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Sinn Féin MLA and deputy chair of the Health Committee Michelle O’Neill has today met with the RCOG in relation to issues surrounding maternity service provision in the north of Ireland.

Speaking following the meeting Ms O’Neill said:

“This was a productive meeting and I welcome the chance to engage with those doctors who are at the forefront of the field.

“Several issues were focused upon including the need for perinatal services for women with mental health problems, the worrying current levels of caesarean sections and the need for targets in relation to maternity services.

“What ultimately we need to see in the long run is a proactive approach by the health department in addressing these issues and the massive gaps that exist in service provision in these areas.

“I will continue to work closely with the ROCOG and the Royal College of midwives in order to ensure that they are supported in doing what they do best and that maternal health issues are a priority for the Health Minister over the coming year and beyond. “

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed today’s ruling by a Belfast court not to extradite one of the Basques, Arturo Villanueva, who the Spanish authorities were pursuing and has said that the extradition warrant against Inaki de Juana should also be rejected.
  
Speaking today Ms de Brún said:
 
“Today’s decision, ruling that the International Arrest Warrant issued against Arturo Villanueva is invalid, is to be welcomed and highlights the spurious and politically motivated nature of the charges brought against both Arturo Villaneuva and Inaki de Juana by the Spanish authorities.
 
“The two men are essentially being pursued solely for their political ideas and the extradition attempts on behalf of the Spanish authorities, in both cases, should be wholly rejected.
 
“It further exposes the ongoing repression within the Basque Country where social, youth, media and political groups alike are made illegal and repressed with many members being imprisoned.
 
“ It is Sinn Féin’s belief that the Spanish government should desist from such actions and focus upon exploring the unconditional declaration of support for a peaceful, political and democratic process by the Basque Abertzale Left grouping this week.“   

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Chuir urlábhraí Gaeilge Shinn Féin Prionsias Ó Brollaigh fáilte roimh athláthrú nuachtáin Gaeilge Foinse de chuid Pádraig Ó Chéidigh san Indo inniu.

Dúirt an tUasal Uí Bhrollaigh;

“D’imigh Foinse uainn le linn an tsamhraidh nuair a thit sciar mór fógraíochta Gaeilge mar gheall ar an chúlú eacnamaíoch agus ní raibh úinéir Pádraig Ó Chéidigh in ann teacht ar chomhréiteach le Foras na Gaeilge ar mhéid an deontais don nuachtán seachtainiúil.

Tagann an t-eagrán úr seo amach mar fhorlíonadh de chuid an Indo, nuachtán a bhfuil sean taithí ag lucht na Gaeilge air le blianta fada as an naimhdeas is imreas don chéad teanga. Ach sin ráite beidh dáileachán de 150,000 i gcomparáid leis na 4,500 den sean eagrán a bhí á dhíol acu. Mar a deir daoine ‘swings agus roundabouts’….

Pé stair agus turas a bhí ann go dtí seo tá muid ag guí gach rath ar an fhiontar nua seo, nuachtán seachtainiúil Gaeilge ar ais ar an saol.

Tá muid ag súil go mór leis an nuachtán seachtainiúil ‘saorsheasaimh’ a bheas ag teacht chun tosaigh roimh i bhfad fosta.

Ní bheidh sé furasta do cheachtar acu san am seo na gcoirruithe, ach tá lucht Gaeilge an tuaiscirt thíos leis an ghlór Ulaidh bheith in easnaimh.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has strongly criticised a Fine Gael proposal to cut employers’ PRSI contributions describing it as irresponsible and misguided. He said, if implemented, the proposal will lead to social welfare being slashed.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Cutting employers’ PRSI contributions will result in less money going into the social insurance fund from which social welfare is paid. This will obviously lead to social welfare being slashed.

“The proposal from Fine Gael to cut employers’ PRSI contributions is both irresponsible and misguided. This is not the way to save jobs as ultimately it will lead to a further contraction of the economy as the spending power of the hundreds of thousand of people on social welfare is cut.

“What is required is package to both retain jobs and stimulate the economy. Sinn Féin has proposed a €600 million jobs retention fund to be paid for by a number of revenue raising measures including a tax on wealth and the introduction of a third tax band of 48% on income over €100,000.

“Sinn Féin has shown where money can be saved and raised to both close the public finance deficit and invest in our economy but without resorting to targeting social welfare of public services. This is the fairest approach to dealing with the economy.

“Those who seek to bring more economic pain on those who can ill afford it while not asking for a penny from the highest earners in the land should be ashamed of themselves.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has expressed broad support for a Dáil Private Members Motion this evening which calls for effective measures to combat human trafficking. However Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the motion in many respects does not go far enough.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to call on the Government to sign the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

He said:

“Sinn Féin broadly supports the Fine Gael motion. In many respects it does not go far enough in demanding the introduction of real, effective measures to combat human trafficking and to protect the victims of this odious crime.

