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Sinn Féin Education Minister Cáitríona Ruane will take part in an event entitled 'moving to the big school' organised by the west Belfast Partnership Board tomorrow (Thursday) night.

At the event the Minister will outline her proposals in relation to Post-Primary education and explain the options currently available to young people. There will be a number of other stakeholders speaking at the event also, including Ken Bloomfield.

Speaking prior to the meeting the Minister said,

"I am delighted to have been invited to attend this event and commend the organisers for allowing people the opportunity to engage directly with politicians and other key stakeholders in the sector.

"I am looking forward to tomorrow night's event and the debate will provide an opportunity for education stakeholders in West Belfast to access information, voice concerns and put forward constructive suggestions regarding post primary education." CRÍOCH

Note to Editors

The meeting will take place in St Mary's University College on the Falls Road from 7pm until 9pm. The debate will be chaired by Anne Cadwallader.


Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA has today expressed his support for a daily Irish newspaper and his support for those who would wish to provide this service to the Irish language community.

The Sinn Fein President also urged Foras na Gaeilge to continue to plan ahead in a strategic all-island basis.

Gerry Adams said:

"There is a very clear need for a daily Irish Language newspaper.

Obviously this has to be sustainable.

Sinn Féin will support those who wish to provide this service to the Irish language community.

Lá has been the flagship. It is the only daily Irish language publication and everyone involved with it is to be commended.

The closure of Lá Nua would be a step backwards. It appears we will no longer have a daily paper in Irish. This is the wrong message at the present time.

Foras na Gaeilge was established under the Good Friday Agreement to promote Irish on an all-Ireland basis.

This gave a new impetus to the myriad strands of the language revival. However if Foras is to be relevant to this revival it has to continue to plan ahead in a strategic all-island basis.

It needs to be a dynamic and representative body giving voice to the grassroots and keeping the Irish and British governments and the Executive to their pledges on Irish.

It is of key importance that we all have confidence in Foras na Gaeilge


Dúirt Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA:

Tá nuachtán laethúil Gaeilge de dhíth. Ar ndóigh caithfidh sé a bheith inbhuanaithe.

Beidh Sinn Féin ag tacú leis na daoine atá ag iarraidh an séirbhís sin a chur ar fáil don phobail Ghaelach.

Tá Lá Nua mar 'long cheannais'. Is é an t-aon pháipear laethúil Gaeilge agus tá moladh mór tuilte ag achan duine atá páirteach ann.

Bheadh imeacht Lá Nua mar céim siar. Tá cuma ar an scéal nach mbeidh paipéar laethúil ar bith again, i format crua nó léictreonach.

Sin an teachtaireacht mícheart ag an bhomaite.

Bunaíodh Foras na Gaeilge i ndiaidh Comhaontú Aoine an Céasta leis an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ar gné uile-Éireannach.

Thug seo cuidiú d'áthbheochán na teanga ach caithfidh Foras a bheith ag pleanáil don todhchaí ar bhun stráitíseach uile-Éireannach. Ní féidir leo seo a sheacaint.

Caithfidh sé a bheith mar grúpá fuiniúil a thugann glór don phobail gaelach ar fad agus a chinntíonn go bhfuil na rialtais ag comhlíonadh a gcuid gealltanais i dtaca leis an Ghaeilge.

Caithfidh muinín a bheith againn uilig san Fhoras CRÍOCH


Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has this afternoon demanded that the EU parliament follow up on its commitment to end street homelessness by 2015. In April of this year Written Declaration 111 to end street homelessness in the EU by 2015 became EU policy. Speaking during at a press conference in Strasbourg today the MEP noted that “the Declaration is not simply as aspiration of the parliament but an objective that must be achieved.”

Speaking from a press conference in Strasbourg the Dublin MEP said:

“In April of this year Sinn Féin along with four of our European colleagues secured majority support for Written Declaration 111 to end street homelessness throughout the EU by 2015.

