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Speaking in the Dáil during today’s Leaders Questions Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD called on the Tánaiste to reverse the Government’s decision to cut 428 posts from 270 primary schools and 163 post primary DEIS schools.

Deputy McDonald said:

“The Tánaiste has said that where budget measures have unforeseen consequences, the government is willing to reconsider them.

“This particular vicious cut to DEIS schools has foreseen, predictable consequences for children living in the inner city of Dublin, in Cork, Inishowen, Limerick, Waterford – the Tánaiste knows full these communities have suffered the consequences of intergenerational poverty, unemployment and a plague of drug misuse.

“Teaching posts will be lost and children, who rely on direct intervention and small class size to have a chance, not just in educational terms but in social and life terms, will be compromised by his Government.

“The Tánaiste says these are legacy posts, I ask him not to come in here and insult the intelligence of the Dáil or the intelligence of the general public with that type of connivance. What will Labour’s legacy to the education of these children be?

“It is a perverse logic articulated by the Tánaiste today that we must have equality in deprivation. There is a reason that these particular schools were allocated a preferential pupil-teacher ratio. All of the documentation reflects the fact that this size of class is working for children who need a greater level of support.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane has criticised the Government for the recent changes to the provision of teachers to schools in disadvantaged areas.

Speaking in the Seanad today the Waterford Senator branded the measure “foolish” and said that it will cost more in the long run.

Senator Cullinane said:

“Any amount of research has shown the value of good educational standards in combating disadvantage. The funds saved here will likely be lost ten times over in dealing with the legacy of poor educational attainment.

“I am asking the government to support these schools and recognise the good that they do, not only for the children that attend them, but also for communities. DEIS schools play a huge role in children’s education and in many circumstances have succeeded in making significant differences to the learning outcomes of these students, in terms of literacy and numeracy.

“In Waterford, there is a high level of concern as to the effect this will have. We have a number of schools which operate under the DEIS scheme, such as Presentation, St Pauls, Scoil Lorcáin, and my own former school, St Saviour’s.

“In 2010 St Saviours had 27 teachers. They are worried that by the end of next year it will only have 20, and many other teachers and principals across Waterford are facing similar scenarios, when all they want is the best for their children.

“The impact of the loss of additional supports will be huge. We aren’t just talking about money here. This is about people’s opportunities. These are young people being failed by the government.

“These are schools which generally had seen successful in raising the standards of literacy and numeracy, and improving the potential of these young people, despite often difficult circumstances. I implore the government not to tip ten or more years of hard work down the drain.”

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Speaking during European Council Statements in the Dáil today Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD challenged the Taoiseach over his failure to defend the interests of this state during the negotiations in Brussels last weekend.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“If the content of the summit statement released last Friday is anything to go by, it is clear, as it is in the Taoiseach's statement today, that the issue of Ireland’s debt burden and the crippling austerity being imposed on Irish people to service this burden was not raised properly by him nor were any commitments secured.

“The deal struck by 26 EU leaders on Friday, 9 December, in Brussels will not solve the eurozone crisis. In my opinion it will make matters worse. The agreement is not a fiscal compact. It is an austerity compact. It seeks to impose right-wing austerity policies in perpetuity.

“The difficulty for all of us is that the Taoiseach agrees with this. The agreement was not imposed on him and he was not coerced or cajoled into it. It reflects his policies and political stance as leader of the Fine Gael Party and vice president of the EPP. It also reflects the position of the Labour Party.”

Mr Adams warned that “the agreement last Friday also seeks to undermine member states' democracy. Additional powers are to be given to the European Court of Justice and the European Commission to police the new 0.5% deficit ceiling and the existing provisions of the Stability and Growth Pact.”

The Sinn Féin President also challenged the Taoiseach on the issue of a referendum. Mr. Adams said: “Clause 4 which deals with the new austerity rule states: ‘Such a rule will be introduced in member states' national legal systems at constitutional or equivalent level.’

“The Taoiseach has agreed that the new austerity rule will be introduced into our Constitution and national legal system. For the information of the Taoiseach, there is no equivalent level with our Constitution. We are a State with a written constitution, which happens to be a good thing. Other states do not have written constitutions and the rule will be introduced at equivalent level to our constitutional position.

