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Senator David Cullinane has called on the government to take steps to ensure that all persons on commercial fishing vessels carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

The Waterford senator was speaking during the course of an adjournment motion this evening where he called on the Minister for Transport make PLBs mandatory and to consider removing VAT from the devices.

“We have had numerous tragedies at sea in recent years, such as the Tit Bonhomme, and the Honey Dew II. These tragic losses of life left a deep scar on the communities affected and on the heart broken families left behind.”

“Clearly, it must be our priority to ensure as best as possible that we do not see a repeat of these situations and to ensure that those on commercial fishing vessels are as safe as possible. An obvious way of doing that is to ensure that those on board are wearing Personal Locator Beacons.”

“These beacons can locate people who have gone overboard to a high degree of accuracy. The first few hours after someone has gone overboard are crucial in finding them alive or in finding them at all.”

“I believe that the government should make it mandatory for those on board such vessels to carry a PLB. Given that it is already mandatory under the Fishing Vessel (Personal Flotation Devices) Regulations (2001) to wear a lifejacket, surely this is possible, and I welcome that the Minister is stating that this is what is under consideration.”

“However, the government should also make efforts to ensure that it is as easy as possible for fishing crews to obtain these devices. I believe that the Government should consider, given that these are a key lifesaving technology, that the VAT on these items should be removed so as to incentivize the buying of such devices, and that Grant Aid also be considered.”

“Clearly anything that can save lives needs to be considered, but it is also worth noting the significant expense of safety and recovery operations. If these measures were taken, significant amounts could be saved, and tragedies avoided. “

“Therefore it is welcome that the government is considering legislation on this matter, and I would call on them to bring it forward as soon as is possible.”
ends

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Full list of winners and prizes in the Sinn Féin National Draw 2012 are:

1st Prize    €15,000    Rita Mulvenna     Louth    4691

2nd Prize    £5,000.00    Ann-Marie Weir    Belfast    33802

3rd Prize    £1,000.00    Martin Carey    Fermanagh    17879

4th Prize    £500    Shane McCoy    Newry    31084

5th Prize    €350    Gerry O'Hara    Co. Cavan    7195

Seller Prize    €500    Johnny Rowe    Co. Laois    24270

€100/£100 Prizes

1        Cora Harvey     Co. Donegal    38632

2        Lorraine Murphy    Armagh    31513

3        Tracey Hay    Fermanagh    17764

4        Anthony Campbell    Mayo    29276

5        Robert Reid    Kildare    14216

6        Anne O' Donovan    Co. Cork    7869

7        Pádraig Doherty    Co. Donegal    45367

8        Eamon Graham    Co. Derry    22316

9        Liam Donaghy    Co. Tyrone    37826

10        Sinead McGilway    Doire    22093

11        Jerome McMichael    Antrim    30710

12        Laoise Tierney    Monaghan    3888

13        Brendan Kerr    Derry    15788

14        Éabha O'Donnell    Co. Tyrone    10673

15        Patricia McDermott    Fermanagh    17813

16        John Collins    Co. Kerry    9835

17        Anne Reeves    Dublin 13    3026

18        Martin McArgavey    Belfast    27422

19        Cathy O'Leary    Wexford    2078

20        Thomas Maguire    Fermanagh    10352

21        Margaret Casey    Newry    33069

22        Ali and Marie    Dublin 24    24787

23        Sean McAleer    Fermanagh    16803

24        Dermot Friel    Derry    10906

25        Colm O'Hare    Armagh    32480

26        Billy Tynan    Co. Roscommon    40023

27        Kenneth Coyne    Galway    46258

28        Seamus Murphy    Newry    13062

29        Anne Williamson    Antrim    12131

30        John Desmond    Cork    8278

31        Damien O'Donoghue    Co. Tipperary    13988

32        Mary O'Halloran    Co. Clare    13871

33        Brendan and Paul    Dublin  12    3375

34        Phil Cole    Scotland    6175

35        Carmel Battle    Co. Sligo    28630

36        Declan Lindsey    Derry    11514

37        Tommy Shaw    Belfast    28167

38        Seán Lynne    Antrim    30746

39        Rory O Kane    Co. Derry    35903

40        Jack Tobin    Co. Meath    23729

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British colonial interests and successive government policy have been at the root of political conflict in Ireland, and between our countries for centuries.

British government strategy and its threat of ‘immediate and terrible war’ in the period of the 1921 negotiations after the Tan War was the midwife for the Irish Civil War, and the catalyst for partition.

That led to the onset of unionist one party misrule in the North of Ireland for 50 years. The constitutional, political and economic structure of the northern state was the context for over 30 years of war and armed struggle.

Citizens in Ireland today continue to live with the legacy of the civil war and northern unionists and nationalists live with the legacy of partition in all its forms.

Although British state policy towards the north throughout and to the present day has remained intrinsically unionist, several British administrations have made significant contributions alongside the work of many in developing the Irish peace process during the last twenty years.

That peace process is now irreversible. The war is over, and the conditions of conflict have been removed.

Our peace process is widely admired as a template for conflict resolution. But whilst the process is irreversible, we are still not at peace with each other.

The historical experience of the Irish civil war is that the failure to put in place a reconciliation process after its conclusion created massive fault-lines and division which endured for nine decades.

