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The government has failed to draw down a facility from the EU for millions of euros of finance for small businesses according to Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín.

In March of last year the EU established the European Progress Microfinance Facility. An initial budget of €100 million is expected to leverage to a total amount of €500 million in micro-credit. This will be realised in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group. The fund would supply loans of up to 25k to micro enterprises.

Today in the Dáil Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Peadar Tóibín asked the government how much had been drawn down so far by the state from this programme to allow badly needed credit into the Irish small business sector.

Speaking afterwards Deputy Tóibín said:

“There are 180,000 micro-business employing 10 people or less in this state. This sector, more so than any other, is collapsing due to the evaporation of demand, rigid cost structures and the glacial flow of credit into the system.

“I asked the minister if it was true that the government has so far not drawn down any money from this micro finance scheme. The Minister refused repeatedly to answer. As a result I have contacted the EIF and have been informed that 11 countries have drawn down funds so far but Ireland is not one of them.

“This is a shocking situation given the epidemic level of business closure, the near half a million of people unemployed and the 70,000 people leaving the state last year that the government has remained completely inactive to date on this issue.” CRIOCH

Note:

By way of final answer Minister Jon Perry stated that First Step had drawn down funds from the European Investment Fund. This is true but First Step has not drawn down funds from the EU Progress Microfinance Facility.

First Step are a Not for Profit, non-governmental group who do excellent work providing lines of credit to mainly unemployed people when setting up a business. Last year they provided €1.5 million in total and have 3.5 employees. Due to capacity and through no fault of their own their ability to provide the level of microfinance on their own is however grossly disproportionate to the size of the problem.

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The provision of water is too important to be surrendered by the state to the private sector, according to Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane.
Speaking in the Seanad today, during statements on Irish Water and related reform, Senator Cullinane highlighted how privatisation of water provision in other states had failed and emphasised the need to invest in our water provision system rather than spending money needlessly on water metering.
“A national body ensure not only a constant of supply but also its even operation across the state. It would also of course have the responsibility to ensure the proper upkeep of treatment facilities and the supply network. So, I welcome the fact that we are moving to a national body but its operation and make-up of the body will be crucial."
“It is my view that privatisation is not the way forward and we have the benefit of reflecting on its failures elsewhere. In Britain, despite increased investment, we have seen an increase in the cost to the public through charges, as well as a decline in the quantity and the quality of the water supplied.
“There is no doubt but that the water services infrastructure needs significant work. More than half, some 58% of water, is wasted through leaky and damaged pipes before they even reach homes, but, taxpayers money needs be spent wisely. The €500m which it will cost to put water meters in place in 1.1m homes, would be better spent on fixing this leaky infrastructure, without hitting the least well off yet again.”
Senator Cullinane also said that the use of an Irish label for any new body should be considered.
"The use of labels, logos and brands are crucial in terms of how people perceive the language and many state agencies have or have had their names in Irish, such as Coillte and Bus Eireann. More or less everyone in the state would know what I mean if I was to refer to Uisce Éireann.

"The government should take opportunities such as these to promote the language and its use, and I welcome that the minister has stated that he will consider the use of an Irish title for such a body."

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Is mise le meas
Senator David Cullinane
Teach Laighean/Leinster House,
Baile Átha Cliath 2/Dublin 2
Éire/Ireland

[email protected]
(00353) 1 6183176

Advice Centre/Constituency Office
Upper Floor 38/39 Stephen St, Waterford
(00353) 51 856066

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Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams today challenged the decision by the government to impose a guillotine on the debate on the Water Services Bill in the Dáil.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“This legislation discriminates against citizens across rural Ireland and has not been properly discussed. Like others, my party has brought forward a series of amendments, some of which may not even be reached.

“Sinn Féin is proposing, for example, a grants system to ensure that those who cannot bear the cost involved can be assisted. The standards against which septic tanks will be measured have not yet been set down and homeowners do not even know the size of the bill they could be faced with to upgrade their septic tank.”

The government parties voted down Deputy Adams’ proposal to extend the debate.

Speaking afterward Deputy Adams said he was “disappointed at the refusal of the government parties to agree to a full and thorough debate on this issue. Fine Gael and Labour claim to be for open and transparent government but on this very important threat to rural households they have chosen to block the debate. This is unacceptable and Sinn Féin will continue to use whatever time is available in the Dáil to oppose this legislation and to propose positive and effective alternatives.”

