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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the decision to change EU guidelines on 'knobbly' fruit and vegetables and said that it will benefit both farmers and shoppers. July the 1st is the date on which the EU marketing standards for 26 types of produce will be scrapped.

Ms de Brún said:


"Today’s decision to allow for the sale of certain types of misshapen fruit and vegetables in Europe is a victory for commonsense.


"This will mean that local farmers can bring more of their produce to market and it will also hopefully mean that consumers see a drop in price. Nearly 20% of produce was rejected as it didn’t meet the guidelines. This was a ridiculous situation.


"It will also cut down on the present situation of considerable food waste, where farmers produce perfectly good, nutritious food but then cannot get this food onto supermarket shelves because its appearance doesn't meet marketing standards. The situation up until today made no sense whatsoever, particularly in view of economic hardship, and a high level of obesity among our young people." ENDS

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Sinn Féin International Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Government to demand the release of two Irish citizens and others who were yesterday kidnapped by the Israeli Navy while on a humanitarian mission to Gaza. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the actions of the Israeli’s amounted to piracy and called on the Government to seek the end of all preferential trade agreements in light of their ongoing human rights abuses.

Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “The Government must demand the immediate release of the Irish citizens and others aboard the Spirit of Humanity which was on its way to deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged people of Gaza and which yesterday fell victim to piracy by the Israeli Navy in international waters.

“The Government must also demand the return of the confiscated humanitarian aid that was on board including medicine, toys, olive trees and cement which had been cleared by the Customs of our EU neighbour Cyprus. The boat must be released and allowed it proceed on its way.

“And, in light of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and its ongoing human rights abuses, the Government should seek an end to all preferential trading agreements with Israel.” ENDS

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Ag labhairt do inniu i ndiaidh tuilleadh eolais ag teacht chun tosaigh fán “Acadamh Ultaise” dúirt Barra Mac Giolla Dhuibh;

“Níl fadhb ar bith agamsa leis an Aire nó an Roinn ag caitheamh airgid ar chúrsaí cultúrtha d’aon ghrúpa sa Tuaisceart. Ach tá dhá fadhb anseo leis an droch-cleachtas go dtí seo.

níor chóir go raibh airgead ar an taobh le togra ar bith mura bhfuil éileamh agus áiseanna ann sa chéad dul síos. Ní fiú airgead a mholadh nach féidir caitheamh agus ansin go mbeadh an t-airgead nach gcaitear ag dul ar ais chuig Westminster.
Mar Gaelgóir ní féidir liom seasamh siar agus ligin don nós seo leanúint, go gcaithfear déileáil le Gaeilge agus Ultais mar dhá theanga ar an leibhéal céanna. Níl siad ar chomh chéim. Shínigh Rialtais na Breataine suas don Chairt Eorpach 8 mbliana ó shin agus tá an Cairt soiléir ar an cheist seo – nach bhfuil cead ag rialtais ná údarás déileáil le teangacha ar bhonn pingin ar phingin. Caithfear déileáil leo ar bhonn a riachtanais fhéin.

“Dar le eagrais Gaeilge, tá na mílte ranganna Gaeilge in achan cheantar, in achan sráidbhaile fud fan na hÉireann. Tá na mílte paistí ag freastal ar Ghaelscoileanna agus níos mó na riamh ag foghlaim Gaeilge ar scoileanna Bhéarla.

Níl sé ceart na cóir déileáil le teanga ar bith ach ar bhonn a cuid éilimh agus a cuid riachtanais féin.

Beidh mé ag caint leis an Aire nua agus ag súil nach dtitfidh seisean isteach ar droch-nósmhaireacht seo.” CRÍOCH

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For Immediate Release:
 
North Antrim MLA and Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson Daithí McKay will be making a presentation to the Environment Committee tomorrow morning on his proposal to introduce a Plastic Bag Levy in the North. 
 
Mr McKay is currently putting together a Primary Legislation Private Members Bill on the matter.
 
Mr McKay said:

"A Plastic Bag levy is a simple but effective way of addressing the problem of Plastic Bag Litter.  Nearly 460million plastic bags go to landfill in the north each year and the public do see the need to address this unsightly problem.
 
