Sinn Féin MLA Ian Milne has called on people daubing graffiti on buildings in Bellaghy village to stop immediately as it is damaging the image of the area.
Mr. Milne said,
“The last fortnight has seen graffiti painted at the local GAA club, commercial premises and now for a second time on the Orange hall.
"Over the last year substantial work has been carried by various groups including the local Community Group and the Bellaghy Development Association to both enhance the image of the village and improve community relations.
“However over the past few weeks the graffiti which has appeared is both unsightly and damaging to these efforts and I am calling on those responsible for this mindless vandalism to stop immediately.
“The people of Bellaghy are proud of their village and the ongoing improvement work which is being carried out. No one wants to see any building in the village being defaced by unsightly graffiti, or community relations being damaged in any way."
Sinn Féin’s leader in the Seanad, Senator David Cullinane, has described the Taoiseach’s appointment of Galway Fine Gael councillor, Hildegarde Naughton to the Seanad as “a cynical move”.
Senator Cullinane said: “This is the Taoiseach
who promised political reform, now he makes a political appointment to keep the
Fine Gael numbers up and to have a go at those in his party who didn't toe the
line. It can only be described as a cynical move.
''I don't have any personal issue with Ms Naughton, but we were told by Enda Kenny that his appointees would be above politics and would reflect a broad spectrum of Irish life.
“Well, we have seen that go out the window with the appointment of a councillor from his own party to the seat vacated by Martin McAleese.
In response to today’s progress report on the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, Sinn Féin jobs, enterprise and innovation spokesperson David Cullinane said that important legislation which has not been implemented by the government would have a lasting impact on workers and enterprise.
Senator Cullinane said:
“Today the government claimed success in the implementation of the Action Plan for jobs and awarded itself an 89% success rate.
“Many of the actions in the plan are just the business of government.
“Equally important pieces of legislation such as Workplace Relations, the Competition and Consumer Bill, the Companies Bill and Bill to replace the County Enterprise Boards with Local Enterprise Offices have still not been completed, although these were all committed to in the Plan from last year.
“These are vital pieces of legislation that are fully within the gift of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation that if enacted will have a lasting impact on workers and enterprise.
“It is also striking that some original targets in the first action plan have been quietly dropped from the plan, such as ensuring that 50% of all FDI investment would be made outside of Dublin and Cork.
“It should be remembered that when the Taoiseach started this process he set the target of creating 100,000 net additional new jobs in the economy by 2016. However, since this government came to power over 10,700 net full-time jobs have been lost and replaced by 14,400 part-time job.
“It is clear that the government may award itself an A*.
“But the score by score awarded by our young people forced into emigration, our people left on the long term unemployed and the workers forced onto short hours will award the government a fail.”
Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has called for a review of hospital procedures regarding surgery and CJD in light of the discovery that potentially CJD-infected instruments had been used on patients at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.
He said: “It is very distressing for people who have had surgery at Beaumont Hospital to learn that, for some, there is a danger of potential CJD infection.
“It is worrying that the CJD infection of the original patient in question only came to light after surgery, and so the standard procedure for special sterilisation of potentially CJD-infected instruments was not used.
“The Minister for Health should ask HIQA to initiate an immediate review of hospital procedures regarding CJD. Full information should be given to all Beaumont patients who may be affected by this issue.
Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has welcomed the publication of the report on ‘Addressing the growth of Social Media and tackling Cyberbullying’ by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications and Transport.
Speaking following the publication of the report Deputy Colreavy said:
“This report is an important step in the debate as to how social media and cyberbullying should be addressed at a government level.
“Social media has grown rapidly in the past number of years and it has radically changed the way people communicate with each other.
“Social media, as a whole, has brought benefits to the lives of many people. However, we also must be aware of how social media can be used to inflict misery on people’s lives.
“The committee’s report outlines a number of recommendations of how cyberbullying and the inappropriate use of social media should be tackled.
“The report recommends that employers should be encouraged to introduce a social media policy in workplaces to tackle cyberbullying in the workplace.
“It also recommends that SPHE curriculum be revised in schools to teach children how to use social media properly.
“The report believes that the Office for Internet Safety does not adequately deal with cyberbullying. Therefore, a single body should be established to deal with the issue and the funding and organisation of this should be agreed with the industry.
“Hopefully the recommendations in this report will help tackle the problem of cyberbullying and allow everyone to use social media safely.” ENDS
Sinn Fein finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, responding to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan's statement today that he has no room to lessen the adjustment in this year's budget, said that the government has no option but to ease up on austerity.