“This achievement was significant as written declarations are regularly sought but rarely get a majority of MEP signatures required to enable the declaration to become Parliamentary policy.

“As the Declaration is now policy the EU parliament can actively pressure the European Council, Commission and member states to explain their failure to act on the commitment should it appear at any stage the date of 2015 is in jeopardy.

“Written Declaration 111 is not simply an aspiration of the European parliament. It is an objective that must be achieved. What we are seeking today is an update on what actions member state parliaments have taken to begin the process of ending street homelessness. We are acutely conscious that we are heading into winter and provisions for those without homes must be a priority of all member state governments.

“In addition the Declaration puts a renewed political impetus into the Irish government’s commitment to end street homelessness by 2010. By delivering on our domestic commitment of 2010 Ireland can set an example and lead the way in ensuring all EU member states meet the 2015 deadline.

“It is estimated that some 5,000 people are homeless in Ireland, 629 of these are children. In Dublin alone approximately 1,500 adults and 485 children, the majority of whom are under 11 years of age, have been identified as homeless. These are only estimates.

“Homelessness is one of the big challenges facing the European Union, a challenge we are more than capable of overcoming if we set ourselves a strategic approach that delivers results. The objective of ending street homelessness in all EU member states can and should be achieved. It simply needs the political will of member state governments and EU institutions to make it happen.” CRÍOCH


Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty will be speaking at the Union of Students in Ireland demonstration outside Leinster House which is being held today in protest against proposals by the Minister for Education and Science Batt O’ Keeffe’s to reintroduce third level tuition fees.

Speaking from Leinster House in advance of the event the Donegal Senator said:

“It is now accepted that Budget 2009 has been a slash and burn affair. After squandering the boom years by treating the public purse as a cash cow and then deepening the long term impact of this policy by failing to invest in the states future Fianna Fáil and the Greens now appear intent on deepening the current recession.

“This government has no plan to turn around the economy. Rather than invest in key public services upon which the economy is dependent it is choosing instead to cut them right back to the bone. Education has been hit badly with an array of cuts, increases in primary school class sizes, cuts in supports for pupils from disadvantaged areas and a massive hike in third level registration fees.

“Having failed to win public support over the summer for the reintroduction of third level fees government’s plan B is clearly to over time increase registration fees to the point that they will effectively equal third level fees. Fianna Fáil and the Greens should be delivering education policy that takes down barriers to education access not policy that puts them up.

“The government has not only failed in its commitment to deliver reduced class sizes but astonishingly has now chosen to in fact increase them in Budget 2009. Nearly a quarter of all pupils remain in super sized classes of 30 plus. Prior to the 2002 general election Fianna Fáil made a commitment to reduce class sizes. According to the INTO there are now two percent fewer Irish children in the target classes of less than 20 than there were when the initial promise was made in 2002. It is simply wrong that our children continue to be educated in over crowded badly resourced schools and it is a bad policy that will continue to bite the economy in its derrière.

“Equitable access to a high standard of education from the very start of the school cycle is the foundation upon which this economy is built. That Fianna Fáil with the support of the Green Party continues to employ such disastrous policy decisions to this area is a massive issue of concern for families and also importantly the business sector of the future. I am calling on families and businesses throughout the state to make there voices heard. Access to a high standard of education is a right not a privilege and our economy depends on it.” ENDS


Speaking during Statements on the Morris Tribunal in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the finding of the eight report of the Tribunal in relation to the channelling of allegations to the Minister by two Dáil Deputies is wrong and has eclipsed the long overdue vindication of the McBrearty Family who suffered greatly as a result of grave Garda abuse.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also said the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) must not be allowed to lease complaints for investigation back to the Gardaí.

He said, "I will start by commenting on the eighth Report in relation to the channelling of allegations to the Minister by two Dáil Deputies. The finding of the Tribunal is wrong. Serious allegations must be investigated by those with the power of investigation. The Minister has the power to commence an investigation. TDs do not. Shamefully this aspect of the Tribunal reports has to an extent eclipsed the long overdue vindication of the McBrearty Family who suffered greatly as a result of grave Garda abuse."

