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Ar son foireann Sinn Féin san Oireachtas agus sa Tionól sa Tuaisceart ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le Uachtarán na hÉireann, Máire Mhic Giolla Íosa, as an sár-obair atá déanta aici le ceithre bliain déag anuas.

Inniú an lá deireannach in oifig ag an Uachtarán agus is maith an rud go bhfuil an ómós seo a thabhairt againn dí agus dá fear céile Martin.

On behalf of the Sinn Féin Oireachtas members and our party representatives across the island of Ireland I want to express our gratitude to the outgoing President Mary McAleese for her 14 years of service as Uachtarán na hÉireann. Today is her last day in office and it is fitting that we should mark the occasion with some words of thanks here in the Dáil.

Mary McAleese will be remembered as a President who made a very significant, long-term and consistent contribution to the building of lasting peace and true reconciliation in Ireland.

She came to office in 1997 when the Peace Process was at an early and very delicate stage. The Good Friday Agreement was yet to be negotiated.
When that Agreement was reached it was followed by months and, indeed, years of delay and doubt and, at times, despair. Many doubted that it could be made to work. However, through persistence and patience it did work and it has been implemented and huge advances have been made - away from conflict and inequality and towards lasting peace and equality. Society in the Six Counties has been transformed and the whole of Ireland has benefitted.

If the Peace Process could be compared to a tapestry one of the brightest threads running through it would be the role of President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin McAleese.

They consistently championed the potential of the new dispensation on this island. They worked in a very special way for reconciliation between the diverse traditions in Ireland. They undoubtedly made a significant contribution to mutual understanding. They helped to make dialogue a reality, encouraging communities in the North to engage as never before.

Because she came from the North, President McAleese brought an understanding and a personal commitment to the work of peace and national reconciliation.

She was a President of the Irish Nation – as defined in Article Two of the Constitution. That Article states:

“It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and territorial seas, to be part of the Irish Nation...”

During the presidential election there were some who lost sight of that article. For them, a permanent mist has descended on a part of our island and of our Nation. There were some who continued to display the type of mindset that, in 1997, called the presidential candidate Mary McAleese a “sectarian time bomb”.

The outgoing President and her husband proved them wrong a thousand times over in a presidency that encompassed all of our island and all of our people.

President McAleese embraced the marginalised and the discriminated against, she learned and used the Irish language while in office and she represented the nation abroad in an exemplary fashion.

As son sinn uile gabhaimíd búiochas léi agus guímíd gach rath ar obair an Uachtaráin nua, Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn.

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Sinn Féin's environment spokesperson Brian Stanley TD has described the Infrastructure & Capital Investment cuts as a wasted opportunity to invest in the green economy, jobs and sustainability.

Deputy Stanley said:

“The slash and burn politics of this government is highlighted in their massive cut to environmental infrastructure.

“This is a time when the government should be investing in our green industry to boost the economy and provide jobs. The capital budget to the Department of Environment has been cut by €287m. This includes cuts to investment in water services by €65m and to the rural water programme by €10m.

“There is no commitment to investing in water harvesting which aims to reuse rain water. This investment would not only create jobs but would also reduce our water consumption by a third. There is however a commitment to water rates. Today’s plan commits the government to ‘deliver high quality competitively priced water services to customers.’

“One of the biggest omissions in this programme for cuts is the lack of commitment to alternative energy. Ireland has one the highest rates of oil consumption in the world. Investment in wave and wind power and other alternative sources of energy must be a priority. The planned removal of the energy efficiency grants is lazy and badly thought out. At a time when 1.4 million homes are in need of retrofitting the government should be redoubling their efforts to encourage insulation and upgrading.

“SEAI reported that ‘every euro spent on Better Energy Homes delivers a net benefit of €5 to society through energy, CO2 and other pollutant savings. The analysis shows that investments in home energy upgrades will be fully repaid through energy savings within eight years.’ Despite this our government is committed to phasing the grant scheme.

