Speaking prior to the British Chancellor Alastair Darling tabling his budget today, Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) said: "The present economic climate in which we find ourselves only strengthens the argument for greater fiscal control in the hands of locally elected politicians. Politicians who are responsible to the electorate need to take more control of our economic destiny. Decisions taken by the British Treasury are taken in the interests of the British Government, the British Banking system and economic conditions pertaining principally on the island of Britain. Any affects that these decisions have on conditions in the North of Ireland are peripheral to the thinking of the British Treasury. “Sinn Féin believes that the only long term solution facing us on this Island, both north and south, is a single strategy on taxation and regional and economic development. “This Budget as with previous British Budgets will only serve to highlight the continued futility of partition and it’s detrimental impact on the lives of all citizens living here." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has challenged the Ulster Unionists Party to come clean on whether their current MP, any of their members in the British House of Lords, or any of their former MPs, purchased homes in London paid for by the taxpayer through the second homes allowance. If so who now owns these homes and what happened to any profit made from their sale? Mr Murphy said: “Yesterday in an attempt at blatant populism, the Ulster Unionist EU candidate and former MP Jim Nicholson, weighed into the debate on Westminster expenses. Sinn Féin makes no apology for standing up for the rights and entitlements of our electorate. Sinn Féin MPs do not receive a Westminster salary. None of our MPs or Sinn Féin as a party have purchased properties in London and used the second home allowance to pay for it. This has however been the practice amongst other parties. The effect of this is that property in London owned by individual MPs being paid for by the taxpayer. I would challenge Jim Nicholson, since he has now shown an interest in this area, to come clean on the position of current and former UUP MPs and Lords. How many of them purchased homes in London paid for by the taxpayer? Who owns these homes now? Were any subsequently sold on by former MPs/Lords and if so what happened to the profits made? The standard UUP line to date of ‘we only have one MP’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. They need to come clean on former MPs and Lords also. The basic question for the UUP remains – Have any of their members or former members made profits from properties purchased in London and paid for by the taxpayer? We look forward to Mr Nicholson’s response.” CRÍOCH
Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has today launched the Local Government (Planning and Development) (Amendment) Bill 2009 which has been drafted by Sinn Féin as part of the party’s efforts to Save 16 Moore Street.
Speaking as he launched the legislation at Leinster House today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The significance of 16 Moore Street and its surrounding buildings in Irish Historical terms cannot be underestimated. It was the final resting place of the rebels of 1916 at the site where the surrender letter was penned by Padraig Pearse on behalf the leaders of the rebellion.
"It would be an absolute travesty if these buildings were to be demolished as part of the plans to develop this quarter. In most other Countries the destruction of such a site would be unthinkable yet we are faced with a very grave threat to this site despite it being named as a National Monument.
"The legislation which we have drafted and put on the Dáil order paper would mandate the Minister to ensure that these buildings are not destroyed as part of the development. We will be seeking time to move the Bill and calling on all parties to support its passage through the Dáil.
"Sinn Féin has proposed the development of a historical and cultural quarter at this site to be associated with the 1916 Rising and linked to the GPO on O’Connell Street.
"The potential of such a development would be immeasurable not only in achieving a better cultural, historical and educational appreciation of the period but also in terms of constructing a lasting memorial which could become a major visitor attraction for the Capital." ENDS
Sinn Féin’s key demands for this site are:
· The full preservation of 16 Moore St. and adjoining buildings (14-17), including any and all contents and fittings that date back to 1916, and their conversion to a museum and cultural centre honouring the men and women of 1916.
· The designation of Moore St., O’Rahilly Parade, Moore Lane, Henry Place and O’Connell Street, including the GPO, as an historic quarter and national monument of our capital city and its development for cultural and educational use, with appropriate commercial and residential aspects in keeping with its heritage.
Sinn Féin North West EU Candidate Cllr. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has this morning described efforts by the European Commission to bring ‘recreational fishing’ into the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as devastating blow to the Irish fishing industry.
