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Sinn Fein today added a damning audit report to the PSNI investigations into the Housing Executive. Speaking as the delegation exposed further evidence into the Nelson Street enquiry, Social Development spokesperson Caral Ni Chuilin said:

"It's vital that the current PSNI investigation has all the facts. This Audit Committee Report is further evidence of alarming practices in the Housing Executive which should have been publicly exposed years ago.

“Questions need answered and the PSNI probe into the Nelson Street issue must examine all relevant documents.

“Sinn Fein have campaigned to expose how this land zoned for social housing ended up in the hands of private developers.

“This audit report shines further light on a raft of other public land developments which need closely examined and explained."

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Fra McCann has welcomed the decision by the Assembly to support a Sinn Féin motion calling for an investigation into the response of the Housing Executive to the recent cold weather.


Mr McCann said:


“Sinn Féin representatives across the six counties were inundated over the Christmas period with complaints from Housing Executive tenants about the lack of response to the various problems caused by the cold weather. These included burst pipes, heating failures and significant damage including collapsed ceilings.


“It is unfortunate that we were forced to put this motion to before the Assembly due to the failure of the DSD Minister Alex Attwood to act and even acknowledge that a problem existed. To date he has instead buried his head in the sand and lavished praise on a Housing Executive operation which saw thousands of people severely inconvenienced.


“Let Mr Attwood now end the pretence and get on with the job of getting a short , sharp independent investigation carried out so that tenants will have confidence that the mistakes of the Christmas period will never be repeated again.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights Martin Ferris TD, has said that this mornings announcement by the Minister for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary that a group has been established to review Employment Regulation Orders (ERO) and Registered Employment Agreements (REA) signals that further cuts in wages for those on lower incomes are on the way.

Minister Calleary stated that the review was being established in accordance with the provisions of the IMF/EU programme and the outgoing government’s commitment to lower wages under the auspices of ‘improving economic efficiency.’

Deputy Ferris said: “As I stated at the time of its publication, the so-called Road to Recovery included not only a commitment to lower the National Minimum wage but also a clear threat to workers on low rates in other sectors.

“It is also clear that slashing wages, including the wages of those on low incomes, is an integral part of the IMF/EU bailout for the banks. This review will land on the desk of the incoming government. Any party that is likely to be part of that government needs to come out now and commit themselves to opposing any such attack on agreed wage rates.

“I would also call on the trade union leadership, particularly those who have called on their members to vote for the Labour Party, to demand that that party put its opposition to any such cuts on the record now, before the election and before they become part of a government committed to implementing the IMF programme.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD and General Election candidate for Dublin South Central Aengus Ó Snodaigh has today launched the party’s proposals for tackling crime.

The document entitled ‘Tackling Crime - Making Communities Safe’ contains some 24 proposals.

Speaking outside the Department of Justice today Ó Snodaigh said:

“Crime and anti-social behaviour are on the rise. It is widely recognised that there has been too little effort to target crime in our communities. Too often the justice system has been too slow and in many cases the punishment has not been seen to fit the crime.

“The current economic situation, coupled with government cuts to services can only make the problem worse. Action needs to be taken now to ensure that this does not happen.

“For any incoming government the priority must be prevention. Crime costs. Preventing crime saves money in the long run.

“People have the right to feel safe in their own homes and communities. We in Sinn Féin are committed to making communities tormented by anti-social behaviour, crime and drugs safer communities.

“Our proposals would see the number of Gardaí and community Gardaí on the ground increased while also focusing on building better relationships between the community and the Gardaí.

“We would also put resources into diverting young people away from involvement in drugs, crime and anti-social behaviour.

“Our proposals are comprehensive and they are credible. This must be a priority issue for any new incoming government. We must work to rid communities of the torment of crime and anti-social behaviour.” ENDS

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Speaking at the Jeannie Johnston in Dublin’s docklands to highlight the 100,000 young people who will be forced to emigrate in the next two years, Sinn Féin’s Kathryn Reilly has said that a comprehensive youth jobs plan must be implemented by any incoming government as a priority.

 

Launching the party’s proposals for youth job creation the Cavan/Monaghan candidate said that Sinn Féin’s fully costed and credible proposals have the potential to get 50,000 young people under 25 off the dole immediately and create many more jobs in the years ahead.

