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A Fair Recovery Is Possible

Sinn Féin has launched a state wide campaign for a Fair Recovery. The campaign will involve a series of public meetings and the distribution of close to one million leaflets door to door.

This campaign is about setting out some of Sinn Féin’s priorities and to start a debate about the future, about what type of country and society we want to live in, about equality, and the type of recovery we want.

Visit our special web section A Fair Recovery Is Possible here

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Some sights and sounds from the Annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare on June 21, 2015. Main speaker Sinn Féin deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD. During the course of her speech she talked about the need for a fair economic recovery north and south; demanded the British to come clean about collusion; and expressed solidarity with the people of Greece.


Martin McGuinness speaking at Stormont said that Sinn Féin's conditional support for the budget bill will create the space to resolve outstanding issues and ensure the executive has workable and sustainable finances and see the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has claimed that planned health service reforms contained in the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill will leave Minister James Reilly with increased sweeping powers and accountable to no-one.

Speaking in the Dáil debate on the Bill, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“This Bill may increase accountability to, and the powers and responsibilities of, the Minister. But is this particular Minister worthy of such responsibilities? And will it make the Minister more accountable to the Dáil and to the people? I regret that the answer to both questions is ‘No’.
“We cannot expect real, progressive reform from a Minister that tells young graduate nurses that they can accept his yellow pack contracts or else emigrate or work in fast food outlets, nor from a Minister who has gone to extraordinary lengths to dodge questions on primary care centre selection and capital projects funding.
“This Minister, like his predecessor Mary Harney, hides behind the HSE when it suits and pushes the HSE aside when it suits.
“We are all for more accountability from the HSE. But what about the accountability of the Minister to the people and to the Oireachtas?
“The resignation firstly of former HSE CEO Cathal Magee and then of Minister of State Roisín Shortall exposed the deep dysfunction at the very top of our public health services. The problem is, I believe, three-fold. There is the unsuitability of this Minister for office; there is the fundamentally flawed policy approach of this Government; and there is the unreformed structure of the HSE and the health services.” ENDS

