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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has said that the party have established a working group to look at the increases in the Cost of Living.

The working group will be chaired by Mitchel McLaughlin, Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee and includes West Belfast MLA's Jennifer McCann (Vice Chair of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, Women's Spokesperson) and Paul Maskey (Chair of the Public Accounts Committee), John O'Dowd MLA (Assembly Group Leader and Education Spokesperson), Mickey Brady MLA (Older People and Welfare Rights Spokesperson, member DSD Committee), Martina Anderson MLA (Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson and member OFMdFM Committee) and Claire McGill MLA (Anti-Poverty Spokesperson and member of the Health and the Employment and Learning Committees).

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The spiralling increases in the Cost of Living are hitting not just people on low incomes and benefits but across the north people on middle bracket incomes are feeling the squeeze.

"Rising energy, fuel and food prices along with the crisis in housing mean people are increasingly uncertain about their future. At the same time we have low incomes here and a high proportion of people living on benefits and in low paid part-time employment. People are working hard just too make ends meet.

"The Executive needs to collectively respond to these Cost of Living increases with a joined up approach.

"This new party working group will look at a range of initiatives that can be taken not just by the Executive but also the all-Ireland Ministerial Council. We will also be talking to people in local communities and experts to find innovative solutions to the financial difficulties that more and more people are facing on a daily basis. This includes talking to the private sector to ensure that they take their social responsibilities seriously.

"One of our first actions is to call for the immediate setting up of an Executive sub-committee to look at these issues on a cross-departmental basis. We need to address key issues such as housing and the lack of social and affordable housing, unemployment, low incomes, skills and training, education and health and put in place well resourced strategies to tackle poverty and fuel poverty." ENDS

Note to Editors

Sinn Féin have tabled a motion on the Cost of Living increases.

Motion - Cost of Living Executive sub-committee

That this Assembly calls on the Executive to examine the full range of options, including the establishment of an Executive sub-committee, to alleviate the rising cost of living including energy and food costs.

Mitchel McLaughlin
Jennifer McCann
John O'Dowd
Claire McGill
Paul Maskey

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader John O'Dowd MLA has said that the SDLP should apologise for their labelling of those who voted No against the Lisbon Treaty Referendum as 'head bangers'.

Mr O'Dowd said that it was unfortunate, but once again typical that the SDLP rather than trying to get a grasp of the feeling on the ground in relation to the whole Lisbon referendum, "resorted to their usual lowest common denominator by attacking and demonising Sinn Fein rather than focus on the issue".

Mr O'Dowd said:

"The Irish people have solidly rejected this Treaty - not because they were "head bangers" as the SDLP claim but because they decided the Lisbon Treaty was bad deal for Ireland.

"The SDLP claimed that Sinn Fein's No Campaign had been built on scares but people ignore at their own peril the genuine issues raised by not just the Irish electorate in this referendum but also by the French and Dutch in previous referenda on the EU Constitution.. This 'head bangers' comment clearly indicates a lack of knowledge and sincerity about the debate.

"There is now a real opportunity to get a better deal for Ireland. There is now a strong mandate to open up a positive debate about the future of Europe. The genuine concerns raised by the Irish people need to be addressed. Some have tried to suggest that there is no clarity about what Irish voters are concerned about. This is not true. Concerns about the loss of power, neutrality, workers rights and public services were raised repeatedly." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin deputy First Minister today joined PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde and An Garda Síochána Commissioner Fachtna Murphy at a conference exploring key issues surrounding living and working in a diverse society.

Opening the conference entitled 'Cross Border Partnerships in Multicultural Communities' in the City Hotel in Derry, Mr McGuinness spoke of his vision of a society based on tolerance, equality and respect where diversity and difference is valued.

He underlined the Executive's commitment to embracing the development of a diverse and equal society while recognising that challenges existed.

He said:

"Bringing those to account who perpetrate hate crime is the responsibility of police and justice systems. However tackling the beliefs and attitudes which drive and sustain hate crime is the responsibility of us all. Let us be clear there can be no hiding place, no ambiguity, and no acquiescence to any form hate crime.

"The First Minister and I are working towards building a society at ease with itself - a society that is integrated, cohesive and where diversity is valued. Where everyone who lives here is regarded as of equal status and is treated as such."

The conference is a joint initiative organized by the Foyle Multicultural Forum, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána to explore the issues surrounding living and working in a diverse society.

Mr McGuinness went on to emphasise the importance of working in partnership while maintaining a continual dialogue to share experiences and good practice.

He said:

"Through the process of conflict resolution we have learnt that dialogue is more than talking to someone. Dialogue is more than just speaking; it is about listening, absorbing, respecting and reflecting.

