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Speaking today, Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams, has slammed the decision by the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn’s to remove St. John’s and St. Paul’s NS, Rathmullen, Drogheda from the schools building programme. This decision said Teachta Adams “will force children to remain in prefab classrooms rather than the new school that they had been promised.”

Teachta Adams said;

“Children have been attending classes in prefab buildings in this school since 1997. That is unacceptable. These children have been failed by successive governments.

“In the Labour general election manifesto Labour pledged they would “prioritise school building projects in our revised national development plan. In cases where schools spend hundreds of thousands of euro renting prefabs, Labour will enable schools to build permanent school accommodation instead.”

“€1,233,515.66 has been spent on renting prefabs for St. John’s and St. Paul’s since 2003. The Labour Minister should honour his party’s commitment and build a school for these children instead of squandering money on prefabs.

“I asked the Minister for Education to tell us why the schools were removed from the list of the school building programme and the reasons for this. The department has refused provide any information. That simply isn’t good enough.

“St. John’s and St. Paul’s are DEIS schools and by that criteria are already highly disadvantaged. More than 800 hot meals are served in the schools each day. These pupils are not looking for any special treatment. They need proper classrooms – the most basic necessity for a school, and the Government won’t even give them that. It is a disgrace.”

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITOR:

Parliamentary Questions Submitted by Deputy Gerry Adams

Uimhir:103, 105, 106


CeistPharlaiminte

Chun anAireOideachaisagusEolaíoctha
To the Minister for Education and Science

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reasons schools (details supplied) have been removed from the new school building programme; the date on which this decision to remove the schools was made; the person responsible for this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Gerry Adams.

St. John’s and St. Paul’s National Schools, Rathmullen, Drogheda, Co. Louth

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to include schools (details supplied) in the new school building programme; the date on which this will occur; and the date on which it is envisaged that construction of a new school premises will begin..
-Gerry Adams.

St. John’s and St. Paul’s National Schools, Rathmullen, Drogheda, Co. Louth

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ring fence funding in order to proceed with a new school building for schools (details supplied); his plans to ensure that children attending these schools will not have to attend classes in prefabs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
-Gerry Adams.

St. John’s and St. Paul’s National Schools, Rathmullen, Drogheda, Co. Louth

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 22nd March, 2012.
Reference Number: 15965/12, 15967/12, 15968/12


Freagra

Minister Ruairí Quinn

I propose to take questions 103, 105 and 106 together.

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on Stage 2(b) of Architectural Planning which includes securing Planning Permission, Fire Certificate and Disability Access Certificate (DAC) and the preparation of tender documents.

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the
project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction at this time.


Uimhir:104


CeistPharlaiminte

Chun anAireOideachaisagusEolaíoctha
To the Minister for Education and Science

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the total spend each year to date on prefab classrooms for schools (details supplied) in County Louth.
- Gerry Adams.

St. John’s and St. Paul’s National Schools, Rathmullen, Drogheda, Co. Louth

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 22nd March, 2012.
Reference Number: 15966/12


Freagra

Minister Ruairí Quinn

The total amount spent on the rental of temporary accommodation at the schools referred to by the Deputy from 2003 to date is €1,233,515.66. This is made up as follows:

2012 - €106,336.74
2011- €219,858.28
2010 - €223,655.99
2009 - €211,298.85
2008 - €305,860.13
2007 - €33,771.93
2006 - €33.771.93
2005 - €33,771.93
2004 - €36,583.24
2003 - €28,606.64

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Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on the Middle East, Pat Sheehan, has called for immediate action by Israeli authorities to save the life of Palestinian Political Prisoner Hana Shalabi.

Speaking following the statement by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, in which they said Hana Shalabi was ‘in danger of imminent death’ Mr Sheehan said:

“Hana Shalabi is a political prisoner being held under the Israeli policy of Administrative Detention and is now on her 37th day of Hunger Strike against her incarceration. Following a visit in the past number of days the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said she is in danger of imminent death.

“This comes only weeks after another political prisoner held through administrative detention, Khaled Adnan, made world headlines during his own hunger strike against detention under the same policy. The policy of Administrative Detention, which essentially amounts to internment without charge, is based on detention orders issued by an Israeli military court.

“These draconian orders can be issued for periods of six months with extensions granted at the whim of the court with no regards to due process in law. This is a clear abuse of human rights.

“Now that there is clear evidence that Hana Shalabi’s life is in serious danger, she should be transferred to a hospital immediately. International agencies should be allowed to monitor her health and treatment, and indeed a number of other prisoners who have begun hunger strikes, in the days ahead.

“Imprisonment without trial is wrong and the policy of Administrative Detention needs to be ended immediately.”