The immediate challenge as our island emerges from its most recent phase of political conflict is to engage on the development of a reconciliation process in the north, and which addresses the trans generational division and hurt created by the civil war and our political conflicts ever since.

In the past republican leaders have travelled here to Britain to negotiate and discuss the detail of frameworks and agreements which have helped to bring about the Irish peace process and to press the case for Irish unity.

Tonight I want to make the case for the imperative of opening up a new phase in our peace process; that is a phase based on reconciliation and healing.

Although the conditions of conflict have been addressed, the legacy of division, hurt and fear has the potential to be passed on to future generations.

Sinn Féin believes that our generation has a responsibility to stop that happening and to do our best to ensure those future generations have the opportunity to grow up in a better society than we did.

There is new ‘heavy lifting’ still to be undertaken in the peace process.

Enormous human hurt was caused during the political conflict.  

Republicans, unionists and Irish and British citizens share a deep collective pain.

Whilst we might all wish it could be otherwise, we cannot undo the past, but neither can we or should we forget.

During her visit to Dublin last year Queen Elizabeth said;

“With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things we would wish had been done differently or not at all.”

All reasonable people will agree with that assessment.

But neither should we allow the past to become a barrier to the future.

That is why Sinn Féin believes it is not only possible but essential that we open a new phase in our process, and facilitate dialogue on how all hurts caused can be equally acknowledged, salved, and if possible healed. And to seek to do this in a spirit of shared compassion, generosity towards one another and recognising our common humanity.

We all need to continue the unfinished journey of our peace process, so that future generations are liberated to explore new possibilities, rather than be burdened with legacies for which they carry no responsibility.

Maya Angelou put it well;

“History despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.”

Applying the sense of that wisdom will not be easy. It can only come about by a collective resolve to do this by trying to better understand each other, and imagine what it is like to walk in one another’s shoes.

I have characterised the process of national reconciliation in Ireland as involving “uncomfortable conversations”.

These need to take place within and between communities in my country, and as part of that the British state needs to reflect and discuss how to address its responsibilities for the adversity and conflict it perpetuated in Ireland, and between Britain and Ireland.

The republican constituency has begun to discuss the need for national reconciliation. I and other republican leaders have said that means being prepared to move outside our own comfort zones, and being prepared to embrace new thinking.

The Sinn Féin leadership have spoken of and then acted on the need for more compromises and initiatives to advance the peace process, and the wider national interest.

Earlier this year Republicans across Ireland had a very uncomfortable conversation among ourselves about whether Martin McGuinness should meet Queen Elizabeth. Many disagreed, but many more agreed with doing so – because it was the right thing to do.

And that is fundamentally what reconciliation must be about, doing the right thing; even when faced with impasse and opposition.

At this time the potential for reconciliation is challenged by a developing status quo supported by some in the north, which perversely provides for acceptable levels of sectarianism division and fear; and, I would add to that, acceptable levels of instability provoked by militarists opposed to the peace process.

The outworking of that is evidenced in a unionist mindset which tolerates the insistence by loyal order band parades to disrespect the rights of Catholics and nationalist communities. And which also normalises an ongoing refusal to share power with republicans in majority unionist councils.

This summer political unionism singularly failed to give leadership and say or do the right things to confront sectarianism and the violence which it provoked.

Instead of going out front and forcefully defending the principles of equality and mutual respect the leadership of political unionism and specifically the DUP caved in to the lowest common denominators of sectarian triumphalism.

The last five years have been a very slow learning curve on equality and respect for the DUP. 

Peter Robinson’s recent outbursts betray a real discomfort in trying to represent both unionists, republicans and nationalists. He needs to stop talking out of both sides of his mouth, and get with the programme. 

He cannot be a latter day James Craig or Basil Brooke, because the Orange State has gone.  He can only sit in OFM/dFM if he shares power properly with republicans.  The Orange Order and Loyalist bands cannot walk wherever they want; the eleven plus isn’t coming back; minorities do have rights; and nationalists in the north are no longer second class citizens.

The DUP leadership needs to get out of its time warp, get into real time, and start doing grown up politics with the rest of us.

Opposition to sectarianism is not a negotiation or an optional choice, it must be a leadership imperative.

The challenge posed by the unresolved parading issue could be resolved by agreement on the core issues of equality and mutual respect if these are taken forward with united political leadership from unionism and republicanism, particularly by Peter Robinson and Martin Mc Guinness. But failure to do so fuel the extremes within each community opposed to the peace process.

None of that should be allowed to frustrate the pursuit of reconciliation.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

The Good Friday Agreement has already enshrined the principles of equality, parity of esteem, mutual respect and political coexistence.  It provides a framework within which to find important common ground, if the political will exists to do so.

The Hillsborough Castle Agreement set out key principles in relation to parades, with which the DUP agreed, based upon local people providing local solutions, mutual respect, and the right of all citizens to live free from sectarian harassment.

Sinn Féin is calling for an all inclusive national discussion on reconciliation leading to the development of a national reconciliation strategy.

Let me tell you how such a road map might take shape.

We believe republican and unionist political leaders need to take the lead in beginning a national discussion on reconciliation.

