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Sinn Féin’s team in the Assembly, including Ministers, MLA’s and party support staff will join thousands of citizens across Ireland in marking the beginning of “Rith 2010”.

Rith 2010 will kick off in Belfast tomorrow evening and continue across Ireland throughout Seachtain na Gaeilge, finishing in Galway on Saint Patricks Day.

Sinn Féin Ministers and MLA’s across the North have already been supporting the initiative in purchasing kilometres along the route, in order to help fund and develop Irish language projects across Ireland.

The Sinn Féin Assembly Team have organised tomorrow’s event to coincide with the main Rith and encourage others to come out and take part in what will no doubt be a fun event around the Stormont Estate.

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Beidh foireann Sinn Féin sa Tionól, Airí, CTR agus foireann tacaíochta ina measc ag marcáil tús "Rith 2010" ag Cnoc an Anfa amárach.

Beidh Rith 2010 ag toiseacht amárach i mBéal Feirste, ag leanúint ar aghaidh i rith Sheachtain na Gaeilge, agus ag críochnú i nGaillimh ar Lá Fhéile Pádraig.

Tá Airí agus CTR Shinn Féin ar fud an Tuaiscirt ag tacú leis an tionscnamh cheana féin trí chiliméadair a cheannach, agus iad ag léiriú a gcuid tacaíochta d’fhorbairt tionscadail Ghaeilge uile-Éireann.

Foireann Tionól Sinn Féin a d’eagraigh an lá amárach mar chomhtharlú leis an phríomh-Rith chun daoine eile a spreagadh le teacht amach agus páirt a ghlacadh san ócáid spraíúil ar fud an Eastáit Stormont.

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will speak in Strasbourg today on a report she authored on the non-commercial movement of pets. This legislative text is the first modified regulation coming to the plenary, falling under the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty

The report allows Ireland, Britain, and three other member states, to continue to apply more stringent regulations regarding the non commercial movement of domestic animals for the next 18 months, while ensuring that pet owners can continue to travel across EU borders with their pets. This will allow those countries in which rabies is not present to keep their animals protected.

Ms de Brún said "The proposed modified regulation acknowledges the progress made so far and in order to ensure that the rabies situation in the EU improves even further, it extends the life of a transitional regime in five Member states until 31st December 2011, at which time provisions on the non commercial movement of pets will be the same across the EU.

"The end of the proposed extension coincides better with the period when the European Commission expects to terminate EU funding of vaccination programmes to eradicate sylvatic rabies in some Member States, which is the main rabies problem in the EU."

This report, which has been agreed on its first reading, is the first report of its kind to go through under the new scrutiny procedures allowed for by the Lisbon treaty.

Led by Ms de Brún, all three institutions, including groups across the political spectrum in the European Parliament, were able to agree how these new powers would be implemented on this report.

The report will be voted on tomorrow.

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A half a million citizens unemployed. Social welfare payments cut. Wages cut. Health and Education in crisis. Families facing eviction. Mass emigration back again. Parts of the country under water. In other parts the drinking water is unsafe. Billions of taxpayers money gifted to a dysfunctional, toxic banking system.

Widespread anger, rage even, at the government parties. And a sense of hopelessness and disbelief.

It would be easy for me to stand up here and to rail against the government – to become Mr. Angry for a half an hour. But that is not enough.

Most people know how bad this government is. They elected it. Which is why there is such a sense of betrayal. Most people also know that the policies of a Fine Gael led government would be no different from this one.

The Irish people deserve better.

Everyone who lives on this island has the right to a home; to a safe environment; to access to education and child-care; to civil and religious liberty; and to meaningful work with proper terms and conditions. Everyone has the right to health care.

Everybody has the right to equality, and to respect and dignity.

This is the essence of republicanism. It is the essence of citizenship.

Is any of this reflected in today’s Ireland? The answer to that is no.

Sinn Féin believes in a genuine republic. Not a nominal dictionary republic, but one in which the people are truly sovereign.

I gceann cúpla seachtain beidh muid ag ceiliúradh agus cuimhní ar na haislingigh a chuaigh amach le linn Seachtain na Cásca.

D’ardaigh said brat na hÉireann os cionn Oifig an Phoist anseo i mBaile Átha Cliath. Is maith is eol dúinn go raibh fís ag na fir agus na mná seo. Bhí sé de rún acu deireadh a chur le riail na Breataine sa tír seo agus tír iomlán nua a thógáil anseo.

Bhí fís acu don Phoblacht Nua le saoirse ag croílár an chlár rialtais réabhlóideach s’acu.

An aithneodh siad an stát seo mar bhuaic na haislinge sin? Ní dóigh liom é.

The Proclamation of the Republic asserts the need to cherish all the children of the nation equally. It doesn’t say 26 counties of the nation. It speaks of ALL the nation and ALL its parts. All 32 counties.

The Proclamation speaks to ALL the children of the Nation. It doesn’t say – unless you are poor or elderly. Or unless you have autism; or learning difficulties; or disabilities. Or unless you come from a remote rural area. Or from Moyross or Sheriff Street; or Strabane or Ballymena.

It doesn’t say unless you are a child in the care of the state. The protection of children is a fundamental human right. The protection of children is the responsibility of all of us and it should be guaranteed in the constitution

The establishment parties, like us, know that republicanism is in many ways the conscience of the Irish people. Little wonder that they wrap themselves in republican rhetoric while avoiding any genuine examination of the real meaning of republicanism.

