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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today criticised the government’s intention to bring in Water Charges.

Mr. Adams was speaking during a Sinn Féin Private Members Motion on this issue.

The Sinn Fein leader said:

“It is appropriate as we mark 100 days of the government in office that this chamber debate the introduction of Water Charges.

“In this time the Fianna Fáil and Labour government have u-turned on election commitments to the tune of almost one every two days.

“Water charges is another of these.

“Fine Gael pledged that it would not charge for water until a new water authority had been established and each home had been fitted with a water meter.

“This has now been set aside along with lots of others and a flat rate is to be imposed on every household irrespective of consumption.

“The Labour Party in particular argued against the introduction of water charges while in opposition.

“Both parties said that a flat rate charge would be unfair.

“And both parties are intending to introduce a flat rate charge.

“And now both parties are u-turning on that commitment.

“Ba chóir do Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre a bheith ionraic linn.

“Níl ann anseo ach cáin faoi choiom. Bealach eile é seo le cáin a bhailiú.

“Anois, ós rud é og bhfuil sib hi gcumhacht tá sib hag déanamh an rud céanna is a dhéan an rialtos romhaibh!

“Cá bhfuil an difir eadraabh!

“The reality is that yet another stealth tax is being introduced on families that will heap further pressure on already hard pressed homeowners.

“Claims by the government that water charges are about improving water conservation or improving the level of service are all nonsense.

“This is a family stealth tax pure and simple.

“The government plans to spend €500 million or more on installing meters.

“That money could be better spent on improving water distribution and cutting down the amount of water, over 40% of which is lost through leaking pipes.

“Such a substantial investment would also create and retain jobs in the local economy.

“Siad na saoránaigh arís a bhéas ag piocadh suas na píosaí nuair a thagann an taoide isteach leis na h-íocaíochtaí seo agus leis na h-íocaíochtaí sóisialta! Agus céard a thárlófas dóibh siúd nach féidir leo an t-airgead a h-íoc ?

“Seo hé an fiacha a chruthaigh an ciorcal órga, baincéirí agus polaiteoirí ina measc.

“The reality is that access to clean and safe water is a basic human right.

“Water charges are an unfair and inequitable form of double taxation.

“Sinn Féin in the north blocked the introduction of water charges.

“The government here should abandon its plans for water charges.
“Water Services must continue to be held under the operational responsibility of local authorities and in full public ownership.

“I would however like to commend the idea of the establishment of an All Ireland Water and Sewerage Authority to ensure that water quality and environmental standards are met and to facilitate co-operation across this island towards reducing costs and maximising efficiency.”

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Under questioning from Sinn Féin Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh during today’s debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton disclosed that there is €110 million unspent in the national training fund.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh, who was objecting to the proposed reduction in the employers’ contribution to this fund, said that the money must immediately be spent on training under Tús and other schemes. The new Tús scheme allows job seekers to work in the community sector for a €20 top up on their dole.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“It is outrageous that there is no specific training associated with Tús. Participants on Tús should have some hope of moving into gainful employment when they finish their time on the scheme.

“The fact that there is no structured training is one of the key differences between Tús and CE. As it stands Tús is a yellow pack version of CE.

“The money in the national training fund must be used to ensure that there is a real and long-term value from participation in Tús.” ENDS

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Speaking today during a Sinn Fein private members debate on the government’s proposed introduction of water tax, Sinn Fein TD for Donegal South West Pearse Doherty said that water taxes “will push many families over the edge”.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Minister Hogan says that the main purpose of his proposed water tax is to conserve water. A more effective way of achieving this end would be to invest in repairing the existing water system. In my own county 50% of water is lost in the system before it reaches the domestic household. Meters and charges will do nothing to limit this massive loss.

“Of course the proposed water tax has nothing to do with environmental sustainability. It is a crude revenue raising measure demanded by the EU/IMF under the terms of the austerity deal. And like all regressive forms of taxation it will hit low and middle income earners hardest.

“These are the same people who are suffering rising inflation, rising interest rates, rising unemployment and for those lucky to retain their jobs, lower wages.

“The economic cost of such charges is obvious. Consumer spending will be further reduced as people have less disposable income. In turn more private sector jobs will be lost.

“And for those already living close to the poverty line, a further tax will push them over the edge.