“The Fine Gael motion appears at times to assume that all human trafficking is sex trafficking. I am sure that is not the intention because it is widely known now that that is not the case. Around the globe, and undoubtedly in Ireland, there are significant numbers of people trafficked to work in the domestic sector, in the agriculture and catering industries. I commend the Migrant Rights Centre for the excellent work it has done in exposing these practices, but the extent of trafficking for forced labour is still under-recognised.

“The Government could take a significant step toward ending this practice by signing and ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. This has been in force since June 2003 and is the only one of the core UN human rights treaties that this state has not signed. In defending its refusal to sign, the Government continues to hide behind the Common Travel Area, although anyone who has tried to enter this state from Britain in the past six or seven years knows that the Common Travel Area is dead in the water anyway.

“Greater attention also needs to be paid to the trafficking of children not only for sexual exploitation and forced labour but also for begging and petty theft. The International Organization for Migration has noted a marked increase in this problem across Europe in recent years.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s speech follows:

Sinn Féin broadly supports the Fine Gael motion. In many respects it does not go far enough in demanding the introduction of real, effective measures to combat human trafficking and to protect the victims of this odious crime.

The Government’s predictably self-congratulatory amendment makes reference to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. This state hasn’t even ratified that Convention, and there’s nothing in the Government amendment suggesting that it plans to. Just as we were the last EU state to make human trafficking an offence, we are now lagging behind the 26 other Council of Europe members that have already ratified the Convention. It is a shameful distinction and one that the Government should reverse immediately.

I welcome the plans to extend the recovery period to 60 days, up from the 45 days currently provided for in the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill. I note that Deputy Naughton’s committee stage amendments called for a 90-day period although that is not reflected in the Fine Gael motion. The amendment that Deputy McGrath submitted in my name called for it to be extended to six months and I repeat that call here. When someone has been through such a traumatic experience it is simply unrealistic to expect them to recover from it quickly. 60 days is an improvement on 45 but it is still insufficient if the aim is to provide genuine assistance to these victims.

By the same token, it is crucial that the recovery period not be made dependent on co-operation with the Gardaí. Many victims are simply too traumatised and often they may have genuine and understandable fears about co-operating with the police due to the nature of policing in their home countries. There is also a real risk in some cases that co-operation could put themselves or their families in danger. Traffickers often keep their victims “in line” by means of threats to their families, or to themselves if they ever return home. There are also young people trafficked by family members or family friends who exercise authority over them which, due to cultural factors, the young person may not feel able to defy. There are any number of reasons why a trafficking victim may not co-operate with police but this does not negate their human right to a recovery period. This is made clear in the Convention, which states that the personal situation of the victim should also be taken into account. It was also noted by the Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings, established by the EU Commission in 2003, which advised that “those trafficked persons who do not wish to testify as witnesses – or are not required as witnesses, because they possess no relevant information or because the perpetrators cannot be taken into custody in the destination country – require equally adequate protection and assistance as victim-witnesses”.

Recovery should be a central objective of government policy in this area. The National Action Plan, referred to in the amendment, is very weak on supports for trafficking victims. In many cases these people have been raped, beaten, tortured and abused. It is unclear how their needs for legal assistance, safe and secure housing, social supports, interpretation and translation and counselling and suitable medical care are to be met. This assistance must be provided to victims, and it must be provided regardless of their willingness to act as a witness in any proceedings against those responsible for their trafficking.

It also needs to be pointed out that human trafficking can encompass a wide range of forced activities. The Fine Gael motion appears at times to assume that all human trafficking is sex trafficking. I am sure that is not the intention because it is widely known now that that is not the case. Around the globe, and undoubtedly in Ireland, there are significant numbers of people trafficked to work in the domestic sector, in the agriculture and catering industries. I commend the Migrant Rights Centre for the excellent work it has done in exposing these practices, but the extent of trafficking for forced labour is still under-recognised. The head of the British Human Trafficking Centre, North Yorkshire Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell, has recently stated that there are, in fact, more people trafficked for labour exploitation than for sexual exploitation. Whether or not that is the case here is a question that I do not know the answer to but as long this type of trafficking is overlooked there will clearly be many, many cases that go undetected and with dire consequences for its victims.

The Government could take a significant step toward ending this practice by signing and ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. This has been in force since June 2003 and is the only one of the core UN human rights treaties that this state has not signed. In defending its refusal to sign, the Government continues to hide behind the Common Travel Area, although anyone who has tried to enter this state from Britain in the past six or seven years knows that the Common Travel Area is dead in the water anyway.

Greater attention also needs to be paid to the trafficking of children not only for sexual exploitation and forced labour but also for begging and petty theft. The International Organization for Migration has noted a marked increase in this problem across Europe in recent years. A report published by the Swedish National Criminal Police earlier this year described how what appears to be a family unit consisting of two adults and two to three children will travel from country to country, with the children being sent out to do the begging or stealing because they can usually avoid prosecution. The report notes that “the children are trained from an early age…not to co-operate with the authorities” which reinforces the point I made earlier about the need to separate co-operation from the granting of a recovery period. Again, the extent of this type of trafficking in this state is unclear but it merits investigation – particularly in view of the unfortunate comments recently made by a judge about certain parents “raising their children to steal”. There are children being raised to steal, undoubtedly, but it may not be their parents doing the raising.

