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Speaking during a Dáil debate on the Insurance (Amendment) Bill Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has described the €720 million fund as “yet another bailout by the public to a toxic bank, its bondholders and a major US insurance company”.

The Insurance Bill, which is due to pass all stages in the Dáil this week proposes the imposition of a 2% levy on all non-life insurance policies in the state to pay off bond holders and other liabilities at Quinn Insurance as part of the sale of the company to Liberty Mutual and Anglo Irish Bank.

Deputy Doherty said:

“We are being told that the proposed changes to the Insurance Compensation Fund are required in order to provide €720 million to cover payments on policies to customers of Quinn Insurance in the North of Ireland and Britain.

“However, like so many aspects of this story things are not that clear. It appears that assets from Quinn Insurance of more than €400 million were used as security against loans for the same value from Anglo Irish Bank for other commercial activities pursued by the company. As a result, bondholders with Anglo Irish Bank effectively have a hold on this portion of Quinn Insurance’s insurance book. Liberty Mutual, seeing this as a liability is insisting that the Government and the Insurance Compensation Funds fill the gap.

“In order for the Anglo Irish bond holders to relinquish their claim on the €400 million of assets at Quinn Insurance they have been offered a payoff of €200 million.

“Put another way €200 million of the €720 million requested by the administrator will effectively be used to pay off senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank, after the Compensation Fund monies are lodged and become part of the general assets of the company.

“No matter what sophisticated financial semantics that are used to describe this sorry affair it is hard to see it as anything other that yet another bailout by the public to a toxic bank, its bondholders and a major US insurance company.” 

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Speaking during a Seanad debate on the Road Traffic Bill, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly welcomed the legislation but said that the good work to date with regards to road safety must not be undone by government cuts.

Senator Reilly said:

“I welcome this legislation as it will promote road safety however, I am concerned that there is a possible disjoint between this legislation to enhance road safety and government policies and actions due to budget cuts.

“We in Sinn Féin are concerned that the recent and planned cuts in public services will impact directly on front line services. In particular the proposed cuts to the Gardaí are of some concern as regards road safety.

“It would be wrong for budget cuts to impact on the ability of the Gardaí to enforce the very legislation we are debating.

“It would be wrong for budget cuts to impact on the ability of the Gardaí to reduce the number of intoxicated and dangerous drivers on our roads or to remove unsafe vehicles.

“It would be wrong for budget cuts to impact on the ability of the emergency services to respond to accidents.

“It would be wrong for the proposed budget cuts to impact on the ability of casualty units to deal with major road traffic trauma.

“The government must not allow the good work of this bill to be undone by implanting further draconian spending cuts.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff is accusing the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment of not doing enough to make sure that rural communities have broadband access.

In an adjournment debate in the Assembly on Tuesday dealing specifically with the deficit of broadband access for the Greencastle community and other parts of West Tyrone, the Sinn Féin MLA said it affected a wide swathe of people within rural communities.

Barry McElduff said:

“Quite simply broadband is not reaching all the land. Everyone from students, businesses and farmers suffer from poor or no access to broadband in this part of Omagh District and that immediately puts them at a disadvantage when carrying out their daily activities. Increasing aspects of school curriculum need to be done on line, farmers are expected to process grant applications on line and businesses conduct banking, marketing and outreach all on line.

“There needs to be continued engagement with rural communities to identify black spot areas specifically affected and investment should follow to remedy the problem. I acknowledge that DETI has done some work in this area but even should one rural community be denied broadband access then that is not good enough especially when DETI often cite 100% coverage throughout the North.

“Bringing everyone up to the same quality of service will not only benefit people on the ground in their daily lives but also send out a clear message to rural communities that the Executive is prepared to stand up for them.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has called on those responsible for the bomb intercepted on the Buncrana Road, Derry yesterday to reflect on their actions and disband immediately.

Mr McCartney stated,

“I know it has been articulated many times before that there is no justification in the new political climate that has been created for any form of armed action. But if those behind this and other incidents have a logical analysis of what they hope to achieve then they have a responsibility to explain it to the people of Ireland. The vast majority of people not only in this city but across Ireland accept that the present institutions allow for all political philosophies to be pursued on an equal basis. 

