Please watch and share this exclusive interview below which tells a bit of her life story as a mother of two from a small village in County Tyrone, her work in politics and in the Executive, standing up for equality, respect and integrity in government and continuing the work that Martin McGuinness has done stretching himself for peace and reconciliation.
Newly elected Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said he ‘will not be intimidated by sectarian thugs’ after he received a bullet in the post this morning.
Speaking from his constituency office, where the bullet was sent, Mr McMullan said;
“This is another in a series of death threats sent to democratically elected Sinn Féin representatives.
A bullet was posted to our office with a card reading “Loyalist Action Force”.
I am honoured and privileged to be elected by the people of East Antrim to serve them in the Assembly and no amount of threats from sectarian thugs will intimidate me from carrying out my work on their behalf.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin will use its Private Members’ Time this evening to debate the Dublin-Monaghan Bombings and anticipates the support of the house on the issue.
The debate will be concluded tomorrow.
Cavan-Monaghan Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
“This motion reiterates the all-party resolution of 10th July 2008 which called on the British Government to release all files relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
“To date no action has been taken despite the motion receiving unanimous backing from all parties and it is for this reason that we are taking the opportunity to restate that call and are urging An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to press this matter directly with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“Today is the anniversary of those bombings which many believe were carried out with the involvement of British intelligence. Today is also the first day of the queen of England’s state visit, a visit which we in Sinn Féin oppose.
Sinn Féin deputy Chair of the Justice Committee Raymond McCartney MLA has condemned the move by the British Secretary of State Owen Patterson to revoke the licence of Marian Price.
Speaking this evening Mr McCartney said;
“Marian Price is entitled to due process and the revoking of her licence is completely unacceptable.
The move by Owen Patterson amounts to detention without trial; this runs contrary to natural justice. The justice system needs to be based on human rights protection; the revoking of Marian Price’s licence runs contrary to that.
We have already raised our concerns on this issue with the British Secretary of State and will do the same with the Justice Minister as a matter of urgency.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today announced the party’s Ministerial appointments to the Northern Executive. The party leader thanked all the outgoing Sinn Féin Ministers and wished the new team well.
The appointments are as follows:
Sinn Féin Ministers
Deputy First Minister – Martin McGuinness
Department of Education (DE) – John O’Dowd Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) – Michelle O’Neill Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) – Carál Ní Chuilín
Junior Minister OFMDFM – Martina Anderson
Parliamentary Under Secretaries
DCAL – Barry McElduff
Education – Mitchel McLaughlin
DARD – Pat Doherty
SF Committee Chairs
Finance and Personnel – Conor Murphy
Health – Michelle Gildernew
Social Development – Alex Maskey
Public Accounts Committee – Paul Maskey
Committee on Procedures – Sue Ramsey
SF Vice Chairs
Justice – Raymond McCartney
Regional Development – Pat Doherty
Social Development – Micky Brady
Enterprise, Trade and Investment – Daithí McKay
Assembly Executive Review Committee – Alex Maskey
Policing Board representatives
Sinn Féin Assembly group appointments
Assembly Group leader – Raymond McCartney
Whip – Jennifer McCann
Deputy Whip – Paul Maskey
Sinn Féin Spokesperson
on Foreign Affairs, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, TD, has condemned today’s attacks by
the Israeli Army on peaceful Palestinian protesters marking the 63rd
anniversary of Al-Nakba Day (when Palestinians mourn the foundation of the
state of Israel and the displacement of the Palestinian people throughout the
Dozens of Palestinians were injured with bullet
and shrapnel wounds in an attack on Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border
with Egypt and latest reports suggest some protesters may have been killed. In
separate attacks, it is reported that at least eight more protesters have been
killed on the Israeli borders with Syria and the Lebanon.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“I condemn today’s murderous attacks by the Israeli army on Palestinian protesters. For too long, the Palestinian people have had to endure the occupation of their territories and oppression of their people while the world looks on and fails to intervene”.