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“The Finance Minister must reduce the tax rate the government takes on every litre of fuel in order to sustain employment and to promote growth in the economy”, according to Sinn Féin Senator, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
The senator was speaking during the course of the debate on the Finance Bill in the Seanad yesterday.
He told Minister Noonan, that there was no sense in raising tax on petrol and diesel at the current time, as it was putting pressure on transport companies and on rural communities, and encouraging transport companies to buy their fuel abroad, with the result that the government loses out on revenue.
“Despite the plethora of advisors that accompanied the minister to the Seanad, he wasn’t able to tell the house the percentage of the price of a litre of diesel is paid to the state in the form of duties and taxes. I think that is incredible”
“He did however confirm that there has been a fall of six per cent in income from this source. His government party colleagues have been vocal in the Seanad in recent weeks, about the need to tackle the excessively high price of fuel, but not one of them raised this matter during the course of this particular debate. Some commentators have estimated that some 80% of the cost of a litre of fuel goes toward the state, but the minister wasn’t able to clarify this for us. If this is in fact the case, we should reduce this in order to support those in the transport business, and indeed the public at large.”
ends

“This is equivalent to taking an additional tax out of people’s pockets. It is an unequal tax, which takes no account of the person total income. It reduces consumer spending, which has knock-on negative effects on economic activity. It has been said by some in the Transport industry, that some 1,000 employers have gone out of business in recent times on account of the excessively high price of fuel, and that many others are buying diesel on mainland Europe, instead of here.”

“This rate of tax for fuel is anti-business, anti-competition, and anti-rural communities, and the Minister needs to review the rates.”

Caithfidh an tAire Airgeadais cáin bhreosla a laghdú - Ó Clochartaigh

'Caithfidh an tAire Airgeadais gearradh siar ar an sciar cánach a thógann an Rialtas ar chuile lítear breosla a dhíoltar chun postanna a choinneáil agus borradh a chuir faoin ngeilleagar', dar le Seanadóir Shinn Féin, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

Bhí sé ag labhairt le linn díospóireachta sa Seanad ar an mBille Airgeadais. Dúirt sé leis an Aire Noonan nach raibh ciall ar bith a bheith ag ardú cáin ar pheitreal agus díosal faoi láthair mar go bhfuil seo ag cur brú breise ar chomhlachtaí iompar, ar mhuintir na tuaithe, ag díbirt daoine chun breosla a cheannach thar lear agus an Rialtas ag cailleadh ioncam riachtanach ó thaobh cánach de.

'Cé go raibh slua mór de chomhairleoirí i gcuideachta an Aire sa Seanad, ní raibh sé in ann insint dúinn cén ceatadán de lítear díosal a íoctar leis an Stát i bhfoirm dleacht agus cáin. Tá sé sin dochreidte', a deir Ó Clochartaigh.

'Dheimhnigh sé go bhfuil titim 6% ar ioncam ó na foinsí seo faoi láthair áfach. Ta comhleacaithe leis i bpáirtithe an Rialtais ag pocléimnigh sa Seanad le coicíos anuas ag rá go gcaithfear dul in ngleic leis an bpraghas ard ar bhreosla ach níor labhair oiread agus duine amháin acu sin faoin ábhar le linn na diospóireachta seo. Tá sé ráite ag cuid acu go dtéann suas le 80% de chostas lítear breosla chuig an Stát ach ní raibh an tAire ábalta sin a shoiléiríú duinn. Má tá, ba chóir dó an méid sin a laghdú le tacú le lucht iompar agus an pobal tré chéile.'

'Is ionann seo agus cáin bhreise a bhaint as pócaí daoine, Is cáin éagcothrom é, nach dtógann ioncam iomlán an duine san áireamh. Laghdaíonn sé an caiteachas tomhaltóra agus bíonn impleachtaí diúltacha aige seo ar an eacnamaíocht. Tá sé ráite ag ionadaithe lucht iompar go bhfuil suas le 1,000 gnó imithe as feidhm le tamall de bharr costas ard breosla agus go bhfuil cuid mhaith eile ag ceannacht díosal ar an mór Roinn seachas sa mbaile.'

