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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the Prescription Charges Bill as “a disgraceful piece of legislation that targets the least well off in Irish society”. He said there was “not a bleat” from the Fianna Fáil backbenchers about these unjust charges. Speaking against the Bill in the Dáil, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“The most dishonest thing about this Bill is where the actual fees are cited. It is a smokescreen, a device to get the Bill passed. When Government representatives are challenged their main argument in favour of these charges will be: ‘It’s only 50 cents, it’s only €10.’
“But that’s pure deception because in Section 1 the Bill empowers the Minister to make regulations to vary the charges. We know very well that this Minister and future Ministers will increase the prescription charges for medical card holders.
“The Fianna Fáil backbenchers have been much concerned lately about hounds and stags and hares. But it seems that last night the sheep-dog from Clara barked at them and the sheep are now being herded exactly where he wants them to go. There’s not a bleat out of them about this Bill.
“Make no mistake, any Deputy who supports this Bill is opening the way for higher prescription charges in the years to come.
“Instead of making real savings, instead of targeting the profiteers in the drugs industry, the Government has once again gone for the easy targets – the elderly, the infirm, low income families with children. It is shameful.” ENDS

Full text follows


Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2010
Prescription Charges Bill
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD
Sinn Féin Dáil leader & Health & Children spokesperson

I move the amendment in my name:
That Dáil Éireann declines to give the Bill a Second Reading as prescription charges represent an unjust imposition on medical card holders and undermine the General Medical Services Scheme.
We in Sinn Féin totally oppose this Bill which enables the Minister for Health & Children to impose prescription charges on medical card holders. It is a disgraceful piece of legislation that targets the least well off in Irish society.

It is also a sneaky and dishonest Bill.

It was initially signalled by the Minister for Health & Children and listed as the Prescription Charges Bill. This was changed to the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill in the vain hope of taking the bad look off it.
The legislation sets a charge of 50 cents per item up to a maximum of €10 per month and the Bill has been sold politically and in the media on the basis that the charges are small.
The most dishonest thing about this Bill is where the actual fees are cited. It is a smokescreen, a device to get the Bill passed. When Government representatives are challenged their main argument in favour of these charges will be: “It’s only 50 cents, it’s only €10.”
But that’s pure deception because in Section 1 the Bill empowers the Minister to make regulations to vary the charges. We know very well that this Minister and future Ministers will increase the prescription charges for medical card holders.
At the end of last year it was leaked to the media – deliberately perhaps – that the Minister’s officials were seeking a charge of €2.50 per prescription. This was after Colm McCarthy recommended a €5 flat fee for every prescription in his notorious Bord Snip report. I might add in passing that Mr. McCarthy’s prescription for the ailing Irish economy was a strong dose of deadly poison. The Government deserves no credit for prescribing a slightly lesser dose - but deadly poison nonetheless.

On 19 November last year Minister Harney addressed a body much in the news lately – the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. She floated the 50 cent prescription charge and it was reported afterwards that Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators supported the proposal. Only one TD was reported as expressing concern and he hit the nail on the head when he said he was worried that the charge could be increased in future years.

