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Following the release of this week's disastrous unemployment and exchequer figures Sinn Féin's leadership today gathered in Dublin to discuss the party's proposals for an alternative political alignment to tackle the economic crisis.
The meeting also signed off on Sinn Féin's Job Creation proposals for getting Ireland back to work which are due to be released later next week. Sinn Féin will also launch its public finance and public sector saving proposals in advance of making its submission to the government's supplementary budget.
Speaking from the party's Head Office in Dublin Ms. McDonald said:
"The government simply cannot continue to ignore the effect soaring unemployment is having on the economy and until a plan for getting Ireland back to work is delivered this downward spiral will continue."
"The fact is that the current €5 billion budget deficit in our public finances is directly related to job losses.
"As a result of the sharp increases in unemployment tax revenue is now €2 billion below estimates while spending on welfare and medical cards is €1.5 billion over budget. VAT receipts are significantly down as families batten down the hatches and are simply afraid to spend.
"The Government's budget last October did nothing to stimulate the economy nor protect and create jobs. As it now stands unemployment figures will far exceed the projected figure of 400,000 by the end of the year. This is a crisis that cannot continue to go unchallenged.
"We do need taxation reform. We do need efficiencies in our public finance spend. We do need to address wastage. The Commission on taxation needs to bring forward their report in advance of the Dáil summer recess.
"However the government's focus on cuts is fundamentally undermining Ireland's economy. The number one priority should be retaining and creating jobs. It should be getting Ireland back to work.
"We need a plan to hold on to or create the 1,000 jobs a day that are being lost. We need to fast track business start ups. We need to create a Sales Ireland strategy that maximises our existing indigenous export market as well as developing its growth prospects in the immediate and longer term. We need to foster and develop a real innovation culture. Success is possible but not until the current government delivers a plan. If they cannot it is time for them to go." ENDS

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Following the release of this week’s disastrous unemployment and exchequer figures Sinn Féin’s leadership today gathered in Dublin to discuss the party’s proposals for an alternative political alignment to tackle the economic crisis.

 

The meeting also signed off on Sinn Féin’s Job Creation proposals for getting Ireland back to work which are due to be released later next week. Sinn Féin will also launch its public finance and public sector saving proposals in advance of making its submission to the government’s supplementary budget.

 

Speaking from the party’s Head Office in Dublin Ms. McDonald said:

 

"The government simply cannot continue to ignore the effect soaring unemployment is having on the economy and until a plan for getting Ireland back to work is delivered this downward spiral will continue."

 

"The fact is that the current €5 billion budget deficit in our public finances is directly related to job losses.

 

"As a result of the sharp increases in unemployment tax revenue is now €2 billion below estimates while spending on welfare and medical cards is €1.5 billion over budget. VAT receipts are significantly down as families batten down the hatches and are simply afraid to spend.

 

"The Government's budget last October did nothing to stimulate the economy nor protect and create jobs. As it now stands unemployment figures will far exceed the projected figure of 400,000 by the end of the year. This is a crisis that cannot continue to go unchallenged.

 

"We do need taxation reform. We do need efficiencies in our public finance spend. We do need to address wastage. The Commission on taxation needs to bring forward their report in advance of the Dáil summer recess.

 

"However the government's focus on cuts is fundamentally undermining Ireland's economy. The number one priority should be retaining and creating jobs. It should be getting Ireland back to work.

 

"We need a plan to hold on to or create the 1,000 jobs a day that are being lost. We need to fast track business start ups. We need to create a Sales Ireland strategy that maximises our existing indigenous export market as well as developing its growth prospects in the immediate and longer term. We need to foster and develop a real innovation culture. Success is possible but not until the current government delivers a plan. If they cannot it is time for them to go." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin leadership met in Dublin this afternoon to sign off on Sinn Féin’s Job Creation proposals for getting Ireland back to work which are due to be released later next week. They also discussed the revelation that PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde has requested the deployment of British Special Forces to the North.

Speaking from Dublin Mr. Adams said:

“There can be no place for so called British Special Forces within any civic and accountable policing structures. People in Ireland know only too well how these particular groups choose to operate; Sinn Féin and its members have on countless occasions been targeted by these groups in collusion with Unionist murder gangs; as have many others across Ireland.

