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Speaking in response to Minister for Europe Dick Roche’s claim that rejecting Lisbon would be like ‘playing Russian roulette with the economy’, Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald said:

“Dick Roche and his colleagues in government are hardly in a position to advise anyone on how best to run the economy. The last 15 years of Fianna Fail economic policy has produced the banking crisis, the housing bubble, soaring unemployment, a massive hole in the public finances, and savage cuts to public services and social welfare.

“Their response to the economic crisis has been a mixture of denial and incompetence, with NAMA as the latest in a long line of deeply flawed policy decisions.

“Dick Roche is in no position to offer advice on the economy. His Russian roulette quip is an apt description of the daily reality of Fianna Fail remaining in power, as each bungled decision by his cabinet colleagues drives thousands of families into greater hardship and economic insecurity.

“Contrary to what Dick Roche claims, the Lisbon Treaty would make our current economic situation worse. It was drafted by the same right wing politicians who led us into the recession and containing the same right wing policies that under pinned the recession. It is hardly surprising that the party who brought you NAMA and the McCarthy report would also endorse the Lisbon Treaty.

“The Irish economy urgently needs and change of government and a change of policy. Getting Fianna Fáil out of power and rejecting the Lisbon Treaty are two sides of the same coin.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on European Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh has challenged Minister for State Dara Calleary’s claim that the issue of neutrality is “settled”.

Speaking today Ó Snodaigh said:

“Minister for State Dara Calleary’s claim, made today that the issue of neutrality is ‘settled’ is simply note the case.

“Article 28 of the Lisbon Treaty contains a number of far reaching measures all of which affect our neutrality. It states for the first time that the EU ‘shall have a common defence’. It significantly expands the range of permissible military missions beyond peacekeeping and humanitarian tasks. It further strengthens the EU’s links with NATO. It provides for additional funding mechanisms and obligations for the European Defence Agency. It places a mutual defence obligation on all member states. And it enables small groups of member states to develop mini military alliances within the EU, which while not requiring the active participation of all member states, could no the less carry out military actions in the name of the EU, utilizing its resources.

“The so called legally binding guarantees on neutrality that Minister Calleary refers to simply tell us what we already knew, namely that Irish troops can only be sent abroad with the consent of the Government and Oireachtas. Sinn Fein never disputed this claim.

“However military neutrality is about much more than what a country does with its troops. The Lisbon Treaty if ratified will significantly advance the development of single foreign and defence policies for the EU, which in turn will have a profound affect on our neutrality. Minister Calleary is wrong to suggest otherwise.” ENDS

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Commenting after Jeffery Donaldson announced he intended to travel to Libya to lobby on behalf of certain victims groups, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Victims, Francie Molloy said that Mr Donaldson's claims would have more credibility if he looked closer to home and demanded that the British government and the state sponsored unionist militia, which he was a member of, came clean on collusion and state sponsored terror in Ireland.

Speaking today, the mid Ulster MLA said;

“Jeffrey Donaldson is going to Libya with several victims organisations seeking compensation for victims of the conflict in Ireland. As an elected representative that is his right. It is worth noting however that Mr Donaldson was a leading member of the UDR, a state sponsored unionist militia, whose members were involved in collusion and murder. Maybe Mr Donaldson would afford the victims of the UDR and those killed by collusion between it and loyalist gangs the same courtesy and demand that former colleagues come clean.

Neither the British Government or its armed forces have yet to apologise and recognise the huge amount of hurt that they have caused to hundreds of victims here in the north and beyond. The process of truth recovery is a difficult one and I believe that the British Government must acknowledge and accept its role in the conflict and help the process of truth recovery and justice in any way that it can. All of us have a role to play in securing that justice yet political unionism seems to believe itself exempt from this process.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson and Dublin South Central TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh this evening launched a drugs awareness pamphlet for the Dublin 12 area. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the pamphlet is designed to highlight the dangers of drugs, to make parents aware of the tell tale signs of drug abuse and to provide a list of contacts for local support services and treatment centres.

Speaking at the launch of the document in St. Kevin’s College in Crumlin this evening Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Drug and alcohol abuse are serious problems throughout Ireland. In many areas, especially economically deprived areas, drugs have taken a stranglehold, resulting in broken families, wasted lives, increased crime levels and disempowered communities.

“At a time when we face a severe economic crisis there is a danger that the drug and alcohol problems could grow worse. We are also seeing the emergence of new and ever more addictive drugs in the Irish drug scene. This is an extremely worrying development as the likes of crack cocaine and crystal meth become available on our streets. For this very reason the Minister must embark on an extensive awareness campaign to warn people of the dangers of these drugs to both the users and the communities in which they are used.