“The recent resignation of George Mitchell as the US Middle East Peace Envoy was deeply worrying and his departure must not mark a further period of inaction by the US and the European Union. Today’s attacks demonstrate once again the urgent need for a real resolution to the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict with dignity and equality for all the people of the region”.
“The recent Palestinian unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas can make a positive contribution to a lasting peace. Today’s attacks must not be the start of attempts by Israel to provoke a Palestinian response and disrupt that agreement. The US, EU, and international community need to immediately intervene after today’s actions”.
Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Séan Crowe has commended the organisers of the An Gorta Mór Commemorative Famine Walk that was held in Dublin today saying “it is important that this tragic event is remembered.”
Deputy Crowe, who took part in the march that started from the bottom of O'Connell Street to the Famine Memorial on the Quays said:
“An Gorta Mór (the Great Hunger) as it is more commonly referred to today, ranks among the worst tragedies in all of our collective human history.
“Between 1845 and 1850, approximately 1.5 million Irish men, women and children died of starvation or related diseases. By 1855, more than two million more fled Ireland to avoid a similar fate. This decimation of our population makes Ireland’s Great Hunger the worst chapter in the country’s history.
“We are still living with the legacy of this terrible tragedy and today’s event is a fitting tribute to those who died or were forced to emigrate. It is also a reminder that in many parts of the developing world millions of people are still dying from famine and drought.
“This event takes place two days before the English queen’s visit to Ireland and because of the paranoia and hype surrounding this visit the original starting point for the march, the Garden of Remembrance had to be changed.
Deputy Crowe concluded
"It is right and fitting that we recall that An Gorta Mór happened as a direct result of British misrule in Ireland and it is shameful that this commemorative march was forced to change its route because the head of the English royal family is visiting our Capital City.
"Today’s event is also happening at a time when increasingly more and more Irish people are being forced to emigrate and start a new life far from their families, their loved ones and their homeland."
Speaking from Dublin City Centre today, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe described the disruption that will be caused to Dubliners during the visit of the English queen as “unacceptable”.
Deputy Crowe said the fact that the city will be practically on lockdown for the best part of a week proves that this visit is premature.
“Today's An Górta Mór Commemorative Walk had to be moved from its proper starting point at the Garden of Remembrance because of the security paranoia that is part and parcel of this visit.
“Many Dubliners are reeling at the degree of disruption that the City is dealing with over the course of the visit of the English monarch.
“A ban on on-street parking in many areas of Dublin will mean serious inconvenience to members of the public, in particular around Parnell Square where there is a busy Maternity Hospital. It is an absolute scandal that pregnant women may just have to be quickly dropped off or even walk to the hospital to give birth.
“This situation is totally unacceptable, as are the other restrictions in place across hospitals in Dublin.
“This sort of disruption proves that this visit is indeed premature.
“The amount of taxpayers’ money being spent, coupled with the degree of disruption and inconvenience to ordinary people's work and personal lives is just wrong.
“What normal relationship entails large parts of a Capital City being put on lockdown?
“Sinn Féin looks forward to the day when there are normal relationships between our two countries - that will put an end to division, partition and lead to the reunification of our country.
"Clearly we have still a long way to go before our relationship can come close to being described as normal.”
Speaking after the publication of the European Commission Spring Economic Forecast Sinn Féin’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD said that, ‘once again official figures demonstrate that the states growing debt is unsustainable’ and called on the Government to put ‘investment in jobs’ and ‘loss sharing with the European Central Bank’ on the agenda of next week’s European Council Economic and Financial Affairs (Ecofin) meeting.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The European Commission’s Spring Economic Forecast is bad news for the Governments current economic strategy.
“The Commission believe that GDP growth will be lower than the Government’s projections of 0.75%, reaching only 0.6% this year. They also expect unemployment to continue rising hitting 14.6% by years end. As a result, while predicting that the deficit will narrow to 10.5%, it is still higher than the Government’s hoped for targets.
“It is hardly surprising, given these depressing figures that our public debt is also expected to rise to 118% of GDP by 2012,
“While the Commission predicts that the level of public debt will start to fall from 2012, it is hard to see how this is possible in the absence of any meaningful growth in employment.