The Sinn Féin leader described the measures being introduced by the government as ‘”inequitable, unfair and discriminatory” and he expressed his concern that “many rural families will now find themselves faced with another charge and the possibility of significant costs to repair or replace septic tanks.”

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The Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on Minister Howlin to once and for all tackle excessive pay and pensions for top dogs across the public sector.

Deputy McDonald was responding to the announcement that yet another Government Department Secretary General is about to retire early with a bonanza pension pay off.

Deputy McDonald said

“Minister Howlin keeps talking the talk of reform but when it comes to breaking the culture of entitlement that still prevails across the upper echelons of the public sector he just can’t walk the walk.

“Sections 6 and 7 of the Superannuation and Pensions Act of 1963 enable the Minister to stop gifting Secretaries General up to ten added years and special severance gratuity payments worth half a year’s salary, on top of a bumper lump sum and annual pension worth in excess of €100,000.

“The bulk of Minister Howlin’s ‘reform’ announcements to date are simply a catch up mechanism for the public sector. Shared services, e-Government, enhanced reporting and improved procurement have been in place in the private sector for the last twenty years. The public sector is simply catching up. There is a big difference between reform and catch-up and when it comes to real reform Minister Howlin baulks.

“Breaking the culture of entitlement by facing down excessive pay and pensions across the public sector including Government Ministers and office holders, Secretaries Generals, City and County Managers, Hospital Consultants, VEC Chiefs, State Agency CEO’s and a myriad of senior management who enjoy the big bucks would be a real reform measure.

“Senior public servants remuneration in this state is over 7 times that of administrative staff compared to Nordic countries where the ratio is 3.5 times greater. Middle management remuneration is four times that of administrative staff compared to Nordic countries where the ratio is two times greater.

“A recent IPA research document notes a study that suggests the management capacity of the Irish government is slightly below EU average with policy implementation identified as a particular challenge. So the question must be asked - why on earth are they still in receipt of excessively generous pay and pension packages.”

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Welcoming the announcement that Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, has approved publication of the heads of the Personal Insolvency Bill, Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said that it was important to bring forward this legislation to help those who are in severe financial difficulties.
The Cork North Central TD said:
“This is an important step in the move towards publishing legislation on personal insolvency which is long overdue. Many people’s large personal debt is due to not being able to service the mortgage on the family home, so we hope that this will be one part of a range of measures designed to address these issues.
“I further welcome the minister’s commitment to furnish the General Scheme of the Bill to the Oireachtas Justice Committee, where our views will be taken by 1 March 2012.
“I will be calling upon the minister to take on board the concerns of members of the public and civil society bodies working in this area as well. It is absolutely essential that the timeframe indicated by the minister is held to. We cannot continue to put off addressing the problems of those who cannot meet their mortgage commitments and are facing mountains of debt.
“With regard to the Scheme of the Bill, it is essential that the proposed Insolvency Service is independent. The level of debt that will qualify for a Debt Relief Certificate must also be carefully examined. It is high time that the state moved towards a more humane approach to bankruptcy and I would hope the government continue to work on this issue rather than leaving it on the long-finger like they have done up to now.” ends

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During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to name the bondholders who will receive payment of €1.25 billion today. When the Taoiseach said he could not name them, Deputy Adams said that his party would approach the Comptroller and Auditor General for the names.

Deputy Adams described the hand over as “scandalous”, particularly in light of the dire circumstances that ordinary people across the state find themselves now in as a result of government cuts and stealth taxes.

Commenting on the €3.1 billion promissory note due to be paid out at the end of March Deputy Adams called on the government to tell the European Central bank that the state cannot afford it.

Deputy Adams said:

“This state is carrying too much debt. Last year the government gave the banks €20 billion. At the same time there is too little investment in job creation and a whole series of new and additional stealth taxes have been introduced which are crippling low and middle income families and the poor.

“Today’s payment to unsecured, unguaranteed bondholders in the former Anglo Irish Bank is further evidence of the failure of government austerity policies.

“This morning I asked the Taoiseach to name the bondholders who will receive this payment. His response was that he could not. I have written to the Comptroller and Auditor General asking him to investigate this matter.

