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Speaking in response to Fáilte Ireland’s decision to refuse funding to Cork County Council to develop Spike Island as a major tourist attraction, Sinn Fein spokesperson on Tourism and Cork East TD Sandra McLellan said:
“I am very concerned. Tourism is supposed to be central to the government’s programme for economic recovery yet the refusal to provide funding for the Spike Island project flies in the face of this.
“In the Programme for Government and the Action Plan for Jobs the government clearly states that ‘targeting capital investment in public tourism and infrastructure’ will be one of their key policy actions.
“If this Government is serious about tourism making a contribution to the country’s economic recovery then it needs to invest in projects that can deliver in terms of jobs and visitor numbers.
“The master plan commissioned by Cork County Council envisages the island being turned into a 100-acre national park with the potential to attract up to 200,000 tourists a year.
“Cobh’s historic importance in relation to emigration, the Titanic and because until WWII it was the headquarters of the British Navy in Ireland, means it has the capacity to become one of the country’s main tourist destinations.
“The development of Spike Island and its incorporation into a strategic tourism plan for the town has the potential to provide the greater southern region with a much needed economic boost and more importantly, employment.
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In a statement this afternoon, Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams said:

“Despite the sad circumstances in which it came about, the Meath East by-election is an important chance for voters to make their voice heard on the challenges faced by people in Meath East and throughout the state.

“Sinn Féin is seeking every available first preference vote in order to strengthen the argument for a change in political direction.

“We are not advising our voters to transfer to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour.

“The very last thing that Meath East needs is another government backbencher or a return to the failed politics of Fianna Fáil which have left this state with a legacy of bank debt, mortgage distress and unemployment.

“Fianna Fáil created the economic and fiscal crisis. Fine Gael and Labour are now making things worse for struggling families.

“Austerity isn’t working. It is creating hardship not jobs. There are more than 10,000 people now unemployed in Meath.

“Meath East needs a new voice, someone who is not part of the cosy political consensus of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour.

“A vote for Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke is a vote for fairness. It is a vote against the property tax. It is a vote to cut huge wages at the top of the public sector including that of TDs, Ministers and formers Ministers.

“If elected Darren O’Rourke will be part of a strong Sinn Féin Dáil team putting forward the case for economic stimulus and action on jobs. He will be a voice for fairer economic alternatives and will stand up for the rights of ordinary citizens.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has reacted with despair to the news that the Apprentice Boys of Derry plan to hold their annual Easter Monday parade in Enniskillen with around 15,000 people expected to descend on the town on what should be one of the busiest shopping days in Enniskillen.

The parade, with 60 bans, 4,500 participants and 10,000 expected supporters is scheduled to start at 10.30am and conclude at 4.30pm

 The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said:

 "This parade will severely impact on trade in Enniskillen on what should be one of the busiest days of the year for the retail and hospitality sectors. As a result Enniskillen will become a no go area for one section of our community for the whole day.

 “This is a bad move for community relations in the area and is bad news for the local economy. It is also disappointing that so soon after Enniskillen hosted a very successful, cross-community celebration of the feast of St Patrick, that we are now into the start of the ‘marching season’ and the usual sectarian coat trailing begins in earnest.

 "This parade is completely unwanted by the overwhelming majority of people in Enniskillen. A considerable number of business owners particularly those in the licensed trade sector have expressed their concerns to me about the negative impact it will have on their trade and some have said that they are considering closing for the day.

 “This is based on their experience of the last time this event took place in Enniskillen when serious criminal damage was caused to some pubs in the town by those attending this parade.

 “I have already had some discussions with the Parades Commission and will also be seeking to engage with the PSNI to discuss their policing plan to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum and anyone causing trouble is dealt with in an appropriate manner.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on the Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan to meet with families who are struggling with their shared ownership mortgages. He made his comments following a Dáil briefing by a group campaigning for these families.

Deputy Ellis said;

“I have written to the minister asking her to focus her attention on the issue of shared ownership mortgages and the difficulty many families who took part in this scheme are having at present.

“I have raised these issues before with her and she is aware of the problem but nothing has been done to support these families and aid them in keep their homes or moving on without taking on huge insurmountable debts.

“People who took on shared ownership mortgages are now tied to homes. In many cases these homes are no longer suitable to their needs or are unaffordable but due to negative equity and the refusal of local authorities to recognise their liability they can do nothing but wait for things to get worse, as hours are cut, wages are cut and the cost of living goes up as well as their rent.