“It is also likely the Government will slash front line services dealing with these issues. This would be unacceptable.

“There needs to be a robust and effective crackdown on the criminal gangs who control the drugs trade with more resources for prevention, education, treatment and rehabilitation.

“The major drug traffickers must be pursued relentlessly and their ill gotten funds seized from them by the Criminal Assets Bureau and redirected back into the communities where they have been most active.

“Drug dealing and drug addiction are nationwide problems which need an all-Ireland response. The Minister is due to launch the new National Drugs Strategy in a couple of week’s time. Sinn Féin has made a detailed submission to that strategy and we hope to see some of our solid proposals taken on board.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin west Tyrone MLA and chair of the Assebly’s Culture, Arts and Leisure committee Barry McElduff has welcomed reports that Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann are considering holding this year’s Fleadh Cheoil in the Six Counties, the first time in the 59 year history of the event.

Commenting on the reports Mr McElduff said;

“Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is a massive festival bringing musicians from all over the world together in the spirit of cultural expression and enjoyment.

In the current economic downturn this festival has the potential of bringing thousands upon thousands of visitors to this part of Ireland. Irish culture and inparticular our music is enjoyed and envied the world over; I have no doubt that this Fleadh would highlight some of the brilliant talent being nurtured by Comhaltas.

I would once again encourage the organiser to look towards this part of the country and allow us the same opportunity to enjoy this magnificent event.”

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Chuir Cathaoirleach an Choiste Cultúir, Ealaíona agus Fóillíochta fáilte roimh tuairisc sna meán cumarsáide inniu a rá go bhfuil seans ann go mbeidh Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann lonnaithe ó thuaidh i mbliana.
Dúirt an tUasal Mac Giolla Dhuibh;
“Is féile ollmhór í Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann ag tabhairt ceoltóirí le chéile ó gach cearn den domhan faoi mheanma léiriú mothúcháin cultúrtha agus spraoi.
In ainneoin an chúlú eacnamaíochta tugann an fhéile seo seans dúinn na mílte cuairteoirí a mhealladh chuig an taobh seo tíre. Tá meas agus éad ar dhaoine ar fud an domhain as cultúr na hÉireann, don cheol ach go hairithe, níl amhras ar bith go gcuirfeadh an Fhleá an spotsolas ar chuid den tallann atá á chothú ag Comhaltas.
Mholfainn arís do na heagraithe amharc go fabhrach ar an chuid seo den oileán agus an deis chéanna a thabhairt dúinn bheith páirteach agus bainte leis an ócáid iontach seo.” CRÍOCH

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Maskey comments on Hugh Orde’s departure

Commenting as PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde prepared to leave his post Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Alex Maskey said:

“Hugh Orde was Chief Constable during a time of important change within the PSNI and he deserves credit of that. However I am sure he would be the first to admit that this was down to much more than his efforts.

“Indeed his decision to continually withhold information from inquests into a number of disputed killings such as the Pearse Jordan case is the wrong one and has caused much annoyance particularly to the families of those searching for the truth into the deaths of their loved ones.

“For Sinn Féin our focus has always been on driving forward policing change and ensuring that an effective and accountable civic policing service is delivered. We will continue with this approach under the new Chief Constables tenure.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein senator Pearse Doherty has today called for an “honest and mature debate” on the Lisbon Treaty in the coming weeks. The Donegal representative also called on people to “read the treaty” before they decide which way to vote on October 2nd.

Mr Doherty said:

“In the past week the public debate on the Lisbon Treaty has started to intensify with Yes and No campaigners, including Sinn Fein, laying out our stalls. Already a broad range of issues including the economy, neutrality, farming, fishing and democracy have been the subject of claim and counterclaim.

“Sinn Fein is calling on both the yes and no sides to engage in an open, honest and mature debate. Neither side is served by exaggerated or unfounded claims. Nor is either side served by scaremongering.

“What is needed is a serious debate about the content of the Treaty and its implications for Ireland and the EU.

“Sinn Fein is committed to such a debate. Our approach will be to shine a light on the Treaty text and attempt to explain its meaning and implications.

“Those of us opposing the Treaty also have a responsibility to outline what we see as the the alternatives to Lisbon. Saying no is simply not enough.

“I am also urging the electorate to read the Treaty for themselves before they decide how to vote on October 2. Despite being a complex legal document, many of its sections are perfectly understandable to the lay reader.