Sinn Féin has spoken with the Chief Constable Hugh Orde and conveyed to him in no uncertain terms our opposition to this deployment and indeed the manner in which this has entered the public domain.

Sinn Féin has also been in contact with both Governments and will continue in the time ahead to make them and others aware of the very real concerns and consequences of this retrograde decision.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald today hosted a lively event to celebrate International Women's Day. Nell McCafferty was the guest speaker.

The theme of the event is 'Bread and Roses', a popular and historic slogan of the left calling for fair wages and dignified conditions.

Bread and Roses originates from a poem by James Oppenheim. In 1912 'Bread and Roses' became the slogan of thousands of textile workers, mostly women and girls who included native and immigrant workers, who won big concessions over wages, conditions and hours for the entire textile industry following a three month strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The women of the strike adopted the now famous slogan, "We want bread and we want roses too!"

Speaking at the event Mary Lou McDonald said, "We are in unprecedented times, but such times offer us unprecedented opportunities. International Women's Day is a great day to celebrate what we have achieved but also to regroup and reflect on where we are going. All around us people are asking big questions about how society is constructed. Is it fair that so few earn so much and so many earn so little? Such questions are as old as time and although much has improved for workers and women since the Lawrence Strike of 1912, some of the basic inequalities those women and girls fought so hard against still exist. However the spirit and inspiration of Oppenheim's poem lives on and I remain steadfast in my belief that we still can have our bread and we can have our roses too." ENDS

Bread and Rosesby James Oppenheim
As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Victims and Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has criticised Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson for calling for the resignation of one of the four Victims Commissioners for expressing views on the loss of her brother.

Speaking this evening Mr Molloy said,

"It's clear that an election is afoot, it isn't very often we hear from Jim Nicholson but when we do it is cynical and ill-conceived attacks on one of the four Victims Commissioners for expressing thoughts about the loss of her brother.

The reality is that there can be no hierarchy of victims; Patricia McBride's loss is as tragic and as legitimate as anyone else who has lost a love one during the conflict, perhaps Jim Nicholson should take the time to read her contribution on the issue and reflect upon the content.

It comes as no surprise that Jim Nicholson would chose such a time to engage in this petty and cynical type of attack; it would be no less surprising if the Ulster Tories choose to continue their election campaign in such a negative fashion." CRÍOCH

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No action from Government as over 5,400 joined live register across North West in February - Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin candidate for the North West EU Constituency Cllr Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has slammed government inaction an additional 5,471 people became unemployed across the 11 counties of the North West Constituency in February. Mac Lochlainn was speaking following the release of county by county live register figures by the CSO today.

Cllr Mac Lochlainn said

"During the month of February 5,471 people joined the live register across the 11 counties of the North West constituency. There is no sign that the government has a plan to address this crisis - where is the much needed strategy to retain jobs or to create new jobs for those hundreds of thousands of people who now find themselves unemployed?

" Having served on the national executive of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed during the 1990's I understand hwo demoralising it is for people to lose their jobs - particularly when there is no evidence that the government is acting at it should to create jobs.

"People who have lost their jobs need to have hope that they will be able to return to employment sooner rather than later. A government job creation strategy must include identifying sectors for potential growth and ensuring workers are retrained so they have the skills to take up employment in those sectors. It must also include a clear outline of the supports to be made available to local entrepreneurs including ensuring that those trying to develop new businesses have access to start up capital.

"While the crisis in our public finances needs to be addressed without delay there needs to be action to stem the rising rise of unemployment. Rising unemployment is exasperating the shortfall in government revenues as the tax take falls and the social welfare bill rises. The live register figures for the end of February must spur the government to action. In addition to the mini budget being brought forward at the start of April, a job creation strategy must be brought forward within the same time frame."

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Sinn Féin MLA and education spokesperson John O'Dowd has welcomed todays Education budget signalling it as the way forward for a progressive and adaptable education system.

Speaking today Mr O'Dowd said:

"I support the Education Ministers commitment to enhance educational opportunities for all and this budget is a massive step forward in that. Despite serious issues' regarding funding, which affects all sectors in the current economic climate, education today is a winner.