 

Reilly said:

 

“As a young person who has seen many of my friends forced to leave their families, their friends and their home country in search of work, I know all too well what a lack of action on youth unemployment can do. 

 

“Without a serious youth jobs plan we are in danger of losing a generation of talented young people to emigration. They have been failed by the previous government. They must not be failed by the next.

 

“The absolute priority for any incoming government must be to implement a comprehensive youth jobs plan which works and which will get people back to work or into training.

 

“Our costed and credible proposals have the potential to get 50,000 young people off the dole immediately and create many more jobs in the years ahead.

 

“Our proposals include:

·         A youth jobs fund to create 20,000 new jobs

·         An individual plan for the long-term prospects of every person under 25 on the live register

·         2,000 places on a ‘One More Language Scheme’ to give the young unemployed a chance to learn an extra foreign language

·         5,000 free ECDL places

·         10,000 new CE places

·         1,000 places on conversion courses at third level to help graduates convert their skills to potential growth sectors

·         8 measures to treble the number of under 25s who are self-employed including a national entrepreneurship programme, access to credit and greater support for high-potential start-ups

·         A publicly owned green tech firm for Ireland and a major drive to attract FDI in renewable energy

·         Making Ireland a digital media leader through support for skills, infrastructure and entrepreneurship

·         A ‘National Development Scheme’ to employ people directly on public works projects employing 2,000 workers

·         Lifting of the suspension on the early farm retirement scheme to make farming an option for younger people

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Commenting this evening on the TV3 debate between Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

“Tonight’s debate was lamentably short on solutions.

“It is obvious that while the Labour Party’s position may differ in some details from that of Fianna Fáil, it shares the same broad approach, in other words — more of the same.

“Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin called for what he termed ‘a real debate’. But how can there be any semblance of a real debate when Sinn Féin is excluded?

“Citizens are entitled to hear all political views in order to make an informed judgement on the way forward.

“Fianna Fáil are unlikely to be part of the next government but the Fianna Fáil leadership will be comforted to know that their policies will be implemented by a Fine Gael/Labour coalition government if that is the outcome of this election.

“The Irish people deserve better.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice-President Mary Lou McDonald has said Mícheál Martin’s refusal to give up his €90,000 Minister’s severance package shows that Fianna Fáil are no more interested in political reform “than the man on the moon”.

“If Mícheál Martin wanted to really show new leadership while ordinary workers are losing their jobs, the first thing he could do is surrender his ministerial severance package,” Ms McDonald said.

She added that it was more than a bit rich for the new Fianna Fáil leader to conjure up new ideas about political reform when Fianna Fáil has been in power for 20 of the last 22 years and has done nothing to change the system.

Speaking today in Dublin, Ms McDonald said:

“The Fianna Fáil party leader’s record in Government has been abysmal.

“The shambles that is the HSE was set up while he was Minister for Health.

“FÁS was awash with bad practice and mismanagement while he was Minister for Trade & Enterprise.

“And, to cap it all, Mícheál Martin was Minister for Foreign Affairs when the IMF came in to Ireland and when the Fianna Fáil Cabinet he was a member of made a total hames of the economy.

“The best political reform that can happen is that Fianna Fáil TDs and ministers who have run this state into the ground are voted out on election day.

“If the Fianna Fáil leader wants to show leadership on political reform he should give his €90,000 severance payment back to the public purse and do it now.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and Member of the Employment and Learning committee at Stormont is highly critical of the Minister, Danny Kennedy, for considering a raise to Student fees to close to £6,000.

Speaking today MS Ramsey said:

“The feeling out amongst the public is why was an independent report commissioned that stated there would be no increase in student fees but within the space of three months this was over turned despite there being no provision made within this departments budget that would indicate a rise in fees.

“People need to be very clear about where this decision on raising student fees is coming from. Under the system here at Stormont each department is given an allocation and it is up to the Minister where that money is spent.

“For example the Agriculture Minister, Michelle Gildernew,  used part of her allocation to exempt agricultural students from this proposed rise in fees.

“However Danny Kennedy has chosen a different path. It is his decision and his decision alone to raise student fees. In reality we should not be surprised. At the end of the day all Danny Kennedy is doing is following the lead set by his Tory masters in Westminster.
 
“The UUP stood in the last Westminster election on the Tory platform of public sector cuts and job losses and that is the policy being pursued by Danny Kennedy today. This is a recipe for preventing people from lower income homes accessing third level education and it is unacceptable.

