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Sinn Féin Group Leader on Derry City Council, Maeve McLaughlin has welcomed the support for a Sinn Féin Amended motion which commits Council to seek an explanation from DSD Minister Margaret Ritchie about her failure to include local labour/social requirement and procurement guidelines in the Dove Gardens, or the Public Realm plan projects in Derry while including them in the Victoria Square project in Belfast.

Maeve McLaughlin said:

"Sinn Féin will not be lectured by the SDLP about our record in standing up for Derry regardless of the Minister we may be dealing with.

"For the last three months we have seen an attempt by the SDLP - through motions to council - to engage in cheap political point scoring and blame republicans for all the ills on this island. All of this has been framed without any acknowledgement of ensuring that equality and partnership are central to the workings of the Assembly - a point which will come back to bite the SDLP.

"The record speaks for itself - in the previous assembly with the SDLP at the fore we had 10,471 job losses in the north west, a draft investment strategy (ISNI 1) which took no account of tackling regional disparities, INI total contribution to this city was 8% compared to 73% in Belfast., a ban on rail investment, no movement on investment on roads infrastructure in the North west and a regional development strategy which failed this city miserably

"How has their SDLP Minister, Margaret Ritchie addressed the housing needs of this City prior to the Credit Crunch? The 10% cuts made by DSD are now threatening the construction of 280 social housing units in Skeogh?

"Helen Quigley wants the Executive to increase funding for Invest NI! If Helen Quigley wants to raise money for Invest NI, maybe she could start by asking them why they are spending a million pounds of taxpayer's money renting an empty building at Campsie? Or why those gurus of economics at Invest NI managed to conspire to spend £125m of OUR money on a new headquarters in Belfast, which they didn't need and which is worth only £25m.

"If the SDLP want to be taken seriously they need to come out of their fantasy world of make believe where everything good emanated from the SDLP and all the ills were the fault of everyone else." ENDS


Sinn Féin plan to hold a 'Day of Reflection' aimed at promoting reconciliation and equality in Limavady borough council next month.

A candle lighting ceremony will be held in the Mayors Chamber in Limavady Borough Council on Friday 12th December to acknowledge and remember all those who have died as a result of war and conflict through-out the world.

Limavady Mayor Brenda Chivers speaking about the upcoming event said "this is an important opportunity for everyone in society to reflect both the difficulties and pain of the past but also on the changes in recent years and on how we move forward into the future".

She continued:

"Across councils in the north over the past number of years Sinn Féin have developed an approach to reflection based upon inclusion and reaching out that has been led by Sinn Féin mayors and Chairs.

"Our approach is underpinned by the principles of dignity, respect, sensitivity and inclusiveness. It is important that we recognise all who have lost their lives as a result of war and conflict and all those who still live with the pain and memory of that loss.

"This event is open to all members of the public and anyone who would like more information on the event can contact Dungiven Sinn Féin on 77742488." CRÍOCH


In support of recent efforts by Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, the First and deputy First Minister have jointly written to Prime Minister Gordon Brown seeking his support for the local dairy industry.

The First Minister, Peter Robinson MP MLA, and the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MP MLA, have jointly written to Gordon Brown this week to lobby his support in discussions on the re-introduction of the dairy export refunds at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting on Friday 28 November.

Confirming this new development, Minister Gildernew said:

"The terrible situation that our dairy currently finds itself in is a matter which concerns the entire Executive. Only last week my Executive colleague Minister Foster and I, jointly lobbied Hilary Benn for urgent special consideration of the Northern dairy industry's problems when representing our interests in Brussels on the export refund issue. Also when I heard that the issue is on the agenda for this week's Agriculture and Fisheries Council, I again wrote to Hilary Benn imploring him to re-think the position on the matter.

"On the back of this I approached the First and deputy First Minister about seeking the re-introduction of the dairy export refund here and I am very pleased that they have raised the issue to the highest level by also writing to lobby the British Prime Minister on our behalf. It is vital that he instructs the Minister attending the Council to fight the case for our dairy industry as loudly as possible. " ENDS


Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has condemned bomb hoaxes at two homes of members of a North Belfast family earlier today.

Commenting after bomb hoaxes at two homes of members of a North Belfast family earlier today, Thursday 27 November, Sinn Féin MLA for the constituency Gerry Kelly said:

"These hoax bomb incidents caused great distress to the families targeted, including a number of vulnerable young children, and neighbours caught up in the disruption which followed.

"There is no support within the community for these threats and Sinn Féin demands that they are withdrawn immediately.

"These latest incidents come hot on the heels of threats issued to community workers earlier this week and bomb alerts at homes in the New Lodge area yesterday.

