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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will be joined by his party’s 41 general election candidates at the National Gallery for the official launch of the party’s general election campaign tomorrow.

A photocall will take place with all the candidates at 11.30am followed by an address by Gerry Adams at 12noon.

Media should use the entrance at 5 South Leinster Street, extension of Nassau Street, opposite Lincoln Inn and Trinity College.

For more information or media enquiries contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.

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Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris has said that reversing budget cuts and abolishing the Universal Social Charge is the most effective way to help those struggling to pay mortgages.

He said new models needed to be investigated to tackle the mortgage payment problems of those on low and average incomes.

The Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson criticised Fine Gael’s proposals to increase mortgage interest relief for all first time buyers in 2004-2008 as ill-thought out and not based on fairness.

 Martin Ferris said:

 “The Government is so focused on bailing out the banks that real difficulties faced by ordinary people are being ignored.

“Job losses, wage cuts and tax hikes introduced by the government mean more and more people on low and middle incomes are struggling to meet mortgage repayments.

“The Fine Gael proposal to increase mortgage interest relief for all first time buyers in 2004-2008 is ill-thought out. Typical for that party it is not based on fairness. Not every single person who purchased between 2004-2008 is in negative equity.

“Reversing the budget cuts, including wage cuts and abolishing the universal social charge would be a far more effective way to help those struggling to meet mortgage repayments.  

“For Sinn Féin any proposal to tackle this issue has to be based on helping those who are most in need. Banks bear a huge responsibility for the position many on low and middle incomes find themselves in.  They lent buyers much more than they could afford to pay back. New models to assist those on low and average incomes who are in arrears or negative equity should be investigated.   

“This should include a system of recourse for those struggling to pay mortgages whose difficulties are primarily the result of reckless lending by financial institutions.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald has said Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party are all at fault for situation which sees Ireland’s economic sovereignty at risk from the EU.

Ms McDonald was speaking today as the EU piled the pressure on Ireland to accept a competitiveness pact to align economic policy across the EU.

Ms McDonald said:

“My party warned many times that the EU wanted control over Ireland’s economic policy but we were accused of raising red herrings during the various EU Treaty referenda.

“We specifically pointed out that the EU would go after our corporation tax rate.

“Now that the chickens are coming home to roost the blame lies fairly and squarely with all the pro Lisbon parties for the sell off of our economic sovereignty.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said the farcical debate about the election leaders’ debate was a ‘joke’ and underlines all that is wrong with Irish politics.

Ó Snodaigh said people would find it “sickening” that leading politicians are consumed with this rather than serious issues such as thousands of people losing jobs and thousands more being forced to emigrate.

He said nobody cared how many people Mícheál Martin wanted to debate with and that nobody cared what Enda Kenny thinks about Vincent Browne.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh:

“This debate about the various different leaders’ debates is a farce. Too many political leaders are concerned with the political circus. Nobody cares how many people Mícheál Martin wants to debate with. Nobody cares what Enda Kenny thinks of Vincent Browne. This is a complete joke.

“There are serious issues that need to be addressed by political leaders and quite frankly the electorate deserves better than to be subjected to this silly squabble. It underlines all that is wrong with Irish politics.

“The election debate needs to turn quickly to real issues that are impacting on peoples’ lives such as unemployment and emigration.

“It recently emerged that a woman found dead in Ballymun last year died of hypothermia because she had no heating, yet we have politicians arguing over who’s doing what debate and when. It’s an insult to people who have already been so badly served by the political elite.

“Sinn Féin supports fully inclusive leaders’ debates. The politics of exclusion is wrong and undemocratic. But politicians need to get on with the real business of trying to provide solutions to real problems.” ENDS

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Responding this evening to Mary Hanafin's proposal for a deputy leaders' debate,   Sinn Féin's Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald said that while she welcomed the call, she found it ludicrous that Ms. Hanafin would exclude   Sinn Féin from the proposal.The   Sinn Féin Deputy Leader said:
"I fully endorse the call for a deputy leaders' debate. However, it is an insult to the electorate to try and leave our party out of the discussion. In order that a fair and balanced debate takes place, it must include   Sinn Féin..  "This idea of having a closed debate among only three parties is not a runner because it is not an inclusive debate. It will not produce a frank or open discussion on the crucial issues of the day. The public want and deserve to hear all sides, all proposals."In order that the public get this, our party must be included. "I really look forward to an opportunity of putting Sinn Féin strong alternative message before the people. The electorate deserve a fair debate. And I am more than ready for it." ENDS

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Responding to the Labour Party proposal to increase the VAT rate by 1% Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor of Donegal and General Election candidate for Donegal North East Councillor Padraig MacLochlainn has said that the Labour Party are ‘all over the place’ and are changing policy to suit different interests every day.