“A group has been set up with whom I met today. It includes people who are directly affected by the problems in the shared ownership scheme, their families and their representatives. They have requested a meeting with the minister and Sinn Féin wholeheartedly supports that called.

“I have been working with families locally to support them but a real state-wide strategy is needed. This is not a large group of people but they are facing real problems and the state must do what it can.”

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Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty said republicans throughout the county will honour Ireland’s patriot dead over the Easter period and rededicate themselves to achieving Irish freedom and independence for the whole nation.

The West Tyrone MP said:

“Easter is a special time of the year for republicans and besides paying our respects to those that have given the ultimate sacrifice for the Irish people, we will also take stock and rededicate ourselves to achieving the Republic.

“As we close in on the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising we still draw inspiration and guidance from the Easter Proclamation, a document that was revolutionary for its time, and which core objectives has still to be realised in the Ireland of today. The 26-county state is far from the Republic envisaged in 1916 and we are still struggling to achieve that independent country and one that cherishes all the children of the nation equally.

“Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will be addressing the main commemoration in Donegal at Drumboe, on Easter Sunday. Martin McGuinness will be delivering the oration at the commemoration in the capital at the Garden of Remembrance, also on Sunday while at the other end of the country Dublin TD Mary Lou McDonald will be speaking in Belfast.

“Also on Sunday Donegal TD Pearse Doherty will travel the few miles into Derry to address republicans and in Cork City Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD is the main speaker. The length and breadth of Ireland will see Republicans honour the patriot dead and rededicate themselves to achieving Irish freedom and independence - a new society based on equality – a new Republic.”

For up-to-date list of commemorations and speakers please visit An Phoblacht here.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD, has repeated his call for a “threshold of decency” on disability supports and a political consensus that people with disabilities would have their dignity and rights maintained and their families would not be abandoned as a result of on-going cutbacks.
He repeated his call during a Dáil debate on cuts to disabled citizens and their carers today. The Donegal North East deputy said:
“The imagery from late last year of citizens with profound disabilities, protesting outside Leinster House at Minister Reilly’s cuts, struck a chord with the Irish people. The courage and dignity of those who braved the elements to make their stand shone a light on the reality. Despite the promises of both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in the final pre-election leaders’ debate last year, their government has proceeded to enforce cut after cut on those with disabilities in this state and their families and carers. Their broken promises on disabilities are the cruellest of all.
“If this government took a Kango hammer and tore up our roads, there would be uproar but that is exactly what they have been doing to support services for people with disability”.
“When Fianna Fáil was in government they cut the Disability Allowance, the Carers’ Allowance and Carers’ Benefit, and the Blind Person’s Allowance not once but twice. Of course, the removal of the Christmas double payments also heavily impacted on the disabled and their families and carers. All of this meant that Fianna Fáil cut the income of disabled people and their carers by 10% over two budgets.
“This has to stop. We need a threshold of decency. We need a political consensus that people with disabilities will have their dignity protected and rights maintained and that their families will not be abandoned”.
He concluded:
“The nine leading disability organisations in Ireland have spoken out on this scandal.
“They have outlined a vision for people with disabilities in Ireland and called on the government to take urgent action on three key areas:
1. Halt reductions in the basic standard of living of people with disabilities requiring welfare supports. People with disabilities are most likely to experience real poverty because on top of the recent cuts in benefit levels and new charges, they also have to continue to pay for extras required due to their disability.
2. Ensure funding for the services needed by people with disabilities. Cutting the services required by people with disabilities not only undermines their lives, it also leads to a growing public burden in terms of hospital stays and expensive care costs.
3. Publish and show leadership on an ambitious Implementation Plan for the National Disability Strategy in keeping with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where people have dignity, individual autonomy and full and effective participation in Irish society. People’s faith in Ireland’s eventual recovery depends not just on economic measures. Social protection for all people through this long, stressful period needs to be central to the “Government‘s recovery plans. Government actions must address social inclusion and cohesion.
“Sinn Féin fully endorses their call and we call on the government to take up this challenge and honour their promises to our most vulnerable citizens.
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Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD criticised Labour Ministers for their commitment to Fianna Fáil’s Family Home Tax noting the deeply unfair terms of the tax for those seeking deferrals or living in ghost estates.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Over the last week citizens across this state have been receiving letters from revenue in relation to the government’s Family Home Tax. This is a tax which takes no account of ability to pay, those in negative equity, those in mortgage arrears to the thousands many have paid in stamp duty.