But Minister Harney saved the day because, we were told in a newspaper report, “observers said Ms Harney made clear that no final decision had been taken”. And so the Cabinet was saved from rebellion in the ranks once again. Then came the Budget with its savage cuts to public services, including health, and its confirmation that prescription charges would indeed be imposed. Did we hear the faintest protest from the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party? Not a bit of it.
After all the talk of rebellion in the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party in recent weeks where are they when this Bill comes before the Dáil?
Is there even one of them to stand up for the people who are being penalised by the prescription charges provided for in this Bill?
The backbenchers have been much concerned lately about hounds and stags and hares. But it seems that last night the sheep-dog from Clara barked at them and the sheep are now being herded exactly where he wants them to go. There’s not a bleat out of them about this Bill.
Make no mistake, any Deputy who supports this Bill is opening the way for higher prescription charges in the years to come.
This Bill, therefore, undermines the General Medical Services Scheme in a fundamental way. Access to essential medication free of charge has always been a corner-stone of the medical card scheme. It has lifted a potentially huge financial burden from people on low incomes, especially families with young children.
As well as being penalised financially people with medical cards are being scape-goated for the high cost of medicines in this State.
We all agree that the cost of medicines to the State and to individuals is too high. We all acknowledge that there is wastage and over-prescription of medicines. We all agree that measures must be undertaken to address these problems. But the very last way to address this is to punish those who are least able to pay.
I agree with Age Action when they state:
“Over-prescribing and inappropriate prescribing is a problem in Ireland but the Minister needs to address this issue with the doctors who write the prescriptions, rather than hitting their patients. The patient is not the person writing the prescription so penalising them will do little to change prescribing practices.”
For many older people on a State pension who are reliant on medication this Bill will mean an extra annual burden of €120 each, initially, and an as yet unknown higher amount when the Minister and/or her successors inevitably increase the charges.
These prescription charges on low income individuals and families come in the wake of the abolition of the social welfare Christmas bonus and the reduction in social welfare payments generally.
And that’s only on the payment side. We are seeing services for people on medical cards and for all who rely on the public health system being reduced on a weekly basis. Dental treatment for medical card holders has been confined to what are called emergencies – with the HSE failing to state what emergencies mean in the context of dental treatment.
Public hospitals are in deeper crisis than ever. Waiting lists and queues are worsening. The promised primary care network has not been delivered. And now we have this disgraceful Bill.
The Government claims that the purpose of this legislation is to make savings and to reduce the State’s drugs bill. For years we in Sinn Féin and others have been calling for greater use of generic drugs and for control of the gross profiteering by pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. The Government and successive Minister for Health & Children from 1997 failed to act.
Very belatedly the Minister for Health & Children has moved on the issue of generic substitution. She has also promised to bring in a Reference Pricing Bill. But that bill has not been published. Instead she has rushed in with this legislation to penalise the least well off for a problem not of their making.
As I have stated, there is widespread agreement that the cost of medicines to the State needs to be reduced but it has already been shown that huge savings can be made without imposing prescription charges. Last February an agreement between drugs manufacturers and the Minister for Health & Children made projected savings of €94 million in a full year.

Add to this the further savings that will be made through the use of generic drugs and reference pricing and set that against the estimated €20.5 million that will be raised by these charges. These charges are totally unnecessary from a budgetary point of view, as well as being unjust and unfair.

We have been accused of not coming up with alternative proposals. But we have indeed come forward with such proposals.

In our Pre-Budget 2010 submission ‘The Road to Recovery’ Sinn Féin proposed measures to reduce the cost of medicines in our health system, including establishing State wholesale distribution of drugs. Based on figures provided to us by the Department of Finance, those measures would have saved €200 million, nearly ten times what will allegedly be raised by prescription charges. Ending the notorious co-location scheme would save €100 million in 2010, nearly five times the revenue from the charges, and €400 million over seven years.

Instead of making real savings, instead of targeting the profiteers in the drugs industry, the Government has once again gone for the easy targets – the elderly, the infirm, low income families with children. It is shameful.

Even at this late stage we call on the Government to withdraw the Bill. If it does not do so we call on every Deputy with a conscience to vote against this Bill. Let us see the Fianna Fáil backbenchers find a backbone on a real issue, one that affects over 1.3 million medical card holders in this State. Reject this Bill.
ENDS

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Responding to the Government’s proposals to protect mortgage holders who are struggling with their repayments Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Martin Ferris said the Government has a responsibility to struggling homeowners as they encouraged reckless lending during the economic boom years.

He said:

“Sinn Féin has long been calling for measures to help homeowners who are in trouble. During the economic boom we called on the Government to intervene to stop banks giving out irresponsible mortgages to people who were desperate to get onto the so called property ladder.

“However, instead the Government actually encouraged such activity and this has led to the current situation where thousands are in negative equity and facing home repossession.

“Sinn Féin has put forward a number of proposals to help homeowners who are struggling to keep up with repayments.

“These include a provision for mortgage holders in arrears to pay principal only repayments as opposed to interest only payments which ultimately benefit the bank rather than the mortgage holder.

“We called for a provision to allow mortgage holders to negotiate with their banks to move from fixed mortgages to flexible mortgages without financial punishment and we said a proportion of negative equity should be written off for those struggling to keep up.

“We also supported an increase in mortgage interest supplement and a change of the means test to allow for a decent standard of living. However, we said that it is crucial that negative equity is marked down as otherwise increasing the supplement would simply bulk up the banks at the taxpayers’ expense.