Overall the budget has increased by almost £38 million from last year. All school pupils, but in particular those in primary level, will see the benefits with an average increase of £266 per pupil in primary schools, with an increase also in the post primary and secondary sectors.

"On top of this parents with children at primary schools will now be able to benefit from the schools uniforms grant scheme.

"Undoubtedly the economic downturn has had a massive impact on low income families, with parents having to make ends meet every day. This move today by Caitríona Ruane as Education Minister recognises this and she has extended the current grant scheme to assist low income parent to buy school uniforms.

"Previously this scheme only caterer for parents who has children at secondary schools. Now the Minister has extended this to the primary school parents which will undoubtedly ease some pressures of low income families and will receive a warm welcome."

"The youth sector will also benefit from today's announcement with a much needed injection of funding into the sustainability of youth worker posts recognising the role youth workers play in extra curricular education and development.

"In all, this budget points the way forward for a progressive and adaptable education system that will benefit all of our young people." CRIOCH

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West Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey today said that the overnight shooting of a man in his Riverdale home was wrong and should not have happened.

Ms Ramsey said:

"Last night a man was shot a number of times in his Riverdale home. This shooting was wrong and should not have happened.

"There are justifiable concerns within the community at ongoing anti-social and criminal behaviour. It is up to the PSNI to prove themselves capable of dealing with this. These types of attacks will not solve these problems." ENDS

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Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA will this afternoon participate in the Dublin Book Festival in City Hall Dublin. The debate is entitled Dáil 90: A debate on the Past and Future of Dáil Éireann.

The following is an edited version of Mr. Adams remarks:

“Ninety years ago An Chéad Dáil Éireann met in the Mansion House for its inaugural meeting, the first ever democratically elected assembly of the Irish people.

“This weekend we celebrate Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan, International Women’s Day, and it is very fitting to recall that An Chéad Dáil Éireann also came out of the struggle of women for the vote.

“The First Dáil was an all-Ireland Dáil. It represented the democratic will of the Irish people but it was thwarted by the British government.

“We still do not have an all-Ireland Dáil. The future of the Dáil that I want to see is that it will truly be Dáil Éireann, the national legislature of an Ireland that does not stop at Dundalk or Monaghan or Letterkenny.

“So in this 90th anniversary we all need to re-focus on the question of Irish reunification, the ending of the role of the British government in Ireland and the coming together of the people of Ireland in a national conversation about how best we can share this island.”

Speaking about the current economic crisis Mr. Adams argued for the need for a “coming together of people on the left of Irish politics. This would include Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, other smaller left parties, trade unions, community organisations and other NGOs.

“Crucially such a new alliance would need to become far greater than the sum of its parts.

“It would not be enough just to create a more coherent left opposition in the Dáil and push the two conservative parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, together. That could become a recipe for the left being in permanent opposition.

“What is needed is a much greater project. For a truly new Dáil Éireann we need to build a grassroots movement for progressive change and social justice across this country, which the left parties and groups in alliance would help to mobilise, but which would take on a dynamic of its own.

“I believe there is the potential for such a transformation because many more people are becoming politicised by the current crisis. There is an opening up to ideas and alternatives and a realisation that bad political decisions and bad economic decisions are now deeply affecting people in their daily lives with job losses, pay cuts and cuts in public services.

“At times like this there is also great fear and anger. There is the danger that for many this can turn into despondency, hopelessness, apathy and racism. And there have always been those who would seek to exploit such feelings.

“We need to show people there is a better way. The left in general needs to do a better job in presenting its case and mobilising support. We need to set aside petty differences and see the bigger picture.

“Above all we need to give people a sense of their own potential to work together for change.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin candidate for the North West EU Constituency Cllr Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has demanded that the HSE clarify its intentions regarding rheumatology services for the northwest which are currently provided at Manorhamilton in North Leitrim.

Cllr Mac Lochlainn said

"Our Lady's Hospital in Manorhamilton County Leitrim currently provides rheumatology services for Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal on behalf of Sligo General Hospital and has done so for many years.

"Patients across the northwest are very concerned by reports that the HSE is reviewing the provision of rheumatology services in Manorhamilton. The HSE needs to clarify the position regarding these services. There can be no justification for removing these vital services from Manorhamilton.

