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Speaking in the Dáil today during Leaders Questions Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD questioned the continued close contact between members of the government and business man Denis O’Brien in light of the findings of the Moriarty tribunal.

Deputy McDonald also questioned Minister Hogan’s decision to shut down six separate public inquiries into planning irregularities.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has called on Government Ministers to review their contact with Denis O Brien. The Minster for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton has also criticised the Government’s close relationship with Mr O’Brien and criticised his attendance at the Global Irish economic forum in Dublin Castle last October.

“The Taoiseach seems to take an entirely different view and was quite comfortable to be pictured with Mr O’Brien at the bell ringing ceremony at the New York stock exchange.

“So what is the government’s position on this issue? Does this government honestly believe the continued close contact between members of the government and Mr O’Brien is appropriate in light of the findings of the Moriarty tribunal?

“It is simply unacceptable for Government Ministers to have a cosy relationship to a businessman against whom adverse finds were made by a tribunal established by the Dáil.

“Mahon is the latest revelation in a litany of corruption, maladministration and breaches of fundamental trust by the political establishment.

“The Dáil will have spent three days debating the Mahon Report and there is a widespread demand for change and renewal in Irish political life.

“One of Phil Hogan’s first acts as Minister was to shut down six separate public inquiries into planning irregularities. Corruption was clearly not limited to Dublin and the government needs to re-open inquiries into planning irregularities in Carlow, Cork, Galway and Meath County councils and Cork and Dublin city councils.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has called for an urgent meeting with Justice Minister David Ford regarding the continued imprisonment of Marian Price.

Jennifer McCann, who is on the Assembly’s Justice Committee said: 

"The continuing imprisonment of Marion Price is unacceptable. We have made this clear on many occasions since the British Secretary of State revoked her license.

"There are serious and genuine concerns about the condition of Marion Price's health. Yesterday I met with Marion Price's solicitor and have now requested an urgent meeting for both of us to raise these serious issues directly with the Justice Minister David Ford.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Willie Clarke has welcomed the publication of the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan that will guide the creation of renewable projects until 2020.

Mr Clarke stated,

“It is important that we move our energy needs towards renewable sources in the years ahead and this report outlines the strategy of developing renewable projects along our coast line.

“I welcome the fact that the Department of Enterprise entered into a comprehensive consultation with the many stakeholders including the general public before the publication of the report.

“I also welcome the establishment of the Offshore Renewable Energy Forum which will include stakeholders such as the fishing sector and environmental interests to advise it in the implementation of the plan.

“While it is important that we develop more renewable energy sources it is also vitally important that the environment is protected in creating projects such as wind farms or tidal projects so I am happy that any development will have to undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment before proceeding.

“The creation of this strategy will help us meet the 2020 target of having over 40% of our energy needs being delivered through renewable sources and this has to be welcomed.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on enterprise, jobs and innovation Peadar Tóibín TD will today move legislation in the Dáil to deal with the debacle of upward only rents.

Deputy Tóibín published the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Reviews of Commercial Rents) Bill this morning and was joined by John Shine of Fishing for Jobs and John Corcoran of Korky’s shoe shops.

Speaking this morning Deputy Tóibín said:

“The debacle of upward only rents has seen many businesses stuck with rents set in and around the peak that can only increase.

“These clauses are now banned in new leases but continue to operate in existing leases (ie legacy leases).

“Landlords have been unwilling to set aside these clauses and in most cases are prepared to let the tenant go bankrupt rather than set a precedent of dropping the clause.

“The continued operation of UPORR clauses has fundamentally undermined the domestic economy. Commercial rents increased by 240% between 2000 – 2007 while the consumer price index rose by 30% over the same period

“This piece of legislation aims to deal with this issue for once and for all.

“We believe our Bill is constitutionally sound, will not place a cost on the state and that it should get a second reading.

“Both government parties supported the ending of UPORR in legacy leases and included it in the programme for Government.

“We call on the government to live up to their commitments and immediately end the use of UPORRs by government bodies and state companies (including NAMA) where they exist.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD has called on Fianna Fáil to reveal the financial relationship between the Fianna Fáil government in the 1990s and major oil companies.

Speaking during the Dáil debate on the Mahon Tribunal report Deputy Stanley said:

“The Mahon report is damning but it is only a snapshot of that time. Political corruption did not start or finish with its publication. People are deeply concerned at the relationship between the Fianna Fáil government of the early 1990s and major oil companies. It must be remembered that Shell Oil negotiated a private deal with government ministers that ensured maximum profit for Shell and minimum gain for this state.

“Fianna Fáil has legitimate questions to answer. Did they receive any donations from oil companies in the 1990s?

“Proposed local government reform by Minister Hogan gives a real opportunity to radically overhaul local government. Sinn Féin is proposing workable solutions. These include the strict application of planning criteria before any rezoning of land can proceed. We also propose that any housing development must include access to social and cultural amenities, public transportation, jobs and education facilities.

“The challenge is not to read and debate the Mahon report but to ensure this level of corruption never happens again.”