'Tá ráta an cháin seo frith-ghnó, frith chomórtais agus frith tuaithe agus ba chóir don Aire athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar', a deir Ó

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Sinn Fein’s Seanad finance spokesperson Kathryn Reilly today challenged Minster Noonan on the government’s 2012 Finance Bill which signs off on last year’s budget which kept the Universal Social Charge, 2% increase in VAT and increased the price of petrol.
Speaking as the Seanad discussed the Finance Bill 2012 Senator Reilly said:
“I challenged the government to move to removing everybody earning the minimum wage from having to pay the unjust Universal Social Charge as a first step to abolishing the USC. I also challenged the Minister to look again at the terrible decision to increase VAT by 2%.”
“VAT increases are regressive and will kill domestic demand. Border areas will be disproportionally hard hit. Today we learned that Ireland was once in recession. Part of that is down to the VAT hike. Border businesses and towns are already suffering disproportionately due to recession and austerity. I am disappointed that the Minister will not look again at the VAT mistake and I am especially disappointed that my fellow Senators from the government side from border counties support him.”
“I am equally disappointed with the refusal of the Minister to look again at the increases in so-called “carbon taxes” like petrol and home heating oil. Rural Ireland needs affordable petrol given the lack of public transport we have to put up with.”
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Speaking in the aftermath of the publication of the report of the Mahon Tribunal today, Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, said it was an indictment of the systemic culture of corruption within Fianna Fáil. It is clear that Mícheál Martin now has questions to answer regarding his Dáil colleagues’ credibility, he said.
The Cork North Central added:
“Deputy Mícheál Martin was a senior member of the cabinet then and is Fianna Fáil party leader now. He has a number of questions to answer regarding the conduct and credibility of his party colleagues who are still members of the Dáil.
“The report of the Mahon Tribunal states that during 2007 and 2008, members of the Cabinet embarked on a “sustained and virulent attack” against the tribunal. They questioned not only the legality of the tribunal, but also the integrity of its members. These attacks came as a result of the tribunal’s inquiries into Bertie Ahern’s conduct.
• Does Mícheál Martin share any responsibility, as a senior cabinet member at that time, in these actions?
• As a member of that cabinet, can he clarify if these attacks were part of an orchestrated campaign at the behest of Bertie Ahern?
• Does he know which of his former ministerial colleagues are being referred to by Justice Mahon in the report?
• Are any of these currently serving Fianna Fáil TDs?
• If they are serving TDs, what action is he going to take against them now?

“If Mícheál Martin is serious about restoring faith in the political system and leaving the Fianna Fáil culture of corruption behind, then he must answer these questions as a matter of urgency or the public will draw its own conclusions. ENDS

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Irish economy back in recession: Doherty
Speaking in response to the publication of the CSO Quarterly National Accounts Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD said that “the economy is now back in recession having experienced a drop in GDP for two consecutive quarters.” During Order of Business in the Dáil today Deputy Doherty asked the government if it was “going to revise their growth forecasts for 2012 for the third time.”
Deputy Doherty said:
“The CSO Quarterly National Accounts for the end of 2011 confirm that the economy is now officially back in recession. The figures show that in the fourth quarter of 2011 the GDP shrank by 0.2%, having already fallen by 1.9% in the third quarter of last year.
“This is very bad news. On budget day the government told us that GDP in 2011 would grow by 1% and GNP would grow by 0.4%. Today’s news shows that they got this terribly wrong.
“GDP has underperformed by 0.3% and more dramatically GNP has fallen by 2.9% in relation to the government’s budget day targets.
“It means that despite all the talk of an export-led recovery by the government last year, we are now officially back in recession.
“Throughout last year Sinn Féin argued that the government’s policies of austerity were smothering domestic demand and hurting the economy. We argued that without real investment in jobs there would be no growth.
“It gives me no pleasure to say that Sinn Féin was right. While overall GDP grew by 0.7% in 2011, the domestic economy shrank by 2.5%.
“All of this demonstrates that the government’s claims that the economy has turned a corner are simply untrue. Their policy of cuts and tax hikes are not only hurting people, they are blocking a return to growth.
“With the wider European economy also experiencing a slowdown and government set to impose another round of cuts inspired by the Austerity Treaty, the immediate prospects for jobs and growth appear bleak.
“It is time for the government to change direction. There is now an urgent need for the state to step in and stimulate demand in the economy using funds from the National Pension Reserve Fund. This is the only way to get people back to work and the economy back on track.”
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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking during Leaders’ Question today in the Dáil, called on the Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore to drop the spin and rhetoric and to inform the people of the details of the deal to be agreed on the promissory notes.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Sinn Féin has been raising Anglo’s promissory note for more than a year calling for a write down of this odious debt. If a deal is agreed with the ECB today which results in a reduction of that debt Sinn Féin will be the first to welcome it.

“But before any of us pass judgement on the deal announced by the Finance Minister last night there are a number of questions that must be answered. Will this deal reduce the state’s liabilities to Anglo Irish Bank? Will the debt, heaped on the shoulders of the tax payer by Fianna Fáil in 2010, and honoured by your government to the tune of €3.1bn last year, be reduced?

