Dublin North West TD and Sinn Féin housing spokesperson, Dessie Ellis, has called on the Department of the Environment to ensure that the regeneration project in Ballymun will be completed and all families awaiting rehousing will be accommodated as planned. He was speaking following an announcement that the Fine Gael/Labour plan to cut the budget for the project.
Deputy Ellis continued:
“It is believed the budget allocation for the Ballymun Regeneration project could be slashed by millions of euro over the next two years. Many in the community are fearful that the project will not be completed as planned.
“The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government is in negotiation with Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL).
“It’s vital that the remaining families, due to be relocated, are not abandoned.
“There needs to be a commitment that those still to be moved will not be affected by any cut in funding.
“The project is due to be completed in 2014 and any delay will be unacceptable to people who have waited so long.
“I am calling on Jan O’Sullivan and her department to do everything they can to ensure that Ballymun Regeneration is completed in the next two years. With around 90 per cent of the work completed we cannot allow the project to come to a halt or be delayed.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Sport, Sandra McLellan TD, has congratulated Co. Down's Rory McIlroy, after he shot to number one in the world rankings following his win in Florida at the Honda Classic over the weekend.
Speaking today the East Cork Deputy said:
“On September 19th 2007, Rory was ranked 876th in the world. Today he is number one. To have achieved such success at a remarkably young age is astonishing. Rory did brilliantly to hold off such a strong challenge from Tiger Woods and others and win by two strokes, especially after coming so agonisingly close to winning the Accenture World Match Play Championship only last weekend.
“Rory is a fantastic ambassador for the young people of Ireland, and is a shining example of what hard work and determination can achieve. There was a huge sense of expectation and excitement throughout the country this weekend, especially in his home town of Hollywood, Co. Down. Rory has brought a great sense of hope and pride to the entire country, and we are all immensely proud of him.” ENDS
Speaking on the first day of Seachtain na Gaeilge, Sinn Féin Cultural Spokesperson Cathal Ó hOisín said he hoped that even more people would sign up to the language as it goes from strength to strength.
Cathal Ó hOisín said:
“There are a range of events on over the next two weeks as part of Seachtain na Gaeilge and I would encourage people to go along and enjoy the language and the craic.
“The Irish language is more alive and vibrant today than it has been for a long time and the Líofa initiative by Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has broadened the appeal of the language. Indeed the Minister will be sponsoring a first ever live broadcast direct from the LongGallery at the Assembly by Raidió Fáilte on March 14th.
“Sinn Féin have also organised events around Seachtain na Gaeilge while members will be attending and participating in other events including Rith 2012. This celebration of the Irish language is a great boost for all those promoting it and between Seachtain na Gaeilge and Rith, it shows the amount of support there is for the language.”
Senator Kathryn Reilly, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Youth Affairs has begun a series of meetings with groups working with and representing young people.
Speaking today Senator Reilly said:
“As the youngest member of the Oireachtas, I am delighted to be in a position to engage directly with young people and the organisations that work for and with them. I have already met several youth organisations and plan to meet as many others as possible over the coming period.
“My engagement so far has confirmed to me that the youth sector is taking a disproportionately hard hit from the government’s cuts. We know also that thousands of young people are considering or planning for emigration yet, the government’s recent ‘Jobs Action Plan’ barely mentioned young people.
“Sinn Féin believes a specific jobs action plan for young people is needed.
“There are broader issues such as mental health and discrimination against certain sectors of our young people that also need to be challenged and groups working in these fields need support to continue the excellent work they are carrying out every day.
“I have committed myself and my party to listening to and acting on the concerns of our young people and to giving them a voice in the Oireachtas.” ENDS
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications and Energy has claimed that revelations about a blacklist of trade union activists and people who reported health and safety concerns raises serious questions regarding the awarding of maintenance contracts for Iarnród Éireann and Bord Gáis.
Deputy Ferris was commenting on a report in the Guardian newspaper on Saturday on the fact that Balfour Beatty, the company which has been awarded maintenance contracts by Iarnród Éireann and Bord Gáis was funding the compilation of a blacklist of union activists and other ‘problem’ employees on British construction sites.
