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Opinion piece by Martin McGuinness on current political situation in the Assembly

This is a time when the Executive parties need to stand together to defend our public services particularly in health, education and welfare. We need to stand up for the people who elect us, rather than acting in the interests of a Tory elite.

Martin McGuinness

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has commended the strides made yesterday for equality, but has highlighted the many other aspects of...




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Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan said that the both the PSNI and the judiciary in Fermanagh appear intent on closing down the pub industry.

He was reacting to a decision by the PSNI to impose a blanket objection to all applications for extending opening hours from pubs across Fermanagh.

Mr Flanagan said:

“I have been contacted by a number of worried publicans across Co Fermanagh who are very concerned about the manner in which licensing applications are being dealt with by both the PSNI and the Courts Service and the damage that the current restrictions place on their already struggling business.

“There is a widely held belief that publicans in Co Fermanagh are facing a different situation than their counterparts in other council areas across the north. Especially given the drastic action taken by the PSNI locally in objecting to all applications for extended opening hours at a recent court hearing.

“These cases are scheduled for a further hearing on October 21st and I am concerned decisions that should be taken by the judiciary or legislators are being taken by the PSNI. This is completely unacceptable.

“It appears to me that the actions by both the PSNI and the judiciary are nothing more than an attempt close down a wholly legitimate industry, which provides extensive benefits for our local economy, on what appear to be ideological grounds.

“I have requested an urgent meeting with PSNI Chief Superintendent Pauline Shields to discuss this matter in advance of the next court hearing and I have also contacted the Minister of Justice to see whether he sees this as an acceptable situation.”

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Speaking at the launch of his party’s job creation plan Sinn Féin spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Peadar Tóibín said:

“In the last four years Ireland has shed more jobs than any other western state per capita since the Great Depression. Last year the economy lost 33,400 jobs. In 2011 our communities lost 87,000 to emigration.

“It is clear that government policy is not working. The government has paid lip service to job creation. Their ambitions for this state are limited to Troika-led retrenchment. Private investment has reduced by €30 billion. Government has withdrawn €24 billion.

“We have identified €13 billion which can be sourced to create jobs, improve competitiveness and increase productivity. This would be funded from the National Pension Reserve Fund, European Investment Bank, incentivised investment from the private pension sector and we would end the capital spending cuts of this government.

“An investment of this scale would create about 156,000 jobs and retain up to 15,000 existing jobs. Smart investment will secure sustainable jobs and our national competitiveness into the future.

“Our jobs plan will invest in essential infrastructure; help entrepreneurs by removing obstacles to doing business and supporting them to retain and create new jobs; exploit the potential of existing and new state enterprises particularly in broadband rollout, renewable energy and eco-tourism and invest in agri-food and rural communities.

“As part of this we will prioritise investment to:
•Revive the sugar beet industry and construct a new bio-refinery plant in the South East with the potential to create 5,000 jobs (€350 million)
•Invest in the rollout of next generation broadband across the 26 counties. (€2.5 billion)
•Kick start investment in water infrastructure (€500 million.)
•Proceed with A5 dual carriageway (€400 million)
•Regenerate the Cork dockland area. (€600 million)
•Regeneration projects in Limerick and Dublin. (€960 million)
•Build an additional 100 schools and refurbish 75 more over the next three years in addition to current capital commitments. (€350 million)
•Establish 50 new Primary Health Care Centres. (€250 million)
•Develop an €1billion investment in sustainable energy: wind power industry and wave energy.

“We will seek to support business to create jobs by:
•Introducing a job retention scheme to protect 15,000 jobs (€100 million)
•Delivering value for money and jobs by opening up state procurement to small companies.
•Giving the option to self-employed people to pay PRSI as it is applied to PAYE employees in order to receive the same entitlements in the event that they become unemployed.
•Abolishing upward only rents.
•Capping utility costs for a period of three years.
•Examine a temporary rebate on fuel for transport firms.
•Prioritising prompt payments by ensuring the 15-day rule is adhered to by state agencies.
•Examining the use of tax credits for sourcing local Irish produced materials.
•Tackling the costs of doing business on the border, including credit card transaction fees, telecommunication charges and dual tax and payroll systems.