"Intercultural dialogue is about moving beyond mere tolerance of difference towards a transformed society where cultures can exchange and interact constructively with mutual respect. The future that we are building here for all people must be founded on intercultural dialogue at every level of society." ENDS

The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is currently working on bringing forward detailed proposals for a 'Programme of Cohesion, Sharing and Integration for a shared and better future' which will build on the solid foundation established by the 'Racial Equality Strategy' and the 'Shared Future' documents.

Notes to Editors

The conference in the City Hotel, Derry was a joint initiative organized by the Foyle Multicultural Forum, the PSNI and An Garda Síochána.

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Speaking in Strasbourg on a debate on waste prevention and prior to a vote on a report on waste management on Tuesday, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has said that proposals on waste prevention have weakened to the point where they will not help in stabilising and reducing waste.

Ms de Brún said:

"First of all I would like to thank Mrs Jackson for her work and for the open and inclusive way she has engaged with the shadow rapporteurs. We have worked together to make some improvements to the original Commission proposal.

"Many people throughout the EU will be very concerned at the proposal to 're-brand' incinerators as a form of recovery if they meet certain efficiency criteria. We remain opposed to the 're-branding of incineration and have put down an amendment to have this deleted.

"With regard to recycling, the latest proposed deal sets out targets which may be very difficult to enforce, due to vagueness in the wording which states that, "member states shall take the necessary measures designed to achieve recycling targets".

"Good legislation demands that we be more precise in our wording on targets and do not leave interpretation up to the European Court of Justice. Therefore we want to defend and keep the wording voted by the committee.

"Proposals on waste prevention have weakened to the point where they will not be able to make a substantive enough contribution or to clearly help Member States in stabilising and reducing their waste. The weakness of the reference to prevention targets means that a harmonised prevention initiative and indicators is not yet enshrined in legislation."

"Gabhaim buíochas leis An Bhean Jackson as obair a rinne sí agus as an dóigh oscailte agus chuimsitheach a chuaigh sí i dteagmháil leis na scáthrapóirtéirí.

"Beidh imní ar chuid mhór daoine fud fad an AE faoin mholadh chun loisceoirí a 'athbhrandáil' mar chineál téarnaimh má bhaineann siad critéir ar leith éifeachtachta amach.

"Is fadhb mhór í athbhrandáil loisceoirí ar leith seo, agus faoi théarmaí an mhargaidh seo, ní dhéanfar athscrúdú ar an cheist seo go ceann sé bliana.Táimid in aghaidh 'athbhrandáil' loscadh go fóill agus chuireamar síos leasú chun seo a scrios

"Ó thaobh athchúrsála de, leagann an margadh molta is déanaí spriocanna amach a d'fhéadfaidís bheith deacair le cur i bhfeidhm, de dheasca neamhchruinneas foclaíochta a mhaíonn, "déanfaidh ballstáit bearta riachtanacha deartha chun spriocanna athchúrsála a bhaint amach."

"Éilíonn reachtaíocht mhaith go mbeidimis níos beaichte lenár bhfoclaíocht ar spriocanna agus nach bhfágaimid léirmhíniú faoi chúram an Chúirt Bhreithiúnais Eorpach . B'fhearr linn focláíocht an choiste a chosaint angus a choinneáil.

"Laghaíodh moltaí ar dhramhaíl a chosc go dtí an pointe nach mbeidh siad ábalta ionchur substainteach go leor a dhéanamh nó nach mbeidh siad in ann cuidiú le Ballstáit chun méid na dramhaíola a sholáthraíonn siad a chobhsú nó a laghdú. Ciallaíonn laige na tagartha do spriocanna coisc nach bhfuil tionscnamh coisc comhchuibhithe cumhdaithe i reachtaíocht go fóill. " Críoch

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA has revealed that following intense representations by Sinn Féin to the British government that the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has committed to ensuring that 'new finance will be available to continue funding of the Irish Language Broadcast Fund (ILBF) when it expires in March 2009'.

The aim of the Fund is to deliver at least 75 additional hours of Irish language broadcasting per annum to a weekly audience of 25,000 people across the six counties and throughout the island of Ireland.

Mr. Adams said:

"The British government has committed to providing an additional £6 million expressly for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund when the current funding runs out next March. This new funding will cover the ILBF for a further two years."

Praising the work of the ILBF Mr. Adams said:

"The Irish Language Broadcast Fund was first announced in the Good Friday Agreement but it wasn't until 2004 that Sinn Fein secured a £12 million budget to cover the period from 2005 to 2009.

The Irish Language Broadcast Fund has been enormously successful and has fostered close links with broadcasters throughout Ireland. It has effectively delivered quality Irish language programming.

The failure of the former Culture Minister to plan for the future development of the fund meant that it was at risk of ending next March. The funding secured from the British government protects the future of the ILBF for the next two years.