“To add insult to injury on the 31st of March a further €3.1 billion of taxpayers’ money will be handed over in a promissory note in continuation of Fianna Fail’s disastrous strategy of dealing with the banking crisis.

“By the time it concludes paying this promissory note the state will have spent €74.6 billion. We believe the Government should tell the European Central Bank that it cannot afford to these notes and begin serious negotiations to secure an acceptable resolution that works for Irish citizens.”

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill announced today that farmers will be provided with maps to assist them in completing their 2012 Single Application Form (SAF).

These maps, issued by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) will reflect the field boundary information also used to pre-populate the SAF but will also provide information on visible ineligible features within fields which has been gathered as part of the map improvement project.

Minister O’Neill said:

“This is a key step in the phased improvement of information being provided to farmers to assist with their SFP applications.”

Acknowledging that it has not been possible to finalise the new LPIS maps in advance of the 2012 SAF as had been originally planned, the Minister was keen to point out the benefits to farmers of the approach DARD is taking. Minister O’Neill said:

“These maps will be a very significant enhancement on the maps farmers received in early 2011 in that they will also reflect ineligible areas which have been identified by the remapping project. This will align with the field data information being provided to each claimant in their SAF application packs and so help them make their applications. It is vital, however, that claimants make their own assessment of conditions on the ground when deciding on the detail of their claim.”

The Minister said that her Department has been working hard to improve the maps provided to farmers to assist them with their area-based schemes claims. She explained:

“Given the complexity and scale of this work, with almost 750,000 fields to be assessed, it has not been possible to complete this as intended in early 2012. We have gathered over one million pieces of information concerning ineligible areas and it is important that this is provided to farmers to help them to make accurate claims. The approach I am announcing today will do this.

“A lesson learned from the experience of Paying Agencies in other regions is that it is essential that the new LPIS maps, when issued, are substantially correct (subject of course to farmer changes). It is best to invest the required time to achieve this rather than seek to meet a deadline which could risk the overall position concerning disallowance. It is more important, in my view that we focus on the delivery of the right things – maps which can drive an improvement in the accuracy of claims, rather than getting hung up on an administrative timetable.”

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced her Department’s response to the independent report on Single Farm Payment (SFP) Review of Decisions.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) commissioned the report to independently assess if it was administering the Single Farm Payment (SFP) Review Process to an acceptable standard.

The Minister said:

“SFP provides an important financial support for farmers and rural communities throughout the north. It is important that they have confidence in how the scheme is administered and that where there is disagreement with the Department’s decision on entitlement, that an impartial, fair, and timely review process is in place to deal with it.

“This report concludes that the current Departmental Review Process is “largely fit for purpose” but it also identifies areas where improvements could be made, and where key findings might be transferable to other DARD schemes. DARD is committed to improving its services and will continue to work with UFU and NIAPA to ensure that these changes are implemented in a manner which brings real benefits to the farming community.”

The Departmental Response is available on the DARD website at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/publications/pubs-dard-grants-and-funding/sfpreviewofdecisions.htm. A copy of the full PWC Report can also be accessed via the same link.

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Commenting on the decision of the Ulster Council Officer Board of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to reverse its decision not to back the bid for the all-Ireland Fleadh to be hosted by Derry city, Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle Martina Anderson said:“As I have previously stated the decision as to where the all-Ireland Fleadh is staged is first and foremost one for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and its members. But the original decision of the Ulster Council Officer Board not to support the Comhaltas Dhoire bid was to say the least a surprise and disappointment. Therefore the decision taken last night to reverse that position is a great relief and most welcome."I was always confident that once in possession of all the facts and details around the Derry bid that the Officer Board would recognise the quality of the case made for the Fleadh to come to our City. I congratulate the Board on its mature refelection and reversal of its decision not to back the bid."Now that all the confusion and concerns have been addressed it is incumbent on everyone and every organisation who has the best interests of Derry and Comhaltas at heart to row in behind the bid in the coming days which will be crucial in the decision making process that hopefully will bring the 2013 Fleadh to Derry.”

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Sinn Féin MLA for Newry and Armagh, Mickey Brady, has serious concerns about a survey being currently carried out by the Social Development Department. 1,000 households are being asked their views on the introduction of Universal Credit, the cornerstone of the British government’s Welfare Reform agenda.