In relation to the Ombudsman Commission Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Ombudsman Commission already falls short of the reforms necessary arising from the Morris Tribunal and short of equivalence with the PSNI Ombudsman in terms of powers, independence and resources.

"The Commission is not sufficiently independent - it is almost entirely dependent on the Gardaí to conduct their investigations for them. A number of key staff are seconded from the Gardaí, others were transferred directly from the old Garda Complaints Board or simply retired from the Garda Síochána in order to immediately take up a position in the Ombudsman Commission.

"I have met with the Commissioners twice to express my concerns. The Commissioners acknowledged to me that they are totally over-burdened. They confirmed that they do not have the capacity to deal with the volume of complaints coming in. GSOC have since recommended that amending legislation be introduced giving them a wide discretion to refuse complaints and allowing them to lease back even more complaints to be investigated by the Gardaí themselves. This must not be allowed to happen. As I said during the Budget debate last week the government should substantially increase funding to GSOC for the good of communities and for the good of the force itself." ENDS


Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly today welcomed the opportunity for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister to work with the Law Centre and other local organisations to ensure that those seeking sanctuary here are treated with respect and compassion.

Mr Kelly made the comments during a meeting with Law Centre Director, Les Allamby, to discuss the recent Independent Asylum Commission's Report into the Asylum system here.

Mr Kelly said:

"While immigration is an excepted matter, we have a role in ensuring that all who travel here seeking sanctuary through the asylum system are treated with respect, fairness and dignity.

"We also have a duty to include and represent those who are most vulnerable. The issue of asylum is often viewed with confusion, prejudice and misinformation. We need to move beyond stereotypes and ensure services meet the needs of asylum seekers, many of whom have left families and communities behind as they flee oppression and violence and try to build a new life in a foreign society.

"We in the Office in the First Minister and deputy First Minister are committed to working with the Law Centre and others to achieve progress on these difficult and complex issues. These individuals and families are in a particularly vulnerable position in our society and we need to do all we can to ensure their wellbeing and safety." ENDS

Note to Editors

The Independent Asylum Commission (IAC) was established in 2006 by the Citizen Organising Foundation to undertake an independent citizen's inquiry into the implementation of national policies on asylum. The Commission's inquiry has since made over 180 recommendations which it hopes will restore public confidence in the process and improve the way we decide who needs sanctuary, how we treat them while they are here, and what happens when a person is refused sanctuary.


Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has today called on the government to increase the income levy threshold to the average industrial wage and that the levy should only be applied to income earned above the €38,000 figure. Deputy Morgan went on to describe the income levy itself as "a regressive tax" but noting "if government is intent on implementing it then it is imperative that they do so in a manner that minimises its negative impact on working families."

The Louth TD said:

"Last week Finance Minister Brian Lenihan stated that he supported a progressive tax system. The Ministers decision to introduce an income levy is in fact regressive as it is a flat tax that disproportionately hits those on low to middle incomes.

"Sinn Féin in its pre Budget submission called on government through the Commission on Taxation to undertake a rolling review of taxation with a particular eye to increasing the number of bands to assist working families who are paying too much tax. Such a move would in real terms be fair and progressive.

"The governments climb down decision not to apply the income levy to those on the minimum wage does not go far enough. In practice the levy act as a disincentive for those on the minimum wage to work overtime as workers will be levied on the full amount once they work a euro over the levy threshold.

"However it is just those on the lowest incomes in the state who will be hardest hit by this punitive tax. Low to middle income earners are struggling to cope with rapidly rising cost of living expenses. Last weeks budget was an opportunity to address this but instead government heaped additional taxes hitting working families and small businesses already struggling to get by.