“Clearly this programme was written by those who have no interest in growth, sustainability or developing a green economy.”

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Sinn Féin enterprise spokesperson Peadar Tóibín TD has said the government’s capital expenditure cut is proof that the bailout of private bondholders and its associated austerity is the biggest threat to the Irish economy today.

Deputy Tóibín said today’s announcement will cost a further 7,500 jobs.

“The government’s capital expenditure cut is proof that the bailout of private bondholders and its associated austerity is the biggest threat to the Irish economy today.

"The government will reduce capital spend by €750 million resulting in a further 7,500 people being made unemployed.

“What we are witnessing is a debt-for-competitiveness swap where vital national infrastructural projects are being mothballed and the Irish economy is being physically weakened, because this government has decided to payoff unsecured, unguaranteed bondholders.

“This will result in higher costs to our citizens. It will make it harder for local businesses to survive and it will make Ireland less attractive to Foreign Direct Investment. Our future competitiveness and therefore our options for recovery are being significantly weakened by this government.

“Projects such as the Metro North, the A5 motorway to Derry and Donegal, the Dart underground and the Navan to Dublin railway would have significantly increased competitiveness and trade both in the mid-east and north-west region. The government’s commitment to build 40 new schools falls short of what is needed.

“There can be no recovery in this state without job creation. Capital investment in education, transport and technology create jobs immediately but also lead to increased competitiveness. Sinn Féin’s budgetary proposals to be launched next Tuesday will give detail to our investment programme.” ENDS

Responding to the publication of the Capital Investment Programme, today (Thursday) spokesperson for the No Water Charges campaign Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD condemned the wave of cuts to water investment.

“We know that it is not the householder, but the water distribution network, that is the biggest culprit when it comes to water waste, but the government is announcing a series of cuts which mean that the network will not be updated.

“Capital investment in water is being cut from almost €435 million in 2011 to €331 million in 2012. That’s a cut of €100 million or almost 25%. It’s a cut of nearly €200 million on the 2010 allocation, with more cuts planned until the budget is just €266 million.

“Our water distribution network is antiquated. A decade of under-investment means that in some local authority areas more than half the water is leaking away. The big freeze last winter and repeated flooding has caused more damage to the network, which urgently needs renovation.

“This government is gearing up to impose water charges on householders. The government claims that water is a precious resource but refuses to spend the money required to protect it. It’s expected that environment minister, Phil Hogan will shortly announce the introduction of meters and charges while overseeing an inadequate system,” he concluded.

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Speaking following the announcement of the capital allocation to the Justice Sector for 2012, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice Jonathan O’Brien called on the government to increase the allocation to the Prison Building Service in order to address the issue of prison overcrowding.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“The €24.1m that has been allocated to the Prison Building Service is wholly inadequate. This represents a 30% reduction in the capital allocation to the Prison Service.

“The level of overcrowding in prisons is at chronic levels. The prison and courts services will be forced to use early release in order to address the overcrowding. If anything, this funding should be increased.

“The Minister for Justice must take a new approach to prison policy. The majority of people in prisons are there for very minor offences and non-payment of fines. These should not result in custodial sentences. Changing prison policy and introducing sentencing guidelines should be part of an attempt to address overcrowding.

“While we welcome the 2012 capital allocation for the in-cell sanitation project in Mountjoy Prison, we disagree with the Minister’s views that this will ‘radically improve’ conditions in the prison.

“The Department is aiming for 317 cells in Mountjoy prison having in-cell sanitation by the end of 2012 – this is only 60% of the cells in the prison, meaning that 40% still will not have in-cell sanitation and the practice of slopping out will continue. There is no mention of Cork prison, where hundreds of men are slopping out on a daily basis. This must be addressed by the Minister.

“None of the allocated budget to the prison building services addresses over-crowding. There will still be 6 or 8 to a cell in some prisons with people living in the most inhumane and Victorian of conditions.