Which brings us to the hard question. How can society be changed? How can a real republic be achieved?

The answer to that starts in the heart. It is a belief in people. That is the starting point. And what starts in the heart has to move to the head. It is not enough to wax lyrical about peoples’ rights.

We have to stand up for these rights.

The people of Ireland have yet to realise our destiny as a nation. We have yet to complete our journey.

This summer marks the 40th Anniversary of the IRA appearing on the streets of Belfast when Republicans joined with the people of the Ballymaccarett in the defence of St. Matthews chapel and An Trá Ghearr.

That single act of resistance. This stand against the Orange State marked the beginning of a journey for many activists. That journey has seen struggle and strategies played out on the streets, in the jails and round the negotiating table.

During this time Irish society has changed in many fundamental ways

Imagine what can be achieved now in these more peaceful times with the leveling of the political playing field and in a climate were the phony republicanism of the establishment is being laid bare.

So, we have to build on all that is good in our society. We have to recognise all our heroes and heroines; all the carers and health workers; all the active citizens in the community and the voluntary sector, people involved in sports, the arts and music; all those citizens who create hope in place of misery, and common purpose in place of mé féinism and selfishness.

The key to building the new republic, democratically shaped by the people, is to start now. We have to embrace our strengths. Our language. Our unique culture. Our history.

And all of us who believe in a better way, in a just society, in a real republic; we need to make our beliefs relevant to more and more people. We need to be about empowerment. We need to raise our voices. We need to make a stand.

If ever Ireland needed leadership it needs it now. Leaders from throughout our communities. Leaders who will make a stand.

We need leaders who will give voice on the ground and from the ground up, to the belief they have in their hearts, so that hope and networks for change can be built.

We need leaders to ensure that no banker will evict a family from their home.

That no farm of land will be sold off over a family’s head.

That no worker will be victimised.

We need leaders to ensure that no community will be robbed of its social entitlements.

But let me be clear about this. I am not talking about leaders coming down to us from on high. I am talking about everyone who is prepared to stand against corruption, greed and injustice.

Every woman, every man, every citizen who makes such a stand is a leader.

Every little act of resistance, of rebellion, of protest, makes change possible.

Most struggles aren’t won by single actions. Or by iconic leaders. Though they have their role.

They are won by people, taking individual actions, which accumulate into irreversible change.

It was true of the suffragettes. It was true of the anti-apartheid movement. It was true when Rosa Parks wouldn’t give up her seat and it is true here in Ireland.

When the Celtic Tiger economy was at its height, and when the surplus of wealth was the greatest in the history of this state, the establishment refused to distribute the wealth in the common good and to secure the future.

They would not nationalise the wealth.

But now they are happy to nationalise the debt.

There is talk of a Cabinet reshuffle. This government doesn’t need a reshuffle. This government needs to go.

Do they really think the people are amadáns. Do they really expect the people to foot the bill for the bankers, the developers and their political cronies?

The people need to send them a message. The people need to tell them to get lost.

Don’t wait until the next election. Make a stand now. Be a leader. Don’t wait for anyone else.

That’s the main thing, to stand up for ourselves. And for others. That is what happened throughout our history.

In our homes. On the streets. On lonely hillsides. By glensides. In the prisons.

This is what happened in the history of human kind. It’s what is happening across the globe.

Representatives from many of these struggles are with us tonight.

Cead mile Failte romhaibh to all of our visitors.

Especially, to our friends from the Basque country; from the USA and Canada; from Cuba; from South Africa and from Palestine. All these struggles show the enduring power of the human spirit in the search for freedom and justice.

Change is possible, if we really want it. And those of us who care about the world; who care about Ireland; those of us who believe in the people of this island, we have no choice but to make a stand, particularly for those citizens who cannot at this time stand up for themselves.

Sinn Féin is opposed to this government because it’s not fair and because its policies are unsustainable.

But we are also opposed to them because there is an alternative that will work.

Sinn Féin has produced thoughtful, costed and effective policies to chart a course beyond this recession.

Sinn Féin has set out how we would do this through a major €3.2 billion stimulus package.

- We would establish a jobs retention fund for small and medium businesses.

- We would set up a youth jobs fund to create 20,000 jobs.

- We would use the public sector to kickstart the economy

- We would include a social clause in public contracts for hiring of a set number of apprentices, young unemployed and long term unemployed, as has been done in the north by the Sinn Féin Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy.

- We would reclaim Brand Ireland and introduce an aggressive all-Ireland export strategy.

All of this is possible. Jobs can be protected. Jobs can be created. Frontline public services can be sustained and developed if public finance is raised in a fair way. This means real social solidarity. This means uniting public and private sector workers, not dividing them.

Among our proposals are:
• a third rate of tax for those earning more than €100,000 a year;
• a solidarity tax of 1% on all assets worth more than €1 million, excluding farm land;
• and an end to the hundreds of unfair tax reliefs which this government refuses to get rid of.

The biggest scandal of all is the pouring of billions of taxpayers’ money into a toxic banking system and NAMA. There is no NAMA for workers. And now the banks, which pay their CEOs half a million Euro a year, are increasing interest rates for the same taxpayers who are bailing them out. And at the same time they are refusing credit to small or medium businesses. And they are getting away with it.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called it right when he said ‘the closer you are to a minister in the Dublin government the less you will suffer.’