Describing VAT as a ‘stealth tax which hits the least well off hardest Councillor MacLochlainn said that a further increase would not only disproportionately affect the least well-off in society but would also have a huge impact on consumer spending driving people across the border for shopping.

Councillor MacLochlainn said:

“The Labour Party are all over the place on tax, they are changing their policy to suit different interests every day. This proposal on VAT is clearly to suit their future coalition partners in Fine Gael.

“VAT is a stealth tax which impacts disproportionately on the least well off. It will also have a huge impact on consumer spending forcing people struggling to cope with rising prices across the border for shopping. As someone from a border county I know all too well the affects that this would have on small businesses on the border.

 “Sinn Féin has proposed a range of options for reform of the taxation system which do not place the burden on struggling families but instead make the wealthy pay their fair share.

“We have proposed a 1% wealth tax which would raise €1 billion per year; we have also proposed a new third rate of tax of 48% for those earning over €100,000 per year and until recently the Labour Party supported us in this proposal.

“If the Labour Party were truly a party of the left they would be looking at how to protect those on low and middle incomes and the unemployed. They would be concentrating on reforming the taxation system to make it fair. Instead they are choosing to propose VAT increases which they know will impact disproportionately on struggling people. They are choosing to fall into line with Fine Gael.

“The Labour Party need to make their minds up. The people want a real, fairer alternative. This is not it.” ENDS

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Following the announcement by Permanent TSB that it is increasing interest rates on fixed rate mortgages by 1%, Sinn Féin TD and Spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty  has contrasted the pressure on home owners with the bailout for banks.

 An increase of 1% on a €150,000 mortgage will mean that homeowners have to pay an extra €97.40 per month.

The past year has seen a steady rise in the numbers of households in mortgage arrears which now stands at over 40,000 amounting to almost  €8 billion.

Doherty said:

 “The current economic downturn exacerbated by the austerity policies of the FF/Green government which are promised to be continued by FG and Labour, has driven many families into mortgage difficulties.

“Given that many mortgages were given out at a time of inflated house prices and bad lending practises, and given the massive bail out for the banks, a radical new approach needs to be taken to mortgages.

“Given that a huge number of people are paying mortgages on homes that have fallen well below the value which they were when they bought them, options such as partial debt forgiveness and a re evaluation of mortgages for those who can not afford to pay them in full need to be looked at as one of the ways to address this growing problem.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD, has said that a request for tenders to provide an evaluation of the lands under its control proves that Coillte is preparing itself to be privatised.

The company issued a request for a tender for the ‘Evaluation of the Public Goods Value on the Coillte Forest Estate’ on January 31st. The request was placed on the website for public tenders. Coillte is seeking economists to provide an evaluation of the 445,000 hectares of forestry under its control.

Deputy Ferris said: “The fact that the lands under Coillte control have attracted the interest of possible private buyers has already been highlighted. Minister Lenihan has already told me in Dáil replies that large scale privatisation is one of the areas being examined as part of the IMF programme.

“We also know that prospective investors in state companies have met with government officials ahead of the imminent publication of the McCarthy report on state assets. The fact that Coillte has placed this tender to place a value on the lands under it’s control proves that privatisation is already a live option. Sinn Féin will strenuously oppose any such move by whoever is in power after the election.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has today called for the scrapping of the Universal Social Charge and its replacement with a higher tax band for people earning in excess of €100,000.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The universal social charge is basically a flat tax: everyone with an income above €16,000 pays it at the same rate of 7%. As such it breaches the fundamental principal of progressive taxation – that those who have more, should pay more.

“It is also the case that the Government has not conducted research into the impacts of this tax hike or the social welfare cuts on the families affected or on local retail.

“They have blindly pursued a policy that is pushing ever greater numbers into poverty and deflating the economy.

“Indigenous domestic business is absolutely vital for Irish employment and these will be hard hit by the Government’s deflationary policy. Indeed Retail Excellence Ireland has recently claimed that the USC was crippling consumers and putting off any hope of a recovery.

“The ESRI and the Central Bank have in recent weeks revised down their forecasts for 2011 reflecting the growing concern about the impact that the Governments harsh and deflationary budget will have on domestic consumption.

“The Fianna Fáil Government seemed determined to protect the tax exiles and the wealthy. Sinn Féin has proposed a wealth tax of 1% on assets of over €1 million and a 48% tax rate on individual incomes over €100,000.

“There is no evidence that either proposal was even considered by the government. Even the limited measures announced in the budget – ending the remaining section 23 property based tax reliefs – have been kicked to touch, with their implementation postponed pending an impact assessment by a government-appointed committee.