“This treaty will significantly alter the shape and direction of the EU for decades to come. It is vital that the general public are engaged in the debate and feel sufficiently informed to vote on October 2nd. All protagonists in the debate, politicians, civic society, the government and the media have a responsibility in this regard. An honest and mature debate will lead to a more informed public and an increased turnout.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein MLA for north Antrim Daithí McKay has welcomed today’s news that Ballymena company, Wright Group, has been awarded a contract to supply 200 buses to countries in Asia.

Speaking today Mr McKay said;

“This is very welcome news for people in Ballymena and the general north Antrim area.

In the current climate of economic downturn, it is a credit that the Wright Group have been able to remain steadfast and attract such and important and lucrative contract.

They managed to face off global competitors and that is a credit to their workforce here in Ireland.

This announcement shows that even within the current economic downturn, business’ here in Ireland are competing at the highest levels right across the world; we must continue to support and proactively assist our local, indigenous business.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking at the launch of the ‘Leave our Schools Alone’ campaign in Dublin today Sinn Féin Councillor Tomás Sharkey said cuts in our education spending are detrimental to our economic recovery and should not be tolerated. Councillor Sharkey described the Government’s attack on Special Needs children as a shameful disgrace while also criticising cut of 500 language support teachers.

He went on to call on Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe to clarify the situation regarding the extra teachers allocated to schools in disadvantaged areas after it was revealed that these posts are to be cut despite a commitment given by the Minister on the floor of the Dáil that they were safe.

He said, “As pupils head back to school after their summer break the cuts that have been so talked of over the last number of months will now come into force in a very real way. Pupils will find themselves in larger classes, with limited resources in the same prefab that has been there for years.

“Parents will now find themselves under even more pressure to fundraise for the upkeep of their children’s’ school as money for school buildings is cut. The reality is that many parents simply cannot afford to do this. Parents are losing back to school allowances and cuts in child benefit are looming. Many constituents I have spoken to have paid upwards of €800 on uniforms, books etc. this is nothing short of a scandal.

“This September some 119 classes for children with special educational needs will be abolished. This shameful and disgraceful measure will prove detrimental for children with mild general learning difficulties who will now be moved into an already overcrowded mainstream classroom where their needs will almost certainly be overlooked.

“The decision was a purely financial one and did not take into account the terrible affect it will have on vulnerable children. This is a callous decision and one which must be overturned without delay. McCarthy’s cruel calls to cut a further 2000 special needs teachers is a blind attack on vulnerable children. This cannot and must not happen.

“Five hundred English language support teachers are also due to be cut this year due to government decisions to cap the number of these teachers at two per school. The cut will yield savings of €34 million per year and will have profound effects on children whose first language is not English. This is a short-sighted measure and has not taken into account the consequences of such an action.

“I want to take this opportunity to call on Minister O’Keeffe to come clean in relation to the extra teaching posts for schools in disadvantaged areas. The Minister has given a commitment on the floor of the Dáil that these posts would be safe from Government cutbacks. However, it now seems that they are going to be cut. The Minister should clarify this situation immediately.

“Our children must not be made scapegoats for the reckless behaviour of this government and their cronies the bankers and developers. These cutbacks are detrimental to our economic recovery and should not be tolerated. It’s time for us to fight back. With this campaign Sinn Féin will be joining with parents, teachers, pupils and concerned citizens in taking a stand for our children’s education and demanding that the Government Leaves our Schools Alone.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty will launch a campaign against cutbacks in the education sector tomorrow, Tuesday 25th August. Senator Doherty will be joined by party Vice President Mary Lou McDonald and Louth County Councillor Tomás Sharkey at the launch in Buswells Hotel at 11am tomorrow.

Speaking ahead of the launch Senator Doherty accused the Government of targeting children to pay for their economic mess and said education must be viewed as a tool to rebuild our economy rather than a drain on our finances.

For more information contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh, Conor Murphy has said that a meeting with senior executives from Hibernia, the group contracted to roll out Project Kelvin, was extremely positive. Mr Murphy met the group along with the local Chamber of Commerce and a number of local businesses.

Speaking after the meeting Mr. Murphy said,

“Following this positive meeting, I am confident that Newry can be connected to Project Kelvin. While some work remains to be done I believe that it is achievable for Newry to become a Point of Presence in the project.

“Newry’s participation in the project would allow the area to attract large knowledge-based companies to the area, and would facilitate the promotion of Newry as a business centre on the main route between the two largest cities on this island.

“In this difficult economic climate it is vital that we continue to promote Newry as a business centre in order to spur economic growth and employment in this area.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA today participated in the opening of a new sports complex in Gulladuff in Co Derry.