This Fianna Fail/Green Party government has also inflicted deep cuts on the farming sector and on disadvantaged rural areas. Sinn Féin understands the difficulties facing rural communities.

Our TDs and our Senator have produced three major Oireachtas reports. These set out proposals to regenerate the west, to ensure a viable future for fishing and farming communities, and to create more jobs in the agri-food sector.

In the north Minister for Agriculture, Michelle Gildernew, is tackling the needs of farmers in disadvantaged areas and the needs of rural women.

Ó thaobh an tuaiscirt de, tá sárobair déanta ag Martin McGuinness agus foireann na gcainteanna Sinn Féin. Bhí an tionól agus na hinstitiúidí uile Éireann i gcontúirt mar gheall ar chonstaicí an DUP.

Ach le díograis agus fócas ár ndaoine, bhí Sinn Féin agus an DUP ábalta teacht ar chomhaontú nua. Rinne Aontachtóirí conradh le Poblachtánaigh agus bhog muid an próiseas iomlán seo ar aghaidh go dtí an chéad chéim eile.

Just over a month ago we concluded an agreement at Hillsborough with the DUP on the way forward.

Many thought this couldn’t happen. But it did. This was a hugely important, and symbolic moment. I want to pay tribute to Martin McGuinness, and Gerry Kelly and our other Ministers, as well as to the Sinn Féin negotiating team, for all their hard work. Here is proof, if proof was needed of the importance of negotiations as an area of struggle.

Under this Agreement powers on policing and justice will be transferred in April. By the end of the year there will also be the transfer of powers from London to Belfast to deal with the issue of parades. More powers moving from England to Ireland.

Outstanding issues including Irish language rights will also be delivered on and there is additional funding for the language.

This Agreement is a staging post. It is proof that change is possible.

Sinn Féin achieved all this by being bold and by being focussed. By standing up for ourselves. By standing up to the governments. By standing up for the rights of citizens in a continuous process of change.

The last year has been a challenging one for us, for the peace process and for the people of this island.

It has also been a difficult period for my clann. I thank everyone who has expressed solidarity with my family. Colette in particular has asked me to thank everyone who sent her get well messages. Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir

I want to congratulate Maurice Quinlivan on his determination to clear his good name.

In the end Willie tripped over his own moustache but be assured he would still be in this awful government if Maurice had not made a stand. Maith an fear Maurice.

Will that end the attacks on Sinn Féin? Of course not. The only difference between Willie and the other smearers and backstabbers is that Willie got caught out.

As this government lurches toward an election we can expect more of this. But we have a message for the government and its fellow travellers. Let there be no doubt about this. Given the mandate, Sinn Féin will dismantle the culture of political cronyism and the golden circles.

This proud party is interested only in making a positive difference in the lives of the Irish people. Those who say that this isn’t possible should look to what is emerging from our efforts in government in the north.

This includes tackling fuel poverty; it means free travel for the over 60s; the ending of prescription charges; and the freezing of the regional rate. Sinn Féin Ministers have introduced class room assistants in every P1 and P2 class; we have invested in schools; in jobs; in infrastructure. We have staved off water charges; and brought forward funding to tackle rural poverty and social exclusion.

Everything that Sinn Féin has done is rooted in the equality agenda. That is why some of the big initiatives, particularly on education, have met such resistance.

The opposition to the removal of the 11 plus is mainly class driven and arises from the desire of a small minority to protect an unequal system. Parents want the best for their children. So do we.

Our commitment is to ensure that every school is a good school and that every child has full equality of opportunity. I am absolutely convinced that this will be the outcome, not least because of the leadership shown by the Minister of Education, Caitríona Ruane and progressive educationalists, and teachers.

In the next few weeks the Westminster elections will give us the opportunity to strengthen our mandate. We will be making a stand in every constituency in the Six Counties.

If the northern Assembly runs to its full term all communities in the north will have benefited from Sinn Féin in government. We are already planning for the next Assembly term.

This will build on the successes of our Assembly team and set more challenging targets and goals for Sinn Féin in government.

And let me invite the viewers at home to help us write that manifesto for change. Sinn Féin will once again be holding Town Hall meetings.

We want to be a citizen’s conduit to government. I invite you to come along – to put your issue – your needs – your requirements on the Executive table.

Unionism? Unionism knows that Sinn Féin is a willing partner in a government that is responsive, effective and delivering. One of the big tasks facing the Executive is to eradicate sectarianism. The vast majority of people want this. There is work for everyone.

And it is up to unionists to demonstrate that unionism and sectarianism are not the same and that they are as opposed to sectarianism as we are.

Luaigh mé níos luaithe na haislingigh naoi deag se deag agus fís na Poblachta a bhí acu. Bhí fís ag Wolfe Tone roimhe sin. Chuir seisean síos ar an nasc leis an Bhreatain mar foinse dár gcuid trioblóidí polaitiúla go léir. Caithfidh muid teacht ar ais chuige agus muid ag ullmhú don chéad chuid eile den turas don Phoblacht Nua.

In many ways we are back with Tone and the need to unite catholic, protestant and dissenter. We do this by making friends with unionists and developing normal human relationships based on tolerance, respect and equality. Let us be clear about this; the unity of people in everyday life and the unity of this great country of ours is part of the same human endeavour.

