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Sinn Féin MLA Paul Maskey and party colleague, deputy Mayor of Belfast Cllr Danny Lavery (whose brother and nephew were murdered as a result of collusion), today accompanied a delegation from Relatives for Justice at a meeting with Mayor of Belfast Cllr Naomi Long. The meeting was facilitated by the Sinn Féin Council Group.

The meeting was organised after it was announced that Belfast City Council, as part of ‘Armed Forces Day’, would be flying the British Armed Forces flag from the City Hall this Saturday.

Speaking after the meeting Paul Maskey said,

“Today’s meeting was a useful and no doubt productive exercise.

Our hope and the hope of the families who attended today’s meeting is that this is the beginning of a process where the experience of all victims within the city is recognised and commemorated.

It was acknowledge that Belfast City Hall is currently not reflective of all citizens’ experience of the conflict here, and that through the Good Relations Unit of the Council, the families who have lost loved ones as a result of collusion and state violence can begin to be recognised within their own city.

I want to commend the families for their immense courage and dignity in ensuring that their loved ones are not forgotten.

I look forward to the process of engagement continuing in the time ahead.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking in the Dáíl this afternoon Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD sought to amend the Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Bill to broaden the definition of homelessness to include people sleeping rough, people threatened with eviction or suffering domestic violence and those in inadequate housing.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “The 1988 Housing Act provided a legal definition of homelessness for the first time, however, it is insufficient and narrow and restricts the definition of homelessness. It also does not place any legal obligation on the local authority to provide services for those who the authority has defined as homeless.

“The European Federation of National Organisations FEANTSA has developed a definition of homelessness which we need to include in our legislation if we are to make it human rights compliant and this is what the Sinn Fein amendment attempts to do.

“ETHOS is a “home” based definition that classifies homeless people according to their living situation and includes rough sleepers, people threatened with eviction or suffering domestic violence, or those in inadequate housing. This approach ensures that this inclusive definition would protect those who are the most vulnerable in our society.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has called on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to introduce legislation to allow local authorities to charge customers the current variable mortgage interest rate of 2.25%. Senator Doherty said he is aware of many families who are currently being paid over 10% interest on their mortgages to their local authority. He said it is unacceptable in the current economic circumstances for an arm of the state to be charging exorbitant interest rates to homeowners.

Senator Doherty said, “A total of 973 individuals and families have loans from Donegal county council and 242 of them are being charged interest in excess of 10%. All of the latter were taken out prior to 1991 when customers were obliged to take on a loan with a fixed interest rate for a period of between 25 to 30 years. This is one example: €17,000 borrowed, €32,000 repaid and still there is €10,000 left to repay. That means the customer of Donegal County Council in question will pay well in excess of 100% of what he or she originally borrowed.

“I am sure this problem is not exclusive to Donegal and that it applies across the State. There are probably many hundreds if not thousands of people who are affected.

“As of 1 July next, local authorities will be in a position to charge interest to borrowers at the current variable rate of 2.25%. As a result, there is a need to consider the cases of people who are paying exorbitant interest rates as a result of being forced to enter into fixed rate arrangements.

“Many people are angry at the banks other financial institutions for not passing on interest rate reductions from the European Central Bank. In this instance, however, local authorities, which come under the direct authority of the Dáil and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, are charging customers high rates of interest. It is not acceptable that people are being charged exorbitant interest rates by an agency of the State.

“The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has allowed customers of the local authority to remove themselves from the situation in which they find themselves if they are in a position to refinance their loans in the private, mainstream banking market. However, the difficulty is that to apply for such loans in the first instance, they had to have been refused loans by building societies or banks. The local authority scheme was their final option. Many of these people are social welfare recipients and are not in a position to pay back their loans.

“There is also the concern, which none of us would like to see this happen, that they may enter the sub-prime landing market and that an increased trend of house repossessions might result.

“Legislation must be brought forward to enable local authorities to allow their customers who are on high fixed interest rates to refinance with those authorities and avail of the variable rate of 2.25% on offer to customers who are applying for loans at present.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has said employment figures released today by the Central Statistics Office show that the Government should have intervened with a job retention fund in the April emergency budget.

Speaking as the National Household Survey showed that unemployment hit 10.2% in March Deputy Morgan said if the Government wasn’t so preoccupied with bailing out the banks and cutting public and social spending much could have been done by now to stem the loss of jobs.