Of course, this is only one aspect of the efforts to ensure that the rights and entitlements of Irish language speakers are respected.

Campaigning will continue to achieve an Irish Language Act." Críoch

Note to editor:

Irish Language Fund

In 2004 the British Government announced the establishment of a fund to provide financial support for Irish language film and television production in the north, now known as the Irish Language Broadcast Fund. The aim of the Fund is to deliver at least 75 additional hours of Irish language broadcasting per annum to a weekly audience of 25,000 people by 2008. DCAL agreed funding to the ILBF of £12 million to cover the four year period until March 2009.

Results from an interim Evaluation of the ILBF, carried out by Deloitte were very positive towards the Fund.

In particular the ILBF has exceeded its original target of creating 75 hours per annum of new additional Irish language programming. The fund has been successful in funding 180 hours of programming in the financial years 2005/6 and 2006/7. Through extrapolation of figures the evaluation also reveals that the target audience figure of 25,000 is being met.

The ILBF has fostered close links with the broadcasters TG4, RTÉ and the BBC and is now viewed by broadcasters as a vital resource to the provision of quality Irish language programming in the North of Ireland.

The ILBF has funded a wide variety of programming and places particular importance on children's and young people's programmes since this is where the growth lies in terms of Irish language speakers.

Fostering an independent production sector for Irish Language programming is also a priority of the fund and indeed company turnover in this sector has increased significantly over the year as a result of the ILBF's investment in the sector.

The ILBF has successfully delivered a range of training programmes in line with the needs of the sector. The ILBF's flagship New Entrant Scheme has been a huge success.

The ILBF has organised a number of group courses and workshops in script writing and in script adaptation for reversioning animation into Irish. In addition the fund provides Bursaries to Irish Language speakers working in the industry to attend short term training courses with recognised training providers, and to attend the MA in Film & TV Management in the University of Ulster in Coleraine.

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Tá sé nochta ag Uachtarán Shinn Féin Gerry Adams MP MLA gur gheall Priomh-Aire na Breataine Gordon Brown go gcinnteoidh sé go mbeidh an maoiniú nua ar fáil chun leanúint leis an mhaoiniú don Chiste Craoltóireachta Gaeilge nuair a théann sé as feidhm i Márta 2009. Seo i ndiaidh tréan-ionadaíochta ó Shinn Féin do rialtas na Breataine.

'Sé cuspóir an chiste chun ar a laghad 75 uair bhreise de Chraoltóireacht Ghaeilge a sholáthair in aghaidh na bliana do lucht féachana seachtanúil 25,000 duine ar fud na sé chondae agus ar fud oileán na hÉireann.

Dúirt an tUasal Adams:

Gheall rialtas na Breataine 6 mhilliún sa bhreis a chur ar fail don Chiste Craoltóireachta Gaeilge go cinnte nuair a ídíonn an maoiniú reatha i mi Mhárta seo chugainn. Clúdóidh an maoiniú nua an CCG ar feadh dhá bhliain eile.

Ag moladh an CCG dúirt an tUasal Adams:

"Fógraíodh an Ciste Craoltóireachta Gaeilge ar dtús i gComh-aontú Aoine an Chéasta ach ní go dtí 2004 gur shocraigh Sinn Féin buiséad £12 milliúin chun an tréimhse 2005-2009 a chlúdú.

"Bhí an-rath ar an Chiste Craoltóireachta Gaeilge agus chruthaigh sé nascanna láidre le craoltóirí ar fud na hÉireann. Sholáthair sé cláranna Gaeilge den scoth. Chiallaigh teip an iar-Aire Chultúir pleanáil do thodhchaí fhorbairt an chiste go raibh an baol ann go gcríchneodh sé faoi mhí Mhárta seo chugainn.

"Cuireann an maoiniú cinntithe ó rialtas na Breataine dhá bhliain eile le saol an CCG. Ar ndóigh, ní seo ach gné amháin d'iarrachtaí chinntiú measa do chearta agus do thidilíochtaí chainteoirí Gaeilge.

"Leanfaidh an fheachtasaíocht chun Acht Gaeilge a bhaint amach." CRIOCH

Nóta don eagraitheoir:

Coiste Craoltóireachta Gaeilge

Sa bhliain 2004 d'fhógair rialtas na Breataine bunú ciste chun tacaíocht airigid a chur ar fail do thairgiú scannán agus teilifís Gaeilge sa tuaisceart, an Ciste Craoltóireachta Gaeilge mar a thugtar air anois. 'Sé cuspóir an chiste chun ar a laghad 75 uair bhreise de Chraoltóireacht Ghaeilge a sholáthair in aghaidh na bliana do lucht féachana seachtanúil 25,000 duine faoi 2008. D'aontaigh an DCAL ar mhaoiniú £12 milliúin a sholáthair don CCG chun an tréimhse ceithre bliana, go Márta 2009, a chlúdú.