“The introduction of a water tax makes no economic, social or environmental sense. It is a bad idea and should be opposed. Unfortunately, as with so many other areas of government policy, this Government seems intent on heaping further hardship on ordinary people across the country.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has today secured a debate in the Seanad on food labelling.

Senator Reilly welcomed the debate.

She said:

“I welcome the commitment by the Leader of the Seanad to have a debate on food labelling in the upcoming weeks. I asked for the debate two weeks ago and I am glad the Seanad will have the opportunity to discuss this very important issue not just for health, but for indigenous Irish industries.

“Food labelling is the key source of information by which the consumer can determine which food to buy. Therefore food labelling must serve its primary purpose of informing the consumer. Consumers have a right to clear and understandable information on their food products and to know the origin of the food products that they are consuming.

“The absence of definitive country of origin labelling means that many food products are able to masquerade as products of another origin, which leads not only to misinformation for the consumer but also to potential health risks.

“We have seen too many products being passed off as Irish because of ‘substantial transformation’ and this is a particular problem in relation to poultry.

“I look forward to this important debate that will seek to address the difficulties surrounding food labelling.”

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The Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure has praised the partnerships that have been forged across all the public and private sectors to ensure that benefits are achieved from the Olympics.

Chairing the NI 2012 Leadership Group, Carál Ní Chuílin said she was encouraged by the progress made to date. The Minister said: “I am very impressed by the many programmes, initiatives and activities under way that demonstrate the benefits that are being achieved for people particularly young people in our local communities.”

“The Olympics is providing many opportunities for our local communities including securing the Olympic Torch Relay to the North for four days in June 2012. I would encourage everyone to get involved and to nominate torchbearers. These will be ordinary people who do extraordinary things in those communities.

“ I recently visited Lisburn Racquets Club to see and hear how they have attracted a prestigious pre-games qualifying tournament in badminton. This is an example of the benefits for sports. I am confident that further benefits in sport will be achieved ahead of the 2012 Games.

“And it’s not only sport that is maximising the potential of the Olympic Games so close to these shores. There have been business opportunities too with many local companies playing their part in building the Olympic stadium – and whilst 40 local businesses have already secured contracts, there are other contracts available.”

The Minister outlined how the 2012 Games would also benefit other important areas such as the arts, volunteering, tourism, education and skills. She said: “I am pleased with the progress we have made to date and I am confident that we will continue to work together across government and the public and private sector to do the best we can for young people and the economy. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity which will not come around again.”

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Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast and Policing and Justice spokesperson Gerry Kelly commenting on the CAJ report into the Police Ombudsmans office stated:


“Sinn Féin pressed for the establishment of the Ombudsmans office as a key accountability mechanism and as part of the Patten recommendations. The Office would comprise a body that would represent the public in matters of oversight and investigation into the role of policing in our society. 

“It was envisaged that one of the key elements of this office was to be its independence. If a respected organisation such as CAJ is calling this independence into question well then that is something we need to be cognisant of and such assertions need to be taken seriously. We will be reading this report closely.”

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Sinn Féin group leader in the Seanad David Cullinane today addressed the possibility that the state may be facing a further financial tsunami, in particular relating to personal debt and the Credit Union sector.

Speaking on the Order of Business in the Seanad today, Senator Cullinane highlighted the growing issues which face the credit union sector, as well as the growing amount of household debt.

Senator Cullinane said:

“Household debt now amounts to some 190% of disposable income. This is an incredible figure, which must bring great concern to us all.

“It shows the huge pressures that have been placed on the least well off in this state and it underlines the complete and total failure of both the previous and current governments.

“People are desperately borrowing because they are unable to meet their debts, and pay their bills. This is a direct consequence of government policies of cutting wages, of cutting the hours of workers, of underemployment as well as unemployment. Many of these debts are credit union debts.

“We are now facing the possibility that credit unions may need to be bailed out. This will cost tax payers more money, perhaps as much as €500m.

“Much of the criticism which was levelled at the previous Dáil was on the basis that it was perceived to be asleep at the wheel. Let's not be accused of the same, it is crucially important that we have that discussion, and that debate, and that we do not sleep walk in to a crisis.

“The government’s policies are having the opposite effect to what was intended. We are facing another potential financial tsunami if corrective action is not taken.”

