Please watch and share this exclusive interview below which tells a bit of her life story as a mother of two from a small village in County Tyrone, her work in politics and in the Executive, standing up for equality, respect and integrity in government and continuing the work that Martin McGuinness has done stretching himself for peace and reconciliation.
Speaking tonight during the second stage debate on the Central Bank and Credit Institutions Resolution Bill, Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said “no tax payers’ money should be used for the bank resolution fund”.
The Central Bank and Credit Institutions Find is a major piece of legislation providing for new powers for both the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank to wind down failing banks. The Bill includes a bank resolution fund into which both banks and the tax payer would pay funds to be used for future bank bailouts.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The Central Bank and Credit Institutions Resolution Bill is an enormously important piece of legislation.
“Sinn Féin supports the introduction of Special Resolution Regime legislation. The financial and banking crises of recent years have exposed the inadequacies of commercial law in providing the necessary tools for dealing with insolvent banks.
“There is clearly a need for strong powers to be vested in the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank, with adequate oversight by the Oireachtas, to enable the State to wind down failing financial institutions in a way that protects ordinary depositors and the taxpayer.
“However I am very concerned with the provision in the Bill for state funding of the credit institutions resolution fund. The creation of such a fund is clearly required, and I support the Bill’s intention to make it a legal requirement for banks to contribute to such a fund.
“However there is simply no reason why the taxpayer, having already put €46 billion of taxpayer’s money into the banks, and having committed a further €24 billion, should even contemplate contributions to a resolution fund, the purpose of which would be to pay creditors in the event of a banking collapse.
“This Bill effectively gives the Minister for Finance a blank cheque for the use of tax-payer’s money in a fund whose cost is as yet unknown. We know only too well what happens when such blank cheques are left in the hands of Ministers whose banking policy is directed by the ECB rather than the taxpayer. Sinn Féin will not be party to the issuing of any such blank cheques.
“All such costs in the future must be born by the banks themselves and their creditors in a manor consistent with protecting the public interest. Sinn Fein will be tabling amendments at Committee Stage to prevent the use of tax-payers’ monies for any such fund.”
Speaking in the Assembly this morning Alex Maskey, Chairperson of the Department of Social Development Committee gave notice to members that the proposed British Govt Welfare Reform Bill will require detailed and robust scrutiny when presented to the Assembly as early as the autimn 2011.
Mr Maskey said
"The proposed "reform" of the benefits system is likely to be the most fundamental overhaul of the system since it's inception in 1948.
“Indeed the DSD committee has been informed by the department that the British government proposals to cut benefits will take an estimated £450m - £500m out of the local economy as well as causing severe financial hardship to those most vulnerable in our society.
“The general public is aware that the British government slashed the Executive budget by a massive and punitive £4 billion but they also needed to know that the proposed Welfare Reform bill will, in effect, represent stealth cuts of a further half a billion pounds.
“Members of the DSD Committee who will be responsible for processing the necessary legislation resulting from the Welfare Reform bill are acutely aware of the very negative impact of many of the cuts to benefits being proposed.
“Members are committed to highlighting the consequences of the Tory cuts and will process such legislation accordingly."
Sinn Féin’s Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD today called on Minister Brendan Howlin TD to set up an Action Group within his Department to tackle high pay and bonuses of executives in the commercial semi-state sector.
Deputy McDonald was responding to comments made by Government spokespersons that there has been no ‘tradition’ of Government intervening in the fixing of salaries in State companies other than for the chief executives.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“Year after year the controversy surrounding the pay and conditions of semi state executives enters the public domain and year on year the Government of the day side steps the issue.
“It is a scandal that semi state executives deem it appropriate or right to award themselves significant bonuses during one of the worst economic recessions in the history of the State. Nearly 15% of the States workforce is unemployed yet semi states bosses seem to think its business as usual.
“If this Government is serious about reform Minister Howlin needs to set up an Action Group within his Department to review the pay and bonuses of senior management in commercial semi states. Commenting from the side lines is not enough. Government must take decisive and bold actions.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has described comments by Junior Education Minister Ciaran Cannon that parents need to pay for their children’s school transport bill as “insulting and condescending.”
The comments made at by Minister Cannon were in reference to the governments move to cut funding to the Rural Transport Networks school service and continue with Fianna Fáil plans to charge parents up to 650 euro a year for their children’s transport.
Deputy Ellis said;
“Mr Cannon’s comments were nothing short of insulting and condescending. Who does he think pays his wages, who does he think is paying for the Rural Transport Network? It is the very parents who he targets.
“Hard working families who have been hit by cuts in services, wage cuts and tax hikes are struggling and they do not need to be charged twice to send their children safely to school.
