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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA has today called on all political parties to publish full accounts of monies they receive in salaries and allowances.

Mr. Adams said: “The electorate has the right to expect the highest standards from those holding public office and to be confident that taxpayer’s money is being used properly.”

He said:

“There is deep public anger over the abuse of allowances by MPs at Westminster. 

There is anger at the systematic ripping off of tax payer’s money from those elected to high office and anger at the complete lack of transparency and accountability. 

Not only does the system need to change, there is a need for a change in political culture.

For several years now Sinn Féin has voluntarily published our full annual accounts, north and south and in the USA.

We do this because we believe that this is something to which the electorate is entitled. We have repeatedly called on other parties to do the same but in the majority of cases they refuse to do so.

Sinn Féin MPs, like all party members who are paid a wage, receive exactly the same average industrial wage which is £356 per week, net.

There is no personal or self-gain by Sinn Féin MPs in respect of monies or allowances paid by Westminster.

Over the last number of days there have been some wildly inaccurate and political biased reports about Sinn Féin MPs.  The facts are very simple.

Sinn Féin MPs do not take our seats at Westminster but we represent our constituents every single day of the week on social and economic matters and in relation to the peace process. 

We do so in Ireland and in London. In order to represent our constituents we employ a number of staff. We also have office facilities and accommodation in London. 

And in the interests of full disclosure we are publishing the full breakdown of staff costs, travel, administration and accommodation allowances.  Other parties should do the same.

The British government refuses to pay Sinn Féin MPs our salaries and other grants which all other Westminster MPs receive.  Over the last five years this has amounted to almost £2 million.

There are also a number of allowances, which we do not claim. 

And Sinn Féin MP’s who become Ministers do not claim for constituency travel allowances.

Sinn Féin and those who vote for us expect the highest standards from all of our public representatives. We will continue to act in an open and transparent manner.  And we will do all that we can to end the corrupt political culture which operates on both parts of this island. 

The five Sinn Féin MPs are denied: 

·                         MP’s salaries from Westminster. This means that our party has been denied over the last five years £1,443,840.

·                         £100,000 per annum in Policy development Grants which is given to our political opponents in the SDLP and DUP.

Sinn Féin MPs have not claimed: 

·                         Overnight allowances of £25.00 per day.

·                         The Communications Allowance of £10,000 per MP per annum or £50,000 for our five MPs.

·                         Food expenses.     

All Five MPs claim:

·                         Staff Costs:

Each MP is allowed up to £100,205 per annum. MPs and other Sinn Féin elected representatives do not appoint family members to their staff.  After the initial appointment of staff by the MP’s the responsibility for payment of salaries, tax and welfare passes to the Westminster authorities.

·                         Additional Accommodation Allowances:

Each MP draws down £21,600 per annum.  This covers the rent and services for our London rental properties.  We do not draw down the full allowance which is currently £24,222 per annum. We do not own these properties and the rental payment is an all inclusive service and rental contract.  It covers rent, gas, electricity, water, council taxes, waste, furnishings*, cleaning, laundry and insurance.  These leases have been approved by Westminster. 

 The two properties are:

-      A townhouse for the joint use of Conor Murphy, Martin Mc Guinness and  

        Michelle Gildernew.

-      An apartment for the joint use of Pat Doherty and Gerry Adams.

*This excludes 4 purchases in 2004 which are set out in Miscellaneous below.

·                         Administration and Expenditure Allowance:

Each MP draws down £22,393 per annum. This allowance covers the cost of running the constituency operation. All our MP's draw down this allowance and all claims are supported by invoices and proper documentation.

Sinn Féin’s constituency service is acknowledged as professional and effective.

·                         Constituency Travel Allowance:

2005-2006        Gerry Adams                        £686.

                        Pat Doherty                         £3,060.

                        Michelle Gildernew                £5,042.

                        Martin Mc Guinness              £2,434.

                        Conor Murphy                     £2,068.

2006-2007       Gerry Adams                        £1,352.

                        Pat Doherty                         £4,013.

                        Michelle Gildernew               £5,837.

                         Martin Mc Guinness             £4,287.

                        Conor Murphy                       £2,871.