Finally, I would remind the Minister of a reply he gave to a Parliamentary Question back when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs. He stated that “The majority of people have no wish to uproot themselves from their communities, frequently leaving their families behind, to undertake often dangerous journeys to unknown and uncertain destinations. If people are provided with a minimum level of economic opportunity and the security provided by a functioning accountable Government and basic public services, they will choose to stay in their own countries, towns and villages.” He was referring to asylum seekers in this PQ but the same undoubtedly applies to many trafficked persons. They choose to migrate because of the lack of alternatives available to them at home and, because of the lack of options for safe and legal migration, they fall victim to trafficking. When forced to return home they are often re-trafficked because the underlying conditions that caused them to leave in the first place have not been addressed. In that regard, the Government’s plan to cut Irish Aid in the budget is truly regrettable. It will undoubtedly lead to worsened conditions in many of the source countries for human trafficking and, in turn, will result in an increase in the number of trafficking victims, here and abroad. It is yet another example of how the government’s short-sighted approach to policy-making simply creates greater problems down the line. I strongly urge the government to revisit that decision and to take on board the recommendations in the Fine Gael motion, particularly in relation to the treatment of those known or suspected to be victims of human trafficking.

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Speaking during the Dáil pre budget debate this evening Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD said while his party is prepared to take on big earners and vested interests the Government would rather take from children and the elderly. Deputy Morgan said Sinn Féin won’t join with the other opposition parties in taking a red marker to the social welfare bill.

Deputy Morgan said:

“I welcome this opportunity to put forward the Sinn Féin proposals to the Minister. He has stated repeatedly that he does not want to take the measures his government is about to take – cutting dole, pensions, child benefit and frontline services. Our proposals raise sufficient funds for him to avoid having to introduce any of those measures and we hope he is willing to adopt them. If he is not looking for actual proposals, if he is looking for Sinn Féin to provide political cover to further impoverish the most vulnerable in society, then he will be left wanting.

“Sinn Féin has examined a series of proposals that will contribute to not only bringing our borrowing under control in the short-term, but also raise money for a stimulus package which will address the deficit in the long-term. The government has failed abysmally to recognise the necessity of dynamic stimulus measures to kick start the economy.

“We are challenging the other opposition parties to support these proposals.

“Our proposals are fair. Some are radical. But, with a €22 billion deficit, radical measures have to be taken. The government has shown it is not willing to leave anything off the table. Its proposal to charge medical card holders for prescriptions shows the moral cowardice of its approach. Sinn Féin is not afraid to take on the big earners and the vested interests. The government would rather take from children and grannies.

“We won’t join with the other opposition parties in taking a red marker to the social welfare bill. Our solution to dealing with the the social welfare bill is to create jobs. Our total stimulus package of €4 billion has to be paid for and to this end we sat down and looked at the taxation system and genuine waste in the public sector. In total, combined with a transfer from the National Pension Reserve Fund of €2 billion – that’s €2 billion less than the government’s transfer for Anglo-Irish – we have raised €7.6 billion in our pre-Budget submission.” ENDS


Full text of Deputy Morgan’s speech follows:

I welcome this opportunity to put forward the Sinn Féin proposals to the Minister. He has stated repeatedly that he does not want to take the measures his government is about to take – cutting dole, pensions, child benefit and frontline services. Our proposals raise sufficient funds for him to avoid having to introduce any of those measures and we hope he is willing to adopt them. If he is not looking for actual proposals, if he is looking for Sinn Féin to provide political cover to further impoverish the most vulnerable in society, then he will be left wanting.

Sinn Féin has examined a series of proposals that will contribute to not only bringing our borrowing under control in the short-term, but also raise money for a stimulus package which will address the deficit in the long-term. The government has failed abysmally to recognise the necessity of dynamic stimulus measures to kick start the economy.

We are challenging the other opposition parties to support these proposals.

Our proposals are fair. Some are radical. But, with a €22 billion deficit, radical measures have to be taken. The government has shown it is not willing to leave anything off the table. Its proposal to charge medical card holders for prescriptions shows the moral cowardice of its approach. Sinn Féin is not afraid to take on the big earners and the vested interests. The government would rather take from children and grannies.

Before I outline Sinn Féin’s proposals, which my party launched yesterday, I want to look briefly at the coalition’s own pre-Budget outlook. The government has claimed it is capable of running this state’s economy. A dubious assertion, considering the hames they have made of affairs to date. They have once again set out their plan for recovery in this pre-Budget outlook, which is breath-taking in its assumption of correctness, despite all the previous misguided and downright wrong forecasts from the Department of Finance. This document they produce is laughable in its poor analysis of the current crisis and the solutions to get us out of it.