“All parties in previous election manifestos have stated that they are opposed to fees. This remains Sinn Féin position. It is now time for all the other parties to make a stand.”

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Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast, Pat Sheehan, has called for the immediate release of Brendan Lillis, currently being held in Maghaberry Prison.


Speaking today

“Sinn Féin is totally opposed to former political prisoners being held in prison by revoking their licence.

“Now that the charges against Brendan Lillis are not being brought forward he should be released immediately.

“Given the urgency of Brendan Lillis’ medical condition he should not be in prison.

“Sinn Féin has been in contact with Owen Patterson, the British Secretary of State, and the Sentence Review Commission and we have called on them to deal with this case without delay.”

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Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh has ridiculed Fine Gael Finance spokesperson Michael Noonan's claim that Sinn Féin economic policy would force young Irish people to leave the country.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“First of all, our young people are already leaving the country in droves because of the disastrous politics of austerity which Fine Gael are committed to continuing.

“Secondly, Michael Noonan was a Minister in the 1982 - 1987 Fine Gael/Labour Coalition and for part of that time the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

“During that period, unemployment reached a then record figure of 232,000.

“Over 150,000 people left this state, over half of whom were third level graduates.

“That is the past which Michael Noonan and Fine Gael represent.

“That is the future that a Fine Gael/Labour coalition of cuts represents.” ENDS

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Speaking following a meeting of North West MLA’s with the Health Board and the Western Health Trust on Friday  Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson, Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has expressed frustration at the lack of accountability on behalf of the Trust.

Martina Anderson said:

“I was seriously frustrated at the less than forthcoming attitude of the senior management of both the Health Board and Western Trust when I questioned them on the latest administrative failure at Altnagelvin Hospital.

“Despite the fact that the Trust’s Chief Executive appeared before the Assembly Health Committee on Thursday and assured the Members that all of the patients at serious risk due to the failure to properly process 18,500 X-rays were notified of the problem between August and October 2010 that this was clearly not the case.

“I am in possession of information which shows that two families of patients affected were in fact not notified of the delay in the diagnosis of their loved ones until last Thursday – a matter of hours before the Chief Executive told the Health Committee that all four families were notified between August and October 2010.

“Responding to my questioning in the Assembly today the Minister for Health said that he would be shocked if it were the case that two patients were only notified last week that there was a delay in their diagnoses.

“This sequence of events would tend to signify that proper administration procedure were not in place and that the Trust CEO must accept responsibility for this state of affairs. The fact that two families were not notified in the timeframe suggested by the CEO’s of both the Trust and the Board would suggest that either they misled the North West MLA’s on Friday or they were unaware of the true facts. Either way it is unacceptable.

“The representatives of the Health Board and the Western Trust, including their two CEO’s who attended the meeting on Friday could not inform us how many individuals were affected by the delay in processing the18,500 X-rays.

“This deficit of accountability is not acceptable and I believe that the Health Board and Western Trust CEOs along with the Minister have serious questions to answer in regards to the administration practices at Altnagelvin Hospital.

“The Minister today announced an "urgent independent inquiry" into matters relating to regional oral medicine service and I am calling on him to extend this to cover the debacle of the back log of 18,500 X-rays at Altnagelvin.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and vice chair of the Health Committee Michelle O’Neill has stated that there is an urgency now for Micheal McGimpsey to address the low level of public confidence in the Health system.

“Michael McGimpsey needs to make urgent moves to restore public confidence both in the operation of the Health Service and in his ability to continue as Minister.

“While I welcome that fact that there will be an urgent review it comes after the Minister having knowledge of this matter for over 13 months.

“Further to this there is public concern to the fact that the senior consultant is still employed by the trust and in receipt of bonuses despite not actually treating patients.

“In recent months we have had the C-diff scandal, the debacle around A&E in Antrim, the McDermott brothers in Donagh, the failure to tackle swine flu properly,  a critical report into safety at the Royal hospital for Sick Children,  the X-Ray issue in Altnagalvin and now the recall of over 100 patients at the RVH a year after the Trust first knew of a problem.

“People are rightly asking questions of the Minister and his leadership of this department. This is a Minister who has at best been semi detached from the Executive and who recently put attending a press conference in front of attending an important Executive meeting.