2007-2008        Gerry Adams                     Zero.

                        Pat Doherty                        £2,916.

                        Michelle Gildernew               £1,516.              April 07-July 07.

                        Martin Mc Guinness              £1,530.              April 07-July 07.

                        Conor Murphy                      £1,650.             April 07-July 07.

2008-2009        Gerry Adams                      Zero.

                          Pat Doherty                       £3,000 (estimate).

                          Michelle Gildernew             Zero.

                           Martin Mc Guinness           Zero.

                          Conor Murphy                    Zero.

Sinn Féin MP’s who became Ministers stopped making claims for constituency travel allowances when Ministerial cars were provided in 2007.

Miscellaneous.

In May 2004 when the party took up the rental leases in London claims were made on the following purchases:

1 television system                        £559.

1 television system                        £559.

1 bed settee                                  £795.

Venetian blinds                              £485.

Note to Editor:

On 15th August 2008 Sinn Féin published the party’s annual financial statements for both the north and south. These accounts are for the year ended 31st December 2007 and are on our website www.sinnfein.ie 

We will publish the 2008 financial statement in the summer 2009.

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Fra McCann Sinn Fein MLA for West Belfast has said this morning’s statement by the Housing Executive, announcing how it will spend its budget ‘gives no comfort to those people expecting major repair schemes or replacement grants’.   Speaking today Mr McCann said,   “Sinn Fein has been concerned for some time now, that the Housing Executive might choose this particular path, which we believe is short sighted and will end up costing more in the long run. We have stated recently that many of the proposed group schemes are cyclical and pre planned and if not completed as planned will fall further into disrepair.   Many of the pre planned replacement schemes are being done because they have out lived their usefulness and need replaced on health and safety grounds. This morning’s announcement will seriously disappoint many tenants across the north.   Sinn Fein welcomes the announcement that 1750 new homes are to be built, which is in line with the programme for government. It remains to see however, if the Housing Executive will be in a position to deliver on this particular promise.   The Housing Executive needs to spell out the impact these cuts to services will have on the housing stock and vulnerable people who await renovations or replacement grants, home improvement grants, LOTTS grants and HMO grants,   Sinn Fein has been saying for some time that the minister is bankrupt of new ideas on how to bring additional housing into play; sadly it appears the Housing Executive come from the same school of thought.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA has said that there is no stronger advocate for our rural communities in this European election than Bairbre de Brún.   The Sinn Féin President was speaking during a leadership tour of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.   Mr Adams said:   “I believe that our rural communities remain the cornerstone of Irish life and Sinn Fein is determined to ensure that there is a viable future for rural Ireland. That is why we challenged PPS 14, and why we chose to take on the responsibility of the Agriculture and Rural Develop brief within the Executive and why we have prioritised issues such as a Rural White Paper.   “Sinn Fein is also leading the way in pushing forward the all Ireland approach. We need a voice fighting for this part of Ireland at the heart of the EU decision making process. Bairbre has been standing up for our rural communities. In Michelle Gildernew and Bairbre de Brún we have two champions of rural Ireland.   “Bairbre de Brún has worked hard over the last five years to represent farmers and rural people on a range of issues. She has:   - helped secure an early end to the beef ban; - consistently opposed shady deals at the WTO; - worked with others on stopping the importation of Brazilian beef due to traceability concerns; - facilitated engagement with Europe and briefed farmers and rural communities on EU developments; - continued to argue for the reduction of unnecessary red tape; and - helped ensure that R+D on agriculture here could have access to the EU 7th Research Framework Programme worth over 50 billion euro overall.     “In a new European Parliament Sinn Féin will work to see a fair outcome for our farmers in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy in 2013 and to ensure that any unspent EU funds can be directed at struggling sectors of our farming industry. We will also work to ensure our farmers can benefit from the increased funds the EU has earmarked for renewable energy and for rural broadband and will continue highlight traceability concerns over Brazilian beef and oppose unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.     “Sinn Féin has put the interests of Ireland first in Europe – local people, our rural communities, our farmers and our future prosperity. We have led the way in demanding that Ireland – North and South – is not squeezed out of the decision making process. This approach will be vital to the future of our farming interests over the next five years.”  ENDS