“In his statement today, the Taoiseach said he is examining how this requirement dovetails with the Fiscal Responsibility Bill which is now being prepared. That baffles me. I asked the question yesterday and the Taoiseach responded in the same way.

“Did he not figure this out before he agreed to the deal? Did he not know what it involved? Is he now saying that primary legislation may have equivalent status to constitutional law?

“As I understand it, the difference is very straightforward; this Parliament can change law, but only the citizens can change the Constitution. As such, the position the Taoiseach has put forward is absolutely wrong.”

The Louth TD said: “The Taoiseach has railed against the Fianna Fáil Party and the Green Party for giving away our sovereignty, yet he now proposes to cede a large portion of that sovereignty in perpetuity.

“Moreover, he proposes to do so through the backdoor, by way of legislation. The transferring of powers from democratically elected politicians and member states to unelected judges and civil servants in Luxembourg and Brussels takes real power away from citizens. It is anti-republican and anti-democratic.”

Concluding Mr Adams made clear Sinn Féin’s position: “My party cannot and will not support the transfer of more powers from the Oireachtas to Brussels. Nor will we support the imposition of a draconian 0.5% deficit ceiling by way of either primary legislation or a constitutional amendment.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh called on Minister Joan Burton to reinstate the training and materials grant for Community Employment (CE) schemes which was cut in last week’s budget.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Minister Joan Burton’s comments, that her department will be in a position to fund schemes affected by this cut, expose the ridiculous nature of the 66% cut in the grant to all CE schemes. And I believe that she can’t stand over her comments that no CE schemes will close. Her cuts will result in closure.

“These schemes are a major plank in the government’s supposed activation agenda, but a cut of this size shows once again that the Labour Party doesn’t care about activation and would prefer to undermine the community sector support system that is maintained by CE workers.

“CE schemes cannot wait till another review is carried out to plan their service delivery for the year or their training plan for the participants. CE has been evaluated by FÁS ad nauseum, too much bureaucracy has surrounded the operation of the schemes to date, with much energy wasted in form filling which could otherwise be usefully used in helping communities and families in distress in need of the services such as community crèches.

“These services in many cases are no longer viable and they cannot be sustained on a drip feed of funds after they have been forced to go to the department with a begging bowl and see if they are favoured by the minister or not for a few crumbs.

“Reinstate the training and materials grant and, if you wish, evaluate the schemes and change, alter or even close those which are not functioning. I do not believe you will find many if any that aren’t delivering on the mission statements and if they aren’t it is usually not through fault of their own but due to cuts by the minister’s department or a related cut from the HSE or another department.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Padraig MacLochlainn, responding to Michael Noonan’s statement today that any EU referendum would come down to whether Ireland wanted to continue in the euro or not, said government scaremongering on euro membership is an insult to the public.

Deputy MacLochlainn said:

“Michael Noonan’s announcement today is the opening salvo from a government which will attempt to win any possible referendum on the deal in Europe last week by instilling fear in people. The Irish people are smarter than that and they have already had their fingers burned by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail in previous referenda.

“In Lisbon they were told, 'vote yes to Lisbon, vote yes to jobs'. This Government, like the last, believes that it can lie, bribe, and blackmail its way to a referendum win. It is an insult to the public.

“Last week’s deal was an abject failure by all EU leaders, but particularly our own government, which would not even put the issue of Ireland's debt on the table. The EU does not need deeper fiscal union – it needs a growth strategy, a write-down of toxic debt, and for the ECB to recapitalise the banks. EU citizens, economists and the markets are scratching their heads at the pointlessness of last week's summit.

“The euro must be stabilised. Last week's deal does not do that. A referendum on last week's deal will be about whether people think that deal will fix the euro, not whether Ireland wants to remain a member of the euro. To present it as the latter that is scaremongering in the extreme and I hope the Irish people see through it.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said he will not be paying the Household Charge.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening Deputy Ó Snodaigh said he will not be jumping on the bandwagon of the don’t pay campaign but is making a personal family decision in the full knowledge that he may face fines and the tax of €2,500.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“While it would be easy for me to jump on the “don’t pay” campaign bandwagon I am urging caution, that people should understand or be made aware of the possible full consequence of taking such a stance. I don’t want to see the situation which many in Dublin, in particular, are facing, as a result of weighing in behind the don’t pay the bin charges campaign. They were encouraged not to pay and are now facing in some cases nearly €2,000 in charges and the campaign has all but disappeared.