Speaking today Mr Brady said:

“I believe this consultation document paints a too rosy a picture, describing a seamless transfer to Universal Credit while failing to highlight the many difficulties Welfare Reform as a whole will present to many people. The British government has claimed that no one will lose out as a result of the transfer of a raft of benefits into a single credit but, even where entitlement stays the same, there are changes that will present difficulties.

“Payment to a single member of the household, the so called transfer from purse to wallet, will increase the dependency of many women within the family and maybe detrimental to their children. A monthly payment might be fine for those fortunate enough to command a decent salary but for those on benefit it will increase the hardship of families trying to stretch a meagre income across four weeks instead of two. There are also concerns about the heavy reliance on IT systems to administer Universal Credit, systems where the primary contact with customers will be via the internet, which maybe fine until something goes wrong.

“But this is the tip of the iceberg. If the British government’s Welfare Reform was about delivering a fairer, simpler and more transparent system we would all welcome it. Unfortunately this Tory-led government is intent upon targeting some of the poorest and most vulnerable by making welfare reform part of their austerity drive.

“This consultation process is no more than a PR exercise to solicit consent to the imposition of Tory cuts.”

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A Sinn Féin delegation of MLAs Raymond McCartney, Sean Lynch and Jennifer McCann met with Justice Minister David Ford today to discuss the on-going prison related issues.

Speaking following the meeting Vice-Chair of the Justice Committee Raymond McCartney said:

“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to finding a technological method to replace strip-searching as recommended by Anne Owens and the Prison Review Team

“The Minister said yesterday in the Assembly that significant progress had been made on finding an alternative and we welcome this but a sense of urgency needs to be applied to resolving this issue. The bottom line is that all prisoners need to be treated with dignity and respect.

“That dignity should also apply to prisoners seeking compassionate parole and we highlighted to the Minister the recent case where the prison administration refused compassionate parole for a prisoner to attend his father’s funeral.

“This is a step backwards. It was a case for compassion, something which was clearly missing from this decision.

“We also raised the cases of both Marian Price and Martin Corry who are being held following the revoking of their license by the British Secretary of State. This is unacceptable and they should be released immediately.

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on communications, Martin Ferris TD, has called on the Government to have a full debate in the Dáil on measures governing access to the internet.

He was responding to an interview with Minister Seán Sherlock yesterday which Deputy Ferris said leaves many questions to be answered regarding the implications of the legislation.


Deputy Ferris said:

“While the Minister is claiming that he needs to act in order to reflect both a recent court judgement and two EU directives, he appears to be pretty vague regarding the implications of what he is proposing. Experts in the field are taking a diametrically opposed view to that of the Minister.

“There is understandable fear among both commercial and private users of the internet that this will leave the door open to actions that would severely restrict access to information if copyright holders can secure orders preventing it being made available.

“That would not only represent a significant attack on individual freedom but also a threat to a healthy sector of the Irish economy which has attracted major international players to locate here.

“In the interests of teasing all of this out I am calling on the Government to facilitate a debate and to present legislation that will require approval by the Oireachtas prior to any enactment. That would allow a full debate with meaningful inputs from all interested parties.”

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Speaking after presenting the Taoiseach with his party’s proposals for how it believes the Euro crisis should be tackled and growth restored to the European economies, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has stated that the evidence from the “Austerity Treaty” as it is emerging is that the Taoiseach and his fellow European leaders “either don’t understand the causes of this crisis or are in denial of them”.

Speaking in the Dáil Deputy Mac Lochlainn outlined Sinn Féin’s proposals before presenting the Taoiseach with a copy of them.

He said:

“This crisis is fundamentally about the failure of the one size fits all European monetary union model. The Euro led to the strengthening of core European economies, particularly Germany with increased trade surpluses and the deployment of this boon through reckless lending by the core members state’s banks to the peripheral member states.

“In Ireland’s case, to private banks who in turn lent recklessly, eventually creating a property bubble built on cheap credit.

“This Austerity Treaty is no solution to the crisis. Sinn Féin proposes the following four approaches which, combined, we believe can start to address this crisis and restore growth.

“Investment in jobs and growth. Increasing the lending capacity of the European Investment Bank so that by working with member states on major investment projects it can help stimulate activity in the real economy.

