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Tory welfare cuts would devastate thousands - McKay

“The DUP are vocal about the consequences of not implementing these Tory cuts but remain silent on the impact of these cuts which would take hundreds of millions of pounds out of the pockets of the most vulnerable and least able to pay.  These cuts would plunge more children into poverty and take money from hard-pressed working families, people on benefits and from people with disabilities." - Daithí McKay

The Family Home Tax is an inequitable and unfair tax that takes no account of ability to pay. In Dublin City we are proposing that it be reduced in 2015 by the full 15% allowed for in Government legislation.


"The decision by the British army to hold large scale war games in Binevenagh is a backward step. We want to see demilitarisation right across the North, not hundreds of heavily armed British forces marauding across a public forest park which has been classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty."



Latest Statements

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has highlighted the important role played by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in schools and the wider community.


He was speaking following a meeting with representatives of the Ulster GAA. The Minister said: “The GAA plays a crucial role in the sporting, educational, cultural and economic life of our community. It provides our young people with an interest in sport, with an enthusiasm for their Gaelic culture, a sense of purpose and national identity.

"Sport can have a major and positive impact on children and young people in our schools. An early interest in sport can not only help to tackle and prevent obesity, but it also helps children focus better during class time. In recognition of this, my Department introduced the Curriculum Sports Programme for primary schools in 2007 to help improve the health and wellbeing of our children and encourage them to embrace a healthy lifestyle from a young age.

“This meeting provided me with an opportunity to hear more about the very valuable work the GAA are carrying out in our schools. They, along with the Irish Football Association (IFA), are playing a vital role in delivering the Curriculum Sports Programme. It is currently operating in over 500 schools and is being delivered by 53 coaches to over 33,000 primary school children. That is a fantastic achievement and I commend the great work being done by both the GAA and IFA in our schools.

“I also welcome the fact that as a result of funding announced earlier this year by my predecessor, Caitríona Ruane, the IFA and GAA can continue this excellent work for four more years, ensuring that even more local children can improve their fundamental skills and keep active.”

The Minister concluded: “My Department will continue to work closely with the GAA and IFA over the next four years and I look forward to visiting many of the schools involved in the Curriculum Sports Programme to see for myself the positive impact it is having on many children’s lives.”

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd and Employment and Learning Minister, Dr. Stephen Farry have met to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest.


The meeting marks the beginning of what will be regular dialogue between the Ministers to discuss such issues at a strategic level.

Speaking following the meeting, Minister O’Dowd said: “Today’s meeting was my first opportunity to hold formal discussions with my Ministerial counterpart on a number of cross-cutting issues.

“The work of my Department is very closely linked with that of Dr Farry’s and I believe a close working relationship between both departments is essential if we are to deliver improvements for the benefit of learners and the economy as a whole. Indeed, we took the opportunity today to examine how we could work together to contribute to the Executive’s Economic Strategy. Key to that work will be how we deliver a skilled workforce, qualified to meet the demands of a world-class economy both today and in the future.

“I see this meeting as the first in a series of ongoing formal engagements between our departments at Ministerial level.”

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Speaking today in a Seanad debate on Primary School Transport, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly challenged Junior Minister Ciarán Cannon on his proposed cuts.

Senator Reilly said:

“Minister Cannon said last week that the changes implemented this year are expected to produce a saving in the order of €3.5 million and still have to find another €13.5 million in savings over the next three years.

“Today he is telling us that savings of €4million are expected in 2011 and €14million up to 2014. Which are the correct figures?

“Where will these “savings” come from?

“With many families struggling from week to week and 1 in 5 only having €70 left at the end of the month after bills this could see families unable to afford to safely send their child to school.

“The minimum number of children to require a route will rise from 7 to 10. How many children will be left without a bus route due to this stroke of a pen?

“But this is only the tip of the iceberg. What is planned next? Where will the further €13.5 million or €14 million come from? Charging schoolchildren road tax on their bicycles?