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Speaking in the Dáil debate on the Mahon Report, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it is a terrible indictment of the way politics was conducted. But he also pointed out that the abuses exposed by the Mahon Report have been succeeded by further abuses by developers, such as at Priory Hall, which are possible because of self-regulation.
He said:
“The report of the Mahon Tribunal is a terrible indictment of the way in which politics was conducted in this state for decades. A former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has been disgraced and has now resigned from the party that he led to repeated and record electoral successes. A former senior minister and EU commissioner, Pádraig Flynn, has been exposed as corrupt and has also left the party in which for many years he strutted the Irish and European stage.
“Councillors, lobbyists and developers have been shown to be deeply involved in corruption of the planning process and the political process.
The revelations about planning corruption in Co Dublin, especially by Fianna Fáil, but also involving Fine Gael, that we saw emerge over the past 15 years, have been confirmed. People are not surprised but they are no less appalled by what was done.
“I want to refute some of the assertions that have been made in commentary on this report. I reject the notion being peddled in certain quarters that somehow the Irish people in general and all of us in political life are to blame because we tolerated or turned a blind eye to corruption. That is false.
“When you survey the range and depth of the findings of this tribunal and the number of persons involved one of the first questions you ask is ‘Where were the gardaí?’

“The report does not mention the fact that aspects of planning and development laws and regulations have moved in a very negative and damaging direction. We had a regime which gave scope to corruption of elected representatives. We now have a regime which has allowed widespread abuses by developers.
“The most outstanding example is of course Priory Hall. The disgraceful developer McFeely and his Coalport company got away with building that apartment complex because of self-regulation. But he is just one of many, albeit the most extreme example.
“The very governments whose members are found to have been corrupt in this report were the same governments who brought in so-called light touch regulation for the construction industry. A citizen wishing to build an extension to his or her home must go through the full rigours of the planning laws but a developer can build houses and apartments for sale or rent to hundreds of people without any proper inspection regime in terms of construction standards and fire safety. It can all be done as a paper exercise with no on-site inspection by the local authority. That must change.”
ENDS

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Responding to the news today that the Government has bought Irish Life for €1.3 billion, the Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said it beggered belief that the Government would agree to a deal of such magnitude without seeking approval from the Dáil.

Deputy Doherty said “on the one hand the Government was looking to sell off €3 billion of state assets, while spending almost half that amount on buying a bank asset.”

He also raised concerns about how this will be received by the 80,000 mortgage holders in Permanent TSB who are forced by the bank to pay top rates for mortgages.

Doherty said:

“Today the Government, under emergency banking legislation, bought Irish Life for €1.3 billion. It will not be lost on people that this figure is eight times the amount to be raised from the household charge and almost half of what is expected to be raised from the sale of state assets. It beggars belief that the Government would agree to a deal of this size without any consultation of the Dáil.

“I am also concerned about how this announcement will be received by the 80,000 homeowners who are forced to pay excessive variable rates of up to 6% on their mortgages by Permanent TSB, which is essentially being recapitalised by this €1.3 billion and is a state-owned bank. These homeowners have had no help from the bank or the state and yet here is their tax money being used once again to bail out the bank.

“This Government is continuously showing contempt for the democratically elected institutions of this state. Already this week, we have seen the Government sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese Investors on behalf of this state which may deal with the sale of state assets and yet the contents of that MoU are not being disclosed.

“When the Government is making decisions which entail such a huge cost to the Exchequer, it should become practice to bring the decision to the Dáil to at the very least debate the issue before it is signed off. I have argued that the Government cannot abuse its mandate and sell off state assets without consultation and I also believe it cannot and should not make acquisitions such as this without seeking the approval of the Dáil.”

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Speaking during today’s Dáil debate on the Mahon Report Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said she believed the political system faces huge challenges and questioned if Labour and Fine Gael really have the courage or commitment to root out the rot ingrained in the political establishment.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Mahon is the latest revelation in a litany of corruption, maladministration and breaches of fundamental trust by the political establishment. The entire system of public administration has been undermined, yet a sense of entitlement and a culture of back slapping still prevails.

“Government Ministers, current and former, who now wring their hands at the findings of Mahon are the very same people who, tribunal after tribunal, defended corrupt politicians. Micheál Martin’s crocodile tears fool no one.

“The Mahon Report is very clear. Systemic and endemic corruption was rife across the political spectrum. Do we really believe that so much has changed or that decades of political corruption were limited to a few bad apples located in and around Dublin?

“Why did Phil Hogan on taking up his position as Minister shut down six separate inquiries into planning irregularities? Here was an opportunity for Fine Gael and Labour to root out the rot but instead this government chose to internalise the inquiries away from the public eye.

“Is this the action of a government that is serious about political reform? There must be consequences for those found guilty of corruption, and at a minimum the government must ensure that no one who abused their public office continues to receive massive pensions.” ENDS

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During Leaders Questions in the Dáil this morning the Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams challenged the government on its plans to pay the €3.1 billion promissory note due on Saturday.

Speaking this afternoon Teachta Adams accused the government of engaging in “spin over a so-called deal on the promissory note in which Anglo Irish will buy a sovereign Irish bond.”

Teachta Adams said:

“Any agreement which fails to secure a write down of this toxic bank debt is a failure.

“The Promissory Note commits the government to paying Anglo Irish (IBRC) €31 billion over the next ten years and billions more in interest in the following years.

“This is a banking debt derived from incompetent as well as corrupt banking practices within Anglo-Irish Bank and the failure of previous governments to impose robust and transparent banking oversight.