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Sinn Féin North West EU candidate Pádraig Mac Lochlainn today called on Brian Cowen to start dealing with the serious problems facing the Irish public and stop wasting time refereeing between two squabbling Fianna Fáil election candidates. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn made his call as Brian Cowen travelled to Donegal to meet with Fianna Fáil’s additional EU candidate in the constituency.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said:

“The country is quite literally falling apart. 200,000 people have lost their jobs in the last 12 months. The government is about to blow in the region of €70-€90 billion on the banks leaving future generations of Irish people in debt for decades to come. The reputation of this government has being damaged beyond repair because of the cronyism it has shown to its friends in banking and development circles, and this in turn is damaging the country. Yet, with all this happening, the Taoiseach, who is higher paid than the President of the United States, has left government buildings to come out to this constituency and act as a referee between two squabbling Fianna Fáil candidates.

“People are crying out for leadership. They are demanding explanations and apologies for what has taken place. They want change. They are sick of looking at Fianna Fáil and the Greens trying to pretend nothing untoward is happening while the country is in deep crisis.

“Sinn Féin is not willing to stand by while the government buries its head in the sand and and plays at politics as usual. There is nothing usual about this election. This election is a referendum on the government and I don’t, and the people don’t care whether or not there are one, two or twenty Fianna Fáil candidates running in the North West of the country. Who cares who got selected when or where or how. People care about losing their jobs, their fishing rights, their farms and livelihoods, the unfinished transport routes, the lack of communications technology and the disregard being shown to their democratic rights in the re-running of referenda that they say no to.

“I’m calling on people to use this election as an opportunity to send a strong message to the government by voting Sinn Féin, the real alternative to politics as usual. Vote for a united republican party.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh T.D. speaking in the Dáil today offered a cautious welcome to the Fines Bill 2009 while pointing out that there are serious issues which remain to be dealt with. The Sinn Féin Deputy criticised the limited scope of the Bill saying, “Given the long number of years that this Bill has been at a drafting stage, I must say that it is disappointing it is not more progressive or broader in its impact. I’m particularly disappointed that it fails to reverse the current situation whereby people continue to be imprisoned simply as a result of their inability to repay a debt.”

Welcoming the legislative changes which allow for repayment of fines in installments Deputy Ó Snodaigh said that this move, which has been called for time and again by Sinn Féin, would help keep non-violent people on low wages and social welfare out of prison, a huge improvement on the previous situation which is disproportionate and gives rise to significant avoidable cost to the Exchequer.

The Sinn Féin deputy said he hoped that the new legislation involving community service would be embraced in order to stamp out the ever present inefficiencies citing a case whereby “A county Mayo farmer was fined €6 for not having a tail light on his tractor trailer.  He refused to pay and two days prison was the alternative.  The state paid for a taxi and two Gardaí to bring him from Mayo to Mountjoy where he was released the next day and his train fare home was also paid – total cost to the exchequer was in the region of €2,500.”

Deputy Ó Snodaigh described as scandalous a case currently before the courts where “An unemployed mother of two with a total weekly income of €300 has had a one-month jail sentence imposed on her as a result of her inability to make weekly payments of €82 to her credit union.” The government should introduce amendments to this Bill at committee stage to address the situation. Failure to do so will undoubtedly result in an exponential rise in the number of non-violent people sentenced to prison as the recession intensifies.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald MEP has this evening welcomed Labour leader Eamon Gilmore’s criticism of Fine Gael’s closeness to Fianna Fáil in policy and decision-making. Ms McDonald has also called on Mr. Gilmore to make clear whether he will go into any future coalition with Fine Gael.

The Dublin MEP added:

“Eamon Gilmore’s comments today are to be welcomed. Sinn Féin has for some time now called for a realignment of Irish politics. Gerry Adams made a direct appeal to the Labour party at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis earlier this year to join with Sinn Féin in offering the people of this state a real political alternative to the tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber parties that are Fine Fáil and Fianna Gael.

