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Sinn Fein MLA and member of the Policing Board Martina Anderson has stated the use of plastic bullets should never have occurred and such a use has breached the guidelines set by the PSNI themselves for their deployment. Ms Anderson has secured a dedicated meeting to deal with their use in Ardoyne and the Short Strand on the 13th of July and the 30th of August respectively.

Speaking today Ms Anderson said:

“There are increasing concerns regarding the use of plastic bullets both in Ardoyne and the Short Strand in the past two months. Their use signals to me an increased acceptance by the PSNI that the firing of these deadly and indiscriminate weapons is the norm.

“Their recent deployment flies in the face of public comments by the Former Chief Constable Hugh Orde that plastic bullets 'will not be used for the purposes of public order/crowd control', and would only be used ‘where the only alternative would be the use of live rounds’. On top of this the ACC Duncan McCausland has stated that they were not used as crowd control on the two nights in question.

“This is clearly contradicted by residents of Ardoyne who state that plastic bullets were fired into the crowd that was present on the 13th of August and does not in any way answer why no water cannon were deployed on the interface of the Short Strand and Albertbridge Road as an alternative.

“In the latter case the alternative of water cannon was not even examined or exhausted by a test deployment of the cannons. How can the PSNI credibly say that they tried all alternatives and plastic bullets were the only option?

“Sinn Féin have secured a dedicated meeting with the ACC to raise these concerns. We cannot allow the firing of these lethal weapons that have been discredited by international agencies such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee against Torture and have a long a devastating history within the north of Ireland." ENDS

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Ireland’s place is in Europe. Ireland’s place in Europe is secure. The issue facing the electorate on October 2 is the future of the European Union, Ireland’s place in that future and how we as equal members of the EU can shape that future.

On June 12th 2008 almost 900,000 people rejected the Lisbon Treaty. They did so because they believed that it was a bad Treaty. They did so because they wanted a better deal for Ireland and for Europe.

The result presented the Irish government with a strong mandate to go to the Council of Ministers and negotiate a better Treaty for Ireland and Europe.

At the time Sinn Féin presented Brian Cowen with very detailed proposals as to how we believed the legitimate concerns of the electorate in this state could be met.

What did the government do? How did they use that mandate? Just like their mismanagement of the economy over the same period, they prevaricated, and then they conspired to pull the wool over the eyes of their own fellow citizens.

As a result they have secured not a single change to the text of the Lisbon Treaty. On October 2nd we will be voting on exactly the same treaty, with exactly the same consequences for Ireland and the EU, as we did last year.

If it wasnt good enough for the electorate then why on earth should it be good enough for us now.

At the European Council meeting in June of this year, the government and their 26 EU counterparts agreed so called legally binding guarantees on neutrality, taxation and ethical issues. They also agreed a “solemn declaration” on workers’ rights and reiterated their promise for every member state to retain a Commissioner.

On this basis the Yes side argue, the 53% of the electorate who rejected the Lisbon Treaty should reconsider their position and in turn support the very same Treaty.

The simple fact of the matter is that nothing in the so-called guarantees nor in the Solemn Declaration changes either the text of the Treaty or the impact that it will have on Ireland or on the EU.

In addition to arguing that the so called guarantees provide a rationale for supporting what is a bad Treaty, the government and their allies in Labour and Fine Gael are using the economic crisis to scare people into supporting the Treaty.

We are told that we will lose investment, jobs, and crucially support from our EU counterparts.

The truth is very different. Among the causes of this recession are the failed economic policies of this government and their counterparts across Europe. Policies of deregulation, competition, privatisation, low taxation.

Many of these same failed right wing politicians were responsible for negotiating the Treaty and many of their failed right wing policies are contained in the Treaty, most notably in the Protocol on the Internal Market and Competition.

The route to economic recovery rests not in Lisbon, but in a change of government and policy at home and within the EU.

