Tá an rialtas ag déanamh neamhaird iomlán d'imní phobal na Gaeltachta agus iad a iarraidh Bille Gaeltachta atá thar a bheith lochtach a dheifriú tríd Tithe an Oireachtas, dar le Seanadóir Shinn Féin Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Bhí an Seanadóir as Gaillimh Thiar ag labhairt tar éis don Rialtas críoch a chur leis an díospóireacht ag céim an choiste den bhille sa Seanad, cé nach raibh an teach sin ach tar éis deighleáil le 16 as 160 leasú a bhí molta don bhille.
“Tá cinneadh an Rialtais deireadh a chur leis an díospóireacht seo, leis an méid sin leasaithe fós le plé, scannalach. I mo thuairim, léiríonn sé dearcadh an Rialtas i leith díospóireacht oscailte agus ó thaobh an daonlathas féin di.
“Tá imní mhór ann ó thaobh cuid mhaith do na forálacha atá i gceist sa mBille, ní amháin i measc páirtithe polaitiúla, ach i measc eagrais Ghaeilge agus pobal na Gaeltachta chomh maith. Bhí baint ag formhór na leasaithe seo leis an méid a bhí ag déanamh imní dóibh siúd sna pobail seo agus dár ndóigh rinneadh go leor de na leasaithe seo a dréachtadh i gcomhpháírt leis na heagraíochtaí Gaeilge.
“Níl dabht ar bith ach go raibh na leasaithe seo cruthaitheach agus réalaíoch - agus d’fhéadfaidís feabhas a chur ar an reachtaíocht. Ach, ní amháin nár ghlac an tAire Mac Fhionnlaíoch le ceann ar bith de leasaithe an fhreasúra, ach dhiúltaigh an Rialtas go mbeadh díospóireacht ar aon ceann de na leasaithe a bhí fós le plé.
“Creidim go léiríonn sé seo easpa measa dochreidte an Rialtais ar phobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Níor thug siad aird ar bith ar imní an chosmhuintir agus tá siad ag brostú reachtaíocht fabhtach tríd a mbeidh tionchar tromchúiseach aige ar thodhchaí na Gaeltachta agus an teanga, gan diospóireacht iomlán a bheith déanta faoi".
“Tá mé ag iarraidh ar an Rialtas anois an chuid eile den díospóireacht ar an mBille seo a chuir siar, go dtí go mbeidh chomhairliúcháin iomlán faoi le pobal an Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta.”
Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has written to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore urging the Irish government to get directly involved in helping the stranded trainee Irish pilots in Florida.
Deputy Adams said:
“The family of one of the trainee pilots, who is from County Louth, has contacted my office in respect of the termination of training arrangements in Florida. Other families from other parts of the state have also been in touch today.
“These trainee pilots are students with the Pilot Training College Waterford (PTCW) based in Waterford Regional Airport. They are currently in Melbourne, Florida where they were undergoing part of their training with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). According to the Irish Aviation Authority it was told on June 26th that the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) was cancelling all training for PTCW as a result of a commercial dispute over payments. For its part PTCW has claimed that it ended its contract with FIT over ‘non-performance.’
“Whatever the truth there are now scores of trainee pilots, many of them from Ireland, stranded in Florida. They have each paid significant sums of money and are not sure if they will be able to complete their courses.
“The IAA decision to suspend flight training approval for the Pilot Training College Waterford (PTCW) is a worrying development, as is the news that the Waterford College is investigating restructuring options.
“While the IAA’s assurances that it will seek to ‘ensure that all training conducted to date in Waterford and Floirida will be credited to the individuals training records’, is a welcome commitment, there is nonetheless a serious question over the IAA’s failure to spot this problem before it became a crisis for the trainee pilots now stranded in Florida.
“While the IAA says that ‘contracts between self-sponsored or airline sponsored students and their training organisation are matters outside the remit of the IAA’; this semi state company acknowledges that it also ‘has the capacity to seek evidence that the organisation has sufficient resources in place to conduct training to the approved standards.’
“Whether the Pilot Training College in Waterford (PTCW) had such resources to conduct training here or in Florida must now be a matter for investigation In the meantime the stranded students are extremely concerned about their visas and housing situation. I have been informed that their M1 Student status in the US will expire in twelve days on the 17th July, leaving them all illegal. Their housing contract with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) will expire on the 15th July
“It is a matter of extreme urgency that the IAA secure all relevant information and ensure that the students and their families are kept informed.
“This situation is so serious that I believe it now requires the direct involvement of the Department of Foreign Affairs and consequently I have written to the Minister asking that the Department become directly involved.”