“Will the deal announced by Minister Noonan last night have any impact on the states debt-to-GDP ratio, and in turn any impact on our ability to return to the bond markets next year?

“Will the deal have any impact on this year’s deficit, or the government’s plans to suck €3.8 billion from the economy in 2012 and a further €2.25 billion from the economy in 2013 in spending cuts and tax hikes?

“Critically, will the deal being discussed in Frankfurt today fundamentally alter the nature of this debt, transforming it from toxic banking debt to fully fledged sovereign debt – with all of the consequences that brings.

“The question people across this state are asking today is whether the government has secured a deal that reduces the state’s debt to Anglo Irish Bank and in doing so reduces our debt and deficit levels, or whether the government has simply kicked this odious debt down the road, to be paid in full by future generations and a future government?

“People want straight answers to these questions, with no spin and no rhetoric.

“Will the deal on the promissory note to be agreed today in Frankfurt make any difference at all to Fine Gael and Labour’s planned programme of cuts and tax hikes this year and to the financial hardship being experiences by millions of people across the state?” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s justice spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, in an initial reaction to publication of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal into certain planning matters and payments, welcomed its publication.

Deputy O’Brien said that Sinn Féin is aware that many working class communities and particularly in Dublin West, had been affected by corruption in planning matters and some are still living with its consequences.

“There is no doubt that a culture of political corruption existed in the 1990s particularly, as interim reports have indicated, within the Fianna Fáil party.

“Sinn Féin calls on the present government to implement the recommendations of the report promptly.

“Despite the findings of this tribunal and claims from the political parties involved in planning corruption, that they regret the activities of some of their members at the time, we see the current Taoiseach in the company of one of those named by the Moriarty Tribunal while representing this state at St Patrick’s Day events in the United States of America.

“We also saw a warm welcome for former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the recent Fianna Fáil ard fheis. Both these very recent incidents beg the question: what has really changed, especially as many of those in leadership now, were around the cabinet table at that time?

“To justify the massive resources invested in this tribunal, Justice Mahon’s recommendations must be implemented promptly and in full,” he added.

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Speaking in response to an announcement by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan regarding the replacement of this year’s March 31st promissory note payment to IBRC of €3.1bn with a long term Irish Government bond, Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson has called on the Government to "provide more detail on the arrangement being proposed so that the public can judge the actual impact of the arrangement on the public finances."

Deputy Doherty said:

“For the last 12 months Sinn Féin has consistently placed the issue of the promissory note on the political agenda. Any reduction in the state’s liability to the payment of this debt to Anglo Irish Bank would be a welcome one.

“However today’s announcement by Minister Noonan is very vague. It appears that what the Government has succeeded in doing is replacing a promissory note to Anglo Irish Bank with a sovereign government bond to Anglo Irish bank.

“If this is the case it will not reduce our debt levels and we will still be liable to pay the full €31bn to Anglo Irish bank at a future date.

“While this arrangement may have some short term benefits, what is needed and what Sinn Féin has consistently demanded is for this debt to be written down.

“We must be mindful that this is the second payment by this Government. In our view this is now a golden opportunity to secure a full write-down of this debt.

"I am calling on the Government to provide more detail on the arrangement being proposed including the impact this arrangement will have on our debt and deficit levels for 2013 and subsequent years so that the public can judge the actual impact of the arrangement on the public finances.

“Sinn Féin will be the first to congratulate the Government if they secure a write down of this debt. However it would be premature to comment until we see the full details.”

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"Tá an Rialtas ag tabhairt neamhaird ar na deacrachtaí atá roimh Oidí Nua Cháilaithe, scoileanna tuaithe agus Gaeltachta agus is cosúil go bhfuil sé d’intinn aige leanúint den méid sin", de réir Seanadóir Shinn Féin, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

Bhí an Seanadóir ó Gaillimh Thiar ag labhairt ar an Riar Gnó sa Seanad inniu.

"Cúpla seachtain ó shoin, d’eagraigh mé, in éineacht leis an INTO agus Grúpa Gníomhaíochta na nOidí Nua Cháilithe, cur i láthair i dTithe an Oireachtais ar an gcruachás atá os comhair go leor múinteoirí nua. Ag an gcur i láthair bhí bá ag cách leo, ó gach páirtí. Thacaigh Teachtaí agus Seanadóirí ó pháirtithe an Rialtais lena n-achanaithe agus gheall siad go dtabharfaidís chuile thacaiocht dóibh.

“Sna seachtainí beaga ó shoin, níl gníomh ar bith feicthe againn ón Rialtas, nó aon mholtaí cinnte óna gcuid ionadaithe tofa chun stádas na nOidí seo a chur i gceart.

