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Speaking after visiting the Republican Plot in Miltown cemetery which was desecrated overnight with Combat 18 slogans, Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast Paul Maskey said:

“Overnight racist and sectarian slogans, along with Combat 18 graffiti was daubed on the Republican Plot in Miltown cemetery. A considerable amount of damage has been done to the graves. This attack comes in the aftermath of a series of racist attacks on Romanian families in the city.

“The English fascist group Combat 18 has well established links with unionist paramilitaries in Belfast for many years. The racist attacks on the Romanian families all emanated from within unionist areas. Unionist political leaders must do more.

“No unionist political leader has contacted the Belfast National Graves Association or the families of those buried in the graves desecrated last night to offer assistance. We do not see any flow of information from within that community to the PSNI either on the attack on the Republican graves or indeed more worryingly on the disgraceful attempts to drive the Romanian community from the city.

“Racist attacks coming from with the unionist community in Belfast are not new and did not just start this week with attacks on the Romanians. This has been a long standing problem and one which clearly has not yet been properly addressed either by political representatives of that community or indeed by the PSNI. Otherwise these attacks would have stopped years ago.” ENDS

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South Down Sinn Féin MLA Willie Clarke has criticised the Irish Farmers Association for their stance against a company from County Down receiving a contract to provide poultry to military facilities in the 26 Counties.

Speaking this morning Mr Clarke said,

“The reality is that Crossgar chickens are as Irish as Clonmel chickens and I am quite frankly disappointed by the attitude of the IFA in relation to this issue.

Crossgar Poultry, which won this particular contract, is an all-Ireland company which provides jobs and services across the island.

At this time of economic hardship we need a greater degree of support and harmonisation across Ireland in order to assist our indigenous business’. I am surprised and baffled why the IFA would seek to begrudge a fellow Irish company this contract.

I call on the IFA to reconsider their partitionist and negative position and work to assist our agricultural sector right across the country.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh called for the resignation of both Health Minister Mary Harney and HSE Chief Executive Professor Brendan Drumm for gross incompetence in the running of the HSE after he revealed that the HSE and Management at Cherry Orchard Hospital plan to close down a newly refurbished ward of the hospital and to sub contract a private operator to treat ten public patients at a higher cost to the public purse.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “The HSE and the management of Cherry Orchard Hospital, Dublin propose to close down the newly refurbished Beech House, containing 25 community beds and to subcontract a private operator to treat 10 public patients, at a greater cost to the public purse, than keeping the facility open.

“Minister Harney and Professor Drumm of the HSE should resign immediately for gross incompetence in running the HSE.

“The cut in community beds in Cherry Orchard should also be reversed and in fact enhanced to cater for the public demand.” ENDS

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Ó Caoláin urges support for Sinn Féin/Labour motion on jobs

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, on a joint Sinn Féin/Labour Party motion on job creation, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said there is a real fear amongst the population that the minimum wage is about to be cut and general wages depressed across all sectors. Deputy Ó Caoláin said depressing wages will only serve to further contract our GDP and the economy as a whole.

He went on to call on the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to ‘get her act together’ and address the scandalous situation where people are waiting for up to three or four months to get the Jobseekers Allowance to which they are entitled.

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech follows:

“Sinn Féin and the Labour Party jointly tabled this motion on unemployment to once more implore this Government to act effectively on the jobs crisis. The Taoiseach’s prediction of 400,000 unemployed by the end of 2009 has already come true and we are not yet at the end of June. Those people and their families have a right to expect a sense of urgency, a strategic plan and effective measures from Government. They have been sorely disappointed, as have we, in the Government’s response.

“Last night the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade & Employment Mary Coughlan listed a number of measures she claims this Government is implementing or about to implement to save and create jobs. There is a glaring anomaly here. Unemployment is rising. Every day more jobs are lost. There has been no stemming the tide on unemployment. Ask any employer to name one measure that has been made available to them to help them keep their staff in jobs and they will struggle to answer.

“The measures that Sinn Féin put forward last night were concrete. The jobs retention scheme would actively keep workers off welfare and in jobs. Lowering the costs of doing business will keep businesses operating, as will ensuring they have access to credit.

“The Tánaiste claimed this government is investing in education at all levels to ensure the workforce is skilled and ready for the turnaround in the economy. Yet this Government has cut the education budget. The re-introduction of third-level fees will further deter our young people, the future workforce, from attending college and increasing their skills sets.

“The Tánaiste also claims there are adjustments being made in labour costs to secure employment. There is a real fear amongst the population that the minimum wage is about to be cut and general wages depressed across all sectors. In this, the Government is extremely short-sighted. The minimum wage is an incentive to work. It is also necessary to provide workers with some small disposable income, which in turn helps to sustain economic activity. Depressing wages will only serve to further contract our GDP and the economy as a whole.