“Following the Department of the Environment’s publication of the exemptions list this morning we have another example of just how unfair this tax is. Of the 1,770 unfinished ghost estates, 421 will be exempt from the new tax. In contrast, 1,322 estates with 43,000 households were exempt under the household charge waiver list.

“Media reports this morning indicate that a resident of Priory Hall, an estate classed as unfit for human habitation, has been landed with a property tax bill. So why are those living in ghost estates exempt from the household charge now being hit with this family home tax?

“How can a Labour party Minister defend the burden of this tax on families who are struggling to make ends meet, struggling under the weight of negative equity and mortgage distress, people who simply can’t pay?

“The bands for deferral under the family home tax are a scandal. How can a single Labour minister deem it reasonable for a single person on a meagre salary of €16,000 to pay this tax, or indeed a couple struggling on €30,000 a year? Or indeed believe that the deferral option which will apply interest to those who can’t pay is in some way fair.

“Labour and Fine Gael’s dogged commitment to Fianna Fáil’s Family Home Tax is yet another indication of just how out of touch this government is. They have choices. They could drop the family home tax and instead enact Sinn Féin’s Wealth Tax legislation introduced by Pearse Doherty TD late last year.” ENDS

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Commenting on data released this week from the Higher Education Authority, which shows a rise in the numbers of third level entrants from the top three socio-economic backgrounds, Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien has said government third level policies were perpetuating a two-tier education system.
Describing the findings which also show a drop in college entrants from less wealthy backgrounds as “unsurprising and very worrying”, the Cork North Central TD said that it was shameful that a Labour Education Minister was implementing policies that made access to third level unaffordable for people from low income backgrounds.
He continued: “The data supplied by the HEA confirms that government cuts in student grants, and the annual increases to fees is acting as barrier for people from low income backgrounds wishing to access third level.
“Conversely, there was a marked increase in the numbers of students attending college whose parents were employed in higher professions or managerial positions. When the data is broken down in terms of socio-economic groups surveyed, those from the top three socio-economic groups were also shown to have the greatest migration from non-universities to universities.
“What these findings show is an alarming trend where having the right to participate in third level education is becoming increasingly dependent on a family’s income.
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 Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Daithí McKay has described the British budget as lacklustre and unimaginative.

 Mr McKay said:

“This lacklustre and unimaginative budget put forward by the Westminster Government will do nothing to stimulate growth and get people back to work.

“It proposes further cuts in public spending with little or no emphasis on stimulating economic growth beyond the reduction of corporation tax, a move which Sinn Féin was to the fore in advocating in order to facilitate economic growth by creating a level playing with the rest of the island.  It is a budget which promises more austerity and little hope.

“Unemployment is at its worst level for fifteen years. The Economy continues to decline. This is Tory Policy destroying the economy.

“The British Chancellor has brought forward a budget that promises a further 1% reduction in resources across Departments reducing the amount of money available for public expenditure.  He has indicated that the budgets of devolved administrations are to be adjusted - Tory adjustments means cuts.  Osborne offers little clarity as to the extent the budgets of devolved administrations will be reduced. 

"The outworking of this budget will not become apparent until the Spending Round in June when as the Chancellor stated that, “Local government and devolved administration budgets will be adjusted accordingly”.

“This proposed adjustment could see the amount of money allocated in the Block Grant cut.  Even Sammy Wilson has been unable to give any indication as to the effect that further adjustments/cuts will have on our spending ability.

“If the 1% Departmental reduction is applied here it could mean an overall reduction in cross departmental resources of the magnitude of £80 million per year.

“He is also introducing a cap on Annually Managed Expenditure which is likely to mean a cap on the north’s social welfare budget. This could signal further pain for the most vulnerable but again we must wait until the spending round in June to see what the full impact of the proposed cap will be. 

“This is particularly concerning in the context of the current debate on welfare reform in the north and the agreement by all parties here for the need for local flexibility. “Any overall cap or reduction in the welfare budget from Westminster could place extra financial pressure on the Executive's spending ability. Sammy Wilson must be vigilant to ensure that the worst effects of this budget are mitigated. He should initiate negotiations now with the British Government to ensure that the north is not worse off as a result of these proposals.

“This budget has strengthened Sinn Fein's resolve to have maximum fiscal powers transferred to the north.  The economy in the north cannot reach its full potential while it continues to be financed as one giant Whitehall Department.  Osborne’s budget is a recipe for further reductions in public expenditure for the north at a level which will remain unclear until June. We need the tools to grow the economy, stimulate growth and create jobs. This budget does not do it.