"I am calling for an end to all these campaigns of intimidation." ENDS


Gerry Adams MP MLA has welcomed today's decision by the Executive to proceed with a proposal from the Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy for a rapid transit system for Belfast.

The West Belfast MP has particularly welcomed the fact that the west of the city will benefit significantly from the proposed Rapid Transit system.

Mr. Adams said:

"This is a significant proposal and decision which will shape the face of Belfast and of west Belfast for decades to come.

The development of a modern, fast and reliable public transport service for West Belfast will have a positive impact on the economy of this part of the city.

The project, which will operate alongside and compliment our traditional Black taxi and Translink metro services is good for this community.

The purpose of the Rapid Transport system is to reduce congestion by attracting people onto public transport which can then transport them across the City in a fast and reliable time."

The West Belfast MP added;

"This major transportation project will not only deliver a new modern service, but will provide opportunities over the coming years to our local economy through employment opportunities in engineering, construction and the operation of the new system. This will make an important contribution to the regeneration of West Belfast.


Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has welcomed Roads Service's progress on investment totalling £3.1million in the Antrim Council area this year.

Speaking ahead of this evening's meeting between Roads Service and Antrim Borough Council, the Minister said: "250 metres of footway has been constructed on the southern side of the Dunadry Road, at a cost of £124,000 between Clady Road and the railway bridge. Traffic management at the railway bridge has been improved with the introduction of a priority working system.

"The stopping sight distance has been improved on the Lurgan Road, Crumlin, on the bend at the junction of the Cherryvalley Road, by setting back the hedge and fencing which has opened up the visibility around the bend for motorists both wanting to turn right into Cherryvalley Road and those proceeding on towards Lurgan.

"Traffic calming measures costing £35,000 have been introduced on a number of streets in Randalstown. These included a number of residential areas as well as at the schools on Barnish Road and Craigstown Road.

"Schemes still to be completed this financial year include junction visibility splay improvements at Craigstown Road / Ballylurgan Road, Staffordstown Road / Blackrock Road and at Castle Road / Milltown Road."


Sinn Fein MLA for West Belfast, Paul Maskey has stated today that Arlene Foster as Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister needs to ensure that areas of high social need benefit from any tourism strategy. This follows the announcement by the ETI Minister that Tourism Ireland will be "vigorously promoting" the North as a tourist destination over the next year.

Mr Maskey said:

"Any initiative to promote tourism is welcomed however it must be a balanced approach with all the stakeholders in the tourism sector included and supported.

"Many tourism projects in areas of social need have proved to be both highly professional and successful. As such areas including West Belfast and the Shankill Road see thousands of tourists passing through each year.

"This however is the difficulty. The tourists are simply passing through. We need to see an investment strategy to build the tourism infrastructure in such areas . This would encourage tourist to stay and spend in the localities therefore boosting the local economies.

"Only recently a conference was held in the Culturlann on the Falls Road in Belfast in which over 100 local stake holders, including NITB, Tourism Ireland and Belfast City Council attended . All agreed that further financial investment by the Executive was necessary to sustain the current growth. Tourism is one of the few areas that we actually can invest in and see gains for in terms of job creation and economic development given the current economic climate.

"If the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minster, Arlene Foster, is serious about reaching the impressive yet challenging target to attract 2.5 million visitors and increase tourism revenue to £520 million by 2011 local initiatives needs must be met. This means that support for local enterprises alongside investment into the provision of accommodation into areas of social need ,who have built strong and attractive tourism projects, must be a priority."


Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has welcomed comments from Irish Government Minister, Micheál Martin TD, that the provision of a regional passport office in the North is "under ongoing and active review". The opening of such an office would deliver numerous benefits to those living in northern counties who are seeking an Irish passport.

Speaking today Mr McElduff said:

"I have met directly with the Minister Martin TD and written to him personally asking him to locate an Irish passport office in the north of Ireland. In a correspondence to me this week the Minister assured me that the proposal is under ongoing and active review" by the Irish government.

I welcome this review and I also want to pay tribute to the Irish passport office for their work in making passport applications for people living in the north of Ireland easier and more accessible.

"However, while the current service is professional, there remains the concern that applying from the north still entails an additional cost of £6. Families catering for a number of children feel significantly this cost. In many cases it comes close to the cost of another passport.

"It has also been raised that not everybody knows where the forms are available, the process around completing them, or the fact that there are a range of different methods of applying such as Express Post or through the ordinary postal service.

"The provision of a locally based passport office in the north would neutralise these difficulties as has been witnessed with the opening of a regional office in Cork. This would make information surrounding the application process more readily available and eliminate the current surcharge. For the convenience of customer in the north the siting of an local office is now necessary.