“If I take the decision not to pay, as I am going to, that is my personal, my family’s decision – taken in the knowledge that I may face fines and the tax of €2,500. I will stand with all others of like mind and will organise those who will take a similar stance.

“This tax is unfair and as our pre-budget alternative has shown not required and so should not be introduced.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s contribution follows:

This Bill provides for the imposition of the first of a series of new ultra regressive taxes.

This flat tax of 100 euro we’ve been told by the Minister will be quickly followed by a property tax and water charges, both of which will be significantly higher.

A progressive tax regime links tax levels to ability to pay. This charge has no regard whatsoever to the question of ability to pay. Even the exemptions pay no heed to ability to pay. Just because someone is living in an old established housing estate doesn’t mean they are financially struggling any less than someone in a ghost estate.

The Minister is introducing the scabbiest waiver scheme ever! There are about 1.6 million households. Subtract social housing, the private rented sector and ghost estates which are exempted and you’re still left with about one million households. And the government are giving a waiver only to those social welfare recipients that are entitled to payment of the Mortgage Interest Supplement. That was just 18,000 households last year. Nearly half a million people are out of work. And the Budget last week announced changes that will see the payment of Mortgage Interest Supplement suspended for 12 months for many. So will there even be 18,000 waivers? This really is the scabbiest waiver scheme ever. 2/300,000 families are exclusively dependent on social welfare payment, many are not in local authority or rented accommodation.

There are hundreds of thousands of families, some entirely dependent on social welfare, who own their homes and are living in poverty but don’t get a waiver. For example many older people who are entirely dependent on the meagre state pension will not get a waiver. Many struggling families who are excluded from Mortgage Interest Supplement by the 30 hour rule, which you have not reformed despite promises in the Programme for Government, will not get a waiver.

By introducing provision for payments by increments the Minister is himself acknowledging that he is targeting people who do not have €100 available to them to pay this charge.

The extra €10 transaction charge for making the payment in cash is outrageous. And who is the government targeting with this extra charge? The poorest of home owners! According to an ESRI report published earlier this year, banking exclusion in Ireland is three times higher than the EU15 average. 20% of Irish households don’t have a bank account and this rises to 40% among those with low education qualifications, 38% in households in the bottom income quintile and 27% among those aged over 55 years. [Functionally/computer illiterate, no computer, fear]

While it would be easy for me to jump on the “don’t pay” campaign bandwagon I am urging caution, that people should understand or be made aware of the possible full consequence of taking such a stance. I don’t want to see the situation which many in Dublin, in particular, are facing, as a result of weighing in behind the don’t pay the bin charges campaign. They were encouraged not to pay and are now facing in some cases nearly €2,000 in charges and the campaign has all but disappeared.

If I take the decision not to pay, as I am going to, that is my personal, my family’s decision – taken in the knowledge that I may face fines and the tax of €2,500. I will stand with all others of like mind and will organise those who will take a similar stance.

This tax is unfair and as our pre-budget alternative has shown not required and so should not be introduced.

While the household charge won’t ‘break the bank’ for many in society, for thousands of others it will be the last straw. The fines also would cripple many of these families.

Remember it’s only a matter of time before these fines are deducted from people’s pay and social welfare cheques at source – legislation for that is in the pipeline.

The government intend to follow the household charge with water meters and charges. We know that greater savings would be made if the government tacked water waste from the distribution network rather than introducing household meters. International evidence suggests that households meters have to potential to reduce water use by 16% whereas according to the Comptroller and Auditor Generals report local authorities are losing more than 40% of water through the distribution network. But instead of investing where it counts and can give rise to the greatest savings the government are proposing to spend in the region of €1billion on meters. In the meantime the government are cutting spending on the vital remedial works by 12% so even more money will seep out through distribution network leaks. The Budget for water services investment has been cut by 60 million by this government. And this follows a legacy of underfunding in mains rehabilitation etc. Local Authorities and the Department of the Environment have been routinely failing to spend the money that’s allocated to them. For example in 2010 the Department failed to spend approximately 140 million of the money allocated for water investment.