Deputy Ferris said:
“On top of the appalling safety record of this company, Balfour Beatty’s role in blacklisting workers is another reason why the awarding of the contracts must be re-examined. What is particularly sinister is that some of the workers who were victimised in this manner were picked on because of the very fact that they had raised serious issues regarding health and safety on the sites operated by the companies funding the blacklist.”
West Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said she is seeking clarification from the Department of Health following a media report claiming that hygiene failings were raised at the neo-natal unit at the Royal Jubilees Maternity Hospital weeks before three babies died from the pseudomonas infection.
The report said that concerns were raised about sinks at the hospital well before the babies died.
Sue Ramsey, who is also chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee said once the report was brought to her attention she has immediately sought clarification from the Department of Health.
Sue Ramsey said:
“I have asked officials to get me a copy of the internal audit and if it is the case that these hygiene failings have been over looked then there are serious questions to be answered.
“With this in mind I have requested an urgent meeting with the Department of Health.”
Upper Bann Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd has supported the call from the family of Sam Marshall for an independent inquiry into the murder of their brother Sam 22 years ago.
Following the release of the Historical Enquiries Crimes Team report on the killing, Mr O’Dowd challenged its findings that there was no collusion between British Military Forces and the killers of San Marshall.
The Assembly Member said that the report raised serious concerns with its revelation that there were nine armed British Military personnel in a total of six vehicles operating within the area where the murder was carried out.
Mr O’Dowd said,
“From the night Sam Marshall was killed people in Lurgan have been in no doubt that the British State was responsible for his death.
“The sequence of events surrounding the murder of Sam Marshall was always controversial but the revelation that there were six British Military vehicles and nine armed soldiers in the area at the time of the killing has raised new and additional questions.
“That none of these armed British soldiers responded to a barrage of rifle fire defies credibility. How three men armed with rifles were able to drive through an area which had such a heavy presence of British Intelligence operatives, park their car, get out open fire with a barrage of shots and then return to the vehicle and leave the area without any attempt to either prevent the murder or intercept the gunmen’s car has to be explained. This report has failed to address this issue which is at the heart of this case.
“There was collusion in the killing of Sam Marshall. The Marshall family have campaigned for the truth around Sam’s killing for over 20 years. We support fully the call from the Marshall family for an independent inquiry into the events surrounding Sam’s murder. The British government need to realise that the demand for the truth will not go away.”
Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast, Jennifer McCann has stated that those behind a so called punishment shooting in Twinbrook last night have no support in the local community.
Speaking today Ms McCann said:
“The type of action carried out last night achieves nothing. The community recognise this, local representatives recognise this and those groups working hard within our communities recognise it. It is high time that those behind these shooting recognise it.
“The community has worked for years to provide alternatives to so called punishment shootings and this has payed dividends. Those behind this attack must know this and are only trying to flex their muscles. The reality of their actions are that they are undermining this community. “Let be very clear about it, there is no support whatsoever for this type of reckless actions and those behind them need to stop.”
Speaking ahead of the visit Mr Maskey said:
"The Ballymurphy families are traveling to London to press the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to meet with them. To date he has refused to do this.
"The killing of 11 people in the Ballymurphy massacre of 1971 and the inquests that followed are a lasting injustice. There was little distinction between the event s of Bloody Sunday, the Ballymurphy Massacre and many other instances where the British Army shot down people on the streets of Ireland. In each case the role of the British Army in Ireland was made very clear.
"The families demands for the truth must be met. David Cameron should meet with the families as a matter of urgency and help in their search for justice."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today addressed his party’s national youth conference in Dublin. During the course of his speech Deputy Adams said Fianna Fáil’s support for a treaty which gives away sovereignty and undermines equality runs contrary to the essence of Irish republicanism.
Deputy Adams said:
“Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Another party which proclaims itself republican is meeting in its Ard Fheis this weekend.
“I have no doubt that many of its activists are republican and nationally minded.
“I have no doubt that many of voters want to see a united Ireland. But its leadership has to go beyond the rhetoric.