In 2008 Sinn Féin outlined the key reasons why people should oppose Lisbon. They remain the same.

The Lisbon Treaty reduces Ireland’s power in the EU – we will not, I believe, retain our permanent commissioner post 2014 and our voting strength on the Council will be cut by half while the bigger states double their strength.

The Lisbon Treaty will make the economic crisis even worse by forcing through policies that caused the recession, reducing the Irish government’s ability to take essential decisions, driving down pay and conditions and further undermining workers rights and public services.

The Lisbon Treaty erodes our neutrality, particularly in the detailed provisions of Article 28 , drawing us into a common defence and obliging us to increase military spending.

The Lisbon Treaty will further undermine the viability of rural Ireland and family farming through the strengthened powers for the EU Trade Commissioner contained in Article 188C and the effective ending of the Irish government’s veto on mixed international trade deals.

Crucially the simplified revision procedure contained in Article 48 removes our automatic right to a referendum on future changes to existing treaties.

So what happens if we vote No again? Ireland remains a full and equal member of the EU. We won’t be expelled or marginalised. The Lisbon Treaty falls and the EU carries on as before. Inward investment will not be affected – indeed 2008 saw a 14% increase in foreign direct investment on the previous year despite the scaremongering claims of the yes side. And crucially a space opens for a debate on the future of the EU.

Sinn Féin believes that we need a new treaty for the new times we are living in. A treaty that:

guarantees a permanent commissioner for all member states beyond 2014;
removes all self-amending articles including the simplified revision procedure in Article 48;
provides a comprehensive protocol on our neutrality;
promotes vital public services;
protects workers rights through the inclusion of the European Trade Union Confederation Social Progress Clause to protect workers’ rights;
substantially amends Article 188 dealing with international trade agreements including a cast-iron veto on mixed World Trade Organisation agreements

On October 2nd we have a big decision to take. Do we want to play our part in creating a democratic, equal and just Europe or will we allow the same failed right wing politicians who created the current economic crisis to remain in power, implementing the same failed right wing policies in Dublin and Brussels.

Vote for a better deal for Ireland and for Europe. Vote for a new treaty for new times. Vote ‘no’ on October 2nd.

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The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development today launched a Rural Challenge Programme aimed at assisting in tackling poverty and social exclusion within rural communities.

This programme was developed as a direct response to issues identified in the Rural Anti-Poverty and Social Inclusion Framework developed during 2008/09.

Endorsing the launch of the Programme, Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Gildernew said:

“There are urgent poverty and social exclusion issues that need addressed in rural areas. I believe one way to successfully target these issues is through the Rural Challenge Programme.

“This innovative Programme is all about getting to the core of poverty and social exclusion issues at a very local level. I would encourage community and voluntary groups, who are best placed to know and understand their local issues, to avail of the funding through the Challenge Programme.”

The “challenge aspect” of the Programme is for rural groups to identify local poverty and social exclusion issues and provide solutions that address the particular and distinct challenges faced by rural communities. These challenges can be addressed through the development of a series of locally focussed projects which can be funded through the Challenge Programme.

The Minister concluded:

“This Challenge Programme will allow for poverty and social exclusion issues to be identified and actions taken to address them. The way the Programme has been structured will also allow for ongoing research of the projects funded and their beneficiaries. The information gathered from this research will be shared with others across Government and will shape future policy and decision making to the benefit of rural dwellers.”

The Challenge Programme also includes Best Practice Workshops which all applicants will have to attend prior to submitting an application. These workshops will involve applicants from the very start of the process and assist them in identifying the poverty and exclusion issues in their area, the people affected and the most suitable responses required for each local area.

Applications to the Rural Challenge Programme will be welcomed from voluntary and community based organisations who must at the time of application, have a formal constitution or set of rules and a specific bank account.

