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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget would repair communities, rebuild the economy and renew society. The budget lays out how Sinn Fein would abolish the local property tax and water charges and our programme for investing in disability services, health and education.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here




Latest Statements

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has called on the DRD Minister to ensure that steps are taken to ensure that problems with the water network, and more specifically the disruption to the local community in the Ballymoney and Rasharkin areas are not repeated. Mr McKay said

“Within two weeks in this area we have had water cut off to households as a result of a pipe being burst and subsequently we have had a water quality scare as a result of failed tests. That is concerning to say the least and the loss of service to many NIW customers is unacceptable.

“I know that some businesses have lost trade and some were forced to close as a result of the burst pipe and the Regional Development Minister must ensure that these businesses are in some way compensated as the financial loss was due to no fault of their own. 

“My party colleague Cllr Cathal McLaughlin is currently looking into this on behalf of businesses and it should be remembered that businesses are getting it tough enough at the moment due to less money being spent in the economy and a tougher approach from banks without further pressure being exerted on them. 

“I must give credit where credit is due in one regard however. There seems to be a better approach to communications from NIW this year in terms of the use of social media and keeping customers and elected representatives up to speed and it has been useful to assess this on a small scale ahead of a possible repeat of last year’s sub-zero conditions.

"The challenge for NIW is to ensure that a high quality customer service is upheld throughout this winter and that information is accessible and up to date. A repeat of last year’s performance will not be acceptable especially given the effect that this could have on the lives of the most vulnerable in our community.

“I have put a number of questions to the Regional Development Minister in regard to the recent problems with water in Rasharkin and want an assurance from him that he will ensure that there will be no further incidents in this area as a result of this work.”

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Sinn Féin Junior Minister Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has called on the regulatory authorities in Belfast and Dublin to examine ways in which they can eliminate the problems being experienced by people sending and receiving electronic data via mobile phones. Martina Anderson said the costs of cross-border banking, roaming charges and sharing of electronic data via mobile phones is a huge issue in the North West and needs to be addressed. 

Ms Anderson explained:

""Representing a border county, I know the extreme challenges faced by individuals and businesses in both Donegal and Derry in carrying out electronic services transactions.

"The border continues to create financial inconvenciences for families and restricts businesses. It is important therefore that we seriously address the inhibitors to the use of enhanced  electronic services such as e-mail and other internet devices which are now available to for both personal and business use.

"While recent reductions to mobile roaming costs are welcome they fall well short of what is required.  Electronic communications and services have overtaken fixed-line and manual services with the knowledge economy increasingly available through mobile phones. Electronic signals do not recognise borders as experienced on a regular basis with involuntary 'roaming' charges being imposed on unsuspecting users because of a competing stronger signal from the opposite side of the border.

"Such costs are also a major barrier to doing business and creating jobs. In the present economic climate I would hope that more focus would be placed on removing any obstacle to doing business or creating jobs. Sinn Féin has always advocated an all-Ireland telecommunications market. There must be no more profiteering at the expense of people in border regions at a time when we are attempting to develop better linkages and revamp the island economy.

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Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on Minister Burton not to cut social welfare in the budget.

Speaking today as speculation mounted that €700m is to be taking out of the Social Protection Budget Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The Programme for Government contains a commitment to protect social welfare rates but there is a real fear that the government will introduce cuts by stealth. There is a danger that the government will attempt to cut €700 million from the social welfare budget by changing eligibility rules and cutting secondary benefits.

“For example thousands of carers across the country will today be in fear that their half-rate allowance will be removed. Thousands more families depending on welfare will be in fear that support for rent, fuel and school costs will be cut. I am calling on the minister and government to live up to their pre-election promises to protect the vulnerable by giving a commitment to take the incomes of social welfare recipients off the table in the budgetary process.

“Any cuts to social welfare payments will be counterproductive. Social welfare cuts ultimately means that the social welfare bill increases, because these cuts mean people have less to spend locally and the result is more job losses and longer dole queues.

“A political decision must be made to target wealth. The government should refuse to pay the promissory notes in Anglo Irish Bank and use the money to retain social welfare payments and invest in jobs to reduce the demand for welfare. I will be raising this with the government in the Dáil this evening.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has called on people to be aware of a postal scam that is circulating at present.

Mr McCartney said,

“We have been made aware of a scam involving a card being posted through the doors marked PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that people should ring a premium number 0906 6611911.

“This is a scam that originates in Belize and people who ring this number are left with a large phone bill of £315 for the call.

“If people receive this card they should contact the Royal Mail and the PSNI immediately and not phone this number under any circumstances.

“I am also calling on OFCOM to be proactive and block these scam numbers from the public domain and therefore protect the vulnerable people like the elderly.

“As Christmas is fast approaching I suspect that we will see more of these scams in different guises being sent out.  I would call on everyone to be vigilant and not to be duped by these scams.

 

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill today reminded farmers of the rule governing the activation of Single Farm Payment (SFP) entitlements.


Every farmer has to have an entitlement for each hectare of eligible land they wish to claim. The EU regulations require farmers to activate each of their SFP entitlements at least once every two years. If they are not, they may be taken from them.

Urging farmers to make sure they complied with this particular rule the Minister commented: "In these challenging economic times, it is especially important that farmers maximise their payment of SFP and take any appropriate steps to preserve their full entitlement in the future. My Department will be writing to farmers over the coming days to remind them to check that they are activating each of their SFP entitlements at least once every two years.”