Sinn Féin believes that a free, independent and United Ireland makes political and economic sense.

Last year I set out our intention to engage with the Irish diaspora and to marshal its political strength in support of a United Ireland.

Over the last twelve months thousands of people came together in New York, San Francisco, Toronto and London at major conferences to put their weight behind the demand for Irish unity. This campaign is gathering momentum. Now is the time to make partition history. Now is the time to build an Ireland we can be proud of.

Sinn Féin is united and strong. Sinn Féin is looking to the future. Sinn Féin is making a stand.

The British army, the heavy gangs, the old Orange regime and slíbhín governments here could not break us. Censorship, the prisons and the death squads could not break us.

And no amount of black propaganda in the Tony O’Reilly press will break us either.

20 years ago Nelson Mandela – Madiba – the first President of a free South Africa - walked free from prison.

20 years ago there was war in Ireland.

So, when someone tells you that that apartheid would never end; or that peace is not possible; or that a United Ireland is ‘pie in the sky’; or that we can’t make a deal with the DUP; or that we can’t beat this recession; don’t believe them – not for one second. Believe in yourself.

Make a stand. Make it happen. Join us.

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The hypocrisy of this government knows no bounds.

This week they announced moves to make ordinary working people wait until they are 68 years old before they can retrieve their meager state pension.

But it’s a different story altogether when it comes to themselves, ministers or ex-ministers.

So I’ll put it up to them now, these shysters who call themselves ‘patriotic’ men and women of Ireland.

Give back your pensions!

Bertie Ahern is in receipt of a €98,000 state pension on top of his TD salary of over €90,000 and expenses – That is a whopping €5,000 a week in taxpayer’s money he is getting. He wasn’t worth it when he was Taoiseach, He’s not worth it now. Give back the pension!

What off Willy O’Dea, the disgraced minister forced out of office, also gets an annual €98 grand annual golden handshake!

And Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the state’s new EU Commissioner, well the boys got you another lucrative job in Europe on a salary of €238,000 but she is still raking it in are greedily taking €65,000 plus of a state pension on top! She is earning nearly €6,000 a week, half of what those on social welfare are expected to survive on a year.

And its not just the bhoyos and girls in Fianna Fáil who are raking it in. Fine Gael’s former Taoiseach John Bruton was looked after also when he was given the lucrative post as the EU’s ambassador to the US while enjoying an annual ministerial pension of nearly €100,000. And there are many more.

This is the government and the decision makers who would have us believe that prices have fallen enough to justify slashing social welfare rates and to cut public sector wages and public services.

They claim people can live comfortably on less.

This government hasn’t got a clue. How many of them have ever spent a number days, never mind months, on the dole or on low pay.

They haven’t a clue about the daily hardships faced by hundreds of thousands of low paid workers across the state.

The reality is that most on low incomes or dependent on social welfare are struggling every week to make ends meet. The reality is that most of the daily essentials have actually gone up in price.

If these shysters, these ministers, left their chauffeur at home and got the bus, then maybe, they’d have noticed that bus fares are up 12%. They might also notice that dental fees are up, that doctor’s visits and electricity charges, hospital, education and childcare costs – have all gone up. And insurance premiums are about to rocket to boot.

The FF/Green Government need to release their grip from around the necks of those on low and middle incomes. There’s still plenty of wealth in this country – it’s time to target it!

I have one message for this Fianna Fáil/Green government

Get off the backs of the workers, resign!!!

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 Address to Sinn Féin Ard Fheis  2010 by ANC National Chair Baleka Mbete:

The National Chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, Ms. Baleka Mbete, gave a special message of support to the Sinn Fein 2010 Ard Fheis, today, the 06th of March 2010, in Dublin Ireland. Ms. Mbete recalled the strong close relations between the ANC and Sinn Fein, born through the trenches of struggle. 

She recalled how Irish activists led by Sinn Fein directly participated in the global struggle against apartheid. Particularly, the similarities between the ANC and Sinn Fein, how they both have lost comrades in the course of a struggle for justice and peace.  Ms. Mbete emphasised that South Africa would not have been liberated from the yoke of apartheid and colonial oppression without the deliberate and commited actions of activists from Ireland, as led b Sinn Fein.

Ms. Mbete reaffirmed the ANC’s position of supporting Sinn Fein’s struggle for a just outcome for Northern Ireland.  She congratulated Sinn Fein on the advances and progress they have made in the peace process in Northern Ireland, particularly the devolution of policing and justice powers from Great Britain. She wished every bit of luck on the outcome of the vote on Tuesday to decide the matter.

Ms. Mbete, invited Sinn Fein to join the ANC in its celebration of their 100 year anniversary in 2012.  She requested for Irish activists involved in the anti-apartheid movement to provide the ANC with records and memories from the time spent in the anti-apartheid struggle.  She stated that the struggle against apartheid was a global struggle for justice, and should be celebrated. Finally, Ms. Mbete called on the Ard Fheis to prioritise the struggle for justice of the Palestinian people, in particular the two-state solution. 

She called on Sinn Fein and its 2010 Ard Fheis to put pressure on all roleplayers, in particular, the United States to stop Israel from defying the world. In her words, the situation in Palestine is “worse than apartheid”.  ENDS

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Speaking before the opening session of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Dublin this afternoon, Senator Pearse Doherty said that the issue of jobs would dominate at the weekend conference.