The Rural Challenge Programme is administered from Rural Development Division, 21 Hospital Road, Omagh, County Tyrone. Application packs are available from today and can be obtained by contacting RDD Omagh (Tel - 028 82 247727) or emailing [email protected] The deadline for receipt of completed applications is 5.00pm on 30 October 2009.

Notes to editors:

1. The Programme for Government has made a commitment to address rural poverty and social exclusion and has allocated DARD a £10million package to address these issues over the next three years.

2. When researching and formulating the rural Anti Poverty and Social Exclusion Framework it became clear that there major poverty and social exclusion issues for all of the Section 75 groupings in respect of Housing, Health and Well Being, Education, Transport and Access, Employment, Low Pay and Social and Recreational Opportunities.

3. The Anti-Poverty and Social Inclusion Framework can be viewed at www.dardni.gov.uk/consultations archived section.

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Sinn Féin Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has met with Professor Jeremy Jackson, a leading authority on the marine environment.

Speaking after the meeting the Minister said:

“Today’s meeting provided some very interesting insight into marine conservation from a global perspective. I wish to thank Professor Jackson for taking the time to meet with me. We discussed his experiences regarding protection of the marine environment and ways to deliver a sustainable future for marine users. The important contribution of fisheries to coastal communities and the role of healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas in achieving long term sustainability for fisheries was also on our agenda.

“I listened with interest to Professor Jackson’s views on Marine Conservation Zones and the potential for such zones to enhance fish stocks as well as the environment. I explained that we work closely with other Departments with marine interests and that Marine Conservation Zones will be considered as part of a local Marine Bill.”

Discussing the issue of the Common Fisheries Policy reform in 2012, the Minister added:

“This major policy reform is central to determining sustainable fisheries beyond 2012. I will be taking this opportunity when it arises, to argue for more responsibility to be devolved to the local executive. Such a step would help ensure that fisheries management can be better tailored to regional seas and more responsive to change than at present.” ENDS

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Responding to this evening’s Irish Times TNS/MRBI poll opinion results on the Lisbon Treaty Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

“The important poll is the referendum on October 2nd. However today's Irish Times TNS/MRBI figures clearly indicate that all is to play for in the coming four weeks.

“While the poll indicates that the Yes side are ahead, support for the Treaty is not only declining but the gap is narrower than at the same point in the 2008 campaign when you exclude the undecided.

“Sinn Féin believes that it is possible to defeat the Lisbon Treaty a second time round. The voices of 900,000 people must not be silenced. As it is exactly the same Treaty that we voted on in 2008 we are optimistic that the people will give the same answer so that a better deal for Ireland and the EU can be secured.” ENDS

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Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has welcomed news that gynae services will be reinstated in the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen on the 14th of September.

Speaking on this matter Ms Gildernew said;

“This is an issue that I have been personally involved in trying to resolve over the past six to eight weeks. As a result of needless bureaucracy caused by the British Home Office two junior doctors were unable to have their visa’s expedited in order for them to come and work in the Erne Hospital. I believe that this is an absolutely ridiculous situation, particularly given the fact that one of the doctors trained here in Ireland and the other over in England.

I have been in direct contact with British Immigration Minister Phil Willis’ Private Office in relation to getting this matter resolved as quickly as possible.

These much needed and important services cannot afford to be removed from an area like this, even if it is just on a temporary basis. Visa’s for people offering such necessary services should be processed without the needless delays so often presented as a result of bureaucracy and red tape within the British Home Office.

I am pleased that the matter has been resolved at this juncture and will continue to work in the time ahead to ensure that such delays don’t continue to inflict such losses on the people of Fermanagh and Tyrone.” CRÍOCH

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“It should come as no surprise that Fine Gael should support such a right wing Treaty. It demonstrates, if any demonstration were needed, why a Fine Gael led government would be no dofferent to the current Fianna Fáil led government.

“Both are right wing parties, trading in outdated and discredited right wing policies, at the domestic and EU level.