"I am calling on government increase the income levy threshold to the average industrial wage and that the levy should only be on income earned above the €38,000 figure. The levy is a regressive tax however if the government is intent on implementing it then it is imperative that they do so in a manner that minimises its negative impact on working families." ENDS


Sinn Fein Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has this afternoon slammed Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael MEPs for voting against a Social Progress Clause (to be included in any future Treaties put to member states) following a parliamentary debate in Strasbourg on the Andersson Report. The report has been prepared by the European Parliament Employment and Social Affairs Committee in response to recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings on the Laval, Viking and Ruffert cases. Interestingly Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa abstained from the Social Progress Clause vote.

The Dublin MEP said:

“Workers across Europe have a right to equal pay for equal work. They have a right to organise, to agitate and to campaign for improved terms and conditions. They also have a right to expect that the law should recognise and vindicate these rights.

“Recent ECJ rulings which the Andersson report purports to address represent an audacious attack on these basic rights by effectively giving a green light to the wholesale exploitation of workers. These court rulings are a reflection of the stark fact that when workers rights collide with competition rules it is always workers that lose out.

“Workers and the trade union movement alike have voiced the reality that these court ruling have given legal legitimacy to what is known as ‘the race to the bottom’ of employment rights, terms and conditions throughout the EU.

“However the Andersson report is a huge disappointment to Sinn Féin. It deliberately avoids calling for the essential changes to EU treaties necessary to protect workers. The initial draft of the report identified amending the Lisbon Treaty as an option to legally address the contentious ECJ judgements however this acknowledgement was deliberately and cynically removed from the report.

“The vulnerability of workers rights was one of the key reasons why the Irish people voted against the Lisbon Treaty yet EU and Irish decision makers continue to ignore this uncomfortable fact. The Irish government has done absolutely nothing either at home or in Europe to underpin workers rights through primary law. Shame on them.

“If any new Treaty is to be accepted by the people of this state then it must ensure adequate protections for workers. The Irish government are in an excellent bargaining position to ensure that any new Treaty deal must include a binding Social Progress Clause. Going by today’s vote it appears they do not have the political will to do so.” ENDS   


Speaking at the rally organised by the Irish Senior Citizen's Parliament at Leinster House Today, Sinn Fein Dáil leader and Spokesperson on Health & Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

"I want to commend the senior citizens of this country for rocking the political system and for forcing a climb-down by the Government. People power has worked - now let's keep it going.

"We saw the way this Government thinks on RTÉ radio the day after the Budget when the Minister for Social and Family affairs Mary Hanafin actually said: 'Unfortunately our people are living longer.' Unfortunately for whom, Minister? For this Government we presume.

"What the Government have done on the medical card for over-70s does not go far enough but they would have done nothing if older people had not risen up, made their case in the clearest and strongest terms and demonstrated their anger on the airwaves and on the streets.

"We demand the full restoration of universal entitlement for the over 70s. How many people realise that in its own Programme for Government, the Fianna Fáil/Green/PD Coalition is actually committed to extending the medical card, not cutting it back. The Programme for Government promises to index the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage and to double the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and treble them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability.

"Access to health services should be based on need and need alone. Government spending on health should be in public health services only with access for everyone equally. This Government has refused to end its tax breaks for the developers of private hospitals. In 2006 alone that tax break cost €10.5 million and that would have funded 6,000 medical cards.

"We are constantly challenged when we raise the demand for universal public healthcare. 'Who will pay for this?' The question should be 'Who paid for this?' and the answer is 'You, the pensioners of Ireland. You paid for a decent health service in taxes during your working lives.'

"Don't forget that there are an awful lot of other health cuts arising out of this Budget. The Health budget was increased by a very small amount, way below inflation and this will lead to massive cuts in health services in 2009 - we haven't seen anything like the extent of it yet. The cost of medicines for patients has gone up. Charges for hospital visits have gone up.

"Those Government backbenchers who have rightly protested about this measure should be equally exercised about the whole range of other health cuts we will see in the months ahead.