“I have submitted a series of Parliamentary Questions in order to get more information on the allocated budget to justice.”

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The Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis has criticised the government’s announcement today that included no commitment to new social housing builds and gave no details of support for regeneration projects outside of Limerick.

Deputy Ellis said:

“This is more of the same from a government who is full of rhetoric but very little action when it comes to providing for the needs of the most vulnerable and needy in society.

“The government’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16 plan offers nothing to give hope to those in need of housing. It gives a vague commitment to prioritising the Limerick Regeneration but offers no details and mentions no other regeneration project.

“In May RTÉ Primetime brought the abysmal conditions experienced by the residents of Teresa’s Gardens and Dolphin House to the public attention. There is nothing here in the so called investment plan to lead them to believe that things are going to improve. Ballymun, one of the most high profile regeneration projects also receives no mention.

“The lack of a commitment of any kind to new social housing builds is also very disappointing. We have record numbers on the housing lists and in receipt of RAS and Rent Supplement, many for very long periods but the government is making no efforts to really change this. We will continue to subsidise thousands of private landlords, many renting homes in unacceptable conditions and unregistered with the Tenancy Board.

“The government also continues to do nothing on homelessness or to support the calls for a housing first strategy. This is not good enough.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on transport Dessie Ellis has today described the announcement of massive cuts to the capital expenditure plan as an opportunity lost.

Deputy Ellis made his comments following the announcement that the government plans to scrap all major transport projects except the Luas Link-up.

He said:

“This is a very disappointing development. Projects like Metro North and the A5 offered great potential for jobs creation as well as making Ireland a better place to live, do business or invest.

“These were very big projects and required serious commitment and funding but they would have brought overwhelming benefits to the capital and the neglected the North West region.

“Now Dublin West with the extraordinary population growth it has experienced remains under serviced.

“Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Monaghan, Fermanagh and Derry are left to deal with the problems of high unemployment and emigration without the lifeline of the A5.

“The Luas link-up is to be welcomed but it does not offer the benefits of the Metro North. The government have shown up a complete lack of vision and yet again broken promises they made to people who trusted them and depended on their leadership.”

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Sinn Féin enterprise spokesperson Peadar Tóibín TD has said the government’s capital expenditure cut is proof that the bailout of private bondholders and its associated austerity is the biggest threat to the Irish economy today.

Deputy Tóibín said today’s announcement will cost a further 7,500 jobs.

“The government’s capital expenditure cut is proof that the bailout of private bondholders and its associated austerity is the biggest threat to the Irish economy today.
"The government will reduce capital spend by €750 million resulting in a further 7,500 people being made unemployed.

“What we are witnessing is a debt-for-competitiveness swap where vital national infrastructural projects are being mothballed and the Irish economy is being physically weakened, because this government has decided to payoff unsecured, unguaranteed bondholders.

“This will result in higher costs to our citizens. It will make it harder for local businesses to survive and it will make Ireland less attractive to Foreign Direct Investment. Our future competitiveness and therefore our options for recovery are being significantly weakened by this government.

“Projects such as the Metro North, the A5 motorway to Derry and Donegal, the Dart underground and the Navan to Dublin railway would have significantly increased competitiveness and trade both in the mid-east and north-west region. The government’s commitment to build 40 new schools falls short of what is needed.

“There can be no recovery in this state without job creation. Capital investment in education, transport and technology create jobs immediately but also lead to increased competitiveness. Sinn Féin’s budgetary proposals to be launched next Tuesday will give detail to our investment programme.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has settled a High Court defamation case against the Sunday World in Dublin this morning (Thursday 10 November).

The case involved two articles published by the Sunday World in 1996 which accused Mr Kelly of being Chief of Staff of the IRA and responsible for ending the IRA ceasefire in 1996 and of having a liaison with US diplomat Martha Pope for “ulterior motives”.

An apology was read out in the court this morning on behalf of the Sunday World to Mr Kelly and an undisclosed sum of money was involved in the settlement.