He continued:

"Patients have praised the quality of the rheumatology services which they have received in Manorhamilton. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the local community Our Lady's Hospital has a hydrotherapy pool. This expensive piece of infrastructure plays an important role in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Any proposal to remove these services now would make no sense nor would plans to relocate them to Sligo General which would not have the capacity to provide them.

"If a shortfall in the public finances including the fact that revenue from the health levy has fallen as a result of the rise in unemployment is the reason why the HSE is reviewing these services then that funding shortfall has to be addressed. Removing vital services is not the answer. Sinn Féin has called for an increase in the health levy to be paid by those earning over €100,000 and this proposal should now be implemented to make up the shortfall in the revenue from the health levy which has resulted from the rise in unemployment. The money must be found to continue to provide excellent services such as those for rheumatoid arthritis patients attending Our Lady's Hospital in Manorhamilton."

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has today announced budget allocations to schools and Education and Library Boards for the incoming financial year.

The Minister announced record levels of funding for education services, with a resource budget totalling almost £1.9billion, but added this had been a difficult budget in which difficult decisions have had to be made.

Funding available to go directly to schools' delegated budgets is up by 5.3% from 2008-09 to more than £1.1billion. In addition over £400million will go to Education and Library Boards, an increase of almost 2.6% from 2008-09.

Speaking about the announcement, the Minister said: "One of the key focuses of my proposals is about maximising resources delegated directly to schools. This includes the incorporation of two funding streams within the funding formula, previously earmarked, which will now go directly to primary schools within their delegated budgets.

"I have consistently stated my desire to increase the relative levels of funding being made available to support pupils in primary schools and I am pleased to announce funding to primary schools under the Common Funding arrangements of some £37.9million more than last year, an average increase of £266 per pupil in primary schools. This represents an uplift from 65.8% to 70.4% in the proportion of per pupil funding delegated to primary schools compared to post-primary schools. Further to this I have commissioned a complete review of the Common Funding Formula based on targeting social need."

The Minister also made clear that changes to enhance the proportion of funding made available for primary schools was not at the expense of pupils in the other phases of education. The budget provides for an average increase in funding per pupil of 3.15% (£109) for nursery schools and 2.87% (£116) per pupil for post-primary schools.

Mindful of the economic downturn and the financial impact on families, particularly those on low incomes, the Minister has extended the current grant scheme which assists parents on low incomes with the cost of school uniforms to include parents of primary school children.

The Minister said: "These times are difficult for everyone but particularly so for those in our community with young families who will struggle to meet the cost of basic every day needs, such as the cost of school uniforms. It is for that reason that I am extending the current grant scheme to cover primary school children as well as post-primary school children. This is a very practical measure which I believe will make a real difference to children in our society."

The Minister said that the record level budget announcement was good news for the education sector but was not without difficulty. She said: "The funding available for Education in 2009-10 is at the same level as that agreed in last year's Budget process. Since then, I have registered pressures on Education services of around
£60million in 2009-10 but no additional funding has been made available and this has meant that I have had to find ways to address priority pressures and at the same time balance the books.

"I have had to strike a balance between ensuring core services are maintained and at the same time other important priorities are addressed including relative levels of funding for primary schools. That has meant some difficult decisions have had to be made, but overall, I believe the package I am announcing strikes the right balance.

"On this basis I will have to curtail funding for the fourth cohort of specialist schools. Through the Innovation fund I will be able to support some of those schools that have submitted a bid for specialist status in a Science, Technology, Engineering and and Mathematics (STEM ) area, but those hoping to pursue a specialism in other curricular areas will, I know, be disappointed and I will be writing to all those schools to explain my decision."

The Minister said she has also sought additional assurances from the Finance Minister on the budget for extended schools activities which are targeted at those schools serving the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The Minister indicated that she was also making an additional £5million available to supplement the existing level of investment by the ELBs. The Minister said: "We have a backlog maintenance bill of over £200million in the schools estate we need to address this urgently."

The Minister explained that the funds would be allocated later in the year in light of the plans put forward by the ELBs from their maintenance allocations.

On youth, the Minister said: "I am pleased to be able to announce a much needed increase to the youth budget to provide for the ongoing costs of the recent pay award for youth workers. I hope this demonstrates my commitment to the youth service as an important part of the education system, one which provides positive opportunities for young people particularly marginalised young people to develop personally and socially."