“Contrary to Enda Kenny's claim today that the Lisbon Treaty is essential to our economic recovery, ratifying this Treaty will make the recession worse. It contains many of the same right wing economic policies that have led Ireland and the EU into recession in the first place.

“The Irish and European economies urgently need a change of direction and a change of policy. Believing that the Lisbon Treaty will lead us on to the road of economic recovery is just like believing that Enda Kenny could run the country any better than Brian Cowen.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Foyle   MLA Martina Anderson has said Banks and Building societies here need to scrap excessive charges for  their services. Her call comes after the Consumer Council revealed some of the bank charges for duplicate statements

 

Martina Anderson said

 

"Excessive charges are hitting struggling small businesses just as they impact badly on people on low incomes. With the move to benefits and pensions being paid through banks it is vital that bank charges are properly regulated and that banks are forced to stop charging people for basic services.

 

People in the north of Ireland already pay substantially more for our energy needs, insurance costs and general day-to-day necessities. It is unacceptable that customers are in some cases are having to pay up to £10.00 per page for duplicate statements.

 

"I would also like to commend the General Consumer Council for the work they have done on behalf of consumers in highlighting these unacceptable charges

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Commenting on the growing incidence of violent sectarian attacks Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has called on unionist politicians to show leadership on this issue.

 

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

 

“Politics on the island of Ireland have been transformed and the process of change will undoubtedly continue to deliver for citizens across the island in the years ahead.  It is now fifteen years since the first IRA ceasefire and eleven years since the Good Friday Agreement which guaranteed the right to live free from sectarian harassment and intimidation. Since then there have been many attacks on Orange Halls and property belonging to Unionist organisations and I totally condemn such attacks. They bring disgrace on the entire nationalist community and makes it harder to enact change - they must stop. We must continue in our efforts to stop attacks on property no matter where it occurs.

 

“But there is growing evidence that some within unionism are still wedded to violent opposition to change. Ever since the IRA ceasefire and former Ulster Unionist Leader, James Molyneaux’s famous statement that it ‘represented the greatest threat to the Union since Partition’ we have witnessed ongoing violent attacks on nationalists and their property.

 

“We can document regular attacks since the GFA involving unionist paramilitaries, such as the Holy Cross School blockade, the Thomas Devlin murder, Paul McCauley attacked in Derry by a UDA mob and the murder of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine, just to name the most high profile incidents, all motivated by a raw sectarian opposition to the change promised by the GFA. There have also been a number of attacks in my own constituency recently.

 

“The most worrying aspect of the continued use of violence to prevent or inhibit change is that Unionist politicians do not seem to have learned the lessons of ignoring violence originating within its constituency. As a result of a similar refusal to introduce reform by the Stormont regime in 1969 and its violent suppression of change, society descended into almost thirty years of conflict.

 

“The GFA emerged out of these decades of intolerance, injustice and conflict. It marked an historic and defining point of change in the history and future development of this island. Politics in the North until the GFA was one of discrimination, domination and exclusion of nationalists. Most unionists now accept that those days are gone, never to return, but few – if any - of their political leaders will accept this fact by publicly acknowledging that the only way to build a peaceful and prosperous future is through partnership grounded in equality and mutual respect.

 

“There is no justification for sectarianism in any form no matter where it emanates from. But it galls me to hear prominent unionist politicians attempting to justify clearly sectarian attacks as some kind of ‘retaliation’. Retaliation for what? That attitude only provides tacit justification of sectarian violence. Let there be no ambiguity on this issue, sectarianism is a cancer that will devour our society unless political and religious representatives across the divide act with one voice to excise it. So I would appeal to progressive Unionist leaders to assert themselves and not allow individuals working to a wreckers charter to misrepresent the views of the majority of Unionists.