Let’s start with Page 1 of the pre-Budget outlook, where it states ‘Repairing our banking system – a separate issue to the fiscal challenge’. Now, I will credit you this Minister. You have done a magnificent job of separating the banking issue and your latest brainchild, NAMA, from the fiscal issue. The Special Purpose Vehicle set up for NAMA to keep the €54 billion that the state is going to have to borrow, off the books, is one of the greatest con jobs I have ever witnessed. The mantra from government ministers that this state cannot continue to borrow in the region of €500 million a week, when in one year, NAMA could end up costing the state €1 billion euro a week, is one hell of a sleight of hand. Repeating the myth that the problems caused by the banking system are separate from the public finances does not make it true, Minister. And people will see it is not true when they are faced with a huge debt service because money was borrowed to keep bank managers, shareholders and developers happy, and not for public services like hospitals and schools.

The next page of the government’s document sets out five reasons why it is necessary to take the cruel actions the cabinet is planning to take. Let’s deal with them.

1. ‘To restore economic competitivenes, without which we will be unable to benefit from the global upswing.’ Ah yes, the global upswing that the government is hoping and praying, like the rising tide, will carry all boats. Unfortunately, this government seems to think restoring economic competitiveness can only be achieved by slashing wages and public spending. Never mind our serious lack of infrastructure. Sinn Féin’s pre-Budget submission focuses on using this period of recession to invest in that infrastructure, thereby not only readying the state for a return to competitiveness, but also stimulating the jobs market and hence the revenue stream.

2. ‘To inspire confidence, internationally and domestically, that the deterioration in the public finances is being arrested.’ Well now, if I was an international investor last May, I would have heard this government promise me that by the end of this year, Ireland would have a deficit of just over €19 billion and it would be reducing that by €4 billion. Now we know that the deficit will be in the region of €22 billion, but the €4 billion adjustment is still the government’s figure. So we are cutting spending now to almost stand still. Hardly confidence inspiring. Sinn Féin’s proposals include a stimulus which will raise revenue so the cycle of cutting and deficit contraction can be ended.

3. ‘To prevent the debt level rising to unsustainable levels so that the cost of servicing that debt is contained.’ One word – NAMA.

4. ‘To assist economic growth by taking responsible action on fiscal and incomes policies, which will avoid unnecessary further adjustment in the labour market.’ Interesting. The government has an ‘income’ policy? Can the government tell us how this policy applies to Brendan Drumm? Or the Taoiseach himself? Or does the income policy apply only to people with average incomes? And this being necessary to avoid unnecessary further adjustment. Is this a promise Minister? Are we to believe that after you’ve slashed social welfare, pensions and child benefit, put a charge on medical cards and cut the pay of people on €30 odd grand or less, that you won’t do anything else? There’ll be no further cuts after this Budget? Sinn Féin would protect lower and middle incomes and bring fairness to the top end of the income scale, particularly in the public sector.

5. And finally – ‘To restore expenditure and taxation to more sustainable levels.’ I thought taxation was completely off the agenda for this government. I bet you’re wondering how that dirty little word crept in there, Minister. You tend to focus on the expenditure side of affairs, despite the fact that we have among the lowest public spending to GDP ratio in the EU. Despite the fact that we have a third world health service and overcrowded classrooms. Sinn Féin believes that there is waste in the public spending that must be ended. But we are a country that needs investment in public services. Our taxation system is not fair. Our pre-Budget proposals make a start towards fairness, but there is much more to do.

These, Minister, are your reasons for your proposed fiscal adjustment and I have to say, I question your motivation behind each and every one of them. I question everything this government says because it has lied to us time and time again. It has been wrong time and time again. Not one financial measure introduced over the last 12 months has not brought us closer to recovery. It has driven us further into recession. From the October budget which increased VAT despite the state already being over-dependent on consumption taxes, contributing to the collapse in those taxes – to January when it took money out of the lower and middle income earners’ pockets, lowering their disposable income - to April, when it doubled levies, brought some of the lowest paid into the tax net and cancelled Christmas for people on the brink of poverty. The government has taken from the economy where it makes no sense to take – the bottom and the middle. It has left the top relatively untouched, yet it claims there is no more room for taxation.

Sinn Féin does not subscribe to this. We won’t join with the other opposition parties in taking a red marker to the social welfare bill. Our solution to dealing with the the social welfare bill is to create jobs. Our total stimulus package of €4 billion has to be paid for and to this end we sat down and looked at the taxation system and genuine waste in the public sector. In total, combined with a transfer from the National Pension Reserve Fund of €2 billion – that’s €2 billion less than the government’s transfer for Anglo-Irish – we have raised €7.6 billion in our pre-Budget submission.