“The absence of investment in job creation in last weeks Jobs Initiative suggests that the Commission’s forecasts beyond 2012 are as optimistic as the Government’s forecasts for 2011.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that our debt to GDP ratio will continue to grow post 2012 unless there is a dramatic shift in policy from both the Government and the European Commission.
“Once again official figures demonstrate that the state’s growing debt is unsustainable. The only solution is for the EU/IMF austerity programme to be scrapped and for a new deal to be negotiated, based on investment in jobs to generate economic growth and loss sharing with the European Central Bank to reduce the debt. This is the only way that our deficit can be reduced enabling the state to return to the international bond markets to resume normal lending.
“Sinn Féin is calling on the government to put investment in jobs and loss sharing with the ECB on the agenda of the European Council Economic and Financial Affairs meeting next week. Failure to do so will condemn Irish society to a lost decade of unemployment, rising debt and declining living standards.”
Speaking during a break at the party’s Ard Chomhairle meeting in Dublin Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams TD described the recent gains made by the party in three elections as “significant”.
The Sinn Féin leader said: “Sinn Féin has consolidated its vote across the island. We now have five Ministers on the northern Executive and 29 seats in the Assembly to join our 14 TDs in the Dáil and our three Seanadóirí. Sinn Féin also has representation in Europe, on Údarás na Gaeltachta and on 264 council seats throughout the island.
“In the north we will continue with our work to date in the areas of education and agriculture and anticipate making a significant contribution in the area of culture, arts and leisure. In the south, following the election of our three new Senators we will use this reaffirmed mandate to follow through with electoral commitments to stand up for the people and hold the Government to account.
“The only purpose for Sinn Féin in standing in any election is to win support for our republican objectives which include improving the quality of life of citizens, building peace and prosperity, creating jobs and defending public services and achieving Irish reunification.
“This is our primary political goal and next month the party will be holding two major conferences – on the theme of Towards a New Republic - in Dublin and Cork.
“The Dublin conference will be on Saturday June 18th in the Rotunda Pillar Room at Parnell Square and the second will be in Cork City Council Concert Hall on Saturday June 25th.”
Asked about the imminent visit of Queen Elizabeth of England Mr. Adams said:
“I want to see a real and profoundly new and better relationship between the peoples of Ireland and Britain — one built on equality and mutual respect. Sinn Féin has been to the forefront in working to bring this about and we will continue to do so.
“Sinn Féin is for a new relationship.
“I hope that this visit will hasten the foundation of that relationship, but much will depend on what the British monarch says.
“Understandably the visit is troubling for many Irish citizens, particularly victims of British rule and those with legacy issues in this state and in the North. It is for precisely this reason that we in Sinn Féin oppose this visit and believe that it is premature and insensitive. This is why the party is holding alternative events in Dublin and across the state during the visit.
“British interference in Irish affairs has come at a huge cost to the Irish people, including partition and its consequences which are still being felt to this day.
“Irish republicans too have caused much hurt to people in Britain. I regret this.
“The full normalisation of relationship between Ireland and Britain is therefore important. This will require the ending of partition.
“The Good Friday Agreement is the foundation upon which this new relationship, between unionists and nationalists, and between Ireland and Britain can be forged.
“Increasingly decisions affecting the lives of people in the north are being made in Ireland and not in Britain. Republicans want to continue and to accelerate this process.
“The first meeting of the new Assembly on Thursday and last night’s agreement on government departments is evidence of this.
“The united Ireland that republicans seek to build must embrace our islands diversity in its fullest sense, including the sense of Britishness felt by many unionists, as well as our indigenous and traditional Irish culture and the cultures of people who have come to Ireland in recent times.”
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has given a cautious welcome to the Criminal Justice Bill which aims to tackle White Collar Crime.
Deputy O’Brien said he has some concerns with some of the measures contained in the Bill but welcomes any legislation that speeds up the prosecution of White Collar Crime.