HSE Governance Bill 2012 –2ndStage – 30.1.13
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson
This Bill is supposedly another step in the Government’s Health reform programme. People have quite rightly grown wary of the word ‘reform’ in the mouths of this Government, and especially from this Minister.
What we are getting is the rhetoric of reform but the reality of regression and retrenchment.
When the HSE was established we in Sinn Féin said it represented bureaucratic change rather than real reform. It was not the replacement of the inequitable and inefficient two-tier system with a truly equitable and efficient universal system based on need alone.
Like the legislation establishing the HSE, this Bill represents more bureaucratic change. It may perhaps deliver a more stream-lined bureaucracy but nothing more.
The Bill may increase accountability to, and the powers and responsibilities of, the Minister. But is this particular Minister worthy of such responsibilities? And will it make the Minister more accountable to the Dáil and to the people? I regret that the answer to both questions is ‘No’.
We cannot expect real, progressive reform from a Minister that tells young graduate nurses that they can accept his yellow pack contracts or else emigrate or work in fast food outlets. The Minister has not withdrawn that remark nor has he been repudiated by any of his Cabinet colleagues. Perhaps they are waiting for a nod and a wink approval for capital projects in their constituencies.
We had a taste of so-called accountability here yesterday in the Topical Issues debate. This is very relevant to the Bill before us because it is about the relationship between the HSE and the Minister.
This Minister, like his predecessor Mary Harney, hides behind the HSE when it suits and pushes the HSE aside when it suits.
He hid behind the HSE when it made the announcement last August of a further €130 million in health spending cuts – cuts for which he and his Government colleagues were directly responsible, including the cuts to personal assistance for people with disabilities which they were embarrassed into reversing by disabled people camping outside Government Buildings.
The Minister pushed the HSE aside when he fast-tracked hospital capital projects at the behest of his Cabinet colleagues Ministers Howlin and Hogan.
The Explanatory Memorandum for this Bill claims it is essential that the HSE is properly accountable to the Minister for its performance. We are all for more accountability from the HSE. But what about the accountability of the Minister to the people and to the Oireachtas?
Minister Reilly yesterday was asked repeatedly about the way the decision was made on the capital projects in Wexford and Kilkenny. He doggedly refused to answer.
He refused to account for the fact that the Ministers in these constituencies, Deputies Phil Hogan and Brendan Howlin, announced the commencement of the hospital projects before the HSE Board met or before the Board was even aware that these projects were going to leap-frog others.
Minister Reilly simply ignored my question about what contact he had with his two Cabinet cronies before they so confidently made their announcements. It may be a case of ‘if there’s no written record it didn’t happen’.
I hold no brief for the HSE and its current structures – quite the opposite in fact. It is top heavy and over-bureaucratic.
The passing of the HSE Board under this legislation will be lamented by few and I will not be opposing its abolition.
But the hospitals controversy does raise an important question. It came to light because journalists were able to obtain minutes of the Board meetings under the Freedom of Information Act. Will there be the same transparency and accountability under the new Directorate appointed by the Minister?
Section 12 of the Bill gives the Minister increased powers to amend the HSE service plans. In principle that is not objectionable but we have no confidence in how it will be used in the hands of this Minister and this Government.
The issue is not the procedure for formulating the Plan; what is important is its content and the strategy and policy that guide it. In the case of this Government it is the fundamentally wrong economic strategy of austerity and the fatally flawed health policy of Fine Gael, which clearly holds the whip hand as far as health is concerned in this Coalition.
On 10 January the Minister approved the HSE’s National Service Plan, a plan I have described as a plan for slashing services.
The plan implements the savage cuts to public health services imposed by the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition in Budget 2013.
Of the total of €721 million in cuts in this plan a massive €323 million is cut from primary care. This makes a mockery of the Government’s so-called reform programme with primary care trumpeted at its centre.
Minister Reilly has signed off on a plan that will deprive some 40,000 people of medical cards in 2013 and many more thereafter as the income criteria for receiving a medical card are changed. This is a further attack on people on low incomes.
It is scandalous that the plan imposes a cut to disability services (1.2%) which is four times what was expected by the sector (.3%). This will severely affect disability services that are already reeling from cuts in previous years.
The plan also implements the increase in the medical card prescription charges and the reduction in the monthly subsidy for medicines under the Drugs Payment Scheme.
This plan will deepen the staffing crisis in our public health services. The plan itself admits that given the level of staff reductions in recent years and 4,000 more staff due to be cut this year, planning for services is ‘particularly difficult in 2013’. This is an understatement and the staff crisis will be compounded by the Government decision to attempt to introduce a cheap labour scheme for nurses which has been rejected by the nursing unions and by the overwhelming body of newly qualified nurses.
It almost beggars belief that the Minister is actually proposing to extend this yellow pack scheme to other professions within the public health services even though the scheme is so grossly unfair and is a hopeless failure from the Minister’s point of view as the boycott by the nursing union is being widely adhered to.
I call on the Minister once again to withdraw this totally unacceptable scheme and to sit down at the table with the nursing unions. They have proposed alternative ideas for savings which would respect the existing salary scales for all nurses/midwives.
Compare the slashed salaries that Minister Reilly expects graduate nurses to work for with the salaries at the top of the HSE.
This Bill will not address excessive salaries at the top heavy upper and middle management of the HSE.
There are 129 managers and administrators in the HSE receiving salaries of over €100,000 per annum. That is obscene when, for example, already inadequate home help hours and homecare packages for our older citizens have again been cut this winter.
Bureaucratic change, as in this Bill, is meaningless without real policy change and also a change in the culture of privilege at the top.
The resignation firstly of former HSE CEO Cathal Magee and then of Minister of State Roisín Shortall exposed the deep dysfunction at the very top of our public health services. The problem is, I believe, three-fold. There is the unsuitability of this Minister for office; there is the fundamentally flawed policy approach of this Government; and there is the unreformed structure of the HSE and the health services.
Last year marked the centenary of the Titanic sinking and this 2012 Bill, in the context of the crisis in our public health services, is rearranging the deck chairs.
The public health services are now struggling from day to day. Even before the €721 million cuts in Budget 2013 they were reeling from the cuts of €130 million last August, on top of the €750 million cut in Budget 2012 and the billion in 2011.
Last week in the Health Committee we heard nurses describe the reality of reduced service and increased risk in hospitals as a result of short-staffing. The recruitment ban, together with the further restrictions on overtime and the hiring of agency staff, are having a dire effect.
The increased flexibility and potential productivity from consultants achieved in talks last year were welcome but could be scuppered by the other cuts. If there are not sufficient nurses and other staff, not sufficient theatre time available and not sufficient in-patient beds open, many consultants will simply not be able to provide the extra treatments, operations and procedures required of them.
I want to return again to the lack of transparency and lack of accountability from this Minister. This is central to the issue of governance addressed in this Bill.
I raised a Topical Issue last week on the failure of the Minister to fill 64 vacancies on nine boards under his remit, including the Food Safety Authority. In the case of that Authority, 25 people applied under the new open procedures for a position on its board. The Minister continues to hold off on appointments despite our being reliably told the overwhelming number of those applicants are suitably qualified and eminent to take on any position of responsibility required by the board.
All this raises questions about the future of the various authorities and boards, as well as undermining public access to the appointment system. But the Minister refuses to address these concerns.
Minister of State Kathleen Lynch was sent in here by Minister Reilly to reply to us and she was clearly embarrassed. She admitted she did not think the reply she was given shone any light on the question raised.So much for accountability.
Finally, I want to mention a very important issued raised by Mental Health Reform regarding this Bill.
While welcoming the Government’s intention to improve the accountability of the HSE through the Bill, Mental Health Reform states that the current draft does not ensure that a Director for Mental Health who has the competence to drive implementation of the Government’s mental health policy will be appointed.
Mental Health Reform is concerned that the Bill limits the recruitment of the new Directors of the HSE to those who already hold the position of National Director within the HSE.
Mental Health Reform believes that it is vital to have the opportunity to appoint the best person for the job, whether that person be internal or external to the HSE. The new Director for Mental Health must have a proven track record of leading change in mental health services and competency in the recovery ethos that underpins A Vision for Change.
This is extremely important and I urge the Government to bring forward amendments to rectify this matter or to support Opposition amendments which will seek to do so. ENDS