Bhí torthaí ón luacháil a rinniú ar an CCG, déanta ag Deloitte, iontach dearfach ar fad don chiste.

Go háirithe, tá an CCG tar éis a sprioc chun 75 uair bhreise de chláranna Gaeilge nua a chruthú in aghaidh na bliana, a sharú. Bhí rath ar an chiste ag maoiniú 180 uair de chláranna sna blianta airgeadais 2005/6 agus 2006/7. Trí na figiúirí a bhriseadh síos, léiríonn an luacháil fosta go bhfuil ag éirigh leo an cupóir de lucht féachana 25,000 a bhaint amach.

Ghin an CCG nascanna cóngaracha le craoltóirí TG4, RTÉ agus an BBC agus tá sé anois athnaithe ag craoltóirí mar achmhainn riachtanach fá choinne cláranna Gaeilge den scoth sna sé chondae.
Tá an CCG tar éis réimse leathan cláranna a mhaoiniú agus cuireann fiúntas faoi leith ar chláranna do pháistí agus d'ógánaigh, cionnas gurb í seo an áit ina bhfuil an fás is mó i dtéarmaí chainteoirí Gaeilge.

Is tosaíocht í don chiste, roinn neamh-spleách tairgithe a chruthú do chláranna Gaeilge agus go deimhin tá láimhdeachas comhlacht sa roinn seo tar éis ardú go measartha mór thar an bhliain mar gheall ar infheistiú an CCG sa roinn.

Tá réimse cláranna treanála curtha ar fail go rathúil ag an CCG, de réir riachtanais na ranna. Bhí rath ollmhór ar bhratlong an CCG 'New Entrant Scheme'.

Tá roinnt cheardlanna agus cúrsaí grúpa eagraithe ag an CCG faoi sríobh scripteanna agus faoi scripteanna a chur in oiriúint d'ath-leaganú cartúin go Gaeilge. Fosta cuireann an ciste deontais ar fail do chainteoirí Gaeilge a n-oibríonn sa tionsclaíocht freastail ar chúrsaí treanála gearrthéarmacha le soláthróirí teanála aithnithe, agus chun freastail ar an MA i Scannánaíocht agus Bainistiú Teilifíse in Ollscoil Uladh i gCúil Raithin.

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Armagh City and District Councillor Noel Sheridan has been nominated by his Party to be next Mayor of Armagh City and District Council.

Describing his nomination as a great honour the Sinn Féin Councillor said that in his role he would be committed to working to deliver as best as practically possible for all communities, for citizens, and in particular for the most disadvantaged.

"The challenges of change and progress are many. We must work together, ag obair le chéile and move forward together, ar aghaidh le chéile, as we endeavour to build safer, healthier, happier communities" said Noel.

"It is a great honour for me to be nominated by Sinn Féin as Mayor of Armagh City and District Council. I accept this nomination fully aware of the responsibility and expectations that it carries. I am proud to be an Irish Republican. I want to see a re-united Ireland created by peaceful and democratic means. I want to see the unity of the Orange and the Green. That is my political ideology, my beliefs, and my vision."

"There is much hurt within every section of our community. People have lost loved ones and many others have been injured in the course of the conflict.

"Together, we must face the challenge of ending the divisions and old hatred in our society, and helping to ensure and encourage reconciliation and healing for all where practically possible.

"We all have our part to play to end the divisions and old hatreds, not only here in Armagh City and District but throughout our island. That means pro-actively tackling the scourge of sectarianism. Difference in our past meant division. In the future we need to ensure that difference isn't seen as a threat but instead as something to cherish and celebrate.

"We want to live free of crime and in an atmosphere of safety and well-being. All our people want to feel safe in their homes. We want proper social and affordable housing, full and accessible health care facilities and decent sporting recreational and leisure facilities. The ratepayers of Armagh City and District Council all want value for our money, openness and transparency in all Council affairs.

"We need to start talking to each other and not at each other. And we as political leaders must take the lead, particularly here in this Council Chamber. If elected Mayor I will be extending the hand of friendship to all and I hope that this is accepted in the spirit that I give it, an open heart and an open mind." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has announced a £5.3million investment for the Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council area this year.

Speaking ahead of this evening's meeting between Roads Service and the Council, the minister outlined a number of major and minor schemes taking place in the area. The minister was pleased to note that works on the A4 dualling from Dungannon to Ballygawley were progressing well and publication of the preferred corridor for the A5 was expected by the end of the year.