“We therefore remain in limbo until June, when the Tories will decide how our budget will be adjusted.  In the meantime Tory spin tells us that they have given us £94 million for capital expenditure which is to be welcomed if it materialises, but is unlikely to offset the expected reduction in resources that will be announced in June.  What the British government is doing is giving with one hand to take it away with the other. CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson while welcoming the latest development in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) said she still has some concerns about the overall allocation.

Speaking after this week's meeting of European Agricultural ministers, Martina Anderson said:

"I welcome the latest development in the negotiation process and although it is significant that the council have managed to reach a conclusion, and I welcome any move towards a more flexible CAP, I still have some outstanding worries regarding the overall CAP allocation.

“While there is now an acceptance of the need to move towards a fairer system of distributing farm payments, it is still unclear what this will mean if the agreement is implemented.

“It is also unclear how quickly the new system, assuming it is approved by the Parliament, will come into effect and how it will be implemented here, given the scope for flexibility on the part of member states. I would hope that moves towards redistribution will begin immediately and that we will see a significant shift before 2019.

"I also hoped to see more clarity and detail surrounding the new payments system, however any agreement is a good step towards the start of the negotiating process with the European Parliament and I sincerely hope that in these talks common sense prevails and the money goes where it is needed. Capping payments at €100,000 would also ensure that more money goes where it is really needed, but unfortunately this was not prioritised by the ministers.

"Finally the flexibility agreed upon on the issues of Greening and Direct payments is a positive development, it is good to see that there is recognition that a one-size fits all approach will not do.

“I will of course continue to vigorously lobby for the outcome most favourable to our farming sector to ensure maximum flexibility in implementing any Greening directives. I will work with all Irish MEP’s to achieve the best possible deal for our agriculture sector and urge the Irish government – who presently hold the EU Presidency - to act in the best interests of all Irish Farmers during forthcoming proposal adoption discussions within the EU Parliament.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane has called on Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to use some of the extra £58m announced for capital projects to begin construction of the Narrow Water Bridge immediately.

 Ms. Ruane said,

 “The Narrow Water Bridge project can be ‘Spade Ready’ within weeks to begin construction if the political will is there and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson now has the opportunity to announce its construction.

 “There already has been EU money secured for the project and a commitment already given for match funding from both the Irish Government and the Assembly.  Sammy Wilson must now honour that pledge and use some of the money secured in yesterday’s budget to get the project underway.

 “The Narrow Water Bridge Project is crucial in not only will it create much needed work for the construction industry but can be the economic catalyst needed to regenerate the entire South Down and North Louth region.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD, said today that the government's talk about keeping Irish Water in public ownership “flies in the face of reality”.

Stanley said: “As part of today's Global Water Day, SIPTU has organised a Hands off Public Water rally outside Leinster House to protest against EU policies which will lead to the privatisation of our water.

“This is part of an EU-wide day of action highlighting the threats of deregulation to the water sector. This protest comes at a critical time as the Irish government pursues their own privatisation agenda.

“Sinn Féin supports today's protest. We fully understand the threat posed to the 3,000 jobs in the local authorities’ water sector by the transfer of assets out of local democratic ownership to the newly established Irish Water.

“We have opposed the government's establishment of Irish Water as subsidiary of An Bord Gais. Irish Water is a Trojan horse for privatisation. Government statements that they ‘have no intention to privatise Irish Water’ mean nothing in the face of EU deregulation and this government's own commitment to sell off sections of An Bord Gais.

“We will be meeting later today with SIPTU to discuss how we can work together to stop the privatisation of the water sector.

“Sinn Féin will outline our plan for the establishment of a National Water Sector Framework Team. This team will consist of senior management from local authorities and the Department of Environment. Its function will be to oversee the capital investment needed to upgrade our crumbling water system and the installation of district metering. It will lead to better crossborder co-operation in managing river basins and delivering high quality water for domestic and commercial use.”
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Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has accused Fine Gael and Labour of bottling it on bankers’ pay. Deputy Doherty confronted the government in the Dáil today over whether they would deal with the high pay of senior bankers revealed by the Mercer Report last week and in the headlines about the Bank of Ireland's CEO’s pay yesterday. 

Deputy Doherty said;

“Four years ago to the week, Fine Gael and Labour accused Fianna Fáil of bottling it on bankers’ pay. When Brian Lenihan imposed a €500,000 cap on bankers in 2009, Fine Gael and Labour called for a cap of €250,000. Sinn Fein wanted this cap to be lower, but we supported the move to reduce it from €500,000.  