"Whether a new office is located in Belfast, Derry, Omagh or Newry is up for discussion and decision. It is the principle of establishing a passport office in the north that is important. Any local office would provide greater access to thousands of people living in all the northern counties wishing to access an Irish passport. Dublin is still further from Donegal that any of the towns I have mentioned and needs to be included in any consideration."


Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and EU North West Candidate and Lisbon Campaign Director Cllr. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn this afternoon launched the party’s ‘Majority View – Minority Report’ as a counterbalance to the Oireachtas Committee on Irelands Future in Europe final report due also to be published today.


The Dublin MEP said:


“Since Sinn Féin’s initial meeting with the Foreign Affairs Minister to discuss the setting up of the sub-committee we have constructively engaged with the it’s process at every stage, however we were critical of its composition and narrow terms of reference. We made it clear from the outset that we would not collude in a process whose primary purpose was to lay the ground for a rerun of the Lisbon Treaty referendum.


“Regrettably the sub-committee report published today reflects precisely that happened.


“The sub-committee should have proactively engaged with broad public opinion, met in open session and listened to the views of citizens. The government shamefully chose to reject this approach with the support of all other political parties, bar Sinn Féin.  


“The imbalance in the composition of the committee and the ‘witnesses’ was stark. It is therefore not surprising that the report produced by committee is simply a re-articulation of the Yes argument which was voiced throughout the referendum campaign.  Although claiming to respect the outcome of that referendum and to understand the legitimate concerns of the Irish people the sub-committee report has chosen to ignore all of those concerns. Sinn Féin has dissented from the Committees report and that is why we are today publishing this ‘Majority View – Minority Report’.


“Opinion polls and the government’s own research into the No vote has outlined the electorates concerns over neutrality, workers rights, public services, democracy and Ireland’s loss of influence in the EU. These issues must be addressed in any new Treaty. Obtaining declarations is not an adequate measure and will not secure the necessary protections.


“Fianna Fáil’s cynical approach to the committee will come as little surprise to voters however the public will want to know how Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party’s support for the sub–committee squares with their repeated calls for respect of the referendum outcome.


“It is time political parties acknowledged that the people have spoken and their mandate to the government is clear.  Fianna Fáil and the Green’s handling of the Lisbon Treaty have been worse than their handling of the current economic crisis. However it is time now that the government stood up for the interests of the Irish people. EU leaders will only move if the Irish government leads the way.” ENDS



Sinn Féin Economic Affairs Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has said that Mary Harney has questions to answer over serious irregularities during her time as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Deputy Morgan said that there are question marks about the appointment of Brian Geoghegan as Chairperson of FÁS by Minister Harney just ten months before he became her husband.

Speaking today Deputy Morgan said, "The Minister's $410 hair-do is not the only or the most serious irregularity that occurred during Mary Harney's tenure as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from 1997 to 2004.

"The internal audit report of FÁS highlights serious irregularities that took place at the state training agency during that period. In some cases contracts were awarded to companies despite not haven being put out to public tender and, in one instance, a contract was awarded for exhibition sales for twice the usual amount. Irregularities and malpractice led to overspends and wastages of money to the tune of millions. The Minister must answer questions on how this was allowed to happen under her watch.

"There are also questions to be answered by Minister Harney about her appointment of Brian Geoghegan as Chairperson of FÁS just ten months before he became her husband. This appointment was a peculiar one as it broke with the tradition of rotating the position of Chairperson between IBEC officials and Union officials." ENDS


Junior Minister Kelly today visited Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre to speak to both young people and the staff to hear their views about the management and care of the children at the centre.

The Minister, who along with Jeffrey Donaldson, has special responsibility for children and young people, also visited Hydebank Wood Young Offender Centre last week.

Following the visit Minister Kelly said:

"I was motivated to visit both Hydebank Wood and Woodlands after meeting with Kit Chivers, the former Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice to discuss his report into Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre. I have been very pleased today to see the huge improvements that have been made in the custody of young people in custody here at Woodlands and I hope that practices at Hydebank will follow suit.

"The Assembly recently hosted a debate for around 140 teenagers in the Assembly Chamber on 23 October. The topic for debate was around the reasons why young people get drawn into anti-social behaviour, underage drinking and drug taking. I was delighted that two young people from Woodlands were encouraged to take part and brought their personal knowledge to the discussion." CRÍOCH


Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson Health & Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the resignation of Health Minister Mary Harney is long overdue, not because of the use of public money on her hair but because of the disasters over which she has presided in the public health system.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"I am not especially concerned about what figure was spent on Minister Harney's hair. I am concerned that as Minister for Health she has presided over disaster in our public health services. What about the daily figure for patients on hospital trolleys? It reached 283 in November 2006, 290 in November 2007 and this November it has reached 406. That is why Minister Harney should resign.