“The Minister of State has mentioned that Bus Éireann is conducting a study on these services. When will this analysis be completed? How will the findings of the analysis feed into the impending crisis in September of children’s inability to get a bus to school? We are looking into July now, 2 months out from September and we have not yet seen this report and how it will affect families.”

Speaking after the debate, Senator Reilly also criticised the lack of answers from the Minister:

“The ending of the Closed School Rule is the ending of an historical commitment to communities in some rural townlands by the Department of Education following closure of their local school. This is dishonourable.

“The guarantees given then created a sense of trust and commitment but that no longer exists.

“The general view is that these cuts are an attack on rural communities and will put further financial pressure on hard pressed families.

“These cuts will be detrimental unless there is fair and proper adjudication of the system. And the Minister did not address or respond to any of my concerns.

“The inadequate time allocated to the debate today- only one hour fifteen minutes- is completely disproportionate to the scale of the crisis that is facing primary school students and their families in September.

“It makes a mockery of the Government’s commitment to access to education, right of choice of parents to choose schools, free education and the democratic process.”

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Speaking during a debate in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty called on the Government “to end the begging bowl approach on the issue of the EU loan interest rate” and “call a halt to EU profiteering from the economic crisis.”

Doherty called on the Minister to “change the terms of debate on the interest rate reduction being sought on the EU portion of the austerity programme.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“The Minister for Finance needs to change the terms of debate on the interest rate reduction being sought on the EU portion of the austerity programme

“Under the terms of the EU/IMF austerity programme the EU will charge 5.8% interest on up to €45 billion of loans over a period of 7.5 years. The 5.8% rate includes a 3% mark up on the cost of the borrowing to the EU.

“The cost of this mark-up to the Irish taxpayer will be in the region of €10 billion if the Government draws down the full €45 billion and repays it over the time period outlined in the programme.

“Put in plain English, this means that the EU will make €10 billion profit on the back of seven and a half years of economic crisis and austerity in Ireland.

“It is not acceptable for the EU to be benefitting financially from a loan extended to a partner state in economic difficulty.

“The Minister for Finance needs to stop politely begging for a 0.6% reduction in the interest rate on future draw down and deal with the real issue. The Government needs to call a halt to EU profiteering from the economic crisis in Ireland.”

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Speaking tonight during the second stage debate on the Central Bank and Credit Institutions Resolution Bill, Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said “no tax payers’ money should be used for the bank resolution fund”.

The Central Bank and Credit Institutions Find is a major piece of legislation providing for new powers for both the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank to wind down failing banks. The Bill includes a bank resolution fund into which both banks and the tax payer would pay funds to be used for future bank bailouts.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The Central Bank and Credit Institutions Resolution Bill is an enormously important piece of legislation.

“Sinn Féin supports the introduction of Special Resolution Regime legislation. The financial and banking crises of recent years have exposed the inadequacies of commercial law in providing the necessary tools for dealing with insolvent banks.

“There is clearly a need for strong powers to be vested in the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank, with adequate oversight by the Oireachtas, to enable the State to wind down failing financial institutions in a way that protects ordinary depositors and the taxpayer.

“However I am very concerned with the provision in the Bill for state funding of the credit institutions resolution fund. The creation of such a fund is clearly required, and I support the Bill’s intention to make it a legal requirement for banks to contribute to such a fund.

“However there is simply no reason why the taxpayer, having already put €46 billion of taxpayer’s money into the banks, and having committed a further €24 billion, should even contemplate contributions to a resolution fund, the purpose of which would be to pay creditors in the event of a banking collapse.

“This Bill effectively gives the Minister for Finance a blank cheque for the use of tax-payer’s money in a fund whose cost is as yet unknown. We know only too well what happens when such blank cheques are left in the hands of Ministers whose banking policy is directed by the ECB rather than the taxpayer. Sinn Féin will not be party to the issuing of any such blank cheques.