"Finance Minister Lenihan said his Budget was a 'call to patriotic action'. The Minister and the Taoiseach should recall the patriotism of our senior citizens who worked all their lives, who paid taxes at much higher rates than people paid during the Celtic Tiger years, who made sacrifices so that their children and their grandchildren could enjoy a better Ireland. And if he wants to talk about patriotism let him recall the words of the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil Éireann, the 90th anniversary of which we will mark next January. It said:

'The Nation's aged and infirm shall not be regarded as a burden, but rather entitled to the Nation's gratitude and consideration'." ENDS


Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has responded to the recent statement from the Catholic Heads Association.

Ms Ruane said:

"The Statement from the Catholic Heads Association sets out what is patently obvious - that the best option is regulation. That is what I have spent my time in office trying to bring about.

"Towards that end, I brought forward compromise proposals which included academic selection on a diminishing basis over a three year period. This was an attempt to introduce a breathing space.

"In the absence of consensus what we face into is unregulation, but remember the majority of schools prefer to end academic selection.

"Academic selection is wrong. I am determined to continue to pursue a course of action to end it.

"It is my understanding that the Catholic Bishops themselves are opposed to academic selection.

"I am disappointed that the Catholic Heads Association have issued this statement in advance of a meeting I have agreed to do with them today. It may be that their intention is to influence my attitude to this issue, but my attitude will remain the same - academic selection is wrong." ENDS


Meath Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Reilly has warned that savage cuts to the County Meath VEC budget can not be tolerated. Councillor Reilly was speaking ahead of an emergency meeting of the VEC this Friday.

He said, "Much has been made over the disgraceful decision to cut over 70's medical cards and so much of the attention has been taken off the other cuts. But already this week we have seen that up to 1,200 teachers will lose their jobs and that the pupil/teacher ration at primary level is to increase.

"On Friday we will be presented with the implications of this Fianna Fáil budget at post primary level. Those implications include proposals for a reduction of 500 places in the Back to School Initiative, a reduction of over 100 places in Traveller Senior Training Centres. Grants to Youth Centres are being cut by over 8%, from €52.6m down to €48.2m.

"The budget also proposed a reduction in 'teacher in service education' support of 10%.

"School transport costs for post primary students are to increase to an annual fee of €168 for junior cycle children and €234 for senior cycle children. The maximum amount per family school transport rises to €650 per annum.

"Other cuts include a 26% reduction in the regional office structure, and 8% increase in examination fees, a reduction of 3% in administration and the closure of the early childhood development and education centre.

"On entering the Dail on Budget Day the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan stated that it was his budgetary intention to protect the most venerable in society. What we have witnessed so far is that the old, the sick and now the children and parents are under attack by this government.

"Irish people form hedge school days have always placed a high priority of importance on their children's education. Voices must be raised again in defence of our children's education.

"On Friday I will oppose these proposed cuts. This Government must face the same reality on education that they faced on the medical card fiasco. Fianna Fáil Councillors on the VEC must stand firm and also oppose cut-backs and unnecessary increases." ENDS


Councillor Oliver McMullan has questioned Health Minister Michael McGimpsey's recent announcement of additional funding for the Ambulance Service and fears a 'slight of hand'.

The Sinn Féin Councillor for Moyle explained;

"Whilst I was one of the first to welcome the Minister's announcement of additional funding, upon investigation and in consultation with local Ambulance Service workers, I am beginning to fear that rural communities in North Antrim may suffer a reduction in services whilst urban areas gain.

"Moves are afoot which may see the Ballymoney day shift move to Coleraine; the loss of the Ballymena day shift to make way for a night shift in Antrim; and the possibility of a Rapid Response Vehicle replacing an Ambulance in Ballycastle."

"I have no doubt that Coleraine and Antrim are deserving of the additional investment but who's paying?

"At first glance one would have assumed the additional funding to be new money, but now it would appear to be a transfer of services from the rural, less populated parts such as Ballymoney and Moyle."