“We will be examining the Government’s proposals with a critical eye. We welcome the move to help struggling homeowners however, in the past too many of the Government’s proposals have been about saving the banks with taxpayers’ money rather than helping struggling homeowners.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that it “beggars belief” that the HSE is to spend €1,000 per day to rent the third floor of a high rise development in Carlow town while the local St. Dympna’s Hospital has a huge amount of vacant accommodation.

The Carlow Nationalist this week reports that the HSE has just signed a five year contract to rent the third floor of the Shamrock Plaza, at the cost of €365,000 per annum. The HSE will move their physiotherapy, public health, speech and language and occupational therapy services to the high rise office block from their current location at St Dympna’s Hospital.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“While disabled people and their carers and families have had to take to the streets to protest against cuts to respite and other essential care services, the HSE is squandering money on rents to private landlords, when it has plenty of accommodation in its own hands.

“The wasteful folly of this HSE action in Carlow is being highlighted by HSE workers who have spoken to the media and who are described as ‘beyond furious’ at what is taking place.

“The HSE has claimed that this is about providing primary care. There is nothing in Government policy, as stated publicly so far, to say that no primary care service can be provided at existing hospital sites. The policy calls for more and better use of primary care; it does not dictate that primary care services cannot be at hospital sites as claimed by the HSE. If there is some new Government directive or regulation to that effect then it has huge implications for the entire public health service, including massive cost implications.

“I believe this is another example of HSE mismanagement and bureaucratic waste. The only beneficiary would seem to be the prospective landlord.” ENDS


Link to The Nationalist, Carlow
http://www.carlow-nationalist.ie/

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has said the report from the OECD this morning underlines calls for the Government to bring forward a job creation strategy.

However Deputy Morgan rejected calls from the OECD for social welfare rates to be cut.

Deputy Morgan said:

“The report from the OECD this morning shows that the nature of Ireland’s economic recovery will be so weak that it is unlikely to absorb the growth in unemployment caused by the recession.

“This means that unemployment rates will continue to rise prolonging the hard realities of the recession. So, in reality, the consequences of the recession for ordinary workers and the unemployed are set to continue even after the recession has ended.

“This report underlines calls from Sinn Féin and others for the Government to bring forward a jobs creation strategy.

“However, I do not agree with the report’s recommendation for social welfare rates to be cut as an incentive to work. The fact is that there is no work out there and cutting social welfare rates will reduce the disposable income of nearly half a million people which, in turn, will further depress the economy.

“I do not agree that there is a significant body of people who are inclined not to work when work is available.

“Unemployment has grown from 4.4% in August 2007 to 13.3% in May 2010. Many of these people now face the prospect of long term unemployment. Many of them are skilled workers, many more of them are highly educated. They do not want to sit at home on the dole for the rest of their lives and it is an insult to suggest that they do.

“It is successive Fianna Fáil led Governments that have led us into the recession and it is the current Fianna Fáil led Government’s failure to deal with the jobs crisis that has led the current situation which will see unemployment continue to rise even after the recession has officially ended. They must bring forward a job creation strategy immediately.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein Housing Spokesperson Fra McCann MLA, commenting on the audit office report into housing associations here has said that the Department of Social Development “needs to carry some of the responsibility for the problems in a number of housing associations”.

Speaking after the publication of the report Mr McCann said;

“The management of associations is ultimately the responsibility of DSD; it is incumbent on them to ensure that the governance and financial controls are in place to ensure the smooth delivery of social housing. It is not surprising that maintenance has been targeted by the audit office; another issue of concern is the ability to actually deliver much needed housing on time.

I realise that there are many associations which have good records but decisions many years ago to remove housing new build from the housing executive and transferring it to housing associations was wrong and from my understanding was based purely on the amount of private finance which could be drawn down from financial institutions.

I have worked closely with a number of local housing associations, several which have been facing difficulties, but through hard work and support have come out the other end in a healthier position. The fact that there are a sizable number of associations which have been identified in this report highlights the need for a radical relook at the delivery of social housing in all its aspects.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) welcoming proposals by ESB to purchase NIE Transmission and Distribution (T&D) facilities said that he believes it could benefit consumers throughout Ireland.