“Fine Gael and Labour have once more rowed back on a pre-election pledge, this time on the expansion of the Rural Transport Network. They have sought to continue with Fianna Fáil’s policy and it will be the ordinary people who are fighting to make ends meet who will suffer.”
Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has welcomed the decision by the Office of Fair Trading to make travel companies end the use of hidden surcharges for passengers paying by credit card.
Mr Murphy said,“Many people now arrange their travel arrangements through the internet and pay either by credit or debit card. The travel companies for years have been applying a hidden charge on these transactions resulting in a higher charge for the trip than was advertised.
“As you can’t use cash on internet transaction people were being charged for actually paying for the ticket so this decision today has to be welcomed.
“Many of the charges being applied were well above the transaction fee that companies were being charged by the banks so they were actually a surcharge on using a credit card.
“I also welcome the recommendation that the law be changed so as no charges are incurred for using a debit card as a debit card is governed by the amount of cash in the account.
“This decision today will mean that any person booking a travel ticket online will see the entire price of the trip advertised rather than find that hidden charges at the end of the booking procedure which can be as high as £10 per person for a ticket with a budget airline.
Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle and deputy Chair of the Assembly Justice Committee, Raymond McCartney has called for an immediate root and branch reform of the Prison Service here.
Commenting following news of the latest incidence of a Prisoner being released by mistake Raymond McCartney said;
“What is clear from this latest mistaken release is that there is a deficit of accountability, governance and management performance within the prison system. Fundamental to this deficit is the corrosive relationship between the prison management and the Prison Officers Association (POA) which is preventing a comprehensive overhaul of prison procedures.
“One thing that has been abundantly clear for a considerable amount of time is the systematic problems that directly derive from the anti-change culture operating within the POA. That culture of opposition to reform of the system and procedures must be tackled head on and it must be brought to an immediate end.“This is yet another in a litany of failures in the system here; while it won’t come as a surprise to many, it must now act as a catalyst for the Justice Minister to take action to ensure that a much needed root and branch reform of both culture and procedures is carried out within the Prison System without further delay.”
Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has hailed the vital contribution that St Louise’s Comprehensive College makes to the community in west Belfast.
Speaking after a visit to the school today, the Minister said: “St Louise’s has been a cornerstone of the community in west Belfast for over 50 years, delivering high quality education to generations of girls during sometimes difficult years.
“This tradition continues today, as St Louise’s collaborates with 13 other schools in the area to deliver a wide range of both academic and vocational courses to girls at Key Stage 4 and post-16 levels. The strong performance of St Louise’s, a non-selective school, in public examinations year on year serves to underline its ability to give its pupils the best possible start in life.
“St Louise’s also delivers an excellent support network and range of extra-curricular activities through its role as the lead school in the Greater Falls Extended Schools Cluster. Funded by my Department, this sees the school provide vital pastoral advice and support to young people on serious issues such as suicide, self-harm and drugs awareness.”
The Minister concluded: “The success of St Louise’s owes much to the hard work and commitment of everyone connected to the school – parents, governors and all the staff, both teaching and non-teaching. I would also pay tribute to the excellent leadership of the school management team, led by Principal Carmel McCartan, whose dedication on a daily basis helps inspire everyone at the school.”
Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady has welcomed a new online survey being carried out by Advice NI, to collate the impact of welfare cuts on vulnerable, low income households in the North.
Mr Brady said:
"I welcome this new initiative by Advice NI; The new online survey is aimed at people in the North reliant upon the social security system and includes people needing help with their rent or mortgage, childcare costs, and those who need help because they are sick or disabled.
"It also covers the day to day financial cost of living for people here.
"Advice NI has said the information they collect will be kept in the strictest confidence and used for research purposes only.
"A report will be produced with the aim of raising awareness of the impact of the welfare cuts on people in the North.
"As elected representatives, we must continue to challenge the ongoing witch hunt against benefit recipients.
"The Tory government right down to sensationalist media programs are painting all those on benefits as spongers, dossers and fraudsters.
"If they were to take an honest and realistic approach to this issue, then the facts could clearly be exposed and the myth of benefit fraud would be ended.
"We already have one of the poorest welfare systems in Europe, a mechanism that is a safety net for those in society who really need it.
"The survey can be completed by logging onto the home page of Advice NI http://www.adviceni.net/ and following the instructions."
Sinn Féin Planning Spokesperson Cathal Boylan says that the in the long awaited review of Rural Planning Policy PPS 21 the ‘unfinished business’ of non-farming rural dwellers must be addressed.