The government had stated that they intend to borrow €500 million paying that back over a period of time at a cost of €1 billion. They are committing money for non-vital household meters yet they have not made available the 10 to 20 million required to secure the Vartry Tunnel which supplies about 20% of the water supply for the greater Dublin area and which could literally collapse at any moment! That is the level of regard this government has for the welfare of our citizens.

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Speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD accused the Taoiseach of implementing ‘scrooge-like’ policies which will leave many homes “colder and poorer this Christmas.”

The Sinn Féin leader challenged the government on the impact of fuel poverty and excess winter deaths, and in particular on the issue of homelessness.

Mr Adams pressed the Taoiseach on the appointment of a Minister for Housing. The Taoiseach refused to give an explanation for the delay in this.

Speaking afterward Mr. Adams said:

“The refusal by the Taoiseach to appoint a Minister for Housing at a time of severe housing need and crisis is an abject failure of leadership and responsibility.

“It is a fact that a TD can stand on the plinth outside the Dáil and see the grim reality of homelessness in this city, where night after night – from summertime to the depths of freezing winter – people are forced to sleep rough.

“Homeless support groups report a significant increase in the demand for their services. There are 5000 homeless across the state while around 200 citizens sleep rough.

“In addition there has been a succession of deeply harmful cuts to homeless and housing budgets while there are over 300,000 empty houses and apartments in the state – many now owned by NAMA.”

The Sinn Féin leader reminded the Taoiseach that we are on the cusp of Christmas and accused the government of implementing “scrooge-like” policies.

“James Connolly once remarked that you can judge a society by the treatment of its lowest class.

“Five years ago there were 1,281 excess winter deaths. Most were elderly and vulnerable citizens. This year there will be more.

“In September the government cut the weekly fuel allowance; it also cut the allowance for fuel contained in the household benefits package, and now, as a result of last week’s budget, the fuel allowance has been cut by the equivalent of €120.

“The disgraceful treatment of the five women in St. Brendan’s Grangegorman is a shocking indictment of our mental health service. Mental health provision is the Cinderella of our health service. These women should be cherished not victimised.

“The reality is that the government is implementing scrooge-like policies which will leave many homes and families colder and poorer this Christmas.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Education spokesperson Daithi McKay has said:

“There are massive opportunities for enhanced co-operation between the Education services North and South.

 

The North Antrim MLA was speaking after the latest meeting of the party’s all-Ireland Education Advisory Group consisting of Education Minister John O’Dowd, Dáil Education Spokesperson and Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe, as well as a number of other MLA’s and TD’s and party activists from North and South.

Mr. McKay said “This type of engagement influences and informs the practical, all-Ireland approach which Sinn Féin takes to the work we are involved in, whether it be in Education or any other department or committee.

“This is the latest in a series of North-South meetings which the party has organised to explore areas for enhanced co-operation and to take forward the all-Ireland agenda.

“Our latest discussions focused on a number of areas including the potential for common procurement, joint transport provision, common recognition of teacher qualifications and the progress of the North South co-operation study which is already being undertaken by the two education departments.

“Now more than ever, when both administrations are facing budgetary pressures, this kind of practical all-island co-operation makes sense. By eradicating duplication, we can free up resources to be invested where they are needed most – in the classroom, frontline health provision, delivery of services etc.

“There are many other areas of common work which Sinn Féin will pursue vigorously in the Assembly and the Dáil over the time ahead. There are massive opportunities and I am sure that more and more people will come to recognise the importance of All-Ireland co-operation as the sensible and practical way forward.” CRÍOCH

 

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Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd said that it was because of the actions of their agents like Robin Jackson that the British Government does not want an independent international truth commission.

The Sinn Féin MLA was commenting after the release of the HET report into the Miami Showband killings by a gang made up of mostly British soldiers who were also UVF men.