"This government is trying to stand on both sides of the fence. On the one hand, Michael Noonan tells us he did a great deal on the promissory notes, to the benefit for the state this year of €1 billion, and that the lengthening of loan maturities has given the state room to breathe over the next number of years. On the other hand, he sits at a press conference today and says that he has no scope to make the budget cuts any less this year and he discounts the savings of the promissory note.
"This government has to ease up on austerity. It has no choice. Since this government came to power 187,000 people have emigrated. Unemployment is at over 14%. Consistent poverty and at risk of poverty numbers have grown. The mortgage crisis has mushroomed. The domestic economy is on the floor and we're officially back in recession.
"For Michael Noonan to come out and say that despite positive savings that he's announced, he has to make the full austerity adjustment this year, is just farcical. Either the minister doesn't care about the impact austerity is having on the economy and society or he has overplayed his hand in terms of savings he has achieved from the promissory note arrangement. More worryingly, is he predicting a continued lack of growth in the economy and realising the adjustment this year has to be bigger just to stay on target?
"The budget's in October. The austerity choices of FG/Labour and FF to date have just damaged the economy. More austerity will damage it further. The minister needs to commit to using the promissory note savings and making this budget less austere.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has described the British government's decision to halt plans to introduce plain packaging for Tobacco Products as surrendering to the well-oiled Tobacco Industry Lobbying machine.
Martina Anderson commented:
“The decision by the British government to halt plans to introduce‘plain packaging’ for tobacco products is disgraceful. It should be ashamed, having so blatantly bowed to tobacco industry lobbying.
“The packet is one of the last marketing devices in Europe left for the tobacco industry to exploitthe opportunity to attract new young smokers of its products. With 94% of smokers taking up the deadly habit before the age of 25, it is essential that governments across the world ensure that this ‘silent salesman’ is restricted as much as possible.
“700,000 people die in Europe every year from tobacco related diseases, 2300 of them in the North of Ireland causing hurt and devastation for hundreds of thousands of families. Perhaps the British government, even if unconcerned about the human tragedies caused by this death product, should reflect on the massive cost to the Health Service, before surrendering to the well-oiled lobbying machine of the tobacco industry. Of course, when the British PM hires a political advisor who was previously a tobacco industry lobbyist, this U-turn on a matter of such importance for public health is perhaps less surprising.
“All EU countries are signatories to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control which obliges governments to ensure that public health policies are protected from undue influence from tobacco industry lobbying. It is clear that these obligations have not been adhered to by the British government. The British government should follow the example of the Irish Health Minister who is bringing forward measures to introduce 100% plain packaging on tobacco products.”
Sinn Féin’s spokespersons on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, and Defence, Pádraig MacLochlainn, have stated that the party opposes the government’s plan to send Irish Defence Force soldiers to the Golan Heights.
The government's proposal would see up to 150 Irish troops being sent to serve on the UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) mission in the Golan Heights. Although they would serve on an UN mission, Sinn Féin opposes the move because the EU recently lifted its arms embargo on Syria, and this has effectively robbed Irish troops of their neutrality in a Syrian conflict that has already seen foreign peacekeepers come under fire and some even held hostage.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“Sinn Féin is committed to positive Irish neutrality and independent foreign policy. We believe Ireland should actively work to promote conflict resolution, peaceful democratic settlements and self-determination throughout the world.
“This state’s history of serving in UN Blue Helmet peace-keeping missions is a matter of pride and enhances our standing as a neutral state.
“However sending troops to the UNDOF mission is not a simple or straightforward decision.
“The government has been asked to send troops to the UNDOF mission to help fill a short fall in troops caused by the Austrian government’s decision to withdraw their troops due to safety concerns over the deteriorating security situation due to the on-going war in Syria and because the EU failed to renew its weapons embargo on Syria in May.
“We share the concerns of the Austrian government.
“The lifting of the EU arms embargo has robbed Irish troops of their neutrality in a Syrian conflict that has already seen foreign peacekeepers come under fire and some even held hostage. In essence the EU’s decision, led by Britain and France, means the impartiality of the peace mission is no longer maintained.
“Although no EU state has formally sent weapons to the rebel groups in Syria, they could conceivably do so while Irish troops are there and this would seriously threaten the lives of our defence force personnel.
“If the EU renewed its arms embargo Sinn Féin would support this deployment of troops to the UNDOF mission, but unfortunately that is not the case and therefore we are against this deployment.”
Deputy Pádraig MacLochlainn said:
“For Sinn Féin the safety of Irish Defence Force troops is the most important thing in this context. We fear they will come under intense risk due to the failure of the EU to maintain a neutral stance in the Syrian war.