The complex includes the provision of an indoor synthetic pitch and changing rooms as well as a fitness studio and multi purpose community room. It is the result of a collaboration between Lavey Gaelic Athletic Club and Termoneeny Community Association who have been working together since 2004 to bring about the development of the complex.

Praising the work of both groups Mr McGuinness said:

"This magnificent new complex will further enhance the sporting facilities available to young people in this area and indeed the community in general. This area has a rich sporting history particularly in the sphere of Gaelic Games and the facilities available here will help present and future generations build on that.

"It is a physical example of how co-operation between groups can be the most effective way to address common needs and minimise duplication.

"The variety and scope of the facilities and activities on offer include schools' programmes, sports coaching, and active lifestyle classes, tailored to the needs of all ages. It will also address barriers to participation in activities to the betterment of all sections of the community including groups such as ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.

"I truly believe that this new facility has met the aims of those involved and they should be congratulated on their foresight and conviction to see this project through to completion." ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has condemned the behaviour of loyalists at the Ballymaconnolly parade in Rasharkin. Catholic houses were attacked by parade supporters and one Catholic man was assaulted.

Mr McKay said:

“Before the parade we warned police that supporters of the parade should not be allowed near Rhencullen Park or Churchfields after residents there were threatened by loyalists last year.

“Unfortunately the police did not hold supporters back and as a direct result a young man was assaulted toward the end of the procession last night. Police also failed to stop loyalists damaging Catholic houses in Churchfields were they even knocked the bricks off the garden walls.

“Such intimidation and violence was bound to happen given the Parades Commission decision and this could have been avoided if the police had followed our advice and kept loyalists out of this area.

“What we saw here last night was a large-scale attempt to intimidate Catholics in this village and the Parades Commission decision to accommodate this was disgusting.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has written to the Housing Minister Margaret Ritchie and the Housing Executive asking why up to 10,000 grant applications have been cancelled by the Housing Executive.

Sinn Féin have been concerned at the growing numbers of people who have been turned down for assistance for Housing Executive grants to carry out urgent works to their homes - many of which are essential either because of the poor condition of the homes or work is required because of the medical condition of the applicant.

Mr McCann said:

“Sinn Féin have learnt that upwards of 13,700 people are on the waiting list for grants – and that that as many as 9,700 people, who have had there applications fully processed, have had their application frozen indefinitely.

“This is causing serious problems. The failure to carry out this work will have a negative impact on people’s health and in the deterioration of these homes.

“There is also a cost to people in terms of getting the relevant documents and detailed plans in place only for them to be refused at the last hurdle, leaving many people with bills for thousands of pounds.

“The Housing Executive and Minister need to explain why this is happening and what is being done to ensure that the conditions in these properties, which are privately owned, do not condemn people to a life in unhealthy and unsafe housing. They also need to explain if people will be compensated for the expenses they have incurred to date.

“It has been widely recognised that Rural Housing needs major investment. Yet, the cancellation of these grants will impact greatly on people who live in a rural setting -who in many cases live in intolerable conditions.

“People who find them in this situation should contact our advice centres or Sinn Fein representatives so we can catalogue and highlight these problems.” ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has blamed the Parades Commission for allowing a situation to develop in Rasharkin which could have led to massive public disorder. He also criticised the DUP for supporting the right of loyalist paramilitaries to march through Catholic areas and called on them to sever their links with these organisations.

Mr McKay said:

“The Parades Commission are to blame for giving loyalists the space to create the conflict we saw in this village last night. It was an absolute disgrace that UDA and UVF bands, including bands from Coleraine who had members arrested for the murder of Kevin McDaid, were allowed to march through this village.

“This is a sectarian coat-trailing parade and has caused trouble and conflict in this village for many years now. If the Parades Commission cannot see the problems it created here by allowing hundreds of loyalists to come into a nationalist village then they need their heads examined.

“This parade has served only to heighten tensions in the area even further. The fact that the DUP continues to defend the right of loyalist paramilitaries to march through Catholic areas just goes to show that they have yet to sever all their links with these paramilitary organisations. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Senator Pearse Doherty will launch a campaign against cutbacks in the education sector next Tuesday. Senator Doherty will be joined by party Vice President Mary Lou McDonald and Louth County Councillor Tomás Sharkey at the launch in Buswells Hotel at 11am next Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of the launch this week Senator Doherty accused the Government of targeting children to pay for their economic mess and said education must be viewed as a tool to rebuild our economy rather than a drain on our finances.