“All such costs in the future must be born by the banks themselves and their creditors in a manor consistent with protecting the public interest. Sinn Fein will be tabling amendments at Committee Stage to prevent the use of tax-payers’ monies for any such fund.”

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Speaking in the Assembly this morning Alex Maskey, Chairperson of the Department of Social Development Committee gave notice to members that the proposed British Govt Welfare Reform Bill will require detailed and robust scrutiny when presented to the Assembly as early as the autimn 2011.

 

Mr Maskey said

 

"The proposed "reform" of the benefits system is likely to be the most fundamental overhaul of the system since it's inception in 1948.

 

“Indeed the DSD committee has been informed by the department that the British government proposals to cut benefits will take an estimated £450m - £500m out of the local economy as well as causing severe financial hardship to those most vulnerable in our society.

 

“The general public is aware that the British government slashed the Executive budget by a massive and punitive £4 billion but they also needed to know that the proposed Welfare Reform bill will, in effect, represent stealth cuts of a further half a billion pounds.

 

“Members of the DSD Committee who will be responsible for processing the necessary legislation resulting from the Welfare Reform bill are acutely aware of the very negative impact of many of the cuts to benefits being proposed.

 

“Members are committed to highlighting the consequences of the Tory cuts and will process such legislation accordingly."

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Sinn Féin’s Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD today called on Minister Brendan Howlin TD to set up an Action Group within his Department to tackle high pay and bonuses of executives in the commercial semi-state sector.

Deputy McDonald was responding to comments made by Government spokespersons that there has been no ‘tradition’ of Government intervening in the fixing of salaries in State companies other than for the chief executives.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Year after year the controversy surrounding the pay and conditions of semi state executives enters the public domain and year on year the Government of the day side steps the issue.

“It is a scandal that semi state executives deem it appropriate or right to award themselves significant bonuses during one of the worst economic recessions in the history of the State. Nearly 15% of the States workforce is unemployed yet semi states bosses seem to think its business as usual.

“If this Government is serious about reform Minister Howlin needs to set up an Action Group within his Department to review the pay and bonuses of senior management in commercial semi states. Commenting from the side lines is not enough. Government must take decisive and bold actions.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has described comments by Junior Education Minister Ciaran Cannon that parents need to pay for their children’s school transport bill as “insulting and condescending.”

The comments made at by Minister Cannon were in reference to the governments move to cut funding to the Rural Transport Networks school service and continue with Fianna Fáil plans to charge parents up to 650 euro a year for their children’s transport.

Deputy Ellis said;

“Mr Cannon’s comments were nothing short of insulting and condescending. Who does he think pays his wages, who does he think is paying for the Rural Transport Network? It is the very parents who he targets.

“Hard working families who have been hit by cuts in services, wage cuts and tax hikes are struggling and they do not need to be charged twice to send their children safely to school.

“Fine Gael and Labour have once more rowed back on a pre-election pledge, this time on the expansion of the Rural Transport Network. They have sought to continue with Fianna Fáil’s policy and it will be the ordinary people who are fighting to make ends meet who will suffer.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has welcomed the decision by the Office of Fair Trading to make travel companies end the use of hidden surcharges for passengers paying by credit card.

Mr Murphy said,“Many people now arrange their travel arrangements through the internet and pay either by credit or debit card. The travel companies for years have been applying a hidden charge on these transactions resulting in a higher charge for the trip than was advertised.

“As you can’t use cash on internet transaction people were being charged for actually paying for the ticket so this decision today has to be welcomed.

“Many of the charges being applied were well above the transaction fee that companies were being charged by the banks so they were actually a surcharge on using a credit card.

“I also welcome the recommendation that the law be changed so as no charges are incurred for using a debit card as a debit card is governed by the amount of cash in the account.

“This decision today will mean that any person booking a travel ticket online will see the entire price of the trip advertised rather than find that hidden charges at the end of the booking procedure which can be as high as £10 per person for a ticket with a budget airline.

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Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


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Mary Lou McDonald and Cathal King