"We also need a full Dáil debate on the role and remit of FÁS and the conduct of its Board and its management and of Government ministers. This agency plays a vital role in our economy. Its services are more essential now than ever with thousands of people becoming unemployed every month and with a huge need for training and retraining of workers. Nothing should be allowed to disrupt that.

"We have seen how public funding has been abused by the board with expensive junkets to Florida and that Minister Harney availed of one of those junkets. What was going on at top level in FÁS and what was the extent of Ministerial knowledge of this junketeering culture? We need to restore confidence in this public service.

"We also need a full debate on ministerial accountability in the Dáil. How was it that heads did not roll over the massive waste of public money in the PPARS scandal and the electronic voting scandal - was it because they would be ministerial heads?" ENDS


Sinn Fein MLA and Vice chair of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade & Investment Jennifer McCann has called on the banking institutions to do more to help businesses who are in difficulty. This follows both Woolworth's and MFI going into administration.

Speaking today Ms McCann said:

"Well established retail businesses such as Woolworth's and MFI are having to lay off workers due to their outlets having to go into administration.

"The economic recession has already impacted on a number of local businesses and resulted in increased unemployment.

"Sinn Fein will be seeking a meeting with management in order to establish what we can do to help safeguard the future of these jobs that are under serious threat. However banks and financial institutions need to do more to help offset these closures.

"Massive amounts of public money has recently been pumped in to the banking sector in order to keep the economy buoyant. This money was given to the banks in an effort to help stabilise businesses and to ensure that peoples jobs would be safeguarded.

"The banks and financial institutions need to do more to secure businesses and jobs. The financial rescue package they received from the tax payer wasn't given to them just to secure their own future, it was given to stabilise the economy. They need to act now."


Donegal Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty today launched a major report on the redevelopment of the West of Ireland. Senator Doherty will later present the report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The report entitled 'Awakening the West: Overcoming Social and Economic Inequality', is the first report of its kind in decades and has been put together after a major consultation process involving dozens of groups along the Western Seaboard.

Speaking at the launch of the report Senator Doherty said, "Along the Western Seaboard, from Donegal to West Cork, communities are fighting for their very survival. Government policy has proactively favoured the east coast of the country in infrastructure, job creation and political influence.

"The West has suffered the withdrawal and downgrading of vital services, such as public transport, post offices and Garda Services. As a result of the systematic undermining of our public hospitals these communities have endured a loss of vital health services. The destruction and collapse of traditional employment sectors, such the textile and fishing industries, coupled with the exodus of small farmers from the land has resulted in depopulation and led to unemployment and poverty.

"The rural West has been losing population at an alarming rate due to the decline of traditional employment in farming and fishing. In recent times this region relied too heavily on employment from construction which is now suffering disproportionately from the dramatic downturn in that sector.

"Given the rural and sparsely populated nature of the west of Ireland, and the isolation experienced by many, communities frequently feel helpless in their ability to halt the decline. Their voices are not being heard in the corridors of power. Their lobbies are too weak to exert the pressure that is needed to bring about change. In many cases, these areas find themselves pitted against each other in an "either or" battle to retain services or attract investment.

"Our aim with this report was to bring all the disparate groups across the west of Ireland together in one united voice to demand an end to the inequalities in the west and to come up with realistic and reasonable proposals to that end.

"The purpose of the report we are launching today is to identify the social and economic needs of the West of Ireland - Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Galway, Mayo, Clare, Kerry, West Cork and West Limerick - and to bring forward proposals for the redevelopment of each of this region.

"We will be launching this report in every constituency along the West Coast early in the New Year and I have already presented a copy of it to all the groups who contributed to the consultation process.

"I hope my report will serve as a call to action to the Government and, by extension, to all those who care about the survival of the West and equality between the regions across Ireland. I am presenting it to the Committee today and will be seeking all party support for its recommendations. I genuinely feel that if the proposals contained within the report are adopted by the committee and acted upon then we can make serious inroads into addressing and reversing decades of economic and social inequality in the West." ENDS

Key issues affecting the West

· Depopulation in rural communities is a major problem which is going un-tackled. The movement of people from rural communities within the West to urban centres between 1926 and 2002 saw a decline of 40% of the populations of Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Limerick, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.

· The structuring of state institutions and delivery of public policy have also contributed to the current inequity between the regions. There is limited regional policy co-ordination and insufficient consideration of the goals of the National Spatial Strategy.

· Across the Western region agriculture, forestry, fishing and construction amount to 20% of all employment. Each of these sectors is undergoing serious difficulties.

