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Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín has welcomed a commitment he received from the Minister for Education Rúairí Quinn that Irish will remain a compulsory subject for the Leaving Cert.

Minister Quinn gave the assurance in the Dáil this afternoon after being questioned by Deputy Tóibín.

Speaking afterwards Deputy Tóibín said:

“I welcome the commitment from the Minister today that Irish will be retained as a compulsory subject for the leaving cert examination.

“There were genuine fears among the electorate during the course of the election that a new Fine Gael led Government would do away with Irish as a compulsory language at leaving cert level.

“Sinn Féin is committed to the protection and restoration of the Irish language. Rather than taking measures that will contribute to the dissolution of Irish, we believe the state should in fact be taking constructive steps to strengthen, support and encourage its growth.

“There needs to be an overhaul of the Irish language syllabus in order to make it more communicative and there should be a shift in the balance of marks awarded in examinations in favour of oral and aural competence.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Sean Crowe has called on Labour Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn not to implement the proposed cap on Special Needs Assistants.

Describing the cap as ‘a travesty’ Deputy Crowe said that pupils should be allocated Special Needs Assistants based on educational need alone.

Deputy Crowe said:

“It is not acceptable that children with special needs would go without the appropriate support to see them through their education. Leaving children without these supports is a travesty.

“Pupils should be allocated Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) based on educational need alone.

“SNAs are not overpaid, quite the opposite, they receive just a little more than the minimum wage – less than €12 an hour. Money can be saved elsewhere. This is about priorities and looking after the educational prospects of our most vulnerable children must be made a priority.

“The SNA cut is a nightmare for schools but an even bigger nightmare for families of children with special needs.

“I am asking the new Minister for Education and Skills to make a stand for children with Special Educational Needs. I welcome his commitment to review the arbitrary deadline for the awarding of SNAs. This deadline makes no sense to schools considering that there is no way of knowing how many new entrants have special needs and how many newly diagnosed children there will be.

The Minister must ensure that children with Special Educational Needs have access to an SNA based on educational need alone and not on how many SNAs the Government is willing to pay.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has today formally launched the party's candidates for the upcoming Seanad elections.

The party will be contesting the Agricultural, Labour, Industrial and Commercial and NUI panels.

Speaking from the launch Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said that the party will campaign for a radically reformed, fully inclusive Seanad that is elected by universal suffrage by the people of Ireland north and south.

Deputy Adams said:

“I am pleased to announce our 4 Seanad candidates who will contest the Agricultural, Labour, Industrial and Commercial and NUI panels. They are Trevor Ó Clochairtaigh, David Cullinan, Kathryn Reilly and Eoin O'Broin.

“Our candidates are standing for a new reformed Seanad, elected by universal suffrage by the people of Ireland north and south, a Seanad that is fully inclusive and representative, a Seanad that works.

“We will use this election to put forward our platform our proposals for real social, economic and political change, for Irish unity and for a radically reformed Seanad.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said Enda Kenny must explain to the Irish people why he has not stood up for Ireland’s interests at the EU Summit meeting today after the issue of the interest rate on the EU/IMF loan was taken off the agenda.

Mr Adams said the issue of the interest rate on the loan was a key plank of Fine Gael’s election campaign and the Taoiseach majored on his intention to deal with this issue at this Summit.

He said:

“Before the Summit even began Enda Kenny had failed to stand up for Ireland’s interests by allowing the issue of the interest on the loan to be taken off the table.

“This was a key plank of Fine Gael’s election campaign and Irish people had been led to believe that the new Taoiseach would begin negotiations at this Summit.

“The real issue that should be discussed at this EU Summit meeting is Ireland’s inability to repay this loan and our inability to sustain the debt.

“With yields on ten year Irish bonds passing the 10% mark today we are in very dangerous territory and cannot afford to put negotiations off any further.

“All parties have moved closer to the Sinn Féin position that there needs to be some form of burden sharing but we cannot continue to kick the can down the road to 2013. Ireland simply cannot afford to wait that long.” ENDS

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For Immediate Release - 24th March 2010

“Action needed on hospital super-bugs” – Ó Caoláin

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called on Health Minister James Reilly to take immediate action to address the growing menace of drug-resistant hospital-based infections, commonly known as super-bugs. The call follows the recent outbreak of KPC at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The recent outbreak of KPC is a cause of major concern, adding to the concern over the prevalence of MRSA and C-Difficile in our hospitals.