Mr. Mac Lochlainn said:
“There will be a vote today in the European Parliament on the Commissions plan to bring ‘recreational fishing’ into the Common Fisheries Policy. Sinn Féin MEPs will vote against this proposal as it will have a devastating effect on sea angling.
“Fishing quotas have been arbitrarily reduced over the years without appropriate consultation on the ground. The Irish fishing industry is suffering a death by a thousand cuts.
“If today’s proposal to bring recreational fishing into the CFP is successful it will effectively end sea angling which has been a critical avenue of diversification for the fishing industry. Angling has provided a lifeline to many fishermen, as boats need little modification for the dual usage of shell fishing and sea angling. Clearly any threat to sea angling will have a wider effect on the Irish tourism industry.
“Both the Irish government and EU institutions promoted diversification within the struggling industry yet now there is an attempt to shut down a key component of this strategy. Fishermen continue to hit a wall at every turn. I am calling on Irish MEPs to reject this proposal and for the government to step up and protect what is left of the Irish fishing industry.” ENDS
Speaking this evening from Strasbourg Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald MEP has called for full disclosure of expenses by MEPs noting “it is time to end the gravy train culture that continues to reside in Brussels and the Dáil.” The Dublin MEP also said there can be no bail out of the MEPs pension fund.
Ms McDonald said:
“It is being proposed that the EU budget be used to make up the European parliament €120 pension fund deficit. This simply cannot happen. There can be no bail out for the MEPs pension fund. The financial crisis is affecting pension throughout Europe and workers have been left high and dry. And what is good or the goose must also be good for the gander. It is also shocking that some MEPs may be benefiting from two pensions, one from their member state parliament and another from the EU.
“But this is the gravy train culture that continues to reside in Brussels and beyond. In Ireland the majority of MEPs have refused to disclose their expenses. Europe urgently needs greater accountability and transparency. The people of Europe deserve better. Across the member states low-income families and the vulnerable are shouldering the heaviest burden of the financial crisis. The gravy train is not stopping at their door. I am calling on all MEPs, but particularly my colleagues in Ireland to publish their expenses in advance of the elections in June.” ENDS
Commenting on the leaked memo from the HSE, Sinn Féin Health & children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said that it would cause chaos in the public health services and that "savage health cuts cannot be dressed up as reform". He stated:
"The HSE memo demands cuts of hundreds of front-line jobs in our public health services, including 700 nurses. This is but the latest blow to our public health services which have been the target of cuts since autumn 2007.
"The HSE has already been directed by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government not to renew any temporary contracts when they expire, not to fill posts that fall vacant due to retirement and not to fill posts that fall vacant due to resignation/career breaks/early retirement scheme.
"Over 14,000 staff throughout the health services are on temporary contracts, so the full implementation of the Government directive to the HSE will have a massive effect on patient care. The further cuts revealed in the HSE memo will add to the chaos. While the transfer of staff from administrative duties to community health services is welcome this is being used as a smokescreen to hide the effects of cuts on front-line care.
"Hospital waiting lists and A&E queues are as bad as ever and will worsen with the massive cuts in jobs in the public health service.
"At the same time the Minister has given a gold-plated guarantee to the hospital consultants that their €250,000 per annum contract will not be touched. This is for a 33-hour week in the public system and they can still work up to 25% of that time in private practice.
"Savage health cuts cannot be dressed up as reform. Successive Fianna Fáil-led Governments refused over the past 12 years to bring in real health reform and to build an equitable, efficient and sustainable public health system when unprecedented resources were available to do so. Now they are attacking the public health system and doing so under the banner of reform. The hypocrisy of their approach to health knows no bounds." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP has called for a joint approach to ensure and sustainable and viable fishing industry. Speaking ahead of the green paper from the European Commission on Common Fisheries Policy Ms de Brún said:
“This green paper and its recommendations from the European Commission will undoubtedly have an impact on the local fishing industry. What the exact implications are remains to be seen on a full inspection of the findings.