As I said at the start, our proposals are radical and they are brave. We challenge the government’s assertion in their document that expenditure cuts are more effective than raising taxation measures to close a deficit, an assertion backed up by the disreputable IMF and that bastion of democracy, the EU Commission. The right will always seek and it will always find other creatures within its ranks to back up its biased view of the world and the government has done it well this year. We argue that expenditure cuts in this Budget won’t bring about recovery. They will bring about poverty, irreversible damage and more cuts next year, and the year after, until the government breaks its cycle of slash and burn economics.

The deficit is a result of our economic woes, not the cause of them and only a stimulus package for the economy will create the momentum for recovery that will ultimately bring the deficit under control. To pay for that stimulus and to bring much needed funds into the state’s coffers, the only option available to this government is to raise money from those who can afford it. A 48% tax rate on income in excess of €100,000 raises €355 million. A 1% wealth tax on assets, excluding farmland, of over €1 million, could bring in €1.6 billion. Standardising discretionary tax reliefs raises €1.1 billion. Capping public sector pay at €100,000 brings in €450 million. These are just a few of the many proposals we put forward yesterday. In total they help us to pay for a stimulus worth €4 billion that invests in a €2 billion labour intensive infrastructure package; that provides for a €600 million jobs retention fund; that cuts excise duty for the Christmas period and returns the Christmas social welfare bonus. These are all business and household friendly measures that will not only boost confidence in the economy but also start bringing in the revenue needed for recovery.

This isn’t rocket science, minister. It won’t be popular for those used to being protected from government measures bar where they have a positive money-raising effect. But it will be a damn sight more popular with the vast majority of people on this island who fall into the not so well off category. And more importantly – it will put the country on the road to recovery.

Minister, you spoke last October about patriotism and how it is necessary in these times. You asked for patriotism from the lowest paid, those who could least afford to contribute. I am asking you now Minister to show patriotism. This is a great land. We are a great people. We are masters at triumphing through adversity and punching well above our weight. We can achieve success again, but it must be a fairer success this time. Not one that benefits the few and not the many. To get there, your start must be fair. What you are planning in December is not fair Minister. It is not just. Our proposals are and we urge you to adopt them.

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Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle Martina Anderson has said that the continued wastage of public money by InvestNI is totally unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue.

Speaking from the Assembly this afternoon Ms Anderson said;

“Sinn Féin has been intensifying our demands for a thorough investigation into InvestNI, in particular the regional investment inequalities and bad management of its resources presided over by InvestNI in the past ten years.

"Scrutiny of InvestNI financial management  has shown that the Invest NI Headquarters at Bedford Street in Belfast could cost somewhere in the region of £115 to £125 million to the public purse, whereas the capital cost of the site is only valued at £25 million.  

"This is in spite of  continuing payments of £500,000 for their former headquarters now empty in south Belfast, with 11 years to run on the lease and another half a million for premises lying vacant in Campsie County Derry.

"This being said, I believe this is only the ones we know about; it’s like peeling an onion, as you strip away layers of inepitude you find another underneath. It would seem that since its creation and even in its predecessor the IDB  a culture of waste and bad management has gone unchallenged.

"InvestNi claims that 50% of assistance offered is to areas of disadvantage - it's easy to contort percentages. What I want to know is the actual amount of money invested in areas of disadvantage such as Foyle in comparison to affluent areas like South Belfast? This is public money we are talking about and this inept use of finite resources cannot be allowed to continue. The  Finance and DETI Ministers need to re-evaluate the focus of InvestNI in order to tackle job creation and regional disparities that are only being exacerbated by the present direction being taken by this publicly funded body.”

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Speaking today in the Dáil, Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan reiterated his party’s call for immediate government action on the chaos that has been ongoing within VECs and County Councils in the distribution of student grants.

Deputy Morgan questioned the possibility of realising the potential of the Smart Economy, when the Government are so shamefully neglecting the country's valuable human resources.

Deputy Morgan said:

“There is a pressing need for the Minister for Education and Science to take immediate steps to resolve the difficulties in VECs and Local Authorities across the state whereby, due to the unprecedented number of student grant applications, the recruitment embargo placed on both bodies and the unavailability of overtime, many students will now have to wait until January to receive their first student grant payments.

“What is most disturbing about this situation is the calamitous effect this is having on students. Due to the delay on student grant payments, many students are defaulting on rent, unable to purchase vital college books, equipment and supplies and many students currently attending 3rd level institutions are unregistered leaving them without access to crucial services.

“How can we build the Smart Economy when we are shamefully neglecting our valuable human resources?”

Speaking later Deputy Morgan said:

“The Government is cutting its nose off despite its face and it is the people who are suffering. Most students depend on this grant and without it have no alternative but to drop out of college altogether and join the rest of the country on the dole queues. This is not a world-class education system and we will not foster a knowledge economy this way.

“The Government and the Minister for Education and Science especially need to get their act together before thousands of students are forced unjustly out of education. Emergency resources need to be deployed to ensure that no families or students miss out on their third level education.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said the failure of the Government to re-introduce the Christmas Social Welfare Payment will result in parents turning to ruthless money lenders in order to provide their children with a deserved Christmas.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The failure to reconsider the proposed scrooge-like Christmas Bonus cut which will deny hundreds of thousands of children a deserved Christmas.