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Speaking at the publication of the latest live register figures Peadar Tóibín, Sinn Féin spokesperson on jobs, enterprise and innovation said:
“The latest live register figures show no change in the headline rates of unemployment and increasing long term unemployment, this despite emigration clearing whole swathes of Ireland of our young people. Government policy is betraying our people, our businesses and our economy.
“An Taoiseach claims that job creation is the number one priority of government, yet his ministers have failed to deliver. Questions must be raised about the ability of ministers in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to meet this, the primary challenge facing the country.
“The promotion of small indigenous business which makes up the backbone of the domestic economy is in chaos.
“Sinn Féin has produced a plan that would create 156,000 jobs for an investment of €13 billion. The plan involves funds which that are the disposal of the state and is based at resolving infrastructural and competitiveness gaps. It requires political leadership and investment to reflect the scale of the crisis we face.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on youth affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly has said that “investment by government is urgently needed to tackle the growing youth unemployment crisis”.
The call comes after the CSO released new figures showing that the number of young people on the live register has risen.

Senator Reilly said:
“The CSO figures released today show that the number of young people on the live register has risen from December to January by 1,420. There are now a staggering 68, 944 young people signing on.
“This figure does not include the many thousands who have emigrated in recent months.
“In recent weeks we have heard the Taoiseach and Tániste talk a lot about a youth employment guarantee.
“Young people do not need words. They need the government to invest in job creation. They need the government to help them find work and create work.
“Unfortunately despite all the fine talk the government seems to be incapable of offering any meaningful solutions to the crisis of youth unemployment.
“Rather they are implementing savage cuts in public spending which will create more unemployment. They are also restricting access for many young people to education through budget cuts.
“We need a government that is prepared to invest in jobs, training and education not cut them to the bone.”
ENDS

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Sinn Féin is to launch its submission on the future of the Moore St. National Monument to the Dublin City Council Moore St. Advisory Committee.

The launch by Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD, Heritage spokesperson Sandra McLellan TD and Dublin City Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha (a member of the Advisory Committee) will take place outside 16 Moore St. at 2pm on Thursday 31 January.

In its submission, Sinn Féin argues for the preservation in full of the National Monument 14-17 Moore St. and of the surrounding buildings and streetscape. It opposes the plan of Chartered Land to encroach on the National Monument and demolish much of Moore St, and of the historic 1916 battlefield site.

Sinn Féin calls on Minister Jimmy Deenihan to refuse permission to Chartered Land to carry out its plan and, instead, for the Minister to enter dialogue with all stake-holders to ensure the preservation of this historic quarter of the city and its appropriate development as a key part of our civic and national heritage.

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Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay, Finance Committee Chair has said that transferring fuel duty powers to the Executive and adopting a policy in keeping with the local economy could save the North millions of pounds a year that could be put towards a fuel duty reduction.