KEY POINTS TO NOTE:
· The Minister has provided £6million in both 2009-10 and 2010-11 to assist employing authorities in meeting the costs of premature retirements;
· An increase in the Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) for primary schools from 1.04 to 1.05 in 2009-10 and the introduction of 2 new factors in 2009-10;
· The Minister has made provision for the implementation of the review of Irish Medium Education;
· £5million to address maintenance backlog in schools, funding for primary school uniforms and almost £8million to meet the cost of job evaluation in the Education and
Library Boards.
· Funding has also been made available to take forward preparatory work in relation to the development of the Lisanelly site.

The Minister concluded: "I have listened to the concerns of educationalists across the sector and taking those concerns into account the focus of the package I have announced today is on directing resources to delegated budgets and those most in need.

"As I have said, this has involved hard decisions and I have no doubt this will impact further in coming months. However, I have a responsibility to all of our children and young people to ensure that we get the best possible use of all the resources available to us and I intend to do that."

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Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson and South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has slammed moves to redeploy British Special Forces in the North of Ireland, describing it as both a 'backward step' and 'deeply worrying to the Nationalist and Republican community'.

Speaking this afternoon Mr Maskey said,

"This is a matter of grave concern in particular for the nationalist and republican community given the legacy of British Special Forces here in Ireland. Sinn Fein remains opposed to any such deployment of these forces and remains committed to ensuring that the PSNI is held to account for an effective, efficient and non-political Policing service.

We have raised these concerns this morning with both governments. I have also spoken with the Chief Constable Hugh Orde and conveyed to him in no uncertain terms our opposition to this deployment and indeed the manner in which this has entered the public domain.

Like many others, I was a victim of so-called British Special Forces, who colluded with Unionist Murder Gangs in attempts to murder me and my family. There can be no place for these types of groups within any civic and non-political policing service."

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health & Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called for the reversal of the Government decision not to publish the long-promised National Carers' Strategy. He described the decision as appalling and said it showed the Government has no concept of planning for people's needs.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Taoiseach and his Cabinet colleagues are urging people to unite in support of economic recovery and to make collective efforts in the national interest yet they deliver this insult to 160,000 family carers whose work in the home saves the State many hundreds of millions of euros every year.

"The decision to scrap the National Carers' Strategy is in direct breach of the Towards 2016 Agreement and reneges on the commitment in the Programme for Government to 'ensure a National Carers' Strategy focusing on supporting informal family carers in the community will be developed by the end of 2007'.

"This appalling decision shows clearly that the Fianna Fáil-Green Government has no real concept of planning for people's needs. They see the Strategy only in terms of euros and cents and because of the collapse in public finances they scrap it altogether. They forget that a Strategy will still be needed - in fact needed more than ever because of our ageing population - when the public finances eventually recover.

"Across this State dedicated people are looking after family members in the home with inadequate support from the State. Continued lack of adequate support will lead to worsening health for both carers and cared-for, resulting in much greater healthcare costs to the State.

"The Government should now heed the call of carers' organisations, publish the Strategy, assess what pay elements are feasible and proceed with all non-pay elements." ENDS

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Minister Michelle Gildernew has congratulated CAFRE, Greenmount Campus and Kildalton College, Kilkenny on the first week-long exchange between agriculture students north and south.

Speaking at an exchange dinner sponsored by the Farmers Union, the Minister said: "This student exchange shows the commitment of CAFRE and Kildalton College to developing the next generation of farmers who will be well-equipped to compete in a global industry.

"I would also thank the Farmers Union for their support of this exchange. They too recognise that well-trained, competent and innovative students are the future of the agriculture sector. I know that CAFRE and our colleagues in the Teagasc colleges are best placed to deliver successful farmers of the future."

The agricultural student exchange focused on the dairy sector and aimed to give students an insight into different production systems across Ireland. Kildalton students had the opportunity to learn about the high genetic merit CREAM herd at Greenmount, discuss topical issues with CAFRE Dairy specialists and go on farm visits.

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Sinn Féin Vice President and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald today hosted a lively event to celebrate International Women’s Day. Nell McCafferty was the guest speaker. Refreshments and childcare were provided and all were welcome.