“The elections on June 5th are not just about the European, local and by-elections. They are the peoples first strategic step in getting rid of this rotten government. So the question must now to asked of the Labour leader in light of his statements today, will he oppose Labour going into coalition with Fine Gael in any future general election?” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has revealed that over €6.5million is being spent annually on prefab accommodation for school children in 74 schools across 18 Counties. Figures released exclusively to Sinn Féin from the Department of Education show that nearly €20million has been spent in these schools over the past number of years on prefab accommodation.

Senator Doherty said, “This is an obscene amount of money for the Government to be wasting on substandard accommodation for our children. This money and other moneys should be invested in permanent quality school buildings. How else are we to build the so called knowledge economy that the Government so often talks about?

“When asked if he will provide a list on a county by county basis the amount per school that has been spent on prefabs over the past five years the Minister responded by saying that the information requested is not readily available and would take an inordinate amount of time to compile.

“However,in the 74 schools throughout 18 Counties which I enquired about 27 schools are paying over €100,000 annually on the rent of prefabs. This includes 10 schools which are paying over €150,000, four schools paying more than €200,000 and one school which is paying just under €250,000 on the rent of prefabs.

“Sixteen schools have paid over €400,000 in rent over a number of years up to December 2008 while three schools have paid over €1,000,000 and one school has paid €1,728,020 so far in rent of prefabs.

“Eleven schools have paid over €100,000 for the purchase of prefabs while one school has paid €409,765 for the purchase of prefabs.

“These figures are an indictment on the record of successive Fianna Fáil led Government who have failed to invest properly in our children’s education even in the years of the economic boom.

“At  this time of record unemployment levels Sinn Féin has called on the Government to invest in labour intensive public infrastructure projects to boost employment in the construction sector and to put in place the infrastructure required to sustain our economy in the medium to long term. This should include the fast-tracking of the school building programme to bring about an end to the use of prefab accommodation for our children.

“Our proposals would see all 74 schools that are currently a stage 3 tender stage proceed to construction immediately with a target of 50% of the 86 schools at design stage proceeding to construction by the end of 2009.  We would also ensure that a minimum of 150 school building projects enter the architectural and planning stages each year to ensure we meet the projected demand for school places over the coming years.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has expressed his astonishment at new figures showing that the naturalisation backlog has worsened since the last general election, despite government claims to have speeded up the process.

The Cavan-Monaghan Deputy said, “Just before the general election 2007 I obtained figures from the Department of Justice showing that more than 1,500 citizenship applications filed between 2002 and 2004 had yet to be decided, including more than one-third of all applications filed in 2004.

“The updated figures I received from the Minister this week show that for the comparable time period – 2004-2006 – there are now over 3,500 unprocessed applications. For the year 2006 this amounts to more than 42% of all applications filed.

“These figures put the lie to the Department’s claims to have speeded up the process. The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website states that the average processing time is now 23 months, yet I am regularly contacted by applicants who have been waiting three years or longer for a decision. This contrasts with the neighbouring island, where the current average processing time is just six months despite the recent implementation of stricter eligibility measures.

“For many of these applicants, this delay means they will be unable to vote in the upcoming European elections. It is likely also that a substantial number of them reside in one of the two constituencies facing a Dáil by-election. Having long since exceeded the statutory requirements for naturalisation, they should be entitled to vote in that election. Instead they are being disenfranchised purely due to government inefficiency.

“The inability of this government to process naturalisation applications in a reasonable time is inexplicable, unjustifiable and completely at odds with its supposed  commitment to promoting integration. It is also a slap in the face to those who wish to be a part of the Irish nation. I urge all those awaiting naturalisation to ensure they are registered for the local elections – and to use their vote to send a message to the government parties, Fianna Fáil and the Greens, about the unacceptable treatment they are receiving in this process.” ENDS

Notes to editors:

Figures received in 2007 (Parliamentary Question 181 of 3rd April 2007):

Year     Naturalisation applications received       Naturalisation applications pending

2002                            3574                                                    13

2003                            3580                                                    132

2004                            4074                                                    1362

Figures received this week (Parliamentary Question 278 of 12th May 2009):

Year     No. of Applications received              No. of Applications pending a decision

2001                1,431                                                               0

2002                3, 574                                                              2

2003                3, 580                                                              26

2004                4, 074                                                              87

2005                4, 527                                                              470

2006                7, 030                                                              3, 019

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the package of measures to fight crime approved by cabinet yesterday will not reduce serious crime levels. Deputy Ó Snodaigh described the measures as superficial, populist and ultimately ineffective.