Pearse Doherty said:

“This is an important Ard Fheis for our party. We are gearing up for Westminster elections in May and for the possibility of a general election in the South that could occur at any time.

“Sinn Féin delegates will be calling for action on and putting forward solutions to the jobs crisis.

“People are sick of this Government. They want to know when the jobs will be created. They don’t want to hear about cabinet reshuffles and they certainly don’t want to hear about an entire cabinet jet-setting around the world for St Patrick’s Day.

“They don’t want to hear Ministers make light of emigration as another generation packs its bags to leave.

“They want to hear that jobs have been created.

“The huge issue of the crying need for jobs and the soaring levels of unemployment that now afflicts this country will dominate this evening’s session of the Ard Fheis.

“Sinn Féin has put forward solutions to create jobs. We will fight to have them implemented.

“The Hillsborough Agreement on the transfer of policing and justice powers from Britain to the North, republican strategy for the achievement of Irish unity, the wider economic crisis including the banking collapse and NAMA are themes that will also feature strongly over the weekend.

“What you can expect to see at this Ard Fheis are party members preparing themselves for the political challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

“This Ard Fheis provides Sinn Féin with an opportunity to promote our message that there is a political alternative.” ENDS

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has revealed a £600 million investment with potential to create 3,000 jobs is being planned for Derry.


Martina Anderson has confirmed that she has been working with the international investors behind the project for the past three years and is hopeful that it is now close to fruition.
Ms. Anderson said:


“The developer – a company called the Orana Group – are planning two major developments, one at Crescent Link and one in Bridgend. This is what they see as gateway developments because they are on the two main arterial routes into the city.


“This is a major international developer who is involved in a number of other developments in Larne, Inver, Strabane and Omagh among others.


“They envisage mixed-use facilities at the sites in Derry incorporating commerce, retail, technology and community facilities. They have already signed a contract with Sainsburys Supermarket for the Crescent Link site while negotiations are at an advanced stage with a number of other potential tenants. The developers have already purchased £50m worth of land at Crescent Link and substantial deposits have been paid for various sites at Bridgend. In total, they have already spent around £150m on the Derry project and expect to invest around £600 million in the North West, including a £200 million development in Strabane.


“This is a huge scheme and one on which I have been working with the developer for the past three years. I am delighted that we are now at the stage where a number of planning applications will be submitted in the next few weeks. This is not pie in the sky stuff. A huge amount of money has already been invested to secure the sites and more is to follow. Contracts with major tenants have been agreed and others are in the advanced stage of negotiation.


“This is a massive vote of confidence in Derry and the North West and just the kind of news that we need in the current economic situation. The developers have been hugely impressed by the young, highly-skilled population we have in this region while the infrastructure developments such as Project Kelvin and the £1 billion investment being delivered by Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy were other key factors in persuading them to invest here.”

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Speaking in the Dáil today on the statements on the Death of Children in State Care since 2000, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Fein Dáil leader & spokesperson on Health & Children said:

“The admission by senior HSE Assistant National Director for Children and Families, Phil Garland, on Morning Ireland this morning, confirmed by HSE Director of Integrated Services, Laverne McGuinness, at the Public Accounts Committee today, that there are 20 reports on the deaths of children in State care awaiting publication can only be described as truly shocking.

“No valid excuse was offered for the delay in the publication of these reports. They should be issued without further delay. They should also be forwarded to the Ombudsman for Children, the Health Information and Quality Authority and the Garda Síochána.

“The identities of the children and their families can be protected if need be; they do not have to be published – what is most important is that the facts of the cases are known and that the lessons are learned and acted upon.

“In a Parliamentary Question dated 7th July 2009 I sought information on the number of unpublished or redacted reports conducted by the HSE or the former health boards. I have never received a comprehensive reply despite repeated follow-up questions to the Minister and the HSE. I have been told that the information was proving “difficult to collate”. Yet this morning a HSE spokesperson was able to go on the air and acknowledge 20 unpublished reports on the deaths of children in state care. Why has this information been withheld over all these months?

“The report on the tragic life and death of Tracey Fay in State care has caused huge concern about the lack of adequate child protection services in this society. This is not a new concern but has been pointed out repeatedly over many years, with thousands of children who are vulnerable and at risk still being denied access even to initial assessments of their plight.

“The Ryan Report on the abuse of children in institutions and the report on abuse on the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin exposed the widespread and systematic abuse of children up to about the end of the 1980s at the latest. But we need to focus on neglect and abuse in more recent times and, above all, to address the systematic failures that allow children to be victimised or neglected today in 2010. And that abuse and neglect has proved fatal in at least 20 cases, which is why we are having this debate here today.

“In 1990 the Comptroller and Auditor General carried out a review of Department of Education Special Schools which found that the children in those schools were not being accommodated in the particular institution appropriate to their needs, that the facilities were not being managed properly and that the Department of Education was not carrying out its overseeing role in a satisfactory manner. In 1992 the Public Accounts Committee, having considered the C&AG Report recommended that the Departments of Justice, Health and Education and the then Health Boards jointly address the problem of these special schools and address the problems of all children in residential care.