“It’s no good wrapping the green flag around you and then doing nothing to advance a new republic on this island.
“The essence of Irish republicanism – our republican core values – is Equality, Freedom and Social Solidarity and national independence and sovereignty.
“Supporting a Treaty which gives away that sovereignty and endorses policies that undermine equality and social solidarity runs contrary to that.”
Teachta Adams said:
“Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. We are the only all-Ireland party and are committed to ending partition and creating a new republic based on the 1916 Proclamation.
“We have a proud republican tradition and our core values are rooted in the tradition of the United Irish Society and of those since then who have pursued the struggle for freedom and an end to colonialism.
“The 1916 Proclamation is a freedom charter. It guarantees religious and civil liberty and is avowedly anti-sectarian. It promotes equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens.
“The Proclamation is a declaration of social and economic intent for a rights based society in which the people are sovereign. The historic mission of modern day Irish republicans is to make the core values of the proclamation relevant to Ireland and Irish people today and to make Irish republicanism relevant in the everyday lives of the people of this island.
“Sinn Féin believes in self-determination and independence and sovereignty.
“Irish republicans have a vision of a new society, a new Ireland, that is democratic, inclusive and based on equality.
“We want to see that type of society shaped on this island. We want a society and economy that are run democratically and in the interests of all citizens.
“A society which shares its wealth more equitably, seeks the well being of the aged, the advancement of our young, the liberation of women, and the protection of children, and will deliver the highest standards of services and protections for all citizens.
“The mark of any republic is that the people are sovereign and that they have rights and entitlements as well as responsibilities as citizens.
“These rights include the right to a job; to a home; to a decent standard of education and of health care; the right to live in a safe environment; to equality in the Irish language; to participate fully in the democratic process and to civil and religious liberties.
“The essence of our view – of our republican core values – is Equality, Freedom and Social Solidarity, national independence and sovereignty.”
Responding to reports tonight that the IMF has urged the EU and ECB to restructure the Anglo Irish promissory notes, Sinn Féin TD and Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that there was a window of less than four weeks to get a deal done on the notes and potentially save the state from economic ruination.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The Anglo Irish Promissory notes are due to cost this state €3.1 billion in less than four weeks time. The total amount of the promissory notes is 20% of the overall state debt. Sinn Féin has always contested that this was an unfair debt and that it must be removed. In fact, we put it on the agenda, while the Government was happy to continue paying it, calling it a legacy Fianna Fáil debt.
“I welcome the IMF announcement tonight. This money will be paid from Irish state coffers to be effectively burnt at the central bank. The Government toying with interest rate restructing is not an option, nor is it relevant. The promissory notes must be written off in full.
“As pointed out by the IMF, there is still a chance that Ireland can return to the sovereign bond markets in 2013. What is holding us back and keeping our bond rates at high levels is the unacceptable amount of bank debt that has been forced onto the state’s account sheets. If this Government continues to pay out the promissory notes it is sending us down the route of economic ruination. It will force us into a second bailout because we will not be able to access bond markets. It’s a sorry day when the IMF is pointing out a route to economic salvation and our own Government is unable to come to the same conclusion on its own.
“I am calling, as I have done repeatedly, on the Government to get a deal done with the EU and ECB on the promissory notes in the interest of the Irish people, our economy and the wider European economy.” ENDS
Speaking following his participation in the visit by members of the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee to the medical card applications centre in Finglas, Sinn Féin Health and Children spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD welcomed progress made in addressing difficulties being experienced by applicants. He said:
“Many medical card holders whose cards are being reviewed and new applicants for medical cards have been experiencing serious difficulties since the centralisation of the process in Finglas last July.
“All Oireachtas members are aware of this from the many representations we receive from our constituents. For that reason it was necessary for Committee members to visit the centre to try to ascertain the root of the problems and how they can be overcome.
“I welcome the announcement in advance of our visit that GPs are to be given new powers that should help ease the process for medical card holders.
