as well as demonstrating how to take a more business orientated approach.
Focus Farmers will host farm visits and demonstrate good practice across a range of farm types. The scheme will establish a network of up to 60 farms and promote the adoption of good production, business and environmental practice.
The Minister said:
"I am encouraging farmers to apply to the Focus Farm scheme so that they can share best practice with their neighbours and the wider farming community. The main objective of the scheme is to facilitate farmer-led learning. It will enable farmers to learn from the experiences of the Focus Farmers, share and solve common problems and benchmark their own business performance. The Focus Farms scheme also offers farmers the opportunity to develop innovative methods to improve existing farm practices.
"Visiting farmers can also benefit from direct mentoring by the Focus Farmers and explore ideas arising from the farm visit. I am encouraging all farmers to make full use of focus farms to further help improve their own farm businesses."
This scheme is currently open for applications from those wishing to become Focus Farmers within a specific range of key areas and regions. Key areas include the Dairy, Beef, Sheep, Pigs, Arable, Commercial Horticulture, Organic, Renewable Crops, Diversification and Environmental sectors.
The Focus Farm scheme will aim to have 10,000 visitors to focus farms over the period of the programme and to train 6000 individual farmers.
Further information can be obtained from Colin Rea at Loughry Campus on 028 8676 8398.
The Rural Development Programme is funded under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Sinn Féin Social Development Spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín commenting on the statement from the Minister Margaret Ritchie has said that there is nothing new in the announcement and challenged the Minister to begin to do something about the housing crisis facing thousands of people across the north.
Ms Ní Chuilín said:
"Sadly there is nothing new in this announcement today. We have heard it all before.
"I think what people want to hear from the Minister is what is she going to do about the housing crisis that is affecting thousands of people right across the north.
"The Minister's approach to shared housing while deeply well meaning totally ignores the real housing issues facing us.
"Mortgage repossessions have increased by almost 60%. The levels of homelessness are at all time record highs. There are not enough social houses being built; the Shared Equity Scheme has collapsed; and there are major problems with the non-regulation of the private rented sector.
"On all of these issues we have heard fine words from the Minister but what people are still waiting for is a plan of action to actually tackle the scale of the problem.
"People don't need empty rhetoric or false hope they need a strategy to deal with the housing crisis and a long-term approach to tackling the divisions within our society that require a lot more than one or two mixed housing estates." ENDS
A bus carrying members and followers of the west Belfast based Eire Nua flute band was attacked by loyalists on Sunday evening, August 17, as the band returned home from the National Hunger Strike march and rally in Derry City.
The attack happened at around 6pm on the road between Drumahoe and Dungiven.
4 hooded men run towards the bus and threw 2 breezeblocks at the bus, 1 of which smashed through a window of the bus where a number of young children were seated.
Lisburn Sinn Fein councillor Sam Baker witnessed the attack.
Mr Baker said:
"I was in a car travelling slightly behind the Eire Nua bus that was attacked.
"I noticed 4 men near the road and 2 of them then threw breezeblocks at the bus.
"We followed them up a side road as they ran away. They then turned a corner where they jumped into a blue BMW car in which a driver was waiting.
"I have passed on the detail of the car, including the registration number, to the PSNI and I will be asking them to vigorously pursue these attackers who tried to kill the passengers on this bus."ENDS
The Executive today announced an emergency payment scheme to help householders hit by severe flooding across the North of Ireland.
The emergency payment was approved after two of the lead Ministers in charge of the Executive's flooding response met. Sinn Féin Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy and Environment Minister Sammy Wilson also met with senior officials from government departments and agencies at Stormont to assess the situation. Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew was briefed on the meeting.
The Ministers were told almost one month's worth of rainfall fell in 12 hours across the North of Ireland during Saturday.
The Roads Service, NI Water, the Rivers Agency and the Housing Executive have also been working with the emergency services and local government to clear roads and homes affected by the heavy rainfall.
Government agencies received thousands of phone calls from the public.
Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy said:
"The Executive would like to pay tribute to the heroic work of the agencies in dealing with what was an extraordinary weather event.
"The agencies met on Friday after receiving weather warnings and were able to review the plans and liaise on arrangements for the weekend.
