And a mission statement, which we should adhere to for all our young people and indeed not so young, because the pursuit of knowledge should be a lifelong project.
In regards the years of formal and indeed formative education for our young people we need to firstly light the fire of education both in the child, their parents, guardians and wider community.
My vision of education is to equip every citizen to value themselves to equip them to value their fellow citizens and be a valuable asset to society.
All citizens deserve the right to access good education, regardless of gender, creed, class or colour.
I support shared education, however some of those who claim to support shared education in the North support economic apartheid in our school system while claiming to oppose religious apartheid.
If we are to create a shared education system then lets do just that, let us break down the barriers that stop young catholic and young protestants who share socio economic deprivation from achieving the right to value themselves.
Let’s make sure that the world leading education system we have built in our primary schools, which by the way have all-ability pupils from all socio economic backgrounds, continues into our post primary schools.
Lets end the economic apartheid, which is academic selection.
Moving onto the continued investment in education led by Sinn Féin in the Northern Executive.
Despite the cuts imposed upon the Northern administration by the British Government we have secured additional funding for education. Over this last two years we have secured almost £400m additional funding for frontline education.
Sinn Féin have redirected hundreds of millions of pounds into frontline education including youth projects. We are tackling social disadvantage to ensure all young people have the right to value themselves.
As a Sinn Féin Education Minister I will continue to lobby for additional funds and explore ways of redirecting money into schools and communities to tackle social disadvantage.
The Irish Medium sector continues to flourish, we have and will continue to respond to the growing parental and community demand for children to be taught through the medium of Irish.
As a party we can be justifiably proud of the role we have played in responding to and supporting the growth of Irish medium.
There is much more to do but rest assured Irish medium education is now an integral equal part of the North's education system, it is protected in legislation and it is here to stay.
We continue to develop work programmes through the work of the North/South Ministerial Council, having two education systems operating back to back particularly along the border is a waste of resources and a wasted opportunity to give our young people the best start in live.
We will however continue to build greater effective cooperation through the structures of the Good Friday Agreement
Comrades in conclusion
Sinn Féin over this last decade have lifted an education system which failing to light the fire in too many young peoples hearts to a system which is world leading at primary level.
We have more work to do and many challenges ahead but we are making real change.
The exam results of our young people improve year on year at post primary but here too we have more work to do.
We have the policies and the commitment to continue to light the fire of education in all our young peoples hearts.
Indeed many ordinary people across this island are being punished and penalised by austerity measures imposed by the British and Irish governments. And worse, we also face attack on basic welfare entitlements. Both governments rather than seeking to grow the economy are flat-lining the economy - driving even more people out of work, into poverty or onto the emigration trail of tears.
Other comrades will address the broader economic issues during this debate while I focus my remarks primarily on the welfare cuts being imposed on the north by Westminster.
Sinn Féin is opposed to this cuts agenda north and south - in the Oireacthas and in the Assembly as our opponents in the Dail and media know full well.
Let us remind them that the Irish government makes it’s own choices to cut welfare protection as does the British government, which then imposes those cuts on the people in the North.
Sinn Féin in the Executive and Assembly has led the opposition to the British attack on welfare and those most in need, but we have also introduced a range of measures to tackle disadvantage and poverty.
Irish government representatives should support us - not make snide and erroneous political comments designed only to shield their own embarrassment.
Since the social development minister introduced the welfare reform bill into the Assembly our party has made it crystal clear directly to him and the British government we are opposed to key elements of this legislation.
We will oppose the bedroom tax which would penalise families who simply cannot afford to pay and especially when there is no suitable alternative accommodation for them.
This tax would penalise families who generally live in modest 2/3 bedroom houses – simply because the Tories say these homes are too big for them.
We are opposed to sanctions which could remove people’s entitlements for up to three years. This sanctions regime will penalise many lone parents who are unable either to access or afford child care - or indeed penalise claimants who officials deem not trying hard enough to secure a job – even though there are precious few available.
We are opposed to the regressive policy of making women financially dependent on their partner under universal credit - as it takes benefits from purse to wallet.