"Last year the Assembly backed a Sinn Féin motion supporting the introduction of a Plastic Bag Levy and I feel there is no reason why we couldn't push this matter forward and introduce the necessary legislation"   CRIOCH.

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Sinn Féin Coleraine Councillor, Billy Leonard has commented on the statement made by the by Evelyn McDaid regarding the Coleraine Orange Order Parade on the 1st of July stating:

 

“Evelyn McDaid has been very brave since her husband was brutally murdered in Coleraine.

 

She has also been very principled and despite the horrendous context she has looked to the greater good of the community. I am therefore not surprised that she has made her appeal for this parade to pass off peacefully.

 

I am sure there will be many who agree with her call and it focuses minds to ensure that sectarianism doesn’t win through. This area must get passed this parade and indeed all other events this summer to build the sort of community that is not constantly in tension.” ENDS

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Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has presented the awards and congratulated the students at the recent Annual Awards ceremony at CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus.

This year 330 students graduated from courses in agriculture, agricultural engineering, horticulture and rural and countryside management.

Speaking at the ceremony the Minister said: “I am pleased to attend the Awards Ceremony at Greenmount and celebrate the students’ achievements. It is a great occasion and I congratulate all our students and recognise their hard work in achieving their awards. Once again the CAFRE students have proven themselves in a league of their own. This year's examination results have been outstanding across all courses at CAFRE. The quality of our graduates is excellent and they are highly regarded across the industry.

“I believe that well trained, competent and innovative people like you are the future of our industry and will help us to remain competitive in the global marketplace. You now have a sound foundation in technical and business skills that will make a difference to our industry. I look forward to working with you all in developing our industry in the future.”

The Minister also highlighted the importance of the land-based sector to the local economy. She said: “Down through the years there have been many challenges facing our industry. Indeed, the challenges faced by the industry and the rural communities today in the current economic climate are extremely difficult. The land-based sector is critical to the well-being of our economy; a key role of my Department is to support the industry and to encourage its growth and development with a strong market focus”.

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Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson Foyle MLA Martina Anderson has welcomed the launch of a new information booklet by the Consumers Council entitled ‘Access to Air Travel’

The new guide informs passengers of the type and level of assistance they are entitled to at the airport. The Consumer Council has been given the responsibility to promote this service in the North which will see them deal with enquiries and handle passenger complaints by the Department of Transport

The guide was launched by The Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy MP, MLA at Belfast City Airport on Tuesday 30th June

Martina Anderson said


“There have been some horror stories in the press in the last few years about the way some airlines have treated disabled passengers so its very important that airlines and airports improve their level of service .Its equally important that passengers know the type and level of assistance they are entitled to at airports.


“Under European law passengers with a disability or reduced mobility have improved rights at all EU airports. Those passengers need to know that they are entitled to assistance throughout their journey, from booking their flight; check in, boarding and leaving their destination airport


The Consumer Council has produced the ‘Access to Air Travel’ guide to highlight the assistance passengers can expect and information on how to complain if something should go wrong. Passengers who feel they could benefit from assistance at the airport can get a free copy of the booklet by contacting the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022.


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Sinn Féin Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn who has just returned from Gaza has described the Israeli government’s decision to board and hijack a peace boat en-route to Gaza carrying medical aid as contemptible. Councillor MacLochlainn added; “The piracy of the Israeli Navy in boarding the boat in international waters and towing it towards Israel is yet another astounding example of just how beyond reproach this administration believes it is.” A previous boat Free Gaza the Dignity was rammed in December on another humanitarian trip after Israel launched its renewed military offensive against the Palestinian people in Gaza.


Councillor MacLochlainn said:


“The passengers and crew of the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ boat are peace activists and human rights workers from 11 countries.

"Even before Israel’s military attack throughout Christmas and the New Year, over half of Gaza was without electricity because of Israel’s refusal to allow fuel into the city. Israel’s ongoing blockade of fuel, food and medical supplies had brought the city to its knees clearly softening the city up for its ferocious attack which destroyed the city and left thousands dead and wounded.