“There is much that can be done to address the cost of doing business. Sinn Féin has called for energy and other utility costs to be addressed and for commercial rents to be made negotiable through legislation. We also want the indirect Value Added Tax to be examined in the longer term.

“The Minister lauds the performance of our trade sector, particularly exports. Last year the Minister launched ‘Catching the Wave’, a report which erroneously set out Irish export figures as contributing to a trade surplus. The fact is, our export sector, which we need to thrive to rebuild our economy and provide jobs, has been underperforming for years. Almost 90% of all that is exported from this state stems from multinationals based here. We are operating a trade deficit in this state in real terms. Our export market is not fit for purpose in terms of economic recovery or jobs.

“I want to stress again the very urgent need for the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to get her act together and address the scandalous situation where people are waiting for up to three or four months to get the Jobseekers Allowance to which they are entitled. Staff must be transferred from other Departments if necessary to address this crisis which is causing real hardship. In this era of computerisation it is absolutely inexcusable that people should be faced with such bureaucratic delays. The Minister must act and act now.

“I have repeatedly raised the need for action to address the special problems of the Border region. The differences in prices of goods, in tax rates and in regulations on either side of the Border are compounding the effects of the recession in this region. At the moment it is this side of the Border that suffers. In the future, as in the past, the flow will be in the opposite direction and the distortion of our island economy will continue. It is time to end the vicious circle or we will be faced with even more complex problems when the recovery eventually comes.

“Are the TDs on the backbenches of that side of the house going to continue to support Mary Coughlan in her role as Tanaiste and Minister? Do they think that she has done enough when unemployment is at 400,000 and rising?” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening on a private members motion on job creation North Kerry Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris called for the establishment of a University in Tralee which could act as an educational engine to drive the local economy.

Deputy Ferris also called for the fast tracking of much needed local infrastructure works such as the Tralee Ring Road and the New A&E Unit at Kerry General Hospital in order to create construction industry jobs.

Deputy Ferris said, “The unemployment figures here in Kerry are startling. There are currently 15,204 people signing on the Live Register in Kerry. That is almost double the figure for the same time last year. Thousands more are on short time work.

“The Tralee area and its surrounding environs represent almost half of all those signing on in the whole county and it is apparent that this is where the focus needs to be if Kerry’s overall situation is to be improved. Two years ago I and other politicians were describing the unemployment situation in Tralee as dire when the figures reached 3,000. The figure now stands at more than double that with 6,371 on the dole.

“Tralee, the county’s capital, needs a university which will be the educational engine to drive a new local economy. This will put Kerry on the map nationally and internationally as an area that can produce a highly skilled and talented workforce. We need to rethink and adjust Kerry County Council’s construction, service and procurement contracts to create a level pitch for small tradesmen and businesses to tender. Breaking tenders into smaller pieces would allow smaller contractors efficiently tender for work.

“At risk jobs can be saved by establishing a state fund to subsidise viable jobs and by sending in expert groups to assist companies that are in trouble. Major industries such as Amman would be obvious candidates for such help, but equally smaller businesses would also qualify. It is far more financially viable to spend money on retaining jobs than it is to pay people on the dole.

“Investment in major projects with important social gain such as the new A&E unit and a much needed new Maternity Unit at Kerry General Hospital should be followed through. Fast tracking local infrastructural works is crucial to put people back to work and to remove one of the main barriers to inward investment into the county. One such programme would be to ensure the completion of the Tralee Ring Road over the next 3-5 years.

“We need to get away from the politics of unsustainable development; of an economy run for the golden circle rather than those who create it. I believe that the proposals I have outlined, as well as the 80 proposals contained within our Job Creation document, would create hundreds of jobs across Kerry and would ensure sustainable growth into the future.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has opposed the renewal of the Offences Against the State Act in the Dáil today. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said no emergency exists that could possibly warrant what he described as the ‘draconian measures’ included in the Bill. He also criticised the use of British agents provocateurs to perpetuate conflict on the island.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said today, “Once again I am imploring all Deputies to consider the highly corrosive effect of this legislation on human rights, democratic life and the safety and wellbeing of citizens in this state before voting today.