“Cleansing the European Banking system of toxic debts through a new round of rigorous stress tests and de-leveraging followed by recapitalisation where necessary funded by the European Central Bank.

“Debt-restructuring agreements for over indebted economies involving debt-write-downs to assist them return to debt sustainability. Ending the obligation on the state to pay the Anglo Irish Promissory Note and unguaranteed senior bondholders in Anglo and other banks.
“Within existing EU treaty provisions the European Council must ensure that the European Central Bank takes all necessary action to stabilise sovereign bond interest rates and ensure market access for all member states.

“I appeal to you Taoiseach and Tánaiste to reject this treaty, which condemns the Irish people and the people of Europe to a lost decade of harsh austerity, and give them hope. Our proposals are aimed at genuinely addressing this crisis and restoring hope to our people.”

ENDS

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Speaking during a Dáil debate on the payment of €1.25billion of taxpayers money to an unsecured unguaranteed Anglo Irish Bank bondholder, due to be paid tomorrow, Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that “this payment should not be made” and called on the government to “invest in jobs and services not bankers and bondholders.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“Tomorrow the government will allow Anglo Irish Bank to hand over €1.25 billion of taxpayers money to an unsecured, unguaranteed bondholder.

“Despite repeated attempts by my party and others to have the identity of these bondholders revealed the Government continues to shield them.

“They are most likely private speculative investors – hedge funds betting on the financial markets.

“It is also highly likely that they bought this bond on the secondary market at less than face value.

“This means that tomorrow a financial speculator will receive a windfall profit from Irish tax-payers to the value of millions and millions of euro.

“The figure €1.25 billion is just over twice the total cuts to the health service announced for 2012 (€543m). It is more than 8 times the total due to be raised from the Household Charge this year (€160m). It is almost ten times the money to be cut from the education budget in 2012 (€132m).

“The Government must instruct Anglo Irish Bank not to pay this bond. It is time they invested in jobs and services rather than bankers and bondholders.’ ENDS

Full text of Pearse Doherty TD speech to Anglo bondholder debate 24.1.12

I want to commend the technical group for tabling this important motion on the Governments continued pay-out of taxpayer’s money to Anglo Irish Bank.

Tomorrow the Government will allow Anglo Irish Bank to hand over €1.25 billion of taxpayers money to an unsecured, unguaranteed bondholder.

Despite repeated attempts by my party and others to have the identity of these bondholders revealed the Government continues to shield them.

They are most likely private speculative investors - hedge funds betting on the financial markets.

It is also highly likely that they bought this bond on the secondary market at less than face value.

This means that tomorrow a financial speculator will receive a windfall profit from this tax-payer to the value of millions and millions of euro.

I am not surprised to see the Government benches, particularly the back benches empty.

Labour and Fine Gael TDs must be deeply embarrassed by their Governments actions.

After all it was only a few short weeks ago that the Government wrenched €3.8 billion from the economy in the form of spending cuts and tax hikes.

€1.25 billion equals almost two and a half times the total cuts from social welfare due to take place in 2012 (€475m). It is just over twice the total cuts to the health service announced for 2012 (€543). It is more than 8 times the total due to be raised from the Household Charge this year (€160m). It is almost ten times the money to be cut from the education budget in 2012 (€132m).

Minister Varadkar told us on Sunday that not to pay these Anglo bonds would be akin to setting off a bomb in the middle of Dublin. Well Leo, that horse has already bolted.

Your December budget has blown a hole so big in the finances of low and middle income families it will take them years to recover.

And all the while, fleecing the taxpayer and dismantling our public services Fine Gael and Labour are handing over billions of euro to Anglo bondholders.

Worse than this is the national scandal that is the Anglo Irish Promissory Note.

I have been raising this issue since early last year. Despite their promises to break with the failed banking policy of Fianna Fail and the Green Party – Fine Gael and Labour have signed up lock stock and barrel to annual payments of billions of euro from 2011 to 2031.

The first payment of €3.1bn was made on March 31st of last year. Fine Gael and Labour will pay another €3.1bn again this March, and next March and right through until their term of office ends.

While the cost of the Promissory Note itself is €30bn when one adds the capital repayments, the interest payments to Anglo and the cost of servicing the state’s debt in borrowing this sum, the final figure looks set to be in the region of €74.63 billion by the time it is paid off in 2031.