“Israel needs to understand there are political and economic consequences for its crimes against Gaza and its people, and European leaders need to step up and make their voice heard. Slowly starving an entire nation, blocking medical, humanitarian and reconstruction aid is contrary to international law and human rights and needs to be opposed. If nothing else this should be another signal to European leaders to immediately end all EU-Israeli trade agreements.

“European leaders need to demand the immediate release of those aboard the Spirit of Humanity and Israel's adherence to all UN Resolutions on the region. Just last week Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin noted, ‘Some key issues relating to Gaza remain to be dealt with. The humanitarian crisis is ongoing and is altogether unacceptable in terms of the failure to open up crossings and allow the free flow of aid.’ The time for rehetoric is long past it is now time governments acted.

“In the absence of Israel ceasing it human rights violations against Gaza and political leader’s refusal to toughen up their stance and move from words to action it has been left to civilian activists like those aboard the Spirit of Humanity to get aid to the city.”

"I call on the Irish government and on other EU states to demand the release of Irish and other citizens illegally arrested in international waters, that the confiscated humanitarian aid on board, (medicine, toys, olive trees and cement) which had been cleared by the customs of another EU country, Cyprus, be returned and that the boat be released and allowed proceed on its way.”


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Donegal South West Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has called on the Government to support a Sinn Féin motion in the Dáil to move the writ for the by election to take place to fill the seat left vacant as a result of the election of Pat the Cope Gallagher to the European Parliament.

Speaking today as Sinn Féin tabled the motion Senator Doherty said, “The democratic representation of the people of Donegal South West must be restored to its full quota at the earliest opportunity. We must not see a repeat of previous situations where constituencies have been left for more than a year without their proper representation. Sinn Féin is today taking the lead in calling for this by-election to be held at the earliest opportunity.

“Donegal is a county that was by and large left behind by the Celtic Tiger and is currently suffering the highest levels of unemployment in the State with 10,000 people losing their jobs last year.

“The infrastructure deficit in my constituency is massive. We have no railway link, very little access to broadband, local and regional roads are in a state of disrepair and we are not connected to the national gas grid.

“The fishing sector is on its knees as a result of Government inaction and over regulation. Cancer services have been withdrawn in one of our hospitals and there has been massive cuts in home help hours. The future of the Gaeltacht area is in question as it continues to contract amid Government intransigence.

“All of these issues need to be addressed and it is therefore essential that Donegal South West has its full quota democratic quota restored to it urgently.

“The Government must not drag it heels on this. Time must be allowed to debate the Sinn Féin motion and I would remind Fianna Fáil TDs of the words of Pat the Cope Gallagher himself when calling for a by-election in Donegal South West in 1986 when he said that it was ‘morally and democratically wrong’ for the then Fine Gael/Labour Government to oppose the election.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin has today tabled a Dáil calling for the Donegal South West by-election writ to be moved to fill the seat left vacant as a result of the election of Pat the Cope Gallagher to the European Parliament.

Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD will this morning call on the Government, at the order of business in the Dáil, to allow time for the motion to be debated.

Speaking to the media Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The people of Donegal South West have a right to full representation in the Dáil. The government must not drag its heels on this and needs to act on the Sinn Féin motion.

“It won’t just be the members of the Dáil who will take a dim view of any attempt by Fianna Fáil and the Green’s to shy away from moving the by-election writ.

“The people of Donegal South West live in one of the counties hardest hit by the current recession. Successive Fianna Fáil TDs have failed this constituency in the good times and the bad.

“Any attempt by this government to mute their voice in the Dáil will not be acceptable to Sinn Féin and it will not be acceptable to the electorate and people of Donegal South West.” ENDS

Text of motion:
That the Ceann Comhairle direct the Clerk of the Dáil to issue his writ for the election of a Member to fill the vacancy which has occurred in the membership of the present Dáil consequent on the election to the European Parliament of Pat' the Cope' Gallagher, a member for the constituency of Donegal South West. – Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan, Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening on the private members motion calling for an inquiry into the conduct of Michael Shine in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda Sinn Féin Health and Children Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said an inquiry is clearly necessary because of the complete failure of the system to respond appropriately to the very serious complaints raised by those who suffered abuse at the hands of Michael Shine.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“On behalf of Sinn Féin I fully support this motion in its call for the Government to provide appropriate support for the victims of sexual abuse, to establish a Commission of Investigation or another form of credible inquiry to investigate all matters relating to the conduct of Michael Shine in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and to ensure that proper procedures are put in place to help prevent abuse in the future.