“This is not the state’s debt or the people’s debt. The Promissory Note was a bad decision taken by the last government and now being implemented by this one.

“Despite the government’s effort to present such a deal as a breakthrough the facts are clear:

• The government intends paying the full €31 billion Promissory note
• It intends paying the €3.1 billion this week.
• The sleight of hand manoeuvre using a government bond will not change the government’s austerity plans. The cuts announced in the last budget will proceed as will those due in coming years.
• The toxic banking debt will now become sovereign debt.

“This scheme is about extending the payment of this debt further up the road.

“Citizens will still carry the burden of a banking debt which is not theirs.

“The flaw in the government’s approach is evident in the Taoiseach’s refusal to seek a debt write down and in Fine Gael and Labour’s willingness to tear up their mandate and election promises not to reward the greed of big bankers.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Jobs, Innovation and Enterprise Peadar Tóibín TD and the party’s spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Investment in the Northern Assembly Phil Flanagan MLA today jointly met with the leadership of the Irish Banking Officials Association (IBOA) to discuss the loss of jobs across the banking sector.

Speaking after the meeting Peadar Tóibín said:

“The scale of job losses across this sector is staggering with the recent announcements by AIB and Ulster Bank meaning that 9,450 jobs have been lost across Ireland in this sector since 2008. While much blame can be put at the foot of the management of banks for the, current economic crisis, it should be remembered that most of those job losses have been to low paid banking officials.

“The Irish Government, as the major shareholder in the banking sector, has a role to play to safeguard jobs, agree fair voluntary severance arrangements and support those who have lost employment to re-enter the labour market.

“The Minister for Finance and the government needs to make clear what the strategy for banking will be, how it will impact on services to communities and how the banks will achieve their employment targets.

“The government is forcing the banks to deleverage far too quickly and this is resulting in job losses in banking sector and failing to meet the credit needs of SME’s and the community.”

Phil Flanagan MLA said:

“The banking sector is organised on an all-Ireland basis. Two of the four banks operating in the North are owned and managed in Dublin. The job losses announced by AIB impact directly on the First Trust bank. I have raised this matter directly with the Minister Arlene Foster.

“Employees’ rights, north and south, need to be respected. Employment, north and south, needs to be safeguarded, and businesses growth north and south, is dependent on a working banking sector.

“We need a comprehensive approach across the island to the banking sector from the government and the Executive.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TDs and Senators have today launched the Easter Lily campaign at Leinster House.

Speaking from the launch Senator Kathryn Reilly said:

“Easter is a very special time for Irish Republicans. It is a time not only when we commemorate the heroic acts that took place in Dublin in 1916 but it is also a time when we remember all the brave men and women from across the country who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of creating a united and better Ireland.

“The Easter Lily symbolises unity, equality and prosperity for all the people of Ireland and it is with this in mind that we launch our campaign here today.

“I want to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to attend their local commemoration and wear their Easter Lily with pride.”

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has visited an Irish-medium school and an outdoor education centre in South Down.

During his first visit to Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche in Castlewellan, Mr O’Dowd met the Board of Governors before meeting staff and pupils in the school and the adjoining Naiscoil Uachtar Tíre.

After his tour, the Minister said: 

“The Irish language sector is the fastest growing in our education system, and I am pleased to be able to come and see the good work being done in a sector that continues to thrive and provide pupils with the opportunity to learn through the medium of Irish.

“I very much value the benefits that Irish-medium education offers children and I am confident that Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche will continue to play a role in the promotion of the Irish language in the surrounding area.

”The Minister also viewed the recently completed accommodation works at the school. The building has been designed to be easily extendable to meet future development needs of the school.Mr O’Dowd went on to visit Greenhill YMCA, an outdoor education and residential centre in Newcastle. The centre, based on the slopes of Slieve Donard, delivers a range of youth and outdoor activities.

The Minister said:

“Youth organisations such as the YMCA play an important part in the lives of children and young people. They provide opportunities for them to engage in positive and enjoyable educational activities outside the school environment which help build confidence, self esteem and develop interpersonal skills.

“Youth organisations offer a variety of programmes and activities that provide an added layer of non-formal learning through which young people gain additional skills, knowledge and qualifications. It is the youth workers and volunteers within these youth organisations that play a key role in ensuring that young people continue to make the most of these opportunities and develop as active members of their communities.”

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Speaking in Leinster House on the Mahon Tribunal Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said it was a tale of deceit and corruption showing how big business and those who held high political office conspired to corrupt the planning process at the expense of ordinary citizens.
The Cork North Central TD said;
“Greedy individuals who no sense of remorse who used their position of influence within Fianna Fail to line their own pockets with corrupt payments by corrupt developers at the expense of the very communities they were elected to represent. There can be no doubt in any one’s mind following this report that some of the most senior figures in Fianna Fáil, were up to their neck in the type of politics which served no one but themselves. It was these very same people, leading members of Fianna Fáil, who were responsible for nurturing, developing & maintaining the brown envelope culture, the Galway Tents, the payoffs and shady bank accounts that existed in Irish political life for far too long.
“As a politician I am angry by what they did but more importantly, as a citizen of this State, I am absolutely sickened by their actions. There is no place in Irish politics for the sleazy dishonesty, bribery and corruption that prevailed in Fianna Fáil and which a broke political system based on partition helped cultivate. The public have a right to know if these people, people like Deputy Martin and Deputy O’Dea are willing to share in the collective responsibility that comes with serving in Cabinet and are they willing to take ownership for the “attack” against the tribunal.
“I am asking the Government to consider the establishment of an all-party Oireachtas committee - one with a single task and a set time frame, whose objective is the implementation of the Mahon Tribunal's recommendations.
“If the Government want to restore trust among the electorate in the notion of representative democracy, what better way to do it - than for us all to sit here next September and with one voice - approve the most far-reaching reforms of the political system this country has ever seen. It is a massive challenge, but it is one Sinn Fein is up to, one we would approach with humility and in the spirit of cooperating with the other political parties in the Oireachtas.”
ENDS

NOTE TO EDITOR:
TRANSCRIPT OF SPEECH [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]
The Final Report of the Mahon Tribunal, published last Thursday, in to certain planning matters and payments is a tale of deceit and corruption that was 15 years in the making.
15 years condensed into just over 3200 pages, pages which only confirmed what many believed all these years.
Big business & those who held high political office conspired to corrupt the planning process at the expense of ordinary citizens.
In recent days, since the publication of the Mahon Report, I have spoken with many grass root Fianna Fail members, some are personal friends and there can be no doubt that they are hurting at the revelations.
Many of these people have invested so much of their own time and effort into the party and are now questioning for what?
They are now feeling betrayed and dismayed at the actions of fellow Fianna Fail members, whether they be former Taoiseach, Ministers or councillors, people they put their faith and trust in to represent everything they held dear, but who, as we now know and they now know, abused that trust.
Greedy individuals who no sense of remorse who used their position of influence within Fianna Fail to line their own pockets with corrupt payments by corrupt developers at the expense of the very communities they were elected to represent.
There can be no doubt in any one’s mind following this report that some of the most senior figures in Fianna Fáil, were up to their neck in the type of politics which served no one but themselves.
It was these very same people, leading members of Fianna Fáil, who were responsible for nurturing, developing & maintaining the brown envelope culture, the Galway Tents, the payoffs and shady bank accounts that existed in Irish political life for far too long.
As a politician I am angry by what they did but more importantly, as a citizen of this State, I am absolutely sickened by their actions.
There is no place in Irish politics for the sleazy dishonesty, bribery and corruption that prevailed in Fianna Fáil and which a broke political system based on partition helped cultivate.
There was no place then, there is no place for it now and there is certainly no place for it into the future.
The dog in the street knew what the story was with brown envelopes, golden circles and Fianna Fáil - and it is a scandal that it took so long, and so much of the tax-payer’s money, to eventually come out.
The people named in the Report disgraced themselves, they disgraced their families, their party and this State.
Everyone had the opinion that when it came to the planning process in this State, the old phrase “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” sprung to mind.
Of course, with the corrupt local public representatives of the time, as well as those in high office, it was not only about whom you knew but how much cash to go to them with as well.
It was a not a question of could they be corrupted, but at what price!
They sold the integrity of politics to whoever they wanted, regardless of the consequences to the ordinary hard-working decent people of this land.
Citizens who were already being shafted by the Government of the day who were hell-bent on introducing policies that would worsen the gaps between the haves and the have not’s.
These people did more to embed inequality in the social fabric of Ireland than our colonial neighbours across the water.
From the bottom to the very top of Government, politics was wholly, and systemically, corrupt.
Those at the centre of it operated as if they were untouchable.
The “Drumcondra Mafia” and the “Teflon Taoiseach” wouldn’t sound out of place in an episode of the Soprano’s but sadly these where the people entrusted with the public interest of Irish citizens.
When people did ask questions, the political gangsters high on the trappings of power acted with a level of audacity that is nothing short of astonishing.
Throughout the duration of the Tribunal’s workings, a serious amount of criticism was directed at it by members of the very political elite who had established it in the first place.
Rather than defend its integrity they chose to attack its independence for self-serving reasons.
Attempts were made to end the Tribunal altogether with “concerns for public spending” used as it a smokescreen to hide naked self-interest and self-preservation.
The report of the Mahon Tribunal states that during 2007 and 2008, members of the Cabinet embarked on a “sustained and virulent attack” against the tribunal.
Cabinet members questioned not only the legality of the tribunal, but also the integrity of its members.
These attacks came mainly but not exclusively as a result of the tribunal’s inquiries into Bertie Ahern’s conduct.
Deputy Mícheál Martin was a senior member of the cabinet then and is the Fianna Fáil party leader now.
For me, Deputy Martin has a number of questions to answer regarding the conduct and credibility of his party colleagues who are still members of this Dáil and where Cabinet Ministers at that time.
The public have a right to know if these people, people like Deputy Martin and Deputy O’Dea are willing to share in the collective responsibility that comes with serving in Cabinet and are they willing to take ownership for the “attack” against the tribunal.
The public also has a right to know if these attacks went to the top – were they part of an orchestrated campaign at the behest of disgraced former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern?
If Fianna Fáil could find it within themselves to be honest, to put citizens interests before party interests,
to act in the States interest rather than Fianna Fail’s interest they would do the decent thing and address this section of the Report.
Instead of taking responsibility for the actions of a Cabinet he served in, Deputy Martin rounded on every other party in this chamber.
He was busy pointing out what he saw as their flaws and failings as if this made what was discovered about Fianna Fail in the Mahon report any less repulsive.
Rather than lecture others, Deputy Martin should concentrate on getting his own house in order.
It is simply not good enough for the now leader of Fianna Fail, a then Cabinet Minister, to say that he does not know who the tribunal is referring to when it talks about these attacks on its integrity.
One only has to read the media reports from the time to know the Ministers who attacked the Tribunal.
Deputy Willie O’Dea, a man not unknown to the Courts for attacking the integrity of honest people, had no hesitation in attacking the tribunal with his flippant comments about communion money and half crowns from Owen O’Callaghan.
And just as people in 2010 did not believe Deputy O’Dea when he said, “I did not commit perjury.” They do not believe him now when he states that “I did not try to undermine the Mahon Tribunal.”
It is the nature and scale of these attacks, along with the corrupt payments the Tribunal investigated demonstrated the entirely decrepit nature of politics in this State at that time.
For those people who may still be serving politicians at whatever level, or to those in this House who may have been involved in this culture of corruption and whose names have not emerged yet,
they would do well to remember what somebody should have said to Bertie a very long time ago – your sins will find you out.
Listening to the public debate on this report is it any wonder people have no faith in the political system?
For too long the party political elite in this State, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the now defunct PDs fostered a culture of dependency by citizens on politicians.
We have seen establishment politician after establishment politician allow a system develop where people felt subservient to those in power.
Citizens developed the thinking that if you wanted to access your rights then you needed the nod and the wink of your local TD to make it happen.
People have criticised the cost of the Tribunal, and those were against its very existence were and still are, happy to feed in to that.
Yes it was long and expensive, but unfortunately it was necessary to as part of a bigger job to restore faith in the political structures of Ireland.
The truth should not have had to cost so much, and I hope when the DPP investigates the contents of the Report, it does not take as long to hold people to account.
The allegation of “corruption” against Bertie Ahern may not have been sustained in the Tribunal, but Justice Mahon certainly didn’t hold back when he said that he didn’t believe a word that came out of the man’s mouth during the course of his contributions to the Inquiry.
Poor ‘oul Bertie feels hard done by these days.
It is time to shut up or put up Bertie.
If you feel aggrieved by the findings of the tribunal then off with you to the Courts.
Let him recount to the Courts the nature of his dealings and the bank accounts he didn’t have, and his tales of “I won it on the horses.”
Let him spin his untruths and false statements anyway he wants and roll the dice and see what the outcome is.
Or better still why not save us all the bother of listening to your sorry tale again by climbing back into that cupboard of yours and closing the door never to reappear again.
The days where politicians feel that they can operate like Mafia dons must be over if we are to ever restore public confidence in politics again.
Hundreds of people across the country are bunkering down, hoping this will blow over, that the outrage and anger of the people will be a one week wonder.
They believe that if they can only avoid scrutiny, wait it out, bide their time, then they will be able to come out from under whatever stones they're hiding under today and normal service will resume.
How fundamental a break do we want with the Frank Dunlops of this world?
How committed are we to confronting and challenging these people? - To breaking the golden circles, because there was never just the one, at the intersection of property, capital and elected representatives.
The debate and the choices before us are bigger than Mahon, and certainly bigger than the grubby little men exposed as corrupt in this report.
In a few weeks’ time when all has been said and done on the Mahon Report.
When the politicians have finished the finger wagging and political posturing what happens?
Well that depends of those of us in this chamber and how we react to this report.
I know that the vast majority of elected reps in this chamber, from all parties and none, are, I believe, motivated by their commitment to public service.
Corrupt politicians got us into this mess and it is for politicians opposed to corruption to get us out if it.
It is not enough for any person or any party to turn away from the collective job which faces us, the job of cleaning up politics for good.
This is the Government should consider the establishment of an all-party Oireachtas committee - one with a single task and a set time frame, whose objective is the implementation of the Mahon Tribunal's recommendations.
If people want to restore trust among the electorate in the notion of representative democracy, what better way to do it than for us all to sit here next September and with one voice - approve the most far-reaching reforms of the political system this country has ever seen.
It is no small task, it is a massive challenge, but it is one Sinn Fein is up to, one we would approach with humility and in the spirit of cooperating with the other political parties in the Oireachtas.
I would also urge the Taoiseach to look again at scope and remit of the Constitutional Convention.
Mahon sent us all a clear message.
Our political system is corrupt from the ground up, the architecture of this state is crumbling.
Trust in the institutions of democracy in Ireland is falling apart.
A Constitution is a contract between the people and the state.
The Constitution of this State has been broken.
It cannot, I believe, be fixed or repaired.
It must be created anew.
The Government should cease the opportunity afforded by its decision to hold a Constitutional Convention to open up a real debate on what the Republic envisage by the men and women of 1916 really was.
Let us give the people of the island, north and south the opportunity to build a New Republic, a 32 county Republic, a republic which cherishes all of the children on this Nation equally.
ends

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Martin McGuinness MP MLA for Mid Ulster has welcomed the news of an £11.5 million investment by Vion Foods into their Cookstown factory which will see the creation of 164 new jobs.

Martin McGuinness said: “This is a good news story in difficult economic times and a welcome boost to the Cookstown and wider Mid Ulster economy”

“Investment on this scale with 164 jobs will ensure the continued development of the factory in terms of technology and equipment. This will enable the local workforce to enhance their own skills and experience in the food sector which will greatly benefit them in the industry.

The creation of an additional 164 jobs will not only instil confidence into the local economy but will create significant spin-off benefits to other local businesses. It will also confirm the Cookstown factory’s position as the largest pig processing plant on the island of Ireland.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community & local government Brian Stanley TD has announced that he intends to introduce a bill that will reverse the Household Charge.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the bill, Deputy Stanley said: “The bill, entitled Local Government (Household Charge) (Repeal) Bill 2012, aims to repeal the household charge and allow the Department to reimburse those households that have already paid it.

“Sinn Féin will be tabling the bill during private members’ time in June. Meanwhile we intend to run a positive, proactive ‘Back the Bill’ campaign. This campaign will be inclusive and community-based. We will be using the next few months to lobby and encourage TDs from all parties, including government parties, to vote for our bill in June.

“To date the household charge has been a disastrous episode for the government and in particular for the Minister of Environment, Phil Hogan.

“The vote in June will give the minister the opportunity to undo some of the damage his charge has inflicted on the coalition. Sinn Féin believes in strong democratic local government.

“For local authorities to function they require funding to provide services to the public. Hogan's household charge will only drive a wedge between the local authorities and the communities they aim to serve. The Local Government Fund should be returned to 2011 levels.

“I hope other parties, trade unions and community groups will support the bill and make the household charges history once and for all.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan is to raise the issue of using bond money to complete the infrastructure of unfinished housing projects with the Minister.

Mr McMullan stated,

“Due to the recession there are many housing estates across the North that remain without proper street lighting or roadways due to contractors going out of business and being unable to finish the estates they began. 

“Many of these estates are partially occupied leaving the residents in an estate without proper lighting and where the roadways become muddy during inclement weather.  This has led to safety concerns and damage to their property due to the dirty conditions.

“However I have ascertained that contractors must place a bond with the DRD Road Service before commencing with the building of the homes in order for the Road Service to install lighting and roadways.

“In a question to the Minister Danny Kennedy I have found that the DRD Road Service hold a staggering £12.5 million in bonds and I am calling on the Minister to use this money to honour the commitments to those residents who find themselves living in partially build estates.

“These people bought their properties in good faith and should be afforded some comfort and security by having proper lighting and roadways installed. 

“I intend to raise this issue with the Minister to ensure that those residents in partially built estates can get the proper facilities that they envisaged when buying their homes.”

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Sinn Féin Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called for public backing of the demands of the GAME workers. The sit-in at the GAME store in Monaghan Shopping Centre that commenced on Monday is continuing, as are similar staff occupations of other GAME stores elsewhere in the state. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Monaghan Town and County Councillor Seán Conlon were among the early visitors to call on the protesting workers this week.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“There needs to be government intervention in support of the GAME stores’ staff and of their customers. The company has indicated that the workers will receive nothing from their employers and will have to apply for State-funded bare minimum statutory redundancy payments.
“This is yet another example of employers dumping their staff and placing the burden on the public purse. The GAME store network has been well served over many years by a dedicated and well-informed workforce. They deserve better. Their years of service should be properly recognised and customers should be fully reimbursed for the credit they have built-up on their cards.”
ENDS

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The Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments was established almost 15 years ago in November 1997 and since then it has heard evidence from over 400 witnesses. It was the longest running public inquiry and produced four interim reports.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

“Bhí an fiosrúchán seo dírithe ar chaimiléireacht a bhí ceaptha a bheith ag dul ar aghaidh maidir leis an bpróiseas pleanála, sa chás mar shampla is go raibh íocaíochtaí á ndéanamh le polaiteoirí.

The Tribunal’s conclusions and its criticism of the political elite in this state are damning.

‘Corruption in Irish political life was both endemic and systemic. It affected every level of government, from some holders of top ministerial offices to some local councillors and its existence was widely known and widely tolerated.’

But these words of accusation and condemnation only touch on one aspect of the institutionalised sleaze and corruption that was rife in this state.

It wasn’t just political life that was corrupt.

So too was the business elite.

Together they formed golden circles of self-interest dedicated to preserving their wealth and privilege and power.

And this corruption did not just begin twenty years ago when the Beef Tribunal began its deliberations or later with the McCracken Tribunal or Flood/Mahon.

Institutionalised corruption and gombeenism were part and parcel of British colonial rule on this island and these practices survived and thrived in the post-colonial period.

Liam Mellows warned of this in the Treaty debates. He said:...`Men will get into positions, men will hold power, and men who get into positions and hold power will desire to remain undisturbed and will not want to be removed - or will not take a step that will mean removal in case of failure.'

Mellows was right.

Ní amháin a raibh an ceart aige ach bhí fís difriúl aige de Phoblacht agus rialú ina mbeadh an saoránach mar chroí láir tógáil stát nua.

Politicians and churchmen and business people did get into positions of power and abused that power in their self-interests and not in the interests of citizens.

Partition created not one but two conservative states on this island ruled by two conservative elites.

And the closed, narrow, post-civil war society that emerged out of partition in this part of the island was characterised by economic failure, by emigration, by backwardness on social issues, by inequality and by the failure to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.

Those who built this state also turned their back on the people of the north.

They turned their backs on the ideals of independence and of a genuine republic; on the rights of citizens enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation.

And as it evolved the political elite in this state was increasingly in hock to the Catholic Hierarchy.

The system here for decades abdicated responsibility for the care of children and single women and allowed a regime in institutions that abused and criminalised and terrified those who found themselves locked in these places.

The political establishment and the business elite which emerged in the aftermath of partition — the senior civil servants, the bankers, the judges, big business, the politicians of Cumann na Gael, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, and the Ulster Unionist Party in the north, created systems that entrenched their own privilege.

Systemic corruption bred a culture of corruption. It was part of the way that we were.

Corruption and backhanders and brown envelopes became acceptable – a normal way of winning political favour, of rezoning land for profit, and of buying votes and influence.

Cronyism became endemic.

Who you knew was more important than ability or fairness or what was right.

The ‘golden circles’ of big business and speculators, of bankers and financiers and developers, allied to a corrupt political elite, grew rich on the exploitation of others.

Léiríonn an tuairisc seo do dhaoine an santachas a bhí i réim ag elite áirithe ins an sochaí seo a ndearnadh creachadh ar ár maoin inar raibh ar an mórlach íoc as le toradh turraingtheach.

Family dynasties, party connections and donations to political campaigns all entrenched this corruption.

This was made easier by the concentration of political power in the hands of a few.

Weak and ineffective legal checks and balances, and little oversight and enforcement of laws to challenge corruption, made dishonesty and corruption easy and acceptable.

And the arrogance of the ‘golden circles’ has seen powerful individuals consider themselves above the rules that apply to ordinary citizens.

That double standard was graphically demonstrated in the famous television broadcast by the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey who told citizens to tighten their belts, while he lived the highlife at the taxpayer’s expense.

Agus ní raibh an hasc ‘cosy’ seo idir pholaiteoirí agus fir ghnó, baincéirí, tógáilaithe i bhFianna Fáil amháin.

This wasn’t limited just to Fianna Fáil.

In a classic example of the double standards that have applied in the political culture, in 1993 former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Garret Fitzgerald had debts of almost £200,000 which he owed to AIB and Ansbacher written off.

Just written off! Sin é. No explanation.

How many ordinary citizens, many now in negative equity and struggling to survive, will have the balance of their loans written off by AIB?

New rules and laws have to be put into place to end corrupt practices.

Too many of our citizens live each day with the consequences of corruption.

There are the many homeowners in mortgage distress because some politicians chose to facilitate developers and bankers and pursued an economic strategy which brought the state to its knees.

There are the growing numbers of elderly citizens who don’t know if they will have a public nursing bed when and if they need it.

Or the thousands of patients who languish on hospital trolleys because successive governments have failed to invest in public health services, choosing instead to promote privatisation.

And there’s the rub!

If you decide to privatise a public health service that’s the start of corrupting the service.

That’s the start of the process.

You run health for profit instead of as a right of a citizen that’s where the corruption starts and that’s where the corruption is currently ongoing at this time.

What of citizens living in sprawling, unfinished housing estates, with no shops, no youth facilities, no playing fields, no amenities and no place for elderly people to gather.

Each one of us have those across this island and in our constituencies.

While Mahon has revealed that politicians from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and Labour took bribes from developers perverting the planning process for profit, the upper echelons of Fianna Fáil in particular stands indicted.

And while the Fianna Fáil leader Deputy Martin outlines his position and I don’t envy him that task, will he take action against those who sought to thwart the Mahon Tribunal by embarking on a “sustained and virulent attack” against it?

Will he take action against those current Fianna Fáil deputies who questioned not only the legality of the Tribunal, but also the integrity of its members?

The Mahon Report demands firm measures by this government to deal with corruption.

Citizens are demanding resolute action.

If we are to end corruption and ensure transparency and accountability more needs to be done to clean up politics and to restore public confidence in the political system.

For example, one suggestion is the introduction of legislation that would allow impeachment or removal from the Dáil or the Seanad of any Oireachtas member involved in corruption, deliberate misuse of public money or fraud.

Furthermore, and it’s so obvious, former politicians found guilty of corruption should have their public pensions taken from them.

Particularly so when it comes to former Government Ministers or Taoisigh who enjoy excessive annual pension pay outs.

The DPP needs to conduct a full and prompt investigation into the findings of the Mahon report working with the Gardaí to bring charges of corruption to the courts as soon as possible.

It’s quite possible that none of what has been revealed would have come to light were it not for the role of whistle-blowers like James Gogarty and Tom Gilmartin.

Whistleblowers such as these are key in exposing and preventing corruption.

It is imperative that legislation is brought forward to protect whistle-blowers.

I welcome the publication of the draft heads of the new whistle-blower legislation by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.

If citizens are to regain their confidence in the political system, the government must implement the recommendations of Judge Mahon.

No excuses. No fudging.

Cronyism and privilege must be ended.

The Mahon tribunal investigated corruption in Dublin, but do we imagine for one second that this was all confined to the Pale?

Did it not happen elsewhere throughout the state?

I note that an internal review of planning decisions by a number of local authorities is underway but still not completed.
The previous Environment Minister John Gormley announced an independent investigation into six local authorities involved in controversial planning decisions.

However one of the first acts of the current Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan was to abandon plans for independent investigations dismissing them as mostly "spurious".

This includes an investigation into a relief road in Carlow, in his constituency, which was first highlighted in 2008 and led to a compensation case costing a total of €1.1 million.

The public need to have confidence that every decision taken is above reproach.

The internal investigation needs to be completed and the findings made public.

The Mahon report and its indictment of the political system, is a far cry from the ethos and high standards demonstrated by those whose bravery and courage and self-sacrifice we will commemorate and celebrate in 12 days time.

Or indeed to those who founded Fianna Fáil.

The Republic they fought and died for at Easter 1916 and in subsequent generations, is encapsulated in the words of the Proclamation of 1916.

For those who abandoned and corrupted its objectives the Proclamation is no more than a piece of paper to which they occasionally pay lip service.

But it is much more than that.

It is a charter of Liberty and Freedom and Rights as important as anywhere else in the modern world.

The Republic it envisages guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities for all its citizens.

The Proclamation contains a commitment to cherish all the children of the nation equally.

Not to exploit or abuse or steal from them but a promise to every Irish man, woman and child that they can share in the dignity of human kind and of this wonderful island that we live in.

Our party and I’m sure other parties and other representatives here are for a new Republic, a genuine republic, a republic fit for the 21st century.

A republic across this entire island where orange and green unite.

A republic based on citizenship and citizens’ rights; a republic that is accessible and responsive and inclusive to the needs of citizens and which upholds civil and human rights.

That republic must include rural Ireland and the protection of our uniquely rural way of life.

It must ensure that Gaeltacht communities thrive and the Irish language has the support required to flourish as a spoken language.

A republic that reaches out to and embraces our unionist brothers and sisters.

A new Ireland built on positive change, on equality and partnership.

A republic that is people centred, owned and responsible to the people and not to elites.

The people of Ireland deserve more than what we have at this time.

We deserve to be free of division, injustice and corruption.

Where wealth is invested creatively and fairly, and where poverty is a thing of the past.

So, that’s what I believe in. I’m sure many others share that belief and we should not let the revelations of corruption and graft put us off from building this new Ireland, this new republic.

The resources to build that – even at this time of great adversity - exist now.

This isn’t a pipe dream. This isn’t an aisling.

This is a real and achievable goal.

At Easter 1993, almost 20 years ago, John Hume and I issued our first joint statement.
We said that the ‘most pressing issue facing the people of Ireland and Britain today is the question of lasting peace and how it can best be achieved’ and we identified as our primary objecxtive ‘reaching agreement on a peaceful and democratic accord for all on this island’.
John Hume was vilified and our vision was attacked by all sides in this chamber. By all parties here.
But five years later the Good Friday Agreement was achieved.
So, nothing is impossible.
What is needed now is a vision of a different Ireland and more especially the political will to make this happen.

It can be done.”

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Conor Murphy MP, MLA, will be speaking at a conference, 'Aiete conference, a road-map for peace in the Basque Country?', on the Basque Peace Process at the European Parliament on Thursday 29 March 2012 at 9am in Room ASP 1G3, European Parliament, Brussels
The confernence, organised by the European Parliaments Basque Friendship Group is to discuss the outcomes of the Aiete conference, and the prospects for building a lasting peace in the Basque Country.
The Aiete Conference was attended by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and other international figures including Johnathan Powell, Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Bruntland, Bertie Ahern and Pierre Joxe.
One of the main speakers at the event will also be Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Jonathan Powell was one of the people who endorsed the statement coming from the International Conference (Aiete), which took place in Donostia/San Sebastian in October 2011.
Also present will be MEPs from different parties and countries, as well as representatives of Basque political parties.
The conference is to consider the role of the European Union and the European institutions in supporting the ongoing peace process and resolution of the conflict in the Basque Country.

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on workers’ rights Senator David Cullinane has criticised the video-game retailer Game for their failure to give their Irish workers an adequate notice period.

123 workers in Irish stores were informed yesterday that they were to be laid off as part of the restructuring of the company and the closure of the retailer’s Irish stores.

Senator Cullinane called on the company to pay the workers their redundancy entitlements in full.

Senator Cullinane said:

“Game should be ashamed of themselves for the manner in which they have treated their workers. The workers were informed by phone yesterday morning that they were to be made redundant, that they would not be getting any notice period and that their contracts are to cease on Friday or Saturday.

“The very least a company owes its workers is to inform them properly and professionally that they are to be laid off, and to allow them to work out their notice.

“It is clear that the company has the means to pay these workers their redundancy entitlements. It will continue to trade in some 333 stores in Britain. They should stop hiding behind the administrator and pay the workers their entitlements in full.”

Senator Cullinane also highlighted the need for the Government to introduce legislation to reform Redundancy Law.

“Game is only the latest in a long line of cases where workers have received minimal notice of being laid off and have been denied redundancy payments. It follows on from the cases of TalkTalk, Vita Cortex, La Senza, and Lagan Brick. How many times must this happen before the Government takes action?

“The Government should at the very minimum legislate to ensure that a longer notice period is provided.

“This idea has support across all political parties, as evidenced by the fact that last September the Seanad passed a Labour Party motion to the effect that where a company is proposing to make redundancies on a collective scale, that a longer notice period than 30 days should be provided by that company. We hope to bring forward proposals to this effect in the coming weeks.”

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