“These recommendations were not acted upon and the point is that the schools in question represented the end of the line for troubled children who ended up in court because behavioural and social and family problems were not properly addressed early on. That is still happening and the scandal is that it is happening along the pathway of so-called care supposedly provided by the State. The reports I have referred to were in the early 1990s. They were early alarm bells and alarm bells have rung periodically since then but precious little has been done.

“Last year the Ballydowd Centre in West Dublin was closed after a damning report from HIQA. That closure raised huge concern over child services in this State. The centre was only nine years in existence and cost €13 million to put in place yet it had to be closed because of its unsuitability for the troubled children held there.

“The HSE has presided over a facility in which, as HIQA has stated, there were ‘not enough staff to run the unit consistently and safely’. How could this have been allowed to go on?

“The HIQA National Children in Care Inspection Report, which included the report on Ballydowd, is a severe indictment of State failure to protect children. It highlights ‘serious deficits in standards aimed at safeguarding vulnerable children, including lapses in vetting procedures for staff and foster carers working with children’. These are issues that I and others have repeatedly raised in Questions to the Minister for Health & Children and at the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children.

“The woefully inadequate state of our child protection services has been exposed again today. There are insufficient social workers and other front-line workers and support systems in place. Children are in grave danger but the services are not in place to make the interventions required. The nightmare is happening every day. Most of this abuse takes place in the family home. If the services are not put in place then the State today will be just as culpable as it was in the past when it conspired with the Church to cover up the abuse of children.

“The Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney who has ultimate responsibility, and the Minister for Children Barry Andrews who has direct responsibility, must explain in detail how children have been let down so often, and continue to be let down, by the State. They must act with urgency to bring the care of vulnerable children up to standard or else we will have more Ryan Reports in years to come, only this time they will cover the present era.

“The child protection crisis in this State requires a far more concerted and high level approach than that taken by the Government at present. A full range of child protection services need to be provided and resourced; the Children's Referendum should proceed; and the Taoiseach should use the opportunity of the Cabinet reshuffle to appoint a full Cabinet Minister for Children.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, on the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2010, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said forensic evidence may assist in the detection and prosecution of some offences but it will not reduce crime.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said public education is needed to limit the inflated false expectations of forensics raised by popular television programmes such as CSI.

He said:

“Sinn Féin believes that the lawful and effective collection and use of forensic evidence from crime scenes, from victims, and from suspects is crucial for obtaining sound convictions that are not based on confession or witness evidence alone.

“”That said, the potential of forensic evidence and DNA databases should not be presented to the public as anything more than what it is – forensic evidence and associated databases may assist in the detection and prosecution of some offences but they will not ultimately reduce crime. Crime prevention requires a well resourced and holistic response to its individual and systemic causes, something which this government despite all its tough talking has never promoted let alone introduced.

“Blind and unthinking enthusiasts of DNA databases will often argue that if you’ve nothing to hide then you’ve nothing to fear. But that simply isn’t the case. DNA databases can put innocent people at risk. The link between presence of DNA at a crime scene and involvement in that crime is far from straightforward and there is a danger that entirely innocent individuals will find themselves the targets of eager beaver prosecutors.

“Public education is also needed to limit the inflated false expectations of forensics raised by popular television programmes such as CSI. The virtually infallible, precise technologies and unlimited resources depicted are generally not available to the Gardaí – nor to most police services. It is also possible for a persons DNA to be placed at a crime scene either by corrupt Gardaí or by rival criminals.

“In my view the precise retention regime contained in the Bill before us is disproportionate and appears to have been arrived at arbitrarily. At the very minimum this Bill, and the retention timeframes and relevant offences in particular, should be amended to bring it closer in line with the Scottish regime.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on Special and Family Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh has hit out at the Government’s pensions framework announced yesterday saying the plan to increase the qualification age for the pension in four years time would exasperate the problem of youth unemployment and emigration as older workers would be forced to stay in the workforce longer.

Ó Snodaigh said:

“The government’s pension framework outline yesterday makes little sense. Sinn Féin has long been critical of the degree to which government has been subsidising private pensions particularly for the wealthy.

“We warned, going back to 2006, that pension funds into which people were being encouraged to put their money were not secure and that it was quite likely that in the end if and when these funds collapsed the state would end up supporting those left with no pension incomes.

“The qualification age for the state pension is set to rise by a year in four years time. This makes little sense. We have over 430,000 people out of work at the moment and no strategy from the government to create jobs.

“Youth unemployment is soaring with one in three men under 25 now out of work. Young people are emigrating. There is little chance this problem will be sorted within the next four years.

“By increasing the pension age in 2014 there will be even less employment opportunities for young people as older workers are forced to stay on in employment. If young people are forced to emigrate it will become even harder for the state to meet its pension obligations in future years. This simply makes no sense and should not be implemented.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson, Raymond McCartney MLA (Foyle) said that he welcomes the fact that David Ford as responded positively to Sinn Féin's call for him to meet with the Bloody Sunday families to explain his comments on the Saville Inquiry.

Raymond McCartney said:

"David Ford's ill-advised comments regarding the Saville Inquiry were offensive and hurtful to the Bloody Sunday families who have campaigned with dignified resolve to expose the truth about the murders of their loved ones. They will also be received with disdain by the vast majority of citizens of Derry.