 

“By any objective analysis, the overwhelming majority of sectarian assaults, arson attacks and provocative marches, emanate from within the unionist community. It is time, indeed long past time for the leadership of unionism to step up to the plate. It is, as never before, a time for leadership to halt the tide of sectarianism.  I can assure Unionists that Sinn Féin will continue to strive to marginalise those within our society who attempt to fan the flames of bigotry and sectarianism”

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Approximately 1,000 children will not transfer into secondary this year and will be left to fall through the cracks according to Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Senator Pearse Doherty.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said, “Over 1,000 twelve year olds will not start secondary school this week. Of those who do 18% of them will drop out before completing their leaving cert and 4% will not even complete the junior certificate. Now that the pupil retention schemes have been cut the fallout rate is set to increase dramatically in the coming years.

“What kind of an education system allows over 1,000 12 year old children to fall through the cracks? These are some of the most vulnerable children in our society and they deserve better attention than they are currently receiving. Unfortunately however, the cuts coming into effect this week reflect the Government’s attitude to these kids and shows that they would rather bail out their banker and developer friends than provide for the children of the state.

“The culture of oversized classes with teachers under so much pressure that they can’t afford to give time to individual children has had a direct impact on the numbers of early school leavers. With cuts coming into effect in both primary and secondary schools this week more and more vulnerable children will be left to fall between the cracks.

“This government puts about lofty notions of building a knowledge economy, investing in science and technology but the reality is that it has delivered an education system which has been stripped bare and ignores those most at risk or early school leaving.

“Government policy on education is seriously flawed. It is one that rewards those with who are able to pay their way through school and punishes those who can’t.

“How many more children will be left by the wayside? More and more cuts will only hurt more and more vulnerable children. This must be stopped and the reality is that Fianna Fáil must be put out of power and a new Government, one which cherishes the value of educating our children, must be established. Today’s poll makes for interesting reading, however we need an election at the earliest opportunity. The longer this Government remains in power the longer it will take to repair the damage it is doing to our society.” ENDS

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Responding to the latest exchequer figures, Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan said tax receipts will continue to fall because the government refuses to stimulate the economy.

Arthur Morgan said:

“Rather than closing the deficit this year by saving and creating jobs, this government is instead focused on one problem area of the economy, the banks, and the reason for that is because it is their friends they are trying to save. So while Brian Lenihan attempts to push through a €70 billion saving package for banks and developers, we have to endure growing live register figures and falling tax receipts from those job losses.

“There is absolutely no coherent thinking to the government’s economic strategy, if it even is a strategy. No other country in the world is putting so much emphasis on its banks while allowing companies and jobs to go to the wall and public services to bear the brunt of the pain. This government is running us into the ground and it will continue until they are put out of office.

“The ‘protect those at the top mentality’ that has pervaded in this state under Fianna Fáil governance for the last 12 years is alive and well. There is no indication that Fianna Fáil and the Greens can save our economy – at this stage they are just trying to keep the cronyism going a little bit longer.” ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has condemned the threatening letters which have been sent by loyalists to residents in Rasharkin including himself. In one letter a resident was told that his "name has been put into the UDA book" and the letter is signed 'UDA'. The letters come in the wake of Catholics being forced to leave their homes in nearby Ballymoney after being attacked by the UDA.

Mr McKay said

"We are now seeing a concerted effort by loyalists, and in particular the UDA, to intimidate Catholics in Rasharkin and the wider Ballymoney area.

"Last month we saw UDA-linked bands marching through the village at the invitation of the Ballymaconnolly band and now in the wake of residents' opposition to that loyalist paramilitary display we are seeing an attempt by loyalists to intimidate this small rural community.

"These threats will not deter me or those opposed to loyalist intimidation in Rasharkin.

"The UDA is actively targeting Catholics in this area and there is considerable anger amongst local people that DUP MLA Mervyn Storey has ruled out UDA involvement. The political cover that the DUP has provided for the UDA when they have marched through Catholic areas and when they have targeted Catholic families in the North Antrim / East Derry area over the past number of months will surprise no-one. It is crystal clear that the DUP still have links to loyalist paramilitaries which they have yet to sever."