“As we discuss this motion today, the spectre of paramilitary violence - criminal and sectarian violence - still hangs over our society. We have seen the fatal consequences of that with the brutal battering to death only three weeks ago of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine - someone who has not been mentioned to date. Others have mentioned the killing of PSNI officer, Constable Stephen Carroll, and two British soldiers, Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, and the ongoing criminal feuds in this State using high-powered weapons and explosives. Another matter that has not been mentioned in this House for a long time is the manoeuvrings of the British secret services on this island. It is quite clear to all that elements of Britain's intelligence service are running agents provocateurs in these organisations. I call on the British Government, as a partner in the peace process, to call its dogs to heel and declare that the provocative actions of its agents in these dissident and loyalist groups are contrary to the peace process and perpetuate conflict on this island.

“The UN fundamental human rights instruments to which this State has signed up make it very clear that fundamental rights protections may be derogated from only in times of emergency. No such emergency that could possibly warrant these draconian legislative measures exists.

“It is not only our international commitments that necessitate opposition to the motion before us today but also the Government's own obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement places the onus on the Government to deliver security normalisation. Hence, scrapping the Offences against the State Acts is a pressing goal for all in this House. The provisions up for renewal and indeed the Offences against the State Acts in their entirety have no place in the present or future of this island.

“If this government was really serious about tackling serious crime would they continue with their plans to savagely cut the budgets of the local drugs task forces who are tasked with reducing demand for the illegal trade that gives rise to so much gangland violence? The voting public took this question on board when they cast their votes earlier this month. The government’s efforts to dupe them failed. The public will not simply accept at face value the Government’s repeatedly announced populist proposals rather they are demanding real action.

“I urge the house to vote against the renewal motion and demand the government properly resource the agencies involved in the fight against serious crime.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein has warned Unionists politicians on Lisburn City Council that any legislation going through the Assembly to confer city status on the new Lisburn council will require cross community support at the Assembly and that unless the DUP remove the blockage on proper power-sharing arrangements on the Council, Sinn Fein will not support such legislation.

Paul Butler was speaking ahead of the Council AGM this Monday 22nd June. Legislation is required under the new boundary changes which will see Twinbrook, Poleglass and Lagmore move into Belfast.

Paul Butler said:

“Any legislation to confer city status on the new Lisburn Council will require cross-community support in the Assembly. Sinn Féins support for such legislation will be contingent on whether or not arrangements are in place within the Council to guarantee proper power sharing and genuine partnership.   

“The abuse of power by Unionists on Lisburn Council has meant that Sinn Féin representatives are excluded and the council is being run to a unionist agenda. We are continuing to challenge this. We will not countenance a situation where the present unacceptable and undemocratic arrangements are recreated under a new Lisburn City Council.

“Nationalists hoped that when city status was conferred on Lisburn that it would become a city for everyone including nationalists and non-unionists.

“Sinn Féin supported the campaign for Lisburn to become a city on the basis that Lisburn Council would be more inclusive and representative of both communities within Lisburn.  This will require the establishment of new governance arrangements within the new Council based on genuine partnership.”

Paul Butler continued:

There is no willingness by unionists on Lisburn Council to share power with Sinn Féin despite the fact that we have had a power sharing executive at Stormont since May 2007. Power-sharing, mutual respect and equality should apply to local councils such as Lisburn. City status should not be conferred on Lisburn until it changes its discriminatory policies.”

Notes for Editor

New legislation regarding city status is required due to the boundary changes which will see Twinbrook Poleglass and Lagmore areas move into Belfast. When city status was conferred on Lisburn in 2001 it included areas such as Twinbrook Poleglass and Lagmore being part of Lisburn city.

When the boundary proposals were brought forward by the Boundary Commissioner it arose that city status for the new Lisburn council area would need new legislation to be put through the Assembly. 

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Sinn Féin MLA Paul Maskey and Balmoral Representative Vincent Parker this afternoon attended a multi-agency meeting to discuss short term and long term solutions to the current crisis facing the Romanian community in Belfast.

Head of the party’s Equality and Human Rights Department, Vincent Parker put forward proposals to provide short term welfare assistance to those families subjected to racist intimidation.

Speaking after the meeting, which was held in the Chinese Welfare Association’s Office, Mr. Parker said,

“After spending time in the City Church with the Romanian families last night, as well as accompanying the deputy First Minister on a visit to the O-Zone leisure centre this morning, I was pleased at the response from all the agencies at today’s meeting in responding to the very immediate crisis facing the Romanian community in the city.

Race-hate crime in south Belfast has increased in the past six months and worryingly the clearance rate for the PSNI is currently sitting at only 9.9%.

This is obviously unacceptable and more must be done to ensure ethnic minority communities feel safer in our city.

Those responsible for these attacks and the intimidation of any minority group must be brought before the courts and I call on anyone with information regarding these attacks to bring it forward to the PSNI immediately.” CRÍOCH

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Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA, this morning visited those Romanian families who were forced to flee their homes in south Belfast following racist attacks and intimidation.