“In November 2009 in an open letter I challenged former Health Minister Harney at the time of a C-Difficile outbreak in North-East hospitals. I stated that the Minister’s policy of centralisation of hospital services, as well as current and further proposed cutbacks affecting staff and other resources, will make the battle against hospital-based infections much more difficult.

“That has proven to be the case. The latest outbreak of KPC has occurred in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick which has experienced serious over-crowding as a result of cuts to services at Ennis General Hospital and other health cutbacks.

“In Opposition Deputy James Reilly was vocal in his calls for action on this matter, identifying over-crowding in our hospitals as the major contributing factor.

“Minister Reilly should now act. He should open closed hospital wards and beds across the State, ensure the provision of single rooms for patients with these infections and end the recruitment embargo for front-line hospital care providers.”

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Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson Alex Maskey MLA commenting after the publication of the PSNI’s three year policing plan has said that regardless of what plans are put in place, they must be firmly based in garnering community support.

Speaking this afternoon Mr Maskey, who sits on the Policing Board, said;

“I welcome the publication of today’s report.

However, in discussions with the Chief Constable over recent times, Sinn Féin has made it clear that any police service worth its salt, purporting to represent the community, must ensure that it has the necessary support of the people. We have seen in recent times, not least around the issue of balanced representation and for people like the McGurk’s Families, that the PSNI still has some way to travel.

For our part we will continue to ensure that we work to ensure our people have a Policing Service which is embedded in the community with the support of all of our people.” CRÍOCH

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For Immediate Release - 24th March 2011

Government must address fuel poverty crisis – Ó Snodaigh

Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on the Government to take urgent action on the fuel poverty crisis which has seen thousands of families struggling to pay bills.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“2,500 households have had their gas and electricity cut off in the first two months of the year. 150,000 ESB customers are experiencing debt difficulties and 11,000 Bord Gáis households are currently at risk of disconnection.

“This is a crisis situation and one which is only going to get worse. Options like making a prepaid meter facility available to those who request it should be explored. This facility could and should be made available at no additional charge to families.

“Without urgent intervention thousands of families will find themselves without essential household fuels – this is the reality. The Government must take action now to address this crisis.”

ENDS

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For immediate release, Thursday, March 24

Ferris to raise apparent contradiction regarding proposed sale of Coillte

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris TD, raised the issue of a possible sale of Coillte in the Dáil this morning. The Kerry North/Limerick West TD has tabled a motion under standing orders highlighting the apparent contradiction between the position of An Taoiseach and that of his ministers in relation to a possible sale.

Deputy Ferris said: “Both Labour and Fine Gael stated during the election that they would not sell Coillte or its land or forestry holdings. On Tuesday, An Taoiseach responded to Gerry Adams by stating that his Government would not sell off the company.

“However, in replies to questions of mine both the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Finance both said that no decision has yet been made regarding a sale either in part or in whole of the company or its land and forestry holdings. They both also state that the decision will be made in the light of the recommendations of the McCarthy report on state assets.

“Given that media leaks have already suggested that some form of sell off is going to be recommended I am calling for the report to be published as soon as it is received by the Government and that a full debate be held here prior to any decision being made on the scale of the sell off which is likely to be recommended and which is already part of the Programme for Government.”

ENDS

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Responding to news that the interest rate on the EU/IMF loan will not be discussed at tomorrow’s EU Summit meeting Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Padraig MacLochlainn has said the real issue is the affordability of the loan and the sustainability of the debt.

Speaking from Brussells this evening Deputy MacLochlainn said:

“We all know that the Government will secure some sort of reduction on the interest rate and that we will retain our corporation tax rate.

“While these are important issues the fact is that they are side issues.

“The real issue that should be discussed at this EU Summit meeting is Ireland’s ability to afford this loan and our ability to sustain the debt.

“All parties in the Dáil have come round to the Sinn Féin’s view that the debt is unsustainable and that there will have to be some sort of burden sharing.

“However, the Government seems content to kick the can down the road to 2013. This is not a realistic option for Ireland. We need action now.

“Sinn Féin would have come to tomorrow’s meeting armed with a commitment to put the bailout to the Irish people in a referendum. Such a commitment would significantly strengthen the Government’s hand in negotiations taking place tomorrow.