“If these groups indeed have a political strategy then they should enter the political process, articulate their goals and aspirations and accept the verdict of the Irish people. Whatever political opinions these groups espouse they can be accommodated through the peaceful and democratic process that has been established. No campaign, political or otherwise can succeed by alienating the very people you claim to represent. CRÍOCH/ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has supported greater EU co-ordination in responding to disasters around the world, and has insisted the EU ensure that "disaster relief is never subordinate to trading or political and strategic concerns"

Speaking in the European Parliament today Ms de Brún said:

"Last year 90,000 people died and 29 million people were affected as a result of disasters. This number could have been drastically reduced through a greater focus on prevention and preparedness. We can also improve our response to the increasing number of disaster events if we work together and pool our resources.

"If we plan our development in a way that makes us less vulnerable to disaster, it can save countless human lives.  It can also reduce social, economic and environmental devastation due to natural hazards and, increasingly, the devastation related to technological and environmental disasters.

"Disaster response begins with prevention and preparedness. I urge the European Commission and the Member States to invest more in disaster reduction and to improve the effectiveness of disaster response in a spirit of solidarity. Clarity, consistence and coherence are the main pillars on which to build a strong and operative European disaster response system.

"We must ensure that disaster relief is never subordinate to trading or political and strategic concerns. EU humanitarian aid should be provided irrespective of all political considerations, while adhering to internationally agreed humanitarian principles"

"I am delighted that Commissioner Georgieva agreed wholeheartedly with me in the European Parliament today that we must respect the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence when we provide humanitarian assistance." ENDS

Below is the full text of the speech given by Ms de Brún during the European Parliament debate on the report on "European disaster response: role of civil protection and humanitarian assistance" by Elisabetta Gardini MEP.

"Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh thuarascáil Elisabetta Gardini agus gabhaim buíochas le Bean Gardini as ucht an dea-oibre.  Gabhaim buíochas léi ach go háirithe as an chomhoibriú a rinne sí linn agus í ag glacadh moltaí agus leasuithe s'againne san áireamh.

"Is páirt thábhachtach de fhorbairt inbhuanaithe é laghdú tubaiste. Má phleanálaimid ár bhforbairt ar bhealach a gcuidíonn le riosca tubaiste a laghdú is féidir líon mór beathaí a shábháil. Is féidir léirscrios sóisialta, eacnamaíochta agus comhshaoil, de dheasca guaiseanna nádúrtha, a laghdú agus de réir a chéile, an léirscrios a bhaineann le tubaiste teicneolaíoch agus comhshaoil a laghdú lena chois.

"Tosaíonn freagairt tubaiste le cosc agus le hullmhacht. Gríosaím an Coimisiún Eorpach agus na Ballstáit chun níos mó infheistíochta a dhéanamh i laghdú tubaiste agus chun éifeachtúlacht freagairt tubaiste a fheabhsú de mheon dlúthpháirtíochta.

"Is iad soiléireacht, comhsheasmhacht agus comhleanúnachas na príomhcholúin ar a dtógtar córas freagartha tubaiste Eorpach atá oibritheach láidir.

"Tá sé tábhachtach go mbeadh comhordú cuí ann le go dtig linn cúnamh éifeachtúil daonnúil a sholáthar.  Ach caithfear cloí le prionsabail daonnúla tábhachtacha chomh maith - neamhchlaontacht, neodracht agus neamhspleáchas san áireamh.  Caithfimid a chinntiú go gcuirtear i bhfeidhm an dlí daonnúil

idirnáisiúnta. 

"Is gá dúinn a chinntiú nach dtéann cúrsaí polaitiúla agus straitéiseacha i bhfeidhm ar chinntí maidir le dáileadh cúnaimh.  Ba chóir cúnamh daonnúil AE a sholáthar beag beann ar gach machnamh polaitiúil agus ag an am céanna, ag cloí le prionsabail dhaonnúla aontaithe idirnáisiúnta."

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe met this morning with distraught parents who have loved ones buried in Bohernabreena Cemetery near Tallaght. The parents are angry and upset at South Dublin County Council (SDCC) for what they say is “the complete lack of sensitivity they have shown” after works carried out recently by contractors in the cemetery.