“We recently debated the report of the Commission on Child Abuse, the Ryan Report, and it was rightly stated that the terrible crimes against children were compounded by the conspiracy to deny and to conceal and to intimidate those who dared to speak up. It was a conspiracy of the powerful against the powerless.

“In Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, which was run by the Medical Missionaries of Mary, this culture of cover-up was replicated. We saw it most starkly in the case of the women who were mutilated by Michael Neary.

“The women victims of that scandal, some of them teenagers at the time of their operations, were put through dreadful experiences. Without their knowledge or consent, they had their wombs removed unnecessarily and were prevented from having more children. It ranks amongst the most horrific examples of medical malpractice. It was disgraceful that the secret inquiry by the Medical Council into the conduct of Michael Neary took so long to commence and then to complete, before it finally vindicated these women.

“We had the inquiry by Judge Maureen Harding Clarke which, while again vindicating the women, fell short of the public inquiry which was the original demand. Tribunals of inquiry have been held concerning much less grave matters.

“On my proposal the then North Eastern Health Board had requested the Minister for Health and Children to establish a full public inquiry into the delivery of Maternity Services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. This also was not acceded to.

“We had the compensation scheme for Neary’s victims but it must also be put on record that there are outstanding issues here. I and others in this House have been pressing the case for a number of women excluded by the terms of reference of the compensation scheme. We have met with a stone wall from the Minister for Health & Children and I again appeal to her to revisit this matter and to do right by this small number of women who, like Neary’s other victims, were so grievously wronged.

“Now here we find ourselves again seeking justice for victims of another consultant at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, another top professional who brought his profession into disrepute, who betrayed trust and abused his patients but who was, to a great extent, protected by the system.

“The victims of Michael Shine are still coming forward. There are scores of victims, many of them in Counties Cavan and Monaghan which I represent. Last week I met with one of them, Patrick Cusack of Carrickmacross. He was ‘Brendan’ in the Prime Time documentary but since then he has taken the very courageous step of revealing his identity in order better to seek truth and justice and to assist his fellow victims.

“Patrick Cusack was abused first by Shine when he was 11 years old and an in-patient in Drogheda. He returned to the hospital aged 19 when he was very seriously ill with meningitis. He was in a semi-conscious condition when he was again abused by Shine. As Patrick himself states:

‘My life was turned upside down. It took me another 20 years before I started to deal with the extreme pain that his sexual abuse had caused.’

“The pain of the victims has been compounded by the slowness of the system in responding. It was only last week that the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney met with Dignity for Patients which represents the victims of this former consultant.

“An inquiry is clearly necessary because of the complete failure of the system to respond appropriately to the very serious complaints raised by those who suffered abuse at the hands of Michael Shine. Major questions need to be answered by the hospital management, the former Health Board and its successor the HSE, the Department of Health & Children an Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“Given the number of victims coming forward a major question mark must hang over the thoroughness of the original Garda investigation into the conduct of Michael Shine. That investigation culminated in his 2003 acquittal on charges of indecent assault on six teenage boys.

“The role of the management of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda must also be probed. Their role in the Neary case was reprehensible. Are we expected to believe that they were not aware of the activities of Michael Shine and did not conspire to cover up so many abuses carried out over so many years?

“A public inquiry is necessary to answer these and the other key questions. The call by Dignity for Patients for a public inquiry has been supported by One in Four, the Rape Crisis Centre, the Children’s Rights Alliance and Barnardos. When Minister of State John Moloney replied to the issue as a matter on the adjournment on 16 June on behalf of the Minister for Health & Children he stated that the Minister had indicated that she does not propose to establish a further inquiry.

“This was before the Minister finally met Dignity for Patients last week. The amendment in the name of the Minister states that she discussed with Dignity for Patients the group’s call for an inquiry and will revert to them in July after she has discussed the issues involved with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and conferred with other Ministers. What does this mean? Is the Minister going to establish an inquiry or is she not? There must surely be enough information in the hands of the Minister already to make her determination. She should withdraw the amendment and allow the substantive motion to pass and proceed with setting up an inquiry. To do otherwise leads to the suspicion that the amendment is merely a devise to buy time until the Dáil rises for its summer recess and the political pressure is taken off the Minister and her colleagues. But I believe pressure will be maintained on Minister Harney and on Minister Dermot Ahern in whose constituency this abuse took place and many of whose constituents were and are affected.