Speaking today as the Bill was published Deputy O’Brien said:
“Sinn Féin has long been calling for measures to be introduced to tackle White Collar Crime and with that in mind I cautiously welcome this Bill.
“There are some measures included in the Bill which my party takes issue with but we will deal with these by way of amendments to the Bill in the Dáil.
“However, any Bill that speeds up the prosecution of White Collar Crime is to be welcomed.” ENDS
Responding to the report on the National Employment Action Plan today Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh said it confirms his view that the plan is not fit for purpose.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“I acknowledge the commitment in the Jobs Initiative to reinvigorate the National Employment Action Plan. That plan is badly in need of an update as it is no longer fit to activate people in any significant numbers. However effective activation measures are resource intensive and I fear the government are not making the necessary investment.
“It takes money and staff to conduct the requisite interviews and meetings with jobseekers, to properly map and match each and every job seekers skills and experience with the appropriate education, training and ultimately job opportunity.
“Last month this government made a commitment to the EU and IMF that it will reduce social expenditure year on year. In that context it is unlikely that even the very basics of activation will be provided for by government never mind the more extensive supports such as affordable childcare which are no less vital to enable the transition to work.” ENDS
Sinn Féin north Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly, commenting on speculation in the media this morning that an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane is to be announced by the British Government within weeks said;
“A commitment was made to establish an inquiry into Pat’s murder in 2004 – it is totally unacceptable that the British Government is continuing to stall on this issue.
"Pat’s family deserve truth and they deserve justice; the prolonged delay by British Secretary of State is completely unacceptable and only delays the process of truth and justice.
"All of those who strive for justice will hope that Pat's family will be brought the justice they have waited on for so long.” CRÍOCH
Commenting on reports of exorbitant expenses claimed by the President of Waterford Institute of Technology Professor Kieran Byrne, Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has called on Mr. Bryne to be suspended without prejudice pending a full investigation of the claims.
Speaking from Waterford Senator Cullinane said:
“With the spectre of a return to tuition fees and/or a graduate tax still on the table and with the student registration fee having been increased year on year since its inception, going to college is fast becoming a preserve of the wealthy with many working class families being unable to pay to put their children through college.
“Today’s revelation will come as a smack in the face to students and their families who have had to deal with the rising costs of going to college.
“I believe that Mr. Byrne should be immediately suspended, without prejudice pending a full investigation of the expenses claims.”
“Such an investigation should be independent, thorough and time-framed.
“We in Sinn Féin want to see a total overhaul in the public sector and an end to wasteful spending and exorbitant salaries and expenses.
“We would cap the maximum salary available to public sector workers at €100,000 and tackle expenses corruption by ending the payment of unvouched expenses for public servants.”
Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson, Seán Crowe, TD, has described this week’s publication of the Government’s Jobs Initiative as an ‘inadequate response to the spiralling unemployment crisis’.
Deputy Crowe, who spoke on the matter today in the Dáil said:
“The proposals announced this week lack ambition and fall way short of the commitments made during the election by FG and Labour who promised to generate 45,000 new employment and training places.
“Their very modest proposals show they have reneged on their promises and represent a serious downgrading of the Programme for Government and Jobs Initiative.
“And whilst any increase in placements in this area is to be welcomed, the fact that the total spend in this area amounts to €29million, of which a meagre €11 million is additional, speaks volumes about this Government’s commitment to the unemployed.
“It suggests a lack of commitment on the part of the government to help the unemployed or those on low or middle incomes.
“It’s seems acceptable to tax the bejaysus out of ordinary people but by contrast there is always some barrier or lame excuse when it comes to taxing the wealthy, particularly those who ultimately created this crisis.
“Current unemployment trends illustrate the extent of the challenge facing this government - job losses are destroying the social cohesion of rural and urban communities. Addressing the unemployment crisis was supposed to be central to the FG/Labour parties’ plans to stimulate our economy yet does anyone believe that Tuesday’s proposals contained in the Government’s Jobs Initiative will have any meaningful impact?
“It certainly will not inspire hope of a new beginning in anyone suffering the effects of unemployment.”