· In 2007 only 2,400 people were directly employed in fishing. Three quarters of the entire fishing workforce is located in Counties Donegal, Kerry, Galway, Mayo, Clare, and West Cork. The total catch for these fleets has declined from 390,000 tonnes in 1995 to 210,000 tonnes in 2006. The Irish fleet has declined by over 30% since 1993.

· In 2007 just 8.1% of the 9,216 new IDA supported jobs were located in Counties Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Clare, Limerick or Kerry. While Galway and Cork accounted for 21% of these new jobs they were concentrated in the gateways of Galway City and Cork City.

· The retention of graduates is another serious problem. Only 38% of the western region's graduates find their first place of employment in their home counties in comparison with 79.5% for Dublin.

· The North-West has suffered a decline of 30% in overseas visitors since 1999. In 2006, Clare, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal combined generated just 9% of the overall tourism revenue.

· Of the 19 national road projects in construction at the end of December 2007, just two were located in the Western seaboard region, amounting to only 75 out of 458 kilometres of national roads.

· The Western Rail Corridor is the only major inter-regional rail project for the western counties under Transport 21 and is now at risk due to government cutbacks. The Western Rail Corridor will cost less than €200 million, compared to the Metro North in Dublin, which is estimated to cost €3.7billion.

· It is projected that by 2014 there will be a further 1,698 bed closures in public hospitals in the Western seaboard under its 'Regionalisation Scenario' and hospitals in Sligo and Castlebar are facing destabilisation and downgrading if the National Cancer Care Strategy goes ahead as planned.

· Of the 396 applications from primary schools in counties Kerry, Cork, Clare, Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal, only 72 (18%) have progressed beyond initial stages.

· In 2007 one in eight jobs were lost in Údarás na Gaeltachta assisted companies. The lack of employment and services in the Gaeltacht is adversely affecting the socio-linguistic environment of Gaeltacht areas.

Key Recommendations

The report sets out a lot of detailed proposals to deal with the key issues affecting the West. The key proposals include the following:

· A single Government Department should be given overall responsibility for Regional Development.

· All State Bodies should be compelled by law to assess whether policies being developed would create regional imbalance and amend those policies accordingly. A Regional Development Impact Assessment Framework should be established to facilitate this.

· To address the clear imbalance in job creation along the West there should be regional and sub-regional job creation targets set out for Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and other Enterprise Support Agencies.

· The report calls for the establishment of a self sustaining state agency with a property portfolio to promote entrepreneurial activity at local level in the South West, North West and Western Counties.

· Forfás should carry out an immediate review of the capacity of the Western seaboard region to attract Foreign Direct Investment and the measures which need to be taken at a strategic level to improve its competitiveness and boost employment opportunities.

· The National Development Plan 2007-2013 should re-introduce its policy of having a specific goal of achieving balanced regional development with set targets for each region.

· The Western Rail Corridor is critical to the development of the west. It should not be subject to cutbacks but proceed as planned. There should be a review of the Claremorris to Collooney section as matter of priority.

· The Atlantic Road Corridor, from Waterford to Letterkenny, should be a seamless dual carriageway built under public finance.

· State financial support should be provided to pilot next generation broadband schemes in at least three towns in each of the 10 Western seaboard counties in which broadband infrastructure enables it.

· The Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources should identify renewable energy zones on the Western seaboard region and bring forward proposals for the development of community and wider regional renewable energy projects.

· The 1,700 public beds in the region's acute hospitals which are threatened with closure under the HSE's PA Report must be retained.

· National Cancer Strategy should be revised to provide for a balanced regional approach, particularly in relation to surgery and radiology.

· There must be a coherent strategy to maximise Garda visibility in rural areas.

· There is a need for a clear Government policy in relation to the minimum number of post offices that are necessary. In order to save a number of post offices at risk of imminent closure, the Government should intervene in the form of a public service obligation order (PSO).

· The government should bring forward a Charter of Rights, based on the needs of the individual islands, which would be guaranteed in law. These rights would form the basis of a strategy to re-populate the islands and encourage young people to stay.

· All plans and statutory provisions for Gaeltacht areas should be integrated into a comprehensive and cohesive planning process which would include language planning, local and physical planning, education planning, structural planning and social planning including family support services.


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brun has met with a residents group in the Ringsend area outside Coleraine Co. Derry about their concerns that four waste management sites could be located within three to four miles of each other.

The European Parliament is currently investigating the problem following a successful petition lodged by party colleague Billy Leonard, a Sinn Féin Councillor for the area.

Ms de Brun said:

"Four sites to be situated in such a small area is obviously a source of concern. It was therefore timely that I met with the residents group so that I could both listen to their detailed points of view and talk about possible outcomes of the petition.

