Sinn Féin MLA and member of the DSD Committee, Fra McCann, has called on the Minister for Social Development to provide urgent clarity in regards to the delays in the advancing the Royal Exchange development in Belfast city centre.
Mr McCann today submitted and urgent question to the Minister to this effect.
Speaking today Mr McCann said:
“There is a growing concern over the way ion which the Department for Social Development has let the timetabling for the development of the Royal Exchange in Belfast slip.
“The consequences for this is that the Minister may very well have to hand back the monies that were earmarked for this development, over £100m, back into the central pot for redistribution. This would then provide no guarantee, given the strains on all other departmental budgets following indication of British government cuts that DSD would get this money back.
“I am therefore calling on the Minister to clarify the position with regards to these facts on the proposed delay to the Royal Exchange development.
A number of questions remain outstanding following this proposal. Will the new Minister now abandon his departments sequencing of development within the city centre which ash evidently failed.
Furthermore will due to these delays will he now move to the regeneration of the west side of the city which because of the sequencing policy adopted by his department, has now essentially been put on the long finger disadvantaging further this quarter.
“If these plans, or other city centre regeneration plans s are not advanced then the very real situation exists that these developments may fall and those areas within the city that needs attention will not receive the much needed economic boost to keep our centre vibrant and competitive.”
Note to editor:
The urgent question submitted today by Fra McCann MLA reads:
Can the Minister for Social Development clarify the situation in relation to the decision to put the Royal Exchange Development proposals on hold? Will he not now consider abandoning the approach of sequencing city centre development plans and give priority to proposals for the West Side Regeneration plans?
Sinn Féin Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, today addressed the 7th International Rail Forum in Spain.
Speaking at the Forum, the Minister said: “I welcome the opportunity to be in Valencia to speak about railway policy in the North of Ireland and how developing public transport can help to achieve economic recovery on a cross-border basis at this time.”
The Minister explained that investment in railway services had increased considerably since the devolution of powers to local politicians here, saying: “Over the past six years, funding of over £200m has been invested for capital projects across the railways network and over the same period revenue funding of some £130m to meet public service obligation requirements. Future investment includes the purchase of another 20 new trains at a cost of some £105m, with some £37m earmarked to fund a new train maintenance facility and a series of platform extensions. A major track relay is also planned for Coleraine to Derry with work due to commence in 2012.”
Speaking about the improving railway service in the North the Minister said: “There has been a transformation in the quality, comfort and reliability of the railway services. Passenger numbers are increasing rapidly and there is great encouragement for more people to use train services rather than the private car. Through continued investment in public transport services, public transport now delivers over 79million passenger journeys each year across the bus and rail network- a rise of seven million in the last four years and evidence that more people are choosing sustainable transport options.”
On his commitment to sustainable transport, the Minister commented: “I have established a new capability within my department last year with a specific priority of developing more sustainable travel and transport arrangements and recently I hosted a seminar in Brussels on transport as part of the EU Sustainable Energy Week. I am committed to providing a modern, sustainable, safe transportation system which benefits Irish society, our economy and the environment, and which actively contributes to social inclusion and quality of life on the Island."
Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on Environment Minister John Gormley to abandon plans to punish families by introducing a charge for household water usage after it was revealed today that Councils throughout the State have failed to collect charges from a majority of businesses.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Minister should concentrate on preserving water by fixing all the leaks in water pipes throughout the State.
Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“If the Minister was serious about preserving water then he would be acting to fix the leaks in the water pipes throughout the State which are currently wasting anywhere between 16% and 58% of our water supply.
“The reality is that the Minister’s proposal is not about preserving water but more about the Government putting its hand into the pockets of its citizens once again.
“It has been revealed today that Councils throughout the State are failing to collect charges for water from the majority of businesses. This begs the question, why should ordinary working families be forced to pay for a basic service which businesses are not even paying for?