“I will conclude with the words of Patrick Cusack and urge the Government to listen and act on them:

‘I am asking that this Government of our great country deals with this sad case and is seen to facilitate justice for the victims. There are many more than me...Please, please put the wheels in motion so that these people and their families can find some serenity and peace of mind, which can only be attained by closure. This in turn can only be achieved when there is a full inquiry so that all the victims can be heard and so that Mr. Shine and all the relevant agencies involved account for their actions.’” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has described the Israeli government’s decision to board and hijack a peace boat on route to Gaza carrying medical aid as contemptible adding; “The piracy of the Israeli Navy in boarding the boat in international waters and towing it towards Israel this is yet another astounding example of just how beyond reproach this administration believes it is.” A previous boat Free Gaza the Dignity was rammed in December on another humanitarian trip after Israel launched its renewed military offensive against the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh added:

“The passengers and crew of the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ boat are peace activists and human rights workers from 11 countries. Late last year I travelled on the Dignity from Cyprus on a visit to Gaza. Even before Israel’s military attack throughout Christmas and the New Year, over half of Gaza was without electricity because of Israel’s refusal to allow fuel into the city. Israel’s ongoing blockade of fuel, food and medical supplies had brought the city to its knees clearly softening the city up for its ferocious attack which destroyed the city and left thousands dead and wounded.

“Israel needs to understand there are political and economic consequences for its crimes against Gaza and its people, and European leaders need to step up and make their voice heard. Slowly starving an entire nation, blocking medical, humanitarian and reconstruction aid is contrary to interantional and human  rights and needs to be opposed. If nothing else this should be another signal to European leaders to immediately end all EU-Israeli trade agreements.

“European leaders need to demand the immediate release of those aboard the Spirit of Humanity. Just last week Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin noted, ‘Some key issues relating to Gaza remain to be dealt with.  The humanitarian crisis is ongoing and is altogether unacceptable in terms of the failure to open up crossings and allow the free flow of aid.’

“In the absence of Israel ceasing it human rights violations against Gaza and political leader’s refusal to toughen up their stance and move from words to action it has been left to activists like those aboard the Spirit of Humanity to get aid to the city.”

"I call on the Irish governement and on other EU states to demand the release of Irish and other citizens illegally arrested in international waters, that the confiscated humanitarian aid on board, (medicine, toys, olive trees and cement) which had been cleared by the customs of another EU country, Cyprus, be returned and that the boat be released and allowed proceed on its way.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education, Transport, Regional Development, Gaeilge agus an Gaeltacht Senator Pearse Doherty today took part in a joint initiative with Fine Gael, Labour and senior journalists calling for the establishment of an Advisory Group to debate and make recommendations to government on the future of print and broadcast media in Ireland.

The Donegal senator said:

“The recent closure of Foinse brings sharply into context the need for robust government policies, legislation and commitment to supporting and developing indigenous media. Sinn Féin has regularly raised our concerns on the future of the Irish language media in the Dáil and Seanad. It is unacceptable that Foinse, the last language newspaper, has been let go to the wall without so much as a whimper from the government. And it highlights a broader issue that needs to be acknowledged.

“We need a discussion about what type of print and broadcast media ownership model best serves the people, the industry and Irish business. There is huge scope for indigenous media but in the absence of adequate government policy and legislation such potential is under threat of being realised by outside conglomerates and not local business.

“Government agency Enterprise Ireland is responsible for the development and promotion of the indigenous business sector yet it does not extend this support to local media. It’s counterpart in the north Invest NI takes a very different approach and has invested its supports in local media projects.  