Speaking afterwards Mr Kelly said:

“This case could have been settled 15 years ago with a simple apology from the Sunday World but they consistently fought to keep the case from going to court.

“I felt I should pursue the case in order to combat the view in some elements of the media that republicans, and particularly ex-prisoners are fair game and easy targets.

“There is an onus on all journalists and news corporations to report in an honest and fact based manner. To do otherwise, as was done in this case, is to do a disservice not only to the people involved in the story but to the public in general.”


Sunday World apology:

On 25 February 1996 the Sunday World published an article stating that Gerry Kelly was Chief of Staff of the IRA and had responsibility for ending the IRA ceasefire in February 1996.

On the 1 December 1996 the Sunday World published a story suggesting that Gerry Kelly had a liaison with a US diplomat Martha Pope for ulterior motives.

The Sunday World acknowledges that both articles were wrong. The Sunday World accepts that Mr Kelly has played an important part in ending the violence in Northern Ireland and made a positive and significant contribution to the peace process.

The Sunday World apologises to Gerry Kelly for the upset that the articles caused.

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has opened the annual conference for the Association of Education Assessment Europe (AEA – Europe).

The conference, which aims to foster co-operation, has attracted educational experts from over 25 countries to Belfast to discuss issues relating to educational assessment.
Speaking at the event the Minister said: “Education is about much more than taking and passing tests and exams. It is something to be valued, promoted and improved to further the life chances of our young people.

“It is refreshing to be here, to hear how assessment can be used as an opportunity to learn, not something to be dreaded and feared. It has a key role in helping schools to improve outcomes for pupils and keeping parents informed of their child’s progress.

“Recently I outlined how I intend to implement a number of programme policies aimed at raising standards and tackling underachievement. Included within this is a new approach to the assessment of key skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT. These will focus on levels of progression and what a child can do rather than what they can’t.

“I strongly believe assessment should be teacher led, a teacher’s professional judgement is a valid form of assessment; tests can inform judgement but can never be a replacement for it. I want to thank the organisers for their kind invitation and wish them every success for the event. This conference offers an invaluable opportunity to compare and share best practice as we step up the pace of change here.”

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has cut the first sod of a new building for Gaelscoil Éanna, Glengormley.

The new accommodation will consist of three classrooms, resource space, offices, staff room and play areas and is due to be completed by April 2012 at a cost of nearly £500,000. The scheme will be managed by Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta (InaG), the Trust Fund for Irish-Medium Education and was initially announced by the previous Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, in March 2010.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister said: “I am pleased to be here to officially cut the first sod of new school accommodation for Gaelscoil Éanna. This marks a new beginning for all those involved with the Gaelscoil and is another chapter in Irish-medium education in Glengormley and the surrounding area.


“The Irish language is an integral part of our rich and shared heritage and I value the benefits that Irish-medium education offers children. This is an exciting time for everyone involved in Gaelscoil Éanna and I celebrate along with the rest of the Irish-medium sector the start of this new build.


“I would like to congratulate the Principal, Maighréad Ní Chonghaile, the staff, Board of Governors, Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta and of course the parents and pupils who have worked so hard to get to this stage.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann said that two Unionist politicians and the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show need to hang their heads in shame after a witch hunt against a catholic Dundonald High School teacher has developed on the internet.

The MLA’s comments came after the Nolan Show carried a false story alleging that the teacher told a pupil to remove a poppy, something which was completely false and has now led to the witch hunt against the teacher.  

“Unionist politicians Jeffrey Donaldson and David McNarry along with the Stephen Nolan Show have added to and inflamed this injustice where a young teacher is now advised by the PSNI not to attend her work.

“The allegations made against the teacher were completely false and a school inquiry proved as much. I have spoken to the teacher involved and she is extremely upset and worried about her future at the school where she has enjoyed working for several years.