“Sinn Féin whole heartily supports the government’s humanitarian support to the vulnerable and impoverished Syrian population and refugees, and we would support government initiatives to increase the humanitarian aid and support this state is supplying.
“We continue to believe that the all sides in the Syrian conflict need to immediately begin a negotiated cessation of violence and to enter into inclusive peace talks.
“Although Sinn Féin is against this deployment, the government got Dáil approval today, so we will use all opportunities to ensure that the government provides all the resources and support needed to carry out their mission safely.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the Parades Commission’s decision on Saturday’s Orange Order parade to march through the Dales, Mountainview and Ardoyne was the sensible one.
The North Belfast MLA said:
“The Parades Commission did the right thing by standing by their original determination on this route. It has taken the only logical and sensible decision regarding Saturday’s proposed parade.
“Whoever in the Orange Order thought this was a good move needs to reflect on how it has increased tensions and done absolutely nothing to point towards a resolution of the situation.
“The Orange Order in Belfast need to step out of the bubble they are living in. They can not threaten and intimidate people into getting their way and can no longer ignore the feelings of people their parades affect in a negative way.
“What needs to happen now is for the Orange Order to step back from their confrontational mode and for wise heads to prevail. Dialogue between the parade organisers and the residents affected is the way to resolve this issue, not by increasing tensions with further parades.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has extended birthday wishes to Nelson Mandela – Madiba – who is 95years of age today.
“Lá breithe shona duit Madiba”.
Gerry Adams TD said:
“People around the world will today celebrate Madiba’s birthday with him and his family.
“Throughout his life, Madiba has demonstrated enormous courage, vision and tenacity.
“He is a role model and example to us all.
“Madiba is in my view the greatest political leader of our time.”
Responding to comments made this week by education minister, Ruairí Quinn, that the pupil teacher ratio (PTR) in small schools would likely be increased in order to help meet the €44 million cuts to this year's education budget Sinn Féin Cork North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien said:
“Minister Quinn has made clear his intention again to target small schools by increasing their pupil teacher ratio (PTR) and this very regressive measure will come as a serious blow to rural communities.
“Increasing the PTR in small schools will make many of these schools unviable and force their closure
“The rationale behind these cuts is the continual implementation of the government’s austerity agenda and their determination to take a further €44 million out of the education budget.
“No consideration is being made to develop a small schools policy similar to what is in place in the Six Counties where the focus is on safeguarding strategically important schools and implementing policies that are strategically driven to deliver sustainable, high quality education.
“The decision to increase in the PTR is being taken at time when Irish classrooms are amongst the highest in Europe and the continual slashing of the Irish education budget has now reached unsustainable levels.
“This has been highlighted by the Education at a Glance 2013 Report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which ranked the 26 Counties in 29th place out of 32 OECD countries in terms of the percentage of public expenditure that is spend on our education system.”
Sinn Féin enterprise, jobs and innovation spokesperson, Senator David Cullinane, welcomed the unveiling today by an Taoiseach of his latest plan to get 75,000 of our long term unemployed off the live register. However, he stated that it was clear that this government is more concerned with presentation than delivery.
Senator Cullinane said:
“In 2012, the government announced the Action Plan for Jobs, with the promise of 100,000 additional new jobs in the economy by 2016.
“The government has also promised 10,000 additional jobs in the financial services sector and 20,000 in the manufacturing sector.
In the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs an Taoiseach said:
“The top priority of the Government is to get Ireland back to work. It is the all‐consuming obsession of every Cabinet Minister at a time when we have never seen more people unemployed. Economic recovery has to be matched by a jobs recovery. There will be no rest until we create opportunities for everyone who wants to work”
“Behind the rhetoric and hubris, all that this government has delivered is increased long term unemployment, increased emigration and increased part time unemployment. While the government can rightly claim that Fianna Fail brought the economy to its knees, it is clear that the policies of this government have kept us there.
“Since this government came to power:
· 24,000 jobs for the young people have been lost.
· Over 187,000 people have left the county.
· Part-time work has replaced full-time work, where over 10,700 net full-time jobs have been lost and replaced by 14,400 part-time jobs.
“For jobs to be created, it is estimated that the economy needs to grow by 2%. Since this government came to power the economy has flat-lined and is now back in recession.
“If the government is serious about creating jobs, it must create economic growth. It must stop taking money out of the economy and invest at a scale to match the problems our people face. Sinn Féin has identified how this can be done.
“We do not need another press conference, action plan or promise. Our people need jobs, our indigenous sector needs support, and our domestic economy needs real and sustained growth.”