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Speaking in the Dáil on the Sinn Féin Motion against the introduction of water charges, Laois-Offaly TD Brian Stanley called on members of the Labour Party who would have previously been against water charges before they entered Government to keep the promises they made to the electorate.

Deputy Stanley said;

“The purpose of this Private Member’s Motion is to restate Sinn Féin’s opposition to the Government’s proposed introduction of water charges. People should not have to pay for this essential public service which is a recognised as a basic human right.

“It is our belief, one which is not shared by the Government parties, that there should be equitable access to water without discrimination – including discrimination based on grounds of income. We are calling on all Members of the House to support this motion – including those in the Labour Party who would have previously been against water charges before they entered Government; those who told the electorate before the elections that they would help them out of the hopeless economic hell-hole that they now reside within.

“Little has changed between then and now except for the dates, the currency used, and the eradication of the principles of certain TDs, combined with a wholesale disregard for the promises they made to the people who gave them the votes that enabled them to drive home in the comfort of their Ministerial cars.

“People cannot afford another charge on top of the money they are already forking out. They are caught with the Universal Social Charge, Levies, PRSI, increased fuel bills, mortgage increases, plus the proposed utility charge, and all on top of absolutely brutal pay cuts and hours being cut back in their precarious jobs.

“It is easy for the Government to introduce a flat-rate water charge and say that it will be a small amount of money for the public to pay – not one of them are lying in bed at night having nightmares about their home being repossessed and dreading what’s around the corner in the next budget. No, they are sleeping not at all bothered that they have cynically transformed a crisis of private greed in to a crisis of public spending.” ENDS

The purpose of this Private Member’s Motion is to restate Sinn Féin’s opposition to the Government’s proposed introduction of water charges. People should not have to pay twice for this essential public service which is a recognised as a basic human right.
It is our belief, one which is not shared by the Government parties that that there should be equitable access to water without discrimination – including discrimination based on grounds of income.

I think that everybody recognises that water is a valuable resource, and it is clearly expensive to treat, however this must be paid for through the central domestic taxation system. The operational responsibility for water production, treatment and distribution must remain with local authorities. They must remain within full public ownership. This is not a resource that we can take chances with.

We are calling on all Members of the House to support this motion – including those in the Labour Party who would have previously been against water charges before they entered Government; those who told the electorate before the elections that they would help them out of the hopeless economic hell-hole that they now reside within.

I am calling on those Members who spoke out against water charges in the 80s and 90s to speak out against them now. That includes the Táinaiste Eamon Gilmore who produced a leaflet at one stage that denounced water charges as “just another tax on workers on top of PAYE, PRSI and Levies.” Also contained in that same leaflet is a criticism of the then Government for attempting to make people pay for water while they were “still looking after tax dodgers.”

Little has changed between then and now except for the dates, the currency used, and the eradication of the principles of certain Members of the House combined with a wholesale disregard for the promises they made to the people who gave them the votes that enabled them to drive home in the comfort of their Ministerial cars.

People cannot afford another charge on top of the money they are already forking out. They are caught with the Universal Social Charge, Levies, PRSI, increased fuel bills, mortgage increases, plus the proposed utility charge, and all on top of absolutely brutal pay cuts and hours being cut back in their precarious jobs. It is easy for the Government to introduce a flat-rate water charge and say that it will be a small amount of money for the public to pay – not one of them are lying in bed at night having nightmares about their home being repossessed and dreading what’s around the corner in the next budget. No, they are sleeping not at all bothered that they have cynically transformed a crisis of private greed in to a crisis of public spending.

Of course, ideologically speaking, the Government *must* introduce a flat rate charge for water – to do otherwise would be to explicitly acknowledge that those who have more should pay more. As George Orwell noted in ‘Animal Farm’ -“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Would Fine Gael privatise daylight if science found a way to allow them to do so? The introduction of water charges is a carry-on from the creeping privatisation process started by Fianna Fáil with the introduction of Design, Build and Operate Schemes.

Global Water Intelligence analysts believe that the water supply market will grow by 20% over the course of the next five years. Water is big business, and for a Government intent on feathering the nests of the haves rather than the have-nots it is unsurprising that they would wish to facilitate a situation where water is dealt with solely by the whims of market forces – the same market forces which have led us to the situation we are now in.