John O’Dowd said everyone knew that UVF man Robin Jackson was a British agent and that he was allowed to kill with impunity.

“It was well known that Robin Jackson was an agent for the British state, that he was allowed to kill Catholics with impunity throughout Mid-Ulster and beyond and that some of these killings were actually facilitated by the forces of the state.

“This speaks volumes about the British state’s involvement in the conflict and rather than claim, as they did, that they were impartial observers or some sort of peace keeper, they were in fact up to their necks in facilitating and possibly encouraging sectarian killings and much more.

“Many nationalists and republicans believe that it’s because of agents like Robin Jackson and many others that the British Government would not agree to an independent international truth commission.”

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Sinn Féin’s Education spokesperson Daithi McKay has said:

“There are massive opportunities for enhanced co-operation between the Education services North and South.

The North Antrim MLA was speaking after the latest meeting of the party’s all-Ireland Education Advisory Group consisting of Education Minister John O’Dowd, Dáil Education Spokesperson and Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe, as well as a number of other MLA’s and TD’s and party activists from North and South.

Mr. McKay said “This type of engagement influences and informs the practical, all-Ireland approach which Sinn Féin takes to the work we are involved in, whether it be in Education or any other department or committee.

“This is the latest in a series of North-South meetings which the party has organised to explore areas for enhanced co-operation and to take forward the all-Ireland agenda.

“Our latest discussions focused on a number of areas including the potential for common procurement, joint transport provision, common recognition of teacher qualifications and the progress of the North South co-operation study which is already being undertaken by the two education departments.

“Now more than ever, when both administrations are facing budgetary pressures, this kind of practical all-island co-operation makes sense. By eradicating duplication, we can free up resources to be invested where they are needed most – in the classroom, frontline health provision, delivery of services etc.

“There are many other areas of common work which Sinn Féin will pursue vigorously in the Assembly and the Dáil over the time ahead. There are massive opportunities and I am sure that more and more people will come to recognise the importance of All-Ireland co-operation as the sensible and practical way forward.”

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced grant awards totalling over £3million to 18 companies from the local agri-food processing sector.

Each of the companies were successful under the Rural Development Programme’s Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme (PMG). Under the Scheme financial support, up to £0.5million, can be provided for capital investment in buildings and new plant and equipment.

The Minister made her announcement during a visit to Gilfresh Produce Ltd in Loughgall, County Armagh. They are one of the largest grower/packers of vegetable produce in the north. Gilfresh was awarded a grant of £0.5million towards an investment of £1.8million by the company to upgrade its existing processing and packing facilities.

The Minister said: “The funding provided under these grants will help to continue the growth and development of our agri-food sector and improve the economic performance of a sector that has shown good resilience during the recent economic downturn. I am determined to support further growth in the sector through schemes like this and by also developing a longer term strategic vision for the sector in partnership with other Departments and the industry.

“This significant funding of £3.1million will help 18 local companies invest in new buildings and plant and equipment which will help secure more opportunities for growth. Indeed, through match funding these grants will trigger a total investment in the local economy of almost £8million.”

The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). DARD works in partnership with Invest NI in the delivery of the PMG Scheme.

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“PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott says he sees no “evidence” of a residual "dark side" contaminating the new beginning to policing. But his recent public relations narrative simplistically ignores reality. 

He need not look far for the evidence. He should start by reading the material available to him, not just that filtered by others. The shadow of the ‘dark side’ has been cast across his desk more than once.

Recent references by me and others to this ‘dark side’ weren’t plucked out of the sky.  In fact, that’s how some of Matt Baggott’s own PSNI colleagues have described the in-house cabal of reactionaries still motivated by an unchanged war-time mentality.  Matt Baggott privately knows that.  Significantly, Hugh Orde called them the ‘Continuity RUC’.

Ongoing abuse and misuse of agent recruitment; complaint patterns in certain areas; former PSNI officers refusing to assist investigations into police wrong-doing; leaning on the Police Ombudsman’s office and undermining Nuala O’Loan; the role of leading agents provocateurs agitating against the peace process – including attacks on police, and last summer’s orchestrated violence in Belfast’s Broadway and St James’ area; aggressive Tactical Support Groups’ behavior; blocking inquests in historical cases. Does all that fall within Matt Baggott’s definition of ‘the law’? 