“Thousands of families rely on the much needed bonus to cover extra expenses which occur at this costly time of year and will result in parents turning to money lenders, inevitably compounding existing family money problems and forcing them into further catastrophic debt in the New Year.” ENDS

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Sinn Fin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan, speaking before the Dáil debate on the government’s pre-Budget outlook today, has challenged Fine Gael and Labour to support Sinn Féin’s approach to the budget in the absence of any proposals of their own. Deputy Morgan said he would like to see the parties support Sinn Féin’s specific proposals for a wealth tax and capping public servants pay.

Deputy Morgan said:

“We welcome the opportunity to present again our pre-Budget proposals which we launched yesterday, this time in the Dáil and to the government. The silence from the other parties in terms of their proposals has been deafening.

“I am challenging Fine Gael and Labour, in the absence of their own proposals, to support some of ours. In particular I would like to see them support the wealth tax and the proposal to cap public servants pay. The latter in particular is very timely, when we look at the obscene salaries being paid in this state both in the public and private sector, as evidenced by the revelations about the head of AIB’s salary today.

“Both Fine Gael and Labour have reacted against several of the government’s proposals and I consider it essential that we in opposition not only oppose the government’s plans for this Budget but also present viable alternatives. Our pre-Budget proposals raise the money to not only reduce the deficit but also pay for a stimulus and we would welcome Fine Gael’s and Labour’s support for our proposals, the only ones presented and costed by an opposition party.” ENDS

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Commenting on this mornings statement by Basque Abertzale Left, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said;

“Today’s statement from Abertzale Left is a welcome development. It is a positive and important public declaration which envisages a route out of the current ongoing conflict.

“In particular I welcome the Abertzale Left declaration that the only way to arrive at a democratic solution is through the democratically expressed will of the people and their commitment to respect any decision freely and peacefully made by Basque citizens.

“Their unconditional declaration of support for a peaceful, political and democratic process should be welcomed by the friends of the Basque and Spanish peoples, by all friends of the quest for peace in the Spanish State.

“So too the commitment to support the Mitchell Principles as a governing instrument in future dialogue aimed at securing a democratic outcome by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

“This political initiative needs space to bloom. I reiterate my call in recent days for all involved to create the space. An important first step has been taken as part of a process.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said today that cuts to social welfare were not merely unjust but were also the least likely way to reduce the budget deficit and would in fact push the economy further into recession.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The mantra from the government that social welfare is too high and is the first point of call for cuts in this budget is shameful. Is there any member of government who could survive on €204 per week? That is the figure they believe it is acceptable to cut.

“Sinn Féin has proposed ways to raise sufficient money to both stimulate the economy and contribute to closing the deficit without touching a cent of social welfare. We have also found funds to reintroduce the Christmas Bonus, putting us a step ahead of other parties who have called for its return but have not set out financial proposals to pay for it.

“Government proposals to slash social welfare are not merely unjust but they will further contract the economy. We are reliant on indirect taxation because of this government’s destruction of the tax system. Cutting social welfare will immediately be felt in VAT and other receipts. The fall in consumption will also hit more jobs in the retail sector.

“The first step to stop the rising social welfare bill is intervention to retain and create jobs. Safe-guarding existing jobs and taking people off dole queues would increase the tax take and reduce the social welfare bill.

“This Government’s blind ideological adherence to a misguided economic agenda aimed at punishing the least well of and most vulnerable sectors of society is not just morally bankrupt, it is driving this state deeper into recession.” ENDS

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Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin’s Pre-Budget 2010 Submission Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said that to address the budgetary crisis the party is setting out costed proposals that will assist those in need, protect public services and reduce the deficit by targeting under-taxed wealth and stimulating the economy.

Describing the Sinn Féin proposals as “a real alternative to the disastrous, deflationary and grossly inequitable Government strategy”, Ó Caoláin said:

“Sinn Féin today presents our Pre-Budget 2010 Submission as a real alternative road to recovery. We have shown with our carefully considered and costed proposals that it is possible to raise the finance needed to maintain frontline public services, protect those in need, reduce the deficit in State finances and provide an economic stimulus package to create jobs.

“For most of 2009 the Government has been attempting to soften up the public for a savage Budget this December. Never has a Budget been more dreaded. The Government has made clear that it will base its Budget on cuts in social welfare payments, cuts in public services and cuts in public sector pay as well as axing health, education and capital building projects.

“Once again the poor, the unemployed, the pensioners, the low paid workers in both private and public sectors and families struggling with massive mortgages will bear the burden.

“With social welfare cuts it seems that the Government is determined to get blood from the stone. But when they are challenged to tax the super-rich we are told there isn’t even a stone!

