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Sinn Féin stands for equality and protecting the most vulnerable. Our progressive politics and commitment to the rights of citizens is the only alternative to the extreme austerity agenda of the British government. A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for real and lasting positive change.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has said Sinn Féin's progressive politics is the only alternative to austerity.


Some of the sights and sounds of today's massive Right2Water rally on Dublin's O'Connell Street this afternoon (March 21).  Reports that up to...



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has welcomed a proposed 25 per cent cut in the fees barristers charge for government work, as well as the proposal to introduce a more transparent pricing system that will hopefully reduce legal fees to the State.

Describing the changes as “long overdue”, Deputy Crowe said that plans by the State Claims Agency to cut legal charges by up to 25 per cent in a new system which will set maximum fee limits for specific elements of work performed by barristers must be implemented without delay.

Deputy Crowe said:

“The State Claims Agency, which deals with personal injury and property damage claims against 54 state bodies aims to have in place a scheme which would reduce the pay of barristers by mid-November. This follows a similar initiative two years ago which the agency claims will cut fees by between 20 and 25 per cent.

“The massively excessive fees paid to barristers and solicitors over the past decade and beyond should have been capped by the previous governments. The tribunals into planning and corrupt payments to politicians became a “gravy train” that cost the State and tax payers hundreds of millions in legal fees. We know from a breakdown of the fees paid out, that it also made multi-millionaires of many people working in the legal profession.

“One of the worst examples of this flawed system was the money that was paid to the legal profession under the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which was established to compensate the survivors of residential abuse. In 2010, €157m had been paid in legal fees to barristers and solicitors who worked on behalf of the victims of institutional abuse which was more than 15% of all the money paid out as part of the Redress Scheme for thousands of people who suffered horrific sexual and physical abuse in Industrial Schools and other Institutions.

“This was never what the Redress Board was supposed to be about.

“The millions spent in processing claims while many victims got a pittance added to the sense of hurt and should have gone directly to the victims and their families.

“I hope these changes signal a new approach and will ensure that the excessive amounts of money paid to barristers in the past from the state purse will never again be repeated.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has called on the University of Ulster to immediately clarify to individual students whether they have or haven’t been offered places at the campus.

His comment follows the revelation that more than 400 students were told via e-mail that they were getting a place at the university only to have the offers withdrawn hours later.
Mr McElduff said,

“Not only has this caused immense disappointment amongst the students but also created uncertainty and confusion as to who is actually going to be offered a place at the university.
“The University of Ulster needs to clarify to the students immediately at to which offer is genuine and make sure this will not be allowed to happen again.”

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The Sinn Féin TD for Meath West Peadar Tóibín, who is the cathaoirleach of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign, has stated that “essential services at hospitals in the HSE north east region will not be viable if new government cuts go ahead.”

According to Deputy Tóibín it has come to his attention that “the HSE aims to strip hospitals in the north east of all agency staff working at the hospital. This is the latest blow to our own hospital in Navan which was just two weeks ago reeling from the announcement by the HSE that it sought to cut overnight A&E at the hospital, a cut which is being opposed by over 100 local doctors.

“Although Our Lady’s Hospital Navan is not the only hospital which will see its agency staff cut, it will suffer greater proportionally. It is my understanding that a significant number of permanent staff at Navan Hospital have been transferred to Drogheda over that last few years and have been replaced by agency staff in Navan. Agency staff cost the state 1.8 times that of a full time staff member.

“Between 80 and 100 nurses and midwives will be cut over a six week period, not to mention speech therapists, cardiac technicians, laboratory technicians and many others. None of these will be replaced unless the moratorium on employing staff in the health services is lifted. This is being planned at a time when Drogheda has the biggest trolley waiting list in the state.

“I have written to all the government TDs in the county to ask them to stand with the hospital campaign in preventing the overnight A&E closure and the culling of critical agency staff. Government TDs voted for a €750 million cut to the HSE budget last December which is directly leading to these cuts. They will be asked by their Ministers to vote for similar cuts again this December. The actions of the government TDs directly determine whether we have a functioning hospital in Meath or not. I am asking them to make that choice now and stand up for Our Lady’s Hospital Navan.”