“Through the Assembly’s Environment Committee, Sinn Féin has been demanding an early review of Planning Statement 21 so as to deal with several key issues which were not fully dealt with when this policy was introduced to undo the damage that of the draconian Planning Policy PPS14 which had been imposed under Direct Rule.
“While Sinn Féin acknowledged that PPS 21 represented a major step forward on most of the issues that we were campaigning on we were nonetheless critical that the key areas such as Farm Clustering and the rights of Non Farming Rural Dwellers were not addressed in the policy.
“So I am particularly pleased that this unfinished business is now going to be addressed in the review. The previous PPS stipulated that new buildings situated on farms had to be visually linked to the existing farm buildings – this was obviously problematic for rural people as it is not always suitable for health and other reasons to build dwelling houses beside farm buildings.
“In addition people living in rural areas but not engaged in farming activities were somewhat neglected in the former policy in terms of opportunities to build. I am glad that this review will give the opportunity to address all of these anomalies as they particularly affect families in rural areas.” ENDS
Sinn Féin have tabled a motion
in the Assembly on reducing the minimum age of voting in elections and referendums to 16.
Phil Flanagan, who is the youngest MLA in the Assembly, said:
“There has been much talk recently about voter apathy and about a lack of interest within society about politics.
“This was more evident amongst our young people.
“One of the potential reasons for this detachment is the fact that young people must wait until they are 18 before they can cast a vote in any election or referendum.
“As elected representatives, we make decisions every day that impact heavily on young people and many of these decisions will have a long term effect on their future, yet they have no say in who represents them in fora such as the Assembly or local Councils.
“As the youngest MLA, I am keen to ensure that young people are given a greater say in our decision making process.
“At the minute, there is a huge debate going on regarding tuition fees; yet many of the people that this decision will impact most on over the term of this Assembly have been denied the opportunity to take part in a democratic process to elect decision makers.
“I am in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 so that young people can have a direct influence on who is elected to make these decisions.
"Many 16 and 17 year olds play a vital role in society, through employment, studying, paying taxes and volunteering through community and charity groups.
“People can also live independently at the age of 16 so I cannot understand why they are denied the right to vote; they are treated as adults in every other manner, with government quite willing and happy to accept their taxes but will not afford them the basic democratic right to vote.
“A dynamic could be created by more participatory democracy through lowering the voting age, sparking new found interest and engagement in politics and decision making.
“This could open up new ideas, and challenge old bad practice, and banish once and for all the myth that young people are not interested in politics.
“I look forward to this motion reaching the floor of the Assembly where I am hopeful a mature debate can begin on this issue.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Padraig Mac Lochlainn has described as “disgraceful” the comments from a Labour Party councillor in relation to the Gaza aid flotilla which includes the Irish ship MV Saoirse.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs must clarify his party’s position on Gaza and on the safe passage of the flotilla.
Speaking from Donegal Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“The comments from Labour Party councillor Richard Humphreys are shocking and could have been lifted word for word from an Israeli government press statement.
“I am especially shocked at this reaction considering only last year the councillor’s party colleague Joe Costello TD rightly condemned the Israeli attack on the previous aid convoy which saw violent reactions from the Israeli Defence Forces resulting in loss of life.
“Councillor Humphreys’ comments are utterly disgraceful and I call on the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to make his and his party’s position on the aid flotilla clear.
“This second flotilla should be allowed safe travel and the Government here should be speaking to the Israeli authorities to ensure that they get it.
“Furthermore, the Government should be doing all in its power to end the siege of Gaza and the suffering of the Palestinian people there including calling for an end to the preferential trade agreement between the EU and Israel until such time as the siege is lifted.”
Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the Fine Gael/Labour Government values patients in our public health system less than senior bank bond-holders. He was responding to the instruction from Health Minister James Reilly to the HSE that hospitals must ‘scale back activities’ in 2011 and to the announced loss of 24-hour emergency services at Roscommon Hospital.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“Health Minister James Reilly’s instruction to the HSE that hospitals must scale back activities in 2011 to remain within their allocated budgets is a recipe for further misery in our health services.
“Already public hospitals are over-stretched due to cutbacks. The Minister now wants to impose further cuts. The Minister’s reference to hospitals ‘crying for help’ and ‘putting the hand out’ at the end of the year is insulting to long-suffering patients and to hard-pressed staff alike. The Taoiseach’s confirmation that Roscommon Hospital is to lose 24-hour A&E services from 1 July is a further blow.
“The Minister’s much trumpeted ‘Special Delivery Unit’ to address the crisis in A&E departments is not even up and running yet. We have yet to see any further detail, let alone legislation, on the Minister’s promised health service reform, including insurance-based funding and ‘money follows the patient’. Yet hospitals are still expected to continue to operate strictly on lower budgets and within a funding system which the Minister himself admits does not work.