The minister said:

"2007/08 has been a successful year for structural maintenance, after a strong bid by Roads Service for additional funds led to more than £17million of extra funding being allocated to this important function. The additional resources mean that around £75million has been invested in the structural maintenance of our roads last year and it is planned to spend a further £200million over the next three years. The maintenance of surfaces and underlying structures of roads and footways is essential for the social and economic well-being in all areas in the north.

"We plan to spend £3.5million on various road maintenance projects in the Dungannon and South Tyrone area this year. Significant resurfacing schemes to be carried out this year will be on the A5 Tullyvar Road Aughnacloy, A29 Dungannon Road Moy and A4 Colebrooke Road Fivemiletown." ENDS

Note to Editors

The Investment Strategy anticipates a large programme of trunk road improvements over the next ten years, with investment totalling £3.1billion pounds. Roads Service is currently considering how this work will be programmed and delivered. The recently published plan had major schemes of benefit to the Borough. By far the biggest challenge is the A5 dualling.

Last month Roads Service carried out a series of public information days at four locations along the A5 route, at Ballygawley, Omagh, Strabane and Derry.

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The Sinn Féin Mayor of Limavady Brenda Chivers has called for support for the "Keep Baby Katie Awake" campaign to raise funds to send a sick baby from Magherafelt for treatment at the Chicago Memorial Children's Hospital, the foremost epilepsy neuro-imaging and treatment centre in the world.

Cllr Chivers said:

"Our fight to get Katie to America is her only chance and we urgently need the funds to do so. A day of fundraising will be held in Dungiven on Friday 20th June. A Quiz and Raffle will be held in Murphy's Bar. Prizes include a weekend break, signed boxing gloves from Paul McCloskey, a signed Derry Shirt, jewellery, a meal for two at Dungiven Castle and a hamper.

"A sponsored disco will take place in Ban Joes Bar and a further charity event will be hosted by John T's Bar. The staff of Street Cafe in Main Street Dungiven is donating all their tips to the charity and donations can also be made to the charity in the Cafe.

"Little Katie's story is heart breaking. She has to taken huge amounts of medication to combat this illness. The side effects of these drugs have been debilitating for the poor child. From the bottom of my heart I urge everyone in the borough to support this campaign. Katie's condition is rapidly deteriorating and we have no time to lose." CRÍOCH

Note to Editors

Full details are available at www.keepbabykatieawake.com

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Newry and Mourne Sinn Féin Councillor Brendan Curran has said that he shared the anger and disappointment of many at the most recent stone throwing attack on Fire and Emergency Services in the Newry area.

He confirmed that stones were thrown last Sunday, at Fire Service and Emergency Personnel who fought to bring the huge fire in premises in the Edward Street and Monaghan Street area under control.

The City Councillor who is also chairperson of the local District Policing Partnership (DPP) said that it was nothing short of disgraceful that this type of attack was still taking place.

Cllr Curran said:

"These acts are carried out by mindless people and serve no purpose what so ever and could have led to serious injury or indeed the loss of life. It is the support of the local community that is vital in putting the message out that these attacks are totally wrong and will only have a detrimental effect on any area.

"The people involved should be made aware of the potential consequences that these attacks could have. It is very possible that ultimately someone could lose their life if the Fire Service decides that it is unsafe for their members to enter any area, particularly at night time.

"On behalf of the local community I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Fire Service for the great work that they do. The men and women of the Fire Service are dedicated to saving life and property and must be in a position to carry out their work without the threat of attack.

"I would also call on all people, especially parents across the city to do what they can to both educate the young people involved in these attacks and to be vigilant to ensure that these attacks do not happen." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd has said that the latest statement from Dolores Kelly's about the Drumcree march is as foolish as it is dangerous and is unbecoming to someone who claims to represent the best interest of the community in the Garvaghy Road and indeed the wider community.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"I am quite simply astonished that a public representative would issue such a statement which will only raise fears and concerns in the community based on nothing more than an SDLP wish to issue unfounded baseless assertions on a non existent deal with between Sinn Féin and the DUP.

"The SDLP offered up a Garvaghy road march to David Trimble. Sinn Féin cannot and will not be offering any community up to any Unionist leader or Loyal order." ENDS

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Sinn Féin says that a meeting it held with top officials from North West Gateway Initiative (NWGI) focussed on how the body could progress specific projects in the Strabane-Lifford and Derg-Finn Valley cross-border corridors as part of the North/South Intergovernmental body's wider remit of taking a strategic approach to issues of economic and infrastructural development in the North West region.

A Sinn Féin delegation, including Pat Doherty MP MLA, Claire McGill MLA and Cllr Michaela Boyle, met with the newly appointed head of the body Mr Frank and other senior officials at Stormont on Tuesday of last week.