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has said that he is concerned that Coleraine DVLA office is still under threat of closure after the announcement by the British Government of a consultation on the future of vehicle licencing.
Mr. Ó hOisín said,
“Despite assurances from former Environment Minister Alex Attwood that the 300 jobs at Coleraine DVLA office had been secured closure is clearly an option in latest British Government consultation paper.
“It states ‘If the delivery of NI registration and licensing services is centralised at Swansea to enable the service improvements outlined above, these DVL staff would no longer be needed for this work. It is likely that the local offices within NI would close and there would be significant impact on the DVA centre in Coleraine’.
“This would be a massive blow to the entire Coleraine area as well as seeing job losses in other offices across the North. I am calling on the new Minister Mark H Durkan to take a more proactive approach to secure these jobs.
“The people employed in these offices need to be told the truth about their future and the Department needs to act now to save these jobs.
“I would appeal to people to reply to the consultation in order to maintain these jobs in the North as we clearly have a different system to that in Britain especially given the fact that many licences are now requested through the medium of Irish”
Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson on communications, energy and natural resources has said that the proposed broadcasting charge will only be fair when every home has access to sufficient broadband.
Speaking following an announcement of a review of public service broadcasting funding by Minister Rabbitte, Deputy Colreavy said: “I fully accept and support that public service broadcasting should receive funding from the state. However, plans to replace the TV licence fee with a new public service broadcasting charge must be justified.
“While only households with a television were subject to the TV licence fee, it is now expected that every household will pay the Public Service Broadcasting Charge.
“The minister believes changes need to be made due technological advances, whereby people are accessing broadcast content online. This is despite the fact that Ireland has the lowest level of high-speed broadband in the EU.
“If we look at Finland we can see that their government strategy aims to have universal access to fibre networks which allow broadband speeds of 100Mbps.
“In Australia, 93% of homes and businesses have access to fibre networks capable of delivering speeds of up to one gigabit per second (1,024Mbps).
“Minister Rabbitte must address broadband speeds before he begins to charge households for a service they cannot access.” ENDS
Speaking today during a Labour Party private members motion debate on the Special Olympics Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly said that “supports for people with disabilities must be restored.”
Senator Reilly said:
“The Special Olympics is a life-changing movement of people helping people. And at the outset I would like to commend and congratulate all the work being done by the volunteers, athletes, coaches, families and communities that are linked to the Special Olympics.
“Nearly one fifth of Irish adults with an intellectual disability have been diagnosed with depression; that’s considerably higher than the figure of 5% among the general population. So Special Olympics Ireland stepped in to the breach and since starting 35 years ago, it has transformed many lives.
“However, over the year’s government funding for the organisation has been dramatically cut. So too have many supports to people with disabilities such as the respite care grant, the mobility allowance, the motorised transport grant.
“If the government is to live up to its programme for government commitment to enhance the lives of people with disabilities it must start by restoring funding for these and other vital supports.”
Note to editor: Full text of Senator Kathryn Reilly’s speech during the Labour senators private members motion today.
Special Olympics is a life-changing movement of people helping people. And at the outset I would like to commend and congratulate all the work being done by the volunteers, athletes, coaches, families and communities that are linked to the Special Olympics.
What makes Special Olympics so special? Some of its founding principles may be the most appropriate way to shed some light on why this movement has thrived and caught the attention and ardent support of thousands of people.
The goal of this movement is twofold:
(1) to bring intellectual disabilities out of the darkness and into the light of public acceptance and understanding, and
(2) to give all persons with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to become productive citizens who are accepted and respected in their communities.
The spirit of Special Olympics incorporates universal values that transcend all boundaries of geography, nationality, political philosophy, gender, age, race, or religion.
We all know the role that sport plays in forming and strengthening friendships, tackling social exclusion and offering opportunities to develop life skills and self-knowledge. Lack of friendships and social interaction experienced by young people and adults with an intellectual disability may contribute to depression.
Nearly one fifth of Irish adults with an intellectual disability have been diagnosed with depression; that’s considerably higher than the figure of 5% among the general population. So Special Olympics Ireland stepped in to the breach and since starting 35 years ago, it has transformed many lives.
However, over the years government funding for the organisation has been dramatically cut.
Couple with that the cuts to the disability sector and it puts in conflict the first part of the Governments text with the latter line.
The Programme for Government includes a clear commitment to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities
This is a commitment that I very much support.
Unfortunately this Government has made a series of decisions which have undermined the quality of life for people with disabilities.