“Sinn Féin fully supports the call for the establishment of an Advisory Group to debate and make recommendations to government on the future faced by the print and broadcast media in Ireland. Government inertia on this issue cannot continue, too much is at stake.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has described the Criminal Justice Amendment Bill, published by Minister Dermot Ahern today, as an attempt to extensively diminish the right to trial by jury. He said the measures contained in the Bill will have no impact on the fight against serious crime and what is needed is less laws and more action.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “The Criminal Justice Amendment Bill is yet another package of futile laws thrown together as a PR stunt in order to give the impression that the Government is tackling serious crime. However, the Bill is hugely significant in that it attempts to seriously diminish the right to trial by jury. This fundamental change to our common law system must not be allowed to slip onto the statute book under the radar.

“Jury trials are not the problem in the fight against serious crime. In fact the statistics prove that juries have no problem convicting criminals when solid cases are put in front of them. What is required is resources and measures to help the Gardaí to build strong cases.

“Michael McDowell rushed a host of offences relating to organized crime onto the statute book via the Criminal Justice Act 2006. We argued at the time that the laws were a PR stunt and that they would not have any impact in the fight against serious crime. Now just three years later Dermot Ahern is rushing another range of equally futile offences into being. The bulk of this Bill simply amends those offences rushed in by the earlier Fianna Fáil led Government in 2006.

“On a near annual basis the UN recommends that Ireland should end the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court – with this Bill the Government actually does the exact opposite in extending its jurisdiction massively. Today I met with the Human Rights Commission and they have confirmed to me that they share my concerns with this Bill.

“As we said in 2006 and we are saying again now, what is needed to tackle serious crime is concrete action rather than publicity courting, ineffective and potentially dangerous legislation.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and deputy chair of the Health Committee has stated that the Health Minister has failed in ensuring that hospital hygiene standards are adequate and that previous measures to improve hygiene standards have been insufficient leaving patients exposed to infection.

Speaking today Ms O’Neill said:

“The report into a number of hospitals level cleanliness and hygiene by the Regulation and Quality Authority has highlighted that there is clearly room for improvement within our hospitals.

“With diseases such as MRSA and C Diff that can thrive due to poor sanitary conditions in wards and hospital clinics this is something that must be dealt with as a matter of urgency as it leaves patients exposed to infection.

“For the Health Minister, Micheal McGimpsey, to state that he will bring in further measures to ensure that cleanliness and infection control is a priority is unacceptable and exposes the fact that previous measures brought in by the Minister were not sufficient .

Any measures that were supposed to be in place in the first place should have been extremely stringent and it is blatantly obvious that hygiene in places of treatment and recovery would naturally be a major priority for any health care system.”

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has published the final Transfer 2010 Guidance for admissions to post-primary schools in September 2010.

Speaking after making a statement to the Assembly the Minister said: “Following a period of extensive meetings with key partners across the education sector, I published Transfer 2010 Guidance for consultation on 2 February. We received 3,195 responses during the consultation, the overwhelming majority of which were positive. Some of the responses contained useful and practical suggestions for improving the Guidance and these have been incorporated into the final version. In addition we received 29 responses to the consultation on the Equality Impact Assessment on the Transfer 2010 guidance.

“I sent the final Transfer 2010 Guidance to the Executive last week and notified my intention to publish immediately so schools can consider them. Boards of Governors need to make important decisions in the light of this Guidance early in the next school year. Parents and the children too have a need to know the Department’s policy for Transfer 2010.

“The Guidance states that it is not the policy of the Department of Education to include academic admissions criteria in its recommended admissions criteria. The Department does not consider academic selection to be consistent with the objective of treating children fairly and letting them access the education to which they are entitled. Equality will be the cornerstone of our new education system.

“There is a widespread view across the education sector that academic selection is not in the best interests of all children. I have just completed a series of five conferences attended by hundreds of primary school principals. The majority agreed with the removal of testing of 10 year olds and were unhappy with the breakaway tests proposed by some schools.

“I have always been clear that if schools follow the Transfer 2010 Guidance there is no need whatsoever to subject children to traumatic tests.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The final Transfer 2010 Guidance and the consultation report can be accessed on the Department of Education’s website at www.deni.gov.uk

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East Derry Sinn Féin MLA, Francie Brolly has welcomed the official closure of the security compound at the Magilligan Ferry landing station.