Speaking following the meeting the West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said:

"We had a very constructive engagement and pressed the NWGI officials on the need to focus on infrastructural and economic projects which are central to the regeneration of the Strabane District/ Donegal cross border corridor as part of the wider Spatial Planning Framework that they are now working on for the region.

"We secured a commitment that, as part of this process, they would come and meet with Strabane District Council so that the needs of this area are fully incorporated into the Framework.

"We also raised specific issues including; the need to build up the Further Education sector in Strabane and particularly investment in skills and vocational based training; the need for a focus on the massive tourism potential of the area and major investment in the sector; support for the twin pedestrian bridges project in Strabane town and for enhancing the physical environment of our smaller district towns as well as bringing a focus to increasing the connectivity between the Derg and Finn valley areas particularly in the area of improving the condition of cross border in the area.

"We will be continuing to press the NWGI on these issues in the time ahead to ensure that the Strabane District/Donegal corridor secures an equitable share of the practical benefits and initiatives flowing from the work of the NWGI." ENDS

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson speaking ahead of the publication of a major report into child poverty has said that the report findings have the potential to eradicate the 'scandal' of child poverty here.

The Inquiry was conducted by the Committee of the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister and the Assembly will be asked to endorse their findings and produce a detailed action plan to deliver on the recommendations tomorrow (June 17th).

Ms Anderson said:

"This report contains many recommendations which, if implemented, could go a long way towards eliminating the scandalous level of child poverty in the North of Ireland.

"Many issues are addressed such as benefits, tax credits, affordable childcare, social housing and fuel poverty.

"The Executive is already committed to eradicating child poverty by 2020 and I believe the recommendations in this report can point the way towards achieving that very worthwhile objective.

"Unfortunately, there are some areas which we will have little control over - particularly the Benefits system - which reaffirms the need for more powers to be devolved away from British Ministers and into the hands of Irish people who genuinely care about the constituents they represent.

"I believe the report will also call for a specific action plan to deal with the issue of rising fuel costs. While the recently-established Fuel Poverty Taskforce will be taking the lead on this issue I think that all options need to be considered including additional payments and special tariffs for vulnerable groups and low-income households.

"I am confident that this report will win the overwhelming support of all parties in the Assembly because child poverty is something which affects every constituency.

"It doesn't matter whether you represent the Bogside or Ballysillan, a hungry child is a hungry child and that is something which should unite us all." ENDS

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West Belfast MP Gerry Adams MLA, will be meeting Reg Empey, the Minister for Employment and Learning tomorrow - Tuesday - to discuss the future funding of St. Mary's University College on the Falls Road.

Mr. Adams, who is working closely with the College, has already expressed to the Minister his 'very real and deep concerns that Ministerial decisions, particularly on limiting enrolment for the Liberal Arts course provided by St. Mary's, will have a serious and detrimental impact on the viability of the college'.

The west Belfast MP said:

"St. Mary's is an important educational resource in west Belfast. It makes a vital contribution to the catholic maintained school sector.

"In recent years the University College has demonstrated an increasing ability to adapt to circumstances and to respond to change. It is at the centre of An Ceathrú Gaeltachta, and the strongest, urban Irish language community in Ireland.

"The College has responded to the decline in demand for teacher training by introducing non-teacher training courses. Its Liberal Arts degree is one of the courses favoured by young people from west and north Belfast.

"As a result St. Mary's has earned the distinction of becoming the University with the second highest level of participation of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds in universities throughout the six counties, and Britain.

"The official statistics demonstrating this were released recently by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), which measured the rate of participation.

"St. Mary's success in this is no accident. It is due to the location of St Mary's University College on the Falls Road, in the heart of west Belfast, and the affinity the local community have with this historic campus, since it was founded 100 years ago.

"Access to a local campus also helps local students overcome the substantial financial barriers which now face those who wish to go to university, but who cannot afford to travel or stay way from home.

"This is crucially important, and in the 26 counties and in Britain the governments understand the importance of widening participation and improving opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to have access to University courses.

"Reg Empey has indicated that he wants to limit enrolment in the Liberal Arts course at St Mary's. This view is at odds with education policy elsewhere. It is not in the interests of students; not in the interest of education; not in the interest of St. Mary's and not in the interest of west Belfast.

"I have already highlighted to Reg Empey the potential adverse impact that decision and his proposal to change the funding allocation to St Mary's could have upon the viability of the College and the ability of young people from this community to access university.

"And I intend expressing my concerns and objections forcefully tomorrow." Críoch

Note to editor:

The West Belfast MP will be meeting the Minister, Reg Empey at 1pm in Parliament Buildings tomorrow, Tuesday 17th June.