He said, "Sinn Féin has consistently called on the Minister for Justice to bring forward a robust package of realistic and effective measures to tackle serious crime but we are extremely disappointed with the package that the Minister is bringing forward.

"The anti-crime measures proposed by government are a lesson in how to lose the war on gangs.

"Alongside this package the government have imposed restrictions on Garda overtime and a ban on recruitment and promotions. The force are to remain dependent on outdated and inadequate equipment and the one avenue through which the community can confidently confidentially report crime indirectly to Gardaí, the successful Dial to Stop Drug Dealing non Garda phone-line, is set to close this autumn if not earlier.

"The Minister is attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the public with a package of dubious, populist, in many ways superficial and ultimately ineffective cheap and easy measures. This package represents the lazy way out. It will not reduce serious crime.

"Sinn Féin has made a wide range of realistic and potentially effective proposals for tackling serious crime in our document 'Policing with the Community in 2009'. These measures are urgently required.

"We also fully recognise that the vast majority of serious crime is drug-related and so we have also compiled and submitted to government detailed proposals aimed at maximising both demand reduction and supply reduction.

"If this government was really serious about tackling gangland crime would they continue with their plans to savagely cut the budgets of the local drugs task forces who are tasked with reducing demand for the illegal trade that gives rise to so much gangland violence, as came to light last week? The voting public needs to take this on board when casting their vote in next month’s election rather than simply accepting at face value the Government’s repeatedly announced populist proposals." ENDS

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Reacting to the announcement of 1,200 job cuts at Eircom, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights, Arthur Morgan TD has pointed to the privatisation of Eircom as a cause of job losses and the country's inadequate broadband infrastructure. He called for Eircom to be re-nationalised rather than handed over to another self interested multi-national.

Deputy Morgan said, "The announcement of 1,200 redundancies at Eircom is yet another example of the disastrous privatisation of the state’s telecommunications network.

"Privatisation of Eircom has been disastrous: the quality of our broadband infrastructure is below the EU average while vast parts of the country remain without a broadband connection whatsoever.

"The Irish economy and workers are suffering because Eircom is controlled by a self-serving board of management.

"Eircom should be nationalised rather than handed over to another self-interested multi-national." ENDS

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The Oireachtas All Party Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has this morning endorsed compiled by Martin Ferris TD on the Future of Farming and Fishing in the West of Ireland. The report calls for the reversal of all the Government’s budget cutbacks in the agriculture sector and for the complete reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

In preparing the report the Sinn Féin Deputy travelled the length of the West Coast and carrying out an extensive survey of Farmers and Fishermen in the West as well as receiving hundreds of submissions from interested parties. The report will now be sent to the cabinet with a call from the committee for a full debate in the Dáil.

Speaking today Deputy Ferris said; "I am delighted that the committee has endorsed this report. Some of the findings are truly shocking, for instance the inequality present in the allocation of the Single Farm Payments shows that 60% of farmers in the west believe their situation has gotten worse since introduction of the Single Farm Payment.

"The report also shows that jobs and the economy are major issues facing rural Ireland. This must be addressed by the Government with the introduction of a job retention and creation package.

"The submissions made to me during the compiling of this report are extremely valuable coming from the front line as they are. What they show is that the Fishing quota system is systematically unfair and that there is an overwhelming demand for fundamental reform of the common fisheries policy.

"The report also shows that the farming community believe that there are many ways out of this current crisis. This will require a Greater emphasis on LEADER projects for rural job creation for example.

"However beyond any shadow of a doubt the overwhelming response which we received from the Farming and Fishing communities up and down the west coast is that this Government must reverse their budget cuts." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the members of the Fianna Fáil/Green Government should hang their heads in shame as their health cuts result in the closure of wards and reduction of services in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children. He said this was but the latest example of the betrayal of children.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"This Fianna Fáil/Green Government is betraying children and targeting them for savage cuts. The latest example is the closure of wards and reduction of services in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. This is a national centre of excellence for the care of children yet the Government has for years failed to provide it with the support it needs and has now failed to shield it from the effects of the savage health cuts.