“It is also the democratic way to proceed. Sinn Féin believes that if the people are been asked to pay then they should have their say.” ENDS

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The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, under questioning from Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty today, indicated that he will bring forward revenue raising measures to the tune of €1.5 billion.

Questioning the Minister during question time, Deputy Doherty asked:

“Will we see a mini-budget from the Government that will entail a significant revenue raising exercise to offset or, as the Minister said, counterbalance the proposals outlined in the programme for Government.”

The Minister for Finance responded:

“Of course, we will bring forward counterbalancing measures. The Department of Finance is examining a range of such measures.”

Speaking afterwards, Deputy Doherty said:

“As part of the jobs fund that will be introduced in June the Minister will bring forward revenue raising measures of at least €1.5 billion between now and 2013.

“This is on top of the other measures outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding with the EU/IMF which include water tax and property taxes.

“While it is not clear where these additional revenues will come from, it is clear given the track record of this Government that they are following in the footsteps of Fianna Fáil, hitting working families and those on social welfare once more.

“Next week the results of the banks stress tests will be announced. But where are the stress tests for ordinary families? Where are the impact assessments of these measures on working families?” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said the postponement of plans for the promised new radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry is a “critical setback for cancer services” and he urged Health Minister James Reilly to take immediate action to avert this postponement.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The announcement by Six-County Health Minister Chris McGimpsey that he has postponed plans for a new radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry is a critical setback for cancer services. Five years ago Health Minister Mary Harney signed an agreement with the authorities in the Six Counties to promote co-operation in cancer services. Altnagelvin was crucial to this with the planned radiotherapy facility there to be made available to patients from County Donegal.

“Access for Donegal patients to Altnagelvin would be essential given the failure of the Irish Government’s cancer care plan to provide any radiation oncology centre north of a line from Dublin to Galway. Now we find that this arrangement is to be nullified as a result of budgetary cuts imposed by the British government in London and health budget decisions made by Health Minister Chris McGimpsey.

“Once again decisions by remote Ministers and bureaucrats in London, Belfast and Dublin are depriving people in the Border Counties of vital health services.

“I urge Health Minister James Reilly to act urgently to try to avert this postponement.” ENDS

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Ag labhairt inniu dúirt Cathaoirleach an Choiste Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta Barra Mac Giolla Dhuibh CTR;

“Tá sé go hiomlán do-ghlactha nach bhfuil an cheart ag Gaeilgeoirí anseo an fhoirm daonáirimh a líonadh isteach i dteanga s’acu féin.

Aontaím go hiomlán le feachtais POBAL agus impím ar dhaoine gearán oifigiúil a scríobh maidir leis an ábhar seo. De réir an Daonáirimh i 2001 tá Gaeilge ag níos mó na 10% de phobal an tuaiscirt, mar sin de tá cearta 167490 (agus tuilleadh ó shin!) daoine nach bhfuil aitheanta ag an Gníomhaireacht Staidrimh agus Taighde.

Níl aon dabht agam go mbeidh líon na nGaeilgeoirí níos mó arís nuair a fhoilsítear an daonáireamh seo agus léireoidh sin an fás suntasach atá ag dul ar aghaidh leis an Ghaeilge go fóill.

Beidh mé fhéin ag scríobh isteach le gearán a dhéanamh agus ag iarraidh cruinniú chomh luath agus is féidir ar an ábhar seo.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed this morning’s commitment by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to meet with the Ballymurphy Massacre Families.

The Sinn Féin leader raised the issue this morning during Taoiseach’s Questions.

Mr. Adams pointed out that last week the relatives of the 11 civilians shot dead by the British Parachute Regiment in August 1971 in the Ballymurphy area gave evidence at a Congressional Hearing in Washington. This was a very welcome development.

He asked the Taoiseach to meet the families soon and to make arrangements through officials and Mr. Kenny agreed to do this.

Speaking after the debate the Sinn Fein leader said:

“In recent years the Ballymurphy families have been involved in a courageous campaign to secure an independent international investigation into the events that led to the death of their loved ones. Eleven civilians, including a local priest and a mother of eight were shot dead over a 36 hour period by the British Parachute Regiment.

“The families have also provided the north’s Attorney General with a full dossier seeking new inquests.

“Regrettably their discussions with the British government have not been productive. Their last meeting with the British Secretary of State was very unsatisfactory.