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Coleraine Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard has said that he has learned that the special scheme to help people move home because of threats against them has been, in effect, closed down.

The Department of Social Development (DSD) instructed the Housing Executive in late August not to make any more “contractual commitments” until more money is granted by the Department. No indication is given as to when such funds could be available for the scheme which is called the Scheme for Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings (SPED).

Leonard said:

“This is a disaster for many people who are already in difficulties because of the threats and they now face a very uncertain future because they will not be able to move to safer conditions.

It is amazing that the DSD which ‘fanfares’ millions for this and that project should not make any announcement that such an important scheme was in severe difficulty. I also believe the problems will not be resolved in the short term by spending round reviews so Minister Ritchie owes the public an explanation.

“I represent an area where loyalist threats are everyday reality and people have to make use of the SPED scheme.

“A constituent came to me because his case has been in the pipeline for many months due to another issue. Now he has received a letter from the Executive stating his application will go no further. He is in severe financial difficulties as overheads on the house he needs to move from continue. The Bank is putting pressure on him and the few spare pounds he had have now gone.

“It is a personal disaster for him and I am sure there are now many more people who do not know where to turn to. I will be working with party colleagues to find out what is to happen to the scheme and how this mess can be cleared up.”

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed a number of Garda operations which have resulted in the arrest of eleven people and the seizure of a large quantity of drugs in Dublin and Roscommon over the course of last night and this morning. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the large quantities of drugs seized showed that there can be no let up in the fight against drugs.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “Gardaí have taken part in a number of successful operations over the course of last night and this morning which have seen eleven people arrested and the recovery of large quantities of drugs. I want to congratulate those officers involved.

“The volume of drugs recovered shows that the drugs crisis is continuing and there can be no let up in the fight against it as a result of Government cutbacks.

“It is also important that any quantities of cash recovered by the Criminal Assets Bureau as a result of these operations are invested back into the communities where the drug dealers have been most active and where the effects of their trade are most evident.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein’s New Lodge Councillor Conor Maskey has welcomed the decision at this month’s full council meeting to reject the Planning Committee’s opinion that 12 flats could be built in the New Lodge area’s Hillman Street.

Conor also pointed to the fact that if it weren’t for a change of heart by councillors from other parties the plans for the flats would have gotten the go ahead.

Planning approval was sought for12 flats to be built on the site of McCrory Memorial Presbyterian Church, with access from Hillman Street.

Last month the Planning committee endorsed the Planning Office’s opinion to approve this development by a vote of 5-4, with Sinn Fein’s four councillors standing alone in opposition.

Mr Maskey then brought a proposal to the full council seeking an overturn of the committee’s decision.

Speaking afterwards Cllr Maskey said:

“I asked the full council meeting to reconsider the planning committee’s opinion that these flats would be given the green light on two basis: (1) There are no flats currently in Hillman Street and this would set a dangerous precedent; and (2) The residents of the long streets have been messed about too much through the on-going saga regarding redevelopment that this would be the last thing they needed and could, in fact, sway the redevelopment issue further away.

“I purposefully asked for last night’s vote to be recorded because some councillors, and in particular the SDLP’s Alban Maginess, spoke against our position at committee stage and abstained from the vote, effectively ensuring the flats would get committee approval.

“I welcome Alban’s sudden turnaround on the issue last night and would appeal to the Planning office to respect the will of the council, but more importantly the residents, when making their final decision.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy  MP MLA has hit out at the SDLP playing on people’s fears regarding the British Army returning to South Armagh.

Speaking today Mr Murphy said:

“For over 30 years the community here in South Armagh had to endure British Military occupation. Lands were stolen, communities were harassed and spy posts and other war apparatus blighted this area. It was only through hard work and strong negotiations that Sinn Féin secured the demilitarisation of these areas.