“After two years in government, not only have Fine Gael and Labour failed to reduce the cap on pay from €500,000 to €250,000, but we now know that senior bankers’ pay has in fact risen on their watch. Yesterday we discovered that Richie Boucher took home €843,000 in 2012, from a bank that received billions in taxpayers’ money.

“Today when I asked the government if there were any plans to legislate to reduce bankers pay I was bluntly told that, no, there is nothing planned. This government is bottling it on bankers’ pay. They have no hesitation in implementing a property tax or in cutting the pay of frontline workers. Yet every day delayed in tackling bankers’ pay, is a day when Richie Boucher takes home an extra €2,309.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the government is “complicit” in attacking the deposits of citizens in Cyprus.

Deputy Doherty said;

“As a member of the Eurogroup, Minister Noonan had the chance to say stop. Instead he joined with the bullies in pushing a plan on a small country which included a raid on deposits and a change in their corporation tax rates.

“This government is complicit in the Eurogroup decision to cross two lines. Firstly, they have set a precedent that deposits including those under €100,000 can be raided to bail out the banks. This decision will shake the banking system across Europe and cause great worry among depositors in Ireland.

“By agreeing to a plan which included a change in corporation rates in Cyprus the government has weakened its hand in protecting Ireland’s right to set our own corporation tax.

“The complicity of the government in agreeing to this blackmail of a small EU state is shameful. As importantly it is directly contrary to the interests of Ireland.

“How can Minister Noonan argue for a direct retrospective recapitalisation of our banks when we have agreed the Cypriots will get nothing from the ESM? How can we argue that our corporation tax is our business when we have agreed to Cyprus changing their rate as part of a deal?

“I am thankful that the Cypriot Parliament has thrown out the Eurogroup’s demands. Minister Noonan must now explain his role in that unfair demand and why he signed Ireland up to the principle that deposits are not safe and corporation rates are on the negotiating table.”

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has condemned Health Minister James Reilly for introducing a Bill to restrict medical card access for people over 70, despite having vociferously opposed change to the universal over 70s medical card when in opposition.

Speaking on the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Bill 2013, Deputy Ó Caoláin said it would remove the medical card from thousands of older citizens.

He said;

“You have to hand it to the Minister for Health James Reilly for sheer brass neck. Back in 2001/2002 he was head of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP section. He spoke publicly against the decision of the then Fianna Fáil/PD Government to extend the medical card without means test to people over 70. He then negotiated a hugely lucrative deal for GPs to provide care for these new over-70s medical card holders.

“Fast forward to 2008 when the Fianna Fáil/Green Government tried to row back on the universal over-70s medical card entitlement and met with a huge wave of opposition from older people.

“Deputy Reilly did not mince his words. He said the threat to withdraw the over-70s card was a ‘vicious attack’ and a ‘savage assault on the elderly’.

“When the Fianna Fáil/Green Government was forced to back down and introduced the present over-70s medical card scheme based on an income limit, Deputy Reilly said it was a ‘desperate climbdown’ but their ‘tinkering with income limits is nowhere near good enough’.

“In the Fine Gael-Labour Programme for Government we are told that Universal Primary Care will remove fees for GP care and will be introduced within this Government’s term of office. Minister Reilly promised that the first phase, the extension of free primary care to claimants of free drugs under the Long-Term Illness Scheme, would be in place in summer 2012. It wasn’t.

“And here we are today, 20 March 2013, and there is no bill to extend free primary care in any way. On the contrary we have this legislation, the Health (Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Bill 2013, which is designed to reduce the numbers of citizens entitled to free primary care under the medical card scheme.

“Again and again, in opposition, Deputy Reilly quite rightly pointed out that restricting access to primary care was penny wise and pound foolish because older people would suffer poorer health outcomes and require more hospital visits, in-patient care and residential nursing home care. Yet now, in the very same manner as his Fianna Fáil predecessors, he brings forward a Bill to restrict medical card access, a so-called savings measure that will adversely affect the health of our older citizens.”

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has accused Minister James Reilly of flooding the Oral Questions lottery in the Dáil in order to prevent opposition spokespeople from holding him to account.

Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed to the 91 questions tabled by Fine Gael Deputies 83 of which he said appeared to be drawn by a single hand.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Caoláin said;

“Of the 165 questions for oral answer in the Dáil today 91 were tabled in the name of Fine Gael Deputies. Of these, only eight appear to be genuinely constructed by the named deputy.