The above evidence trail leads directly back to a small, significant group of political detectives – many rehired into Crime Department. Their activities are opposed to wider PSNI efforts at reforming the organization and ethos of policing.

Sinn Fein’s support for democratically accountable policing is unambiguous, but it is not unconditional.  We have repeatedly said that our Party will face down the old guard political detectives who have worked against the peace process.

Contrary to insinuations from other senior PSNI officers, Sinn Féin has no “psychological transition” to make.  We have faced down attempts to intimidate DPP meetings; condemned apolitical, militarist violence against police officers; and, ensured the Assembly Justice Committee works.  We will not be derailed by anyone.

All this coincides with a migration of former Northern Ireland Office figures into the new Department of Justice (DOJ).  Defective prisons policy, the Police Ombudsman debacle, and long-standing efforts to hollow out Patten’s recommendations reflect a mindset synonymous with the old system.

Of course, some of this was inevitable.  Old reactionaries rarely go away.  They regroup and retrench. That’s the reality of policing in post conflict Ireland.

But the change agenda - in the context of the all-Ireland political institutions - is irreversible.  The 'dark side' is not in control.  MI5 will not succeed in remilitarizing the north.  Change is in the ascendancy. 

Sinn Fein will resolutely drive, and defend the change agenda against all its opponents – not least those in the PSNI, or their retired colleagues, now in the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA), intent on vindictively targeting republicans to massage bruised egos from a past conflict.

 

The fact is that without Sinn Féin holding the PSNI and DOJ to account, none of these issues would even be public. Now the problems are exposed, and we intend to correct them.

The strongest allies to anyone serious about transforming policing in the north are republicans.

Sinn Fein will continue to work with the PSNI, and we will build close partnerships with those officers committed to reform and good policing.  However, we will not accept dismissive platitudes.  The Chief Constable needs to start living in the real world.

The PSNI has to start facing the same way.  Matt Baggott needs to make his mind up; he can be fettered by the residual 'dark side', or, act as a brave champion for change inside, and outside the PSNI.”


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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has sharply criticised Education Minister Ruairi Quinn’s decision to cut 428 posts from schools servicing disadvantaged areas.

Deputy McDonald said:

“The Education Minister’s plan to cut 428 teaching posts from DEIS schools is a devastating blow to the schools and communities worst hit socially and economically by the recession.

“The Labour party once vowed to break the cycle of educational disadvantage created by successive Fianna Fáil led governments yet Minister Quinn’s decision to savage DEIS teaching supports will copper fasten inequality of opportunity for our most deprived kids.

“Individual DEIS schools in the North Inner City will lose up to eight teachers. It is completely unacceptable that an area suffering horrendous economic and social deprivation would be targeted for such an insidious cut by a Labour Minister.

“Withdrawing teaching posts under the banner of enhanced educational opportunity is perverse and a claim that no Labour Minister should stand over.

“Labour and Fine Gael need to be very clear. If they continue to pursue the least well off in society to carry the burden of unsustainable banking debt they will face an almighty battle from countless communities across the State.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien called on the Government to stop the cuts to DEIS schools.

Deputy O’Brien said;

“I am asking the government to support these schools and recognise the good that they do, not only for the children that attend them, but also for the communities. Two of my children attend DEIS schools so I’m familiar with the work that they do with their pupils. They play a vital role in children’s education and are a part of the social fabric of the communities. For these children, DEIS schools are essential to meeting the educational needs of those children.

“Some of the children in attendance have specific needs that only DEIS schools, with their current range of support structures and staffing levels, can address. They were intended to introduce fairness to an education system that had previously ignored disadvantaged children.

“Withdrawing staff is going to have a massive impact on these children. I have spoken to teachers from 12 schools who are going to lose 41 staff, and we are still waiting for more figures. The impact of the loss of additional supports will be huge. The Minister is not prioritising frontline services. This measure decimates frontline services in our most disadvantaged communities. It beggars belief that the Minister can say that increased pupil-teacher ratio will benefit from school.