Mr. McLaughlin said:


"This is a welcome and progressive move that I believe will help deliver more affordable energy prices to consumers across the island. The introduction of the all-Ireland Single Electricity Market (SEM) in 2007 enabled all energy generators on the island to contribute to a single pool which provided opportunities for more efficient business planning and corporate savings. I believe that ESB's acquisition of NIE's Transmission and Distribution (T&D) will provide opportunities to harmonise and curtail energy prices.


"The benefits to consumers of one energy T&D provider are obvious. It will assist in all-Ireland harmonisation and should deliver efficiencies through elimination of duplication of resources resulting in lower energy prices to consumers.


“I believe that in recent years the Energy sector has demonstrated through its collaborative approach that it can deliver benefits for consumers throughout the island. Perhaps the purchase of NIE’s T&D is an opportune time to consider establishing a common remit for utility regulators North & South or even amalgamating the two offices.”

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Reacting to reports that the Orange Order has rejected the new proposals on Parades currently going through the Assembly, Sinn Féin Assembly member John O’Dowd said:

“These proposals are about trying to improve the current framework for dealing with the issue of contentious parades. It is our belief that this is what will be achieved by the end of the legislative process. No doubt this reality is the rational behind the position the Order have adopted. This legislation is solely about the issue of contentious parades and related protests and not about Trade Unions, Churches or other gatherings.

“What the Orange Order need to do is wake up and realise that they no longer pull the strings. The days of the Orange Order dictating policy are over. The days of the Orange State have gone. This legislation came about as the result of a political agreement between elected parties. It is now going through the legislative process in the Assembly, including the consultation period. That is how is should be, not decided in the backroom of some Orange Hall. The fact that the Orange Order has not even made a submission to the consultation shows the contempt they have for the normal democratic process.

“It seems that at every opportunity the Orange Order deliberately seek to raise tensions around parades. They insist on marching through a small number of areas were they are not wanted. They refuse to talk to Sinn Féin. They join forces with the British far right to oppose the papal visit to England. And now on the verge of the Twelfth they reject the new framework. All of this flies in the face of ongoing work to maintain calm over the summer months.

“It is high time the Orange Order dealt with the new political realities here. It is time they made their contribution to the development of the peace process. It is time that they stopped holding society here to ransom summer after summer.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, has said that Taoiseach Brian Cowen is in denial on the reality of cuts to services for disabled people and carers. Speaking as people protested in Dublin on the disability cuts, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“Both yesterday and today in the Dáil the Taoiseach Brian Cowen has been in denial on the reality of the impact of cuts to services for disabled people and their carers and families. He has claimed that ‘no decision’ was made to impose the cuts. But these cuts are a reality. Respite and day care has been cut. Staff providing front-line care have been cut. Disabled people, carers, families have been effected.

“The Taoiseach has spoken of a need to reorganise services. What is the nature of the re-organisation the Taoiseach is talking about? Where are the plans and proposals? What guarantees have disabled people and their families that services will be restored?

“We are told meetings are now to take place between Ministers and service providers. These meetings would not be taking place at all but for the protests by disabled people and their carers. Clearly the Government, was prepared to hide behind the HSE while the HSE wielded the axe. They have had to be flushed out by public protest.

“The Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil/Green Government must listen to the voice of people protesting today and reverse these savage cutbacks.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Seán Crowe has said unemployment in Tallaght is spiralling out of control as new figures showed that only Limerick City, Cork City and Waterford have higher numbers of unemployed.

Councillor Crowe said all the talk of emerging from recession means nothing unless the real issue of unemployment is addressed.

He said:

“The Government must bring forward a credible jobs creation strategy. Unemployment in Tallaght is out of control with 10,662 people now signing on, an increase of 240 in the past month alone. If this rate of growth continues there will be 12,000 people unemployed in Tallaght by the end of the year. This cannot go unchallenged.

“All the talk of emerging from recession will mean nothing to ordinary people unless the ongoing jobs crisis is tackled.

“It certainly means nothing to the 10,662 people that sign on the dole in Tallaght Social Welfare office or the 444,900 unemployed state wide.

“Sinn Féin has put forward more than 80 proposals to retain and create jobs including a €300 million jobs retention fund to subsidise small and medium sized enterprises and a youth jobs fund to create 20,000 jobs for the young unemployed. We have called for investment in infrastructure, the fast tracking of business start ups and the creation of a sales Ireland strategy.

“We have shown how these proposals could be funded but the Government has opted to cut public spending rather than invest in job creation and job retention initiatives. This has led to further job losses, pay cuts and a drop in consumer confidence. It has doubly punished those who have lost their jobs as social welfare rates have also been cut.