"This is a good example of local political action linking in with the European Parliament. The Petitions Committee in Brussels will examine the entire picture and the potential combined effect of four such sites. There are European directives which this local question can be measured against and if a determination was eventually issued by Brussels it could have a positive result for the people of the area.

"I was therefore delighted to meet with the residents along with our local representatives and we can assure the community that Sinn Féin will continue to work on this issue and link local action with action in Brussels." ENDS


Sinn Féin Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has welcomed progress on investment totalling £2.4million in the Cookstown area this year.

Speaking after last night's meeting between Roads Service and Cookstown District Council, the Minister provided an update on a number of strategic road improvements and said:

"Roads Service continues to progress design work for the proposed Cookstown Bypass with a view to determining a preferred alignment. The emerging preferred corridor for the bypass lies to the east of the town and will link the A29 Dungannon Road at Loughry Roundabout to the A29 Moneymore Road. Traffic surveys were held in 2007 with environmental, ecological and archaeological surveys started during the summer of this year. A public information day will be held in the coming months.

"To the south of the Cookstown Council area the A29 Carland Bridge realignment works are now programmed to commence in May 2009 and the procurement process is currently underway. Also to the north of Cookstown, the A31 Magherafelt Bypass project is progressing and the public inquiry into the preferred route has been scheduled for April 2009.

"Schemes which have been completed this financial year include the reconstruction and resurfacing at James Street, William Street, Oldtown Street in Cookstown town centre and the resurfacing of the B4 Cavanakeeran Road in Pomery. Also completed has been the upgrade of the existing zebra crossing at William Street in Cookstown and the provision of a pelican crossing at Smith Street Moneymore.

Note to Editors

Other schemes that will be taken forward in the current financial year include the provision of a footbridge at Ballinderry, sightline improvements at the Roughan Road/Tullaghbeg Road junction and provision of a footway at Cloughfin Road, Killeenan.

The Roads Service report also contained the draft capital programme for 2009-2011. Schemes include providing a right turning lane at A505 Drum Road/Corchoney Road junction and junction realignment at the A505 Drum Road/B4 Pomeroy Road junction.


Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly was a keynote speaker at a conference today aimed at showcasing local research on children and young people.

The conference was designed around the six outcomes in the Executive's 10-year strategy for children and young people and aimed to promote research as an evidence base for developing policy and practice.

Speaking at the conference in Templepatrick, Junior Minister Gerry Kelly said:

"I strongly believe that robust research evidence is the fundamental basis for good decision making in government.

"The welfare of our children is a key priority for the Executive and to improve their quality of life as well as their life experiences, we have set six key outcomes."

"The outcomes are health, learning, achievement and enjoyment, contributing positively to society and community, safety, economic and environmental well-being and respect for the rights of children and young people."

Mr Kelly added:

"Today's conference provides an exciting opportunity for decision makers and practitioners to find out more about local research. This evidence will help all of us to make the right decisions to improve the lives of children and young people." ENDS

Note to Editors

  1. The overall aim of the Child Care Research Forum (CCRF) is to develop a crosscutting research culture between academics, policy makers and practitioners through collaborative action. CCRF is chaired by the Institute of Child Care Research in Queen's University Belfast.
  2. The Junior Ministers have responsibility for the co-ordination of policy for children and young people.
  3. The ten year strategy "Our Children and Young People - Our Pledge" is available on the website


Speaking on the Finance Bill in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin Dáil Leader the Bill implements one of the most disastrous Budgets ever imposed on the Irish people. Deputy Ó Caoláin criticised the Government's over reliance on the construction sector and called on them to bring forward a strategy to get construction workers back into employment or education.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "This Finance Bill implements one of the most disastrous Budgets ever imposed on the Irish people. It seems that as the Taoiseach and his Ministers returned from their summer holidays they witnessed with growing panic the massive recession facing the Irish economy. The fundamentally flawed economic decisions of the past decade were coming back to haunt them. The chickens were coming home to roost. And the Taoiseach and his Ministers started to run around like headless chickens.

"Their panic reaction was to bring the Budget forward to 14 October. It was a rush job and like all rush jobs it quickly fell apart. Within days key decisions like the axing of the automatic medical card entitlement for over 70s were altered - but not withdrawn. We had the unprecedented sight of Cabinet members and backbenchers apologising to the public for decisions that they stood up and applauded in this chamber.

"But make no mistake, the savage Budget announced on 14 October remained and remains a savage Budget and its worst effects have yet to be felt.

"The Government failed to accept that the over-reliance on the construction sector was not sustainable and could not continue indefinitely and consequently failed to put in place a strategy to deal with the anticipated contraction of the construction sector or the needs of those dependent on that sector for their employment.