“The Ballymurphy families deserve the truth and I welcome the Taoiseach’s agreement this morning to meet with them.” ENDS

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has announced funding totalling £6million for soccer and Gaelic games coaching in local primary schools.

Twenty four coaches from the Irish Football Association (IFA) and 32 Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) coaches currently deliver training for over 33,000 children in 551 primary schools across the north of Ireland. The new funding will see the programme sustained over the next four years.

Making the announcement, the Minister said: “I introduced the Primary Sports Programme in 2007 to help improve the health and wellbeing of our children and encourage them to embrace a healthy lifestyle from a young age.

“Getting involved with sport is an excellent way of achieving this. Both Gaelic games and soccer offer many opportunities for young girls and boys to have fun and keep healthy. Not only does such activity tackle and prevent obesity, but it also helps children focus and learn better during class time.

“I believe this is a vital aspect of growing up which is why my Department has to date made available around £5.2 million for the programme. The new funding of £1.5million per year will ensure that the IFA and GAA can continue this excellent work for four more years, ensuring that even more local children can improve their fundamental skills and keep active.

“The 32 GAA and 24 IFA coaches have made a huge contribution to the success of the programme and I pay tribute to them for their enthusiasm and commitment. The coaches have developed a range of fun and engaging mini-games based on their sports which capture the attention of children and embed in them a habit of playing sport, which can only help them as they grow up.”

Notes to editors:

1. Funding of £1.5million will be provided to sustain the Primary Sports Programme during four years of the new budget period, 2011-2015.

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"Ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a dhéanamh leis na daoine sin ar bhain an tragóid dóibh sa tSeapáin, tragóid atá ag dul ar aghaidh go fóill. Is gá dúinn gach rud is féidir linn a dhéanamh chun cuidiú le muintir na Seapáine.

"Maidir leis na ceachtanna is gá dúinn a fhoghlaim san Eoraip, tá ceist a bhaineann le sábháilteacht núicléach go hoscailte ar an gclár anois, go háirithe maidir le 'trialacha struis' atá le déanamh ar ghléasra núicléach san Eoraip. Leis an méid a tharla sa tSeapáin, tá impleachtaí tromchúiseacha i gceist le beartas fuinnimh don AE.

"Taispeánann an tubaiste daonnúil an tábhacht le bogadh chuig Eoraip neamhnúicléach. Tá státchairde de dhíth orainn i dtaca le fuinneamh núicléach de agus is é atá ag teastáil ná infheistíocht ollmhór i bhfoinsí fuinnimh atá inbhuanaithe agus inathnuaite. Caithfear athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an córas rialála do sábháilteacht núicléach fosta " CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today said that the disaster in Japan "shows the importance of moving to a nuclear free Europe"

Speaking in the debate in the European Parliament on the situation in Japan Ms de Brún said:

"I would like to express my sincere condolences to the people affected by the ongoing tragedy in Japan. We must do everything possible to assist the people of Japan.

"As for the lessons we in Europe must draw from this, the question of nuclear safety is now starkly on the agenda, particularly in relation to 'stress tests' to be carried out on nuclear plants in Europe. What has happened in Japan has serious implications for EU energy policy.

"The humanitarian disaster shows the importance of moving to a nuclear free Europe. We need a moratorium on nuclear energy and massive investment in sustainable, renewable sources of energy. We have to review the regulatory system for nuclear safety also " ENDS

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Sinn Fein Equality Spokesperson, Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has slammed the announcement by Michael McGimpsey not to proceed with the Radiotherapy Unit at Altnagelvin.

Martina Anderson said:

“This decision is a political decision not one of affordability. Michael McGimpsey has once more demonstrated that he is the most incompetent Minister in the Executive. If this funding had been required for the City Hospital in his own Constituency there would be no question of not having running costs. But there are no votes for him in Derry

“The Irish government remains committed in its support of this project. It will not be completed for at least four years yet Michael McGimpsey is taking a pre-emptive decision on the last day of this Assembly to refuse to proceed with this crucial facility.

“He claims that there is no funding available yet according to the Appleby Report commissioned by the Minister himself, to assess spending within the Health Department found that in 2008/09 excess spending by the Department on elective and non-elective inpatient and day case procedures was £126million.

“Again although Michael McGimpsey continuously claims to have reduced spending on brand name drugs the Appleby Report contradicts this claim, pointing out that Pharmaceutical costs in the North have risen far faster than elsewhere and are in fact 40% higher than in England.