The North Antrim MLA said:

“There is an estimated loss of revenue of between £150-£260million to the Executive because of the two different fuel duty regimes on the island of Ireland according to revenue and customs.


“Fuel duty raises approximately £1billion a year in the North which goes directly to the British Treasury. Transferring fuel duty powers to the Executive would bring the ability to vary the levy rather than have it imposed on us from Whitehall.

“Some estimates put the initial cost of reducing fuel duty by one pence to be £17.5million. This makes it clear that if the Executive had powers to set fuel levies we could set the level at a competitive rate with that in the South and thereby eliminate the differential along the border and actually increase revenue.

"It would also assist in tackling fuel smuggling and laundering. We could make the policy relevant to the North, which revenue mandarins in Britain can’t do. Lower fuel prices would mean lower transport costs which would have a knock-on effect on retail prices for goods and services and help thousands of commuters and families across the north.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment, community & local government Brian Stanley TD is demanding that Minister Hogan extend the registration deadline for septic tanks.

Stanley said;

“The deadline for registration of septic tanks is this Friday, 1st of February. Registration comes at a cost of €50. Sinn Féin believes this fee should be waived and the deadline extended until March 31st. This would ensure full compliance and will save the exchequer from further fines being imposed by the EU.

“It was years of inactivity by consecutive governments which led us to the current crisis. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had ample time over the years to comply with the EU Directive on waste water. But instead they choose to bury their heads in the sand and now it is the householder who has to pay the price.

“Sinn Féin fully agrees that we in Ireland must protect ground water and comply with EU directive. The upgrading of septic tanks to meet these standards should be fully funded by the exchequer. Residents in towns and cities did not have to pay extra charges to have waste water treatment plants upgraded so it would be unfair to expect households in rural Ireland to have to pay for this upgrading.

“While welcoming the recent announcement that grants are available, they are wholly inadequate. These grants are denied to those households who fail to register. It is only common sense to extend the deadline, waive the fee and make grants fully available for upgrading. This makes both financial and environmental sense.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Tierna Cunningham has slammed those responsible for targeting a community centre with a pipe bomb yesterday.

The Sinn Féin councillor for the area and Deputy Mayor of Belfast said:

“Why anyone would want to target the Greater Whitewell Community Surgery is beyond belief.

“The community centre was obviously affected and local residents had to leave their homes while the device was dealt with.

“No doubt whoever was behind this will not be stepping forward to explain their actions as they know the community is disgusted with it.

“Whatever gang or group was behind it need to understand that this community is for moving forward and nothing they can do will stop them.”

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Sinn Féin Welfare Spokesperson Mickey Brady MLA has said that it is unfortunate that the ad hoc committee report into the Welfare Reform Bill did not truly reflect the evidence presented to it.

 Mr. Brady stated,

 “Sinn Féin campaigned for the ad-hoc committee to be set up due to our concerns on how the equality and human rights implications of the Welfare Reform Bill would impact on the most vulnerable.

 “During the sitting of the committee we heard evidence from many groups representing a broad section of society.  These groups included The Council for Ethnic Minorities, Disability Action, Mencap, mental health charity NIAMH, the Commissioner for Children and Young People and the Welfare Reform Group, to name a few.

 “Each and every one of these groups highlighted issues that impacted on the equality and human rights of the people they represented and raised serious questions about the legality of this bill.

 “The report presented to the Assembly did not reflect these opinions in a strong enough manner for Sinn Féin to support.  We are determined to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected from this draconian bill, which is more an attack on the poor than British Tory claims that it’s tackling the causes of poverty.

 “We will continue to oppose this bill until we are satisfied that the changes that are made will ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable people are protected.”

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 Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Oliver McMullan MLA has welcomed the beginning of a trial aimed at eradicating Bovine Tuberculosis from the cattle and badger population.

Mr. McMullan said,

“I welcome the progressive approach taken by the Minister of Agriculture Michelle O’Neill in not only protecting the cattle population from Bovine TB but also ensuring that healthy badgers are not unnecessarily killed.

“There have been many opinions about how we deal with this problem but many sectors have shown support for this scheme as it environmentally and animal friendly.

“In removing the scourge of Bovine TB in order to protect our cattle it is also important the we protect the native species on this island, including badgers.

“This trial which will remove and vaccinate or remove infected badgers will take place in a 100km square area between Rathfriland and Banbridge and allow the Department to gauge how practical this approach is in eradicating Bovine TB from Ireland.”

Videos

Sights and sounds from Bodenstown 2015


Photos

Gerry Adams