This should be leadership frontloaded by;

-  * Firstly, concluding in the weeks ahead the Cohesion Sharing Integration strategy. This then needs built upon with a charter supporting anti-sectarianism, equality and mutual respect, sponsored and led by OFM/dFM. This initiative itself would contribute to easing the parading impasse; begin to ensure power-sharing happens across all councils in the north; and demonstrate to our communities in a very practical way the need for mutual respect.

-   * Secondly, and building upon work already undertaken by some local communities, to take a lead in developing cross-community and multi-agency initiatives aimed at reducing segregation through the removal of peace walls, and actively promoting increased integrated community life, and cross-community social and cultural activity.

-   * Thirdly, agreeing to take forward a united platform in opposition to anti-peace process militarists within nationalism, and against those unionist paramilitaries wedded to violence and criminality.

-   * Fourthly, cross-party and cross community agreement on additional strategic economic and social interventions and capacity building in areas of objective need across the north.

By ensuring this agenda is strategically driven and stratified across society it can provide the template for local community engagement about the future and the quality of political/community leadership, which we must all provide to move the peace process forward.

Critical mass and momentum is needed to build grassroots community support for reconciliation otherwise it remains theoretical and abstract.

A national reconciliation strategy coordinated under the auspices of the North-South Ministerial Council, and supported by both the Assembly and Oireachtas should be the mechanism into which these four measures fit and by which key measurable and actionable priorities can be agreed and implemented.

Reconciliation is not the property or responsibility of any single political party or community. Engagement between us all is required on how best to proceed.

But move forward we must, because what we have at present is not good enough.

Fear of change is part of our post-conflict legacy.

That can be real or imaginary, at times.

Some have expressed fear, scepticism and suspicion of this Sinn Féin initiative on reconciliation. But those concerns can only be allayed through dialogue.

The refusal of political unionism to engage in this discussion is a mistake, because the alternative is to offer the politics of despair.

A policy on non-engagement validates the segregation which blights our society and helps perpetuate the ‘them and us’ mentality and all of the misunderstanding and abuses which have flowed from that.

But political unionism’s refusal to engage on the development of an authentic reconciliation agenda is also duplicitous and contradictory.

That is illustrated in their bellicose demands for actions now, instead of words from Republicans, and more recently apologies from the 26 Counties government. 

All this while refusing to acknowledge fifty years of one party misrule; their own associations with actual and threatened violence and killings during the Ulster Workers’ strikes in the 1970s; during the anti-Hillsborough Agreement protests in the 1980s;  during the Drumcree crisis in the 1990s; and involvement with organisations such as the Third Force and Ulster Clubs.

The fact is, unionist politicians throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s legitimised and rationalised sectarian killings by unionist paramilitaries; and have continued, including this summer, to publicly associate themselves with unionist paramilitary leaders.

Senior DUP leaders need to realise that political responsibility for ‘acts of commission and omission’, to borrow a phrase from a DUP minister, cuts both ways.

In recent months it has been breathtaking and bewildering to listen to the recriminatory rhetoric used by representatives of political unionism in public discussions on reconciliation.

Their contributions sit in stark juxtaposition to the involvement of DUP politicians in Ulster Resistance; its documented role in importing weapons later sold to the UDA, with the support of several British agents, not just Brian Nelson; and, subsequently used in multiple sectarian and political assassinations during the 1980s and 1990s.

The DUP would be wise to pause and take a step back.

Unionists and republicans both have to take responsibility for our actions. 

Sinn Fein is saying that now we all have to decide what we are going to do about the future. Our course is set.

The DUP and UUP have a very simple choice to make.  They can continue to throw recriminations all over the place, and accomplish absolutely nothing, except leave their own communities to languish in the status quo; or join with the rest of us, embrace new thinking and continue to make more change.

But ordinary unionist and loyalist citizens are not powerless. They do have a choice, whether to put up with deficits in vision and strategy from the unionist political leadership, or begin to demand uncomfortable conversations with DUP and UUP leaders, and tell them to start leading into the future and not backwards.

None of us as unionists or republicans should let our past shackle how we move to the future. Reconciliation is something we can and should do together in the here and now.

Inevitably we need to deal with the past and all the unanswered questions; and that should be done by agreeing to the establishment of an independent, international truth commission.

Some say that republicans are not serious when we advocate that option.

But what we say means everyone – governments, political parties, and British, unionist and republican combatants, and others – going into that arena together and at the same time; and to deal there with all the causes and consequences of the conflict.

That is Sinn Fein’s unambiguous policy position.

Significantly others have gone or remained silent on this issue, most notably the British Government.  Owen Patterson’s precondition of gaining a consensus on the way forward is aimed at pursuing gridlock, by making a demand which cannot be delivered on.

Perhaps the unavoidable and many uncomfortable conversations which the British state needs to have within itself, and the rest of us about its past use of Military Reconnaissance Force counter gangs; Force Research Unit agents; and, present day running of agents in the unionist paramilitaries, and anti peace process militarists, explains its’ silence?

If the British state is not prepared to contribute to truth recovery by owning up to all aspects and consequences of its military, intelligence, and black operations campaign in Ireland, then it must spell out their alternative to an independent, international process. But let’s be clear, that will have to mean everyone’s role in the past being placed on an even playing field.

For now the responsibility of this and future British governments must be to facilitate, and politically and economically invest in a new phase of the peace process.

The incumbent administration should be persuaders and facilitators for reconciliation.