Deputy Crowe said:

“The people whom I met with today are upset and angry at the way the Council has pushed ahead with work on a section of the ‘Angels Plot’ in the cemetery. The installation of a footpath which encroaches on sections off the graves was carried out without any consultation with grieving parents, some of whom have had loved ones interred in that section of the cemetery just months ago. The burial plots are for babies and infants.

“One parent I spoke to showed me the damage that had been done to the surround of her child’s grave. She was understandably distraught and extremely upset at what has occurred. She claimed they got no notification and learned of contract works on facebook.

“One worrying part of this incident is that the Council would seem to have learned nothing from a previous upset where bereaved families were told by letter to remove personal items from graves in a section of the graveyard or they would be removed by Council Staff. This caused a good deal of hurt and upset and families are still ringing to seek assurances that personal items like grave marble dedication books will not be removed and dumped somewhere.

“Bohernabreena graveyard should be somewhere that parents should be able to come, free from pressure and worries about the graves of their loved ones being partly dug or interfered with.

“The installation of a footpath that cuts into or alongside graves merits at least a call or letter to parents that have loved ones interred.

“The approach taken by the council and the lack of feeling and insensitivity shown in dealing with grieving families in this incident has really shocked me.

“I am hoping arrange a meeting today with senior management and will be registering my formal protest to the County manager on this issue.

“The families affected by these decisions are understandably aggrieved and there is major opposition to the council’s attitude.” ENDS

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North Antrim MLA, and Sinn Féin Education spokesperson, Daithí McKay has welcomed the Education Minister’s statement on the future of the education system in the north. Mr McKay said that the way forward outlined by John O’Dowd is about effective modernisation and meeting the needs of the child, not the institution.  Mr McKay said “The Minister has today outlined a vision for education that is based on the needs of the child, not the needs of the institution. That is what needs to be at the heart of a 21st Century education system, a system that primarily focuses on the personal development of children but also ensures that the economy is provided with a diverse educated workforce with an array of skills.  “The current education estate is unsustainable and the Minister has outlined that the taxpayer is paying for the equivalent of 150 empty schools (85,000 spare places). That is unacceptable and the money wasted on these places must be freed up to go to front-line education services. “The Minister has tasked the Education and Library Boards, working in conjunction with CCMS to co-ordinate a strategic exercise based on each board area to shape the future pattern of education delivery. The Catholic Sector’s Post Primary Review will dovetail into this work, the first phase of which is to be completed within six months of the Department’s formal commission. “The Minister is being far from rigid; indeed this statement is about accommodation and flexibility. Popular post-primary schools which are over-subscribed, for example, will be able to grow and accommodate extra pupils providing they can meet the educational needs of all pupils that they accept. “The financial pressures that now exist within the education system have been recognised and the requirement for schools to increase the choice of subjects at Key Stages 4 and 5 will therefore be brought in on a phased basis with a slightly lower minimum to start with.  “This process of change will not be without difficult and unpopular decisions but that is what is required to deliver a truly modern education service. New criteria is to be set out for capital investment which will ensure that such proposals are brought forward on the needs of education throughout an entire area rather than just the needs of the individual school.  “A clear course of action has been set out by the Education Minister, he has provided clarity on the way forward to a more sustainable and strategically planned schools estate, he has provided certainty on the Entitlement Framework. This next year will be a year of great change and it will provide certainty for all education stakeholders, especially the young people who it serves.”

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has set out his vision for the next steps in education locally.

Mr O’Dowd spoke of the requirement to prioritise the needs of children by creating a strong, sustainable network of inter-dependent schools designed to deliver a modern education service. Among the actions he has decided to take are to commission an immediate audit to identify schools which are not educationally viable, to commission an exercise to shape the future pattern of education delivery across each Board area, to set out new criteria for future capital investment, and to make the requirements of the Entitlement Framework statutory by 2013.

The Minister also emphasised that his main priority was to raise standards and tackle underachievement and inequality in our system. He described as unacceptable the gaps in achievement, especially between those pupils from disadvantaged areas and those from more affluent backgrounds

Addressing the Assembly this afternoon, the Minister spoke of the scale of the educational challenges ahead and said: “At the core of this challenge is how we plan our provision. The Bain report spelt out unambiguously that we have inherited a pattern of provision that is now unsustainable.