The Promissory Note represents more than 30% of our national debt. The annual payments add 3% onto our exchequer deficit. Last year the payment almost equalled the Government’s austerity adjustment.

This debt is so odious that a broad range of civil society organisations have formed a new campaign, Anglo – Not Our Debt, in order to bring a public focus on this matter. I commend the campaign and give it Sinn Fein’s full support.

The Promissory Note is not our debt. We can-not afford it. The mealy mouthed approach of the Government must end.

Rather than seeking marginal reductions on the cost of servicing the Promissory Note, the Government must declare its inability to pay and enter negotiations with our European Partners to find a resolution that is good for citizens, society and the economy, rather than bondholders, bankers and the Governor of the European Central Bank.

It is time for the Government to stop bailing out the bondholders and bankers and start investing in people, jobs and services.

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Speaking today in response to comments from the IMF on the state of the global and European economies Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on the Government “to heed the warnings of the IMF on austerity and start investing in growth”.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Today the IMF issued a series of stark warnings to political leaders in Europe. They downgraded their global growth projections for 2012. They said that austerity was blocking a return to growth. They said steep cuts would undermine market confidence. They said that the crisis in the Eurozone was stalling a global recovery.

“In a thinly veiled rebuke to EU leaders they called for an EU response to the banking crisis; for further reductions in ECB interest rates; for action on unemployment; and for credit to be directed to households and businesses.

“All of this confirms what Sinn Féin has been saying for months, namely that the approach being taken by the government and their EU counterparts simply isn’t working. It also supports our argument that bank recapitalisation should be funded by EU institutions rather than member states.

“The government is frozen out of the markets because our debt is too high and the prospects for growth are low.

“The government must heed today’s warnings from the IMF. Austerity and bank bailouts are making the economic crisis problems worse. We need to start investing in job creation to simulate growth. Otherwise we will remain frozen out of the markets and will have to go once again, cap in hand, to the EU for a second bailout.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has accused the government of a ‘cowardly and unacceptable’ refusal to commit to holding a referendum on the Austerity Treaty that is scheduled to be discussed at this weekend’s European Council meeting.

And he warned that if passed the Austerity Treaty will “see a significant surrender of fiscal sovereignty handed over to unaccountable unelected bureaucrats and the imposition of right wing austerity policies on Irish and EU governments in perpetuity.”

The Sinn Féin leader and TD for Louth was speaking this evening in the Dáil during a debate on Sunday’s European Council meeting.

Mr Adams said:

“It is clear that the main focus of the Irish Government has been to ensure that a referendum will not be held on the Austerity Treaty. The government is afraid of the people.

“The democratic imperative must be to ensure that the people decide on any agreement with such far-reaching consequences.

“The intergovernmental treaty being negotiated by EU leaders will not solve the Eurozone crisis. It will make matters worse. It is bad economics and bad politics.

“What is being considered is not a fiscal compact. It is an austerity Treaty. It seeks to impose right wing austerity policies on Irish and EU governments in perpetuity.

“The introduction of a 0.5% of GDP deficit limit in state law will mean that the government will have to implement austerity budgets not just to 2015 as required by the EU/IMF programme, but for its full term of office and beyond. This will mean a decade of austerity.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD raised the Louise Bayliss “whistleblower” case in the Dáil today. He said it raised serious questions:
“I welcome the reinstatement of Louise Bayliss by the Irish Advocacy Network. It is a good outcome. However, it does not remove the necessity for us to raise the issues surrounding her case.
“This is a very serious matter. Before the Dáil Christmas recess, Louise Bayliss, blew the whistle on unacceptable conditions for a group of women in St Brendan’s Hospital, Grangegorman.
“Louise Bayliss highlighted in the broadcast media the disruption experienced by these mental health patients as a result of the severe staff shortage. They were dispersed and, in some cases, removed to what had been locked wards. This naturally caused distress and raised the question as to whether voluntary patients were being treated as involuntary patients, a very fundamental matter concerning the rights of all patients.
“After Louis Bayliss blew the whistle on this situation it was raised in the Dáil by a number of deputies, myself included. The minister subsequently visited St Brendan’s to see what were described as the temporary arrangements brought about by the staff shortages. That was on 15 December.
“The issue that must be addressed is why it took a patient advocate to go on national broadcast media to highlight this situation and to seek a remedy? The reality is that there would likely have been no ministerial intervention and no visit to St Brendan’s had Louise Bayliss not blown the whistle. Where are the safeguards for patients falling short and where are the reporting mechanisms in the system breaking down?
“This is also in the context of narrowly averted industrial action by members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association in another Dublin hospital, St Ita’s. Again the issue is the pressure on reduced staff and the reduction in bed numbers.
• Does the minister know how many people in the mental health services will be taking the early retirement option before the end of February?
• Is there a contingency plan for this?
• Is the minister concerned at the prospect of an even more severe staff shortage following those retirements and before new staff can be recruited?”
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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, has today directly accused Minister of State with Responsibility for NewERA, Fergus O'Dowd TD of attempting to impose water charges and planning to then sell off Irish Water. However Deputy said the Minister’s attempt will be met with firm opposition from Sinn Féin and the communities we represent.