"Long forgotten now are the false promises from Health Minister Mary Harney and HSE Chief Brendan Drumm that cuts would not effect front-line patient care.

"Minister Harney has refused to go ahead with the promised cervical cancer vaccine for girls, thus increasing the danger of cancer for thousands of children.

"Children with special needs have also been betrayed by this Government with cuts to their services condemning them to lives of disadvantage.

"And the Government is refusing to implement the key recommendation of the Monageer Report for an out-of-hours social work service. This need is not confined to helping prevent such tragedies as that at Monageer. The overall shortage of social workers to address the needs of children in danger has long been identified but has been allowed to persist by this Government.

"Social workers and others working with children and for children’s rights have repeatedly pointed out that the under-resourcing of child protection services, social work, community care, family support and psychological and therapeutic services is having terrible consequences.

"The members of this Government should hang their heads in shame for betraying children." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has described the Finance Bill as a testament to the Government’s failures. He said Sinn Féin will not support the Bill and called on Green Party TDs and Fianna Fáil Backbenchers to have the courage to reject it.

Speaking this morning as TDs prepared to debate the Finance Bill in the Dáil this afternoon Deputy Morgan said, "This Finance Bill will implement the savage cuts announced by Brian Lenihan in last month’s emergency budget.

"Today’ announcement by AIB of a €4 billion gaping hole in their accounts is just the last instalment in a roll call of corporate executive management failure. We need to move at the very least to short term nationalisation and get banks back to work rather than this merry go round of failure followed by even greater failure.

"This bill shows that the taxpayer is carrying the can for all of these failures, every time we buy something, through higher VAT we pay for that failure and now with airport charges, and higher tax levies we pay the price every day we go to work, yet the government is not doing enough to save the jobs of workers it is taxing more and more.

"Sinn Féin will not support a Bill which seeks to target low and middle income earners to pay for the economic recession.

"We believe that this Bill can be defeated and I will be calling on Green Party TDs and Fianna Fáil backbenchers to have the courage to vote against it. Given the Government’s slender majority in the Dáil the Green Party has a responsibility to hold their Fianna Fáil partners to account." ENDS

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Transport Minister Conor Murphy MP MLA today outlined his department’s position after recent discussions between the Department for Regional Development, the Consumer Council and Translink in relation to the proposed Translink fare increases.

The proposed increases were deferred by the Minister, after the Consumer Council raised concerns about the consultation process between them and Translink.

Speaking about events over recent weeks and the way forward the Minister said: “I made the decision to defer any fare increases when it emerged that the Consumer Council had some concerns about the consultation process.

“Whilst there is little doubt that the confusion caused to the public on this issue has been far from ideal, as Transport Minister, I considered it was essential to listen to the views of the Consumer Council and to provide them a further opportunity to consider Translink’s proposals.

“Over recent weeks the Consumer Council and Translink have met. I am informed that these discussions have been productive and that as a result, a number of changes to specific fares have been agreed. I am aware that agreement has not been reached on every specific fare increase proposed, but at this stage I am content that the consultation process has now been as comprehensive as possible.

“In addition to these discussions, I also invited the newly appointed Consumer Council Chairman and acting Chief Executive to meet with me and I took the opportunity to assure them of the importance and value of their contribution to this process.

“These discussions have concluded and Translink will now present their proposed fare increases and provide customers with details of when these will come into effect.”

Recognising the current economic reality facing both Translink and local people who use public transport, the Minister gave his views on fares increases saying: “My objective throughout this process has been to keep all fares increases and indeed any changes to services to the absolute minimum necessary.

“As I have stated previously, I rejected Translink’s initial proposals and instructed them to bring forward new proposals that would avoid compulsory job losses and keep any fare increases or changes to current levels of service to a minimum.

“Fare increases are never popular, however the commercial reality is that the only alternative at this time to fare increases is compulsory job losses and a review of current levels of service.”