Speaking after an Oireachtas finance committee hearing on the on-going chaos at Ulster Bank Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty called on Ulster Bank CEO Jim Brown to resign.
The Donegal South West deputy called on Mr Brown, “to accept responsibility for the failure in the Bank, to accept that the buck stops with him and when the mess is cleared up to consider his position and resign”.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The chaos caused by the IT system crash at Ulster Bank has caused disruption to the lives of up to half a million ulster bank customers. It has also caused severe disruption to customers of other banks.
“That the backlog caused by the system failure will not be cleared for another two weeks is both unbelievable and unacceptable.
“During today’s Finance Committee meeting I challenged Ulster Bank CEO Jim Brown to accept responsibility for the failure in the Bank, to accept that the buck stops with him, and when the mess is cleared up to consider his position and resign.
“While Mr Brown accepted responsibility for what went on at Ulster Bank it was far from clear that he was accepting responsibility for the on-going chaos. It is also completely unacceptable that he refused to rule out accepting a bonus this year.”
The Sinn Féin TD for Cavan-Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has hosted a delegation of workers and their families from the Lagan Brick Company in Kingscourt Co. Cavan to the Dáil today.
The workers have been engaged in an around the clock protest at the gates of the Lagan Brick premises in Kingscourt, Co. Cavan since the company shut in the week before Christmas. They are demanding a fair redundancy deal from their former employers.
Speaking from Leinster House Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“I am delighted to welcome the Lagan Brick workers and their families to the Dáil today and I want to commend the strength and determination of these workers who have been protesting for their rights for the past 204 days.
“Significantly today the delegation met with TDs and senators from across the political spectrum, with all parties expressing unequivocal support for the Lagan workers' reasonable demands. This must now be followed up with concrete action.
“We are calling on the Lagan company directors to come to the table, engage with the workers and their SIPTU representatives and agree to pay them the redundancy payments that they are entitled to and that they deserve.”
Sinn Féin Tourism Spokesperson, Maeve McLaughlin MLA has called for the establishment of a Tourist Monitoring System similar to that in operation in Belfast to give a realistic assessment of the numbers of tourists visiting Derry and the North West.
Maeve McLaughlin said:
"Belfast has a very comprehensive system of monitoring tourist numbers visiting that City and an excellent estimation of tourism spend. Unfortunately Derry doesn't seem to have any similar system of compiling this information regarding visitor numbers and spending estimations for the North West.
"If we don't have this basic information on numbers visiting, overnight stays, day trippers and most popular attractions I can't see how we can properly plan marketing strategies or decide how to signpost the attractions that are most appealing to tourists or lesser visited sites that we wish to promote.
"I would encourage Derry City Council and the Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau to examine the Belfast model and adapt it to the Derry situation. Belfast last year posted £401 million tourist spend supporting approximately 9,000 full time equivalent jobs. Can we produce similar figures on which to base future marketing?
"Rather than depending on enquiries to the DVCB and anecdotal evidence it is time to instigate an accurate system of monitoring visitor numbers, length of stay, where they stay and what attracted them to the region in the first place.
"A start would be placing questionaires in hotels; guest houses; B&B’s; youth hostels; self catering accommodation etc to gather information such as length of visit, State or Country of origin, purpose of visit, attractions visited and comments on all facets of visit including quality of accommodation, entertainment, visitor facilities etc. The information gathered would provide us with the foundation on which to build future Marketing Strategies and where best to direct investment in visitor facilities and attractions.
"The preparations for City of Culture 2013 gives us the perfect vehicle with which to drive such a programme?"
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government Brian Stanley TD has this afternoon called on Minister Hogan to ensure that Dormant Accounts do not become a slush fund for the department’s pet projects.
Speaking during the Dáil debate on the Dormant Account's Bill, Deputy Stanley said;
“This bill aims to dismantle the independent Dormant Accounts Board and move the remaining €100 million into the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government.
“Sinn Féin has serious concerns with the bill. This is totally unacceptable to anyone who supports transparency and accountability. The Dormant Accounts Board has overseen the funding of over 4,000 projects since 2001. It has ensured that projects tackling social exclusion, the drugs crisis and promoting inter-culturalism received funding.
“This funding was of no cost to the exchequer. It was monies untouched in bank accounts, An Post accounts and building societies. The Board operates at arm’s reach of any department. This legislation, if passed, will change all that.
“The bill will dissolve the board and transfer all functions to the Minister for the Environment. The minister will only have to consult with four fellow government ministers when administering the fund.