“The other 83 look as if they were drawn up by a single hand in a blatant attempt to flood the lottery resulting in five of the first six oral questions appearing in the names of Fine Gael Deputies and preventing opposition spokespeople from holding the Minister for Health to account.

“When the Minister took office he claimed that he would re-take responsibility for answering questions from the HSE in order to restore accountability in his office. Today’s actions show that he is resorting to shameful actions to avoid accountability.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has expressed disappointment at the upper limit for individual farm payments here being set at €150,000. He was responding to some further clarification of the moves towards an agreement on reform of the CAP.

Deputy Ferris said;

“I am disappointed that the Minister did not fight harder in favour of his own stated support for an upper limit of €100,000. There is really no justification for the large sums which a tiny percentage of individuals and companies receive in comparison to the small payments that go to a massive proportion of farmers both here and in other European countries.

“While there are several options still open to ensure a fairer distribution of payments to small to medium producers, I would hope that the concession on the payments limit does not signal a surrender by the Minister to the interests of larger beneficiaries.”

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Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD called on the Government to apologise Thalidomide survivors and introduce a statutory healthcare package and compensation package to meet their needs.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“In the Programme for Government produced over two years ago, a commitment was made to compensate Thalidomide survivors in Ireland. Over two years later they are still awaiting, in fact they have been waiting over 50 years for a proper and full acceptance of the State’s responsibility in allowing the administration of a poison to pregnant women in Ireland.
“In 1959, thalidomide began being sold and issued as a “safe and non-toxic drug without side-effects” and suitable as an effective treatment to prevent morning sickness nausea and sleeplessness during pregnancy and it was allowed remain on sale in 1961 when the State knew of the dangers which resulted in horrific consequences of this drug such as deformed limbs; malformation of hearts, bowels, uterus and gallbladder, short life spans, deafness, weakened facial muscles, and other countries had withdrawn that.
“The 32 survivors of Thalidomide are entitled to justice for what they have to go through daily. The state has a role in this. Indeed, the state due to their lack of action in 1961 when they were first aware of dangers, are partially responsible for the injuries sustained. I am calling on the government to issue the apology that is owed, alongside a statutory healthcare package to meet the needs of those with thalidomide disabilities and a structured compensation package should also be introduced.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has stated that through their failure to act and block Jim Allister's Special Advisors Bill the SDLP continue to undermine equality and the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking today Mr McKay said:

“The Special Advisors Bill brought forward by the TUV leader Jim Allister serves only one purpose – to discriminate against political ex-prisoners in employment.

“From the introduction of this Bill Sinn Féin have very clearly stated that the Bill is is politically motivated and runs contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and equality.

“Despite this the SDLP continue to support this Bill.

“The SDLP claim they are a party of equality.

“The have once again been exposed.

“The SDLP have failed to protect equality rejecting the MacBride Principles, they have failed to support Marriage Equality and now the have failed in supporting Jim Allister in legislating to discriminate against ex prisoners.

“We have already heard senior SDLP members saying they are not happy with the Bill following the failure of their amendments.

“If that is the case then there is only one option left for the SDLP and that is to block the Bill by signing a Petition of Concern. Will they do this or will they be exposed again in failing to protect equality and the Good Friday Agreement?”

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Martina Anderson MEP, met with representatives from the Lough Neagh Fishermen's Co-operative in Brussels to discuss their concerns over a new EU report on Eel management.

Martina Anderson said:

“I was impressed by the presentation by the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative in outlining their methods to ensure sustainable levels of eel stocks, which have been in place since the 1960s.

“The Co-Operative recognises that eel stocks are finite resources and have always acted accordingly and indeed going over and above what was required of them. They have implemented additional measures for sustainability in their own management plans beyond those required by legislation. Indeed, when the previous EU Regulation on eel stock management was introduced in 2007, there was very little impact on Lough Neagh Eel Fishery as a result of its own successful management methods already being implemented.

“The suggestion that all eel fisheries should be suspended if it is deemed that there is a certain level of concern across Europe is unfair to those, such as the Lough Neagh Fishermen's Co-operative, who strive to guarantee the sustainability of local eel stocking levels.

“For a responsible local industry which supports 300 families and generates £3 million for the local economy, it is absolutely essential that unfair and unnecessary rules and regulations do not irreparably damage a vital lifeline to local rural communities. I will continue to support the Lough Neagh Co-operative and other rural ventures at whatever level required in order to ensure the survival of rural enterprises.”

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