"Tá an scéal amhlaidh ó thaobh na scoileanna 1 go 4 oide agus na scoileanna Gaeltachta chomh maith. Is cosúil go bhfuil a gcloigne sa ngainimh ag an Aire Quinn agus a chomhleacaithe Rialtais ar na ceisteanna seo agus iad ag súil go n-imeoidh siad má thugtar neamhaird orthu, ach ní imeoidh. Caithfidh sé teacht isteach chun iad a phlé mar ábhar práinne.

"Sé fírinne an scéil ná faoin scéim nua íocaíochta go mbeidh air go leor Oidí Nua Cháilithe oibriú le haghaidh 35 uair ar €419 sa tseachtain, rud nach bhfuil i bhfad ón íosphá náisiúnta .

"Gach seans go cuirfidh na ciorraithe is déanaí i bpá na nOidí leisce ar dhaoine cumasacha tabhairt faoin múinteoireacht mar ghairm, nó go mbeidh níos mó fonn ar Oidí nua Cháilithe dul ar imirce. Is beag iontais é sin, nuair atá suas le €120,000 sa bhliain mar thuarastal ar fáil d'obair mhúinteoireachta in áiteanna áirithe thar lear.

"Tá níos mó ná bá ag teastáil ó na hOidí Nua Cháilithe, na scoileanna beaga agus Gaeltachta. Tá gníomh fónta uathu agus tá mé ag iarraidh ar an Rialtas athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an réímeas nua pá, cinntiú go bhfaigheann Oidí nua Cháillithe tuarastal cóir agus cothrom na féinne do soileanna tuaithe & Gaeltachta."

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The Government is ignoring the difficulties facing newly qualified teachers and rural and Gaeltacht schools and appears intent to continue to do so, according to Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh

The Galway West Senator was speaking on the order of Business in the Seanad today.

“Some weeks ago I organised a briefing in the Oireachtas on the difficulties facing student teachers, at which members of the INTO and the Newly Qualified Teachers Action Group outlined the difficult circumstances many of them are facing. At the briefing there was widespread sympathy for their situation across all parties.

“In the following weeks, we have seen no action whatsoever from the Government, nor have we seen any concrete proposals to improve their lot from any of their representatives.

“The same is true of the one to four teacher schools in rural and Gaeltacht areas. Minister Quinn and his Government colleagues seem to have their heads in the sand on these issues hoping they will go away, but they won't. He must come in to debate them as a matter of urgency.

“The reality of the situation is that under his proposals many newly qualified Teachers will be working for in the area of €419 for a 35 hour week as newly qualified teachers under the new salaries regime, close to minimum wage levels.

“The latest cut to teacher pay may deter many very capable people from entering the teaching profession or indeed some already qualified to emigrate, and given that teaching work is available abroad that offers salaries of up to €120,000 per annum, that is no surprise.

“Newly qualified teachers, small and rural schools deserve more than sympathy, they deserve action, and I call on the Government to review the pay regime, ensure that Teachers are paid a fair wage and review the changes to small schools announced in the budget.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has this afternoon called on Government ministers to end their bully boy tactics on the household charge.

Speaking during leaders’ questions in the Dáil the Dublin Central TD said:

“There are just ten days left to the deadline for payment of the Household Charge yet 80% of householders have not paid. The Government’s handling of this Household Charge has been nothing short of a shambles.

“The desperation of Government is evident from the increasingly shrill tone of Government Minsters trying to frighten citizens into paying this charge. The Government should stop trying to bully the electorate and start listening to them instead.

“The reality is that on this issue the Government have got it wrong, just as it did with the DEIS Schools. The Household Charge is an unfair and unjust tax and it should be withdrawn.

“The Trade Unions have been clear on this with SIPTU, UNITE, the CPSU and the Dublin Council of Trade Unions all calling for this Tax to be scrapped. When will the Government face these facts?

“Does the Government really intend to bring hundreds of thousands of citizens before the courts on this issue when not a single banker has been jailed for causing this crisis? Is the Tánaiste really going to add to the problems of hard pressed families by overseeing the introduction of legislation to allow fines in relation to this charge to be deducted from people’s earnings or from social welfare payments?”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD and the party’s representative in North America Rita O Hare this morning met US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
The discussions ranged across the state of the economies north and south, including the severe cuts to the block grant imposed by the British government; the transfer of fiscal powers from London to Belfast; outstanding issues arising from the Good Friday Agreement and the need for greater co-operation and harmonisation north and south.