"I welcome the fact that Mr Ford has now made arrangements to meet with the families to explain his reasoning for making these gratuitous and offensive remarks.

"But I believe that Mark Durkan also has questions to answer. It is very disappointing that this information was in the possession of the SDLP since last November but they failed to inform the Bloody Sunday Families. Therefore I feel that Mark Durkan as the then SDLP Leader also has questions to answer as to why there was such a long delay in releasing this information and doing so through the media instead of the Families.

"I would not like to think that such sensitive information was witheld for political opportune purposes. Mark should also meet with the families to explain the reasoning for not releasing this information to the families sooner."ENDS

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Speaking on the Criminal Procedures Bill 2009 in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh described the legislation as “cheap and lazy” and said it will do nothing more for victims.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Unfortunately this Bill does nothing more for victims. Yet again the Government is rolling out cheap and easy legislation under the guise of a significant victims’ initiative instead of taking real action to deliver the practical supports that victims of crime really need. The Minister didn’t even properly consult victims’ organizations when he put this scheme together.

“I would endorse the Irish Council for Civil Liberties’ recommendation that the legislation be amended to clearly assign responsibility for walking the victim, or their family as appropriate, through the impact statement process. Responsibility could be assigned for example to the Gardaí, the DPP or the Judges offices.

“The widening of the victim impact statement facility with the attached safeguards is very welcome indeed but much more must be done to improve the treatment of victims. I urge the government to use this legislation as an opportunity to:

“Introduce a statutory requirement on all criminal justice organizations that interact with victims to reflect the internationally recognised set of victim’s rights within their own codes of practice;

“Legislate to ensure appropriate information for victims at the various stages of the criminal justice system; and

“Ensure availability of a comprehensive spectrum of health and social services and other relevant assistance for victims.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was in the Chultúrlann on the Falls Road to meet with groups and organisations based in the pioneering cultural centre. Mr Adams was joined by Junior Minister Gerry Kelly and Cllr Caoimhín Mac Giolla Mhín.

speaking during a press conference in An Chultúrlann Mr Adams said;

"It was under the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Task Force that An Chultúrlann was first proposed as a flagship project for the Gaeltacht Quarter.

"For six years, An Chultúrlann has been battling to get the money to push forward this exciting project. Alongside community leaders who have been spearheading the West Belfast and Shankill Task Force agenda, An Chultúrlann has kept campaigning for the investment promised to be delivered."

"I have had intensive communication with the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

With the help of Martin McGuinness' office, we have finally secured from Minister McCausland a commitment to release the funding promised to An Chultúrlann. This will not only be an important injection of investment for An Chultúrlann, which is already the heartbeat of An Ceathrú Gaeltachta. This is also evidence of local delivery of the kind which Sinn Féin has been demanding and which will help to turn the ambition of the Gaeltacht Quarter into a reality.”

Mr Adams was joined this morning by Director of An Chultúrlann Eimear Ní Mhathúna. He continued;

“I commend the diligent work of all those groups based in and around An Chultúrlann who do so much everyday to contribute to the economic, social and cultural life of our city and I commit myself to continuing to support them and the wider west Belfast population in making the vision of An Ceathrú Gaeltachta a reality. Guím gach bhláth agus rath ar an tionscadal seo; go n-eirí libh!

Asked about the comments from Alliance Party Leader David Forde on the Saville Inquiry Mr Adams said;

“Firstly I have no doubt that the remarks will cause deep hurt and trauma to the Bloody Sunday Families and survivors, who have so diligently sought to have the truth of that day known and for justice to prevail; I understand that Mr Ford intends to meet with the families, he should do that without delay and immediately retract what were hurtful and ill-conceived comments.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as "shocking" the admission this morning by a senior HSE official that there are 20 reports on the deaths of children in State care awaiting publication. The Sinn Féin Dáil leader called for their publication without further delay.

He said:

"The admission by a senior HSE official on Morning Ireland today that there are 20 reports on the deaths of children in State care awaiting publication is truly shocking. No valid excuse was offered for the delay in the publication of these reports and they should be issued without further delay. They should also be forwarded to the Ombudsman for Children. The identities of the children and their families can be protected if need be; they do not need to be published – what is most important is that the facts of the cases are known and the lessons learned and acted upon.

"In a Parliamentary Question dated 7th July 2009 I sought information on the number of unpublished or redacted reports conducted by the HSE or the former health boards. I have never received a comprehensive reply despite repeated follow-up questions to the Minister and the HSE. I have been told that the information was proving 'difficult to collate'. Yet this morning a HSE spokesperson was able to go on the air and acknowledge 20 unpublished reports on the deaths of children. Why has this information been withheld over all these months?

"The report on the tragic life and death of Tracey Fay in State care has caused huge concern about the lack of adequate child protection services in this society. This is not a new concern but has been pointed out repeatedly in recent years, with thousands of children who are vulnerable and at risk still being denied access even to initial assessments of their plight.

"The child protection crisis in this State requires a far more concerted and high level approach than that taken by the Government at present. A full range of child protection services need to be provided and resourced; the Children's Referendum should proceed; and the Taoiseach should use the opportunity of the Cabinet reshuffle to appoint a full Cabinet Minister for Children." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Policing and Justice Spokesperson Alex Maskey MLA has once again challenged the British Government to commit fully to the process of moving policing and the criminal justice system here in the north forward.