“This legislation is a blunt and crude instrument for distributing funding to the community sector. This sector has a long and proud history of independence. The funding mechanism will no longer be separate to the minister's office and may well end up funding only those who do not challenge government policy.
“It is vital that there is an independent funding process for the community sector. This bill, if passed, is an attempt to block that independence.
“Minister Hogan must not allow the dormant accounts to become a slush fund for his department’s pet projects.” ENDS
Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has welcomed the publication of draft area plans by the Education and Library Boards.
The plans, which focus on post-primary provision, have been published by the Boards for a period of extended consultation.
Welcoming the move as an important first step in the process of mapping out the future pattern of education delivery, Mr O’Dowd said: “In my statement to the Assembly last year, ‘Putting Pupils First: Shaping our Future’, I highlighted that my priority as Education Minister was to raise educational standards for all pupils in our schools. At that time I pointed out that the sheer number of empty desks in our schools, at 85,000, was diverting badly needed resources away from the core business of providing pupils with a high quality educational experience.
“Since that time, the Viability Audits carried out by the Boards have shown that too many of our schools are experiencing stress in some form. When measured against educational achievement, finance and enrolment, 85% of our secondary schools are evidencing stress in one or more area. This includes grammar schools, with 35% evidencing stress in at least one category.
“The impact of this is that increasing numbers of schools are focussing on survival instead of the delivery of a high quality education.
“That is why the publication of draft area plans by the Boards today is of such significance. It marks the first step in transforming education provision here. By restructuring our service, we can develop a network of strong schools, able to meet the needs of pupils in the 21st century.
“The plans map out the issues affecting education in local areas both now and in the future and put forward proposals to meet these challenges. The consultation period will run until 26 October to allow schools and their communities time to read and reflect on the plans.
“Now the draft plans are published, I would encourage anyone with an interest in education to carefully consider the proposals and to make your views known through the consultation process. I want to hear from pupils, parents and the wider community before making my final deliberations on the Boards’ proposals. The draft plans will raise many questions; however I would encourage everyone to think about the needs of our children both now and in the future as opposed to the needs of individual institutions.
“If we are serious about raising educational standards; opening up new opportunities for our children; and helping drive economic growth in the future, we need to begin by making bold decisions. Today marks an important first step on that journey.”
Ms Anderson said,
“I will be meeting on Friday 6th July with interested parties including local political representatives, representatives of Newry and Mourne Council, Louth County Council, Cross Border Groups and representatives of various Chambers of Commerce.
“The development of this bridge has gone through several stages and is now with the Special European Union Programme Body (SEUPB) in order to attain funding for its completion.
“I recognise the value of this bridge to the entire region in developing economic prosperity especially in the tourism sector so it is important that we are all singing from the one hymn sheet in order to secure the funding.
“This meeting is designed to bring all the interested parties together to devise a strategy that will allow us to go forward with one united voice.
“Not only is there cross party support for the project but there is also cross border support and I intend to lobby on behalf of the region with the SEUPB so that we can be successful in delivering this project which has the potential to revitalise South Down and North Louth region.”
Today the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee received a presentation from Hannah’s House on the actions to date by the Irish and British government to implement UN Security Resolution 1325 with regard to Women and Conflict.
Both governments are obliged to draft a plan to implement this resolution that deals with the role of women in conflict and post conflict.
The British Government’s plan makes no reference or acknowledgment of the role of women in the process of conflict resolution in the Ireland.
The Irish Government’s National Action Plan makes two references to the role of women in post conflict Ireland.
Speaking after the meeting Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew MP said;
“Sinn Féin is proud of the role the women in our party and in our leadership have played in driving the peace process. The role of women in political life and in the process of conflict resolution needs to be recognised, supported and promoted by political parties and civic society across this island.
“If the UN resolution is to be made real there is a need to target resources and actions to implement it in on an international and Irish Context.”
Martin Ferris TD added;
“The Irish Government has paid lip service to the UN resolution and produced an action plan. However they have ignored the role of women in developing conflict resolution across Ireland and have withdrawn funding from victims of the conflict.
“It is nothing short of a scandal that a glossy action plan is printed and yet the government closes down the funding scheme to support victims of conflict and those majority of carers of victims of the conflict who are women.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has welcomed the ECB quarter percent rate cut this afternoon and called on the Government to ensure this rate cut is passed to mortgage holders and businesses.
Deputy Doherty said:
“When the ECB last cut its rates, the banks in this state dragged their heels about passing it on, with AIB eventually passing it down and BoI only passing on a marginal rate cut.