“It is time for a change of direction but, that won’t happen with this Government.”

“They continue to reward, employ and support with tax-payer’s hard earned money those who created the crisis in our economy. The jobless queues are getting longer and the sad reality is that there is no real hope of a job recovery for most of them.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Policing and Justice Spokesperson Alex Maskey MLA has today once again called for a complete ban on the use of plastic bullets. Mr Maskey, who sits on the Policing Board, made the call after a number of young people were injured during disturbances in the Broadway area.

Speaking this evening Mr Maskey said;

“Once again I am calling for a complete ban on plastic bullets, they are deadly weapons and are not an effective form of dealing with the violence we seen on the Donegal Road over a number of nights.

Since rubber bullets were first introduced in the early 1970s and then replaced by plastic bullets, seventeen people, 9 of them children and teenagers, have been killed by these lethal weapons.
Thousands more have been injured, many of them scarred and disabled for life.
In 2007, then Chief Constable Hugh Orde said that plastic bullets, “will not be used for the purposes of public order/crowd control”.

The fact that the PSNI weren’t even aware of how many people had been injured by plastic bullets during the disturbances simply highlights further the indiscriminate nature of these weapons.

I have contacted Chief Contstable Matt Baggott this afternoon highlighting Sinn Féin’s concerns and our total opposition to the use of these deadly weapons and will continue to work in the time ahead to ensure they are banned totally.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Transport Senator Pearse Doherty has hit out at the proposals to scrap forty major road projects while at the same time almost half a million people are on the dole queues and crying out for work.

Senator Doherty said that this government is taking an axe to the National Development Plan which, although flawed is regrettably the only form of economic stimulus this government is offering. To make such cuts now is an exercise in economic lunacy.

Speaking from Leinster House Senator Doherty said:

“Revelations today that 40 major roads projects are to be scrapped is a shocking indictment of a government who think they can cut their way out of a recession and come out the other end unscathed. They are wrong and this decision will not just impact on the condition of our roads but will have very real consequences for jobs and attracting inward investment long into the future.

“70,000 people, mainly construction workers depend on these capital expenditure programmes for work. With almost half a million people already on the dole, the fact that this government would do anything but invest in capital projects is outrageous.

“40 projects are being scrapped with 1 in 8 of them in my own county Donegal. The N13 Stranorlar to Derry road; N14 Letterkenny to Lifford road; N15 Lifford to Ballybofey/Stranorlar road; N56 Inver to Killybegs Road and the N56 Letterkenny relief road are all affected.

“To take an axe to the National Development Plan in such a way is an exercise in economic lunacy. The NDP is by no means perfect but it did offer communities some form of stimulus and job opportunities.

“We need investment in capital projects, we need to make use of our skilled workforce in building the roads, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure that will ultimately benefit the economy and society in years to come. Our roads need to be of a decent standard in order to attract investment. Ultimately cutting spending and scrapping projects can only be bad news for the future prospects of our economy.”ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Assembly Team, including MLA’s, Ministers, party support staff and many activists from across the Six Counties met in Stormont today to discuss key priorities and objectives as the Assembly breaks for summer recess.

Speaking after the meetings took place in the Assembly, Group Leader John O’Dowd MLA said;

“The beginning of the summer recess is an opportune time for activists to come together and plan ahead. Each year Sinn Féin holds a ‘planning away day’ to prioritise and strategise for the upcoming Assembly term, today’s meetings were the beginning of this process.

As we face difficult economic times Sinn Féin is committed to ensuring that our party is prepared for the challenges ahead.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health & Children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has said that it is a scandal that disabled people, carers and families have to take to the streets again to protest at savage Government-imposed cutbacks to their services. Speaking on the eve of the national protest in Dublin tomorrow (Wednesday), Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health & Children must intervene immediately to reverse the savage cuts being imposed by the HSE on services for people with disabilities, including severely intellectually disabled children.

“These cuts are resulting in the termination or drastic curtailment of already limited respite and day care, imposing a huge burden on hard-pressed parents and other carers who must provide 24-hour a day, 7-days per week care.

“The laying off of staff will lead to the re-institutionalisation of disabled people as they will not be able to be supported in community settings. This would be totally contrary to best practice and long-established Government policy.