This requires acknowledgement by them, in some form or another, of the role of successive British governments and their agencies in past conflict.

And it requires a significant input by them to a regeneration programme in the north which redresses the legacy of conflict, past divisions and the decades of underfunding of public services.

It requires an enabling programme with a new dynamic.

A useful beginning would be;

-   * The implementation of outstanding elements of the Good Friday, St. Andrews and Hillsborough Castle Agreements;

-   * Committal of the previously agreed £18bn for much needed capital spend projects in the six counties

-   *A disapplication of the Welfare Cuts agenda to the north and the lowering of corporation tax there;

-   * A review of the Barnett Formula and the transfer of fiscal powers to the Executive.

Add to this;

-   * the closure of the NIO,

-   * withdrawal of the British Secretary of State,

-   * the transfer of reserved powers to the Executive, and

-   * the setting of a date for a Border Poll.

Then we are at once into a major advance in the outworking of the conflict resolution process and a new dynamic; and all in a non-prescriptive way recognising that it is for the people of Ireland, north and south, to determine and shape their future.

New and big thinking needs brought to the political and peace processes in Ireland.  The British state and political unionism need to step up to the mark.

Sinn Féin has a vision of an authentic reconciliation process with the capacity to heal divisions within and between diverse communities on the island of Ireland and between our country and Britain.

We aspire to a new phase of the peace process, which allows for the replacement of division with new human and political relationships.

Our ambition is to achieve reconciliation in our time and the beginning of an era in which we all as Republican, unionist, Irish and British citizens can become friends with one another:  a time when our children learn to play and grow up together; and in which, to paraphrase Bobby Sands, the future can echo with their laughter.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brain Stanley TD, has today called for “new thinking, new policies and a new economic programme”.

Speaking during the Dáil’s economic debate, Deputy Stanley said: “There are many indicators of how life has deteriorated for ordinary people since this government came to power.

“Unemployment rose to a staggering 435,200 in September, not including the 200,000 who have emigrated since 2008 or those who are not entitled to sign on, yet have no income or work.

“The health system remains critical, limping from crisis to crisis. With the scandal of stroke politics raising its ugly head again, the primary health care centre scandal has all the hallmarks of Fianna Fáil gombeenism.

“Now 706,371 people, including a staggering 200,000 children, live in poverty. To say Labour is having no effect in government would be an understatement.
“Their presence in government with Fine Gael has been an abject failure. Labour proved once again they are either incapable or unwilling to stand up to the bully boys of Fine Gael.

“The myth that Fine Gael is good for business simply does not stand up. The facts are lending to SMEs amounted to €407million in the first quarter of 2012, down 29.6% from the fourth quarter of 2011.

“Sinn Féin would not reduce the capital budget any further, meaning that instead of capital investment of €13.1billion over the next four years, we would have a capital budget of €15.7 billion or €2.6 billion more than Fine Gael and Labour.

“Sinn Féin is proposing almost €13 billion additional investment in job creation and economic growth over four years.

“This would create an average of 156,000 jobs and retain up to 15,000 jobs. This would be funded from €5.8 billion in discretionary funding in the National Pension Reserve Fund, €1.534 billion from the European Investment Bank, €3billion incentivised investment from the private pension sector and we would not cut the €2.6 billion which the government will cut from its capital budget spend. ”

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Sinn Fein TD and Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has expressed serious concern that NAMA is forgiving developers’ loans. Deputy Doherty said he’d received confirmation of this policy last week in a parliamentary response, and today again when NAMA was in front of the Finance Committee.

Doherty said it would cause outrage among struggling mortgage holders who receive no leeway on their debts.

Deputy Doherty said:

“In today’s Finance Committee I asked NAMA to confirm whether the sell-off of €1.9 billion in loans to a third party is debt forgiveness. They confirmed the practice of selling off loans at what NAMA paid for them and admitted they had no jurisdiction over the loans once they’d been passed on.

“The debt forgiveness works like this: NAMA bought a developer’s €100 million loan to Anglo for €40 million (and the taxpayer recapitalised Anglo then with the outstanding €60 million). NAMA is mandated to pursue the full €100 million, not just the €40 million. But NAMA has sold the loan off to a third party for €40 million. The state has just lost €60 million. This is debt forgiveness through the back door.

“When NAMA was established, there was huge concern in this state that the body could be used to provide a write off of debts from developers, as NAMA would not be paying the full value to banks for the loans it was acquiring.

“NAMA and the government of the day assured us that NAMA would not just be pursuing the value of what it paid banks for loans, but would go after developers for the full value of debts. This is what NAMA is set up to do – not just to breakeven but to potentially make a profit.

“Through a series of Parliamentary Questions, I have established that NAMA has sold off €1.9 billion in loans to date to a third party. Whether or not this third party chases the developers for the rest of those loans is immaterial. The state will not benefit from anything that is made on these loans by the third party. The third party might not pursue the developer for any more than what they bought the loan for. Therefore, the losses that have been incurred on these loans have been crystalized by NAMA, and the developers who own the loans have essentially had part of the loans written off.

“Mortgage owners in this state are struggling under the burden of their debts and are receiving no write offs and little help in the management of their loans. I believe this policy of NAMA’s will cause outrage among struggling mortgage owners.