“At Weston Park a senior figure in the SDLP leadership proclaimed that demilitarisation was an issue only for Sinn Féin and the British government. Now we have the SDLP, who played no role in achieving an end to the British army’s presence in South Armagh, playing on peoples worst fears to steal a headline.

“Let me be very clear about this. There is no role for the British army in South Armagh. I know that as well as the SDLP and they need to realise that the nationalist community would not tolerate such a move.”

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the OECD’s first ever report on the well being of children in its 30 member countries confirms that successive Governments have failed younger children, with this State among the bottom five for spending on children in their vital younger years.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“It is a cause of shame that the wealth of the Celtic Tiger years which flowed into State coffers was so badly misused when it should have been invested wisely in providing for greatly improved health, education and social services for children.

“The OECD Report shows that this State is among the five out of 30 OECD countries that spend least on children. It reflects very poorly on the well being of children in this State, especially those who are disadvantaged. This leads to greater problems in later life, including our very high rate of suicide among young men, as highlighted in this report.

“Having under-invested in the welfare of children during the boom we now see the Fianna Fáil/Green Government preparing to slash spending in health and education, increasing class sizes, cutting special needs teachers, withdrawing schemes for disadvantaged pupils such as book grants, restricting medical card entitlements, targeting Child Benefit and much more.

“These cuts will compound the problems for children caused by overcrowded classrooms and inadequate school buildings, lack of accessible childcare, inadequate child protection and over-stretched children’s social care services.

“Investment in children is required to ensure both the rights of all children and real recovery for Ireland beyond the recession.” ENDS

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Speaking from the Fianna Fáil Lisbon Treaty campaign launch today Sinn Féin spokesperson on European Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said the government is “ignoring the will of the people” and engaging in “the politics of fear”.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Despite the fact that 900,000 people rejected the Lisbon Treaty in June 2008 the government is putting exactly the same Treaty to the electorate this October. Not a single word of the Lisbon Treaty has been changed.

“If the Treaty hasn’t changed then why should those who voted against the Treaty in 2008 change their minds.

“As with their mishandling of the economy Brian Cowen's government are refusing to listen to the very real concerns of the electorate on Lisbon. The so called legally binding guarantees do nothing to address issues such as Ireland’s loss of power; the undermining of our neutrality; the ongoing assault on workers rights; and the slow destruction of family farming.

“The government is also trading in the politics of fear, with slogans that suggest a No vote will result in Ireland being thrown out of the EU. Such claims are not only ridiculous but aimed at scaring people into supporting a Treaty that is clearly not in their political or economic interests.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD said today that the government must consider taxation measures in the December budget but that the awaited Commission on Taxation report is already out of date.

Arthur Morgan said:

“If fair taxation measures had been introduced several years ago this state would not be in the mess it is now. With a huge deficit created by the most inept governance seen here in a long time, it is obvious that taxation raising measures will be needed in December’s budget to meet the state’s spending bill. At the moment, this government is talking up cuts to social welfare, education and health spending as the way to control the deficit

“Ultimately we need to stimulate the economy with new jobs to make sure we have enough revenue coming in to run the state, but until that point we must be pragmatic and make a choice – tax or cuts. There are some savings to be made certainly, for example the subsidies to private healthcare, but not enough to meet the deficit demand. There are many in our society who can afford to pay more tax, but there are few who can afford to see education, health and social welfare cut.

“In that regard, a report from the Commission on Taxation should be a welcome addition to the debate. However, the report being published is completely out of date. The Commission were sent off in 2008 with a set of terms that read like a Fianna Fáil wish list – for example, keeping the overall tax take low. To ensure that income tax can be kept low which, with the income levy, is now a myth anyway – the Commission is due to set out a range of household taxes which will disproportionately effect the less well off.