“I would urge the Minister, even at this late stage, to abandon his plans to punish households in this way and to focus his energies on fixing the leaks in the State’s piping infrastructure.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health & Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described the situation regarding the deaths of children in State care as “a crisis of leadership” and has called on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen to intervene directly.
He said it appeared that Garda sources had released the HSE file on the late Daniel McAnaspie to RTÉ yet Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews has admitted that the HSE is refusing to release files to his investigation team on legal grounds.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“Details of the tragic case of Daniel McAnaspie are now in the public domain, apparently as a result of the release of his HSE file to RTÉ by a Garda source. The litany of neglect in this case is truly shocking and lessons must be learned and implemented without delay.
“While the file could be made public in this way, Minister of State for Children, Barry Andrews, has admitted that the HSE is refusing to release files on the deaths of children in their care to the Minister’s investigation team. This is intolerable and the files should be released immediately to what is a confidential investigation.
“There is clearly a crisis of leadership and management at the highest level in child protection in this State when an investigation established by a Minister can be frustrated in this way by a State body supposedly under his authority. The Taoiseach Brian Cowen should now intervene directly. The senior Minister for Health & Children, Mary Harney, has remained silent on this scandal.
“The Taoiseach needs to re-establish ministerial authority and democratic accountability for the delivery of public health and social services.”
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has learned that people applying for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance are set to experience major delays this year unless immediate action is taken to speed up the system of processing the increased number of applications.
“In my own constituency and across the State people who have sought application forms for the scheme have been told they are not available,” said Deputy Ó Caoláin.
“The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance scheme assists families on social welfare and on HSE payments towards the cost of uniforms and footwear for children who are attending school. Many families depend on this scheme to ensure that their children are able to avail of education. With growing unemployment the number of people qualifying is growing also.
“The scheme is supposed to operate from 1 June to 30 September. However, last year, forms were not available until the middle of June and many people did not receive payments until September. I understand that this year even worse delays are taking place. There are inadequate staffing levels to cope with the number of applicants.
“These delays cause real hardship. In many cases school uniforms come into the shops in June and parents need to budget to pay for uniforms, schoolbooks and other school expenses, spreading out their spending over the summer months. Delays to this scheme will see payments to which people are entitled delayed again until September or beyond.
“I will be raising this matter in the Dáil with the relevant Ministers and demanding urgent action, including recruiting additional staff and redeploying staff, to have the Back to School Clothing and Footwear scheme delivered properly and on time.” ENDS
Speaking on the recent decision by the European Union to scrutinise Ireland’s budgetary measures before our own parliament, Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has said that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party sold the Lisbon Treaty as a pig in a poke and have now been caught out.
Senator Doherty said:
“Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party sold the Lisbon Treaty to the electorate on the basis of ‘a vote for Lisbon is a vote for jobs’. Sinn Féin argued at the time that the Lisbon Treaty would allow greater EU interference in our affairs. We said that the EU was eyeing up Ireland’s tax system with a view to harmonising tax systems across the EU. We were proved right.
“We have now learned that each member state must hand in their draft budgets in order to get EU approval before they go before parliament. This is disrespectful of our sovereignty and is an indication that the EU is becoming more and more obsessed with centralisation and bureaucracy.
“I am proud to say that the people of Donegal saw through the rhetoric of the establishment parties in the run-up to the Lisbon referendum. The people of Donegal voted against the treaty because they saw through the empty promises of ‘yes for jobs’ and ‘yes for recovery’.The slogan ‘vote yes for jobs’ truly rings hollow now. They saw the race to the bottom in pay and conditions for workers in the treaty, they saw the absence of democratic accountability in the treaty and they saw the chipping away at our country’s sovereignty contained in the treaty.
“Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party should be ashamed of themselves. They sold this treaty as a pig in a poke and did so through blatant lies and scare-mongering.”
Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh is currently en route to join the Freedom Flotilla bringing much needed humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people of Gaza. He will leave Cyprus by boat tomorrow and will attempt to break the illegal Israeli blockade.