“Indeed it is interesting that the Government felt the need to carry out an impact assessment on the removal of section 23 property based tax reliefs but no impact assessment on how low and middle income earners and indeed small business would be affected by the Universal Social Charge.

“Sinn Féin wants the repeal of the Universal Social Charge. Any party wanting to form a government after the next election should introduce a new budget as its first priority and abolish this regressive tax.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and education spokesperson, John O’Dowd has offered his best wishes to all children applying for transfer from primary to post primary education.

Mr O’Dowd said:

“No school should select or reject any child based on the outdated procedure of academic selection. 

“All the children who sat the unregulated entrance tests deserve our support no matter what result they receive, as do those children who chose not to sit tests, their education is equal and as important as others.

“Each and every  pupil should have  have an enjoyable and engaging educational future to look forward to in their new schools.

“The myth that all ability schools will undermine academic excellence has been proven wrong by the very schools which insist on the sanctity of testing 10 and 11 year old children on the basis that they must preserve the ‘system’.

“ System  they themselves no longer adhere to, the 2010 Admission Grades accepted by grammar schools across the North show that the grade drift continued and that only a few grammar school restricted themselves to grade ‘A’s’. The majority of grammar schools accepted grades from A through to D.

Concluding Mr O' Dowd said: 

 “Parents rightly ask, why did grammar schools put children through the charade of testing when in fact they will accept all grades and none to fill their classrooms?

“That question once again will rebound in many homes as it becomes clear that the schools which insisted on testing, will accept all and any to keep up their school numbers.

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Sinn Féin Policing Board member Alex Maskey has said that a Police Ombudsman inquiry  into last night’s shooting in East Belfast is no substitute for a proper criminal investigation into the circumstances which has resulted in a young man’s death.

Mr Maskey said:

“Last night’s incident was obviously a tragedy for all involved. The involvement of an off duty member of the PSNI in the shooting obviously means that the Police Ombudsman will be launching an inquiry.

“However a young man has been killed. This alone demands the need for a rigorous criminal investigation to be carried out to establish whether charges should be brought. Being a police officer does not make you above the law.

“I have spoken to the PSNI this morning and made it clear to them the need to launch a proper rigorous criminal investigation into this matter. Waiting on the Ombudsman to report will simply not suffice in these circumstances.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin has accused Labour of attempting to portray itself as being radically opposed to the IMF bailout while intent on entering government to implement it.

“While we welcome Labour adopting our position on pushing back the deadline for reducing the deficit, and its criticism of the IMF being brought in, Labour needs to follow the logic of this and come out and join Sinn Féin and others in saying that they would refuse to implement the IMF austerity programme if in power.

“During a conference on December 17 Chopra stated that Labour had accepted the basic parameters of the IMF bailout. That will not only include massive cuts in order to pay for the bank debt but will also include privatisation of state assets. He also ruled out any renegotiation of the IMF loan. Nor has there been any indication from the EU that they are willing to renegotiate the interest on their loan. Privatisation would also lead to large-scale job losses and damage public services.

“What exactly will Labour renegotiate?

“Labour have said that they will oppose privatisation while Fine Gael have indicated that they will look at the option of selling off state companies in whole or in part.

“Given that Brian Lenihan has admitted that the IMF has already met with Irish government officials to discuss the privatisation of state assets, and that this would be a live option as part of the IMF programme (Dáil PQ replies 231, 234, 235, January 12), any new government will have to make its position clear on this before it takes office.

“Sinn Féin is totally opposed to a fire sale of viable and valuable state assets as part of its principled and total opposition to the IMF/EU bailout.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for west Belfast Sue Ramsey, who sits on the Assembly’s Employment and Learning Committee, has welcomed this evening’s announcement by Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew.

Speaking tonight Sue said;

“The move by Michelle means that fees for students attending Agricultural Colleges will not rise with the rate of inflation this year and that she has broken parity with the Department of Employment and Learning. Further to that she has stated that irrespective of whatever policy proposals are brought forward by the DEL Minister Danny Kennedy, if they include increases to student fees, she will not agree to their implementation in these colleges.

I have no doubt that those students attending Agricultural Colleges and their families, will welcome this initiative by the Minister.

Sinn Féin remains opposed to student fees and the onus remains firmly on Danny Kennedy to ensure that he does not allow his partners in the British Tory Party to punish our young people who are entitled to a first class education system.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA for north Belfast Gerry Kelly has condemned those responsible for both of today’s bomb scares in his constituency.

Speaking this evening he said;

“This morning’s alert was caused by a viable device being left on the window sil of a house in Stratheden Street in the New Lodge and this evening’s alert was caused by a device left in a communal corridor in a communal block of flats at Cavehill Road.