Speaking today during Dáil statements on the Government’s Job Initiative Sinn Fein’s Michael Colreavy who said “The Government’s so-called Jobs Initiative plan is a plan for a town – not a plan for a nation.”
He went on to say “the initiative goes no-where near far enough to address the employment problem that the state is currently facing.”
Deputy Colreavy called on the government to create jobs through the building of schools, restoration of local roads and to utilise Ireland’s natural resources in favour of all Irish citizens.
In conclusion he stated “this nation needs a government with vision, courage and a passion for the small things right. This nation needs a government that seeks an economy working for the people, not people working for the economy. This nation needs a real jobs initiative.”
Full text of speech below:
This jobs initiative plan reminds me of the person that closes their eyes, walks a bit faster and whistles as they pass the graveyard hoping that things will work out ok. The reality is that we have IMF/ECB austerity budgets for the next four years which will take more money from local economies. The government could have chosen to cap public service pay, including the Taoiseach’s at €100,000, the government could have chosen to introduce a new higher rate of tax for those earning €100,000 per annum. The government could have chosen to introduce a wealth text; the government could have chosen to renegotiate a better deal on our oil and gas licences. The government did none of these things.
We cannot fix the national economy by taking money from the pockets of the very people who sustain local economies. There has to be a better way and there is a better way.
The Government’s Job initiative is well-intentioned but closing your eyes will only get us into further trouble. You are making it hard, the next four budgets will deflate local economies and thereby the national economy.
Deputy Gerry Adam’s had it right when he said that the Government’s Job initiative plan is a plan for a town – not a plan for a nation. The initiative goes no-where near far enough to address the employment problem that this state is currently facing. It would be unfair of me to rubbish the initiative entirely - it is not completely redundant. Sinn Fein welcomes 20,900 new training places which have been provided for under the various schemes announced by the government on Tuesday. However in no way does it go as far as it needs to go. To say that it is disappointing is an understatement – In an election that was won on one issue and one issue alone – jobs, we have seen almost all promises made by the government on the issue broken.
On top of not actively creating any jobs, the government has gone further by not encouraging or offering any incentives for entrepreneurs. Nothing within this initiative is of a promotional nature. The government are continuing to make it extremely difficult for anyone who wishes to step out alone and start a new business.
More than not creating new jobs the government is actually going further by making it difficult for people who actually have jobs. Even those who are employed are facing problems under the current government. Under the current regime, rates on businesses are based on the size of the building as opposed to being based on the money that is actually generated there. People are being put out of jobs purely because they cannot afford such payments. There is a better way than this. By charging rates based on how much is generated there rather than the size, small to medium sized businesses are given a better chance to thrive rather than being strangled and forced to close as is the case at the minute. All over Sligo and North Leitrim businesses are closing because they simply cannot afford the rates that they are being forced to pay.
Water charges which were strongly opposed by Sinn Fein are yet another issue standing in the way of business owners. They are strangling local businesses and are a millstone around the neck of any business owner. People simply cannot afford to pay these charges; they are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their businesses afloat.
There are many opportunities for job creation in this country.
In my own constituency of Sligo/North Leitrim there are several schools were children are being taught in prefabs. What is the sense in this? First of all these are not fit for purpose, our future generations deserve more than this given the boom in which they were born. But furthermore why would we pay rates and rent to private individuals when there is an opportunity for job creation through the building of schools? In the long run this will inevitably save us money. Such a project not only creates jobs but it also ensures that these schools will be there in years to come. Sinn Fein is advocatingan increased school-building and refurbishment programme for 2011 to take at least 125 schools through the construction stage. A 16-classroom generic repeat design project costs approximately €3million in current market conditions. This would cost €375million in total and create approximately 4,000 jobs directly and 1,600 indirect jobs. A minimum of 150 school-building projects should enter the architectural and planning stage each year so that school projects are ready to proceed as quickly as possible to the construction phases.
What about the NAMA owned buildings?