“People are fighting back against the disastrous policies of the Fianna Fáil/Green Government and we welcome that. The past few months has seen people on the streets in unprecedented numbers in demonstrations, strikes and other forms of protest. They demand a better, fairer way. This Submission is Sinn Féin’s contribution to that better way forward.

“It is not enough to denounce wrong Government policies – and they are wrong. It is not enough to point out that those policies pursued over the past decade are the cause of the Irish recession – and they are. We also have to set out viable alternatives and that is what we do with this Submission.

“Central to our Submission is the need for economic stimulus to protect and create jobs. Talk of the beginnings of any type of recovery is meaningless when we have well over 400,000 unemployed in this State, half a million in Ireland as a whole. Already growing emigration is beginning to disguise the true level of unemployment. So we need strategies to create jobs, strategies glaringly absent from this Government.

“We are proposing a €3.218 billion economic stimulus package with a range of measures to get Ireland back to work. We are also proposing a €723 million household stimulus package aimed at helping to reduce the cost of living in this state.

“As a people we need economic policies that are founded on fairness and that are viable. They also need to instil confidence.

“Sinn Féin is confident that the Irish people can emerge from this economic crisis and that we can build a fairer society and more sustainable economy.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Policing Board Member, Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has welcomed the decision taken by prosecutors on Friday last that they "do not intend to stand over" the convictions of a number of Derrymen prosecuted and sentenced for serious offences while teenagers in the 1970's.


Martina Anderson said:


“I congratulate all involved in the fight to have these convictions quashed and the innocence of these men established.


“The appeal process has so far succeeded in exposing what passed for a justice system during the years of conflict. It also exposes the blind eye approach adopted by most politicians who claimed the existence of collusion and corruption in the justice system was Sinn Féin propaganda.


“These cases and others to come are an indictment of the political and social establishment who chose to stay silent while these injustices were inflicted on individuals who were no more than children at the time.


“But recent developments are a tribute to the resilience of those who refused to accept the unacceptable and fought the system to have their convictions overturned.


“If evidence of the need for Policing and Justice reform and for it to be brought under accountable control of the locally elected Assembly I believe that we need look no further than these cases. No more can we allow the law makers to be law breakers". CRÍOCH

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has described a meeting with senior management of Fujitsu in Belfast today as positive and encouraging.

Martina Anderson said:
“I met with senior management from Fujitsu in Belfast today to discuss the recent announcement around job losses across the company.

“I outlined a number of concerns that have been brought to my attention by employees at the Derry site. These included that of job security and the possibility of redundancies before Christmas.

“It was a very positive meeting and I was reassured that a consultation process is in place in order to avoid compulsory redundancies where at all possible but although there mqay be notice of redundancy in December none would take effect before Christmas and the numbers would be minimal. There was a realization that however minimal the numbers that for anyone who loses their job it is serious and that is why the emphasis would be on voluntary redundancy.

“I also received an assurance that this situation is only temporary and that Fujitsu is committed to increasing its workforce in Derry in the years ahead. The senior representatives were highly complimentary of the Derry workforce and the appetite for success evident in the City is certainly conducive to the company plans for the creation of further high end jobs in the design and development sector of its business.

“I look forward to working with the company to ensure that the promised jobs become a reality. ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Senator Pearse Doherty has welcomed the statement by minister of Education Batt O Keefe in which he said that there would be no change to small schools as long as he was minister. Senator Doherty paid tribute to the parents, teachers and the wider community who campaigned with him to bring this u-turn about.

Senator Doherty said:

“Today comments from the minister on Radio na Gaeltachta Athmhaidin programme are to be welcomed and will come as relief to many communities across Ireland. It represents a u-turn on the governments position in relation to An Bord Snip’s proposal which called for the closure and merging of small rural schools.

“Those that made their anger felt on this issue are to be commended. It is those people that have forced the minister to back down from the position he articulated on RTÉ news only five days ago when he said that he ‘was certainly going to look at the small rural school and talk to communities in relation to perhaps into the future providing a more central school’ system.

“Only on Thursday of last week the minister in a parliamentary reply to Sinn Féin in the Dáil refused to rule out the government implementing the Bord Snip proposal, saying that ‘the proposals are being considered as part of the estimates process for 2010.’ The minister also put on the record of the Dáil that ‘I am of the view that my department will have to examine the implementation of more strict guidelines in relation to the numbers of pupils required for the sustainability of schools’.

“Today’s U-turn on his own and his governments position is much welcomed and I will continue to monitor this issue to ensure that rural schools continue breathing life into rural communities.” ENDS

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At the launch of Sinn Féin’s pre-Budget submission today, Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD said there is a fairer and viable alternative to the government’s slash and burn approach to tackling the economic crisis.

Deputy Morgan said:

“Government proposals to cut social welfare and public services will not lead to recovery but will push this economy deeper into recession.

“This is the course that the government has followed for the past 14 months. Every measure they have introduced has further shrunk the economy.