Market-led solutions completely undermine the provision of essential services and have a negative impact on the poorest and most vulnerable communities – water privatisation is the most notorious example, and you only have to look across to England to see how that turned out there, with local authorities having to take court action to ensure people have a water supply. Private companies exist to make a profit. They are not going to maintain a profit while allowing for this mythical “free allowance” that Fine Gael have talked about. The Tories told the British people that the privatisation of telecoms, electricity, gas and water was for their benefit. Now the utilities are owned by companies making vast profits at their expense – the bills they all receive bear witness to that.

What I want the Government to tell us is; how is this water charge going to operate? What exactly is going to happen to the person who receives a water bill in the post who can’t pay? Will they be issued with a fine and how much will that fine be? And when they can’t pay that fine, will they be jailed? I presume so – because this is another act in the criminalisation of poverty.

Private companies operating water plants are a millstone around the necks of local authorities. They do not have full control over what happens within them. Local authorities are locked in to contracts with companies that they have to abide to the terms of. Take for example, the Local Authority who enters in to a DBO contract with Company X for 25 years, and the EU issues another water directive in five years’ time. The trend with these directives is that they will increase the standards of water – which we would support.

However, this is now outside the terms of the contract signed by Company X and the Local Authority has no option but to pay this corporation more money to operate the plant – it is a contractual obligation. This is too valuable a resource to play around with. We do not want to see the Irish public vulnerable to the price hikes and water poverty witnessed elsewhere in the world – particularly in countries that have been under strong IMF influence such as Argentina and Bolivia.

Despite the need for local authority funding, the Councils have for the most part proven themselves in the provision of water – they have local knowledge, expertise of water services and in most cases a proven track record. The reason we are losing half the water that is being produced at the moment because of the fiscal ineptitude of this and previous Governments. When there was money to put in to fixing pipes – the Government wouldn’t touch it, instead preferring to give tax breaks to developers. This Government plan to take extra money from the taxpayer without putting it back in the system to repair it. It is farcical.

Of course, Local Authorities have substantial funding in their Water Services Capital Accounts which could be used to fund repairs and replacements to the antiquated pipe network, but they are prevented from using it due to Government’s compliance with the terms of the EU Growth and Stability Pact. Louth has €10m, collected from development levies but they can’t touch it. In Laois there’s €7.5m, that can’t be utilised.

You don’t have to be beholden to the market. We are asking this Government to, for once, put the needs of the Irish people, ahead of the wishes of private interests and I strongly urge all Members of the House to support this motion.

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Sinn Féin TD for Sligo / North Leitrim Michael Colreavy has called for a radical change to the revenue and licensing terms governing oil and gas exploration.

Deputy Colreavy said there are “increasing concerns about the drilling technology apparently to be deployed in the Lough Allen Basin.”

He said:

“I understand the companies licensed to explore the Lough Allen basin intend to use a technology called fracing to access the underground gas. This involves putting millions of gallons of water containing over 600 chemicals through underground channels to fracture rocks. There is ample evidence that this technology is causing severe and extensive environmental damage in several states of the USA.

“The film “Gasland” was shown to several local community groups recently and I have arranged for it to be shown in Leinster House today between 10am and 12 noon.

“I hope there will be a good attendance - particularly of local TDs and Senators – as the Lough Allen Basin covers parts of Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan, Roscommon and Fermanagh. I have been in contact with Sinn Féin Energy spokesperson in the north Phil Flanagan MLA to ensure there is a coordinated cross-border community response to the threats posed to the area and people of the Lough Allen Basin.

“Sinn Féin is not opposed to exploiting our natural resources for the benefit of the people. We believe there is massive potential in our oil and gas reserves; but there must be a radical change to the entire exploration sector. We would welcome an open, transparent system of oil and gas exploration and extraction that would:

Benefit the Irish people as well as the companies granted exploration / extraction licenses
Ensure there is no long-term environmental damage, and no potential damage to animal or human health resulting from the drilling processes used and
Ensure the Irish Government has available the required technological and scientific expertise to calculate resource reserves and ensure compliance with proven good practice”

“In 2006, the Irish Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources estimated off-shore oil and gas reserves of approximately €700 billion. Imagine the difference safe, democratic and accountable of that resource could make to this state” concluded Deputy Colreavy.

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