Speaking at today’s Dáil Environment Committee Deputy Stanley said:

“The minster is clearly committed to imposing water metering on households. There is no evidence that water metering works, unless of course this government wants to fatten up the water service and sell it off. The projected cost of the meter installation varies from €500m to €1.5billion. This money would be much better invested in water conservation and upgrading the water supply system. Despite 36% of our water being lost through leakage, capital investment in water is being cut from almost €435 million in 2011 to €331 million in 2012. It is a cut of nearly €200 million on the 2010 allocation, with more cuts planned until the budget is reduced to €266 million in 2016.

“Where water metering has been introduced in England and Wales it has failed to reduce water consumption. In Denmark, a country similar in population to our own, where water charges are in place, the cost of water to the household is as high as €700 per year. This cost will hit the least well off hardest.

“It needs to be seen in the context of a household charge, septic tank charge, increase in school transport, 2% increase in VAT and a reduction in fuel allowance. All attacks on poor and low income families. All the evidence suggests that metering is simply a bad idea being enforced by a government hell bent on making families pay for the current economic disaster that we find ourselves in. Sinn Féin will oppose water charges every step of the way both inside and outside the Dáil.

“Sinn Féin fully supports improving our water supply. Water is a resource. It is a resource which everyone needs. We need to a coordinated approach on the island of Ireland towards ensuring that water is brought to where it is needed, when it is needed. And indeed homes and communities are protected against the adverse effects of flooding from too much water.

“There are 34 local authorities supplying water to nearly two million households. On one hand the government is selling off semi state bodies like Coilte and parts of the ESB and yet on the other hand they intend to establish a new public utility Irish Water. It would be easier, more efficient and indeed more economical to use existing infrastructure to supply and distribute water. But the evidence indicates that the establishment of another semi state body along with water metering is an attempt to fully privatise our water.

“The minister is attempting to establish and invest public money in a new public utility, Irish Water, make it economically viable and then sell it off sell it off to bail out the banks.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Waterford Senator David Cullinane has hit out at the cuts contained in a leaked report from the HSE which makes proposals, among others, to close three of the eight operating theatres at Waterford Regional Hospital.

Senator Cullinane said:

“The cuts contained in this leaked document will be devastating for the people of Waterford and surrounding areas. Proposals by the HSE to close operating theatres, a surgical ward, four paediatric in-patient beds and one intensive care bed will be disastrous.

“These savage cuts must not be allowed to go ahead. I am calling on all Oireachtas members in this region to press Minister Reilly to prevent the implementation of this plan for the devastation of our hospital.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has welcomed recommendations from Europe on the protection of the Irish language and the need to implement an Irish Language Act.

Mr. Ó hOisín stated:

"The Council of Europe has made three specific recommendations including one which calls on the authorities to develop comprehensive legislation on the Irish language in the North and take resolute measures to protect and implement more effectively the language rights of persons belonging to the Irish-speaking community.

“I fully welcome any call for the implementation of an Irish language act which will safeguard the rights of Irish speakers.

“For too long the Irish language has been treated as second class but due to the work of Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún, it has been given proper recognition in Europe

“It is time that the language was also given its proper recognition in the North and I am calling for those who oppose the act to realise that the language threatens no-one and work with us in order to bring equality to Irish language speakers.

“I would call on people to apply pressure on their elected representatives to fully support an Irish language act."

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