The theme of today's event is ‘Bread and Roses’, a popular and historic slogan of the left calling for fair wages and dignified conditions.

Bread and Roses originates from a poem by James Oppenheim. In 1912 ‘Bread and Roses’ became the slogan of thousands of textile workers, mostly women and girls who included native and immigrant workers, who won big concessions over wages, conditions and hours for the entire textile industry following a three month strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The women of the strike adopted the now famous slogan, "We want bread and we want roses too!"

Speaking ahead of today's event Mary Lou McDonald said, “We are in unprecedented times, but such times offer us unprecedented opportunities. International Women’s Day is a great day to celebrate what we have achieved but also to regroup and reflect on where we are going. All around us people are asking big questions about how society is constructed. Is it fair that so few earn so much and so many earn so little? Such questions are as old as time and although much has improved for workers and women since the Lawrence Strike of 1912, some of the basic inequalities those women and girls fought so hard against still exist. However the spirit and inspiration of Oppenheim’s poem lives on and I remain steadfast in my belief that we still can have our bread and we can have our roses too.” ENDS

Bread and Roses - by James Oppenheim As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day, A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray, Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses, For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!" As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men, For they are women's children, and we mother them again. Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes; Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses! As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread. Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew. Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too! As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days. The rising of the women means the rising of the race. No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes, But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

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Responding to this mornings CSO live register figures Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has described the soaring unemployment figures as catastrophic noting "the government cannot continue to ignore the effect soaring unemployment is having on the economy and until a plan for getting Ireland back to work is delivered this downward spiral will continue."

Deputy Morgan said:

"The government cannot continue to ignore the fact that the €5 billion deficit in our public finances is directly related to job losses.

"As a result of the sharp increases in unemployment tax revenue is now €2 billion below estimates while spending on welfare and medical cards is €1.5 billion over budget. VAT receipts are significantly down as families batten down the hatches and are simply afraid to spend.

"The Government's budget last October did nothing to stimulate the economy nor protect and create jobs. As it now stands unemployment figures will far exceed the projected figure of 400,000 by the end of the year. This is a crisis that cannot continue to go unchallenged.

"We do need taxation reform. We do need efficiencies in our public finance spend. We do need to address wastage. The Commission on taxation needs to bring forward their report in advance of the Dáil summer recess.

"However the government's sole approach on cuts and borrowing is fundamentally undermining Ireland's economy. The number one priority should be retaining and creating jobs. It should be getting Ireland back to work.

"We need a plan to hold on to or create the 1,000 jobs a day that are being lost. We need to fast track business start ups. We need to create a Sales Ireland strategy that maximises our existing indigenous export market as well as developing its growth prospects in the immediate and longer term. We need to foster and develop a real innovation culture. Success is possible but not until the current government delivers a plan. If they cannot it is time for them to go." ENDS

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Press Notice Friday March 6th 2009

Sinn Fein celebrate International Women’s Day

When: Friday March 6th at 11am to 1pm

Where: Wynn’s Hotel, Abbey Street, Dublin 1

Who: Host Mary Lou McDonald MEP and Guest Nell McCafferty

Media contact:Sinéad Máire Ní Bhroin @ 087 9266764

Sinn Féin Vice President and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald will tomorrow host a lively event to celebrate International Women’s Day. Nell McCafferty will be the guest speaker. Refreshments and childcare will be provided and all are welcome.

The theme of tomorrow’s event is ‘Bread and Roses’, a popular and historic slogan of the left calling for fair wages and dignified conditions.

Bread and Roses originates from a poem by James Oppenheim. In 1912 ‘Bread and Roses’ became the slogan of thousands of textile workers, mostly women and girls who included native and immigrant workers, who won big concessions over wages, conditions and hours for the entire textile industry following a three month strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The women of the strike adopted the now famous slogan, "We want bread and we want roses too!"

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s event Mary Lou McDonald said, “We are in unprecedented times, but such times offer us unprecedented opportunities. International Women’s Day is a great day to celebrate what we have achieved but also to regroup and reflect on where we are going. All around us people are asking big questions about how society is constructed. Is it fair that so few earn so much and so many earn so little? Such questions are as old as time and although much has improved for workers and women since the Lawrence Strike of 1912, some of the basic inequalities those women and girls fought so hard against still exist. However the spirit and inspiration of Oppenheim’s poem lives on and I remain steadfast in my belief that we still can have our bread and we can have our roses too.” ENDS

Bread and Rosesby James Oppenheim
As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

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Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty called on the Government to reform the Seanad and eliminate duplication between the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament. Senator Doherty said many members of the public perceive the Seanad to be irrelevant.