Outlining his commitment to improving public transport here the Minister said: “During my meeting with the Consumer Council, I informed them of my intention to launch later this month, a reform of the entire public transport system here in the North.

“I want to state clearly that my department is absolutely committed to ensuring that public transport across the North meets public need by being affordable, accessible and efficient.

“We will continue to work closely with the Consumer Council, Translink, the Regional Development Committee and the Unions to achieve this.”

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Sinn Féin Policing Board Member, Alex Maskey MLA (South Belfast) responding to the Criminal Justice Inspectorate Report has branded it as a ‘damning indictment’ of the bias inherent in the Criminal Justice system here.

Alex Maskey said:

“This Report highlights the institutional bias in the Justice system. The Criminal Justice Inspectorate’s findings that Catholics are more likely to face prosecution, to be remanded in custody and over-represented in the general prison population and subject to discriminatory practices in prison, confirms the belief amongst the Catholic/nationalist population of an inherent bias that reaches across the Criminal Justice system.

“While the implementation of the Patten recommendations will address the situation in regards policing, the same diligence needs to be applied across the Justice system from the PPS to the recruitment of members of the Prison Service. The comments attributed to Police sources that Catholic juveniles broke the law more often than Protestants – a claim rejected by the Inspectorate – is reprehensive and are an indication of the work we still need to do to achieve accountable and representative policing.

“It is reprehensible that Catholics should be subjected to any form of discrimination at any point of the process from arrest through consideration of charges by the PPS, access to bail while awaiting trial or the right to privileges while serving sentences.

“This comes as no surprise to nationalists and only serves to highlight the need to transfer Policing and Justice powers into the control of local politicians as soon as possible. I am seeking an urgent meeting with British Security Minister, Paul Goggins to demand action to redress this situation.”

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West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has raised Visteon workers’ pension rights with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Mr Adams said he and his party had been directly involved in talks around the future of the west Belfast site at various points over recent years and said the full circumstances of the closure must be probed.

“The Visteon workers were guaranteed ‘lifetime protection’ in relation to their terms and conditions, including pension schemes into which they paid.”

“Those rights and entitlements have not been honoured. We have already asked the Pensions Regulator to initiate a full, independent investigation into this matter.”

The Sinn Féin President asked the British Prime Minister to do all he could to ensure that the full rights and entitlements of the Visteon workers are upheld."

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today met with members of the ‘Young at Heart Club’ in Glenravel, North Antrim.

Ms de Brún told members of the Young at Heart Club that Sinn Fein is determined to put the interests of older people first, here at home and in Europe and campaign for a guaranteed minimum income in order to ensure the right to a dignified life for everybody.  We will also campaign for a link between pensions and average earnings.

Ms de Brún said:

“As an active MEP, it is important to listen to the real needs of citizens. Rural isolation, poverty and discrimination faced by older people in relation to the provision of goods and services have all been issues that I have put a focus on during the past 5 years.

“One hugely significant development over the years was the Employment Equality Directive which outlaws unjustified age discrimination in employment and vocational training. The next important stage of equality legislation, going beyond employment and providing for equality of treatment in access to goods and services has now made good progress.

“Sinn Féin MEPs will promote fuller implementation of employment equality legislation at home to overcome the barriers and negative social attitudes facing older people in getting equal access to employment opportunities, and to training and re-training.

“We will continue to press for comprehensive non-discrimination legislation at EU level going beyond employment and dealing with access to goods and services, including the right of older people to finance, insurance, and adequate health services.

“We will continue to defend public services against liberalisation and oppose moves to subject health services to the internal market which would damage equality of access and particularly affect older people.

“Sinn Fein MEPs will campaign for a guaranteed minimum income in order to ensure the right to a dignified life for everybody.  We will also campaign for a link between pensions and average earnings and will work to ensure that older people can move freely within the EU without losing their pension rights.”

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Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy MP MLA, today welcomed progress made in securing the future operation of the Magilligan to Greencastle Ferry link.