“Successive Governments, having failed to provide a comprehensive system of care directly, have relied on bodies such as the Brothers of Charity and the Daughters of Charity to make services available. Now their funding is being savagely cut. It is a disgrace.

“The savage cuts to services are forcing disabled people, carers and families to take to the streets in protest. This is a huge scandal and the cuts must be reversed. I offer my full support and solidarity and that of Sinn Féin with Wednesday’s national protest in Dublin called by Inclusion Ireland.”
• Note to Editor: The Inclusion Ireland Protest begins at 12 noon Parnell Square, march to Dáil, Wednesday, 7 July.

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Commenting on a DUP debate in Westminster on issues of truth today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue Francie Molloy said:

“To date the DUP have failed to bring forward any proposals on effectively dealing with the past. Instead they have sought to politicise the issue and seek to create a hierarchy of victims through a change to the definition.

“When Eames/Bradley was published the DUP binned it without even reading the full document. No doubt we will get more of the same grandstanding in Westminster today.

“Sinn Féin have made it clear that it is our view that what is required is a victim centred international, independent truth recovery process. Republicans have made it clear that we would participate in such a body. Maybe the DUP will make it clear whether they would participate in such a process also. Maybe then the truth about the DUP formed Third Force or Ulster Resistance, the only Unionist gang yet to engage with the IICD, will be revealed.

“So rather than playing to the gallery in Westminster it would suit Willie McCrea better if he actually engaged on the issue of truth recovery and came at it with the needs of victims at the centre rather than internal DUP politics.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth, Arthur Morgan has called on the Government to abandon its plans to forcibly relocate Asylum seekers from Mosney to other locations in Dublin city centre. He said while conditions in Mosney weren’t ideal, those living there – some for over five years – had built a community with supports and friendships firmly established.

Deputy Morgan said, “If the Government is serious about making inroads in to the financial burden that the asylum system is putting on exchequer then they need to address the unjustifiably long process that is involved in establishing whether somebody is entitled to asylum or not. It is a crazy situation where somebody can be in the process for five and six years – where they are not allowed to work and where they are totally dependent on state subvention.

“We have almost 500,000 people unemployed in this state. Surely there exists amongst that number people who have the expertise and human rights knowledge to process asylum applications. If a handful of them were employed it has the potential to significantly reduce the overall burden on the taxpayer by speeding up the process.

“We are dealing with human beings here – there needs to be compassion and certainty. It is not fair on one hand to be continually shifting people from pillar to post at short notice while at the same time there is so much uncertainty about how long the process is going to take.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for mid-Ulster Michelle O’Neill, responding to comments made this morning by the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, has said that Sinn Féin won’t take ‘lectures’ from him regarding the Health Budget.

Speaking in Stormont this morning Ms O’Neill said;

“Michael McGimpsey needs to start acting like a Minister, he needs to stop blaming everyone else for the economic realities facing society here, he needs to start attending important meetings like the north-south ministerial council, where health issues are on the agenda, and he needs to start making himself more available to face questioning in the Assembly chamber on important matters relating to health. The Minister said this morning he believes people here ‘deserve a wee bit of honesty’ so it is high time the Minister starts being honest about the realities within his own department.

Mr McGimpsey’s tenure has seen £16 million being paid out in ‘golden handshakes’ to managers in the NHS within the space of one year. This is not an efficient way run the health system. Add to this the report by the Auditor General, criticising the vast amount of wastage within the department and the reality of Michael McGimpsey’s failure as Minister starts to become clear.

The only person seeking to be political here is the Minister; he has adopted a stance where he simply wishes to blame everyone else for the glaringly obvious failings within his Department. While he continues to allow over £11 million per annum to be spent on bonuses the public will know who is really letting them down and who needs to start being ‘a wee bit honest’.

Sinn Féin will continue to stand in defence of frontline services and staff, we will continue to highlight and oppose the sickening position of the department, which is seemingly about protecting the highest paid bureaucrats as opposed to the men and women who make our healthcare system work and the people who avail of it day in and day out.” CRÍOCH

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Commenting ahead of final stage of the debate on the Headshops Bill due to take place this evening, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has revealed that the Government has failed to warn the public of headshop dangers. He said there has been no “national awareness campaign on the threat posed by so-called legal highs to public health”. He said that in the absence of robust legislation to deal with the problem that such a national campaign was the very minimum the Government should have engaged in.