The Minister added that vast majority of recipients of the reminder letter will not lose any entitlements as the Department automatically activates those entitlements which farm businesses could lose if they are not activated in 2012. She said: “When farmers receive these letters they should check their own individual circumstances and satisfy themselves that they are complying with the rule about activating their entitlements. As long as they activate enough eligible hectares, my Department will, where possible, automatically activate for them any entitlements that might be at risk in 2012.”

Farmers who do not expect to have enough eligible land to activate the entitlements not activated in 2011 may wish to consider transferring these to another farm business which could activate them in 2012.

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Fourteen Irish human rights activists still in Israel

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pádraig MacLochlainn has called on the Tánaiste to stand up to the Israeli government and demand the immediate release of 14 Irish human rights activists taken from the intercepted vessel, MV Saoirse.

The families of the 14 Irish citizens are very worried that they are still being held, despite indications that they would be released yesterday. Nothing has been heard of the arrested Irish since.

Deputy MacLochlainn today called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make a statement in the Dáil on the issue but he refused to do so.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

"The time for diplomatic niceties has passed.

“The interception of this humanitarian vessel travelling to Gaza in international waters was an act of piracy by the Israeli naval forces at the orders of the Israeli government.

“The 14 Irish human rights activists were forcibly removed from the MV Saoirse and taken to Israel against their will.

“They have refused to sign the farcical deportation papers, on principle, as they did not enter Israel illegally. They rightly are not going to give legitimacy to Israeli military actions that defy international maritime law"

“However, the families were led to believe that their loved ones would be released yesterday and sent home to Ireland. That has not happened and the families are increasingly concerned. I have contacted An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore's office again today and appealed to him to stand up to the Israeli government and demand their immediate release.” ENDS

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  Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has accused DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson of feeding the 'Poppy Bullying' culture that raises its head at this time every year.
 
Alex Maskey said:
 
"The false allegations made against a teacher at Dundonald High School yesterday was the latest incident of Jeffrey Donaldson feeding this 'Poppy Bullying' culture in an attempt to make every workplace a compulsory Poppy wearing zone.
 
"The speed with which the DUP and the BBC rush to demand that employers respect the right of workers to wear a Poppy in the workplace is in stark contrast with their failure to recognise the right of workers not to feel intimidated into wearing a Poppy if they choose not to.
 
"There are many workplaces where individuals who would rather not display any emblems on their person are intimidated into wearing a Poppy because refusing to do so exposes them to sectarian invective, harassment and at times physical abuse. The BBC policy of not allowing presenters choosing not to wear a Poppy to appear on screen at this time of year is a prime example of this corporate 'Poppy Bullying'.
 
"The handling of the situation at Dundonald High School yesterday by both Jeffrey Donaldson and the BBC was an absolute disgrace. Without awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the Board of Governors which found that there was no basis whatsoever for the allegations against a teacher both Donaldson and the BBC vilified the teacher and the school demanding that they reverse a non-existing policy. It is time that individuals rights are respected and common space such as schools and workplaces where people of different religous and political opinion mix are recognised as neutral environments.

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West Belfast MP Paul Maskey and Pat Sheehan MLA have called on Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore to ensure the Israeli authorities expedite the repatriation of the passengers of the MV Saoirse including two of their constituents John Mallon and Phil McCullough.

The West Belfast MP met both families on the day of their relatives illegal arrests and has been in contact with the Friends of Palestine Belfast group on a regular basis with updates.

Paul Maskey said:

“I have been contacted by the family of John Mallon and Phil McCullough, two West Belfast passengers who were on board the Gaza bound MV Saoirse and are being held by Israel.

“Eamon Gilmore needs to do more to ensure safe return of the Irish citizens who were illegally seized in international waters and taken to Israel against their will. The 72 hour period that Israel said they would keep them in custody before releasing them has now passed yet they are still being held.

Local MLA Pat Sheehan said:

“Israel seem intent on playing games regards the repatriation of those passengers they illegally took hostage. Israel was wrong in the first place and the Irish Government must impress upon Israel that their citizens be repatriated immediately.”

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA today launched a consultation on the EU Commission’s legislative proposals for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post 2013.


The EU Commission published its legislative proposals for reform of the CAP post 2013 on 12 October 2011. The proposals will be the subject of negotiations which will take place over the following 18 months to shape the next CAP programme.

Launching the consultation, the Minister said: “The publication of the Commission’s legislative proposals marks the beginning of the formal negotiations on the future of the CAP post 2013.

“The proposals cover most elements of CAP and include significant change to the system of making direct payments to the farming sector. We are at a very early stage in the reform negotiations, and it is important that I gather the views of stakeholders to inform my position as the discussions in Brussels gather pace in the months ahead.”

The Minister continued: “These proposals are detailed and complex, but that is all the more reason that they are given careful consideration. I have asked my officials to organise a stakeholder conference before Christmas with a view to helping stakeholders better understand the proposals. The CAP is critically important in underpinning agricultural incomes and sustaining rural communities in the north. It also has a central role in conserving our environmental heritage – so please be sure to have your say.”

In conclusion, the Minister added: “I want to consult widely on these legislative proposals for CAP reform post 2013 and I encourage all interested stakeholders to give the proposals close scrutiny and make their views known to DARD by taking part in this consultation, which closes on 7 February 2012.”

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