“Sinn Féin has developed a comprehensive, costed and government-ready proposal to chart a course out of recession and into growth. We want to see the government meet the gravity of the crisis with the appropriate response. Historic levels of unemployment and emigration need a profound shift in government policy.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has called for support for a the farmers protesting in Dublin today to demand a full CAP budget that supports productive farmers and the rural economy.

Martina Anderson said:

 "I fully understand the action taken by members of the agri-food industry who have taken to the streets of Dublin today and to those who halted production in solidarity with the farmers. The agri-food sector is increasingly expected to do more with less and this is simply not sustainable.

"The farmers are putting pressure on the government to get the best CAP deal possible, I hope that, as much of the negotiations will take place under the Irish Presidency that the government will use this position to influence these negotiations on CAP reform to the advantage of agri-food sector"

"A prosperous agri-food sector can play a significant part in economic recovery across the island, however if it continues to be forced to sell produce below the cost of production it will only drive more people from the land with a seriously detrimental effect on the general economy. We need to get serious about protecting our agri-food sector and a healthy CAP is the way to go about this".

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As part of the European Parliament annual Regional Open Day in Brussels this week Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson met with the five North/South cross-border groups and participated along witgh Local Government Association (NILGA) in regional workshops to celebrate good practices in regional development.

Afterwards Martina Anderson said:

"At a meeting with NILGA today I discussed the process required to get the North recognised under the Charter of EU Local Self-Government - which Sinn Féin is keen to take forward under the forthcoming RPA Structure. We also explored the need to draw down more financial support from Europe and what role NILGA could p[lay in helping to access these funding opportunities. We also agreed that all three MEPS should work collaboratively to try to establish the North as an Entrepreunerial Region by 2015.

"In discussion with the five Cross Border groups I highlighted the need for so long as the British imposed Border exists to take advantage of the funding streams available under EU Structural Funds to alleviate the various social and economic problems in our communities often created by the existence of the border."

"I congratulate all of these cross-border groups for the hard work which they have put in over the years. It is through this sharing of knowledge and expertise that we can seek collective answers to shared problems."

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Peadar Tóibin, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said:
“This week Kerrygold announced 800 jobs and a further 400 in construction and today Paddy Power announced a further 800 jobs.
“These are to welcomed and demonstrate the potential for Irish enterprise. However we also have the closures of Olhausen plants with the loss of 160 jobs. This is due to the collapse in the domestic market.
“Last year the Taoiseach told us that the Action Plan for Jobs would create 100,000 additional jobs by 2016. It is clearly not working. Over the past year 33,400 net jobs have been lost to the economy and 87,000 people emigrated.
“Kerrygold and Paddy Power demonstrate what Irish business can achieve in the face of adverse economic conditions and policies. We believe that more can be achieved by policies that will put job creation to the fore, that build economic growth and the support enterprise.
“We believe that the potential exist for many more Paddy Powers and Kerrygolds. We believe that with the right policies good products such as Olhausen could and should be supported.
“Today we will launch a policy document that will build on the strength of Irish enterprise and demonstrate that with the political will the government can deliver 156,000 additional jobs.”

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Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD this afternoon called on Minister Brendan Howlin TD to extend the Ombudsman remit to include prisons and all issues relating to asylum, refugees and naturalisation.

Speaking during Ministers Questions Deputy McDonald said:

“For some time now the Ombudsman has sought to have the office’s remit extended to important areas of justice.

“It is Sinn Féin’s firm view that the remit of the Ombudsman office must be extended to prisons and all issues relating to asylum, refugees and naturalisation, as is the norm in other European counties with similar legislation.

“Minister Howlin today ruled out the inclusion of prisons on the basis that the Department of Justice intends to put in place its own a prisoner complaints system. This capitulation by the Minister to the Department of Justice is deeply disappointing and undermines his own reform agenda.

“Complaints with regard to asylum, refugees and naturalisation are also to be left languishing until the Government delivers on its commitment to overall the asylum system.

“When it comes to opportunities for real reforms that take on the corrosive culture that remains within some sections of the civil service Minister Howlin buckles at every turn.”

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Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has heavily criticised the Minister for Justice Defence and Law Reform for his decision to close the Lisbrook House accommodation centre for Asylum seekers.

Speaking this evening from Leinster House, the Sinn Féin junior spokesperson on Justice said that this decision would create a great amount of anxiety and worry, and greatly affect the family life of the residents.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said;

“The Minister’s decision to close Lisbrook House is appalling. These families have created a life as best as they can in this community. They are familiar with the area, their children are attending the local schools, and many of them are working on a voluntary basis in the community.