For more information contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD today confirmed that the party will be voting against NAMA when the Dáil returns in September. He said the issue of NAMA would have such large ramifications for Irish taxpayers now, and future generations, that it should be put to a referendum.

Speaking today Deputy Morgan said, “Sinn Féin is opposing the NAMA proposal. In legislative terms the government proposal is seriously flawed. Its plan to pay the banks long-term economic valuations for bad loans, as opposed to current market value, is a bad deal for the taxpayer. The government’s argument that this will prevent the need for recapitalization later is disingenuous. With recapitalization the taxpayer owns a stake in the banks. Overpaying for bad loans means the taxpayer has overpaid for bad loans.

“Sinn Féin also opposes the flawed premise of NAMA. When the bad loans are taken off the banks books, there is no guarantee that banks will begin lending ‘normally’ into an economy starved of credit, something which NAMA is meant to bring about. Historically, banks are quick to lend in a boom, but slow to lend in a recession. Taking losses for the banks without ensuring an element of control in banking practice thereafter is utterly irresponsible.

“The main reason for our opposition to NAMA is the fact that this is a plan to rescue banks and developers. It does not help ordinary homeowners and businesses facing repossession and economic hardship the length and breadth of the state. They must continue to pay their debts, while developers’ bad loans are nursed indefinitely by the state.

“Sinn Féin believes the only way to deal with the current crisis is to nationalise the banks and create a legacy bad bank to deal with the bad loans that the nationalised banks will have to write down. This is more similar to what Sweden did in the nineties and will offer far more security for the taxpayer.

“The restructured banking sector envisaged by Sinn Féin goes far beyond just restoring ‘normality’ to the system. There was nothing normal about a sector that systematically overcharged customers, was complicit in tax evasion and routinely withdrew access to financial services from working class and rural areas because of profit pursuit. As well as intense regulation of the sector, Sinn Féin wants to see a banking system that contributes to the greater good of the economy and society as a whole. We also want to see all those who participated in and encouraged the practices that brought about the current crisis held to account and criminal convictions pursued.

“The implementation of NAMA would have such large ramifications for Irish taxpayers now, and for future generations, that it should be put to a referendum.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has claimed that the current concerns regarding Liam Carroll’s 30% stake in Greencore prove that the sugar industry was sacrificed in the interests of property speculators. Carroll bought the shares with a view to acquiring the substantial land assets belonging to the company once it set about closing the remaining sugar factories at Carlow and Mallow.

Deputy Ferris said: “What I said in 2006 regarding the closure of the sugar factories has been vindicated. I said then that the company was being allowed to destroy one of the most successful indigenous industries in the state and that it was being seized by speculators like Mr. Carroll intent on asset stripping the company. And of course the owners were given a massive EU compensation package compared to the paltry pay out to farmers and former workers.

“I also presented a detailed proposal to transform the former sugar processing facility into a plant for processing sugar beet for use as bio fuel but of course the company was not interested as it hoped to cash in on the then property boom. It is ironic therefore that the company now finds itself under pressure because of the failed gambles of Mr. Carroll. It is a sad commentary on the wealthy elite in this state that they have wrought so much damage from unproductive speculation having refused to invest in indigenous industry here. Greencore could serve as a metaphor for all that is wrong with the golden circle.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has challenged Health Minister Mary Harney to put plans for up to €800 million in health service cuts before the Dáil on its resumption in September. He said that if such cuts are proceeded with and are based on the proposals in the McCarthy ('Bord Snip Nua') Report they "will destroy our public health services".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The confidential letter revealed this week from Minister Harney's Health Department to the HSE calls for up to €800 million in cuts to our public health services in 2010. It requires the HSE to bring forward cuts on the basis of the McCarthy ('Bord Snip Nua') Report. If implemented the savage cuts proposed by McCarthy would see thousands of people losing their medical cards, new charges for all prescriptions including those for medical card holders, higher costs to all patients for medicines, higher charges for hospital and nursing home care and means testing for home care for vulnerable older people. Such cuts, in addition to those already being imposed since the autumn of 2007, will destroy our public health services.

"I challenge Health Minister Harney to put any proposed package of cuts before the Dáil immediately on its resumption in September. This is about the future of our public health services and Minister Harney and her Fianna Fáil/Green Government colleagues must set out exactly what they are proposing. They must be accountable and cannot hide behind the HSE or hope to conceal from the people the real impact and the long-term implications of savage health cuts.

"We in Sinn Féin will continue to vigorously oppose the Government's attacks on our public health services." ENDS

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