“GPs will be able to reinstate a patient where eligibility has been removed in error, e.g. due to a lack of response to the review process because of a change of address. They can extend eligibility for a year where a patient has lost eligibility because he or she could not engage in the review process due to a medical condition or social circumstances. GPs will also be able to extend medical card entitlement to a new baby in a family.
“These changes are positive and are clearly a result of patients and their elected representatives raising issues since the centralisation process began. However, more needs to be done. I am especially concerned at the position of people with terminal illnesses and long-term/lifetime conditions who are compelled to undergo the review process. The discretion for GPs should be extended to allow them to renew medical cards for these patients.
“With colleagues on the Health Committee, I will continue to press for improvements in this service.”
Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin’s ‘Love Rural Ireland’ campaign in Castlebar this morning the party’s Seanad Rural Affairs spokesperson Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said:
“This government is ripping the heart out of rural Ireland. Communities that were once vibrant and thriving have been reduced to ghost towns. Businesses have shut down, rural post offices and garda stations have closed, poverty and social isolation are on the rise.
“Families across the state, but particularly in rural Ireland, are saying goodbye to their young people as they leave this country in droves in search of work. This can be clearly seen in the many GAA clubs around the country that are losing a wealth of talented young men and women to emigration.
“Successive Governments have neglected rural communities through a lack of investment in infrastructure, social services and education. We must reverse this trend to maintain vibrant villages and towns throughout our country which will attract people to living, investing and spending time there.
“Defending Rural Ireland is about fighting for equality for ordinary people throughout the island. It’s about listening to their needs, recognising their many gifts and advantages and shaping national policy to foster those communities that they live in.
“We have to build a future for our children that embraces the wealth and diversity of our rural areas, that connects them to our urban centres but allows them to have living, active and independent communities which promote an inclusive and supportive society for all who choose to live there.
“I, along with my colleague Martin Ferris TD, will soon embark on a fact-finding mission across rural Ireland. We will meet with a broad spectrum of stakeholders including representatives of the business community, farming and fishing organisations, rural schools, rural transport providers, anti-cuts campaigners, hospital groups etc. This work will form the basis of a comprehensive plan for the future of rural Ireland.
“It is time to give rural communities their voice back. It is time to stand up for rural Ireland and plan for its future.”
Speaking in Castlebar today the Sinn Féin Dáil spokesperson on rural affairs Martin Ferris TD said that farming and fishing must play a key role in the future of rural Ireland.
As part of the party’s Love Rural Ireland campaign Deputy Ferris will soon take off on a consultation process around the country to develop a comprehensive plan for the future of rural Ireland.
Deputy Ferris said:
“This campaign aims to highlight the impact of the current austerity programme on rural Ireland but also to plan for its future.
“We are also about promoting our vision for rural Ireland and will be focusing our engagement with the different representatives and sectoral groups and with communities themselves on how to best utilise the resources that exist within rural Ireland.
“The farming and fishing sectors are crucial to future growth.
“In relation to farming, while incomes are holding up quite well at the moment there are still major structural issues that require addressing if the sector is to continue to develop and to support a large number of family farms. The trend has been towards a steady contraction of numbers involved and the current Single Farm Payment has not halted that despite its potential positive aspects in regard to facilitating farmers in moving into new areas of production.
“Fishing is in a much more perilous state. The Common Fisheries Policy has proven to be a disaster and requires from our perspective a complete and radical overhaul in order to address the issue of increased quota for Irish fishermen and the protection of stocks. Both of those can be compatible if we regain sovereignty over our waters rather than having to adhere to a deeply flawed ‘management’ from Brussels.
“There are also new areas of potential economic growth such as renewable energy. Sinn Féin in both parts of the island has been looking at these and we believe that there is massive potential in wind and wave energy.
“On the model of what is happening in Scotland we believe we could not only become entirely dependent on wind generated electricity by 2010 but could actually become a net exporter of surplus capacity. Wave power from the sea off our coast also has great potential with even greater financial implications in terms of export were that to be properly developed.
“There are many other aspects of Sinn Féin’s vision for economic resurgence and growth in rural Ireland and we look forward to a meaningful engagement as we further develop all of that.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams is in Castlebar this morning to launch a process of consultation with rural Ireland as part of a fight-back against the erosion of public services.