Speaking before he left Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“When I left Gaza city in November 2008 on board another siege breaking ship the Dignity, I had hoped that I would be returning some day to a city with the siege lifted.
“I am now travelling with humanitarian aid such as cement, medical aid, wheelchairs, school books, kettles etc, which will help the Palestinian people of Gaza begin to reconstruct their homes and lives.
“The courage of those behind the MV Rachel Corrie is to be commended, and while one ship of aid is a dot in the ocean to what is needed in Gaza, it is symbolic and it is a call on the international community to act to get the siege lifted and allow the Palestinian the right to live.” ENDS
For immediate release 24th May 2010:
Doherty warns Lifford March that this may only be the beginning
Senator Pearse Doherty has commended the Lifford community for turning up in their thousands at Sunday’s Rally to Save Lifford Hospital. Speaking in front of a crowd of up to 3,500 people Senator Doherty stated that if we want our hospital to stay open then we must be prepared to fight for it, today must be seen as the beginning and not the end.
Senator Doherty in his address to the crowd said:
“There comes a time for everyone when they can take no more. There comes a time for every community when they must shout stop. Today is that day for the community of Lifford. Your presence in your thousands here has ensured that one message, one voice, one demand has filled the streets of Lifford and that is Hands of our Hospital.
“We all know the value of this hospital, the services it provides, the excellent staff and the high quality of care. We equally know that the building needs financial investment to ensure that our patients and staff have access to a facility that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. But unfortunately this Fianna Fáil government is willing to close this hospital down instead of investing some of our money into bringing it up to the necessary standards.
“Unfortunately for us we are here demanding that Lifford Community Hospital stay open. But just imagine if that building was a bank and not a hospital, because then we would hear one government politician after the other lining up to tell us how it can’t be allowed to close. We would have to listen to them preach that this facility is vital to the very survival of our society, we would watch them pump billions of tax payers money into it in an attempt to keep it open, while they ensured that the staff of its board were among the best paid in the country.
“But unfortunately for us it is a hospital and not a bank. And because it places a community’s health above society wealth then this government want to close it. Because it values a community’s need above private greed then this government wants to close it. But we must stop them in their tracks. If we want our hospital to stay open then we must be prepared to fight for it, today must be seen as the beginning and not the end. We must unite with those in the unions, in community groups, in campaigning groups and with other progressive forces to demand and end to attacks on our health services in this county."
In a scathing attack on some of his political opponents Doherty said:
“Over three months ago I had the unfortunate job of challenging the Minister of Health on the future of Lifford Hospital. I did so based on confidential information that was passed on to me that the H.S.E was looking at closing Lifford community Hospital. Since then I have been accused by some of my political opponents of scaremongering, of publicity seeking, of attempting to further my political career. Well it is clear that they know nothing about me. I am not a career politician, I am an activist and no amount of name calling will silence me as I witness an injustice about to be inflicted on a community.
“This is the time to stand up for your self, this is the time to stand up for each other, this is the time to stand by Lifford Community Hospital.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has said a proposal to charge a €500 annual fee for school transport makes a mockery of the notion of free education in Ireland.
Senator Doherty described the proposal to introduce a €500 annual fee for primary school children and increase the current fee for secondary students from €300 to €500 annually as an insult added to the injury of overcrowded classrooms and dilapidated schools.
Speaking today Senator Doherty said:
“Any parent with school going children will be aware that free education in Ireland is only a myth. However, the proposal to introduce a €500 charge for school transport makes a mockery of any notion of free education in this country.
“This proposal is an insult added to the injury of overcrowded classrooms and dilapidated schools.
“How could the Government possibly justify such an extortionate charge for children to travel to substandard and understaffed facilities.