Mr Maskey was speaking after comments from the Paul Goggins claiming non-jury courts were ‘essential’.

He said;

“The notion expressed by Paul Goggins, that these non-jury, Diplock courts are in someway ‘essential’ is a retrograde step and flies in the face of the endeavours by many of us to move the policing and criminal justice system in the north forward.

It is a fundamental right that people have the opportunity to be trialled by a jury of their peers; we have seen all too often the abuses of the non-jury court system by the British Government in the past.

I will be expressing my very deep concerns to the British Government on this matter immediately; there is no place for these types of trials and they must be opposed.” CRÍOCH

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West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has welcomed the decision by the Executive to release £1/2m investment in An Chultúrlann, a flagship for An Ceathrú Gaeltachta, the Gaeltacht Quarter. The west Belfast MP revealed that with the help of the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, half a million pounds has now been cleared by the DCAL Minister.

"It was under the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Task Force that An Chultúrlann was first proposed as a flagship project for the Gaeltacht Quarter.

"For six years, An Chultúrlann has been battling to get the money to push forward this exciting project. Alongside community leaders who have been spearheading the West Belfast and Shankill Task Force agenda, An Chultúrlann has kept campaigning for the investment promised to be delivered."

"I have had intensive communication with the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

With the help of Martin McGuinness' office, we have finally secured from Minister McCausland a commitment to release the funding promised to An Chultúrlann. This will not only be an important injection of investment for An Chultúrlann, which is already the heartbeat of An Ceathrú Gaeltachta. This is also evidence of local delivery of the kind which Sinn Féin has been demanding and which will help to turn the ambition of the Gaeltacht Quarter into a reality."
CRÍOCH


Note to editor:
The West Belfast and greater Shankill task Force report was published in 2002.
The Task Force was incorporated into the Programme for Government 2008-2011.
An Chultúrlann is an Irish language and cultural centre in the heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter and was selected by the Task Force as one of 18 projects, which were committed a total of £21m from the Office of the First and deputy First Minister, through the Integrated Development Fund.
A total of £1.7m has been raised for the investment package at An Chultúrlann, of which £500k has been committed from the IDF funding, through the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL)

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Reacting to the publication of the Government’s National Pension’s Framework by Minister Mary Hanafin today Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the introduction of mandatory pensions would amount to a further pay cut for low paid workers and would undermine the public pension system.

He said many lower paid workers will have no option but to opt out of the scheme.

Deputy Ó Snodiagh said the Government should focus on developing an equitable public pension system to provide income security for all in their later years funded through progressively raised taxation.

He said:

“The only sustainable long term solution to the pension problem arising from the ageing of our population is to pursue family friendly policies so that the workforce can be replenished at a sufficient rate to support the growing number of pensioners. The government must reverse the cuts to child benefit and the early childcare supplement. It must go further and put in place an infrastructure of top quality affordable child care provision and implement family friendly workplace policies etc.

“Mandatory pensions will amount to a further pay cut for lower paid workers who are struggling to make ends meet as it is, it would undermine the public pension system, there is no guarantee that what you will get out of it in the end will be sufficient to meet your needs.

“The scheme announced by the Minister today is designed in a way that will mean many low paid workers will have no option but to opt out of it.

“Incentivising private pensions particularly through tax relief has its own costs with hundreds of millions of euro in tax forgone by the Exchequer every year. These reliefs should be progressively eliminated with special care taken not to put further income pressure on those who are struggling as it is. We are strongly of the view that intergenerational solidarity – whereby each generation agrees to provide for its pensioners on the basis that the next generation will look after them – remains viable and is arguably a much less risky strategy than investing in private pension schemes which are at the mercy of volatile markets.

“The government should focus on developing an equitable public pension system to provide income security for all in their later years funded through progressively raised taxation. Sinn Féin pre-budget submission detailed to scope that is there to increase revenue by taxing higher earners and wealth.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin south Belfast MLA Alex Maskey this morning launched Sinn Féin’s document “A Community in Crisis? A new vision for the Holyland and University areas.”

Mr Maskey who was speaking at the launch which took place in the Chinese Resource Centre this morning said;

“I was delighted to see so many of the stakeholders, including the Universities and Students Unions, the City Council and many of the residents and residents associations at this morning’s discussion.

At the core of our proposals is the requirement for the Holyland to be categorised as an ‘area at risk’. A range of government departments have key responsibilities within the Holyland; we believe that the Executive should appoint a lead Minister to take responsibility for the co-ordination of those departments in rebuilding the Holyland community.

I was heartened to see so many of those affected by the issues in the Holyland at this mornings launch and I was delighted with the high standard of engagement and discussion that took place. For our part, Sinn Féin remains committed to ensuring that this issue is taken forward and put at the heart of the Executive on behalf of the people who live and work in the Holyland and who deserved the same quality of the life as citizens throughout the city.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Dublin South Central TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has announced that his party will hold a protest at Crumlin Children’s Hospital tomorrow when Health Minister Mary Harney arrives to open the new Accident and Emergency Department at the Hospital.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said it is “highly hypocritical” of Minister Harney to open the new A+E extension at Crumlin as she intends to close the hospital by 2014.

The protest will take place tomorrow morning from 9am till 10am at Crumlin Children’s Hospital. Minister Harney is expected to open the new unit at 9:30am.

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