He said, “In the run up to the emergency budget in April I called on the Government to intervene with a €300million job retention fund to save private sector jobs. Had this been done we could have saved approximately 45,000 jobs by now. Unfortunately however, the Government was preoccupied with bailing out the banks and slashing public services and social spending.

“I welcome the Government’s belated move in the direction of job retention this week but we need to see the detail of their proposals.

“What is absolutely clear from today’s figures is that the Government’s priority must shift to job retention and creation immediately. This should have been done in the emergency budget in April.” ENDS

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Responding to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) report on the Irish economy Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan said, “There are two issues to note on the back of the IMF’s report. For over a decade successive Fianna Fáil led governments have been loudly warned against making the Irish economy over reliant on consumption and construction. The IMF is just the latest in a litany of economists and organisations to highlight this fact. However we need not lose sight of the inequitable agenda of the IMF. There is much in the IMF report that Sinn Féin does not agree with, such as its support of public finance cuts and bank bail outs.”

Deputy Morgan said:

“There is broadly nothing new in the IMFs report analysis of the Irish economy and the reasons for our current recession. Fianna Fáil led governments were warned for years in advance of the recession that measures needed to be taken to curb the dangerous over-inflation in the housing market and to avoid the creation of a property bubble. They were warned about the dangerous over dependence of the exchequer on fair weather taxes. Minister Lenihan has some neck stating that the opposition failed to come up with alternatives during the boom years to avert the current crisis.

“Sinn Féin opposed the reduction in capital gains taxes which made it more profitable to speculate in property than to run a business, we opposed tax breaks that favoured investors over those trying to secure their first family home, we asked the government to explain why it was allowing the banks to over-lend to first time buyers (including through the provision of 100% mortgages) we supported the introduction of a tax on second homes that would have curbed the escalation of house prices and the development of a bubble.   

“Throughout my time as Sinn Féin’s housing Spokesperson between 2002 and 2007 I vigorously pursued those issues in the Dáil. Time and time again Fianna Fáil Ministers dismissed this, claiming that there would be a soft landing in the property sector. In equal measure Sinn Féin has for years questioned the sustainability of the existing tax system. Fianna Fáil bought the 2007 election on economic promises that they could not deliver. They either lied to the people at that time or were so economically illiterate they did not see the crash coming. Either reason makes them unfit for government.

“However there is much in the IMF report that Sinn Féin strongly disagrees with and we do so in the context of noting the global agenda that the IMF like the World Bank represents. The reality is that the policies of the IMF and the World Bank have locked third world nations into a vicious cycle of borrowing and repayment of loans and interest on loans that can never be paid. To make matters worse, these countries are forced to adopt economic policies that force further reductions in social welfare spending.

“There is much in the IMF report that is in agreement with the government’s current policies, for example the slashing of Ireland’s public finances and the government’s black hole approach to bailing out developers and bad banks. This report, like the IMF agenda, is a damning indictment of the low taxation – low public spend ideology of western governments that have dominated global economic decisions since the 1980s.

“The government needs to deliver an economic stimulus package that includes a properly funded job retention and creation strategy as well as real investment in infrastructure and public services. Saddling future generations with unprecedented debt and undermining Ireland’s social and economic future is not a recovery plan, it’s a perpetuation of bad policy and inept decision making.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly today called on all communities to begin respecting flags and emblems and to end the practice of using them to intimidate and cause offence.

Mr Kelly said:

“Particularly over the summer months flags and sectarian emblems are draped from lamp posts across the north. This is not about expressing culture. In the main it is designed to mark out territory and to intimidate and cause offence.

“Clearly the majority of flags erected, though not exclusively, are by those from within the unionist community. This includes the British Union Jack, the unionist Ulster flag and various loyalist paramilitary flags. This situation cannot go on without challenge. And I do not discriminate on this. The flying of the Irish National Flag in response to this or indeed as an act of political provocation is equally as unacceptable. The National flag should be treated with respect. We have also seen abuses of the Palestinian National flag. Quite simply flags should not be erected in town centres or mixed areas in this way and those which are should be removed.