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Responding to an Irish Independent report on the attendance in the Dáil of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said:

“The Irish Independent’s figures relate only for the period from January to June. The paper ignores July when the Dáil sat 11 days and the Sinn Féin leader was present for each day.

“So far this year Gerry Adams has attended 62 out of the 79 sitting days. This is a 78.5% attendance record on sitting days. On at least one of the days Gerry Adams was in attendance but did not sign in.

“The Sinn Féin President – who is the leader of the only all-Ireland party - has also attended the Dáil on 16 non sitting days, which makes a total of 78 days, to carry out his Dáil and constituency duties.

“In his first year as a TD Gerry Adams fulfilled the requisite number of attendance days and according to KildareStreet.com, Gerry Adams has spoken in 249 debates in the last year — well above average among TDs, and has received answers to 852 written questions in the last year — well above average among TDs.

“While Mr. Adams fully carries out his Dáil duties in holding the Taoiseach to account, the Sinn Féin President makes no apologies for taking time to travel to constituencies across the state – in particular in rural Ireland - to meet with those communities and citizens suffering as a result of this Government’s policies of austerity.

“Mr. Adams was also involved in the Referendum campaign.

“This combined with days when he was unable to attend due to bereavements and several days when he was off due to personal injury account for his Dáil attendance figures.

“With regard to Leaders’ Questions it has become the norm for the Deputy Leader of all parties to take this debate on a Thursday, with the Taoiseach generally being replaced by Eamon Gilmore.  Our own Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has played an effective role in this regard and has provided strong opposition during these debates.

“Gerry Adams is an effective Dáil and constituency representative for the people of Louth and East Meath and party leader for Sinn Féin.

“The success of this work and the effectiveness of Sinn Féin’s alternative policies can be seen in the strong support for Sinn Féin and for Gerry Adams as party leader in Opinion polls since the last general election.”

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Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has said the decision by the children's Charity Barnardos to close its offices and services in the State for a week highlights the difficult financial pressures being experienced by Advocacy Groups and Charitable Organisations.

Deputy Crowe said:

“I understand the decision taken by Barnardos to close its offices for a week was made in late 2011 as a drastic cost saving measure to protect their services to children and families. This drastic measure was in response to increased financial pressure following cuts to Barnardos statutory income and a decline in voluntary contributions. While all of Barnardos services are closed this week, the Charity's seven shops will remain open.

“The suspension of Barnardos services comes at a time when there are increasing demands being placed on all groups dealing with poverty and disadvantage. It reflects the growing hardship being experienced by families who are struggling to cope in the face of rising unemployment, falling wages, cuts to benefits and increases in the cost of living.

“Organisations like Barnardos are on the frontline when dealing with these issues and they are often the last resource available to people who are experiencing the worst effects of the recession.

“It is a tribute to the commitment of their workers and highly commendable that the Barnardos staff voluntarily suspended their salary costs for a week to ensure services could continue. This important measure is more evidence of the staff’s commitment and dedication to the important work they are carrying out every day.

“Clearly however, the funding shortages being experienced by Barnardos are not sustainable and are compromising the important work they carry out with children and families and it is an issue that this Government must urgently address.

“With the rise in those at risk or already living in abject poverty and in the face of falling donations, it is essential that Barnardos and other charity organisations receive the necessary support that allows them to fulfil their important role in helping and supporting people who are most in need.”

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said threats by an armed vigilante gang in a reported dispute over bonfire material in Derry stands in stark contrast to the work carried out in the city by community groups offering positive alternatives to bonfires.

The Derry MLA said:

"People will find it incredible that a number of teenagers from Creggan have been issued with a death threat and ordered to leave Derry in 24 hours in a reported dispute over bonfire material. There is a lot of anger and frustration in the area about the actions of these self-appointed armed groups.

“This stands in stark contrast to the outstanding work carried out right across the city in the last few weeks by community organisations offering positive alternatives to bonfires.

"The seriousness of this situation cannot be understated and I condemn those behind these latest death threats. The local community is demanding that these armed gangs, no matter what umbrella or names they operate under, disband and lift the atmosphere of intimidation hanging over the Creggan community.