Teachta Adams said:
“Our goal is to produce a plan for the regeneration and growth of rural communities. It is the policies of this government, as well as the last, which are contributing to the crisis in rural Ireland.
“Mayo, the birthplace of Michael Davitt, is a good place to start the fight-back for rural communities which have been betrayed by the government.”
As Taoiseach Enda Kenny signs up to the Austerity Treaty in Brussels the Sinn Féin leader called for a rejection in the referendum of the Treaty.
He warned that:
“The policies of austerity are stripping local communities of essential services – of schools, of guidance counsellors, hospitals, post-offices and Garda stations.
“It is also adding new stealth taxes like the Universal Social Charge, the Household Charge, VAT increases, motor tax increases and septic tank charges. Businesses, shops and pubs in rural towns and villages are closing.
“All of this and the absence of equality of access to public services threatens the quality of life of people living in rural Ireland.
“A whole generation of young people are forced to leave. This GAA generation is playing our gaelic games in Brisbane, Birmingham and Baltimore instead of their own parish.
“And this will worsen if the austerity treaty is ratified in the referendum.
“The Taoiseach is signing that Treaty this morning. He wants to hand significant new powers over to the European Court of Justice and the European Commission.
“Mr Kenny is allowing these institutions to impose economic policies on democratically elected governments and to impose heavy fines where they believe these policies have not been adhered to.
“And as part of this the Government plans to cut a further €8.6 Billion from the economy in the next three years to meet the Troika deficit target of 3%.
“Enda Kenny and Eamonn Gilmore’s austerity treaty demands that this deficit be reduced to a 0.5% target. This means that up to a further €6 billion in cuts and new taxes will be imposed!
“But thankfully the Irish people will have their say. The Irish people cannot afford this Treaty.
“Sinn Féin will campaign for a No vote. That is the democratic option.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community & local government, Brian Stanley TD has demanded that the government, “wake up and respond the housing repossession crisis facing families”.
Deputy Stanley, speaking in the Dáil today, said: “One in nine housing mortgages in the private sector is in distress while four in ten of local authority loans are in distress.
“Meanwhile the government is sleepwalking through this housing crisis. Further evidence of the crisis was seen today when an auction of repossessed homes took place in the Shelbourne Hotel.
“Each home represented a family who are now homeless. Families who never thought they would be facing this dark day of homeless, while many others face a very uncertain future. This crisis needs to be addressed immediately.'
Stanley explained: “The government promised to address this issue 12 months ago. The Keane Report is now four months old and the government remains motionless on the matter.
“The report continues to gather dust in the minister's office. Sinn Féin has brought forward a workable solution. We propose the establishment of an Independent Mortgage Relief Board. This board would address those mortgages in distress. It would include all stakeholders on an equal footing.”
In conclusion, Deputy Stanley said: “The forthcoming legislation on insolvency must include solutions to tackling the issue of distressed mortgages in both the private and local authority sectors.”
Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has welcomed today’s announcement of a €35 million initiative to replace rented prefabs with permanent classrooms in schools.
Deputy Crowe said:
“Today’s announcement of funding to replace rented prefabs in schools is both practical and long overdue.
“Even during the so called boom years, there was a failure to increase funding for the education sector to the OECD average of 6% of GDP. There has been a great deal of wastage resulting from the policy of renting classrooms and it has left a lasting legacy for teachers and pupils alike.
“Prefabs have a limited shelf-live and in many schools across the country temporary classrooms are depilated and need to be replaced.
“It is an issue I have consistently raised with the minister since my election last February and I know people who were taught throughout their time in school in prefabs. Today’s announcement is therefore long over-due and I hope it will provide a much needed boost for almost 200 schools that will be offered grants to build permanent accommodation in the upcoming year.
“This decision must be seen in the light of the budget cuts that have resulted in the suspension of the school’s summer works programmes and a reduction in capitation grants. Without regular maintenance, our school estate will fall into a state of disrepair and will end up costing the exchequer a good deal more money in the long run.