“The government needs to tell us if they are aware of this policy, if they know what it entails and if they are happy for it to continue.” ENDS

Questions asked by Deputy Doherty:

Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the procedure adopted by the National Asset Management Agency when selling loans under its control, so as to maximise the return to the taxpayer from such disposals.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the National Asset Management Agency does not sell loans under its control for less than the original book value plus accumulated interest to the point of disposal, unless there is a competitive bidding or tendering process.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the National Asset Management Agency has sold loans, or allowed loans to be refinanced out of NAMA, at less than the original book value plus accumulated interest to the point of disposal; and if it has, if the relevant debtor has obtained any financial advantage through debt forgiveness or debt write-down from these transactions.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Finance if he will confirm the cash received by the National Asset Management Agency since its inception in respect of the sale of loans; the total original book value of the loans plus interest accruing to the point of disposal and the total NAMA acquisition value of the disposed loans.

Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan: I propose to take questions 179, 180, 181 and 182 together.

I am advised by the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) that since inception to 31 March 2012 it has sold loans with a nominal value of €1.9 billion, and generated €7.2 billion in cash receipts from borrowers. (see page 3 of NAMA Quarterly Report, 31 March 2012 for additional detail)

The Agency advises that net profit on disposal of loans is recorded in its Section 55 Quarterly Accounts and in its year-end consolidated income statement. The cumulative amount to 31 March 2012 is €89.7m. These documents are available on the Agency’s website, www.nama.ie. The Section 55 Quarterly Accounts for the three months ending 30th June 2012 are currently being considered by Government and will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in due course.

The Agency advises that in the case of a loan sale, it disposes of the entire par debt and that therefore the matter of debt compromise does not arise. For the debtor, the only change is that there is a new loan note holder. NAMA operates a phased an orderly programme of disposal of both assets and loans to achieve the best possible outcome for the taxpayer.

The Agency advises further that it has launched an active loan sales process, having recently established two sales advisory panels one for Europe and one for the US. NAMA’s objective in any loans sales transaction is to achieve the best outcome for the taxpayer. In this context, the disclosure of the additional information sought by the Deputy could adversely affect the Agency’s competitive position. Providing such information would be commercially counterproductive for the taxpayer as it would be of greatest benefit to potential loan purchasers.

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When he received the figures, in response to his Dáil question, on the amount of visits from potential investors, organised by the IDA to each of the 26 counties, Peadar Tóibín, spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said:
“New figures released to Sinn Féin demonstrate that the IDA is failing to support many parts of the country and worryingly the number of potential investor visit has reduced over the past 18 months.
“A grossly uneven regional delivery of enterprise and jobs is magnifying the worst jobs crisis in generation and counties such as Donegal, Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Meath and Monaghan who have not received a visit of potential IDA investor this year.
“Many of these counties are suffering disproportionately from the economic down turn with unemployment rates and emigration well above the state wide average. It would appear that the actions of the IDA are exasperating the regional disparities in employment.
“Also of major concern is the falling number of investor visits. In 2010 the IDA hosted 426 visits, many of these are now at the stage of realising their investments. However by 2011 the IDA had sponsored 341 visits and this year to date the number of visits has reduced down to 239.
“Given the lead period of a number of years for FDI it is a concern that since this government came to power the number of site visits has reduced. This will reduce the pool of potential investments in the coming years. So while the government trumpet FDI investment today they need to reverse the reduction of future FDI provision.
“Proactive regional promotion has worked in the past. It is of utmost importance that the government direct the IDA to ameliorate the regional disparities and invest in communities hardest hit by unemployment.”

DAIL QUESTION

NO. 298

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide statistics on the number of site visits for potential investors arranged by the Industrial Development Agency on a county basis from 2002 to 2012.

- Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 23rd October, 2012.

Ref No: 46487/12

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton)


Details of the number of site visits by potential investors to locations in Ireland on a county by county basis, for each of the years 2003 to 2012 inclusive, are set out in the attached tabular statement. I am informed by IDA Ireland that information for 2002 is not available.

IDA Sponsored Visits to Sites by Potential Investors
2003 to 2012
County 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Carlow 0 0 7 6 7 1 1 3 2 2
Cavan 0 1 2 4 1 1 0 3 0 1
Clare 6 3 1 3 3 2 9 7 15 6
Cork 38 39 35 16 27 41 29 44 27 31
Donegal 3 16 4 9 3 3 3 4 2 0
Dublin 32 45 71 90 91 92 90 197 150 137
Galway 30 17 14 20 15 14 22 41 35 11
Kerry 2 3 4 2 3 4 3 2 2 0
Kildare 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 2 3 0
Kilkenny 0 0 0 0 2 1 2 0 0 3
Laois 4 1 7 5 6 6 1 0 2 0
Leitrim 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Limerick 15 21 19 24 35 9 18 38 40 13
Longford 3 1 1 0 2 1 0 0 0 0
Louth 26 30 47 47 24 23 28 25 26 7
Mayo 7 8 2 3 4 3 1 1 0 1
Meath 10 8 12 2 0 3 2 0 2 0
Monaghan 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Offaly 15 12 7 1 4 11 6 7 1 1
Roscommon 4 3 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Sligo 11 11 6 5 6 2 5 12 3 4
Tipperary 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 2
Waterford 8 13 10 12 9 12 8 11 11 12
Westmeath 36 31 14 16 18 18 14 22 15 6
Wexford 8 3 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 1
Wicklow 1 1 0 0 0 2 2 5 3 1

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has said the SUSI online processing of student grants is clearly failing after receiving a response to a parliamentary question from the Education Minister today which confirms that 52,430 grant applications are still being processed.