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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald speaking at a press conference in Dublin this morning said: "The Irish government has a strong hand to play. For any Treaty to proceed it requires the support of all 27 member states including Ireland. Brian Cowen has been presented with a real opportunity to get a better deal for Ireland. He now needs to use it." Sinn Féin is preparing detailed written proposals to give to the Irish government. Ms. McDonald said:

"Brian Cowen will be attending his first European Council meeting, as Taoiseach, later this week. He will be going there with a strong mandate from a member state with a long history of playing a positive role in the EU. He will go there in the knowledge that last Thursday's referendum vote in Ireland means that the Lisbon Treaty cannot now come into effect. For now, the EU will continue to function under existing treaties.

"The question now is how the Taoiseach will use this mandate. There are concerns about what the government will do given their opposition to how the people voted last Thursday. Already there are contradictory messages. Yesterday the Taoiseach said that this is unchartered territory. Today the Minister for Foreign Affairs said this is not a new scenario. It is little wonder that some EU leaders have said that the Lisbon Treaty process must continue. The Irish government needs to tell them directly that the ratification process should stop.


"The leaders of all 27-member states need to listen to what the people have said and bring forward a new Treaty, which deals with their concerns. They will only do this if the Irish government speaks with a clear voice. The government needs to act in accordance with the wishes of the electorate.


"Sinn Féin is seeking to meet with the Taoiseach at the earliest opportunity to discuss these issues. In order to be constructive we are preparing detailed written proposals, which we will give to the government in advance of the meeting of the European Council. Brian Cowen also needs to consult widely with as broad a range of Irish public opinion as possible.


"The Irish government has a strong hand to play. For any Treaty to proceed it requires the support of all 27 member states including Ireland. Brian Cowen has been presented with a real opportunity to get a better deal for Ireland. He now needs to use it.

"From the outset the Irish government needs to make it clear that they are not looking for clarification or minor alterations. They need to make it clear that the genuine concerns raised by the Irish people need to be addressed. The government also needs to make it clear that there is no legitimacy to calls from a small number of EU politicians for a two-speed approach.

"Over the weekend some have tried to suggest that there is no clarity about what Irish voters are concerned about. This is not the case. Very specific issues around the loss of power, neutrality, workers rights and public services were raised repeatedly not just by those campaigning for a no vote but on canvasses and in opinion polls published throughout the campaign.


"Sinn Féin believes that these issues need to be addressed, at a minimum, in any future Treaty.

Democracy - there are some issues which involve maintaining the current position - retaining a permanent commissioner, our current voting strength at the European Council and key strategic vetoes such as on the outcome of international trade talks - and some issues which need to be strengthened such as the powers for parliaments in member states and for citizens. We also need to see the removal of the controversial self-amending articles.

Neutrality - A specific protocol in the Treaty protecting neutrality is required and opt outs from other aspects of an emerging EU common foreign and security policy such as an end to taxpayers money being diverted to the European Defence Agency or being used for any EU military purposes. We also need a protocol to opt out from the European Atomic Energy Treaty.

Workers rights and public services - explicit amendments are required to ensure greater protection of workers rights and to stop the opening up of vital public services to competition. We also need measures to strengthen the social content of the EU project in order to balance the need for economic competitiveness with social cohesion and sustainable development."ENDS

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Concerned parents will bring their protest against the decision of the Southern Education Library Board (SELB) to cut the school bus service in South Armagh onto tomorrow, Tuesday 17th June.

Parents will walk with their children along the Concession Road to highlight the issues of safety on Tuesday morning at 8.20 am at Clonalig in South Armagh.

Speaking ahead of the protest Cllr Hearty said:

"The announcement by the Southern Education and Library Board that they are withdrawing the school bus services to some schools in the South Armagh area has come as a shock to all.

"Out of the blue the SELB have announced that they are ceasing bus services for children to schools throughout the area. Their reasoning is questionable and seems to have been totally dictated by finance without any thought of the Health and well being of our children."

Sinn Féin have asked for an immediate meeting between the Council and SELB representatives to discuss the situation.

Cllr Hearty added:

"Clonalig primary School and St Josephs High in my own area are loosing their buses. There has been a bus running from Culloville to Crossmaglen for 34 years. Clonalig School is on the Concession road, a road with a well document history of traffic collisions and accidents. The SELB by their decision to withdraw Bus Services for our Children are dismissing the dangers that will no doubt result because of the bus withdrawal."

Councillor Jimmy McCreesh also confirmed that Ballymoyer and Newtownhamilton schools would also be impacted on. He said:

"These are vibrant and sustainable rural schools. The actions taken by the SELB to stop services means putting more cars and children on our roads. Surely the health and well being of our children has to be measured more than in monetary terms." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Billy Leonard has expressed 'great concern' at what he sees as an increasing trend by GPs and medical centres to charge DLA claimants who need their medical notes for DLA appeal hearings.

He has said that £50 seems to be the norm and people working within the medical service have told him it will become the absolute norm.