They also spoke about the role of the Irish diaspora, voting in Irish Presidential elections for Irish passport holders living abroad, and the upcoming Constitutional Convention being organised by the Irish government.

Speaking after the meeting which he described as “very helpful and informative” the Sinn Féin leader said:

“Secretary of State Clinton is very well informed on developments in Ireland and understands the importance of continuing to invest in and manage the peace process.

“I expressed to her my concerns at the failure of the British government to engage properly with the process and in particular its recent cuts to the block grant used to fund the north.

“This doesn’t make sense. The north is coming out of a long period of low investment and conflict. It is vital that citizens, especially those who have been disadvantaged as a result of decades of discrimination and violence, experience a qualitative improvement in their daily lives. The British government’s approach is the opposite of this and despite the commendable efforts of the Executive the recent cuts to the block grant will inevitably have an impact on the provision of public services and investment.”

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Speaking today before a private members’ debate in the Dáil the Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty called on the Government “to seek the removal of the blackmail clause, using its veto if required.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“The Government is saying that if we reject the Austerity Treaty we will be denied European Stability Mechanism (ESM) funding in the future. This is simply not true.

“The ESM has not yet been ratified by this State. The Government continues to have a veto on the ESM. If it wanted the Government could seek the removal of this blackmail clause.

“Unfortunately they know that without this, the prospect of winning the referendum on the Austerity Treaty is next to impossible.

“Tonight’s private member motion, tabled by Sinn Féin, is calling on the government to delay the ratification of the ESM until after the Austerity Treaty referendum. This would allow a free and fair debate on the merits of the Austerity Treaty free from bullying or blackmail. If the people reject the Austerity Treaty then the Government must go to the European Council and secure the removal of the blackmail clause, using their veto if required.

“The motion also makes clear that the blackmail clause is an empty threat. It has little if any legal force and conflicts with the primary mandate of the ESM to safeguard the stability of the Eurozone as a whole as written into the EU Treaties. It is also not the only source of emergency funding available to EU member states who find themselves frozen out of the sovereign markets.

“The Government's claim that rejecting the Austerity Treaty would deny us access to emergency funding in the future is simply untrue.”

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Sinn Féin senator, David Cullinane has accused government representatives of losing the plot and becoming increasingly desperate as people refuse to pay the unfair and regressive household charge. He said comments from a number of Labour and Fine Gael senators, that those who do not pay are subverting the state, are ridiculous.

Speaking in the Seanad today Senator Cullinane said:
“Sinn Féin is absolutely opposed to this unfair household charge. It is regressive and should be scrapped. We have consistently warned the government against introducing such a charge but Minister Hogan carried on regardless. It is obvious that not only is the household charge unfair, it is also unpopular.

“Today in the Seanad representatives of Fine Gael and Labour accused those who will not pay as being guilty of subverting the state. Some people are not paying because they simply cannot pay. Others are not paying because the charge is unjust and unfair. People are taking a stand.

“It is interesting that while government representatives accuse people who fail to pay the charge as being guilty of subverting the state, they have no such words for the speculators and bankers who are being paid in full. The irony of the payment date of the €3.1billion Anglo Promissory Note falling on the same day the deadline for the household charge is due is lost on the government.

“The government needs to wise up and stop scaremongering. Minister Hogan should hold up his hands and say he got it wrong and reverse the charge. No matter what scare tactics are used by this government the majority of the people will not pay. This charge should be abolished immediately in favour of a wealth tax which taxes real wealth and not people’s homes.” ENDS

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Speaking at the launch of a Dáil private members motion on the bailout fund blackmail clause Sinn Fein TD spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that the Government “still has a veto on the blackmail clause and could use this veto to have the clause removed from the European Stability Mechanism Treaty.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“The Government is telling people that if we reject the Austerity Treaty we will not be able to access emergency funding from the European Stability Mechanism in the future.

“What the Government is not telling people is that it willingly agreed to the inclusion of this blackmail clause into the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism earlier this year.

“Neither the ESM Treaty nor the amendment to the European Treaties on which it is based have been ratified and both could still be changed.

“In fact the government has an effective veto over the ESM Treaty, by virtue of having a veto over the amendment to Article 136 of the European Treaties.

“Sinn Féin has tabled a private members motion on this issue for debate in the Dáil next week. The motion outlines the history of this controversial blackmail clause and the government’s support for it.

“The motion also calls on the government to confirm that it will not ratify the ESM Treaty or the amendment to Article 136 of the EU Treaties until after the people have voted on the Austerity Treaty in the referendum. It also calls on the government, in the event of a rejection of the Austerity Treaty by the people, to seek a further amendment to the ESM Treaty removing the blackmail clause and using its veto on this matter if required.