“The teacher has attended Remembrance Day ceremonies at the school over those years and has no political axe to grind. Unfortunately this cannot be said of Jeffrey Donaldson and David McNairy who have jumped on this poppy story and what appears a sectarian campaign against the teacher.

“The Stephen Nolan Show ran with the story without investigating the facts and now must accept its responsibility for sensationalising and creating a sectarian, poppy bullying campaign against the teacher.

“The teacher is now also the subject of a sectarian witch hunt on the social media while she cannot attend her work. The Unionists involved and the BBC need to immediately issue an apology to the teacher and the school needs to take action to make sure the teacher can work in a safe environment free from intimidation.” CRÍOCH/END 

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 Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has settled a High Court defamation case against the Sunday World in Dublin this morning (Thursday 10 November).

The case involved two articles published by the Sunday World in 1996 which accused Mr Kelly of being Chief of Staff of the IRA and responsible for ending the IRA ceasefire in 1996 and of having a liaison with US diplomat Martha Pope for “ulterior motives”

.An apology was read out in the court this morning on behalf of the Sunday World to Mr Kelly and an undisclosed sum of money was involved in the settlement.

Speaking afterwards Mr Kelly said:“This case could have been settled 15 years ago with a simple apology from the Sunday World but they consistently fought to keep the case from going to court.

“I felt I should pursue the case in order to combat the view in some elements of the media that republicans, and particularly ex-prisoners are fair game and easy targets.

“There is an onus on all journalists and news corporations to report in an honest and fact based manner.  To do otherwise, as was done in this case, is to do a disservice not only to the people involved in the story but to the public in general.”

Sunday World apology:

On 25 February 1996 the Sunday World published an article stating that Gerry Kelly was Chief of Staff of the IRA and had responsibility for ending the IRA ceasefire in February 1996.

On the 1 December 1996 the Sunday World published a story suggesting that Gerry Kelly had a liaison with a US diplomat Martha Pope for ulterior motives.The Sunday World acknowledges that both articles were wrong. 

The Sunday World accepts that Mr Kelly has played an important part in ending the violence in Northern Ireland and made a positive and significant contribution to the peace process.

The Sunday World apologises to Gerry Kelly for the upset that the articles caused.

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Commenting on the health element in the government’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016 programme, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:

“While the government states that close to €2 billion will be invested in health capital spending in the 2012-2016 period, more could and should be done if the government did not continue to insist on paying Anglo-Irish Bank bondholders. The health capital spend for the next four years amounts to more than a billion less than the annual cost to the State of the Anglo-Irish debt.

“The capital programme for health is short on detail. The commitments to fund the National Children’s Hospital and to expand radiation oncology are welcome but there is no detail of how and where vital primary care centres are going to be provided.

“From the point of view of health service users this capital programme is undermined by the savage spending cuts that continue to be imposed. For example, the HSE is retreating from care of the elderly as shown by the closure of care homes in Abbeyleix, Dublin and Athlone in the past year. Much existing infrastructure – such as wards and beds in public hospitals – is going unused because of the recruitment embargo and spending cuts.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has called on the Housing Minister Nelson McCausland to inform people what his strategy is for the future of the Housing Executive.

Fra McCann said,

“There have been many rumours around the direction the Minister will take in deciding the future structure of the Housing Executive.

“A report delivered to the Minister some time ago recommended that the Housing Executive should be divided into separate organisations, one to deal with strategy and the other adopting the role of housing landlord, but it also mentioned the role of a possible regulator.

“Whilst the report gives broad headings on what should happen to the Housing Executive it lacked substance and was vague when scrutinised as to the future role of the organisation. 

“We believe the report lacks the substance to put flesh on the bones of the proposals being brought forward. Our concern would be that these proposals are gaining credibility with the Minister's department.

“The Housing Executive is an organisation that everybody agrees has done a good job over the past 40 years but if these proposals were accepted, it could disappear.

“This would leave a huge void in the creation and management of social housing where we are already facing a crisis and removing the Housing Executive would only exacerbate the problem.