“Unfortunately it is a reality that fish stocks are dwindling and as a result the efficiency of maintaining a large fishing fleet is something that needs to be explored.
“I understand the Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew has already started this process with the bringing together of the Fishing Forum who’s role is to examine in partnership with the fishing industry and processing sector to find a way forward.
“Essentially a viable and sustainable industry is what is required To bring this about I would like to see a joint approach involving the fishing industry, the Executive and all of our local European representatives.”
Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast Paul Maskey has called on Invest NI to secure the development site on the Springfield Road. The site is currently being used by local youths from both sides of the interface to launch stoning incidents against rival groups. Speaking today Mr Maskey said: “This land along the Springfield Road has now lain derelict for a number of years and on a number of occasions youths from both sides of the interface have accessed the site to launch stoning attacks on each other. “There is a danger of the site becoming a regular flash point and the current landholders, Invest NI, have a responsibility to the communities living around site to secure the land properly and stop it being used for these activities. “Given the good work that has been ongoing between community representatives in the area to improve interface and community relations any assistance would be a further boost to this. “I will be writing to Arlene Foster, the Enterprise, and Investment Minister, to resolve this situation and to urge the appropriate securing of this site in order to put a stop to these disturbances.”
Commenting on proposed changes to some allowances claimed by MPs, Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy said: “Clearly there are serious concerns about the manner in which allowances have been claimed by a number of MPs. For the record Sinn Féin MPs do not receive a Westminster salary and we do not claim for individual second homes. Unlike others we rent and share two flats amongst the five MPs. “Sinn Féin will clearly abide by whatever rules and regulations are put in place as we always have done. However we are determined that none of the democratic entitlements of our electorate are in any way diminished. “It seems to me the people who will be worried by these measures are not those of us who have abided by the rules but rather those MPs and politicians who are grossing hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money in salaries, allowances and equally importantly through the direct employment of relatives or the payment of mortgages on second homes.” ENDS
Sinn Féin’s DRD minister Conor Murphy has declared that draft consultation proposals on planning reform by DOE minister Sammy Wilson must be grounded in equality.
Mr Murphy said:
“Sinn Féin has significant concerns about Sammy Wilson’s refusal to properly ‘equality-proof’ the draft consultation proposals on planning reform.
“The promotion of equality is not an optional extra, particularly with a fundamental agenda like the reform and overhaul of the planning system. Equality is not an add-on accessory or an expedient tick-box exercise.
“Sinn Féin has engaged with Sammy Wilson and his officials over these issues.
“Sammy Wilson is fully aware of the steps required to ensure that his draft consultation proposals on planning reform comply with minimal best practice in policy development. Thus far, he has refused to act.
“The irony is that Sammy Wilson responded positively when Sinn Féin raised equally valid concerns about the inadequacy of rural-proofing within the draft consultation proposals.
“Sammy Wilson’s continued refusal to promote equality policy within the detail of the draft proposals and to properly adhere to equality statute throughout the planning reform process could create unnecessary pressures on wider RPA reforms.
“The onus to comply with equality statute and public policy rests squarely with Sammy Wilson. Planning reform has huge potential to deliver on the Executive’s equality agenda, but this must be reflected in concrete terms.
“Sinn Féin also has some technical concerns about the draft consultation proposals which we’ve been prepared to work on constructively with Sammy Wilson.
“In this context, over the last two months, Sinn Féin has offered to hold continuous meetings – if need be on a daily basis - to ensure all the relevant issues are satisfactorily resolved.
“Unfortunately, no such urgency has been demonstrated by Sammy Wilson and his advisors, who seem more concerned with misdirecting the media rather than resolving fundamental issues.”
The joint First Ministers recently reaffirmed the baseline that all Executive functions must be discharged having due regard for the need to promote equality of opportunity, in line with the general statutory duty under Section 75(1) of the NI Act 1998 and the detailed enforcement duties in Schedule 9 to the Act (see AQW 1675/09).