“This would allow the public to debate and decide on the Austerity Treaty on its own merits free from the blackmail implicit in the threat to deny future bailout funds.”

ENDS

Note to editor: Full text of the Sinn Fein private members motion on the European Stability Mechanism Blackmail Clause

That Dáil Éireann

- Notes that on 16 December 2010 the European Council agreed a two line amendment to Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union allowing for the creation of a permanent emergency funding facility to be known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM)
- Notes that the text of the amendment to Article 136 states clearly that the stability mechanism be “activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole.”
- Notes that on 11 July 2011 the European Council agreed the final text of the Treaty Establishing the European Stability Mechanism which when ratified by the 17 signatory states would create a permanent emergency funding vehicle for EU member states known as the ESM
- Notes that Recital (2) of the ESM Treaty incorporates the wording of the new Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union the effect of which is to make the overriding legal and policy mandate of the ESM the safeguarding of the stability of the Euro area as a whole
- Notes that under the terms of the ESM Treaty the ESM would come into operation from July 2012 and would have a total fund of €500 billion of which Ireland would contribute €11 billion
- Notes that neither the Article 136 Amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union nor the ESM Treaty have been ratified by the Irish state
- Notes that the ratification of the Article 136 Amendment will take the form of the European Communities Act (Amendment) Bill, which is due to come before the Oireachtas in this session
- Notes that the ratification of the ESM treaty will take the form of the ESM Bill which is due to come before the Oireachtas in this session
- Notes that in January 2012 the European Council agreed to an amendment to the Treaty Establishing the European Stability Mechanism linking access to ESM funds to ratification of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, more commonly known as the Austerity Treaty
- Notes that making ratification of the Austerity Treaty a condition of eligibility for ESM funds runs contrary to the letter and spirit of the amendment to Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the European Council summit statement of 21 July 2011 which said that the European Council were, “determined to continue to provide support to countries under programmes until they have regained market access, provided they successfully implement those programmes.”
- Notes that the insertion of this controversial amendment into the ESM Treaty is intended to frighten public opinion into supporting the Austerity Treaty in the event of a referendum in any EU Member State
- Notes that the Irish government did not oppose nor seek to prevent in any way the insertion of this controversial amendment into the ESM Treaty
- Notes that while the Irish government did not have a veto on the final text of the ESM Treaty, it did and continues to have a veto over the Article 136 amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and could have used this veto to secure the removal of the controversial amendment from the ESM Treaty
- States that the reason for the Irish governments acquiescence to this controversial amendment was to ensure that, in the event of a referendum in Ireland on the Austerity Treaty, the Government could use this issue to frighten people into supporting a treaty that if assessed on its own merits would not secure popular support
- Calls on the Government to confirm it will not ratify the Article 136 amendment and the ESM Treaty until after the Austerity Treaty referendum and will not bring forward the European Communities Act (Amendment) Bill and the ESM Bill until the people have had their say on the Austerity Treaty
- Calls on the Government to debate the Austerity Treaty on its own merits and to desist from using the controversial clause in the ESM Treaty as a way of securing support for the Austerity Treaty
- Calls on the Government to state publicly that in the event of a rejection of the Austerity Treaty by the people in a referendum, it will seek to remove the controversial clause from the ESM Treaty, and will if necessary use its veto on the Article 136 Amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to secure the removal of the controversial clause
— Seán Crowe, Gerry Adams, Michael Colreavy, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Mary Lou McDonald, Sandra McLellan, Jonathan O'Brien, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín

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Sinn Féin MLA and chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee Sue Ramsey had a meeting yesterday with the Health Minister Edwin Poots and Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride to discuss suicide, self-harm and the protect life strategy.

After the meeting Sue Ramsey said:

“I asked for this meeting and while it was disappointing to learn that the Ministerial sub group on suicide and self-harm has not met from January 2010, it was a constructive meeting.

“We covered a series of issues and it is good news that the roll out of SD1 (sudden death) forms will be in place by the end of March 2012.

“Advertising campaigns, learning from those used in Scotland, will also take place. There will be opportunities to use events like the Olympics 2012, the Titanic celebrations or the Derry City of Culture, to raise awareness and promote positive messages while the Health Department has met with DCAL and Sport NI to discuss how sports stars can be used as role models.

“In relation to the Protect Life Strategy a refreshed approach will be produced to take us to the end of 2013 with an evaluation of the Strategy being published in the summer of 2012. This will hopefully inform future policy direction in relation to this pressing issue

“One major concern raised was the fact that we must examine closely and define clusters against the fact that the existing boundaries between trusts or constituencies are not adequately reflecting the reality on the ground in terms of tackling the issue of suicide.