"An estimated 30,000 plus construction workers have lost their jobs to date in 2008. The lack of alternative employment is resulting in workers who lost their jobs emigrating in search of work.

"The Government still has not brought forward a strategy to get these workers back in to employment and/or training. It has allowed the social security entitlements of many construction workers to be undermined by failing to take action as unscrupulous employers coerced workers into registering as self employed.

"To increase our competitiveness and aid economic recovery the Government should frontload infrastructure projects that can employ workers from the construction sector, including transport, schools, crèches, hospital and primary care development.

"In particular we want to see a State Housing Infrastructure Plan, designed to address both housing need and unemployment in the construction sector." ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's contribution follows:

Finance Bill 2008

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Dái leader

This Finance Bill implements one of the most disastrous Budgets ever imposed on the Irish people. It seems that as the Taoiseach and his Ministers returned from their summer holidays they witnessed with growing panic the massive recession facing the Irish economy. The fundamentally flawed economic decisions of the past decade were coming back to haunt them. The chickens were coming home to roost. And the Taoiseach and his Ministers started to run around like headless chickens.

Their panic reaction was to bring the Budget forward to 14 October. It was a rush job and like all rush jobs it quickly fell apart. Within days key decisions like the axing of the automatic medical card entitlement for over 70s were altered - but not withdrawn. We had the unprecedented sight of Cabinet members and backbenchers apologising to the public for decisions that they stood up and applauded in this chamber.

But make no mistake, the savage Budget announced on 14 October remained and remains a savage Budget and its worst effects have yet to be felt.

An ill-considered Budget has been followed by further ill-considered measures in this Finance Bill. Low income families are being hit with the 1% levy on all incomes above €18,305. That figure is far too low and we in Sinn Féin have called for the 1% levy to be applied to incomes in excess of €38,000. We call for the threshold for the 3% levy - which we welcome - to be lowered to €200,100.

It is typical of the wrong-headedness of this Government that they refused to introduce such a levy on higher incomes during the Celtic Tiger years and to devote the revenue raised to address inequality. Now they are doing it out of budgetary necessity while at the same time penalising low income families with a 1% levy.

Low income families are also penalised by the VAT increase to 21.5%. They will be disproportionately affected by the rise in prices. And here we have another example of the Government's perfect timing. VAT goes up by .5% to 21.5% on this side of the Border and is reduced by 2.5% to 15% in the Six Counties.

The VAT gap thus created along with underlying cross-border price differences is already having a very damaging effect on the retail sector and employment in the Border counties within this jurisdiction. As usual the Government made decisions without giving a thought to the effect on such vulnerable local economies. Their failure to harmonise the economy on an all-Ireland basis is a long-term failure with real consequences for real people and it must be addressed.

At Taoiseach's Questions today the Taoiseach tried to misrepresent the view of Sinn Féin, reiterated throughout the Celtic Tiger years, that the Government had made the economy dangerously over-reliant on inflated property prices and had depended too much on construction for employment. He deliberately misinterpreted this as hostility on our part to construction.

For the Taoiseach's benefit and for the benefit of others let me spell it out again. The basis for sustainable growth was laid by Irish workers in the 1990s. Fianna Fáil-led governments from 1997 had the resources to invest in sound infrastructure, to develop public services that were both equitable and efficient, to foster industry that provided employment and raised revenue through exports, to create an enhanced society as well as a prosperous economy.

What did they do instead? They saw a growing economy and they decided with their friends the developers and the speculators and the bankers to reap the rewards through ruthlessly exploiting the increased demand for housing and commercial property. They created a massive property bubble and a perilous over-dependence on construction for employment.

Now the bubble has burst. Construction employment has collapsed and so has Government revenue. Families are mortgaged beyond their means and many are losing their homes. Negative equity is rife and the full consequences for individuals, families, companies and financial institutions have yet to be seen. All of this was predictable. We in Sinn Féin were among those constantly highlighting the folly and the injustice of Government economic policy.

We identified clearly how the economy was allowed to become grossly over-dependent on the construction sector accounting for over 20% of the State's GDP and employing one in every eight workers at its peak. An over-inflated construction sector masked a steady flow of job losses, particularly in provincial towns.

The Government failed to accept that the over-reliance on the construction sector was not sustainable and could not continue indefinitely and consequently failed to put in place a strategy to deal with the anticipated contraction of the construction sector or the needs of those dependent on that sector for their employment.

An estimated 30,000 plus construction workers have lost their jobs to date in 2008. The lack of alternative employment is resulting in workers who lost their jobs emigrating in search of work.