The DOE’s failure to mainstream the Section 75(1) statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity throughout the draft consultation proposals on planning reform (including the principles of New TSN), alongside the deliberate exclusion of a full Equality Impact Assessment (compliant with the Schedule 9 enforcement duties) prior to the publication of any proposals, means they do not even reach the minimal baseline recently reaffirmed by the joint First Ministers.
Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has stated that supermarket giants must take a responsible attitude to pricing throughout this economic slump in order to aid customers through economically hard times. This follows Tesco announcing another growth in the sales of food and £3.13 billion profits for this year.
Ms McCann said:
“Today Tesco announced a record 10% profit increase for this year making £3.13 billion. Tesco sales have actually topped £1 billion a week. Given that this is in a time of severe economic hardship the question arises, how much are supermarket giants actually doing to help consumers. ”
“Lower income shoppers such as pensioners and those dependant on benefits are being forced to buy supermarket own brands or go without, while branded and local products that are evidently superior in quality and nutritional value are out of reach for many customers.”
“It is important that people maintain a healthy diet but with basic essentials such as fruit, vegetables, eggs, bread and milk have seen the largest price increases, putting pressure on the budget of low income shoppers.”
“The present economic difficulties need to be reflected in the prices of staple foods by large supermarkets, such as Tesco, who must take a responsible approach towards the hardships of many consumers instead of pressing for huge, unjustifiable profits.”
Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brún met today Tuesday 21st April. in Armagh City with SEAT who are campaigning to have the North South Electricity Interconnector run underground.
The meeting was organised by local Sinn Fein MLA Cathal Boylan. Sinn Féin has listened to the concerns of those communities in Monaghan, Cavan, Meath, Armagh and Tyrone who are campaigning to have 400kv Eirgrid/NIE Electricity Interconnector run underground instead through the proposed system of overhead pylons. Speaking after the meeting Ms de Brún said: “Local communities in Armagh, Tyrone, Monaghan, Cavan and Meath are campaigning to have 400kv Eirgrid/NIE Electricity Interconnector run underground instead through the proposed system of overhead pylons. “They have put forward a number of health and environmental concerns about the proposed overhead cables and associated pylons. “At the meeting today, they presented evidence that challenges the Eirgrid/NIE analysis. They pointed to the findings of the Askon Report commissioned by the North East Pylon Pressure group. This report argues that it is both feasible, and in the long term, economically advantageous to underground the cable transmission line for the North South Interconnector project.
"Sinn Fein MLA Cathal Boylan has recently asked questions of the utility regulator regarding this matter and to date is awaiting a response ” ENDS
Speaking today from Leinster House Sinn Féin North West EU candidate Cllr. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has called on Fine Gael and Labour to end its cosy consensus with the government on Lisbon noting, “the government has repeatedly tried to blame Ireland’s soaring unemployment and public finance crisis on the people’s rejection of Lisbon. Fine Gael and Labour have yet to come out with a clear statement that rejects the government’s claims. Blaming the people for the governments own economic failure must end.”
The Donegal Councillor said:
“In his emergency budget speech Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan shamefully tried to deflect his own governments responsibility for the recession by blaming the peoples rejection of Lisbon for the collapse in Ireland's public finances and soaring unemployment.
“We would expect little else from a government that deems it appropriate to fork out a whopping €53,000 parachute payment to Ministers of State who were superfluous to requirements in the first place. But my question is this. Why have Fine Gael and Labour not challenged this slight against the Irish electorate?
“A cosy consensus has developed between the government and opposition parties on Lisbon. The government has repeatedly tried to blame soaring unemployment and the public finance crisis on the people’s rejection of Lisbon. Fine Gael and Labour have yet to come out with a clear statement that rejects the government’s claims.
"Lisbon has nothing to do with Ireland's recession. The truth is that the culture of vested interests and big business lobbyists in the corridors of Brussels is the very substance of the Lisbon Treaty. And just like in Ireland it is these very same golden circles that have caused and underpin the current recession in other parts of Europe.