Speaking from the o-zone leisure centre, where the families have fled to, Mr. McGuinness said;

“People are shocked and completely disgusted by this incident, I came here this morning to show very clearly my commitment to facing up to any form of intimidation in our community, no matter where it may come from.

I met with numerous families who are genuinely fearful for their lives and those of their families; I held a five day old baby girl in my arms today, she was born in Belfast and now forced to leave her home as a result of attacks by racist, criminal thugs.

We need strong, clear and decisive leadership, standing together against the elements in our society who think that these actions are justifiable in any shape or form.

For too long now other groups have been in the shadows espousing and justifying racist attacks. We need to see anyone with information on who is behind these attacks, and intimidation to bring it forward to the PSNI.

There must be a full and thorough investigation into the litany of racist attacks both in South Belfast and elsewhere and we must bring those responsible before the courts.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as “devastating” the growing effects of health cuts on patient care. He highlighted the case of Loughlinstown Hospital in Co. Dublin where over 20 patients are on trolleys and chairs in A&E awaiting beds.

He stated:

“Health cuts have resulted in the closure of the 22-bed St. Brigid’s Ward at Loughlinstown Hospital, Co. Dublin. This ward now lies idle while over recent days more than 20 people have been on trolleys and chairs awaiting beds in the hospital.

“I have been informed by my colleague Wicklow County Councillor John Brady that a constituent of his with a serious condition was waiting in A&E for five days in Loughlinstown from Friday last until Tuesday. No bed became available and he had to be discharged.

“This is but one example of the growing and devastating effects of health cuts on patient care. Wards and other services are being closed and this is likely to increase over the summer months with patients facing greatly reduced hospital services in the winter of 2009/2010.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly will lead a party delegation to meet with the Parades Commission at their Belfast Offices today at 2pm. The meeting will deal with the determination of Commission to allow loyalist supporters to parade past Ardoyne shops as part of the Tour of the North on Friday night. 

Mr Kelly said:

“The Tour of the North parades through a number of interface areas in North Belfast. In recent years loyalist supporters following the bands and lodges have been banned from marching past Ardoyne shops. Inexplicably the Parades Commission has this year decided to allow these hangers-on, who are quite often drunk, to march through this nationalist area.

“It is entirely the wrong decision. There has been no real dialogue in the course of the past 12 months and the decision of the Commission to facilitate this sort of coat trailing through Ardoyne is unacceptable and unnecessary. It has made an already difficult situation which inevitably results from this parade even worse.

“Residents in Ardoyne have asked the Parades Commission to review their determination relating to the Tour of the North. It is my view that this must now happen speedily and the decisions taken reversed.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening, on a joint Sinn Féin and Labour Party motion on job creation, Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan criticised Minister Mary Coughlan’s handling of the unemployment crisis. He said the country is facing an economic crisis of unparalleled proportions caused by government mismanagement and made worse by government inaction.

Deputy Morgan set out a number of measures that Sinn Féin believes should be taken urgently in order to stem the loss of jobs and to start creating new jobs including the establishment of a jobs retention fund to subsidize workers in SMEs struggling to keep their employees.

Full text of Deputy Morgan’s speech follows:

“I welcome the opportunity to be once again bringing forward a joint motion with Deputy Penrose and the Labour party – and particularly to be doing it on this the most important issue facing us today – unemployment. We have been forced to put a motion down on this issue because the government response to the crisis has been totally inadequate – it appears they need to be forced to act on this issue. This motion demands action from government to halt growing unemployment and to get Ireland back to work. It highlights the extent of crisis we are facing, its implications for the public finances and sets out a number of straight forward steps that need to be taken to get the economy back on track.

“Figures released by the CSO at the start of this month revealed that unemployment had surpassed 400,000. That figure represents 402,000 families with all of the social, family and financial commitments we understand. This is without doubt the biggest challenge facing this state. Tackling it has to be the government’s number one priority. Those who have lost their jobs over the last 18 months are waiting for a government response – they are losing all hope that the government is capable or willing to act to retain and create jobs.

“Almost 200,000 people have lost their jobs since the present Minister, Deputy Coughlan, took up her position. The Minister should be ashamed. Yet she seems almost oblivious the depth of the jobs crisis we are facing. Does she even realise that in her own county of Donegal 18,000 people are now unemployed? Where is the job creation strategy? Where are the supports for struggling SME’s? Why with all the money poured into the banks are small businesses still denied access to credit?