“With 115,000 families in mortgage distress and very little help coming from this Government, even from its personal insolvency bill, many people will have been looking to the ECB today and hoping that the rate would be cut and passed on. Businesses also need to see this rate passed to them. They will be hoping that this time the Government will go beyond posturing and ensure the banks follow through on a rate cut. They know that if the rate went up, the banks would be quick off the mark in that regard.
“This is a positive move today, if the Government ensures it is felt by the people who need it the most.”
The Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty, responding to the NTMA Bills issuance this morning, said the successful auction was welcome but caution is needed.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The auction this morning is a welcome first step in terms of short-term bill issuance, but must be greeted with caution. The fact that a rate of 1.8% was achieved is better than expected, however 3 month bills are a huge step away from proper bonds. This state will have to go to the bond market in the first part of next year, and how the international market perceives us then cannot be speculated against what happened today.
“The Government will attempt to oversell what happened today, as they have done for previous recent events, but it's important that while we recognise that it is indeed a positive short-term move, the direction this state is going in must be changed if we want to go back to the international bond markets next year for long-term funding.
“All the economic indications are that this state's growth levels are not performing as they should and much of that is down to the Government's austerity agenda. The bond markets will want to see growth, they will want to see sensible policies and they will want to see the separation of banking debt from sovereign debt. They will not be blinded by spin.”
Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard said that immediate action needs to be taken if we are to resolve the issue of flooding.
Speaking after flash floods in Newcastle Mr. Hazzard said:
“Every year we see homes ruined and people’s lives devastated due to flooding so action is needed now if we are to prevent future incidents. Following last week’s flooding in Belfast and the Glens of Antrim and unfortunately today it is the residents of Newcastle who are faced with this destruction.
“The main reason for the flooding seems to be lack of infrastructure and maintenance of our drainage system. While there has been a neglect of the system under direct rule we must now take on the responsibility of updating it.
“We must prioritise areas that are prone to flooding while continuing to update the overall system.
“I intend to raise the issue at the Environmental Committee to see what resources can used to bring our drainage system into the 21st century at a faster rate than is presently happening
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has welcomed the initiative by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill to deal with badgers infected with Bovine Tuberculosis.
Mr. McMullan said,
“For years there has been a debate on how we deal with the problem of badgers infected with Bovine Tuberculosis.
“I congratulate the Minister with coming up with a innovative solution that will protect healthy badgers while removing those infected with bovine TB.
“The proposal of capturing badgers and vaccinating the healthy ones while humanely destroying those infected with disease will eventually eradicate bovine TB in badgers.
“Badgers are one of the indigenous animals in Ireland and deserve to be protected as much as any other species in order to protect the natural balance in the countryside.
“Farmers also need to be confident that their herd of cattle is not susceptible to disease through contact with infected badgers and this initiative will go some way in meeting these two criteria.”
Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD called on the government to outline to the Dáil what issues are on the table for Budget 2013. The Dublin Central TD also criticised Labour and Fine Gael Ministers for failing to curb the runaway pay of their Special Advisors.
Deputy McDonald said:
“Sinn Fein met with the Troika yesterday. We outlined our view that their policies of austerity are not working.
“What was clear from our engagement is that on issues such as tax reform, public spending and social welfare payments the government has significant scope and choice on what policies it pursues.
“It’s time for the government to tell the Dáil what issues are on the table; what choices will you pursue.
“Will cuts to basic rates of Social Welfare be on the table or will you stick by your programme for government commitment not to cut basic rates of social welfare?
“Will Ministers consider cuts to the extravagant salaries paid to their Special advisors? Indeed the salary cap for special advisors is more honoured in the breach than by the observance.
“Will the Labour party show leadership on this issue? Will there be tax increases for those on over €100,000? Or will the government continue to protect the high rollers while those on low and middle incomes and on welfare pay the price for its austerity policies?
“The ESRI has held that Budget 2012 involved greater proportionate losses for those on low incomes. Unemployment is now at 14.9 per cent.
“Citizens are losing their homes because of the cuts this Government has imposed on Rent Supplement. Yet at the same time government advisors continue to earn lavish salaries. This is fundamentally unfair.” ENDS
Supporting today’s protest against the cuts to rent supplement Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh called on Minister Burton to stop uprooting families and to achieve savings by negotiating directly with landlord representatives.
Ó Snodaigh said;
“The government's decision to cut rent supplement and force vulnerable tenants into often unwinnable negotiations under threat of homelessness is callous in the extreme. More and more families are being issued letters by the department effectively forcing them to uproot each week.