I think it is really important to mention the buildings owned by NAMA. We are surrounded by empty buildings that are more than fit for purpose, why aren’t we using these? Are they just going to lie empty and un-used? What is the sense in this? Surely these can be used in a better way given the state the country is currently in? Why are tax payers funding private landlords in leases for state offices while so many buildings owned by tax funded NAMA lie idle? We could use these to let out cheaply or even for free to job-seekers who could then use them to set up industries/businesses. As it stands these empty buildings are not being used and not bringing in any money, we should change this. Why aren’t we making it easy? Why are we making it difficult for the people? With the economy, as in life, we should be making it easy to do the right thing.
Another huge area for revenue is our natural resources. We need to ensure that these are being utilised to the maximum possible gain for the citizens of this nation, we need to remain conscious of the declaration in the Democratic Programme that ‘the Nation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation’ We have seen how mistakes were made under previous governments, particularly with the Corrib gas issue. The deal was done behind closed doors and the Irish people did not see a red cent of the money gained from our natural gas. It is of the utmost importance to ensure that in the future these mistakes are not repeated.
We need to make the most of what we have. We have vast untapped potential that exists off our shores in oil and gas reserves, estimated by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in 2006 to be ten billion barrels oil equivalent, which at current prices amounts to a potential value of around €700 billion;
Sinn Fein is calling for:
— a complete review of licensing and revenue terms and the immediate revoking of the consents given to the Corrib consortium and the license for Lough Allen pending such a review;
— the establishment of a State oil, gas and mineral exploration company that would hold a 51% majority share in all oil and gas finds and would have its own research facility in order to collect full and up to date information on reserves;
— the imposition of a 50% tax on oil and gas profits; and
— a 7.5% royalty;
And that the revenues that would accrue from this would provide towards the resources for long term and sustainable growth in place of the current indenture to the EU and IMF because of the unsustainable bank debt.
The way in which government departments and semi state offices work will also have to change. Tendering for example needs to be done in such a way that we get people out of the dole queue and into jobs. Only then will the true economic cost be known. We don’t want false economics; the only unit of measurement that counts is the tax payer. Every government agency and government department needs to take into account the wider economic impact of their choices and decisions in spending public money. Every decision must take into account the need to provide work for those who are jobless.
There is huge potential for job creation through roads. There are many roads around the country that need major work. In my own constituency there are several roads that are not fit for purpose momentarily. The unfinished 12 km stretch of N4 from Dublin – Sligo at Clonemahon is unfit for purpose.
The N 16 Sligo to Blacklion section of Sligo – Belfast road is a disgrace – an upgrade has been promised for at least 20 years and still nothing has happened.
The N59 from Sligo – Ballina and the R280 from Tullaghan to Carrick-on-Shannon similarly need major work.
Fixing these roads will not only provide employment but it will also do great things for rural Ireland by attracting more people into the areas thereby further stimulating local economies.
If we want to help the economy lets tackle the delay in paying Agriculture grants to farmers. People who should have been paid in December still have not been paid, they have been told there is a computer problem and that they won’t be paid until June or July. I imagine that if the Departmental officials were told this there would be serious problems.
This initiative will do very little for the 8983 unemployed people in Sligo/ Leitrim; it will do very little for the thousands who have been, and will be forced to emigrate.
Let us remove impediments to business people by implementing the proposals contained in Burke and Mc Ivor business plan for the development of the fishery harbour centres.
This nation needs a government with vision, courage and a passion for the small things right. This nation needs a government that seeks an economy working for the people, not people working for the economy. This nation needs a real jobs initiative.
Speaking after today’s debate on the Jobs Initiative Sinn Fein spokesperson on Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Peadar Tóibín has said that, ‘the government’s pension levy proposal is deeply inequitable.’
Deputy Tobin said:
“Today at the conclusion of the Jobs Initiative debate I directly questioned Minister for Finance Michael Noonan on what appears to be a number of serious inequalities in his pension levy proposals.
“As the proposal stands it operates as a flat tax on which rich people pay the exact same amount as those who are struggling to get by.