Cllr Leonard said:

"People appealing DLA decisions are already facing hardship. To then have an additional bill for merely trying to defend their case is a step too far. I have great concerns on all aspects of this.

"People will be put off appealing purely because of finances. I believe the system is already weighted against the ordinary person so to erect another major barrier is grossly unfair. I have personal experience with claimants where the notes were much better for the person rather than a pro-forma report.

"It is therefore important that we help the process not close it down with an unfair charge.

"I am writing to the Social Development Minister asking for clarification if the charge is absolutely legal and should there be regulation or legislation to prevent it." ENDS

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Speaking prior to a vote on a report on waste management on Tuesday in Strasbourg, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has said,

"New EU waste management legislation still leaves a lot to be desired.

"Some mention of waste prevention and recycling targets are in place for the first time in EU legislation.

"A number of improvements have also been made to the original Commission proposal through amendments signed on behalf of all political groups, including myself on behalf of Sinn Féin, Liam Aylward, Fianna Fáil and the European Parliament Rapporteur Caroline Jackson.

"However I fear that, generally, proposals on waste prevention and recycling have weakened to the point where they will not be able to make a substantive enough contribution or clearly help Member States in stabilising and reducing the amount of waste produced.

"One area where we need more progress is with regards to recycling targets. The latest proposed deal sets out targets that are quite low and which may be very difficult to enforce,

"This is opposed to the European Parliament's originally suggested target of 50% recycling of municipal waste and 70% recycling of other waste - such as waste from construction, demolition, industry and manufacturing by 2020."

Ms de Brún concluded:

"We need to put major resources and policy emphasis on the more positive levels of the waste hierarchy." Deireadh

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Newry and Mourne Sinn Féin Councillor Charlie Casey has praised Fire-fighters who tackled a massive blaze in the Monaghan Street area of Newry on Sunday.

The Councillor said that the efforts of Fire Service Personnel to ensure that the fire at a vacant building was brought under control had been tremendous. Premises and homes around the blaze area were evacuated.

Councillor Casey said:

"By all accounts it was an extremely difficult fire and there was a great fear that it would spread.

"The main thing is that there are no reports of anybody having been injured." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has announced the initial allocations of funding from the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013.

£50 million will be allocated across the seven council clusters and they will now begin the process of developing rural development strategies. The strategies will identify actions that will support improvements to the quality of life in rural areas and the diversification and development of the rural economy. After they have been competitively assessed a further £50m will be allocated across the clusters.

Outlining the announcement the Minister said:

"This initial portion was allocated to the council clusters on the basis of their rural population weighted by deprivation. This money will help the council clusters to make a real difference in delivering on the big issues that cut across all rural communities.

"It is to the local councils' credit that they are striving to get the RDP up and running as soon as possible. The next stage in the process provides a real opportunity for rural dwellers to influence the strategies that will be drawn up in each of their areas. I would encourage everyone to play a full and active part in this new programme."

The Rural Development Programme is funded under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

The allocations were calculated on the basis of equally weighted shares of cluster population, deprivation scale and deprivation extent.

Notes to Editors:

Allocations to clusters as follows:

Cluster Allocation

North East £6,211,991
North West £11,259,048
Mid Ulster £12,721,715
Craigavon £9,570,714
Down £6,592,695
Antrim £1,793,712
Lisburn £1,850,124

The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 was approved by the European Commission on 24 July 2007. Approx £100million of the funding through Axis 3 will be delivered at community level with new local action groups developing tailored strategies and programmes for their area.

Axis 3 of the programme contains the following measures:

3.1: Diversification into non-agricultural activities
3.2: Business creation and development
3.3: Encouragement of tourism activities
3.4: Basic services for the economy and rural population
3.5: Village renewal and development
3.6: Conservation and upgrading of the rural heritage

The Minister had asked local councils to come together in clusters to deliver the new programme on a sub-regional basis, and seven clusters were formed. Each cluster will work with a new, locally formed Action Group to prepare and implement a local rural development strategy aimed at addressing need in the area.

The allocations were calculated on the basis of equally weighted shares of cluster population, deprivation scale and deprivation extent (i.e. 1/3 population; 1/3 deprivation scale; 1/3 deprivation extent).

  1. Deprivation scale: First third was allocated according to the number of income deprived people in each Cluster, irrespective of whether they lived in a deprived area or not, as a share of the total number of income deprived across the seven cluster areas.
  2. Population: A second third of the money was allocated amongst the seven clusters on the basis of each clusters share of the North of Ireland's rural population (the population of the 1611 OA's).
  3. Deprivation Extent: Third [tranche] of the money was allocated on the basis of people living in the most deprived parts of the North of Ireland, based on the OA Economic Deprivation measure.

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