“We aren’t just talking about money here, this is about people’s opportunities. These cuts cannot be allowed to go ahead.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Community & Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, has this evening warned that the controversial household charge will bankrupt many local authorities.

Deputy Stanley said councils are struggling to fund their services with reduced commercial rates and now the government has cut their funding by 84%, forcing ordinary households to pick up the tab.

Speaking during the debate on the household charges in the Dáil this evening Stanley said:

“Sinn Féin believes in local government. We believe in strong, democratic, accountable, local government. But this bill would be more appropriately entitled the Bank Bailout Bill. The bill has little to do with raising finance for local authorities and more to do with bailing out the banks and compensating bondholders. Money is being diverted form council services to the German banks.

“Councils are struggling to fund their services, in recent years councils, under pressure from the commercial sector, have had to reduce commercial rates. This naturally has a negative effect on fund raised. In fact here in Dublin the largest local authority in the country has been forced to sell off its domestic waste collection service. This is despite having no legislation to regulate this industry or to protect the public form unscrupulous waste collection companies.

“The sale was done so Dublin City Council could raise the money to keep functioning. This unilateral decision was made by Management despite the democratic wishes of the elected councillors. In fact three times a majority of Dublin City Councillors supported a Sinn Féin motion opposing the sell-off of this essential service. Ironically the motion received support from Labour party councillors. Yet here in this house the Labour party in government is involved in an unprecedented attack on local government.

“There is no attempt to conceal the government’s contempt for ordinary people, nowhere in the bill does it allow for waivers for those on social welfare. Last Tuesday this heartless government cut €88 off disability allowance, reduced people's fuel allowance and this week it expects people to pay an extra €100 for local services. The bill will then attempt to criminalise you for not being able to pay. The bill states if you cannot afford the household charge, you will be brought to court and if found guilty you will have to pay court costs for the local authority that brought you to court.

“Now people are being asked to dig deeper and pay extra for the same services they have been receiving. In people’s minds this doesn’t add up. People know when they are being taken for a ride. Sinn Féin will campaign every step of the way to have this regressive charge overturned.

“We will use every opportunity during the debate this week and into next year to ensure this charge is reduced to the dustbin of history. People will simply not pay. The household charge will not be paid by people because they cannot afford it and because it is an unjust charge that should be withdrawn before it brings this government into conflict with our communities.

“People have already made their minds up. This is a line in the sand which they will not cross. Households will not be paying this charge. And the government can make every threat they want in this bill. They can threaten court, fines and court costs, people won’t be paying. Yet the government is depending on 100% payment rate to compensate for the cut of 84% to local government.”

In conclusion Deputy Stanley said, “At best this bill is ill thought out and a blunt instrument to punish households again. At worst it is an attempt to use the current economic crisis as a smoke screen to further bury local democracy in this state. Either way Sinn Féin will lead the charge in opposing it.” ENDS

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This morning Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams met the Taoiseach to dicuss last Fridays Eurozone crisis summit agreement.

The Sinn Féin leader took the opportunity to raise with the Taoiseach his public commitment in the Dáil several weeks ago to meet with opposition leaders before Christmas to discuss the issue of an inquiry into the allegations of sexual abuse against patients in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in the 30 years from 1964.

The Taoiseach agreed this morning that this meeting would go ahead soon.

Mr. Adams said:

“The patients who were the victims of this alleged abuse have suffered immeasurably as the state has failed to take the necessary steps to uncover the truth, or to reassure the public that the systemic failures in the health service have been corrected.

“Six months ago the Minister for Health acknowledged this when he remarked that: ‘Many people have suffered as a consequence of not being able to have this issue aired in public ‘.

“There are over 200 victims demanding justice and truth and the onus is on the government to agree a mechanism by which this can be achieved.

“The Minister for Health should now establish as a matter of urgency an Independent Commission of Inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse of patients in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital over a 30 year time span 1964-1994.

“The Minister should also consult with the alleged victims and Dignity for Patients, the patient support and advocacy organisation, on its terms of reference.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has expressed his condolences to the family of folklorist and writer Daithí Ó hÓgáin

Deputy Adams said:

“Ba mhaith linn ár gcomhbhrón a dhéanamh le bean céile Daithí Ó hÓgain Caitríona agus clann mhic Aisling, Orla, Niamh, Rúán agus Sadhbh agus a ghar pháistí Lilí agus Cillian agus dá deatháireacha agus deirfiúracha.