“There are also reports that company directors and high earners may be exempt from the levy.
“And it appears the outworking of the proposals will have a greater impact on people with defined contribution pensions compared with those on defined benefit pensions.
“I asked the Minister to clarify these matters as many ordinary people who are currently investing in their pensions are concerned with exactly how the Government’s proposals will impact on their savings.
“I also asked the Minister if he had established the exact cost of the levy to individual pensions holders.
“Unfortunately the Minister would not answer any of the questions posed.
“Sinn Féin has long argued for progressive tax reform and for increased taxes on high earners and on wealth. However we are opposed to regressive forms of taxation. We are also opposed to increased taxes, on the income and savings of ordinary working people.
“The Government’s pension levy is deeply inequitable. As with the previous government’s decision to introduce a Universal Social Charge that punished low income earners while easing the burden on high earners, it appears that Fine Gael and Labour are taking the same approach, adding an additional burden on low and middle income earners, while at best failing to make the very rich pay their fair share and at worst allowing them to contribute nothing at all.
“The Jobs Initiative itself has proven to be very disappointing amount to little more than to creation of 400 jobs. This is the equivalent to the opening of two Tesco stores or the stemming of immigration for just three days. It simply is not good enough as a measure to tackle the unemployment crisis.” ENDS
Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD accused the government of putting the completion of personal insolvency legislation on the long finger.
Deputy McDonald said: “The Master of the High Court has set out very clearly the catastrophic consequences of aggressive banks pursuing desperate people laden with debts they cannot meet. Current law is clearly inadequate to tackle these challenges. It has been agreed by this government that we need an overhaul of bankruptcy law and Sinn Féin believes we urgently need mechanisms to deal with debt resolution.
“This government, like Fianna Fáil before them, has been swift in pumping billions of euros of taxpayers' money into bad banks yet has failed to apply the same urgency to tackling the plight of distressed debtors and mortgage holders. This morning the Tánaiste again stated that the planned publication date for the personal insolvency Bill will not be until 2012. Considering the onslaught of debt for so many it simply does not make sense that such an important piece of legislation is not high on the government’s agenda.
“Interim measures referred to by the Tánaiste this morning for inclusion in the civil law (miscellaneous provisions) Bill later this year to tackle debt management and enforcement were presented as some sort of holding legislation until the personal insolvency Bill is published. The government continues to long finger this issue and the longer it does the greater wider society suffers.” ENDS
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights Martin Ferris TD has claimed that employment strategy under the terms of the IMF/EU deal is based on undermining wage rates.
Speaking during the debate on Government’s Jobs Initiative, the Kerry North/Limerick West TD said that the intent behind the review of existing wage agreements, as pressed for by the IMF, was to allow employers to pay below agreed rates.
Deputy Ferris said:
“The simple fact of the matter is that by agreeing to continue to implement the IMF/EU austerity programme, both parties have been forced to abandon their no doubt genuine desire to have tackled the unemployment problem in a more meaningful way.
“The reason they have been forced to do so is that the IMF and the EU has no interest in the sort of stimulus package that would help to get us out of this mess and is insistent that whatever money is floating around will be used to pay off the debt.
“Indeed it is apparent from the updated agenda underlying the ironically named IMF/EU stability programme that was published last week that they do not envisage any real improvement in the jobs situation.
“They state bluntly on page 13 of the update that ‘the unemployment rate is set to remain high over the forecast horizon.’
“That is despite the fact that the IMF takes a fairly positive view of global economic growth which it is forecast will be reflected within Europe over the next few years. Unfortunately the benefit of any such upturn will not accrue to those in this state who will remain on the dole, whose wages will remain under attack, and whose overall standard of living will continue to fall as we remain indentured to the bank debt.
“It would also appear that the IMF and EU believe that whatever employment growth might come about will come about not as the consequence of a stimulus package but through cutting wages. It will be interesting then to hear what the Government’s response will be to the current review of Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements if it as expected recommends that employers be allowed opt out of agreements setting wage rates for 300,000 mainly low paid workers.