“It is now time for straight talking and for the Minister to lay out his plans for the future of the organisation.”

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Speaking during the Sinn Féin Private Members Motion on the Anglo Promissory Notes in the Dáil this evening, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Jonathan O’Brien condemned the government for their payment of €74 billion to anonymous bondholders.

Deputy O’Brien said;

“It is worth restating again and Sinn Féin will keep restating it until Fine Gael and the Labour Party begin to understand that paying out €74 billion of public money to nameless, faceless bondholders for private debt is morally wrong. €74 billion, it should be noted, is a conservative estimate. Some commentators have stated that the final cost could be as much as €90 billion.

“This debt will cost every man, woman, and child in the State €16,157. It will effectively cost a family of four, €64,628. Put in very simple terms, we simply cannot afford this and when the government eventually realise this, a reality they will eventually be forced to face, there is no telling what type of Ireland we will have. Paying this toxic banking debt using the people’s money is the height of economic ignorance.

“If the Government had any sense at all, they would immediately declare the State’s inability to pay this debt and desist from continuing on this disastrous road. Subsequent to this, the Government must then immediately engage with the European Central Bank and their European Council Counterparts to negotiate the lifting of this burden from the Irish tax payer.

“Fine Gael and Labour went in to government saying that they would do things differently, however they are doing a pretty good job of carrying the torch that Fianna Fáil and the Green Party left for them.

“Make no mistake about it, the forthcoming budget that will take €3.8 billion out of the economy will destroy the hope that families still comfort themselves with. The people who gained absolutely nothing from the years of the Celtic Tiger are shouldering the burden of those who made a mess of the economy. This must end.”

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Speaking today after children’s charity Barnados made a presentation to the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education, Sinn Féin education spokesperson Seán Crowe said:

“Our education system is being hit hard by cuts that are having the most telling impact on children with special educational and behavioural needs who struggle to meet the required literacy and numeracy standards.

“Today’s presentation by Barnardos, who do invaluable work with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, highlighted the extent of the problems we face.

“The Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan was first initiated in 2005 and it was an attempt to improve the prospects of children who for a variety for reasons were being failed by the Irish education system. It proved essential in providing support for primary schools in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and presently 876 schools from urban and rural areas are included in the programme.

“A number of measures have been implemented under the DEIS action plan that have helped improve literacy and numeracy standards and a fairer more integrated education system. DEIS schools have played a pivotal role in tackling the disadvantages that are exacerbated when large proportions of pupils in school are from poor backgrounds.

“Despite their success in meeting the Department of Education’s principles of inclusion and meeting individual educational need, DEIS schools are being targeted by cuts in key services. The loss of Special Needs Assistants, Traveller Support Teachers and specialist language teachers have been accompanied by rising class sizes.

“Rising levels of poverty have resulted in an estimated 1 in 8 of children going to school hungry and this is reflected in the increased demand for school breakfast and after dinner clubs.

“In December we face what many believe will be the worst budget in history and there is a growing sense of anger within communities who have already been marginalised and never benefited from the so called Celtic Tiger. Education is essential if we want to break the cycle of poverty and underachievement. We cannot therefore abandon another generation of children who will face a bleak future if they don’t get the necessary support at school.”

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Speaking in response to news that Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland do not intend to pass on the recent ECB interest rate reduction to their customers, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that while the government is right in describing the refusal of the banks to pass on ECB interest rate reductions to their customers as pathetic, what is more pathetic is the failure of this government to act on this issue.

The Donegal deputy called on the government to “urgently bring forward legislation that will force banks to pass on interest rate reductions to struggling mortgage holders.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“Today’s news that Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland do not intend to reduce interest rates in line with last week’s ECB reduction is devastating news for mortgage holders and small businesses across the country.

“While the government is right in describing the refusal as pathetic, what is more pathetic is the failure of this government to act.