“We have too many schools that do not have the capacity to give children the broad and rich educational experience they deserve. Schools which, in some cases, have lost the confidence of the parents, pupils and communities they were built to serve.

“Our latest enrolment figures show that our schools have almost 85,000 spare places, that is the equivalent of more than 150 schools. A third of our 863 primary schools have fewer than 100 children enrolled and a fifth of our 217 post-primary schools have fewer than 400 pupils.

“However sustainable schools are not simply a numbers game. Schools will be measured against the six principles of the Sustainable Schools policy”

The Minister went on to highlight the work he wants taken forward, and said: “I am asking the managing authorities to conduct an immediate viability audit to identify clearly those schools which are evidencing stress now in remaining educationally viable. Key criteria will be enrolments, standards and financial viability. I have asked for this to be submitted before the end of the year along with short and long term proposals to safeguard the education of the children currently attending those schools.”

The Minister went on to outline a second piece of work the five Education and Library Boards would undertake with CCMS to plan a sustainable and affordable pattern of schools.

The Minister continued: “I am therefore commissioning them to co-ordinate a strategic exercise based on each Board area to shape the future pattern of education delivery. As part of this process there will be close consultation with the other sectors.

“It is important however that a comprehensive strategic approach covering all children’s needs is adopted within the parameters flowing from what I have set out today. I want to see the first phase of this work completed, within six months of the formal commission from my Department. This work will have an early focus on post-primary provision.”

The Minister moved on to signal how he was going to deal with the capital build programme, given the drop in available capital funding and said: “Action is needed to restructure our schools estate to ensure it is capable of meeting the needs of our children in the future, is affordable and represents the best and most effective use of tax payers’ money.

“I must be certain that we are investing our resources in the right schools. It is my intention to set out clear criteria for access to capital investment in the near future. These criteria will be founded on the Sustainable Schools policy and the requirement that any proposal is founded in an area plan agreed by the sectors and approved by my Department. Linked to this I will put in place a new explicit process for capital planning.

“In taking forward this new approach I have given careful consideration to how to deal with the remaining projects on the Investment Delivery Plan.

“I need to be assured that these projects are consistent with the overall plans for the area they are situated in.

“To have confidence in future priorities for capital investment these projects must be critically assessed as part of the area planning exercise. They can of course come forward again if, after testing against the new processes being established, they remain the highest priority in the context of the area plan and against the new criteria.

“In addition to those remaining projects on the Investment Delivery Plan, the further 100 or so projects which have been logged with the Department by School Managing Authorities will also be tested as part of the area planning exercise.

“This has not been an easy decision but I am convinced that it is the right decision. Only by doing this can I be assured that limited resources are being invested in the highest priority projects which will ensure we are building the right type of schools, in the right place and of the right size to meet the future needs of children and young people.”

Among other moves, the Minister signalled his intention to trigger the legislation to put the Entitlement Framework on a statutory basis from September 2013. To help schools complete the implementation of the Entitlement Framework requirements, the Minister has decided to phase the introduction so that the full entitlement of 24 courses on offer at Key Stage 4 and 27 courses at post 16 will be a requirement by 2015.

The Minister also commissioned a major review of the Common Funding Scheme, which allocates money to individual schools, to ensure the scheme fully supports the Department’s policy objectives, including targeting social need. The Minister plans to have a new scheme operational by 2013.

The Minister concluded: “Today I have set out a comprehensive and ambitious work programme for the months ahead. I have responded to the challenge to deliver a more sustainable and strategically planned schools estate. I have responded to the need to provide certainty about the Entitlement Framework and I have set out a clear course of action designed to deliver results.

“This next year will be a year of change in education, change designed to bring greater certainty in the longer term – for schools, for parents, and, most of all, for the young people that the education service is here to serve.”

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East Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan said it is crucial the Executive support rural businesses and promote rural areas as prime spots for the setting up of new businesses.

 

The Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson was speaking in support of a motion due before the Assembly on Tuesday calling on the Executive to increase support for rural businesses.

 

“The final draft of the Rural White Paper initiated by Michelle Gildernew when she was Agriculture Minister is due to be published shortly and it is hoped it will bring all the government departments together with a central theme of working for the benefit of rural issues.