“Many of them have been living in Lisbrook House for four years or more, and this is the only home that they know. I understand that the community in Lisbrook House is devastated by this announcement.

“In my opinion there has been a lack of discussion on this issue. This decision was made without meeting with a delegation from Lisbrook House, to hear the point of view of the residents. Nor did the Minister meet with the delegation of Public representatives from Galway West who were seeking a meeting with him on the matter.

“This decision will not only affect the community in Lisbrook house. According to the minister a number of the residents will be moved to another centre, the Eglinton. However, there are currently no spaces in Eglinton, and clearly some of those residents will now also have to move.

“Cases and incidents like this illustrate how barbaric the direct provision system is. In 2010, Deputy Shatter, then in opposition, said during the course of a Joint Oireachtas Justice and Equality Committee meeting, that there needed to be a fundamental review of this policy, and that there was a need to see if there was a ‘better way to deal with people’.

“There is little evidence any longer of the minister showing any interest in any such review. I am appealing to the minister to reconsider this decision, and to meet with the residents of Lisbrook, and the public representatives to discuss this matter.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Community & Local Government, Brian Stanley TD has today accused the government of handing over economic sovereignty to the bureaucratic bullies in Brussels.

Speaking during today’s Dáil debate on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill deputy Stanley said;

“The current approach to righting our economic woes is not working. There are now 200,000 children living in poverty with the total number of people in poverty now at 706,371 all under Minister Burton’s watch. There are 100,000 households languishing on local authority housing lists under Minster Hogan’s watch.

“These are shocking facts proving that austerity, the key policy of this shambolic coalition, has failed. The facts also dispel the myth that the Labour Party in power provides protection for ordinary people. They do not. They are colluding with every cut, every closure and every job loss.

Sinn Féin supports fiscal responsibility. We have been calling for greater regulation of the markets long before this bill saw the light of day. In recent past those of us who challenged the status quo were branded economic illiterates.

“This bill creates a super structure of budgetary control that is undemocratic and unaccountable. The process is driven by Brussels bureaucrats. And sadly An Taoiseach and An Tánaiste have failed miserably to ever stand up to such bureaucratic bullies.

“This bill will make it virtually impossible for the public to impact on budgetary decisions of a democratically elected government. And government ministers will be able to blame Europe for any unpopular budgetary decisions.

“What we have in front of us is a bad bill which puts into legislation polices that have a failed history.”

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Speaking during an Oireachtas Finance Committee meeting on the potential €1.65bn call on the Insurance Compensation Fund following the sale of Quinn Insurance Limited to Liberty Mutual last year Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said “a catalogue of failures involving the Minister for Finance, the Department of Finance, the Central Bank and the administrators has resulted in a potential bill of €1.65bn arising from the sale of Quinn Insurance Limited to Liberty Mutual last year.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“Last September Minister Noonan rushed legislation through the Dáil to amend the Insurance Compensation Fund. At that time I warned that he was being reckless and the outcome would be bad.

“It was clear then that the Government were under pressure from Liberty Mutual and IBRC to pass the legislation in advance of their High Court appearance to conclude the sale of the company.

“In proposing the legislation on the Compensation Fund Minister Noonan said he was ‘satisfied that the appropriate systems and processes were sufficiently robust to ensure that the call upon the fund is kept to an absolute minimum.’ He estimated that the cost to the Fund would be in the region of €700m.

“He was wrong on both counts. What ensued was a catalogue of failures involving the Minister for Finance, the Department of Finance, the Central Bank and the administrators and has resulted in a potential bill of €1.65bn arising from the sale of Quinn Insurance Limited to Liberty Mutual last year.

“The Minister and his Department failed to provide adequate oversight. The Central Bank failed in their regulatory capacity. And the regulators who initially told the High Court that there would be no call on the Insurance Compensation Fund clearly failed to provide an accurate assessment of the level of risk involved.

“As a result ordinary insurance policy holders will end up paying up to €1.65bn. While the primary responsibility for this mess lies with the Minister for Finance none of those bodies involved can claim to be blame free.”

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Sinn Féin the only party in the North firmly opposed to austerity - McGuinness


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Senator Kathryn Reilly, Mary Lou McDOnald TD & Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD