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Sinn Féin launch a 'PEOPLE'S PACT'

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has said Sinn Féin's progressive politics is the only alternative to austerity.

Some of the sights and sounds of today's massive Right2Water rally on Dublin's O'Connell Street this afternoon (March 21).  Reports that up to...


Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has said documents released today by Sinn Féin clearly show the DUP acted in bad faith over the Welfare Reform Bill.



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has described as “dishonest” claims made today by  Minister for Finance Michael Noonan that a no vote would make next year’s budget tougher.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Michael Noonan’s claim today that a no vote on May 31st would make next year’s budget tougher is simply untrue. The Minister’s claims are dishonest.

“The headline targets for next year’s budget have already been agreed by the Government and the Troika.

“If the Government downgrades its own growth forecasts again it will be because of its failed economic policy, not the outcome of the referendum.

“Austerity is blocking a return to growth. We are officially back in recession. The Government has been forced to downgrade its growth forecasts for 2012 four times in the last twelve months.

“The reason for this is clear, austerity at home hurts the domestic economy and austerity across the EU hurts our export sector. The Austerity Treaty seeks to impose even greater levels of austerity at home and across the EU in the years ahead which will be bad for jobs and bad for growth.

“A strong no vote this Thursday will strengthen the hands of those at home and abroad arguing against austerity and for jobs and growth.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said that recent comments by the SDLP regarding the Girdwood site had more to do with in-party fighting than delivering housing for the people of North Belfast.
The North Belfast MLA said:

“Comments by the SDLP’s Alex Attwood, Delores Kelly and Alasdair McDonnell over the last few days in relation to Girdwood have more to do with SDLP infighting than delivering housing for the people of North Belfast.

“Over the four years when the SDLP held the Department of Social Development under firstly Margaret Ritchie and then Alex Attwood not one brick was laid or any progress made regarding the regeneration of the derelict site at Girdwood.

“All we had from the SDLP was PR statements and electioneering but no delivery whatsoever. The SDLP numbers don’t add up. Margaret Ritchie proposed 200 houses, Alex Attwood 200 and now Alasdair McDonnell 220.

“The cross-party agreement announced last week between Sinn Féin the Ulster Unionists, the DUP and the SDLP, reached in conjunction with Belfast City Council officials, was highly significant and offers the prospect of unlocking the potential of Girdwood.
“The absolute core of this agreement was that housing will be allocated on the basis of objective need.” CROÍOCH/END

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The latest figures for retail spending found that the value and volume of retail sales has fallen annually since this Labour and Fine Gael came to power by, -1.8 and -2.7%.

Peadar Tóibín Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said:
“Last night the Taoiseach claimed that our economy was moving in the right direction. Today we learn that retail sales a key indicator of our economic health has further retracted.

“The policy of this government of taking money out of the economy and pockets of the workers is driving down demand and undermining our domestic economy. It is closing down businesses and costing jobs.

“Added to the hardship that the retail sector face is the fact that the government has failed to make good their promises to deal with upwarding only rent reviews. 50,000 jobs have been lost in this sector since the downturn and a further 30,000 are in jeopardy as a result of this government’s policy.

“There is a need to end the failing policy of Austerity and begin the process of investing in jobs and business. There is a need for urgent action to end the upward only rents that are still in place.”
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Speaking today Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on voters to “trust their instincts and vote no this Thursday.” The Dublin Central TD said that, “The positive thing to do on Thursday is to vote No.  A strong no vote is in the best interests of Ireland and the European Union.” Sinn Féin is holding two major rallies in Dublin and Galway this evening and I would invite anyone who is still undecided to attend.”

Deputy McDonald said:

“Passing the Austerity Treaty this Thursday will mean more austerity and less democracy.  Sinn Féin is calling on voters to do what is best for Ireland. The positive thing to do on Thursday is to vote No.

“Most people instinctively know that this Treaty is a bad deal. They know that the Government has not been able to find a single positive reason to vote yes. They know that the Treaty may well be subject to change. They know that the Government’s campaign has been based on fear.

“I am urging people not to be bullied on Friday. People should trust their own instincts and do what they feel is right for themselves, their family and the country.

“A strong no vote this Thursday will strengthen the hand of all those, at home and across Europe, who are arguing for investment in jobs and growth. It will send a strong signal to the Government that austerity simply isn’t working and that a change of direction is needed.

“Sinn Féin is holding two major rallies in Dublin and Galway this evening and I would invite anyone who is still undecided to attend.  The Dublin Rally will take place at 7.30pm in the Pillar Room in the Rotunda and the Galway Rally will take place at 8pm in the Menlo Park Hotel.” 

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Adams reiterates call for Kenny to debate Treaty

Commenting on this evening’s TV broadcast by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

“This evening’s broadcast by An Taoiseach merely highlights, once again the need for a real debate involving the man who leads the campaign to have the Austerity Treaty passed by the people.
“This evening’s monologue by An Taoiseach was a contrivance to facilitate his refusal to debate these issues issue with me.
“I call once again for Mr Kenny to engage in such a debate before polling day.
“I call also for citizens to be wise, to reject the failed policy of austerity and to stand up for Ireland and Vote No to this Treaty next Thursday.”

ENDS

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A chairde,

Tá failte romhaibh uilig chuig Ard Fheis Sinn Féin i anseo i gCill Áirne, contae Chiarraí.A special céad míle fáilte also to our Friends of Sinn Féin from the USA, Canada and Australia, to our comrades from the Basque country, from South Africa, Palestine and Cuba and to all foreign dignitaries.
Yesterday was Africa Day when that continent celebrated its freedom from colonialism.

But today western powers haggle while 20 million people in the Sahel region of north Africa face a severe famine.

Thus far the international community has not provided the money urgently needed.

This Ard Fheis extends solidarity to the suffering people of Africa.

We urge our government to do its best to encourage the international community to help the people of the Sahel.

Solidarity also to the people of the Middle East and comhghairdeas to the Palestinian hunger strikers who secured a deal on prison conditions.

Everything is relative but in Ireland we also have our difficulties.

Over half a million are unemployed - almost 450,000 in this state.

Many citizens cannot pay their bills or mortgages.

Youth unemployment is especially high, north and south.

I recently spoke to one woman who told me that three of her brothers, all married, left two weeks ago for Australia.

Her distress was plain and is shared by tens of thousands of other families.

The policies of Fianna Fáil, and now Fine Gael and Labour are responsible.

Forced emigration is one of the huge damning failures of this state.

Citizens are angry.

Angry at the political and banking elite and the developers – the golden circle – that enriched itself through corruption, greed and bad policies.

Angry at the government for failing to hold these elites to account.

Angry at broken promises by Fine Gael and Labour not to pay one more red cent to bad banks and then handing over €24 billion.

Many citizens thought they were voting for change in last year’s General Election.

But what happened?

Tweedle dum has been replaced by Tweedle dee and Tweedle dumber.

Fine Gael and Labour were elected to change the disastrous policies of Fianna Fail leaderships.

Instead they embraced these policies.

They have cut public services and wages.

Attacked the rights of the most vulnerable.

And introduced new stealth taxes.

The household charge, water charges; septic tank charges; VAT and fuel increases.

What is the point of the Labour Party in this government?

What would James Connolly think of the Labour leaderships’ implementation of right wing austerity policies?

What would he think of the promises made and broken by the party he founded?
My commitment to you this evening is that Sinn Féin will not make any promises we will not keep.

When Sinn Féin makes a commitment – as we demonstrated often during the peace process – we keep our commitments.

Creideann muidinne gur féidir le hÉirinn, idir Thuaidh agus Theas, theacht amach níos láidre agus níos rathúla as an ghéarchéim seo. We live in a great country.

Our history is replete with challenges, adversity and great injustice.

But our people have come through it all.

And in every generation brave men and women have come forward.

From 1798 to 1847, from 1913 to 1916 to 1981.

Visionaries have shown the way.

They made a stand.

Today workers at Vita Cortex in Cork, La Senza, Wilsons, in Game shops, and at Irish Cement have made a stand.

Today Lagan Brick workers are 164 days on strike.

Parents defending their children with disabilities, hospital campaigners, carers, teachers, health workers, defenders of our schools, turf cutters, citizens who are standing up for themselves and their families and communities, are showing the way.

So too are citizens who work in the community and voluntary sector, in our sporting organisations, in the arts, in environmental groups, in defence of our language, in support of our young people and our senior citizens.

Citizens who are supporting victims of abuse, including drugs and alcohol misuse and suicide prevention, are holding our communities together.

These active citizens, compassionate carers and community activists are the real Ireland.

Tá siad ag seasamh an fhóid do achan duine.
Tá siad ag seasamh ar son Éireann.

Agus tá muid fior buíoch daoibh.

We have to follow their example, all of us and demand our rights as citizens.

The right to a job, to a home, to a decent health service and education, to a clean environment, to civil and religious liberties, and to top quality public services.

We have to break the cycle of austerity and inequality.

We need to get citizens back to work.

We need fair taxation.

We need to eliminate wasteful public spending.

And yes, it is crucial that we deal with the banking debt.

But these policies must be accompanied by a plan to get citizens back to work.

And austerity won’t do it.

In the North, the absence of fiscal powers and cuts by the British Tory government, have made the Executive’s task more difficult.

In this state the government gives fiscal powers away!

This state needs a government led job creation strategy.

There are funds available – in the National Pension Reserve Fund, in the European Investment Bank, in the Private Pension sector and in NAMA.

Sinn Féin proposes a €13 billion stimulus.

This stimulus would run over three years creating approximately 130,000 jobs directly.

The projects are there.

Vitally needed schools, crèches, roads, regeneration projects; broadband and a water system that needs to be modernized.

Sinn Féin supports inward investment but we will also champion Small and Medium enterprises and homegrown businesses.

Upward only rent reviews, and the denial of credit by banks for our small and medium sector, doesn’t make economic sense.

It does make economic sense to replace imports with home-produced products and to target specific sectors for export.

It does make economic sense to expand the agri-food sector.

It does make economic sense to build on the potential of tourism.

Sinn Féin advocates a joined up all-island strategic approach to fully exploit this potential.

Sinn Féin will also change social protection to introduce a safety net for the self-employed.

Ireland does have the visionaries to develop our own industries.

That vision must be matched by government action.

Ní dheanann déine é sin.


Ní hí an déine an reiteach.

Caithfidh muid daoine a chur ar ais ag obair.

In a real republic there is a duty to provide the highest quality of public services.

Better services delivered more fairly and paid for by direct taxation.

All citizens, throughout their lives, should have access to education at all levels based on their ability but the cost of educating their children is increasingly a challenge for many parents.

Education must give children, all our children, the best start possible. That also is good economics.

Tá Sinn Féin tiomanta do leasuithe sláinte – agus do infheistíocht in ár seirbhís sláinte poiblí.
A public health service, free at the point of delivery which provides for citizens from the cradle to the grave, and also funded by direct taxation, is good economics.

The number of sick children awaiting hospital admission and on trolleys had increased by almost 700% in three years.

In the first four months of this year 26,106 citizens were left on hospital trolleys.

Almost 60,000 patients – adults and children - are on waiting lists - a 50% increase on 2010.

After one year of this government the health service is worse now because this government is doing exactly the same thing as Fianna Fáil.

And patients and their families are paying the price while those at the top award themselves obscene salaries and huge bonuses.

Citizens need to stand together against this. It is wrong.

It must be stopped.

Rural Ireland is also under attack.

Rural schools, post offices and Garda stations are being closed.

Rural people are told they can no longer cut turf where it has been cut for generations.

They are being compelled to pay septic tank and household charges.

Unemployment is driving young people to far off foreign shores.

In Leitrim I was told that half of those between the ages of 22 and 26 have left.

The heart is being torn from communities as a whole GAA generation leaves for Canada and Australia.

In this state around 70,000 people are emigrating each year.

That’s nine citizens every hour.

Mothers and fathers wonder who will leave next.

Rural Ireland, and especially the west is being devastated.

Forced emigration is not a life style choice.

But it is an indictment of the two men from the west who lead this bad government.

Shame on you Taoiseach.
Shame on you Tánaiste.

Sinn Féin is engaging with people across rural Ireland and listening to their hopes for the future. We are looking at what rural Ireland has to offer rather than how it can be targeted for cuts.

There is anger too in Gaeltacht communities.

Gaeltacht schools are being targeted.

The 20-year strategy for the Irish Language is not being implemented.

Sinn Féin has recently appointed an Irish language officer to strengthen the use of Irish within our party and to direct our Irish language strategy.

Our Minister Caral Ni Chuilin is doing trojan work to support and develop the Irish Language.

This Ard Fheis commends her successful Liofa campaign.

I want to turn now to the Austerity Treaty.

When considering what way to vote people need to ask themselves if the austerity of recent budgets led to jobs and growth?

The answer is obvious. The answer is no.

If you accept that, you should vote No.

Austerity isn’t working now and won’t start working on 1st June.

Neither will it bring stability or certainty.

Austerity means more cuts.

And increased charges.

Right now if you do not like the policies of the government you can sack them or re-elect them.

You won’t be able to do that with unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Frankfurt and Brussels.

That is undemocratic.

Don’t give up your power.

Don’t give your democratic rights away.

And don’t write austerity into the constitution.

Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil have not offered any positive arguments in favour of this Treaty.

The Taoiseach won’t even debate the issue!

That’s not leadership!

That’s not showing citizens the respect they deserve!

Instead Mr. Kenny, Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Martin are trying to scare people into voting Yes.

Whether it was British rule or a domineering church hierarchy, Irish citizens have had enough of being ruled by fear.

We are done with that.

The Irish government is also out of step with the rest of Europe.

Other EU states are delaying ratification because they know the mood in Europe is changing.

But not our government.

They settled for much less than anyone else, despite Sinn Féin’s clear warning about the foolishness of accepting this bad Treaty.

When the Taoiseach endorsed it in the Dáil he never mentioned growth or jobs.

Not once!

Or a write down of Bank debt.

The truth is Mr. Kenny and Mr. Gilmore are out of their depth.

This Government simply cannot be trusted on this Treaty.

It claims we will be locked out of funds if citizens vote NO.

That’s not true!

The legal mandate of the ESM is very clear.

Funding will be provided, and I quote, where it is ‘indispensable to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area as a whole and of its Member States.”

So don’t be fooled.

Remember what Fine Gael and Labour said during the election.

Remember all Fianna Fáil’s promises.

Don’t be fooled. Be wise.

Join with the millions across Europe who are demanding an end to austerity.

It is a good and patriotic and positive action to say NO to a Treaty that is bad for you, bad for your family and community, bad for society and entirely without any social or economic merit.

Next Thursday. Vote No.

It is five years since the historic deal between Sinn Féin and the DUP.

The business of delivering for citizens is continuing.

There are still outstanding issues including on the Irish Language, a Bill of Rights and other equality issues.

The British Secretary of State has also made a number of unhelpful and unwarranted interventions, including his decision to revoke the licences of Martin Corey and Marian Price.
The British Secretary of State should go back to England where he belongs.

Marion Price and Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough, should be released immediately.

The political institutions in the North need to move to the next stage – the transfer of fiscal power to the Assembly and Executive.

The continuing exercise of fiscal power by the British Treasury will lead to more cuts in the block grant and more right wing welfare policies being imposed on us.

Despite the difficulties a huge effort by the Executive has resulted in jobs being retained and new jobs created.

Unemployment in the North has fallen and at 6% is less than half the level in this state.

Despite the lack of fiscal autonomy the Sinn Féin Ministerial and Assembly team have stood against cuts, and used public funds to invest in jobs and growth.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has ensured funding for the A5, the new road linking Monaghan, Tyrone, Derry and Donegal, the expansion of Altnagelvin and Omagh hospitals and the freeze on Student Fees.

There are many good positive cross border developments.

For example, the new cancer unit at Altnagelvin in Derry will serve patients from Donegal.

And I want to commend DUP Health Minister Poots for ensuring that the new hospital in Enniskillen will be open to patients from Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.

Sinn Féin Ministers have created a social investment fund to tackle disadvantage.

We have capped the domestic rate, established an Executive sub-committee on Welfare Reform to alleviate hardship and introduced new measures to address Youth Unemployment.

And at a time of tight budgets a Winter Fuel Payment was made to citizens

Sinn Féin refused to introduce water charges.

We stopped the privatisation of water services.

Education Minister John O’Dowd is progressing reforms to break down the social, economic and regional barriers to education.

These include free school meals, school uniform grants, extended youth services and early years provision, and an almost five percent increase in the budgets allocated directly to schools.

As well as growing the North’s agri-food sector to create jobs Agriculture Minister Michelle O Neill is also tackling rural poverty and isolation.

I want at this point to pay tribute to our outgoing poll topping MEP for the Six Counties, Bairbre de Brún.

This Ard Fheis thanks you Bairbre for your work in many leadership positions over many years.

Tá muid fior buíoch duitse.

Agus beidh muid ag obair le chéile arís sa todhchaí.

And I thank Martina Anderson for her work as a Junior Minister and wish her well as she prepares to take up new challenges as an MEP.
I commend our Leinster House and Assembly teams, our MPs and Councillors and all our activists.

Across Ireland Sinn Féin is building the political fightback against austerity.

Sinn Féin TDs and Seanadoirí and our other activists in Leinster House are leading the political opposition to this government.

But I want to single out and commend and thank Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Mícheál Mac Donncha who have just completed 15 years in the Dáil.

Go raibh maith agat Bríd.

I also want to pay tribute to Martin McGuinness for standing in the Presidential election.

It was a tremendous campaign for Irish Republicanism.

A decisive and defining intervention at the beginning, and most importantly at the end.

Tá athrú mór tagtha ar an Tuaisceart go háirithe le blianta beaga anuas mar gheall ar an proiséas síochána. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the British Government has agreed to end its jurisdiction if a majority of people vote that way.

All of us — north and south, nationalist, unionist and others, need to plan for that.

In this state more and more people realize we do not have a real republic.

Sinn Féin wants to demonstrate to unionists that a united Ireland is also in their interests.

A United Ireland makes sense.

A single Island economy makes sense.

It does not make sense on an island this size and with a population of six million, to have two states, two bureaucracies, two sets of government departments, and two sets of agencies competing for inward investment.

Harmonising our systems will save money, improve efficiency and create jobs.

A new, agreed united Ireland will emerge through a genuine process of national reconciliation.

Through a cordial union.

Sinn Féin is for a new republic where the interests of citizens come first.

A new Republic that is inclusive and pluralist.

A new Republic created democratically and peacefully.

Sinn Féin is about nation building.

A nation rooted in harmony, equality and justice.

The people of Ireland are entitled to social justice.

Equality is achievable.

Irish people have the genius and the right to demand it.

In our time.

For all citizens, for all our communities.

So, now is the time for courage.

For commitment and patriotism.

For hope.

For all our children.

For our great country.

For Ireland.

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Rural Ireland occupies a special place in the hearts of the Irish. Our history is intensely bound up with the land, and it was through the struggle for the land, that our people regained our pride and self-confidence.

Despite all the changes that have taken place in Ireland in recent times, most of us are still only a generation or two from a farmhouse and rural communities still represent a huge proportion of our population.
But rural communities are facing an unprecedented and unrelenting attack from the Dublin Government.

Tá pobail a bhí beo, bríomhar, ina scáilbhailte anois. Tá an bhearna idir saibhir & daibhir ag fás agus níl ceist ar bith ach go bhfuil rialtaisí leanúnacha freagrach as seo. Tá siopaí agus gnónna a bhí gnóthach agus rachmasach, tar éis dúnadh de bharr an ghéarchéim eacnamaíochta, agus tá bailte tar éis oifigí poist, staisiúin Gardaí, agus fiú amháin foirne iomlán peile a chailliúint.
Tá an daonra ag titim. Gach seachtain cailltear rabharta eile de dhaoine óga, atá ag fágail na bailte dúchais le dul go dtí na príomhbhailte - nó níos faide i gcéin, go dtí an Bhreatain, go Ceanada, an Astráil agus eile.

Successive Governments have neglected rural communities through a lack of investment in infrastructure, social services and education. This Government, far from reversing this trend, have accelerated it. They are taking away teachers from rural schools, closing rural Garda stations, without a care for the communities, and they have taken no action to create employment in rural areas.

Mar phoblachtánaithe, oibrímid ar son Éireann ina bhfuil an ceart agus an chomhionnas ag a chroílár. Ní chóir go mbeadh tionchar ag an áit inar rugadh tú, ar an soláthar Oideachas, ar an gcúram slándála, nó ar an gcaighdeán sláinte atá ar fáil duit. Caithfimid, mar sin, cur i gcoinne an ionsaí dochreidte seo ar an tuath agus oibriú leis na pobail, chun cur i gcoinne na gciorraithe, cur i gcoinne an easpa fostaíochta agus cur i gcoinne an imirce atá dár mbánú.

Sin ráite, ní mór dom treáslú leis an Aire Talmhaíochta agus Forbartha Tuaithe sa Tuaisceart, Michelle O’Neill MLA, agus Michelle Gildernew MLA, as a gcuid oibre le blianta beage anuas ag tabhairt tacaíocht do phobail tuaithe an Tuaisceart. Tá siadsan agus foireann uilig Shinn Féin sa tionóil, tár éis tús áite a thabhairt i gconaí dóibh siúd faoin dtuath atá faoi míbhuntáiste, cuma cén cúlra atá acu.

Over the next few weeks and months I, along with my Kerry culchie colleague Martin Ferris TD, will be travelling the highways and byways of this island and meeting the ordinary people of rural Ireland, to hear their concerns.

We will be doing so to formulate a plan, a policy roadmap for the future of rural Ireland - because Sinn Féin believe in Rural Ireland. We believe that with the right attitude within the rural community and with the right response from those in authority, rural Ireland has a vibrant and prosperous future ahead of it.
Tógfaimid an tuath, as an nua, agus is ar scáth a chéile a dhéanfar sin a chairde.

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As you will be aware, the Party is currently involved in a campaign to highlight the impact of the austerity programme on rural Ireland.

As the main motion indicates; that impact has been felt across a range of areas of public provision which has seen a serious deterioration in services; from schools and hospitals and bus services to the closure or downgrading of Garda stations and post offices.

That along with the overall impact of the economic downturn and the loss of jobs has led to a return of large scale emigration from rural communities.

Unemployment in some rural areas is of epidemic proportions. While the state wide average rate of unemployment is high at over 14%, it stands at over twice that in parts of the country and would be even higher were it not for the fact that so many people are leaving.

Along with the economic and financial impact of austerity we have seen an increase in social and other related problems. As young people leave, rural communities lose much of their vitality and that is perhaps most evident in the decline in sports clubs.

Those who remain behind often feel more isolated and that has led to an increase in the psychological problems associated with isolation including suicide.

We recognise that the GAA and the Irish Countrywomens Association and farmers groups are attempting to tackle some of these problems and they deserve the fullest possible support.

The reason that we launched this initiative was to attempt to bring together the diverse range of people who are involved in rural Ireland. We are not going to them and telling them what we think needs to be done, we are asking for their views and that is why we are currently in the process of meeting a range of organisations across the country.

We want to hear what people themselves feel needs to be done in order to turn around the current politics and economics of austerity and to utilise to the maximum our own human and other resources in order to build recovery in rural communities and throughout the country as a whole.

As part of that we are asking the groups and communities who we meet to submit to us their ideas. They will all form part of a comprehensive report which we will be drafting during the Summer and presenting as our analysis of the problems facing rural Ireland and our positive proposals incorporating those from various sectors of the community for the future development of rural Ireland. Central to our vision for rural Ireland is to utilise to the optimum benefit of the people of Ireland our own indigenous resources.
They range from natural resources such as our land and forestry and minerals on and offshore, to the talents and enterprise of our people individually and in communities.

Even in the midst of the current malaise those talents are evident. They are there in small businesses and they are there in local sports and other voluntary organisations, and indeed in our schools and hospitals and other public services where dedicated individuals are doing their best with greatly reduced support from the state.

It is only by developing those resources and those talents that this country will not only emerge from the current crisis but can lay the foundations for sustained and real development into the future.

If we have that as the basis of the rural and overall economy then we will not be as vulnerable to the periodical downturns in the global economy. And more importantly we will have a sustainable economy not built on property and speculation and bad credit but on the utilisation of our own resources and talents.

That is central to our vision for rural Ireland. And to our vision for a fully independent and sovereign Republic.

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A Chairde,
I am speaking today to Ard Comhairle motion 171,
Agriculture is the backbone of Irish society, always has been and hopefully always will be. Our farming and agri-food sectors have still performed well through the economic downturn that our country and the world is dealing with. This is a testimony to the resilience and resourcefulness of our farmers when times are tough the tough get going and that is exemplified by our farming sector.

But farming in Ireland is now impacted by global events such as droughts in Russia or Australia or conflict in the Middle East which can have huge influences on feed and fertilizer prices and well as fuel. But the most significant impact on Irish farming is EU policy and at times this can help or hinder Irish farming interests.

At present the EU Common Agricultural Policy is being reformed and the aim is to have a new policy in place by 2014. The last major reform was in 2003 and was implemented in 2005. We would like to see a new policy in place by this date but we are concerned that there signs of potential slippage and time is getting tight for implementation by the desired date. However that issue is largely out of our control.

Sinn Féin believes in a new policy which well-funded, flexible, to adapt to local needs and simplified from the current bureaucratic regime.

The Commission published their initial proposals last year. Our Minister for Agriculture in the north Michelle O Neill decided that the Tory policy response in Britain would not reflect the needs of Irish farmers in the six counties and therefore decided to develop her own counter proposals which would be much more in line with farmers in the rest of Ireland and to present these to the EU Commission.

The key issues in the proposals are:

• A desire to see a smooth and orderly 10 year transition towards a flat rate support payment.
• The paper suggests combining the basic and greening payments into a single payment to deliver significant simplification.
• The Minister also proposed simplification of the greening requirements so that they are more focused and easier to administer while avoiding negative unintended consequences.
• An alternative and much simpler approach to the active farmer test, based on past production activity, this would refocus support towards active farmers at the outset.
• Finally, it is important that there is maximum regional flexibility to enable regions to address specific local needs.

We believe these are constructive and sensible proposals that we are determined to drive into the negotiations. What we need to see now is a Team Ireland approach to the upcoming negotiations. Michelle O Neill has been working closely with Simon Coveney and all the 15 Irish MEPs the Agriculture Committee members in the Assembly, of which I am one, and the Oireacthas as well as the Farming Unions north and south to align our positions so that we can present a united front to Europe in order to protect the rights of Irish farmers.

Therefore I ask you to support motion 171.

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Sinn Féin launch a 'PEOPLE'S PACT'


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Sinn Féin Dublin South West