“The decision to provide €35 million will benefit about a third of all schools who currently rent prefabs and it represents a good start in reducing the reliance on rented school classrooms. It should create an estimated 3,250 direct and 650 indirect jobs which are badly needed.
“In Sinn Féin’s pre-budget submission we put forward proposals for a comprehensive school capital build programme that, if implemented, would provide a much needed boost to our education system and the hard pressed construction industry.
“It is essential that we have in place modern, high quality accommodation for pupils as this can make a significant difference when teaching in the classroom.”
Sinn Fein Justice Committee vice-Chairperson Raymond McCartney MLA (Foyle) has said that he sees the Supergrass Trials as being based on a "flawed piece of legislation".
Raymond McCartney said:
"The collapse of the recent Loyalist Supergrass Trial was predictable because it was widely believed that this process is based on a flawed piece of legislation.
"Common sense dictates that the two individuals described as 'assisting offenders' would never have been in court giving evidence against the defendants - many of whom themselves are widely acknowledged as being state agents' - if it were not for the fact that they were promised lighter sentences.
"We experienced the supergrass trials of the eighties which collapsed. Here we now have supergrass trials mark two. Mark one failed and failed miserably and I think that the new version is also destined for failure. A justice system designed for expediency does not serve society and is therefore not sustainable.
"Not only will it fail, but it will also ensure that once again the justice system will be brought into disrepute."
Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín today attended an event in Derry Central Library celebrating the work of the cross-border Sensory Engagement Programme.
The Minister also launched the new North West Book club for people with visual impairment and people who are blind.
The event, which coincided with World Book Day, gave the members of the Visually Impaired Group (VIP) a demonstration in downloadable audio and e-books.Libraries NI, who facilitated this event, works towards engaging with those with visual or hearing impairments and strives to provide a valuable service to meet their needs.
In the Derry area, Libraries NI are actively engaged with RNIB and RNID in a three year cross-border Sensory Engagement project to ensure that libraries are accessible to people with sight and hearing loss.
The project is aimed at improving the engagement levels and confidence of blind and partially sighted people, deaf and hard of hearing as service users and consumers. It is an inter-regional project covering the cross-border areas of Donegal, Derry, Louth, Armagh, South Down, Fermanagh, Sligo and Monaghan.
Speaking at the event Minister Ní Chuilín said: "Our public libraries are for everyone and this cross-border Sensory Engagement Programme is helping to ensure that libraries are more accessible to people with sight and hearing loss. Our local libraries exist to make a difference in many areas of people's lives and support a share, inclusive and better future for our society."
Speaking today as Environment Minister Phil Hogan published the draft standards for septic tanks Sinn Féin spokesperson Brian Stanley TD said it is vital that households are promised full financial assistance when upgrading their septic tanks.
Deputy Stanley is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister to clarify a number of important issues in the draft standards which have been put out for public consultation for the next four weeks.
He has confirmed the Sinn Féin will be making and publishing its own submission.
Speaking today in Leinster House, Deputy Stanley said:
“While welcoming the long overdue publication of the septic tank standards, there are a number of key issues that need clarification. In seven pages there is no mention of financial assistance for upgrading of septic tanks.
“It is vital that households are promised full financial assistance when upgrading their septic tanks. Householders who simply cannot afford the cost to upgrade their septic tanks should not be dragged through the courts facing fines up to €5,000. Criminalising families is a bully boy tactic and doomed to failure.
“The minister must clarify whether he has discussed these standards with the EU Commission. He must also confirm whether or not he has the commission’s agreement that these standards conform with the EU Court of Justice ruling.
“Sinn Féin wants high standards for septic tanks and we are committed to protecting our water sources. While the standards are ambiguous, the operational requirements will prove difficult for many householders.
“Of particular concern are the requirements for the percolation areas, seepages and leaks. Upgrading septic tanks to meet these standards may prove costly and full financial assistance will ensure full compliance from the public.
“Householders should read and study these standards and to make submissions to the public consultation process. I will be writing to Minister Hogan today seeking a meeting to discuss our concerns.”