 

“This along with current Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill’s longer term strategy for the agri-food sector will be a crucial factor in supporting rural business and creating much-needed jobs.

“We need to be pro-active in promoting not only rural businesses in general but also in attempting to attract big business to rural areas. The Councils Economic Development Plans also have a big part to play along with other statutory agencies in supporting current businesses and promoting rural sites as ideal venues for larger companies to set up.

 

“There is a large pool of workers available in rural areas and with added support, along with these programmes of work undertaken by the Executive, rural areas can be put on an equal footing with their urban neighbours.

 

“On the issue of advertising there needs to be a flexible and commonsense approach taken. Conservation is a crucial issue for rural communities but so is making a living.”

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Sinn Féin Enterprise Spokesperson, Phil Flanagan MLA (Fermanagh/South Tyrone) has welcomed the proposed abolition of airport tax on long haul flights out of Belfast.

Mr. Flanagan said: 

“Sinn Féin has strongly lobbied for an all-Ireland harmonisation of the tax regime including airport and corporation taxes. It is imperative that if we are to increase inward investment and maximise the tourist appeal from North America and elsewhere that we attract additional direct flights into Belfast International by removing travel barriers. 

“With the current the tax costing £60 per passenger out of Belfast against €3 from Dublin it has put the only direct flight between Belfast and the US in jeopardy.

“Not only will the abolition of this airport duty protect the existing US route but it will assist the International Airport in its efforts to attract other transatlantic carriers.

“I also welcome the transfer of responsibility regarding any future change in airport taxes to the Assembly. While it is a small move it nonetheless represents further progress on transfer of fiscal decision making to the Assembly. Sinn Féin will continue to work towards transfer of maximum fiscal powers away from London.

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has welcomed the proposed legislation by Environmental Minister Alex Attwood to lower the drink drive limit but called for consultation with the Irish Government to set an all Ireland limit.

Mr Boylan stated:

“The decision to lower the drink drive limit has to be welcomed by everyone concerned with road safety.

“The toll of 75 deaths and nearly 500 serious injuries over a five year period through drink driving is unacceptable and this initiative will help empower the police to tackle those who still think it is ok to drink and drive.

“I also believe that there is an opportunity to consult with the Irish Government in order to set an all Ireland limit.This would be beneficial along the border area where two different levels could cause confusion.

“The safest option is not to drink and drive at all and I would ask all drivers who have had a drink to think twice before getting behind the wheel.

“Any new measure that will reduce fatalities on our roads is to be welcomed.”

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Ar Lá Eorpach na dTeangacha labhair an feisire eorpach Bairbre de Brún faoi thábhacht an ilteangachas. Spéis i dteangacha is i bhfoghlaim teangacha a chur chun cinn i ndaoine fásta is i bpáistí, is aidhm don lá seo.

Agus í i bParlaimint na hEorpa i Strasbourg na Fraince, dúirt Iníon de Brún:

"Tá mé thar a bheith sásta bheith páirteach inniu agus Lá Eorpach na dTeangacha á chéiliúradh againn. Is pléisiúir dom bheith in ann an Ghaeilge a labhairt i bParlaimint na hEorpa agus a fhios agam go bhfuil gach rud a deirim á aistriú go comhuaineach i 22 teangacha eile.  Is pléisiúir dom chomh maith éisteacht le réimse leathan nuatheangacha eorpacha ar bhonn laethúil.

"Tacaím go láidir le cearta teanga in éirinn agus ag leibhéal AE. Ba mhaith liom an deis seo a thapú chun comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Gaeil ó thuaidh agus 5 bliain de Raidió Fáilte, 20 bliain de Choláiste Feirste agus 40 bliain de bhunscoil Phobal Feirste á chéiliúradh. Ba mhaith liom forbairt iontach úr Cultúrlainne i mBéal Feirste a mholadh fosta.

"Tá súil agam go gcuirfidh an AE leis an méid atá déanta go dtí seo faoi ilteangachas a chur chun cinn.  Tá súil agam nach fada an lá go mbeidh cead ag Bascaigh, Catalóinigh agus muintir na Breataine Bige in an gnó a dhéanamh le hinstitúidí an AE ina dteanga féin."

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Today, on the European Day of Languages Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún MEP has spoken about the importance of linguistic diversity.

Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg on a day which celebrates multilingualism, de Brún said, "I am pleased to be a part of the EU celebrating its linguistic diversity. Modern languages provide a great insight into a culture and are a key element of understanding our European Neighbours

It is a joy to be able to speak in Irish in the European Parliament and it is wonderful to hear everything from Polish to Portuguese to on a daily basis.

I am a strong supporter of Irish language rights across Ireland I would like to take this opportunity to mention two cornerstones of the Irish language in Belfast and to congratulate Coláiste Feirste on their 20th anniversary and the Cultúrlannn on their new extension.

"Ireland has a lot to offer with regards to linguistic diversity, not only with our native languages, but with those that have become present and vibrant in our society due to immigration and now form an integral part of modern Ireland. I am delighted to be able to share this culture with my colleagues in Brussels.

I hope the EU continues its good work in the field of linguistic diversity and paves the way for Welsh, Catalan, Basque and other minority languages to also be afforded the privilege of expressing themselves in their mother tongue in the near future."

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Sinn Féin Cork East TD and party spokesperson on sport, Sandra McLellan, has congratulated the successful Cork ladies football team on their senior all-Ireland success at Croke Park on Sunday.

Speaking after watching the match

Deputy McLellan said:

“It was a fantastic game and a fantastic victory for the Cork ladies. It is a great credit to Eamon Ryan and his management team and to all the players that they had the strength and determination to come back after last years disappointment to add this title to the five in a row. Their record surely marks them amongst the best ever teams to play the game. Some of the individual performances were immense.

“It is a tremendous victory and we are all very proud of the team in Cork. We look forward to welcoming them back home this evening.”

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On Sunday Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald TD and West Belfast MP Paul Maskey will travel to Liverpool to address a number of meetings and events at the British Labour Conference. The Sinn Fein delegation will also meet key organisations of the city’s Irish community.

The party will host a fringe meeting, `Ireland and Britain – towards a new relationship’ on Sunday at 6pm, sharing a platform with Labour's Lord's spokesperson on Ireland Angela Smith, also a former Minister, and Labour MP Pamela Nash, who is part of Labour’s team in relation to the north.

Ms McDonald will also address an Agreed Ireland Forum fringe later that evening on the current economic and debt crisis.

Speaking from Dublin before leaving for Liverpool, Mary Lou McDonald said:

“We welcome the opportunity of the conference to engage with people from the British labour movement on a number of key issues of concern.

“The current economic crisis, ever deepening as we speak, highlights the urgent need for an alternative way forward. Clearly policies in Ireland and in Britain of cuts and austerity have only served to exacerbate the crisis, strangling any prospect of growth.

“The human cost is devastating lives, throwing millions into poverty and unemployment. Developing a dialogue on this is vital. The  positive huge response to Sinn Féin's approach of investment to stimulate growth as a way out of the crisis instead of attacking living standards, shows how much people want a progressive alternative way forward. This has been exemplified in the imact Martin McGuinness' candidacy for President has had. We hope to discuss our approach further in the coming days.”

Paul Maskey MP said:

“The future relationship between Britain and Ireland remains firmly on the agenda. The immense progress in recent years has to be both defended and built upon. We are hosting the fringe meeting as an opportunity to discuss some of the key issues, including Ireland’s constitutional future and the social, economic and political dynamics underpinning that.

“We will also be visiting Liverpool’s Irish Centre and other community groups within the city. We are delighted to take the opportunity of being in there to meet people and discuss issues of concern to them.”

The delegation will also attend a series of other event hosted by the Irish Embassy, the CHAMP pro-peace process group and the Labour Irish Society.

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Responding to the comments from Minister Alan Shatter regarding Martin McGuinness’ candidacy in the presidential election Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said it will be the people who will decide who is fit for office and not Alan Shatter or the Fine Gael Party.

Deputy McDonald said:

“I find it completely wrong that a government minister would interfere in the democratic process in such a manner.

“It is the people who will decide who is fit for the office of President and not Alan Shatter or the Fine Gael Party.