“Unsurprisingly the public do not have confidence that the Minister has the grasp of her brief or the resolve required to address the jobs crisis. What the public sees is a Minister and government bereft of proposals to get the country back to work. This Government has been compared to a rabbit in the headlights – the worse things get, the less moves it makes to address the problems that we are facing.

“Minister Coughlan needs to explain to this House exactly what it is that she has been doing over the last year.

“I come from a small business background. I understand the pressures facing small family enterprises – good employers who want to create employment in their local community but whose backs are against the wall due to a lack of access to credit and the high cost of doing business. I understand their frustration at this government’s response to current economic crisis. Like them I know that if we are to stem the rising tide of unemployment it is crucial that government supports existing enterprises that are providing employment.
We all know people who have lost their jobs – in construction, in retail, in manufacturing and in many other sectors.

“The growth in unemployment over the last year has been astounding hitting the 400,000 mark for the first time at the start of this month. Even those of us who warned repeatedly of the dangers inherent in an over-dependence on the construction sector and the need to protect workers in vulnerable sectors of the economy have been shocked at the speed at which unemployment has risen.

“We are facing an economic crisis of unparallel proportions caused by government mismanagement and made worse by government inaction.

“Yes other countries are facing severe economic difficulties – but none to the same extent as here. Economic mismanagement by present government has meant that we were least prepared, compared to our EU counterparts, to deal with a global economic downturn. Contrary to what Fianna Fáil argued, particularly in the run up to the 2007 general election, the economy was not based on solid foundations. Policies pursued by Fianna Fáil led governments have undermined our ability to ride out an economic downturn – take for example the impact in terms of broadband accessibility of the privatisation of Eircom or how the dependence on ‘fair weather’ taxes has resulted in an unprecedented collapse in exchequer revenue.

“Every day more people are losing their jobs. And even when they lose their jobs the government is not ready to help them – people are forced to queue for hours on the street to sign on to the dole. Waiting time for processing applications for unemployment assistance are unacceptably long for people struggling to meet bills and pay mortgages – why can more staff not be transferred from others section with the department or from other departments to ensure people are treated in a dignified manner? Why has there been no action to address the plight of the thousands of construction workers denied benefits because they were coerced into putting themselves down as self–employed by unscrupulous sub contractors?

“Getting the economy back on track must be the number one priority.
· No SME should be shutting down because it cannot access credit.
· No business should be failing to increase it exports because of a lack of knowledge of regulations or language of the country they are seeking to export to.
· No potential entrepreneur should be sitting on their hands because the funding, expertise or advice is not there to bring their idea to fruition.
· No worker should be prevented from accessing alternative employment because they have been unable to access retraining or upskilling.

“This requires urgent action to retain and create jobs, to assist struggling businesses and those attempting to establish new enterprises. It is vital that Government intervention ensures that those currently unemployed have the skills required to get back into employment. It is possible to do this. The Government often accuses the opposition parties of not putting forward constructive solutions. This is most certainly not the case on this issue. Earlier this year Sinn Féin brought forward an 80 point job creation plan ‘Getting Ireland Back to Work – Time for Action’ that we believe has the potential to retain and create jobs.

“These included the establishment of a jobs retention fund to subsidize workers in SMEs struggling to keep on their employees. We proposed that this fund should be time limited and should be implemented in conjunction with an increased Revenue and Labour Inspectorate. And that the subsidy would apply to each individual job and would be no greater than €200 or 20% of the wage and reviewed after 6 months.

“We are also calling for a body to be set up to actively pre-empt job losses by going into companies where jobs are in jeopardy to trouble shoot and offer advice, similar to the functions carried out by the Industrial Credit Corporation in the 1980s. The ICC was a publically funded source of credit for Irish companies. There’s a whole generation of people who have never managed a business during a recession, and a whole generation who have – the new businesses could do with advice and expertise to get through this period.

“It has become clear that a change the law in relation to the leasing of commercial property is needed to allow tenants to seek a rent review to reduce the rent which they are paying as economic circumstances and market rents change/fall. Viable retail outlets are being put out of business due to the excess rents which they are being forced to pay.

“Ensure access to high speed, low cost broadband – this should be done as proposed in this motion through the re-nationalisation of Eircom.

“There needs to be a particular focus on the agri-food sector – this sector can and should be boosted by introducing an improved country of origin labelling immediately and addressing anomalies in relation sell by dates for imported produce.

“There is a strong case for using the public sector and direct public employment, to kick start the economy. This makes sense now in the same way as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) did in the 1930’s in America. The WPA had the affect of stimulating the private sector during the depression years - it focused on tangible improvements (roads, highways, streets, bridges, public buildings, parks, reviving forest, and rural electrification). Areas that could be focused on would include energy efficiency measures, infrastructure (including tourism infrastructure) and high-speed broadband rollout.