The Government still has not brought forward a strategy to get these workers back in to employment and/or training. It has allowed the social security entitlements of many construction workers to be undermined by failing to take action as unscrupulous employers coerced workers into registering as self employed.

50.3% of those who lost their jobs in the construction sector in the year to the end of June were under the age of 25 while 23% of those under the age of 25 still employed in the construction sector at the end of June did not have a Leaving Certificate qualification.

The collapse in construction is a critical factor in the current recession which has spawned this regressive Finance Bill. But rather than simply criticise the Bill and the Budget Sinn Féin has put forward progressive proposals for recovery.

These proposals are based on need to make sure that a controlled reduction in dependency on the construction sector includes measures to ensure continued employment opportunities in construction as well as measures to enable workers from this sector to access alternative employment.

To increase our competitiveness and aid economic recovery the Government should frontload infrastructure projects that can employ workers from the construction sector, including transport, schools, crèches, hospital and primary care development.

In particular we want to see a State Housing Infrastructure Plan, designed to address both housing need and unemployment in the construction sector. This would include:

- The construction of the required social housing by local authorities on a targeted basis over 5 years

- The completion of currently stalled regeneration projects in local authority housing estates and complexes

- A programme of upgrading of local authority dwellings, with special emphasis on housing for older people

- A social housing maintenance programme, equipping local authorities to ensure that their housing stock is kept in good repair

- A home heating programme to ensure that local authority tenants, especially older people, have sufficient and energy efficient heating in their homes

- A home insulation programme to conserve energy and reduce energy costs for householders

- A home adaptation programme to carry out essential works to adapt homes for the use of people with disabilities, in tandem with reform of the Disabled Persons' Housing Grant.

There should be specific training and upskilling courses for alternative industries to construction to be made available through FÁS and the state's universities and DITs. We need to see special retraining for construction workers so they can work in the energy saving and renewable energy sectors. The Government should introduce a specific back-to-education scheme for construction sector workers under the age of 25 who did not complete second-level education. Measures to allow apprentices to complete apprenticeships that were curtailed due to the recession in construction should also be introduced.

The Government should use either this Finance Bill or the Social Welfare Bill to address the predicament of construction sector workers who were pushed into becoming self-employed by their employers and who consequently do not have adequate social insurance contributions to access social welfare entitlements. Their contributions for the last five years should be considered rather than the normal governing contribution period of two years.

The debate on the banks has not focussed on the situation faced by hard-pressed mortgage holders who have lost their jobs. There should be a mortgage support package for such families. The Minister still has time to address their needs in Committee Stage of this Finance Bill.

These are just some measures that could help address growing unemployment and begin to revive the economy. We have placed them in the form of a motion in the name of the Sinn Féin Deputies on the Order Paper. The Finance Bill before us, in contrast, is devoid of any strategy to get our economy out of recession.

There is also an air of unreality about the Bill in that the near collapse of the banking system is not addressed. The Government guarantee scheme for the banks is fundamentally flawed and provides scant protection for taxpayers. Are we soon to see the international corporate vultures allowed in to feast on the Irish banks? Or are they to be recapitalised by the State at the expense of more cutbacks in vital public services?

This is a regressive Bill. There is nothing to help struggling small and medium-sized businesses which are starved of capital. In contrast the Bill retains tax breaks for the burgeoning private health industry which is profiting at the expense of the public health system.

Sinn Féin rejects this Bill.


Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson Martin Ferris TD, speaking after attending a protest organised by the IFA National Sheep Committee at the Department of Agriculture this evening called on Minister Brendan Smith to stand by his commitment announce a Sheep Maintenance Payment immediately.

Deputy Ferris said, "The Minister must back up his claims to be supporting the sheep sector by announcing that the unused CAP funds secures in Brussels last week will go to the sheep sector.

"The Minister has given a clear commitment to the sheep farmers and must announce a Sheep Maintenance Payment immediately. He should stop dragging his feet and playing politics on this issue." ENDS


Sinn Fein MLA and Economic spokesperson, Mitchell McLaughlin, has said that one measure that may be adopted to help sustain the local economy is the tailoring of Executive contracts into smaller, yet more numerous packages, to help local small and medium enterprises compete for tenders.

Speaking today Mr McLaughlin said:

"The Assembly should examine how Executive contracts could be scaled down and broken up in order to provide the opportunity for the small and medium enterprise section of the construction industry a chance of securing such contracts.

"Currently these contracts are bundled together and tendered for with massive budgets involved, some indeed being over the £100 million mark. which inevitable means that local firms loose out and any profits exit the local economy.

"This is not a case of not spending as much but one of tailoring the projects to suit the local economic climate. With small and medium enterprises making up 90% of the private sector this move would help sustain local businesses in the long term."

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