“We are continually told that this is an expression of culture. Frankly that is nonsense.
I would certainly like to know how tattered and threadbare flags flying outside businesses, churches and houses where they are not wanted is a display of culture. Making communities more neutral and accommodating to all is in no way a dilution of culture. Indeed the opposite is the case.
“Resolving this issue requires both strong political leadership and effective policing. To date unionist political leaders have at best ignored the issue. The PSNI response has been ineffective. As this society moves forward that is no longer a tenable position. Sinn Féin are committed to using our influence positively. Others must now do likewise.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon on the Revised Estimates Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD accused the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan of ignoring the good advice of economists and listening to his fat cat and developer friends. Deputy Morgan said the Government’s two pronged approach to the economy of bailing out the banks and cutting social welfare and public services must change to focus on creating and retaining jobs.

He said, “I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the Estimates. It is a mere formality because we did not really have an opportunity to tease out the detail of all the departmental programmes. Even if we had, it would probably have been rather pointless because the Government, as usual, would not have listened to us in any event. However, the debate does confirm for us the Government's continuing two-pronged approach to the economic crisis we are facing.

“On the one hand, it involves, as a top priority, bailing out the banks at any cost, to the tune of €440 billion or whatever it takes, and on the other hand it involves cutbacks for those who can least afford them. The latter include pensioners and others who have had their Christmas bonuses cut. Key public services for such people have been cut right across the board and some of these are the subject of debate before the House at present. This is the Government's strategy to date and it needs to change.

“Many economists have cautioned against this approach. The Minister has obviously been reading their remarks. They have told the Minister on many occasions that what he needs to do is introduce a stimulus package to retain and create jobs and get people back to work. However, the Minister is ignoring them and listening to his friends, the fat cats and developers, which is the wrong approach.

“I believed there was a new development when I heard the announcement yesterday evening that the Minster is putting what sounds like a €250 million fund in place for job retention. If so, I welcome it warmly. I have not heard any details about it but I hope it is modelled on a proposal such as the one my party made to the Minister in March before the April budget. We advocate that a fund of €300 million, to be administered by Enterprise Ireland, be made available over a six-month period with a view to retaining retain jobs.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty called on the Minister for Agriculture to put pressure on the milk processors to pay dairy farmers a fair price. Senator Doherty said there is a risk that dairy farming could disappear from the West if the “appallingly low return for primary producers” is not adequately dealt with.

He said, “Very low price being paid to farmers for the milk they supply to the processors which at the current time amounts to on average around 20% of what consumers pay to the retailers. That is an appallingly low return to the primary producer and reflects a pattern that has been in place for a number of years now.

“As was pointed out in several of the submissions to my colleague Martin Ferris’ report to the Agriculture Committee, one of the reasons why farmers are being squeezed is the demise of the old co-operative system and it might well pay dividends, if you pardon the pun, for farmers to re-examine that issue in an attempt to retrieve power from the big companies which dominate the market.

“There is a strong demand from producers in the west that the quota be ring fenced to ensure that dairying does not disappear from many parts of the country, including my own county where it is already very weak. While it must be recognised that a certain minimum level of quota is necessary in order for a dairy farmer to be viable, it would not be socially or economically a good thing if dairying in the future was confined to a small number of very large producers.

“We also need to see action taken in order to reduce input costs for dairy producers. Again that was an issue raised in their submission by the Connacht Gold co-op who pointed to the added costs for both themselves and farmers by fuel prices in particular. Input costs were also by far the main negative factor that was highlighted in the survey by all farmers including dairy farmers.

“While we need to see the EU market introduce measures to support the prices paid to farmers, I would also call on the Minister to put pressure on the processors to pay the farmers a fair price, and to put an end to the constant downward pressure on the farm gate price which may be excused by the processors on the basis of their own costs but which ignores their huge profitability and the massive disparity between what is paid to the farmer and what is charged to the consumer in the shops.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has today sought to amend the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Bill 2009 to extend the powers of surveillance to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Bill recognises the value of Surveillance Powers to Gardaí in the investigation of serious crimes but the Minister is seeking to expressly prohibit the Garda Ombusdman from employing these powers in their investigation of crime.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “I welcomed this Bill and have helped to progress it through the Oireachtas in a timely fashion.

“Surveillance is a useful tool that can contribute to the successful prosecution of serious crimes. I have tabled 38 amendments which include additional safeguards and provisions to enhance the effectiveness of the legislation. My amendments would add to the Bill without compromising its purpose. I hope the government will take on board my amendments.