The Dublin South Central TD said, “The Government have talked a lot about their 'multi-pronged' approach to head shops but the most important prong has been missing.

“From the answers I have received to questions put to numerous Government departments it is very clear that there has been no national awareness campaign on the threat posed by so-called legal highs to public health. No radio ads, no bill boards, no real effort to widely communicate the warning that head shop highs are dangerous. The good work being done by local groups and bodies should be immediately supplemented with a national campaign.

“A page on a website does not constitute a national awareness campaign. Nor have the Government done anything to protect young people from head shops via the formal education system.

“We have been warning government of the dangers for four and a half years. The dangers of the substances really hit the headlines from October 2009 onwards. So there was almost a whole school year during which the Minister for Education could have but didn't introduce any measure focusing specifically on the emerging phenomenon of head shops. Instead during this period the government emasculated the drugs education supports available to schools through a series of devastating staff cuts.

“We appreciate that drafting legislation on a complex issue such as this is difficult and that it takes time. It took me months to draft my own Non-medicinal Psychoactive Substances Bill published last April. But an effective awareness campaign should have been sanctioned, developed and implemented almost overnight.

“The government's failure to do so allowed a wide demand for these substances to be created resulting in a category of people developing drug dependencies who may otherwise never have engaged in substance misuse.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin North East Councillor Larry O'Toole was asked to leave the meeting of Dublin City Council this evening (Monday) after he protested over the refusal of Fine Gael Lord Mayor Gerry Breen to accept a motion designed to save three City Council swimming pools threatened with closure.

Cllr. O'Toole said:

“The refusal to accept this motion was an attempt to silence community anger at the forthcoming closure of three swimming pools at Coolock, Seán McDermott Street and Crumlin. Our motion proposed an alternative funding model which can save the swimming pools from closure later this year.

“Obviously the ruling Fine Gael/Labour alliance on the Council wants to keep the spotlight off the fact that it was their flawed budget for the Council that resulted in the decision to close the pools. A stay of execution is no use. We want these pools kept open and improved and promoted for community use and our campaign will continue in the Council and on the streets.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly Group Leader John O’Dowd has said briefings from the British Treasury over the weekend predicting 40% cuts in public spending, brought into even starker contrast the folly of the decision by Edwin Poots to squander over £400m in savings by rejecting the RPA.

Mr O’Dowd said:

“The only way in which the Executive is going to be able to protect frontline services and the most vulnerable in our society who depend most upon them is by cutting back on the bureaucracy and directing the savings into public services.

“Everyone knows the agenda being set by the Tory government in London. Everyone knows the difficult economic climate we are operating in. The briefings at the weekend predicting 40% cuts in public spending are part of all of that. All the more shameful then, for Edwin Poots to squander over £400m in savings which would be generated by the RPA.

“And people need to be clear why Mr Poots went down the road he did. He took the decision to waste scarce resources because he couldn’t deal with the checks and balances contained in the new plan for local government which would have seen the days of unionist fiefdoms like Lisburn banished to the past and he wanted to gerrymander the boundaries in defiance of the commission.

“Edwin Poots has undoubtedly weakened the Executives hand in trying to protect frontline services. He put narrow party political interests in front of the need to ensure that vital public services have the necessary finance to continue delivering for communities.” ENDS

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One of the world’s leading universities could be set to locate a cutting-edge research lab in Derry, local Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said.
Ms. Anderson was speaking as a delegation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) prepares to visit Derry this week to scout possible locations for a so-called ‘Fab Lab’.


“Fab labs began as an outreach project from MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) and are now operational in 16 countries across the world,” Ms. Anderson commented.


“Activities in fab labs range from technological empowerment to peer-to-peer project-based technical training to local problem-solving to small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research. Projects being developed and produced in fab labs include solar and wind-powered turbines, thin-client computers and wireless data networks, analytical instrumentation for agriculture and healthcare, custom housing, and rapid-prototyping of rapid-prototyping machines.


“MIT are keen on locating a fab lab in the North of Ireland and I believe it would be a huge benefit for Derry if was to come here.


“I have already discussed the potential for a fab lab in Derry with the President of the Massachusetts Senate, Senator Therese Murray and I am engaging with Invest NI to ensure that Derry is given every opportunity to host this exciting facility.” CRÍOCH

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