In Budget 2013 Fine Gael and Labour cut the annual Respite Care Grant from €1,700 to €1,375 for each person receiving care.
This cruel cut not only hit the 77,000 carers who rely on it to provide some respite for themselves, but it had a direct impact on those they care for – many elderly or people with physical or intellectual disabilities.
Hitting carers also hits those they are caring for and this cut has significantly reduced the quality of life for tens of thousands of people.
Worse was to come when the government announced the end to the mobility allowance and the motorised transport scheme.
This year these schemes were closed to new entrants. For the 4,700 people with disabilities who rely on the mobility allowance to live an independent life a period of enormous uncertainty was created when the government said the scheme would be replaced this summer but gave no indication as to what would replace it.
When the deadline came for closing shutting the scheme entirely no replacement was in place and the government extended the scheme again creating huge anxiety and uncertainty for people who use the scheme.
Other changes such as those to the household benefits package have left older people and those with disabilities more isolated than before. Changes to the medical card eligibility criteriua introduced earlier this year have also caused particular difficulties for people with disabilities. And the on-going saga of the effective cuts to special needs assistants is having a very real and detrimental impact on families with special needs children.
When I first read the final paragraph of the Labour PMB I was struck between the contrast between its self-congratulatory back slapping sentiment and the real hurt caused to real people by Fine Gael and Labour cuts to supports for people with disabilities.
The words of Independent Arklow councillor Miriam Murphy came to mind. Miriam is a disability rights lobbyist and activist and also has a physical disability having used a wheelchair all her life.
Writing in The Journal in April she said:
“On the 26 February, the cuts to the Mobility Allowance and the Disabled Drivers Transport Grants were announced. I was enjoying a nice cuppa’ at the fire. I was half listening to the 9 o’clock news, I knew I had heard “DISABLED HIT AGAIN”. My husband came into the room and said I should listen. I can honestly say it was like someone had hit me in my stomach. I was shocked, mad, and a little unsure about what the broadcaster was actually telling us. We both just looked at each other. I cried as I felt I couldn’t take any more.”
As you vote for your private members motion today remember that this is the impact of Fine Gael and Labour policies on the quality of life of people with disabilities.
Sinn Féin Seanad spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Senator David Cullinane has welcomed the Annual Report by the IDA.
Speaking today Senator Cullinane said;
“Without a doubt the IDA has performed well at attracting and maintaining employment. Winning and sustaining jobs in an economic down turn is a huge challenge. These must be won on the basis of the skills of our people, our environment and our competitive advantages. It cannot and should not rely on issues such as tax avoidance or highly mobile jobs.
“There is more to do to ensure that FDI makes a maximum impact on unemployment across the state. There is a need to balance the distribution of FDI investment across regions. The IDA set a target of achieving 50% of investment outside of Cork and Dublin. In previous years they have failed to achieve this target. I hope this important issue has been addressed in the latest report.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the confirmation from Insolvency Service Ireland Director Lorcan O’Connor that debtors could face up-front charges is “extremely worrying”.
Speaking today Deputy Doherty said;
“I am worried by Mr O’Connor’s confirmation that the new Insolvency Service is powerless to stop the PIPs (Personal Insolvency Practitioners) from charging debtors up-front assessment fees.
“The whole point of the new insolvency system is to allow insolvent people to get their finances in order. The idea that they could face up-front charges before what could ultimately be an unsuccessful process flies in the face of the logic of the insolvency process.
“The new Service entails in its own right up-front charges of €100 to €500. A PIP can then demand a fee on top of this fee of any amount he feels appropriate.
“Sinn Fein has argued that the new insolvency system is flawed because it leaves the banks with the final say. Now, it appears that debtors are open to being charged unspecified and unregulated charges simply to access the service.
“What is needed is a Public Insolvency Service which guarantees access to a PIP to all debtors in need which is free at point of access. The last thing families struggling with debt need is an up-front lump sum to be paid out at the start of what is sure to be a difficult process.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the Orange Order clearly has not learned any lessons from the violence over the last few days and that they are doing damage to community relations and themselves.
The North Belfast MLA was responding after the Orange Order had applied for a parade past Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales for this coming Saturday.
Gerry Kelly said:
“The Orange Order said they were calling off their protests and yet we still have marches up to police lines at interfaces nightly and now this application to march on Saturday.
“Either they have called off their protests or they haven’t. All this application does is inflame the situation. Tensions need to de-escalate not increase but the Orange Order are still sending out the same confrontational messages.
“Is there anyone with sense in the Orange Order that is going to pull back from this and realise not only the damage that they are doing to community relations but also to their own organisation. Where is the leadership?”