“The most important amendments that I am tabling relate to the powers of the Garda Ombusdman Commission. The Minister is seeking to expressly prohibit the Garda Ombusdman from employing surveillance techniques in their investigation of crime. This is at odds with the whole intent and spirit of the Bill which recognises that surveillance should be available for the investigation and prosecution of serious offences where necessary. One of the principle functions of the Garda Ombudsman is to investigate serious offences so it must be afforded appropriate surveillance powers.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin North Belfast Councillor Teirna Cunningham has said that local residents in Glengormley were angry at the failure of PSNI officers on the ground to deal with Loyalist band ‘supporters’ who hurled sectarian abuse at children and young people during a band parade through the nationalist Church Road area last night.

The Loyalist band supporters had come into the Church Road area ahead of a Loyalist band parade and gathered on a green adjacent to an area young people play football.

Cllr Cunningham said:

“The behaviour of Loyalist band supporters last night was a disgrace. The filth and sectarian abuse directed at local residents and young people was deeply offensive and provocative. Local people should not have to put up with this type of abuse.

“The failure of the PSNI officers on the ground to deal effectively with the situation was in stark contrast to some of the responsive policing we have seen in recent days where the PSNI did try and diffuse difficult situations both here and also in the Carrick Hill area.

“The challenge for the PSNI is to achieve a consistent response to the concerns of local residents in the face of provocative and sectarian behaviour.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson Martina Anderson MLA has expressed her shock and disappointment at figures revealed following research carried out by the Equality Commission.

The report finds that 23% of people in the north would take issue with a Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual person living next door to them, that figure has increased from 14% in 2005.

It also indicates that 51% of people would have a problem with a loved one marrying someone from the traveller community.

Speaking this afternoon Ms Anderson said;

“I think it is important to remember that these reports are not an exact science; however, in saying that, we cannot simply ignore the figures that have in fact been revealed.

It is a matter of deep concern that certain prejudices in our society are actually increasing.

The report highlights the need for greater and deeper rooted leadership in facing down bigotry, intolerance and ignorance in relation to people from other cultures, persuasions and ethnic backgrounds.

Sinn Fein has been saying very clearly over recent days and weeks that we must all collectively do more to battle the scourge of prejudice within our society and work to create a greater degree of understanding and respect for our legitimate differences.” CRÍOCH

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“Council flag flying dishonours victims and their bereaved families”

Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Maskey has said that the decision by Belfast City Council to fly a British MoD flag this Saturday, June 27, to celebrate “British armed forces” dishonours hundreds of citizens of this city who have been murdered and is an affront to their bereaved families.

Cllr Maskey said :

“This is another cheap political stunt by the British Ministry of Defence which remains unwilling to explain to families in this city its role and the role of the British Army in the murder of hundreds of Irish citizens. Sinn Féin explained in Council and won the argument at Committee that the British MoD “armed forces flag” should not be flown from our city hall.”

“However , other Councillors held that Committee decision in contempt and reversed it at the full Council meeting. In doing this, all those who have backed this proposal show disregard for the offence which this will cause to the families in our city and in our country who have been bereaved by the British armed forces.

“In response to concerns raised with Sinn Féin by those families, we have requested a meeting with the Mayor of Belfast, Naomi Long, so that the grievance of families bereaved by British state violence can be put to the City’s First Citizen. We will also support the families and campaign groups in making a dignified protest at this political stunt by the British MoD.

“We will continue to work with those bereaved by state murder to ensure that their experience is appropriately acknowledged and that we create a city where their rights are upheld.”

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Notes to Editors

In March 2009 , the British Ministry of Defence wrote to Belfast City Council requesting that the Council fly a specially designed British ‘armed forces flag’ for five days at the end of June to mark what the British MoD referred to as British ‘armed forces day’.

The corresponded was taken to the Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee in April . Sinn Féin proposed that the British MoD proposal be rejected and that the City Council should not fly its ‘armed services flag’ on the grounds of the divisive nature of the British MoD proposal and its likelihood to offend many citizens of the city. Sinn Féin’s proposal was carried by the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee
In May , the full council considered a report on the matter from the Committee and the DUP argued that the Committee’s position should be overturned and the Council should fly the British MoD’s ‘armed forces flag’ for five days in June. The Alliance party proposed that the same flag should be flown but the display of the flag should be reduced to one day. Sinn Féin reiterated the divisive nature of the British MoD proposal and its likelihood to offend many citizens of the city. Sinn Féin argued that the recommendation of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee to Council be upheld.