“We need to ensure that there are joined-up approaches between trusts so nobody falls through an administrative gap.”

In the interim Sue Ramsey proposed that the Health Committee write to all the relevant Ministers to ask for an update on what their Departments are doing on suicide and self-harm.

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Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, Jennifer McCann, has stated that the proposed 3 pence extra tax on a litre of fuel will remain will be the breaking point for many business and families who rely on cars, and hit rural communities the hardest.

Speaking today following the budget announcement by the British Chancellor of the exchequer Ms McCann said:

“The announcement today by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, that fuel duty will still rise by 3pence in August is unbelievable. It will stave off any economic recovery and place extra pressure on already stretched budgets.

“The north of Ireland currently has the most expensive fuel on these islands and indeed in Europe. There are a number of forecourts that are now charging £1.49.9 for a litre of diesel. With an extra three pence breaking the £1.50 mark a huge amount of pressure will be placed on businesses and consumers alike.  

"Any further rise is bound to have a significant knock on effect. For example if the transport of goods increases then consumer will inevitably have to pick up the extra cost as prices of food and services increase. If this is not the case then the business comes under significant pressures.

“The effects will be felt even harder in rural communities where public transport infrastructure is not sufficient and people rely on their cars.

“The proposed rise will place even more strain on those who are finding it hard to make ends meet.  58.5 pence out of every pound on petrol and 56.5 pence on diesel is the current tax take from the British Government. This is unsustainable.

“Beyond the huge tax take, which the British government must get real about, we need to establish a task force to ascertain the reasons why we are paying the highest costs in Europe for our fuel and produce firm recommendations to tackle the causes head on.

"The reasons being trotted out time and again are not good enough given that in the same month in March 2009, only three years ago, we were paying just under £1 per litre. What then really accounts for a 50p rise?"

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 Speaking at a seminar at the Assembly on how preventative support can help older people continue to experience good health and maintain their independence, Sinn Féin MLA and Chair of the Health Committee Sue Ramsey said that that prevention and early intervention are vital if we are to keep people out of hospitals and other institutions.

At the seminar, organised by Age NI and the Social Care Institute for Excellence, Sue Ramsey said:

“People should be supported to live in their own homes for as long as possible and to live independently and with a sense of purpose and meaning in the latter years of life.

“Our population is an ageing one and people are living longer than they used to 50 years ago.  We all have elderly relatives, neighbours or friends that maintain an active lifestyle but they may actually need care and support as the years go on.

“The Health Committee believes prevention and early intervention are vital if we are to keep people out of hospitals and other institutions.

“With effective treatment, access to services, and prevention strategies, older people can continue to experience good health.  We will be looking in detail at the challenges facing social care and how things can be improved with the recently published ‘Transforming Your Care’ review is focused on some key themes including: moving more care away from hospitals to either GP surgeries or in people’s home, caring for more people in their homes for as long as possible and health and social care professionals working in a more integrated way.

“The Committee believes this is to be welcomed. However, for this to happen we will need to see the resources being directed into community and social care.”

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Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Conor Murphy MP, MLA commenting on today’s British Budget announcement by Chancellor George Osborne said;

"While we will study the implications of the British government's budget on spending in the north, on cursory examination it would seem that there is little relief for those on benefits and low pay. While the reduction from 50% to 45% in the highest tax rate will benefit those in the top wage brackets to the tune of thousands of pounds the minimal increase in personal allowances will have little measurable benefit to those at the very bottom of the scale -  about £4 per week!

“What little benefit this measure will deliver will be more than wiped out by increases in fuel duty which will inevitably be passed on to consumers through higher goods prices.

“While the designation of Enterprise Zones in Scotland and Wales were very specific there was only a passing reference to any similar initiative for the North.

“It would seem that once more with the increase in consumer taxes and spending reductions more finance will be taken out of the North’s economy. The British Chancellor has demonstrated once more that his government takes no particular account of the impact of their financial decisions on economy of the North of Ireland.

“This Budget as with every other is fashioned to address the British government’s perception of what is required to rebalance the economy of the island of Britain with no regard to its effects here.

“Sinn Féin has always highlighted the inability of the Executive to invest properly in our economic recovery while dependent of fiscal decisions taken in Britain. And without the ability to raise finance through measures such as tax-varying or borrowing powers, we have no choice but to manage our steadily reducing budget, imposed by London.

“Any further reduction in in disposable income in the North’s finances will put severe pressure on the local economy and make it extremely difficult to build the private sector.

“Sinn Féin is committed to protecting frontline public services while recognising the current economic realities that exist. For our part we will work to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable.”

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