"It is also worth remembering it is the very people who have led our economy into recession through unbridled greed and reckless speculation that have inspired the substance of the Lisbon Treaty. It was Bertie Ahern himself who delivered the Lisbon Treaty’s first incarnation, the EU Constitution, during his European Presidency in 2004.
"The cosy consensus between Fine Gael, Labour and the government on this issue has to end. Both opposition parties need to come out with a definitive rebuttal of the governments claim. And critically government and opposition parties alike need to wake up and smell the coffee. The people of Ireland and Europe cannot afford the Lisbon Treaty. We need a new treaty for a new time. " CRIOCH
Welcoming the appointment of a new Dean of Academic Development at Magee University, Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson insisted the new Dean must now deliver on Magee’s expansion. Martina Anderson commented: “I would like to congratulate Professor Deirdre Heenan on her appointment as Dean of Academic Development for Magee. “Prof. Heenan has been given the responsibility of spearheading the University of Ulster's expansion plans for Magee Campus. “I have been lobbying the University of Ulster for a long time to put in place a strategic and properly resourced plan for Magee, accompanied by the appointment of a dedicated ‘champion’ who can drive the needs of the campus with the UU hierarchy. “The UU unveiled their development plan earlier this year when they announced their intention to greatly increase student numbers at Magee and to expand the campus with a number of major new builds at the Foyle College site. “I hope that Prof. Heenan can become that effective champion for Magee and she will be well aware that there is a huge expectation on her to deliver the kind of expansion which has long been promised but has so far failed to materialise. “A thriving university can become the driver of Derry’s economic regeneration and I hope to meet with Prof. Heenan as soon as possible to discuss how she intends taking this process forward and to offer whatever support and assistance I can give.”
Transport Minister Conor Murphy has extended his sympathies to the family of Mrs Bridie Cookson, who died yesterday after an incident involving an Ulsterbus in the Merchants Quay area of Newry.
Speaking about the incident, the Minster said: “I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sympathies to the family of Mrs Cookson. I am saddened to hear of her death yesterday in such difficult and sudden circumstances. My thoughts remain with her family at this time.”
The Minister was made aware of the incident shortly after it occurred yesterday. He has been advised that a PSNI investigation is underway and that Translink are helping the police with their enquiries. Translink will also be carrying out their own internal investigation and the Minister will be kept updated on any developments.
Cllr Noel McGeown was co-opted on to Craigavon Council at a special meeting on Monday night as a replacement for former Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Tallon who stood down as a councillor due to family and personal commitments.
Speaking after the brief meeting, the new Councillor, who has been an active republican since 1971, paid tribute to Mr Tallon who had joined him in the public gallery as the council accepted the co-option.
The new Sinn Féin councillor said:
“Michael has been an exemplary councillor who committed himself to achieving the best possible outcomes for his constituents. His will be a hard act to follow but he has offered me what advice and assistance he can give. With his experience and the support of my fellow councillors I am confident that we can continue to deliver an effective constituency service.”
Cllr McGeown welcomed the new challenge he now faces saying:
“I have been involved in republican politics for the most of my life and I am looking forward to continuing that involvement through my new role as a councillor. The role offers new opportunities to promote the republican ideal through working directly with the public and from within the Council chamber.”
Sinn Féin Assembly member for Mid-Ulster and party spokesperson on Victims issues Francie Molloy today said that his party would seek to veto attempts by the DUP to bring forward legislation to change the inclusive definition of a victim.
Mr Molloy said:
“In recent days the DUP have indicated that they are preparing to bring a Bill forward to the Assembly which will seek to change the current inclusive legal definition of a victim and enshrine in law a hierarchy of victims.