The DUP motion was the put to a vote and supported by Ulster Unionists. Sinn Féin with the support of the Alliance and SDLP defeated that proposal. The Alliance proposal to display the same British MoD flag for one day was then put to a vote and carried , against the opposition of Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

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Speaking today in the Dáil Sinn Féin Dáil Spokesperson on European Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said one thing was very clear following the European Council of Ministers meeting last week, “in October the Irish people will vote on the very same Treaty they rejected in June 2008.”

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Let us all be very clear about what happened at last week’s European Council of Ministers meeting.Nothing of substance was achieved. References to legally binding guarantees are meaningless. The guarantees are nothing more than a series of clarifications of some aspects of the Lisbon Treaty.  The clarifications do not alter the text of the treaty in any way.

“Writing on Lisbon II Senior UCD law lecturer Gavin Barrett last week stated in an Irish Times article that, ‘Normally a treaty requires ratification by other member states. This treaty does not. This is because it involves the member states offering existing legal guarantees and clarifications only in respect of substantive legal obligations already explicit or implicit in the treaty.’”

“So when we come to vote on the Lisbon Treaty later this year we will be voting on exactly the same treaty, with exactly the same consequences for Ireland and the EU, as we did on June 12th 2008.

“Let’s just look at one area of the clarifications, Irish neutrality.

“The Decision of the Heads of State agreed last Friday in Brussels says that, ‘The Lisbon Treaty does not affect or prejudice Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.’ This tells us that Irish troops can only be sent abroad with the consent of the Irish government in the Council of Ministers and the Oireachtas.

“Sinn Féin never disputed this fact. Indeed the Lisbon Treaty is very clear in this regard. However neutrality is not only what you do with your troops; it is also about the alliances you form, what you do with your resources, and what other member states do in your name.

“The Lisbon Treaty makes clear its intent when it states that there shall be a common defence. In expanding the scope of permissible military missions it demonstrates its desire to move beyond peacekeeping and civil reconstruction. In reasserting the compatibility of EU foreign and defence policies with those of NATO it reminds that the emerging EU common defence is clearly aligned. Provisions for Permanent Structured Cooperation create the real possibility that wars we do not support will be fought in our name and with our resources. While the Mutual Defence clause creates obligations incompatible with any internationally recognised definition of neutrality.

“Anyone in any doubt about the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for Irish neutrality should read the exchange of views in the opinion section of the Irish Times sparked by Dublin City University academic Karen Devine from the 25 of November to the 24 December 2008.

“When the electorate rejected the Lisbon Treaty by 53% in 2008 they gave Brian Cowen and his government a strong mandate to secure a better deal for Ireland and the EU. The facts are they not secure such a deal. They have returned with the very same Treaty put to us last year.” ENDS

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South Dublin Sinn Féin representative, Shaun Tracey, has called for 100% protection for prospective homebuyers who entrust large deposits with developers. Mr. Tracey made his comments after it emerged that people who put down deposits on apartments in Carrickmines were offered just 1% of their initial sum after the development company, Laragan Development, was placed in examinership.

Mr. Tracey said, “People had placed deposits of up to €20,000 on these apartments. This is a massive amount of money. People rightly expected this money to be secure and if their apartment didn’t materialise at least they would get their money back.

“It is a scandalous, sickening and completely unacceptable situation that they are now only being offered 1% of the initial deposit as a refund - €200 of €20,000. For many people this type of money is a once in a lifetime deposit on a home. It is not easily come by.

“It is clear once again that it is the ordinary person in the street that is being screwed by Government policies that created the housing bubble and the reckless actions of greedy developers and banks.

“The proposal to pay people only 1% of their deposit is outrageous and stands in stark contrast to the billions of euro being used to bail out the banks. It is time that we had 100% protection for deposits on homes. The Government and the financial institutions need to step in here and sort this mess out.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Ministers in the Executive were in Dublin today to meet with the party’s Oireachtas members to discuss the all-Ireland economic agenda. The party’s Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness and Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin stated that measures to tackle the recession need to be undertaken bi-laterally by the administrations North and South and that economic recovery will require an all-Ireland approach.