“The current crisis offers an opportunity - an opportunity to reshape this state. We need to be coming out of this crisis with the infrastructure, skills and public services that will put us at the top of competitiveness rankings and that will deliver improved quality of life for all our citizens. That is why we should be focusing on using this period to invest in the delivery of essential, labour intensive infrastructure and prioritizing investment in key areas where we have a comparative advantage and can compete on the international stage such as renewable energy. Priority has to be given to our education system – this is key to our future economic recovery and is an area – particular school buildings – that was disgracefully under-invested in during the celtic tiger years. A minimum of 150 school building projects should enter the architectural and planning stage each year, so that school projects are ready to proceed as quickly as possible to the construction phases. In 2007 €119.5 million was allocated to the Summer Works Programme. This should be repeated in 2009 and maintained until 2013. The national insulation programme should be expanded to cover 100,000 homes by the end of February 2010 and 150,000 in subsequent years, creating the potential for 12,000 jobs by the end of 2010.

“Sinn Féin is proposing that local authority and public sector construction, service and procurement contracts be adjusted to create a level pitch for small businesses to tender. Breaking tenders into smaller pieces allows contractors with less significant turnover to efficiently tender for work. By not doing this we are allowing procurement contracts to go overseas to those with the capacity for tendering for bigger jobs.

“Crucially we need to fast track business start-ups – create one-stop enterprise business points to bring together funding, expertise and advice for entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses or grow existing ones. We need to create a Sales Ireland strategy to help Irish firms access export markets outside the US and Britain and to help Irish firms looking to set up manufacturing businesses with the potential to compete with our largest imports, including R&D funding. Currently almost 90% of exports from the south come from foreign owned multinationals. And foreign owned firms import over 86% of the materials they use bypassing Irish firms.

“Sinn Féin’s job creation plan included proposed supports for Irish manufacturers and producers to reach economy of scale, including on an all-Ireland basis, enabling them to compete with cheaper products both abroad and domestically, through investment in new technology and production methods. We need supports for Irish firms and entrepreneurs looking to set up manufacturing businesses with the potential to compete with our largest imports, including R&D funding and supports for Irish manufacturers and producers to access export markets outside the US and Britain, including language and local regulation support, and increased use of Irish embassies to access local market knowledge and management personnel. It would also make good economic sense to give tax credits for Tax credits for MNCs, which source Irish raw materials as opposed to importing.

“Each sector of the economy needs to be examined – those sectors where there is a potential for expanding employment need to be identify and targeted. We need to identify the needs of businesses – what can be done to ensure they make it through the current economic crisis. We need a plan to expand jobs in sectors such as agri-food, tourism, green technologies and the knowledge economy. We must never return to a dependence on unsustainable economic activity – such as was the case with the building boom of recent years. The government must take responsibility for what happened in those years – for the wasted potential as young people left schools without completing their education to take up jobs in the construction sector. They must address this by ensuring that these people get back into education that they will need if they are to get back to work.
The potential exists to get the economy back on track – we have skilled and energetic workers; innovative would-be entrepreneurs who are eager to establish new businesses that will create employment in their communities; and unmatched renewable energy resources. We need a job creation strategy that harnesses that potential. We need to do what we did not do during the celtic tiger era.

“We cannot afford to lose a generation of young people to emigration as was the case in previous times of recession – generational emigration was in part responsible for holding back the economic development of this state by decades. This is what will happen if the Government continues to fail to act – skilled educated young people will not be prepared to accept a future on the dole queue.

“I would say to back bench deputies in both Government parties to consider their positions carefully before voting to support the government amendment to this motion. If you vote with the Government on this issue you are affectively telling the 400,000 unemployed people in this state that the government’s response to their plight is adequate. You are condemning them to a future on the dole queues with no hope that they will be able to get back into employment or education any time soon.

“The economy can be got back on track. Jobs can be saved. Jobs can be created. Ireland can be got back to work. This can be done. There are 402,000 good reasons for it. If we do not start solving the jobs crisis we will not be able to address the black hole in the public finances. 400,000 people out of work means far less tax in and far more payments out of the social insurance fund. I urge the Minister to take on board and act on the proposals put forward by Sinn Féin and the Labour party during the course of this debate. If this government and this Minister is not up to this challenge they should step aside.” ENDS

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Speaking in advance of a meeting tomorrow in Downing Street with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that it was now time to move decisively ahead and implement all outstanding issues including the transfer of powers on policing and justice. 

Mr McGuinness said:

“The elections are over and the dust has settled. People have had time to digest the results. Over 85% of those who turned out voted for parties which support the power sharing and all-Ireland institutions.