“He has failed to keep the Assembly, the Executive and the Health Committee informed, but more crucially his drip feed of information is continuing to undermine public confidence in the health service. This is unacceptable.”

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Sinn Féin anti-poverty spokesperson Daithí McKay MLA (North Antrim) has expressed his dismay at the Tory led British government holding up the appointment of the Child Poverty Commission.

Mr. McKay said:

“There is a requirement under to the Child Poverty Act to consult the Commission before formulating the Child Poverty Strategy, therefore the only conclusion that one can come to is that the Tories are not motivated to fully and properly address this very important issue”.

“The Child Poverty Commission would be independent of government and thus offer an objective view rather than pandering to particular political agendas. Could it be that the Tories are afraid that the first pronouncement by the Commission would be a condemnation of the Tory austerity measures which is only adding to the scale of child poverty?

“The Tories should stop their prevarication and appoint the Commission without further delay.

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Bairbre de Brún MEP today joined fellow MEPs in a minute's silence at the beginning of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee to mark the recent murder of LGBT rights activist David Kato. MEPs watched a video of evidence which David gave to the Subcommittee on Human Rights in November 2010 whilst the Subcommittee Chair Heidi Hautala MEP described Mr Kato as a courageous defender of human rights.

 

Following the tribute to Mr Kato in the European Parliament in Brussels today, Ms de Brún said "as a prominent and lifelong campaigner for LBGT rights in Uganda, David will always be remembered for his incredibly brave and noble work and sorely missed by those he fought so vigorously for."

 

A regular visitor to the European Parliament, David worked tirelessly to increase international awareness of the plight of Ugandan LGBT people. Many are often persecuted by both their own government and the media who propagate a campaign of hate against them. Last October he took on a Ugandan newspaper which had begun publishing photographs of people it said were gay accompanied by the headline "Hang Them". His complaint was rightly upheld as an abuse of the right to privacy.

 

Ms de Brún said today that "David's tragic death must be fully investigated by the Ugandan government and the criminalisation of homosexuality must be brought to an end immediately. The rights for LGBT people for which David so passionately strived must be promoted and protected."

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Sinn Féin election campaign manager Maurice Quinlivan has said that the Green Party’s media opportunity which took place yesterday regarding parties’ campaign budgets was not only a ‘silly little publicity stunt’ but that the figure they produced for Sinn Féin’s campaign budget was in fact, completely incorrect.

Mr. Quinlivan said:

“Apart from giving a false and fabricated figure for our party’s election campaign budget, I don’t think this is the kind of thing the public are actually interested in hearing about. The electorate deserve more than this kind of distraction. They deserve to know where each party stands on the real issues of the day.

“The Green Party gave a quote of 250,000 euros as our campaign budget. This is a complete fabrication three times the real figure. Our actual budget is an absolute maximum of 80,000 euros

“This year Sinn Féin is operating a cutback election campaign with no extras or frills. We are not taking out newspaper advertisements in the national media as most other parties will be doing.

"It is our experience that most people do not want to witness stickers, balloons or fanfare during this election. Asides from being inappropriate given the current economic crisis we are in, we simply do not have the funds for such election extras. The Greens have clearly plucked their figure out of thin air.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said Fianna Fáil, having been in power for 20 of the last 22 years, is in no position to talk about political reform.

Speaking today after Fianna Fáil launched its election manifesto Ms McDonald said:

“Mícheál Martin’s attempt to rebrand Fianna Fáil as some sort of reformed progressive party is cutting no ice with the electorate.

“Fianna Fáil been in office for 20 of the last 22 years Fianna Fáil is in no position to talk about political reform.

“They had plenty of time for reform but they never bothered.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and vice chair of the Health Committee Michelle O’Neill has stated that there is an urgency now for Micheal McGimpsey to address the low level of public confidence in the Health system.

“Michael McGimpsey needs to make urgent moves to restore public confidence both in the operation of the Health Service and in his ability to continue as Minister.

“While I welcome that fact that there will be an urgent review it comes after the Minister having knowledge of this matter for over 13 months.

“Further to this there is public concern to the fact that the senior consultant is still employed by the trust and in receipt of bonuses despite not actually treating patients.

“In recent months we have had the C-diff scandal, the debacle around A&E in Antrim, the McDermott brothers in Donagh, the failure to tackle swine flu properly,  a critical report into safety at the Royal hospital for Sick Children,  the X-Ray issue in Altnagalvin and now the recall of over 100 patients at the RVH a year after the Trust first knew of a problem.