“Martin McGuinness is a very strong candidate and this is evidenced by the reactions of people like Alan Shatter.” ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has called on the Tourist Board to ‘take seriously’ the development of Gaelic Games as a tourism product. Mr McKay was addressing NITB officials whilst chairing the Assembly’s Enterprise Committee. Officials agreed to include Gaelic Games in programmes for visiting travel media and travel writers.
 Mr McKay said:
 “Research has already demonstrated that tourists coming to the north, including business tourists, would be interested in watching or taking part in Gaelic Games. It is of course an indigenous sport unique to this country and as such we should be maximising its potential to realise economic benefits. 
“I made it quite clear that the Tourist Board’s performance on this front has fallen far short and the issue has been ignored rather than explored in terms of possible benefits. In response to my criticisms officials have agreed to now make Gaelic Games a part of ‘fam trips’. These trips imvolve bringing in travel media and travel writers from around the world to write about here as a tourist destination.  
“This still falls far short of the work I believe is required to develop this. However I will monitor how the board moves this forward and will continue to work to develop and promote this in the months ahead. 
“If we have something which is unique to this country and which generates interest from tourists then it should of course be marketed abroad. NITB should reflect on the findings of the University of Ulster report into Gaelic Games tourism and act on it.”

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Responding to the news reports today on the eurozone report co-authored by former ECB official Jurgen Stark, which calls for countries to surrender economic powers to the European Union if they do not meet conditions on debt, Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty said the Irish government had to immediately raise the issue of the ECB attempting to intervene in the political arena with its EU counterparts.
 
Deputy Doherty said:
"When Mr Stark and his co-authors makes this statement are we to take it that it also applies to the larger Eurozone nations like France and Germany? I do not recall talk of surrendering economic power to the European Union when France and Germany were breaking the Stability and Growth Pact during the last decade.
 
"This paper was published by the ECB, though not endorsed by it, but it reflects the thinking at the heart of this institution. The ECB is a bank. It is no more acceptable for it to be dicating political decisions than it is for Irish banks to be telling our government what to do.
 
"The Irish government needs to immediately raise the issue of the ECB attempting to intervene in the political arena with its EU counterparts. This kind of incendiary statement is not helpful for resolving the euro crisis - it is just another attempt to push Europe down a path which is doomed to fail. The monetary union is fragile and must be stabilised but assuming that seizing economic control of sovereign states will be that stabilising factor is ludicrous."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on tourism and the arts Sandra McLellan has called on the government to prioritise investment in Ireland’s cultural tourism infrastructure in order to maximise the potential of this sector of the economy.

Speaking on the National Tourism Development Authority (Amendment) Bill in the Dáil today, Deputy McLellan said:

“The area of cultural tourism continues to hold huge potential. Cultural tourism embraces the full range of experiences visitors can undertake to learn what makes a destination distinctive – its lifestyle, its heritage, its arts, its people – and the business of providing and interpreting that culture to visitors.”

“We have a very rich cultural heritage here, including megalithic tombs, Norman Castles and Viking cities. The period when this country declared its independence at the start of the last century holds a significant place in this country’s history too.”

“This government should prioritise the creation of a cultural and historical ‘Northern Quarter’ for Dublin, including Moore Street, Moore Lane and O’Rahilly Parade, and with the GPO at its heart. This whole area is rich in history and would act as a major National Monument and a fantastic attraction for visitors from home and abroad.”

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Speaking on a debate on the European Financial Stability Facility, the Sinn Féin economic spokesperson in the Seanad, Senator Kathryn Reilly said:

“The government has made much of the returning to us of a small portion of the interest we have to pay on our loans from Europe.

“However since the European Financial Stability Facility was first established our economic sovereignty has been ceded to Europe and the IMF. Fine Gael and Labour continue to implement cuts to essential public services with further austerity measures planned.

“We now have near half a million people unemployed, 20% of whom are young people. We have 40,000 people emigrating. We have tens of thousands of families struggling to pay mortgages, energy and food bills.

“The same failed policies are now being pursued across Europe. The legislation that the government has brought forward is already past its sell by date. The measures agreed in July have failed to address the problems in this state and across Europe.

“Another way is possible. There is a need for a banking solution to the banking problem. This EU wide private sector debt cannot and should not be shifted on the national balance sheet of small peripheral open economies.

“What is required is a clear view of the scale of the problem facing all the European banks, and given the inter-connectedness of the problem; a European wide solution to redress the European banking crisis including significant burden sharing.”

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