Deputy O’Brien received a county by county break down of the status of grant applications which also showed of the more than 65,000 applications received by the new system decisions have been made on just over 12,000 and just over 3,000 have been awarded.

He said;

“The new SUSI on-line system was supposed to make the process of applying for a grant a good deal easier but regrettably, there have been serious flaws which have resulted in delayed payments, poor communication and inadequate responses to applications and document submissions.

“The minister’s response today confirms that there are 52,430 applications still being processed by the system despite the fact that we are nearly in November. Of the more than 65,000 applications received by the new system decisions have been made on just over 12,000 and just over 3,000 have been awarded.

“The fact that 1,739 applications have been fully submitted by have not yet even been downloaded for assessment shows that there are major flaws with this system.

“The consequences for students and their families cannot be overstated and my office in Cork has dealt with people who have been left in dire straits by the failings of the new online system.

““I know of at least two students whose place at college has been jeopardised as a result of delays in their payments.

“The Minister must introduce a clear tracking system that would enable students to know what stage applications are at. A better designed more user friendly website would also help and resources need to be found to improve the briefing and training of Helpdesk staff who are doing their best under difficult circumstances.

“As thousands of families struggle to make ends meet, it is unacceptable that students are having their grants delayed because of flaws in a system that was supposed to improve the processing of third level applications.”

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has visited St Joseph’s College, Coalisland, where he officially opened their specialist centre for children and young people on the autism spectrum.

The Centre first opened for pupils in September 2011 and the official opening provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements made in its first year. During the visit the Minister was given a tour of the Centre and had the opportunity to meet with pupils, parents, and staff.

The Minister said: “It is a pleasure to be in St Joseph’s College to celebrate the opening of the new Learning Centre and I would like to thank PJ Campbell, the Principal, for inviting me to participate in this special event. Having met with the pupils and some of their parents it is clear that the teachers and staff are doing an excellent job and are making a real difference to the lives of the young people attending the Centre.

“The children are being taught in an educational environment tailored to meet their special educational needs. As well as accessing small group teaching and periods of individualised support they are also able to benefit from social and curricular integration with their mainstream peers. This approach is in line with my Department’s aim of educating children with special educational needs within mainstream settings where possible, ensuring they benefit both educationally and socially."

In conclusion the Minister said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit to St Joseph’s today and I thank everyone involved for their warm welcome. I want to wish everyone involved with the autism centre as well as the wider school community every success for the future. I am sure that through your continuing hard work and professional dedication, many more children on the autistic spectrum in this area will be enabled to thrive in school.”

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill, has met with Bronwyn McGahan, MLA to discuss rural crime issues in Fermanagh & south Tyrone.

In recent months the number of reported sheep and cattle thefts in the county has increased resulting in serious financial losses to the affected farmers and an increased sense of fear in the rural community.

Speaking after the meeting Minister O’Neill said: “Livestock theft and associated identification and movement offences are not only criminal activities they also undermine animal traceability and directly threaten the animal health of our livestock. My Department is working closely with the PSNI and rural stakeholders in an effort to tackle these thefts and track down the criminals behind them. This includes DARD enforcement staff delivering training on animal identification and movements requirements to PSNI officers so that they can better recognise suspicious movements; conducting joint exercises and inspections; and developing improved communication channels for reporting crimes and sharing information. This co-operation has been evident in recent operational activities on the ground in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.”

Welcoming today’s meeting Bronwyn McGahan MLA said: “Rural crime has been a particular problem in the Dungannon Borough, especially within the Clogher Valley Area. I recently attended a public meeting in Augher, where the feeling among the farming community was frustration and anger, and calls were made for more to be done by all the agencies involved. Today’s meeting marks the first of a series of discussions I intend to have as I continue to raise these very important issues.”

Minister O’Neill concluded: “I am encouraged by the close working relationships being developed with Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) enforcement staff in the south of Ireland and with an Garda Siochana. I urge all rural dwellers to be vigilant, to look out for their neighbours and their stock, and to report any suspicious activity to the PSNI.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has stated that the recent elections in the Basque Country and the success of  Euskal Herria Bildu is a significant expression of support for the Basque peace process. EH Bildu presents another opportunity to build on it.

Speaking today Mr Kelly said:

“This vote is a clear indication of the desire for the building of the Basque Peace Process. EH Bildu, in its first election to the Basque Regional Parliament have secured a resounding success gaining  21 seats with 25% of the vote.

“Taken together with the Basque Nationalist Party's vote the electorate chose two out of every three representatives from Basque Nationalist parties.

“The right of the electorate to vote for Basque parties endorsing the current peace strategy is clear and should be respected.

“The importance of this election and of the Aiete Declaration which lays out a clear path to peace presents new opportunities to consolidate this process. The Basque electorate have clearly endorsed this pathway. 

“The Spanish government should follow suit and initiate meaningful and inclusive dialogue to work on unresolved issues.