"As a result NI Water was able to deploy resources and contractors throughout the event and around the clock.
"Nevertheless such was the extremity of the rainfall that hundreds of homes were affected. The Roads Service has launched an operation to pump out 100 million litres of water from the Broadway underpass in Belfast and I have asked Roads Service to carry out a full investigation into the flooding of the underpass."
Note to Editors
Ministers have agreed that, as in the wake of the June 2007 floods, funds will be made available to local councils to help those most affected by this weekend's serious floods.
The funding has been approved by Finance Minister and councils are being kept fully informed about the administration of the scheme.
Sinn Féin Councillor Billy Leonard has heavily criticised the PSNI after charges against him and fourteen others in relation to a peaceful protest at a Kilrea twelfth of July march in 2005 were dropped.
The process took over three years, numerous adjournments and Leonard and his colleagues believe it was the personal ambition of one, now retired, police officer which drove the process.
"This was a disaster for the police and has cost a lot of money including flying a police witness from Australia; all that for the charges to be dropped on the morning of the case.
"The most senior officer told people on the day there would be no charges. Then police officers who took statements three years ago also told all of us that there would be no charges. Yet a mad and expensive paper chase ensued because this officer couldn't follow the common sense of colleagues in other more contentious situations.
"It was a disgraceful waste of time and effort and defied logic. Vindictiveness took over but I am sure there are now red faces among the police: but they are very costly blushes." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty and Fermanagh District Council Chairperson Thomas O'Reilly joined Enniskillen by-election canidate Debbie Coyle handing in her nomination papers at Enniskillen Town Hall today, Monday 18th August.
Speaking afterwards Pat Doherty said:
"Debbie Coyle is an excellent candidate with a strong track record in the community and voluntary sector and constituency work in Enniskillen. She will give a voice to the many people in this town who are marginalized by other political parties and provide support to those in our community fighting for their entitlements."
Fermanagh District Council Chairperson Cllr Thomas O'Reilly added:
"Sinn Féin is the largest party in Fermanagh, with seven of 23 seats. This is an opportunity to increase the Sinn Féin representation on Fermanagh District Council and in Enniskillen.
"We are a major force in local politics and in demanding and delivering change at local government, the Assembly, Europe and across Ireland. In Enniskillen we are expanding through work on the ground of our dedicated office staff and elected representatives."
Debbie Coyle said:
"It is a great honour to be selected to fight this by-election for Sinn Fein in Enniskillen.
"I follow a long line of people who have sought a mandate from the people on behalf of Sinn Fein; A mandate for change, for Irish national self determination and unity and equality." ENDS
The Assembly Committee for the Environment has responded to Minister Sammy Wilson, MLA, on a raft of measures to improve safety on the North's roads.
Responding to DoE proposals to review the current road safety strategy, the Committee urged the Minister to ensure the drink-driving limit is strictly enforced. The Committee also welcomed the publication of a revised version of the highway-code.
After engaging with stakeholders and interested groups, the Committee Vice Chairperson, Mr Cathal Boylan, MLA, said:
"Reducing the number of road fatalities and injuries has to be the number one priority. The Committee strongly encourages measures which make the Norths roads safer.
The Committee, in its response to the Minister, also indicated support for:
It also recommended that the Minister introduce a practical Road Safety education programme to make children and young people aware of all road dangers.
The Newry and Armagh Assembly member added:
"The Committee engaged in extensive consultation with many interested groups and thank them for their contribution on what is a major issue of concern within communities throughout Ireland. We feel it is imperative that the drink driving limit is enforced on both sides of the border to ensure consistency.
"Sinn Féin have consistently said that the issue of Road safety is an All Island issue and that more co operation is needed to dramatically cut the number of accidents and fatalities which occur, some of the proposals coming out of this consultation support this view.
"Already this year over 67 people have died on the Norths roads, added to the 175 people who have lost their lives in the 26 Counties, that is 242 who have tragically been taken away from loved ones and friends, the impact of a road death whether it be in Cork or Derry, Galway or Armagh, Belfast or Dublin is the same; the grief felt neither knows or recognises an invisible border.
"The issue of Road Safety is a problem for the whole of Ireland and should be dealt with on that basis." ENDS