Oliver concluded;

"Rapid Response Vehicles are designed to support Ambulances, not replace them. The loss of an Ambulance in Moyle could prove fatal and I will be strongly opposing any such move. I'm calling upon the Minister to come clean on this issue and confirm that cuts in rural services will not be made to finance urban improvements." ENDS


Sinn Féin's EU Environment Committee member Bairbre de Brún has today called for the Assembly and local councils to prioritise clean transport in their provision of public services.

Speaking during a debate in Strasbourg on the issue Ms de Brún stated:

"It is right to challenge local authorities and other public bodies to lead the way in investing in sustainable, clean transport. Public procurement should be based on sustainability. When public bodies are buying trucks, cars or buses they should look not only at the price but also factor in energy efficiency, air pollution and lower CO2 emissions.

"A new EU directive aims to help guide local authorities in assessing these impacts.

"In our cities in particular choosing efficient, green transport options will benefit the health of citizens and our environment, help us meet our climate commitments. Crucially, it can also act as a market catalyst for clean transport options, thus bringing down costs through economies of scale. These long-term benefits should also be considered by those in charge of public procurement.

"Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh na moltaí sa bheart comhréitigh a chomhaontaigh ionadaithe na Parlaiminte, na Comhairle, agus an Choimisiúin faoi fheithiclí glana iompar bóthair.

"Is ceart dúshlán a thabhairt d'údaráis áitiúla agus do chomhlachtaí poiblí eile chun infheistiú in iompar glan inmharthanach.

"Nuair a roghnaítear roghanna glasa éifeachtacha iompair, inár gcathracha go háirithe, beidh sin le leas shláinte na saoránach agus na timpeallachta. Cuideoidh sin linn ár ngealltanais aeráide a chomhlíonadh agus, ar bhealach ríthábhachtach, is féidir le sin bheith ina chatalaíoch margaidh le haghaidh roghanna iompair ghlain. Ba chóir dóibh siúd atá i mbun soláthair phoiblí na sochair fhadtéarmacha a chur sa mheá. Ba chóir go gcuirfidís na costais ar fad de na roghanna beartais san áireamh sna ríomhaireachtaí.

"Is é an t-iompar an réimse ina mbíonn an an deacracht is mó ag an Eoraip chun spriocanna a bhaint amach. Is é mo ghuí go nglacfar leis an treoir seo a luaithe is féidir le gur féidir leis bheith curtha i bhfeidhm faoi 2010 mar thacaíocht d'údaráis áitiúla agus do chomhlachtaí poiblí ar mór acu cúrsaí timpeallachta." ENDS


Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has praised efforts to increase participation by those with disabilities in the democratic process.

The Minister was addressing the 'Count Us In' Democracy Event, organised by Disability Action, which was staged in the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

The project, funded by the Electoral Commission, aims to:

  • Increase disabled people's awareness of the democratic process
  • Increase the political participation of disabled people and
  • Enhance the skills and confidence of disabled people in playing a more active role in the electoral / decision making process

Mr McGuinness said:

"Democracy, equality and the rights and entitlements of all members of our society are at the very core of what this administration seeks to promote.

"The old, the young, and those from the various ethnic minorities can all feel that they have less involvement than others influencing decisions and decision makers. This can also apply to people with disabilities.

"We must make it a top priority to address this situation.

"Disability Action and the Equality Commission have set up seven working groups, spread across the North, to investigate how best we can encourage and facilitate greater involvement, by disabled people, in the decision making processes of government

"At today's conference I know you will be hearing the findings of these working groups and considering how best to take that work forward.

"I wish them well in their endeavours." ENDS

Note to Editors

  1. Disability Action has been delivering the Count Us In democracy project, funded by the Electoral Commission for the last two years.
  2. The conference brought together all the Democracy working groups that have been working in local areas including, Belfast, Derry, Newry, Ballymena, Bangor and Fermanagh. The groups have been engaging with MLA's at a local level and raising issues that are of concern to them in their local area such transport, housing and employment.