Speaking after a round table discussion which he held today at Magilligan with interested District Councils, the Minister said: “Today’s meeting has been useful and good progress has been made. Significantly, I advised Limavady Borough Council that I have secured agreement from the British Transport Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, that the Magilligan to Greencastle Ferry Service should no longer be designated as an international service. This is a vital development as it means that the ferry service will now be recognised as an inland service and therefore the elaborate and very costly security measures that were applied by the British transport authorities can now be substantially reduced.

“I welcome this decision which should considerably reduce the financial burden that such security measures have placed on the ferry service. I know that many of those using this service in the local community shared my view that the security measures in place were unnecessary. This is a common sense decision, and a significant step in securing the future of this important link.”

Reflecting on the outcome of his meeting the Minister said: “I recognise that there are many other challenges to securing the future of this ferry service. Whilst I have been able to make a significant contribution, there is no doubt that there is a clear onus on all parties with an interest in the service to play their part in finding solutions to ensure the long-term viability of this important link. In particular, I would strongly urge Limavady Borough Council and Donegal County Council, as joint sponsors of this service, to build on the progress made to date, and to act quickly.”

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Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has joined the local apple industry in their celebrations of the bicentenary of the Bramley apple.

This year marks 200 years since the pip that grew into the first Bramley apple tree was planted in Nottinghamshire. Locally Bramley apples have been grown here since the early part of the 19th Century.

During a visit to the Bramley Apple Blossom Fair, at the Manor Estate and Country Park in Loughgall, the Minister spoke to many representatives from the local Bramley apple industry including growers, processors and packers.

Following a tour of the exhibitions at the event Minister Gildernew said:” It is a privilege to be able to celebrate the long tradition of apple production in the Orchard County and also mark the bicentenary of the Bramley apple. I appreciate the considerable work the industry has put in to make this event a success and I am pleased that my Department has been able to assist by offering support through our local Regional Food Programme. I have no doubt this fair will help raise the profile of the Armagh Bramley.

“It has been very encouraging to meet with a range of people from across the sector here this evening. Co-operation between all players within the supply chain is vital to the industry. As with many sectors, this year will be a challenging one for those in the production, processing and marketing of apples but I am sure that the people involved will meet these challenges head on. My Department will continue to work closely with the apple sector through ongoing support with technology transfer, training and supply chain development.”

At the Bramley Apple Blossom Fair Minister Gildernew also met well known and much acclaimed chef, author and TV presenter Darina Allen from Ballymaloe Cookery School, Co Cork. Darina showed off her considerable culinary skills demonstrating some of the many ways to use Bramley by providing recipes to try at home.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Spokesperson on Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called for the full implementation of all the recommendations of the Report of the Monageer Inquiry. He said it is "alarming" that the Minister of State or Children Barry Andrews in launching the report refused to accept the first and most important recommendation for a State-wide out of hours social work service.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"In commenting on this Report I extend continuing sympathy to the families of Ciara Dunne (nee O’Brien), Adrian Dunne and their children Lean and Shania who died so tragically in their home in Monageer, County Wexford on 23 April 2007.

"It is of great concern that sections of this Report’s Conclusions and Recommendations have been deleted by the Minister of State before publication. No adequate explanation has been given for this and the Minister of State should publish the Conclusions and Recommendations in full.

"The most important thing now is to learn what lessons can be learned and apply them in order to help prevent another such tragedy. It is accepted that even if all the requisite services had been in place and if different procedures had been followed this tragedy may not have been averted. But the Report makes conclusions which identify very serious gaps in services which remain and which must be addressed urgently.

"It is of huge concern that the Report concludes that a fundamental problem has been the State’s failure to provide an out of hours social work service to assure a response to all serious child protection and welfare concerns.

"Therefore it is essential that the Government implements the first recommendation of the Report which is that a national out of hours social work service be provided.

"In launching the Report Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews claimed to acknowledge the need for such a service but then said its provision ‘would not be the best use of funding’. The Minister of State is refusing to accept and implement the most important recommendation. Instead he has offered an ill-defined review and reconfiguration of existing HSE services.

"While this Report focuses on one terrible tragedy, there were three other such suicide/murder tragedies in Co. Wexford in the past four years yet there is till no 24-hour social work service provision in that county or in any other county." ENDS

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