“We are fast approaching September and many families do not know where there children will be going to school because there are no properties available at the new rent caps in the locality in which they have been living to date. The department should negotiate directly with landlords to achieve savings in the rent supplement spend and ultimately the government needs to provide more social housing.
“As a bulk rent payer the department is in a much stronger position to negotiate rents downwards than are individual tenants with nowhere to go. The government is in blind denial as to the hardship this is causing. I have debated this issue with the minister and the Tánaiste. The government falsely claims that no one is being made homeless by the rent cap change. But I am aware of cases where families have been added to the local authority homeless list as a direct consequence of this rent cut.”
Sinn Féin has criticised Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, for her attitude towards rent supplement recipients and for her failure to respond to the difficulties they are facing due to cuts.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh criticised the Minister following the Government’s rejection of a Sinn Féin motion calling on the Department of Social Protection to negotiate contracts directly with landlords.Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:
Speaking after the Government pushed through reductions to the Sunday Premium as part of the Industrial Relations Bill, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on jobs, enterprise and innovation Peadar Tóibín said:
“Last July Sinn Féin, in partnership with the trade union movement brought forward legislation to provide a legal framework for the operation of the Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) and to safeguard the rights of low paid workers. It has taken a year for the government to address this matter.
“At every stage of this bill we have put forward progressive and positive amendments to safeguard the rights of low paid workers and to reflect the needs of business. The government rejected these amendments.
“The JLC system was established to safeguard low paid workers from exploitation. This bill was an opportunity for the government, a government that includes the Labour Party to continue to support these workers.
“I agree that businesses need cost savings to survive but I believe that the wages of the working poor should be the last place a government should go to achieve these cost savings. Upward Only Rents, unfair rates, high insurance costs, over burdensome and ineffectual red tape and fuel costs are all places that the government could make a competitive difference.
“On publishing the bill, the Minister stated: ‘I have been determined to strike a balance between protecting vulnerable workers and providing reforms that would make systems more competitive and more flexible so as to allow for the creation of jobs in these sectors.’
“I tabled an amendment to the bill today which would have protected the Sunday Premium rates. The government failed Sunday workers and voted against it. What we have is a government that has effectively taken money out of the pockets of the working poor.
“There is no doubt that our economy is in crisis but recovery should not and cannot be built on creating further poverty.”
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD, commenting on the findings of a report published today by the National Competitiveness Council into the teaching of maths said:
“This report is timely and presents a number of very worrying findings. A big concern is that current standards of Irish students are well below those of their contemporaries in other developed countries.
“The report also highlights concerns about the country's future competitiveness and controversially blames uninspiring teaching, a lack of application and the CAO (Central Applications Office) points system for the maths crisis.
“Its findings seem to confirm the trend identified in Ireland’s global PISA standings that between 2000 and 2009 showed a marked drop in standards from 15th to 25th in Maths.
“If the Minister for Education is serious about improving numeracy standards then he must take stock of the report’s recommendations, which include the setting of new increased targets for the number of students sitting higher level maths in the Leaving Certificate.
“He must also examine the proposal that maths be a required subject for entry to a college course and that it should be included among the six subjects counted for the CAO points purposes.
“The problems experienced recently by students taking the Project Maths exam must also be addressed. One positive development is the fact that further training has been given to maths teachers. The primary teacher training course is also to be increased from three to four yours, with a focus on numeracy skills.
“The Minister is also consulting with universities on changes to the points system and is expecting a report shortly. Another worrying outcome that has emerged is that the present system will take between five to ten years to fully implement.
“Maths is a vitally important subject that is a significant driver in Ireland's future competitiveness. Lessons must be learned from this latest report in order to improve the future delivery of maths within the Irish school curriculum.”
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on communications Martin Ferris TD has welcomed a decision by the European Parliament today to reject a proposal to sign into EU law corporate-sponsored legislation which would have the effect of restricting the use of internet sites. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is now in effect dead in the water despite many EU states, including Ireland having ratified it earlier in the year.
Deputy Ferris said:
“I am delighted that this attack on internet and intellectual freedom, sponsored by global corporations, has been rejected. I was one of the few members of the Oireachtas to raise and oppose the measure when it was signed by Minister for State Seán Sherlock.
“Today’s overwhelming defeat of ACTA highlights not only the fact that MEPs of all sides responded to mass opposition, but unfortunately also the craven attitude of the Irish government in having signed this into domestic law without a genuine debate and without a vote of the Irish legislature.”