“The publication of that review, which I understand is already in the hands of Minister Bruton, comes at a time when low wage employers in the fast food sector are awaiting a High court decision on their application to opt out of the ERO in the catering sector and there are other similar applications pending.
“It is clear then that both the IMF/EU and the employers’ organisations expect that the reversal of the cut to the National Minimum Wage will be offset by the undermining of the structures and agreements in place to protect other low paid workers.
“If the review complies with the clear intent of the IMF, as stated at the time of the bailout, to ‘review with a view to elimination’ of the wage orders, then the race to the bottom will begin in earnest.”
Speaking in the Dáil today on the Government’s Jobs Initiative Sinn Féin Social Protect Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD criticised those who claim social welfare is a disincentive to work. He said the only disincentive to work in Ireland is the lack of jobs.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh accused Fine Gael and Labour of continuing Fianna Fáil’s approach of placing the burden of recovery unfairly on those in our society who have the least.
“There has been much discussion in the media and on the airwaves around the jobs crisis. Time and again commentators are depicting social welfare as a disincentive to work. Never was there a less appropriate time for that paradigm. Welfare is not a disincentive to work. The absence of a job is.
“That said a number of unemployment or poverty traps do still remain and these must be addressed. But the solution is not to cut rates and schemes. Rather the solution is to ensure that work pays by allowing recipients to move into low paid employment or increase their hours without fear of an immediate loss of all protections.
“I think the government recognises this and that is why the Programme for Government committed to amend the 30 hour rule for rent supplement and mortgage interest supplement. However I fear that the promise the government made to the EU and IMF indicates that they will instead take a retrograde approach to this issue. They will make life on social welfare so poor and intolerable that the most insecure, lowest paid and black market work will be incentivised.
“The government has committed to reducing social expenditure which means that despite ever increasing dole queues and greater numbers depending on mortgage interest supplement they have implicitly promised to make further cuts to social welfare schemes.
“Considering that the Programme for Government commits to maintain welfare rates I think it is more likely these will be stealth cuts. Eligibility rules will be tightened and secondary payments will be hit by this government.
“Fine Gael and the Labour Party will continue Fianna Fáil’s approach of placing the burden of recovery unfairly on those in our society who have the least.” ENDS
Addressing the Tánaiste in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Party Whip Aengus Ó Snodaigh highlighted the serious inconvenience that is being imposed on the public and the pressure on the public purse to cater to the British Queen’s needs.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh has said he is aware of one person who reported being threatened with a knife only to be told by Gardaí that his case will have to wait till after the visit of the British Queen.
An Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore responded that he did not anticipate that supplementary budgets will be produced thereby confirming the diversion of funds within existing already overstretched budgets.
Speaking after Deputy Ó Snodaigh said “The British Queen’s visit is putting an unacceptable level of pressure on individuals. For example a directive was issued to patients in Cork’s Mercy Hospital that they have to travel to hospital on foot next week or have their appointments put off until June.
“I am aware of a person who reported being threatened with a knife to Gardaí and was told it would have to wait until after the visit.
“The British Queen’s visit is also imposing huge costs on the Gardaí, Local Authorities and OPW budgets. In addition it will directly cost workers and businesses that have been instructed to close for the day.
“There is the cost of An Garda Síochána's security operation surrounding the visit of the British Queen, which involves a huge level of overtime, the implementing of a curfew or the equivalent of house arrest and this is diverting resources from tackling serious crime.
“There are the costs incurred by local authorities relating to the visit, including loss of parking revenue and diverting thousands of road maintenance, drainage and parks workers from more pressing duties to beautify the city for the British Queen and her entourage.
“The OPW is covering the cost involved in rolling out, for instance, thousands of square meters of grass to beautify the memorial gardens and elsewhere along with thousands of work hours diverted from more pressing work.
“And while security can never be fully assured, so meticulous are they, that rats in Islandbridge have been sealed out of the sewers and have been invading a children’s playground.
“It's a disgrace that the Irish tax payer is being made to foot these bills.” ENDS