“This Government has refused to ‘burn’ senior bank bond-holders – it values them more than it values people who depend on our health services. The Minister states in his letter to the HSE that the hospitals are responsible for a deficit of €100 million. But on 1 April this year the Government handed over €24 billion to the banks.
“Sinn Féin will stand with communities in opposing savage health cuts and we will continue to put forward a better fairer way to address the economic recession and the healthcare crisis.”
Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Phil Flanagan has welcomed the launch of a public consultation in the potential for extending the natural gas network across other parts of the north, including the towns of Dungannon, Cookstown, Magherafelt, Strabane, Omagh and Enniskillen.
Mr Flanagan said:
“As Sinn Féin’s Energy Spokesperson and as an MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone, I would warmly welcome this public consultation on the potential expansion of the natural gas network.
“For too long, people in the west have been over-reliant on other forms of energy to heat their homes; the cost of home heating oil has soared in recent times and people are no longer able to afford it, this has been made all the worse by a lack of viable competition in many areas.
“This has been further compounded by a falling availability of turf in many areas as well as many people, particularly, elderly people, unable to handle bulky bags of coal.
“Any expansion to the gas network can only help alleviate much of these problems and play a small part in tackling the problem of fuel poverty.
“I would urge members of the public to respond to this consultation and make their feelings known.
"This expansion will only happen if there is a willingness from the public at large to connect to a natural gas supply.”
Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has welcomed his DUP Constituency Colleague, Ian McCrea's new found interest in Gaelic games and in particular the fortunes of teams with Mid-Ulster connections.
Francie Molloy said:
"It is good to see Ian declare his interest in the outcome of the Ulster GAA Championship. Perhaps Ian's hope that Donegal are victorious in the Ulster final is a vote of solidarity with his many Party Colleagues in Derry and elsewhere with Donegal birth rights and who will no doubt be quietly hoping Ian gets his wish.
Whatever sparked his interest and regardless of which team Ian will be pulling for in the Ulster final it is to be welcomed and you never know he might even some day attend the final in person and actually enjoy himself.
"But on a more serious note it's about time that Ian McCrea and those who think like him wakes up to the reality that Gaelic games attract more participants and supporters than any other sport in Ireland and many professional sporting organisations only dream of attracting the numbers that pass through the turnstiles at GAA facilities.
Mr. McCrea's churlish comments about the cost of civic receptions for victorious teams should be dismissed for the begrudging attitude it displays - i.e. anything that doesn't fit in with my culture should not be celebrated. And GAA supporters are rate payers too and there are more of them in Mid-Ulster than there are DUP supporters.
"I believe that the GAA through its involvement in local communities throughout Ireland including Mid-Ulster contributes far more to the social and economic life of society than any other organisation on the island.
Bairbre de Brun attended a meeting with EU Regional Development Commissioner Johannes Hahn, and representatives of the five Cross Border Groups.
Speaking after the meeting, de Brun said:
" At a meeting with a meeting with EU Regional Development Commissioner Johannes Hahn, and representatives of the five Cross Border Groups today, we stressed the importance of continued investment in cross-border work
"The Cross Border corridor groups outlined the success that cross- border work in Ireland has brought and the changes it has helped bring about since the first cross border group was established in the 1970s.
"The Cross- border groups thanked Commissioner Hahn for the considerable added value that the Interreg programmes have brought to both economic development and to peace and reconciliation."The groups stressed the need for a mix of strategic and local approaches. They also pledged their commitment to giving something back to Europe by way of our conflict resolution and cross border economic development expertise."
Speaking in response to comments by the Minister for Public Finance Brendan Howlin over the weekend on the future of the controversial Universal Social Charge, Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has called on the government ‘to come clean’ on the future of the charge.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The Universal Social Charge was one of the most controversial decisions of the Fianna Fail government. It is a regressive measure disproportionately affecting those on low incomes.
“People earning as little as €77 per week must pay this charge. Indeed someone earning €100,000 a year is charged at the same rate as someone earning €16,016. Low income workers, including medical card holders, working lone parents and working widows, who were exempt from the health and income levies must pay the charge.
“Labour and Fine Gael opposed the introduction of the USC in January of this year. During the general election campaign Labour promised to “ease the impact of the USC for those most adversely affected.’
“The Programme for Government has a clear commitment to review the charge.
“However, from comments made by Minister Howlin at the weekend it appears that the Government is abandoning both its pre-election and Programme for Government commitments.