“This is completely unacceptable. The current definition came about after years of campaigning by victims organisations with the support of Sinn Féin. In response to any Bill the DUP bring to the Assembly on this issue, Sinn Féin will bring forward a Petition of Concern. Given the universal view on this issue amongst those groups representing victims of British State violence I would fully expect the SDLP to join with us in this blocking these offensive and unnecessary DUP moves and I will be meeting with them to discuss this issue.
“Such a Bill from the DUP has nothing at all to do with victims or the needs of victims. It has all to do with Jim Allister and the European election campaign. The fact the announcement came from Diane Dodds who isn’t even in the Assembly says much about the motivation behind this.
The DUP need to get real about the victims issue. For too long they have sought to play politics with it and attempt to elevate one victim over another. That approach has failed and Sinn Féin will robustly block any attempt to go back down that road.”
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey to recall the road haulage license granted to convicted drug trafficker Kieran Boylan. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the protection of this drug trafficker must come to an end.
He said, "The protection of Kieran Boylan must be brought to an end. What sort of message is sent to communities when convicted drug dealers are seen to get away with their crimes? This may have a devastating impact on the willingness of members of the public to come forward with information on suspected drug dealers.
"The Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey also needs to take action and the haulage license should be recalled immediately." ENDS
Deputy Arthur Morgan has described the news that Junior Ministers are to get a €53,000 golden handshake as an embarrassment for public representatives. Deputy Morgan said it beggars belief that Junior Ministers are getting a golden handshake at a time when the Christmas bonus is being removed from old age pensioners.
Deputy Morgan said, "Through paying off their Junior Ministers and allowing banking executives to ride off into the sunset with massive pensions and pay offs, the Government is once again prioritising the golden circle.
"It beggars belief that at a time when the Christmas bonus is being removed from old age pensioners, the Government has decided that ‘Junior Ministers’ deserve a golden handshake for leaving their meaningless positions.
"Junior Ministers have received more than €50,000 on top of their TD salary. Along with their two drivers and office staff, Junior Ministers have wasted millions of euro of tax payer’s money over the years.
"The Golden Handshake once again demonstrates that Fianna Fáil have learned no lessons and are continuing to use tax payers money to pay for golden handshakes to their cronies in the golden circle." ENDS
West Tyrone Sinn Fein MP MLA Pat Doherty says that DSD Minister Margaret Ritchie needs to clarify in detail her plans for the future of the Social Security Agency’s local office network following her announcement yesterday that she is taking forward, in amended form, some of the proposals of the SSA Strategic Business Review to centralise DHSS benefits services under the term “Customers First.” Pat Doherty said, “Sinn Fein vigorously opposed the original SSA Strategic Business Review proposals arguing that they would result in: a centralization of the benefits system away from frontline services; a move away from face to face contact with clients at local DHSS offices; and the potential loss of up to 490 DHSS workers jobs at a time when demand for services is already overstretched because of the prevailing economic climate. “In yesterday’s announcement, Margaret Ritchie said that she would be sticking with the principles of centralization contained in the SSA Strategic Business Review while at the same time stating in her “Customer First” proposals that there would be; no job loses; no reductions to front line services at any local offices; and no large scale movement of staff to new offices: “It is difficult to see how the competing objectives of centralization and retention of current service provision at local DHSS offices can be obtained. Margaret Ritchie alludes to the addition of two additional processing centres in Lurgan and Portadown, the clustering of local offices and the retraining of staff as the means of achieving these objectives but what is missing is the finer detail of these new proposals. “For example, in questioning the original SSA Strategic Business Review proposals I was informed in answer to a written question that it was envisaged that staffing levels at Strabane Social Security Office would be reduced from 43 to 10 with back office functions being transferred to processing centres at other locations. “Will these posts now be retained in Strabane through clustering and retraining and will local people have the same access to frontline service staff as currently exits in such an area of high multi-deprivation and need? Margaret Ritchie needs to provide answers to these questions to assure staff and the public that her “Customer First” proposals are not just a repackaged version of the SSA Strategic Business Review proposals. “Sinn Fein will be seeking clarification on these and other key issues in the days ahead.” ENDS