“Political trials should cease, EH Bildu leader Arnaldo Otegi should be released and the issue of political prisoners dealt with.  In particular the plight of seriously or terminally ill prisoners should get immediate attention.  The political process must be given ascendency over the repressive security response.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has warmly welcomed this morning decision by the Special EU Programmes Body to proceed with the construction of the Narrow Water bridge under INTERREG IVA.

This news follows on the recent decisions by An Bord Pleanála and the north’s Department of Environment to give planning permission for the construction of a bridge near Warrenpoint, between South Down and County Louth.

The Louth TD has also called on the Minister for Transport to ensure that the necessary funding is made available to upgrade the road network on the Omeath side of the Lough.

Deputy Adams said:

“This is a very welcome decision. It clears the way for the construction of the Narrow Water Bridge which is a vital economic and strategic infrastructure project for the border region.

"I want to commend all of those, but especially the officials from Louth County Council, and local Louth Councillors, as well as Caitriona Ruane MLA, who have worked tirelessly in recent years to make this bridge a reality.

"The Narrow Water Bridge will cost almost €18 million but its economic and social impact will be significantly greater. It will provide a huge boost to the local economy, create new jobs and spur economic growth in this region.

"Every effort now needs to be made by the Irish government and the Executive to expedite the construction of this bridge."

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Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane has said that the decision today by the Special EU Programmes Body to fund the Narrow Water Bridge will transform the fortunes of South Down.

 Ms Ruane stated,

 “I am delighted that the SEUPB have announced that the Narrow Water Bridge will be funded under Interreg II funding.

 “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the campaign especially the various Chambers of Commerce and the Narrow Water action group. 

 “This bridge has been delivered by everyone working together on a cross party and cross border basis and highlights what can be achieved by working together.

“This bridge has the potential to open up the entire South Down and Louth area for tourism and business.  I have long campaigned for this bridge as I see it as a catalyst for economic regeneration so I am excited at the prospects this announcement will now open up.

 “It is now important that we look at building social clauses into the contracts so that local contractors, construction workers and suppliers can benefit from the construction of the bridge.

“I will be looking to meet with the relevant parties as soon as possible so we can get a starting date for the project and explore the benefits that flow from this announcement.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on social protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh has this morning secured a commitment from the Taoiseach that a Dáil debate will take place on the Pension Charges Report published yesterday.

Speaking this morning Deputy Ó Snodaigh said;

“I look forward to debating the charges and related matters such as the continued regressive subsidisation of this industry via tax reliefs and the loss of massive wealth from our economy to investments overseas with government at the earliest opportunity.”

Speaking last night in response to the Department of Social Protection report on pensions, Sinn Féin spokesperson, Aengus ÓSnodaigh TD had said;

“The outrageous charges imposed by the private pensions industry is not news to us. We have been highlighting these charges and the lack of transparency surrounding them for some time to the current and the previous government.

“The report is valuable in that it quantifies the charges. Not only are they outrageously high but the industry is taking this massive profit for itself at a time that it has been performing extremely poorly.

“Under the National Pension Framework published by the Fianna Fáil government and adopted by the current one, the government intends to introduce auto-enrolment under which all workers will be obliged to contribute to a personal pension.

“The contributions will be collected by the PRSI system but the government then intends to hand this over to the private pensions industry to manage and administer.

“We have been saying that it is madness to reward the private pensions industry with this undeserved gift and that it should instead be managed by the PRSI system. Hopefully with this further evidence in front of her the minister will finally pay heed to us.”

ends

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has welcomed the support for the motion calling on the Minister of Employment and Learning Stephen Farry to remove the barriers facing students from the North applying to universities in the South.

 Mr. McElduff stated,

 “I was delighted that the motion calling on the Minister of Department of Enterprise and Learning to look at making it easier for students in the North to attend universities in the South and vice versa was passed.

“More and more students are applying to universities on an all Ireland basis especially since the cost of travelling abroad for education is growing year upon year.

 “It is important that CAO which is the regulatory body for the universities in the South, and UCAS recognise the value of the same level of qualification North and South when valuation admission applications.

 “The recent report jointly commissioned by the CBI and IBEC the non recognition of A Levels was flagged up as a major barrier to educational mobility and economic prosperity on the island of Ireland.

 “I would like to commend the maturity of the parties that saw this motion for what it was, an attempt to harmonise university applications in order to advance educational and economic advancement.

 “I am now calling on the Minister to have this issue on the agenda of his next North South Ministerial Council.  As a member of the Inter Parliamentary body I will be also raising this issue at the next meeting.”

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Waterford based Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has tonight welcomed the formal approval by the EU Parliament of a further allocation of €2.7m under the EU Globalisation fund.

The overall support package now stands at over €5.4 m. Senator Cullinane commended all those who voted in favour of the fund including Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson. He also praised the work of the Employee Representative Group for their part in making this happen.

Speaking tonight Senator Cullinane said:

“I am delighted that this latest round of funding has been approved. A lot of work has been done by the minister, departmental officials, former employees and local and regional public representatives to make this a reality. It is vital that the funding is used in a targeted and proactive way to ensure facilitation back into the workforce for those who lost their jobs.

“It is also crucial that the relevant departments in this state are flexible in their approach and see this funding as providing additional resources and support to what is already being provided by the state. It is also hoped that the mistakes of the past have been learned and that this funding will be best utilised to provide additional supports to former workers.” ENDS

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In response to a Department of Social Protection report on pensions, Sinn Féin spokesperson, Aengus ÓSnodaigh TD said:

“The outrageous charges imposed the private pensions industry is not news to us. We have been highlighting these charges and the lack of transparency surrounding them for some time to the current and the previous government.