“This proposal must be opposed.” ENDS
Commenting on a statement from SDLP MLA Declan O’Loan calling for a single natiobalist party in the six counties, Sinn Féin Assembly member John O’Dowd said:
“At times the mixed messages coming from the SDLP on the issue of maximising nationalist representation are completely confusing. During the recent election campaign Margaret Ritchie spurned talks on the issue and branded Sinn Féin efforts to broker co-operation as ‘sectarian politics’. Now Declan O’Loan is seeking a single nationalist party. I wonder what his party leader thinks of this?
“The telling part of Mr O’Loan’s statement is the final paragraph. He is seeking a nationalist party for what he calls ‘Northern Ireland’ one which would maintain working relationships with parties in what he calls ‘the south’. This exposes very starkly the partitionist mindset which Mr O’Loan and people like him are trapped in. The Irish nation does not stop at Dundalk or Aughnacloy. And neither should any nationalist party. Sinn Féin are an Irish Republican party, our vision of a united Ireland goes far beyond that partitionist vision as set out by Mr. O’Loan.“The logic of the Good Friday Agreement is very clear. More powers in Ireland and more all-Ireland harmonisation. Any party truly claiming to be nationalist or republican needs to demonstrate this through their organisation. Meek acceptance of a six county arrangement is the trade mark of the old nationalist party and more recently of the SDLP. That is not ground onto which any republican will be going on to and it is the ground increasingly being abandoned by nationalists in the north. The future of politics on this island is 32 county and republican in vision and practice.”
Responding to weekend calls from the Orange Order leader Robert Saulters for a single unionist party, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Antrim Daithí McKay today said that time and again the Orange Order let the mask slip and he called on the Order to end the pretence of them being a cultural body.
Mr McKay said:
“Time and again Orange Order spokespeople try to spin the yarn that the Order is little more than a cultural body. Yet time and again the Orange Order leadership engage openly in the political arena. Whether it is organising opposition to the papal visit to England, or organising electoral pacts in Fermanagh and South Tyrone the pretence of being a cultural organisation is continually exposed not by nationalists but by the Orange Order itself.
“It is time the Orange Order got real. It is time to stop pretending and stop playing the cultural card when it comes to seeking to march through nationalist communities where they are not wanted. The latest intervention this weekend by the Grand Master calling for a single unionist party comes just as the marching season is getting underway.
“It is in many ways a timely reminder of the real Orange Order agenda. This is about domination and about the denial of rights. No amount of spin from the Orange Order or their political allies in the coming weeks and months will be able to mask the political agenda which drives Orangeism.” ENDS
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Local Government Martin Ferris TD has demanded that local authorities pursue property developers who owe more than €420 million in unpaid levies.
The Kerry North TD was responding to a newspaper report detailing the extent to which councils around the country are in severe financial difficulties largely due to the collapse of the property market and house prices.
He also said that questions needed to be asked about the large amounts of money awarded to private contractors in situations where the proper tendering procedures do not appear to have been adhered to.
Deputy Ferris said:
“The fact that so many local authorities are currently in debt, which is having an adverse impact on services, while at the same time being owed vast sums of money by developers is an absurd situation.
“These people, many of whom made huge amounts of money during the property boom need to be pursued and the unpaid levies need to be collected in order to address the debt crisis and to ease the pressure on local authority finances and services.
“Of course many of the properties of these developers will soon become assets of the state when NAMA takes on their debts. Under this new situation local authorities must be prioritised in housing the thousands of people on social housing waiting lists throughout the state.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the claim by the HSE that they are still unaware of the full extent of children’s deaths in their care over the past five years is “astonishing”.
“The Assistant Director of Children and Family Services in the HSE, Phil Garland, stated on ‘Morning Ireland’ today (24 May) that the HSE is still unaware of the numbers of children who have died in their care over the past five years. This is astonishing, given the fact that the HSE has already offered the Minister for Children and the public the figure of 23 children who died, the murder of Daniel McAnaspie bringing that figure to 24.
“That the true number of deaths may be as high as 200 surely highlights the crisis in child protection services in this State.