“Evidence of this can be found in the pre-Budget outlook which refers back to projections made at the time of the supplementary budget last April regarding the deficit estimated for December 2010. This figure of almost €20 billion now appears to be closer to €22 billion.

“Over the course of seven months tax receipts have fallen by €2 billion — a direct result of cutting spending and targeting tax increases at the low paid.

“There is a fairer and viable alternative to the government’s slash and burn approach. We must invest in jobs and protect public services and social welfare — to protect citizens, not bank managers and the wealthy.

“Our pre-Budget submission demonstrates where money can be raised for both a stimulus and a deficit reducing measure to keep international lenders happy. Our proposals for raising revenue include:

* standardizing discretionary tax reliefs, raising €1.1 billion;
* introducing a 3rd tax rate of 48% on income over €100,000, raising €355 million;
* placing a 1% wealth tax on assets over €1 million excluding farmland, raising €1.6 billion; and
* capping all public service salaries at €100,000, raising €450 million.

“Our proposals for a stimulus package include a €600 million jobs retention fund, a cut in excise duty over the Christmas period and a cost of living reduction package for households.

“Sinn Féin does not want a high tax economy. We want a fair tax economy. Dealing with the shortfall in revenue must begin by increasing taxes for those who can afford it and reducing wages of higher grade public sector workers.

“Sinn Féin’s pre-budget submission throws down the gauntlet to the government. Their choices now will either put us on the road to recovery or deeper into recession.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has accused Ulster Bank of using bullying tactics to force staff to sign employment contracts.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

“I have been contacted by Ulster Bank employees concerned about the tactics being used in an attempt to force staff to sign new contracts that would reduce their entitlements and could eventually lead to forced redundancies.

“Such is the sense of fear among the Bank staff that employees have made their views anonymously in fear that individual jobs could be at risk if the persons were to be identified. The parent bank RBS has offered alternative compensation to its employees for the loss of their profit share package. Even though regarded as a contractual payment Ulster Bank failed to extend this compensation to its staff.

“After seven months refusal to make this payment Ulster Bank then announced that it would back date it but only on condition that staff were willing to sign new contracts of employment by November 13th with significant deterioration in Terms & Conditions.

“This attempt to bully staff into accepting less favorable terms and conditions of employment is not directed at the senior management and their multi-million pound bonuses but to the most vulnerable employees who deliver a service to the general public. These staff are on salaries starting at £11,250 a year. They didn’t create the crisis in which we find ourselves.

“I call on Ulster Bank to desist from using the present economic crisis to bully its lower paid staff while once more resuscitating the culture of excessive bonuses for those who created the crisis in the first place.

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Easier access to more courses with greater relevance to pupils will help them achieve their full potential.

That is the vision set out by the Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, as she published the “Together Towards Entitlement” Report today in the Assembly.

The report covered two areas – the Entitlement Framework and an area-based approach to planning.

Commenting on the Report, the Minister said: “By planning the schools’ estate with the pupils’ needs in mind, rather than the institutions, we can ensure they have greater choice, flexibility, equality and access to a wider range of subjects which they are interested in.

“The ‘Together Towards Entitlement’ Report sets out the steps which need to be taken in order to achieve an area-based planning approach to the schools’ estate and deliver the Entitlement Framework by 2013.

“Since receiving the ‘Together Towards Entitlement’ report in July I have been carefully considering their findings and recommendations. I have concluded that these are a robust set of recommendations which provide a pragmatic approach to delivering the Entitlement Framework and a rigorous testing of an area-based approach to planning.

“One clear message from the report is that the pace of change needs to be quickened. Schools need to demonstrate how they will effectively deliver the Entitlement Framework and maximise choice for young people in the future.

“A key recommendation from the report is that the Sustainable Schools policy should be accelerated, and I have already commissioned a review of current capital projects to validate that all are consistent with our policy framework.

“In order to disseminate the findings of the report across the north of Ireland there will be a series of seminars held for interested parties.

“I would thank all involved in the Central and Area groups, who gave of their time to develop this important document, which has the potential to improve on the delivery of education for our young people.”

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Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle Martina Anderson has this afternoon commented on the Child Poverty Bill passing through the Assembly today.

Speaking at Stormont Ms Anderson said;

“The Child Poverty Inquiry carried out by the Committee of the Office of the First and deputy First Minister laid bare the extent – the scandalous extent - of child poverty here and demonstrated the need for pro-active and cross-cutting measures to combat it.

Indeed, as a newly-elected MLA, the first thing I did when coming into office was to lobby for this inquiry.

The reason I did so is because I was appalled by the levels of child poverty in this society. In my own constituency, the child poverty rate is 34%. That is an absolute scandal.

In this new dispensation we now have the opportunity - and indeed the responsibility - to begin addressing that legacy.

A number of amendments were sought in relation to this Bill and these amendments and the new mechanisms in place will assist us in terms of monitoring and implementing the kind of cross-cutting measures that will be required to help eradicate the scourge of child poverty.” CRÍOCH

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