“It is now time to move decisively ahead get on with the job we are elected to do.

“There are a number of outstanding issues which need to be satisfactorily resolved including the Transfer of Powers on Policing and Justice. This issue was not a contentious part of the recent election campaign.

“These matters should not be allowed to become subject to electoral concerns by any party or government. They are commitments which must be implemented.

“These matters will form the basis of our discussions with the British Prime Minister tomorrow.”

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Ag labhairt dó i ndiaidh ceisteanna chuig an Aire Cultúr i gCnoc an Anfa inniu, dúirt urlabhraí Gaeilge Shinn Féin, Proinsias Ó Brollaigh, go bhfuil ar an Aire Campbell aithint go bhfuil difríochtaí praiticiúla ann idir an Ghaeilge agus an Albanais Uladh.

Ag labhairt ón Tionól inniu dúirt an tUasal Uí Bhrollaigh

“Níl fadhb ar bith agam leis an Aire Campbell ag iarraidh an Albanais Uladh a cuir chun cinn; ach caithfidh sé aithint nach bhfuil forbairt na Gaeilge ag brath ar fhorbairt an Albanais Uladh. Dhá rud difriúla, leithleach atá i gceist leis an bheirt seo.

Faoin Cairt Eorpach tá dualgais áirithe ar an Fheidhmeannas agus an Tionól chomh maith i dtaca le cuir chun cinn na Gaeilge. Tá ar Gregory Campbell insint dúinne cad é atá idir lámh aige faoi láthair leis an Gaeilge a fhorbairt anseo sna Sé Chontae. Tá Acht fiúntach, bunaithe ar cearta i dteideal ag an phobail gaelach anseo sa Tuaisceart agus tá an streachailt ar son na hAchta ar dul ar aghaidh go fóill.

Tá ar an Aire aithint fosta, go bhfuil ráchairt níos leithne ann amuigh ansin fa choinne oideachais, craoltóireacht, litríocht, seirbhísí agus a leithid, trí mheán na Gaeilge, na mar atá tríd an Albanais Uladh.

Níl duine ar bith ag iarraidh a bhaint ar shiúl ón cultúr Alabanais Uladh ach ag an am céanna níl muid dul a glacadh leis an Aire Campbell leanúint leis ag cur bac ar fhorbairt an teanga Ghaeilge ach an oiread.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin mid-Ulster MLA and deputy Chair of the Assembly Health Committee Michelle O’Neill has expressed her concern at reports in the media suggesting that the majority of funds raised for an Air Ambulance have been spent on administration costs.

Speaking from the Assembly this afternoon Ms O’Neill said;

“The need for air ambulance provision is becoming increasingly evident as more and more people are becoming increasingly concerned about the issue of emergency response times. This is becoming more important as the Health Minister implement’s plans to replace a number of Ambulances with Rapid Response Vehicles.

Many people, particularly those living in rural areas, are deeply concerned that there is not sufficient ambulance cover in many areas across the north.

The Sinn Féin reps on the Health Committee have made it clear that we support the need for a dedicated air ambulance service.

There is also a very clear rationale that this function on a cross border basis, serving the needs of people across Ireland but in particular in rural and border communities.

Reports in the media today suggest that the likelihood of an air ambulance in the north is decreasing, in particular there is concern around whether or not the monies raised by the ‘Ireland Air Ambulance’ charity was properly used to actually attain an air ambulance. Initial reports suggest that the overwhelming amount of the money was spent on wages and administration costs.

There will no doubt be a role for the new charities commissioner to look at this matter and I have no doubt that the Health Committee will want to investigate the issue further also.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann will today launch Refugee Week at Stormont today highlighting the challenges that those who flee persecution face when they come to live in the North of Ireland.

Speaking today Ms McCann said:

“People who have fled to Ireland have made a positive impact to our country and their needs must be addressed. Those who have fled here to escape persecution have rights and Sinn Féin has worked tirelessly to protect their liberties.

“Unfortunately however they face a daily challenge to access their full entitlements and rights when seeking asylum or refuge. We need to send a clear message to both Irish and British Governments, whose policies currently criminalise refugees seeking asylum, that enough is enough.

“Those who come to our shores seeking refuge do not do so of their own free will. They are escaping persecution, torture and death. To face persecution once they arrive here, being held in prison compounds or police custody as they await a decision on their future, in a process often far removed from the refugees is unacceptable.

“The built in, systematic discrimination against refugees and asylum seekers, and how we treat those coming to Ireland for a better life, needs a serious shake up. While not refugees we only have to look at the recent racist attacks against Romanians living here to see one such challenge that this vulnerable group faces.