“Full disclosure from the HSE on the deaths of all these children, including details of the services provided to them, or which the HSE failed to provide, is essential.
“The recent Children’s Ombudsman Report concluded that the HSE, from its establishment in 2005 until 2009, made insufficient efforts to drive forward implementation of the ‘Children First’, child protection guidelines. Poor administration was uncovered across the HSE. Clearly this affects not only the process of identifying and protecting children at risk but also the system of care provision which has been repeatedly exposed as totally inadequate.” ENDS
Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on Dublin Bus to engage in a comprehensive consultation process with its customers about plans to take 90 buses off the road. He said plans to cut bus services should not go ahead without consultation with customers.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh last night hosted a public meeting in Ballyfermot at which over 100 people attended and voiced frustration at changes to their bus services.
Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“There is a lot of anger among Dublin Bus users at recent changes to services including the re-routing of some services from local housing estates.
“There is also a lot of concern at the proposal to take 90 buses off the streets. Nobody believes for one minute that the current level of service can be maintained when these buses are gone regardless of what the company is saying.
“It is clear to many that Dublin Bus is engaged in a strategy to run down services in order to make routes more profitable in preparation for privatisation in line with government policy regarding public services, regardless of the consequences for the public.
“The company should engage in a comprehensive consultation process with its customers about its plans to take buses off the streets or to re-routes any other services. None of these plans should proceed without any consultation.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has accused the Health Service Executive of falsely using a HIQA Report to close Loughloe Nursing Home in Athlone as part of its public healthcare cutbacks, even though the report does not recommend closure.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“The HIQA Report on Loughloe House in Athlone raises major concerns and is an indictment of the running of Loughloe House by the Health Service Executive. It is totally unacceptable that a home run by the HSE should be found to have inadequate protection of residents’ welfare, poor leadership and governance, inadequate staffing levels and deficient fire safety.
“All of these issues can and must be addressed.
“The HIQA Report does not recommend closure of Loughloe House yet it was seized upon in draft form by the HSE on 5 May and used as a pretext to close the home. This has caused huge distress to residents and relatives.
“I understand that the HSE has made no effort whatsoever even to cost the significant improvements to Loughloe House recommended by HIQA.
“Clearly this proposed closure is part of the HSE’s regime of cutbacks to public health facilities, cutbacks for which Health Minister Harney and her Fianna Fáil/Green Government colleagues are responsible.
“The Minister for Health & Children should now require the HSE to implement HIQA’s recommendations on Loughloe House, ensuring proper care and security for current and future residents. If this public health facility is closed it will set a precedent for the HSE to close other such homes, furthering the agenda of heartless health cuts and privatisation.” ENDS
Sinn Féin representative for Dublin Central Mary Lou McDonald has demanded immediate answers to the revelation that records of meetings of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority have apparently gone missing. The files relate to decisions made in relation to the Irish Glass Bottle site which will potentially amount to a loss of millions of Euro to the taxpayer.
“It beggars belief that the records of meetings held around the time this disastrous deal were made are unable to be found. The authority’s decision to invest in the site while former Anglo Irish bank director Sean Fitzpatrick was a member raises serious questions.
“To any observer, it would appear patently obvious who the beneficiaries of this deal were. And considering the track record of Anglo, Fitzpatrick and others, it is simply not good enough to claim that decisions were not recorded or that the minutes have conveniently vanished."
The Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane has announced additional funding of up to £1.3million to fund pre-school places across the north of Ireland.
Speaking about the announcement, the Minister said: “This year, there was an unprecedented shortage of around 1,200 pre-school places. Today I have announced that I will be making a further provision of up to £1.3million to meet the shortage and ensure that, where possible, every child will be placed for the 2010/11 school year.
“Demand for pre-school places has remained fairly static since 2002, with the target of over 90% children in pre-school education being maintained and indeed exceeded.