“This Minister’s incompetency knows no bounds and the electorate of South Belfast would do the rest of us a favour by sending a message to Michael McGimpsey that wherever a Minister plays politics with peoples lives there is a price to pay. They should ensure that he is not re-elected.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed this mornings commitment by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to meet with the Ballymurphy Massacre Families.

The Sinn Féin leader raised the issue this morning during Taoiseach’s Questions.

Mr. Adams pointed out that last week the relatives of the 11 civilians shot dead by the British Parachute Regiment in August 1971 in the Ballymurphy area gave evidence at a Congressional Hearing in Washington. This was a very welcome development.

He asked the Taoiseach to meet the families soon and to make arrangements through officials and Mr. Kenny agreed to do this.

Speaking after the debate the Sinn Fein leader said:

“In recent years the Ballymurphy families have been involved in a courageous campaign to secure an independent international investigation into the events that led to the death of their loved ones. 11 civilians, including a local priest and a mother of eight were shot dead over a 36 hour period by the British Parachute Regiment.

The families have also provided the north’s Attorney General with a full dossier seeking new inquests.

Regrettably their discussions with the British government have not been productive. Their last meeting with the British Secretary of State was very unsatisfactory.

The Ballymurphy families deserve the truth and I welcome the Taoiseach’s agreement this morning to meet with them.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD this morning attacked the ‘unilateral decision by the British Secretary of State on Tuesday to scrap the 50-50 recruitment procedure to the PSNI”.

Mr. Adams was speaking during Taoiseach’s Questions in the Dáil where he raised with the Taoiseach his concerns about important aspects of the Good Friday Agreement and other agreements that have not been implemented. These include a north-south Parliamentary Forum; an independent Consultative Forum; a Bill of Rights and the introduction of An Acht na Gaeilge (an Irish Language Act).

Mr. Adams sought assurances from the Taoiseach that the government will urgently review these issues and discuss how they can best be progressed.

On Tuesday the British Secretary of State announced the ending next Monday of the 50-50 recruitment practice to the PSNI.

The Sinn Féin leader asked the Taoiseach if the British government had consulted with it on this. From the Taoiseach’s reply it would appear it didn’t.

Speaking after the debate Gerry Adams said:

“The Good Friday Agreement was a landmark agreement in the history of this island and of relationships between this island and Britain.

Despite this progress it is a fact that there are a number of serious matters arising from the Good Friday and other agreements that the British government and the Irish government have not implemented.

For example, the various agreements call for the creation of a north-south Parliamentary Forum; an independent Consultative Forum; a Bill of Rights and the introduction of An Acht na Gaeilge (an Irish Language Act).

Of particular concern is the announcement on Monday by the British Secretary of State that the critical policy of 50-50 recruitment to the PSNI is to end.

This is a grievous retrograde step. It is this British Secretary of State conceding to another unionist demand and damaging the great efforts made in recent years to build a policing service that has the support and confidence of the nationalist community.

I have urged the Taoiseach to urgently contact the British Prime Minister and inform him in the strongest possible terms that 50-50 recruitment must not end.

Moroever, it is also a matter of the utmost importance that the Taoiseach meet the British Prime Minister and agree a timetabled, programme of work that can resolve all these outstanding issues.

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Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness MP speaking in the Assembly today on the last day of this mandate said:

“I would like to pay tribute to all those who served in this Assembly over the last four years, including all the elected Members and all of the staff.

“I would especially like to pay tribute to the Speaker, Willie Hay who has proven that the decision that I took along with Dr. Paisley to appoint him as Speaker was indeed the right one. He has conducted himself in an exemplary manner both in his duties in the House and elsewhere.



“We have come to the end of the first full term mandate of a locally elected Assembly for many decades. We should take heart in the fact that we have succeeded in delivering change for the people that we represent. While being unable to escape the worldwide economic recession we did however succeed in mitigating against some of the immediate effects by attracting thousands of new jobs through direct investment.


“I also pay tribute to all those members who are not seeking re-election to the next Assembly, particularly those in my own party who have served their constituents with pride and determination. A special acknowledge is warranted to my Sinn Féin Ministerial colleagues who executed their responsibilities to the highest standards and to the benefits of all sections of the community.

“I look forward with the endorsement of the electorate following the election, to serving in a new Assembly and to build on the foundation that we laid in the last four years.

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