“The tax system must be structured in a way where those who have the most, pay the most, not in a way that spreads tax across the board with blunt instruments like flat water and property taxes. We also have to look at forms of taxation that Fianna Fáil have done their best to keep off the agenda for obvious reasons, like wealth taxes. The fact that the only trade union member on the board refused to sign the report, says it all.

“Sinn Féin will be submitting a range of measures in its pre-budget submission later this year to deal with the economic problems, but we will not include cuts to essential services. We will include sensible taxation measures which we have called for for years and which, if implemented earlier, would have protected us from the mess we’re in now.” ENDS

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There is now a unique opportunity to shape the agriculture industry and the rural community here for generations to come.

That was the message today from the Sinn Féin Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA. She said that at a time when there are enormous crises in world economies, this part of Ireland has many of the elements to ensure a bright future for its rural communities.

“I have the privilege of being Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development at a time when there is an opportunity to influence the shape and direction of the rural community which is a vital part of the life, character and economy of our entire region.

“I have been given a major task in shaping the rural community’s future prosperity and quality of life through my role as Rural Champion, my input to the Rural White Paper and delivering projects including the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013. The RDP in itself is injecting some £500 million into our community and that is making a great difference.

“Over the coming weeks I will be undertaking a number of initiatives to underline what each of these components are doing and how I see the rural economy develop. Working together the various strands can weave a bright and sustainable future for farmers, rural dwellers and those who work and have their recreation away from urban areas.

“The role of Rural Champion has been developed to highlight the functions and responsibilities of everyone involved in the countryside. For my part I intend to work for the good of the rural community and to represent the views and interests of that community not only within DARD but across government. I will seek to support rural communities, agencies and organisations which contribute to the rural way of life and its long term development.

“In addition the Rural White Paper proposals provide for the establishment of five stakeholder sub-groups each of which will look at the issues and challenges facing rural communities within the five themes: Rural Governance, Rural Vision, Rural People, Rural Places and Rural Services.

“The sub-groups have met several times and hope to report back to the Department on the outcome of their work in the autumn. Their reports will then be considered formally by DARD and other Departments with a view to commencing formal public consultation on a draft document during 2010.

“The Rural Champion and Rural White Paper are works in progress but currently great work is being done on the ground through the RDP. I firmly believe that it is making a real difference for farmers and everyone else living and working in the countryside.

“It is a remarkable fact that the RDP is investing over £500 million in rural communities across the north – the largest ever investment here. It is a real winner for farmers, rural businesses, landowners and rural communities generally. Through programmes such as this and by working in partnership with local communities, we can make a difference in rural areas and to the lives of people living, working and visiting them.

“The RDP has been specifically designed to help strengthen the local economy and make agriculture, horticulture and rural businesses more competitive. It also seeks to develop a more sustainable environment and improve the quality of life for rural dwellers.

“The Programme funds farm modernisation projects, helps businesses improve processing and marketing skills and supports projects which will strengthen supply chain partnerships. Advice, mentoring and training is also available for farmers and their families.

“It will also help to improve the quality of life and strengthen the economy in rural areas by supporting a wide range of activities such as diversification, support for business creation, encouragement of tourism activities, village renewal, basic services for rural communities and upgrading of the rural heritage.

“Over 75% of the total Programme funding will go directly to support the farming sector. However, people living or working in a rural community can access grants to help them start new businesses, support existing rural tourism initiatives or develop new ones.

“Certain measures, such as support for those farming in Less Favoured Areas and forestry, were in place from the start of the programme in January 2007. Other measures have opened steadily since then, and at the end of March this year, over £100 million of Rural Development Programme funds had been paid out. We will continue to make commitments under the Programme until 2013.

“So all in all, rural communities are being given more opportunities to make their contribution to the development of their area. I am confident that the rural economy will benefit and local needs will be met through a wide variety of high quality projects.

“This is a time of great opportunity. By working and growing opportunities together, we will see significant development of our rural economy with more sustainable jobs created in rural areas between now and 2013.”

The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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