Also on the agenda was progressing northern representation in the Dáil. In attendance were Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness, Michelle Gildernew - Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Conor Murphy - Minister of Regional Development and Sinn Féin TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Arthur Morgan and Martin Ferris and Senator Pearse Doherty.

Speaking to the media during a press conference Sinn Féin Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness said:

“Since the Good Friday Agreement trade between North and South has steadily increased. But thousands of people live their lives in one jurisdiction yet shop, study or work in the other. Partition creates impediments to economic development at a substantial cost to the economy.

“Economic planning and development on both sides of the border requires a joined up approach by political leaders North and South. This was an important element of the Good Friday Agreement vision. Ireland is just too small to have two competing economies.

“To tackle the recession the administrations North and South need to undertake further measures bi-laterally. The historic lack of joined up thinking from successive British and Irish governments has resulted in viable businesses floundering on both sides of the border in the face of constant fluctuations in the areas of VAT, corporation tax, excise duty and currency. But there have also been glimmers of hope that show what is possible when we work together as one island united in a commitment to social and economic prosperity.”

Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:

“We strongly dispute the recent statement of Minister of State Martin Mansergh that the economic recession makes Irish unity less attractive. The reality is that the full potential of the island in terms of economic development cannot be realised while we have division, duplication and disruption because of the border. Real economic recovery will require an all-Ireland approach.

“Sinn Féin Executive Ministers, our TDs and Senator today discussed a number of areas that must be progressed if we are to properly realise the advantages of the all-island economic agenda. These include strategic all-Ireland public transport and roads development, an all-Ireland Agricultural Body, further co-operation and integration via Universities Ireland in the area of third-level education with a special focus on the emerging knowledge economy, starting the process of tax harmonisation across the 32 Counties and the introduction of the euro into the Six Counties.

“We will continue to raise the need for Six-County representation in the Dáil. While the establishment of the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee was welcome, with its participation by MPs from the Six Counties, it does not go far enough. We will be calling on all parties in the Oireachtas to work together to achieve the national unity which they all claim to desire.” ENDS

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Donegal Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has called for a rapid response by relevant agencies in the aftermath of the flooding in Gaoth Dobhair yesterday. Senator Doherty made the call in the Seanad today and welcomed the support of the leader of the house Donie Cassidy to progress the issue. Senator Doherty has also personally invited the Minister for the Environment John Gormley to visit Gaoth Dobhair to see the extent of the damage and with a view to providing extra funding for the clean up operation.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said, “My first thoughts are with those affected by the yesterday’s flooding. What we need to do now is turn our attention to addressing the damage that was done in the area. This will require a multi agency approach. Roads have been swept away, bridges have collapsed, businesses have been destroyed and a youth club has been left unusable and many other effects throughout the parish.

“I have called on the Taoiseach to establish immediately an agency of all the relevant departments including finance, Environment and local government, Roinn na Gaeltachta, the dept of transport so that this issue can be addressed. I have also personally invited the Minister for the Environment John Gormley to visit Gaoth Dobhair to see for himself the extent of the damage with a view to providing extra funding for the clean up operation.

“Flash flooding is not a new phenomenon and has become more frequent in recent years across the country. While this new agency needs to deal with the crisis in Gaoth Dobhair immediately, it also needs to be put on a permanent footing so that when such an event occurs again in whatever part of the state, as it undoubtedly will, there will be a joined up approach and an immediate response.

“I want to commend the rescue services, the coast guard, the fire service, the gardai and the locals who helped people who were caught up in the flooding yesterday.” ENDS

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Raymond McCartney MLA (Foyle) and Member of the Assembly Executive Review Committee will travel to Dublin this Thursday as part of the ongoing programme of work on delivery of Policing and Justice.

Mr McCartney said: "Assembly Members have been holding meetings with other legislatures over recent weeks as part of the process of identifying best practice for the establishment of a Policing and Justice Department.

"This Thursday 25th June Committee Members will travel to Dublin to meet with and listen to the opinions of among others, Minister Michaél Martin, Justice Minister, Dermot Ahern, An Garda Commissioner and the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

Raymond McCartney concluded:

"This is an important part of the Policing and Justice process of transition and it is essential that we investigate different models in order to inform ourselves of best practice. Once the legislative and other aspects of the transfer of powers from London to the Assembly is in place it is imperative that we are ready to take ownership immediately." ENDS

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has cut the first sod on the the site of the new £3.5million accommodation at St Mary’s primary school.