Sinn Féin Roads Minister Conor Murphy has announced the full re-opening of a Belfast road this weekend which was closed in late June to allow for the strengthening of a railway bridge.

Finaghy Road North in south Belfast will fully re-open to two-way traffic at 8am on Saturday 25 October 2008. An improved footway over the railway bridge will also be available to pedestrians from this date.

The Minister said:

"The re-opening of this road should alleviate some of the current difficulties for pedestrians and motorists in the Finaghy area. I would like to thank local residents and businesses for their patience throughout this work to improve safety provision at this bridge."

Work to complete the scheme will continue into November although this should have a minimal effect on local traffic movements.

Roads Service had hoped to open the bridge in September, however due to the complex and restricted nature of the work and the unseasonally bad weather, it took longer than expected. Work requiring the road closure was completed in just over four months.

Updated information will be available on the 'Roadworks' link of the Roads Service website at or can be obtained by speaking to a member of the project team on 028 9025 3169.

Notes to Editors

  1. The work is being carried out jointly by Roads Service and Northern Ireland Railways. It was prompted after a study of the risks of vehicle incursions onto the railway track following an accident in Selby, Yorkshire in 2001 in which ten people lost their lives.
  2. After this crash, the Department of Transport recommended that each road over rail site on the entire rail network be assessed for risk to reduce the chances of a road vehicle reaching a railway track. Of the 124 sites in the north that have been assessed, 18 were identified for treatment and Finaghy Road North was considered to be the highest risk.
  3. The £4million programme for post Selby road/rail safety measures commenced in 2005 and 14 of the 18 sites have already been completed. The remaining sites will be completed by 2009.
  4. Finaghy Road North was closed to vehicular traffic on 23 June 2008. The road was partially re-opened on Thursday 16 October 2008, for southbound traffic only (towards Finaghy crossroads). This enabled traffic to use the bridge in one direction whilst permitting the Contractor to complete the remaining work safely.
  5. The road was originally expected to be reopened to one way traffic by the middle of September. However, problems with unexpected ground conditions, live services and unseasonably bad weather hampered the completion of this work.
  6. The temporary footbridge and pedestrian access to the railway halt will remain operational until new steps connecting the halt to the bridge have been completed.


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has called on new EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton not to follow the disastrous policies of her predecessor Peter Mandelson.

Ms de Brún was speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg as MEPs voted to accept the appointment of Ashton.

Ms de Brún said:

"Catherine Ashton must not pursue the failed policies of her predecessor Peter Mandelson who, as European Commissioner, brought forward proposals that would have done untold damage to both farmers in the EU and people in the developing world had the recent WTO talks not collapsed.

"When he was EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson was willing to sacrifice the welfare of farmers and of our rural communities, not for the sake of the developing world but as part of his international trade games. Most of the MEPs who quizzed Catherine Ashton this week are content to approve her appointment, but many will keep a close watch to see what policies she pursues in the coming months.

"While it is unlikely that the WTO talks will re-convene in the near future, any future WTO talks should not include the disastrous proposals put forward by Peter Mandelson, and I would call on Catherine Ashton to ensure that these proposals are now buried once and for all.

"Bhí Coimisinéir Mandelson réidh le leasanna feirmeoirí agus leasanna ár bpobail tuaithe a íobairt - ní ar mhaithe leis an tríú domhan ach ar mhaithe le cluiche margála idirnáisiúnta. Éilim ar an Choimisinéir úr Catherine Ashton cinntiú nach gcuirfear a leithéid de moltaí chun tosaigh ag aon cainteanna Eagraíochta Domhanda Trádála amach anseo." ENDS


Sinn Féin Transport Minister, Conor Murphy has today announced, that after listening to concerns from residents, he will be introducing free Residents Car Parking Schemes in five areas in Belfast.

The Minister made the announcement following a meeting today with local representatives for South and West Belfast, Alex Maskey MLA and Fra McCann MLA.