“The report is valuable in that it quantifies the charges. Not only are they outrageously high but the industry is taking this massive profit for itself at a time that it has been performing extremely poorly.

“Under the National Pension Framework published by the Fianna Fáil government and adopted by the current one, the government intends to introduce auto-enrolment under which all workers will be obliged to contribute to a personal pension.

“The contributions will be collected by the PRSI system but the government then intend to hand this over to the private pensions industry to manage and administer.

“We have been saying that it is madness to reward the private pensions industry with this undeserved gift and that it should instead be managed by the PRSI system. Hopefully with this further evidence in front of her the minister will finally pay heed to us.”

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Speaking at the debate on proposed new arrangements for on the payment of sick pay, Peadar Tóibín TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on jobs, enterprise and innovation said:
“At the time of the greatest jobs crisis in generations, the Fine Gael and Labour government is bringing forward proposals that will costs jobs and erode the conditions of workers.
“We are told that the priority for the government is jobs. The Minister for Social Protection must have missed that memo.
“While we have a jobs minister trumpeting the strategy of reducing costs to business and reducing PRSI contributions for small and medium-sized industries, the Minister for Social Protection is planning to shift the burden of €89 million from her budget and onto the enterprise sector.
“The primary pressure on PRSI is burgeoning unemployment. Extension of the cost of sick pay onto business will add to burgeoning unemployment.
“We have proposed an amendment that would contribute to the PRSI fund without harming job creation or the business viability.
“It is clear that any remnant government unity is evaporating and the economy is paying the cost.
“Government policy and the absence of a comprehensive and co-ordinated job creation strategy have led to the loss of 33,000 jobs in the economy, increasing emigration and increasing long term unemployment.
“We need to end the rhetoric. We need job creation to be the key priority for the government. We need a comprehensive job and growth strategy that is implemented across all government departments without Minister going on solo runs.”
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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Arts, Sports and Tourism Sandra McLellan TD today welcomed the Irish Homeless World Cup team to Leinster House. The team finished 16 of 48 teams at the World Cup in Mexico this month.

At a reception in the private dining room in Leinster House Deputy McLellan welcomed the team and made a presentation to goalkeeper David Byrne who was voted Goalkeeper of the tournament in Mexico this month.

Speaking at the reception this evening Deputy McLellan said:

“On behalf of Sinn Fein, our Housing spokesperson Deputy Dessie Ellis and myself it’s a great pleasure to welcome Ireland’ Homeless World Cup Soccer team, their mentors and friends to Leinster House.

“Today is about honouring the players who represented Ireland in the World Cup in Mexico namely; David Byrne, Ollie Carroll, Ian Gannon, Paul Fitzsimons, Michael Nevin, Keith Hogan, Wayne Reid, and Garreth Lynch.

“During the tournament the Irish team played teams from Brazil, Ukraine, Poland, Argentina, Portugal, Norway, South Africa, and Scotland.

“The Big Issue league now has tournaments in towns and cities across the country. In total over 500 young people compete in street leagues. The leagues culminate with an All-Ireland final that brings teams from North and South to participate in a one day event. Out of this tournament the current group of players were selected to represent Ireland.

“Particular congratulations must go to David Byrne in recognition of his personal achievement in being voted goalkeeper of the tournament.”

ENDS

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Today at the Oireachtas Jobs Committee, Enterprise Ireland presented its plans to replace the existing County Enterprise Boards with new Local Enterprise Offices as promised.
Speaking after the committee, Peadar Tóibín, Sinn Féin spokesperson for jobs, enterprise and innovation said:
“The reorganisation of County Enterprise Boards was first proposed by Batt O’Keeffe in the last government but today we learned that it will be next year before legislation is drafted to give effect to these proposals.
“This delay is leading to low morale, uncertainty and inertia within some CEBs and is impacting negatively on business. This delay during the biggest jobs crisis in generations is outrageous.
“I feel the establishment of LEOs is driven by a bureaucratic exercise centred around the needs of local authorities rather than small business. Local authorities are seen as a cost centre to small business and in general they do not have the enterprise ethos which is necessary in this broken economy.
“We are shocked that there are no representatives of small business involved in the development plans of this new process.
“We are shocked that there is still no national plan for entrepreneurship. I am concerned that the proposals will reduce the local focus of enterprise development and will lead to uneven enterprise development delivery as is seen currently with Enterprise Ireland.
The reorganisation of County Enterprise Boards is an opportunity to create a business development ecosystem which has the needs of SMEs at its centre.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and Education Spokesperson Chris Hazzard has welcomed the announcement by Education Minister John O’Dowd that a survey of parents living along the border corridor will take place.

Mr. Hazzard said,

“Families living along the border corridor will now have an opportunity to state if they would prefer their child to go to their nearest school even if this is on the opposite side of the border from where they live. 

“This will be particularly relevant in rural border areas where they may be only a couple of schools close to each other but have little or no contact at present.

 “I will be urging all parents with children at school along the border area to participate in the survey so that we can build better relationships and outcomes for all of our children along the border corridor.”

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