“I have submitted questions to the Minister for Finance this morning asking him if the Government intends to proceed with the promised review of the USC and if so under what terms of reference and within what time frame. It is time for the Government to come clean on the future of the USC.”
In his opening remarks he referred to Cork as the birthplace of “social reformers, activists and rebels” citing O'Donovan Rossa and William Thompson as two examples.
Ann Piggot, a teacher who is president of Cork Council of Trades Unions spoke of a united Ireland being like “an illusive dream” but pointed to “more similarities than we realise” and the fact that physical barriers and imaginary borders were ignored by sporting, artistic and cultural organisations. She focused on the plight of workers in the recession and to the contact and co-operation between workers organisations in the ICTU. “Justice and unity are within our grasp,” she said.
Barney O'Reilly, former CEO of Kerry VEC focused on the education system, founded in 1831 and which to this day is called “a national school system” it was based on religious diversity at the beginning. As time passed, he said, “separation was the best we could do to manage diversity” with the VEC's being “a small bridgehead in a denominational system”.
He called for a system based, like in the French Revolution on equality, liberty and fraternity, which translated in the 21st century into “equality, freedom and mutual interdependence”, he said.
The Sinn Féin president was also joined on the platform in Cork City Hall by broadcasting legend Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Ruaidhri Deasy former IFA deputy leader.
The audience of over 400 joined enthusiastically in the discussion when it was open to the floor on two occasions during the evening.
Sinn Fein Councillor Micheal Mac Donncha called on all groups on the Council to co-operate to elect mayors from each group in rotation for the remaining term of the Council. He said:
“It is long past time that Dublin City Council adopted best practice in the election of Mayor. At present a deal between Labour and Fine Gael sees them monopolise the position of Mayor of Dublin and if this continues no member from any other group on the Council will have the opportunity to hold the position until the next local elections in 2014.
“Other councils in this State operate a much fairer practice where the mayor or cathaoirleach of the council is elected by agreement and each group is allocated fair representation over the five year term of the Council.
“We will be urging Dublin City Council to adopt this best practice from this year and for the remaining term of the Council.
“We will be nominating Councillor Larry O’Toole for the position of Mayor of Dublin. Larry would make an excellent Mayor. He is an extremely dedicated and diligent Councillor, one of the longest serving on the Council, first elected in 1999. He was won the respect of Councillors on all sides of the Council and of Council staff at all levels.
“Above all Cllr. Larry O’Toole is a tireless worker for the communities he represents. Sinn Fein is proud to nominate him for the position of first citizen of Dublin City.”
Profile of Cllr. Larry O’Toole
Cllr. Larry O’Toole has been a member of Dublin City Council for the Artane electoral area since 1999. In the 2004 and 2009 local elections he was among the highest polling candidates in the State. He has lived in Darndale on Dublin’s northside since 1974. Larry joined Sinn Fein in 1984. He was a trade union activist in the Gateaux factory in Finglas where he led a prolonged strike in 1990. During that strike RTE refused to interview him, claiming spuriously that his membership of Sinn Fein barred him under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act even though he would have been interviewed in his trade union capacity. Larry successfully challenged this in the High Court which ruled in his favour. This paved the way for removal of broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein.
The Sinn Féin leader attended an information meeting organised by SOSAD in Drogheda today during which the group outlined the growing scale of the problem.
Speaking afterward Deputy Adams called for SOSAD to receive government funding. He said:
“It is thought that the number of people who died through suicide in 2009 in this state could be as high as 700. There is also a significant increase in the number of people who are deliberately self-harming.
Between 2007 and 2009 the number of deliberate self-harm (DSH) cases rose by 23 per cent in men and 13 per cent in women.In 2009 there were 11,966 cases.
It is widely accepted that the current economic recession has played a major part in the increased number of people dying through suicide or who are self-harming.
One speaker for SOSAD at the Drogheda event warned that there has not been the usual summer drop-off in calls for help to their offices.
While suicide is now better understood than before, the fact remains that there is not sufficient funding for dealing with mental health issues.
All of the speakers today expressed anger at the refusal of the government to fund SOSAD. It was also accepted that the current suicide prevention strategy is not robust enough.
Suicide kills more people in this state than road accidents but tackling it does not receive the same priority from government.
This is an example of the failure of the health system to properly manage and resource this vitally important issue.
One way of tackling suicide and self-harm, particularly at a time of recession, would be to provide for greater co-operation between the health services north and south.
The creation of a national – all-Ireland – Suicide Prevention Agency that brings together all of those bodies and strategies involved in this issue, and has effective and dedicated funding and resourcing, would also make a major contribution to reducing the numbers who die each year.