“Across the country hundreds of families are falling into serious mortgage distress every week. When in opposition Fine Gael and Labour criticised the failure of Fianna Fáil to take action to deal with the mortgage crisis. Now in office they are pursuing the same hands off minimalist approach as their predecessors.

“With more than 100,000 families in mortgage distress it is time for the government to act. They must introduce legislation as a matter of urgency to force the banks to pass on ECB interest rate reductions to struggling home owners. Failure to do so will cause serious financial hardship for thousands of homeowners.

“It is time for the government to match their tough talking with tough action.”

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Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams TD, today (Wednesday) received an answer to a parliamentary question, which detailed the amount of pensions paid to former ministers.

The response confirmed that 109 ex-ministers are in receipt of pensions, amounting to an €8.8 million payroll every year at taxpayers’ expense.

Thirty of them have pensions over €100,000 a year, including former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on €152,000, corrupt former minister Ray Burke on €103,000 and former Labour leader, Dick Spring on €121,000.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said:

“The fact that this level of payments is being paid to former ministers when we are facing into one of the harshest budgets in history is a scandal. Many of the people on this list are the architects of our economic downfall and of the hardships being faced by hundreds of thousands of Irish people today.

“Sinn Féin would suspend full pension payments for former ministers who have not reached pensionable age. We would ensure that former ministers who are employed by the state or by an EU institution would no be eligible to claim both their pension and their salary.

“And we would reduce their pensions in line with our proposals as published in our bill earlier this year.” ENDS

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Speaking during a Seanad debate on the need for a university for Waterford and the Southeast Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane said the government must deliver on this urgently and end the injustice of Waterford and the Southeast being denied a university.

Senator Cullinane said the region can no longer afford to wait and talk of criteria, hurdles and process is no longer acceptable.

Speaking in the Seanad today Senator Cullinane said:

“I have raised this important issue many times in this house. It is critical for Waterford and the Southeast that the government urgently designates Waterford Institute of Technology as a university. Waterford City is the only Gateway City without a university. The Southeast region is the only region without a university. This long standing injustice must come to an end.

“Huge investment has been made in WIT over many years. The State has invested €300 million over the last decade. This has resulted in the development of the ICT building, the Nurse Education Building, the Enterprise Research Centre, the Tourism Building, the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) and the Eco Labs. All of the building blocks have been put in place. We now need government action.

“I welcome recent announcements from the Minister that he will accelerate the issue and the tasking of the Higher Education Authority with developing criteria and examining performance. It is vital that in whatever decision is made Waterford and the Southeast are in the top tier of university provision. Rebranding numerous ITs as second tier universities will not be enough for Waterford. A name change will deliver little.

“Waterford and the Southeast must be in the top tier of university provision. The funding, autonomy and branding this will entail will lift the region. It will not solve all our problems but it will allow us to operate on a level playing field. I again urge the Minister to not only deliver on the issue but to deliver the appropriate response. Nothing short of a fully-fledged university on par with the top tier universities in this state will do.”

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Sinn Féin transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on Minister for Transport Leo Varadker to give a clear assurance that his government will not be abandoning plans to part fund the building of the A5 Donegal/Derry to Dublin road. He was speaking in the Dáil following claims that the project was in doubt due to planned cuts.

Deputy Ellis said:

“The A5 is a vital project. It will link Donegal to the rest of the State and open up the North West to investment, creating jobs and easier access. It will also contribute greatly to road safety in the region. The Fine Gael/Labour government have said they will support the project as recently as last month.

“The North West and border regions have for too long been neglected and this project offers a lifeline to Donegal, Derry and other places which face low economic activity and high unemployment and migration.

“I call on the Minister to meet with his counterparts in Stormont and local representatives to discuss any difficulties in order to ensure that this very important project is not lost to the area. I have spoken with local MP Pat Doherty and TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn at length and we will continue to work to see the hard work of both governments and in particular Conor Murphy MLA comes to fruition.”

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