He welcomed the recent engagement between local communities and his Department for a residents parking scheme in five inner city areas of Belfast including Barrack Street, Donegall Pass, Sandy Row, The Markets (west of Cromac Street) and Brown's Square.

The Minister said:

"For many years local communities situated on the periphery of Belfast city centre have been plagued by all-day commuter parkers. I have been clear that a Residents Car Parking Scheme would not be introduced without community support and I have listened carefully to residents concerns about any costs associated with the introduction of a scheme, particularly in the current economic climate. I have decided that the proposed schemes will be free for residents in these five areas most heavily affected.

"The schemes are equally about preventing others parking all day in these streets as allowing the residents to park and I do believe they will finally alleviate the ongoing problems, providing local communities with the solution they require and allow local residents to park close to their homes."

There will be further consultation with residents on the specific operation of each scheme in the proposed areas. The proposed Residents Car Parking Schemes will introduce a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) and parking in an area will require the display of a permit.

Once these schemes have been introduced, they will be monitored and assessed to determine their effectiveness at reducing all-day commuter parking in the five inner city areas, before consideration is given to introducing schemes in other areas.


Speaking during tonight's Dáil debate on Medical Card entitlement for the over 70s Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD noted "the climb-down we have seen today came about because the first crack appeared in Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party discipline. I can only describe as pathetic the role of the Green Party who played their part to the full in the framing of this Budget, including the medical card fiasco."

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"It is frightening to think that a group of men and women sat around a Cabinet table in Government Buildings and approved the decision to re-impose means-testing for medical cards for the over 70s.

"Even looking at it from the crude point of view of political management this has been a disaster. What trust can the people have in these troubled economic times in a Government that could perpetrate such a massive political blunder?

"More worrying still is that fundamental policy decisions on health and on taxation, affecting the lives of millions of people, could be taken in such a sloppy and irresponsible and ill-considered manner.

"The climb-down we have seen today came about because the first crack appeared in Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party discipline. I can only describe as pathetic the role of the Green Party who played their part to the full in the framing of this Budget, including the medical card fiasco.

"The medical card climb-down by the Government today does not go far enough. Universal medical card entitlement for the over 70s should be fully restored.

"We in Sinn Féin approach this issue from a point of principle. We say that access to health services should be based on medical need and medical need alone. We want to see this State moving towards a universal public health system.

"If the Government is looking for savings then instead of taking away medical cards let them take away tax breaks from the developers of private hospitals. That tax break cost €10.6 million in 2006 and that saving alone would have funded 6,000 extra medical cards. Making all discretionary tax relief schemes available only at the standard rate could raise up to €1 billion. Those are just two examples.

"Finance Minister Lenihan said his Budget was a "call to patriotic action". The Minister and the Taoiseach should recall the patriotism of our senior citizens who worked all their lives, who paid taxes at much higher rates than people paid during the Celtic Tiger years, who made sacrifices so that their children and their grandchildren could enjoy a better Ireland." ENDS


Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has stated that the construction of the Multi sports stadium at the site of the Maze/Long Kesh must continue to maintain the support of Gaelic sports, soccer, rugby bodies. In order to do so it needs to be clear that the DUP have the capacity to move on this issue.

Speaking today Mr McElduff said:

"The statement by the IFA stating that they believe the Maze/Long Kesh stadium to be dead is unfortunate. However the backing of this decision by Gregory Campbell, when he stated that soccer will not loose out is wrongly using his influence as Minister for Culture Arts and leisure to achieve short sighted political goals.

"Gregory Campbell needs to be decisive on this project and deliver the leadership as Minister that will receive and boost the confidence of all the sporting bodies that have signed up for the Stadium.

"The DUP's constant politicking and procrastination on this issue is leading to some of those who have endorsed the project re-evaluating their position. If such a great opportunity, not just for local sports, but for the creation of countless jobs in construction and service provision at the stadium is lost the blame will lie firmly at the door of Gregory Campbell."

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