On both occasions these devices were found by members of the public. In both instances there were no warnings given despite these being viable devices.

The reality we are dealing with is that people in our community could have lost their lives as a result of these reckless actions.

I condemn it outright and people in north Belfast reject those responsible totally.

The people carrying out these mindless actions need to stop now before someone is killed.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff MLA, who chairs the Assembly’s Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, commented this afternoon;

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the Minister for Culture Nelson Mc Causland is pushing forward ‘pet projects’ favoured by himself to advance a Unionist agenda.

Examples which highlight this agenda were discussed today at the weekly meeting of the Statutory Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure at Stormont.

Just one example is Minister Mc Causland’s refusal to include the Famine within the Department’s developing Commemoration Strategy and his personal fixation with the Plantation of Ulster and with the 1912-22 period with his particular emphasis on the Ulster Covenant, the Titanic and other pet projects.

Sinn Féin is currently taking legal advice on the appropriateness of taking shortcuts in respect of the Cultural Awareness Strategy Consultation.” CRÍOCH

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Minister Catriona Ruane MLA (South Down) will accompany the Loughinisland families, their legal team represented by Niall Murphy, Mark Thompson of RFJ and Paul O'Connor of the PFC to meet with the Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson tomorrow.

Speaking in advance of the meeting Caitríona Ruane said:
"I will be supporting the families in expressing their deep concern about the long delay in the publication of the report into the massacre in Loughinisland. It has been a very long and difficult time for the families who are frustrated and angry at the delays.

"The Loughlinisland Families have conducted themselves with dignified patience throughout the years since their loved ones were so brutally murdered. They deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and I believe that they are entitled to know the findings of this report withoput any further delay. I will be expressing these feelings to the Ombudsman when we meet tomorrow.

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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Caral Ní Chúilín has criticised the three month sentence imposed on a young mother today.

Ms. Ní Chúilín said:

"I was outraged at both the sentence imposed by the Judge and his attempt to rationalise it today. Courts must always act in the public interest in a proportionate and reasonable manner. This sentence was neither proportionate, reasonable or in the public interest.

"While we have been rightly critical of overly lenient sentencing for serious criminals in the past we also have a duty to criticise the actions of the judiciary when they are seen to be unacceptably harsh for minor offences that could be addresed through non-custodial alternatives. From all reports the Judge did not take account of a pre-sentence report that this woman was unlikely to re-offend or the affect this sentence would have on her young child. He failed to consider alternatives to custody.

"The Assembly is presently considering a new justice bill and Sinn Féin is putting forward proposals for alternatives to prosecution for many non-violent offences.

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Sinn Féin north Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has called on those responsible for this morning’s bomb alert in the New Lodge to come forward and explain their actions to the community.

Speaking after visiting the scene of the alert Carál, who lives in the area, said;

“This morning we have had yet more misery inflicted upon the community in north Belfast and to what end?

What is the point in this and why are those responsible, if they are confident in their actions, stepping forward to, at the very least, try and give a rationale for what they are doing?

Its time these things stopped, the community in the New Lodge don’t want it.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald will launch a 10 Point Plan on Job Creation at Leinster House tomorrow 10.30am.

Ms McDonald will be joined by fellow election candidates Kathryn Reilly (Cavan/Monaghan), Peadar Toibín (Meath West) and John Brady (Wicklow).

There will be a mobile billboard at the location to illustrate Sinn Féin’s proposals.

For more information contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.

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Ag labhairt do i ndiaidh cruinniú míosúil de Comhairle Cathrach Bhéal Feirste dúirt Comhairleoir Caoimhín Mac Giolla Mhín;

“Ní cuirfidh sé iontas ar bith ar roinnt mhaith daoine go bhfuil an frith-Ghaelachas beo, bríomhar i measc sluaite sa DUP.

I Halla na Cathrach aréir mhol mise rún ó Shinn Féin maidir le dréacht-comhairliúcháin an Roinn Forbartha Réigiúnaí ar Comharthaíocht dhá-theangach agus chomh luath is a thosaigh mé a’ labhairt bhí roinnt chomhairleoirí ón DUP ag screadaí, casacht agus ag béicigh leo.

Bhí sé ar nós Halla na Cathrach sna 1980í.

Bheadh sé go maith acu siúd iarraidh cleachtaithe le húsáid na Gaeilge i Halla na Cathrach mar níl mise na pobail labhartha na Gaeilge ag dul áit ar bith.

Tá sé in am do na Comhairleoirí frith-Ghaelach sin i Halla na Cathrach glac sampla á gcomhghleacaithe sa Tionól agus giota béasaí a fhoghlaim nuair atá daoine ag labhairt a dteanga dúchais.” CRÍOCH

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