He said, "Senators must recognise that many members of the public perceive this House to be irrelevant. Seanad reform, for which all of us have argued, has not taken place. The issue is usually the set piece debate on the first day of each new Seanad. The Government needs to take the bull by the horns by reforming the Seanad and eliminating duplication between the Upper House and the Lower House." ENDS

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Speaking in the Seanad today on the National Pension Reserve Fund Bill Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty tabled an amendment calling for all bonuses that have been accrued by executives in the two main banks over the past three years to be returned to the state.

He said, "We, in Sinn Féin, have repeatedly called on the Minister to use the National Pensions Reserve Fund in productive investment in projects to ensure that we get the country back to work and to ensure that we get delivered the social services for which the people are crying out.

"We all know that there was a drug in banking society, but also in the elite in Irish society, which was based on profit, bonuses and a merry-go-round that they thought would never end, and they are holding the rest of us, the workers of the country, to ransom. All of this was based on irresponsible borrowing by the banks and locked the Irish financial system into a cycle which, as my party has previously highlighted could only end in disaster.

"It was not the case that nobody shouted stop. Sinn Féin shouted stop but the problem was that the Government was not prepared to listen. The people are now paying the price for that rampant irresponsibility by bankers, by developers, but also by the Government, which failed to listen, which failed to take action, and which will commit to put every man, woman and child in the State into debt, increase their taxes and increase the pain to ensure that those who got us into this difficulty continue to be bailed out.

"I have tabled an amendment to deal with the bonuses that have been accrued by executives within these financial institutions over the past three years. In this amendment my party asks that all bonuses collected as part of his or her remuneration in that financial institutions over the past three years be paid back to the State. Some of these executives have received millions in bonuses per year over these three years.

"A question needs to be asked, and I know the answer to it. Did they earn that money? Did they deserve that money? We cannot reward people who exploited the Irish economy and who put us into this disaster. We speak about it - we heard it from the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis - that these bankers are as bad as Cromwell. Would the Minister of State pay Cromwell a couple of million euros per year? Would he pay him bonuses like that? If the Minister of State does not accept this amendment he is allowing the people who put us in this place to continue earning the same type of money.

"One must remember the important aspect of this. After this Bill passes, which no doubt it will, it is the Irish people, the taxpayers, it is the mothers and fathers who were sending their children to special needs classes which were taken away by the Government just two weeks ago so that they are now in mainstream classes, who are paying these executives their bonuses and wages. It is the woman who is lying on a trolley in an accident and emergency department who is paying these executives their bonuses and their millions in wages. The people demand that the Government take action and I put forward these amendments in order that this action can be taken." ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today on a motion to transfer the command of the Irish contingent currently serving in Chad Sinn Féin Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh welcomed the fact that Ireland is once again reverting to the UN mandate. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the State's experiment with EU Battle Groups should be brought to an end.

He said, "I welcome the fact that Ireland is once again reverting to the UN mandate, the blue-hatted missions, as indicated by the deployment of over 400 soldiers. This is where we should have been; EU military missions are contrary to our supposed military neutrality. Our experimentation with EU battle groups should be brought to an end, with our defence forces committed only to UN blue-hatted peacekeeping missions. This would be an endorsement of the primacy of the UN model and would allow the UN to operate effectively if we could encourage other countries to do likewise.

"In this time of recession it makes economic sense for Ireland to revert to such missions. The mission in Chad has cost us over €60 million to date, none of which is recoupable, as it would be if it was a UN-led mission. Over 50% of costs of the new mission will be recoupable. It is a sign of the esteem in which Ireland is held when operating in UN-led missions that, of the 14 countries committing to this mission, Brigadier-General Gerald Aherne has been appointed deputy force commander and an Irish officer will take up the position of chief operations officer. I wish the new mission well and hope that this is a sign that the Minister is recommitting to UN led missions only." ENDS

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