Mr. Brolly said:

“Today the official closure of the security compound at Magilligan will be complete with the handover of the keys to the Ferry operator Jim McClenaghan. While this will remove the hassle created through this unwarranted obstacle to free travel between Magilligan and Moville I would appeal to the operator to ensure that the public toilets which are contained within this compound remain accessible to travelers.

“I would also like to thank Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy without whose intervention this unilateral imposition of security measures between two places on the island of Ireland by the British authorities would still prevail.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has described the CSO report on public sector employment and rates of pay as misleading. Deputy Morgan said the high rate of average pay across the public sector can be put down to the exorbitant rates of pay at higher levels and that many thousands of public sector employees earn little more than the minimum wage.

Speaking today Deputy Morgan said, “Of course there are many deficiencies within the public sector that need to be ironed out not least the exorbitant rates of pay at the higher levels and the vast wastages of money on administration and consultancy. However the CSO report on public sector employment paints a misleading picture in that it depicts the average public sector worker as earning well above the average industrial wage.

“It is the exorbitant rates of pay at the higher levels which brings the average pay up to the level it is at. Meanwhile there are many thousands of public sector workers earning little above the minimum wage. These workers must be protected from any proposed cutbacks by An Bord Snip Nua.

“The increase in the number of public sector workers over the past twelve months is a simple reflection of increased demand for public services as the recession begins to bite. There are growing demands on the welfare system as more and more people are made unemployed. There are also growing demands for public transport as the motor trade is in decline while demand on our health services increase as private health insurance declines. And, despite this increase in demand for public services, employment in the public sector is beginning to decline with a decrease of 2,900 in the first three months of this year.

“The message that needs to go to Government is that yes there are deficiencies that need to be sorted but it is wastages and higher level pay rates that should be hit while the average public sector worker is protected along with the vital services they provide.” ENDS

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Responding to the threat of strike action by the Prison Officers Association, Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson, Martina Anderson said:

“It is clear that a root and branch reorganization of the Prison Service in the North is required. It is also clear that senior members of the Prison Officers Association and prison officers themselves are living in denial if they believe that the recommended reforms of the system are not essential. This institutional opposition to change can not be allowed to prevail.

“It is important that we remember the failings in the system highlighted in the Ombudsman’s and the Human Rights Commissions reports of 2004 and 2005 following the death in Maghaberry of Colin Bell. Among other serious breaches of discipline, Prison Wardens were found to be sleeping on duty and repeated attempts by Colin Bell to take his own life were not observed despite the fact that the CCTV in the cell was supposed to be constantly monitored.

“The record of alcohol abuse, brutality of prisoners, sectarian influences in the prison regime and a mentality prevalent in the prison service that prisoners should be treated as the ‘enemy’ must be confronted and eradicated.

“These attitudes and the circumstances surrounding a number of deaths in custody in recent years demonstrate the need for root and branch changes in the way prisons here are run. ENDS

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The Chairperson of Magherafelt District Council, Sean McPeake (Sinn Féin) has criticised the erection of loyalist flags in Magherafelt town centre at the weekend and related activity which saw bi-lingual road nameplates vandalised in the town over the same period

Cllr. Mc Peake strongly condemned the incidents and said he believed both incidents were linked. Cllr. Mc Peake said `Many Magherafelt residents have been in contact with myself to inform me of their absolute disgust at the proliferation of loyalist flags which were erected over the weekend in the town centre.

"The commercial centre of Magherafelt should be a place free from any intimidatory emblems. It is the responsibility of all elected representatives and civic leaders as well as statutory agencies to ensure that it becomes a shared space for all inhabitants of the town and the people of our district,

"I totally deplore the vandalism which saw the Irish language content of bi-lingual road nameplates painted over or grafitti being daubed on the nameplates at the same time as the loyalist flags were erected.

"Those that choose to erect flags in the centre of our district's major town need to realise that the centre of Magherafelt is not exclusively owned by any one section of our community. They also need to realise that all residents within our district have the democratic right to determine if they want bi-lingual nameplates for their road or housing development.

"Nationalists and republicans living and working in Magherafelt will not tolerate attacks on Irish culture or the on-going territorial demarcation of their town centre I have asked for a meeting with the PSNI in Magherafelt in relation to these incidents` ENDS

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