"I repeat our party's call earlier this year to anyone involved with vigilante groups, who has any concern for the people of Derry and wider area, to stop and examine the negative impact of their actions.

"They should walk away from those who are directing this community intimidation before they inflict further hurt on their own people.”

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Sinn Fein's Welfare Rights spokesperson Mickey Brady has appealed for people to respond promptly to the Department of Social Development's consultation on benefits assessments.

The Newry and Armagh MLA said:

"Many of us working in the welfare sector would have concerns about the processes of the WCA (Work Capability Assessment) and its impact on our most vulnerable citizens.

“Therefore I am appealing to groups and individuals, particularly within the disability/mental health sectors and those that have already fallen foul of the system to bring that evidence forward and help us challenge and change this system.

“The Social Development Minister has launched a short consultation on the Work Capability Assessment process which closes on September 14th and its vital evidence is presented by those that know best such as advice workers and clients.

“There is no doubt that within our communities people are fearful of the whole Tory welfare reform agenda and through using our influence and presenting the facts we are seeking to protect those worst affected.

“I've written today to a range of groups in the sector appealing for them to avail of this opportunity and demonstrate the negative impact being experienced by many people undergoing this assessment process."


*NOTE
The document is available at:
http://www.dsdni.gov.uk/consultations-call-for-evidence.htm

Responses should be sent to:
wca.review@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

The consultation runs until 14/09/2012

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Commenting on the threat of legal action against people who have not paid the Household Charge, Sinn Féin Local Government spokesperson Brian Stanley TD said the charge is both unfair and a failure in terms of revenue-raising and should be abolished.

He said:

“The threat of legal action against hundreds of thousands of people for non-payment of the Household Charge only goes to show what a massive failure this unfair charge has been. The Local Government Management Agency, at the behest of Minister Phil Hogan, is now attempting to frighten people into paying by sending further warning letters and raising the prospect of legal action. How much is it going to cost to haul such a huge number of people before the courts?

“This unjust charge has been a complete failure in terms of revenue raising, yet the Fine Gael/Labour government has made local government dependent upon it, fully realising that major cuts in services will result.

“The Household Charge should be abolished once and for all and a fair taxation strategy put in its place, ensuring that those on higher incomes pay their proper share and that real wealth is taxed.”

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has called on the Government to reduce the 23% VAT rate on electronic school books so that the saving can be passed on directly to students and their parents.

The Dublin South West TD was supporting calls from the Irish Education Publishers’ Association (IEPA) who claim that the 23% rate means parents and schoolchildren are not getting the full benefit from e-books.

Deputy Crowe said:

“The cost of school books rises as children pass through the education system, with parents being charged on average between €50 and €100 for books for a junior infants pupil and over €250 for a first year pupil. Another factor is the high cost and constant changing of books used in the school curriculum system. Unless more and more schools implement a book rental scheme many parents will continue to struggle to meet payments for their children's education.

"We also know that the volume and weight of schoolbooks has impacted negatively on the health of children and has become an increased problem in recent years for students of all sizes and ages. The problems of their weight has been raised by Irish educators, parents groups and teachers representatives in various fora and education conferences down through the years.

"The Minister Ruairí Quinn and the Department of Education needs to show initiative and greater imagination when addressing the issue of books and e-books and their long term impact on Irish students.

“Over one third of Irish schools use an electronic version of a book which imposes an initially high cost on parents when paying for a table computer to read them on. This is supposed to be off-set through the use of e-books which are meant to be cheaper in the long-term with costs down to between 20% – 35%. However, if claims by the Irish Educational Publishers Association (IEPA) are correct, then the 23% VAT rate being charged on electronic books means any potential savings are being cancelled out.

“It is simply not good enough for Finance Minister Michael Noonan to rule out reducing the VAT on e-books by blaming EU laws which require all digitised publications to be treated as a supply of service. Electronic school books are essential to a child’s education and they should be exempt from the excessive VAT rate of 23%.

"I fully support the IEPA in its call for a reduction in the VAT rate, Finance Minister Michael Noonan needs to wake up to the negative impact this unfair tax is having on Irish parents and encourage the greater roll out of e -books in the Irish education system."

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Mary Lou McDonald TD