“However, year on year fluctuations do occur as a reflection of demography and birth-rate. In the 2009/10 school year, I made provision within the budget to meet increased demand for places. In order to maintain this increased level of provision for the 2010/11 school year, an additional £300,000 of funding was made available to the Education and Library Boards in this year’s budget. However, the extent of the increased demand for places only became known when the admissions process was completed at end of April.
“I recognise the importance of the early years of a child’s life and the benefits that quality pre-school education provides and that is why I have made this funding available. Whilst pre-school is not a compulsory phase of education, I welcome the fact that parents recognise and want this beneficial experience for their children.”
Sinn Féin MLA for Mid Ulster and Health Spokesperson Michelle O’Neill has called on the Northern Trust to come out publicly in order to allay fears over any early closure of the x-ray unit at the Mid Ulster hospital following concerns raised by staff at the hospital.
Speaking today following a protest at the Mid Ulster Hospital over the closure of its A&E unit Ms O’Neill said:
“Following the protest today at the Mid Ulster hospital regarding the closure of the A&E unit there are now concerns being raised by staff surrounding the x-ray unit at the hospital being shut from 5pm each day.
“One of the terms given by the Northern Trust for moving the A&E unit away from the Mid Ulster hospital was that a minor injuries unit would replace it.
“However if there are going to be further restrictions and early closing hours for the
x-ray unit on site then questions clearly need to be asked regarding the long term viability of a minor injuries clinic with no x-ray capability.
“I am calling on the Northern Trust to publicly allay fears that the x-ray unit will not have restricted opening hours and that there will be no further winding down of service provision at the Mid Ulster Hospital. Certainly this community thinks that, following the closure of the A&E unit, that enough is enough.”
Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney was part of a Sinn Féin delegation which entered Maghaberry Gaol last Friday. The delegation included Mr McCartney, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, Paul Maskey MLA and John O’Dowd MLA. The Sinn Féin team was accompanied by Michael Culbert of Coiste na nIarchimí.
The delegation reported back to the Sinn Féin Assembly Team this week.
Speaking after the visit Raymond McCartney described the meeting with Roe House prisoners as “a very positive engagement” in which the men had outlined their concerns.
“A range of issues were raised by the prisoners. They included complaints about a number of punitive actions such as the use of strip searching as harassment of both prisoners and their visitors and a range of other conditions-related issues that were very familiar to the former prisoners on the delegation,” said Mr McCartney.
“It was clear that with the right political will that all of these issues could be resolved. The delegation discussed all of this with the ten prisoners we met and assured them their concerns would be conveyed to the prison administration, the Prison service and to the Justice Minister,” said McCartney.
A number of matters concerned with the harassment of visitors were also raised by the delegation. These included the proximity of dogs in the visit processing area, the presence of the PSNI in the visitors-area, the public selecting of who is to be strip searched and visitors being threatened with arrest if they refuse to be strip searched.
Prisoners also raised issues of access, particularly the practice of forcing segregated prisoners to eat their meals in the cells.
“The delegation also met with Liam Hannaway whose health has become a matter of concern. Liam outlined his concerns, all of which centred on prison conditions and procedures. It was the firm belief of the delegation that all of these issues could be satisfactorily dealt with by the governor,” said Raymond.
The delegation had requested to meet with Harry Fitzsimmons, a prisoner being held in isolation, but this did not happen due to a misunderstanding.
“Harry’s lawyer contacted me last Saturday to explain the situation and assure me that his client was not in any way snubbing the delegation. The delegation had sought to visit Harry after his family raised concerns about his health and well being,” said Mr McCartney.
It has also been reported that Harry Fitzsimmons has been subjected to physical assault by members of the prison staff.“After our 3 hour meeting with the prisoners, the delegation met with the governor again to outline their concerns and suggestions. In the coming period Sinn Fein will meet with the director general of the prison service, with representatives of the prison administration as well as the Minister for Justice, David Ford, regarding our deep concerns about the current situation for prisoners and their families in Maghaberry,” he concluded.