“People are rightly asking questions of the Minister and his leadership of this department. This is a Minister who has at best been semi detached from the Executive and who recently put attending a press conference in front of attending an important Executive meeting.

“He has failed to keep the Assembly, the Executive and the Health Committee informed, but more crucially his drip feed of information is continuing to undermine public confidence in the health service. This is unacceptable.”

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Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald has said the EU’s encroachment on Ireland’s sovereignty is the inevitable result of bad deals negotiated by this Government and supported by Fine Gael and Labour.

Ms McDonald said the Lisbon Treaty and the EU/IMF deals are both bad for Ireland and now the EU has its sights set on Ireland’s taxation system with a particular focus on our corporation tax.

She said:

“Sinn Féin has consistently warned that the EU wants to get its hands on our corporation tax and on our overall economic policy.

“During two referenda on the Lisbon the Government, supported by Fine Gael and Labour, told us to vote yes for jobs, accused my party of scaremongering and threatened that if we didn’t vote for Lisbon we would face economic ruin on the outskirts of Europe.

“Well here we are now, having ratified the Lisbon Treaty, on the outskirts of Europe, in economic ruin with massive unemployment and the EU looking for control of our taxation policy.

“And now the Government, again supported by Fine Gael and Labour, have negotiated a deal with the EU and the IMF which lumbers us with €67.5billion of debt over half of which is to be put into insolvent banks.

“Well Sinn Féin says enough is enough. We cannot afford this level of debt.

“Yes we want to be at the heart of Europe but we want to be part of a Europe of equals where member states co-operate on as they see fit rather than coming under pressure from the European super states.

“The EU/IMF deal must be turned down. We cannot afford this level of debt and anyone who advocates this deal must explain how we can pay it back.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Donegal TD Pearse Doherty has expressed deep concern at the news today that the Bayview hotel is possibly going into receivership.

Speaking to workers and local business people at the hotel this morning Doherty said that this has been ‘a bolt out of the blue’ for the workers who were unable to access the hotel this morning.

Doherty said:

“I am deeply concerned at the news today that the Bayview hotel is to possibly go into receivership. Having spoken to the hotel workers and local business people this morning it is clear that this news came as a bolt out of the blue for the workers who were unable to access the hotel this morning.

“I understand that one of the owners of the hotel has asked that all residents would be transferred to another hotel and that no future business was to be taken with the hotel being closed with immediate affect. While it was explained that this was being done for immediate renovations it is now believed locally that the hotel will be placed in the hands of receivers.

“There has also been quite a substantial amount of the hotel’s stock such as beer; furniture etc removed from the hotel last night and at this point in time the workers are in total limbo.

“There is an urgent need for the Bayview owners to openly and honestly inform their staff as to what is going on. It is not acceptable to keep workers in the dark like this.

“Our focus needs to be on retaining these jobs in Killybegs. Like much of Donegal this is an area which has been devastated by unemployment and immediate action needs to be taken.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Cavan-Monaghan candidate Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that the comments of Fianna Fáil Health spokesperson Barry Andrews on Morning Ireland show that Fianna Fáil is still committed to maintaining the inequitable two-tier health system.

Ó Caoláin said:

“Fianna Fáil Health spokesperson Barry Andrews has attempted to distance his party from the policies implemented by former Health Minister Mary Harney, including co-location. But these were not the policies of one Minister, they were the policies of Fianna Fáil-led Governments, reaffirmed in successive manifestos and Programmes for Government. And Barry Andrews faithfully served those Governments and voted for those policies.

“Barry Andrews also stated that the country had been served well by the mix of public and private care. This shows clearly that Fianna Fáil is still committed to maintaining the grossly inequitable and inefficient two-tier public-private health system in this State. In fact Barry Andrews’ words echo almost exactly those of Fianna Fáil Health Minister Rory O’Hanlon in 1991 when he said that ‘the integrated mix of public and private care has served the nation well’.

“Public-private apartheid in our health services must end – it is wasteful of lives and resources. Fianna Fáil would maintain this apartheid, while Fine Gael, with the support of the Labour Party, wants to hand over the health services to private for-profit insurance companies. Sinn Féin stands for a fully public system with equal access for all based on medical need alone and we will be outlining our proposals further during the course of this General Election campaign.” ENDS

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