The new building, which will meet the educational needs of over 200 pupils in Portglenone and surrounding areas, is due to open in May 2010.

Speaking at the event, the Minister said: “The provision of this new accommodation, together with the facilities management and maintenance services for the next 25 years, means St Mary’s will be well equipped to deliver the curriculum to many generations of pupils. I would like to congratulate the principal, staff and Board of Governors here at St Mary’s for all their hard work which has brought us to this stage of the project.

“Modern, fit for purpose buildings are essential for schools to educate their pupils in an environment which will prepare them for a post-primary setting. Many people have worked hard to get this project up and running and today marks the culmination of years of work. I would like to congratulate all those involved.”

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Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has this morning welcomed the government’s decision to progress Sinn Féin’s job retention proposal of the establishment of scheme to subsidise workers in viable businesses struggling during the current recession period. However what we need to see now is delivery from government in this area.”

Speaking from Leinster House Deputy Morgan added:

“Prior to the emergency budget earlier this year Sinn Féin submitted to the government a job retention and creation document entitled ‘Getting Ireland back to work’. The document led with a proposal for the establishment of a €300 million jobs retention fund to subsidise workers in viable SMEs struggling to keep on their employees during the recessionary period. We outlined in the document that the subsidy should apply to each individual job and would be no greater than €200 to be reviewed after 6 months.

“Earlier this week Minister Mary Harney also indicated that she has taken on board a public finance measure on the standardising of pension tax relief put forward by Sinn Féin as far back as 2006 and more recently in our most recent public finance document again submitted to government in advance of the emergency budget.

“Naturally I welcome the fact that the government is finally not only listening to Sinn Féin on such critical issues but is now acting on our proposals. However much more needs to be done and the same commitment the government has shown by its bailing out of the banks and it’s developer friends needs to be made to workers and small and medium sized businesses.

“The Irish Congress of Trade Union’s demand for a €1 billion state investment in job protection and creation measures is correct but Sinn Féin’s believes the government’s investment in this area needs to be substantially more. And more importantly any commitment this government makes needs to be delivered on. Fianna Fáil’s track record of broken promises speaks for itself.

“Sinn Féin would be happy to meet with the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance to discuss further our jobs and public finance proposals and how best they could be implemented.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has appealed to Government backbenchers to make a stand on the issue of children’s lives and support this evening’s private members motion on Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “It is shameful that the Government, in the name of the Oireachtas elected by the people, has been responsible for such a betrayal of children. It is shameful that parents have to shake collection tins to send their children abroad for vital operations that can and should be provided here by the excellent staff of our public health services.

“Most parents, when necessary, will sacrifice everything for their children, even life itself. The parents of children requiring treatment in Crumlin can only look aghast at the Government’s refusal to provide the essential support that the hospital needs. They are rightly incensed that this suffering is being visited on their children because of a cut of €9.1 million. The concept of a billion euros is beyond the imagination of most of us yet many multiples of this in taxpayers’ money is being poured into the corrupt financial institutions which have helped to bring our economy to its knees.

“Public and political pressure, including the tabling of this motion which we in Sinn Féin fully support, has apparently resulted in some respite from further cuts, and I stress further cuts. The reality is that the hospital remains in crisis because of the funding cuts of €9.1 million already imposed in 2009. As a result of those cuts children are suffering.

“Operations are being cancelled and postponed. Parents and children are being put through anguish and agony. Children could be more severely disabled as a result of these entirely avoidable delays to the essential surgery they so desperately need. The lives of some children may even be shortened.

“Minister Harney in response to the distress of parents can only resort again to her mantra about the need for the reorganisation of children’s hospital services in Dublin. But what is to happen to these sick children in the meantime, Minister?

One 13-year old girl with scoliosis has been on a waiting list for surgery since last August and has now had her appointment for July cancelled. The older this child gets the worse becomes the curvature of her spine, the more serious and perilous becomes the surgery she will have to face and the poorer her chances of living a near to normal life. Minister Harney, in reply to a Dail Question, claimed that the National Treatment Purchase Fund was seeking to arrange operations in the private system for this patient and others. When the family inquired they found that this was not the case.

“Is there even one Government backbencher with the courage to come out from the shadows and make a stand on this issue of children’s lives? I appeal to them to do so.” ENDS

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