“Daithí was dedicated to bringing the joys of our heritage and Irish folklore, legend, mythology and local stories to the people in both English and Irish through his books and writings. Daithí was very passionate about his work.

“He was an Irish language enthusiast who spent his whole life working through our native tongue.

“Daithí was also an Irish republican who served on the Ard Comhairle of Sinn Féin in the 1970s.

“His passing is a loss to his family to our country and to the people of Ireland.

“Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.”

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh/South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew said the party will judge the Compton Report by how it delivers healthcare for the needs of people and communities that is safe, accessible and efficient and which targets the inequalities which give rise to ill heath in certain sections of society

Michelle Gildernew, who is also chairperson of the Health Committee, also said we need for a sensible all island approach to healthcare.

“The Compton Report will clearly have significant implications for the future of the Health system in not just the north but the border counties also.

“Given its importance in moving the healthcare system forward it clearly requires significant examination and scrutiny by politicians, healthcare professionals, the Trade Unions and the general public.

“We will certainly be taking this report away, studying it carefully and taking an active part in the consultation.

“In an initial examination there are areas which will cause obvious concern and there are other recommendations which will be less controversial.

“Recently there have been a number of reports produced detailing the state of healthcare across the island. Going forward there is clearly a need for a sensible all-Ireland approach to be taken to delivering healthcare for citizens.

“This approach will deliver not only significant efficiencies in these tight economic times but better outcomes for patients.

What we need to see delivered at the end of this process is a healthcare system which delivers for the needs of people and communities that is safe, accessible and efficient and which targets the inequalities which give rise to ill heath in certain sections of society. These are the benchmarks by which we will judge this report.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and education spokesperson Daithí McKay has stated that the rise in costs in Irish language translation clearly indicates that the Department of Education is fulfilling its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and has called on the DUP to stop playing politics with peoples right and entitlements.

Speaking today Mr McKay said:

“The DUP’s fixation on the Irish language will not determine how the Education Department, nor indeed how other departments act as they are required to do in providing for the Irish language community.

“The rights and entitlements of Irish language speakers are enshrined under the Good Friday Agreement, St Andrews and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Under this translation of materials should be a given in any work programme.

“People who live their livesprimarily through the medium of Irish are entitled to Irish language services and the DUP need to stop playing politics with peoples rights and entitlements. 

“The increase in costs points to the Education Department fulfilling its obligations but also indicates a clear growth in the demand for this service. With growing numbers of people being educated in Irish and taking Irish language exams outside the Irish medium sector there will continue to be a high demand for this service.”

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Speaking following a briefing by the Taoiseach on the detail of last Fridays Eurozone crisis summit agreement, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said that he is deeply concerned that the Taoiseach has signed an agreement that will have long lasting and negative consequences for ordinary citizens in Ireland and across the EU.

Deputy Adams said:

“I listened carefully to what the Taoiseach had to say this morning. I am deeply concerned that he has signed an agreement that will have long lasting and negative consequences for ordinary citizens in Ireland and across the EU.

“Clearly this deal will not resolve the Eurozone crisis and in fact will make matters worse.

“The Government has signed up to a new and draconian 0.5% of GDP deficit limit. They have done this without having conducted an assessment of the social or economic consequences of such a move.

“The agreement also requires this new austerity rule to be put into constitutional law. This means that the Government will have to implement austerity budgets not just to 2015 as required by the EU/IMF programme, but for its full term of office and beyond.

“Alongside this, the agreement explicitly rules out any future debt write-downs. This means that all toxic-banking debts will be paid, including the €3.1bn due to be paid to Anglo Irish Bank next March and every year for more than a decade. Once again the taxpayer will have to foot the bill, irrespective of the social and human cost.

“Fine Gael and Labour have not only signed up to an austerity pact, but a bank-bailout pact too.

“This is not only the very opposite of what the people of Ireland needs, it is the opposite of what the people of the EU need.”

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