“This year’s focus of Refugee Week is on the “Simple Acts Campaign” hopes to deliver a welcome and a positive message using small but significant local gestures and can in its own way change things for the better and help those refugees who are need of support and community.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has said the Government’s number one priority must be creating and retaining jobs. Deputy Morgan said in the one year that Mary Coughlan has been Enterprise Minister 200,000 people have lost their jobs and the Government is doing absolutely nothing to get them back to work and stimulate the economy.

Speaking ahead of a Dáil debate on a Joint Sinn Féin/Labour Party motion on jobs this evening Deputy Morgan said, “In Mary Coughlan’s first year as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment more than 200,000 people have lost their jobs bring the total unemployment figure to over 400,000.

“For these people the Government has done nothing. There is no sign of any job creation or retention plan from the Government and, to add insult to injury, thousands of newly unemployed people are having to wait weeks and months for access to social welfare payments. This is no way to treat a workforce that built the Celtic Tiger.

“This evening Sinn Féin and Labour will jointly table a Private Members motion calling on the government to take a number of specific initiatives to halt the jobs haemorrhage and put people back to work.

“The motion criticises the lack of government action in the face of major job cuts at employers such as Dell, Waterford Crystal and SR Technics, and calls for a number of actions including taking Eircom into public ownership to provide a suitable platform for investment in broadband; the establishment of a National Investment Bank to invest in our own future and help create jobs including by ensuring access to credit for small business; and the fast tracking of business start-ups by creating one-stop enterprise business points to bring together funding, expertise and advice for entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses or grow existing ones.

“This is the third Dáil motion jointly tabled by Sinn Féin and the Labour party following earlier motions on the plight of agency workers and the homeless showing that progressive parties can work together to protect vulnerable sections of society which have been ignored by other parties.

“This evening’s motion goes to the very heart of our economic problems and if adopted will form a major plank in our recovery plan. The Government’s primary focus at this time must shift from bailing out banks to creating and retaining jobs.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin East Derry MLA Francie Brolly has called on Fianna Fáil Minister, Conor Lenihan to act decisively on the claim by the British Crown Estates that it can impose a charge of £5000 pounds a year on the Foyle Ferry Company to operate between Donegal and Magilligan Co. Derry.

Francie Brolly said:

"I find it amazing that an Irish government Minister should just meekly accept the right of the British Crown Estates to levy charges against an Irish operator providing a very worthwhile service in Irish waters. Conor Lenihan's comment that 'there was no formal agreement' between the British and Irish governments over territorial waters is a lame excuse for inaction.

"It's about time the Irish government defended its so-called sovereignty and told Crown Estates that it has no right to levy charges against an Irish operator in Irish waters - disputed or otherwise. I call on the Minister to act decisively and demand that British Crown Estates relinquish any claim to Lough Foyle and give operational responsibility to Foyle and Carlingford Lights Commission.

“If the political will exists then steps can be taken to support the future of this valuable service. Conor Lenihan could follow the example set by our Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy who when faced with the British designating Magilligan as a port of entry responded with determination to the situtaion and ensured the de-classification of Magilligan saving the ferry operation to and from Greencastle £90,000 pa.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy met with Uachtarán of the GAA, Christy Cooney along with party colleagues Michelle Gildernew and Martin McGuiness yesterday in Stormont.

Mr Rooney had travelled to parliament buildings for a ‘meet and greet’ along with outgoing president Nickey Brennan, Director-General Pauric Duffy; and Ulster Council officials, Danny Murphy and Tom Daly.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Murphy who is involved with his local GAA club Shane O’Neills said,

“Today’s visit by the ‘movers and shakers’ of the GAA to Stormont is a particularly welcome occasion.

The GAA plays a huge role in our local communities all over Ireland and is a positive force that is a particular focus for many families and children.

It is important that leadership figures such as Christy Cooney meets with our Ministers so that we can discuss how best to promote the sport in the North.”

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Ulster Unionist MLA for Strangford David McNarry was this morning ejected from the Assembly chamber following his refusal to withdraw comments he made about Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney.

During an Assembly debate on May 18th Mr McNarry commented:

“I note that the Member for Foyle who asked the previous question, who might know someone who might know some more, is not offering cash back from the proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery. It would substantially add to the criminal asset recovery funds if he or some of his friends were to come forward."

“Mr McCartney asked for a ruling on the Ulster Unionist’s baseless comments and today the Speaker delivered his ruling calling on Mr McNarry to withdraw his remarks. When he refused to abide by the ruling Mr. McNarry was ejected from the Assembly for the remainder of the day’s proceedings.

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