So we will fight for the right of women to retain access to the purse strings through provision for split payments. We want to ensure that those who wish, will receive their benefits not once a month but twice monthly to help them manage their income.
We want to ensure that those who wish, can have their benefits paid to the main carer rather than all of it payable to the ‘head of the household’ - usually the man.
We will defend the right of disabled people and those who are ill to be assessed for work by qualified medical professionals and that medical evidence determines fitness - as opposed to private companies working solely for profit.
Remember, this British government has made it clear, the changes to disability benefits is about cutting 20% of the budget. And unfortunately, as was predicted, there is mounting evidence of targets for staff in job centres in England to reject a percentage of claims for a range of benefits. This is despite promises that such targets would not be set.
The welfare legislation will be debated in the Assembly over the coming weeks but Minister McCausland must step up to the mark to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Sinn Féin has made it absolutely clear that this bill, as it stands, is unacceptable and we have urged the minister and his party leadership to stand up for those who are most in need by rejecting this shameful cuts agenda.
A Chairde, Tá sé cúig bhliain déag ó síníodh Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta. Tá sé ceithre bhliain déag óna foilsíodh Tuairisc an Choimisiún Patten agus na céad ‘is seachtó a cúig Moltaí chun aghaidh na póilíneacht a athrú sa tuaisceart go deo. It is 15 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
It is 14 years since the Patten Commission published 175 recommendations, which would change the face of policing in the North forever. The importance of this development can be best illustrated in the resistance there was to it by the old guard RUC, Unionist politicians and the British securocrats. It would take 8 years of negotiation to turn those recommendations into law. Only then did the Special Ard Fheis in 2007 pass a motion to support the new policing structures. It was passed, on the basis of critical support – very deliberately, because although the legislation was essential, implementation was also crucial. In fact the transfer of powers on policing away from London and into local hands, didn’t happen until 2010. Sinn Fein’s position is set out in Motion 157 today. We want a non-partisan, non-political, civic police service, which is Human Rights compliant and representative of the whole community. Are there those within the system still trying to hold back those objectives? Clearly there are. The evidence is there: The old guard interfering with the Ombudsman’s Office; the refusal to give crucial evidence to inquests; the scandal of rehiring retired officers on huge financial severance packages; the different approaches to civilians and those with military backgrounds in HET investigations; the different approaches in policing between loyalist and republican demonstrations as witnessed in the so-called “Flag Protests”. Some months back Matt Baggott the PSNI Chief Constable indicated publicly that he wanted to attend a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. He then followed that up by tasking the PSNI to facilitate illegal loyalist parades and by his action, left the Short Strand area open to continuous sectarian abuse and physical attack. You might note his absence from our gathering here today. He has lost the confidence of the Republican and Nationalist people and if he is in any doubt about that, let him hear it from this Ard Fheis. Police accountability cannot be conditional. However community consent for policing is: • If the Chief Constable cannot be impartial how can we expect those who serve under him to act impartially. • There is a crisis of confidence and it needs to be addressed by the collective leadership of the PSNI as a matter of urgency. The debate that goes on about the PSNI must also be going on within the PSNI. • Differential Policing must stop. The PSNI must be seen to be impartial I sit on the policing board for Sinn Féin along with Caitríona Ruane and Pat Sheehan. Our job and intent is to hold the police to account. However, let me say this. There are also those within the PSNI who are up for the challenge, who believe in the new dispensation and who get it when we say that the greatest asset any policing service will have is the consent and confidence of the community it serves. But, and it is a big ‘BUT’, confidence has to be earned. Young people like Ronan Kerr and Phillipa Reynolds or Stephen Carroll bought into the new beginning to policing and gave their lives for it. They wanted to work with the community and other public bodies to prevent harm from, sex-offenders; car thieves; drug dealers; human traffickers; anti-social elements and other criminals, as well as from sectarian harassment. These are essential parts of providing an effective public service. We need more people like them. We engage with and encourage close working relationships with the other accountability organisations such as the Police Ombudsman; Policing and Community Safety Partnerships, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate; the Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee and the Justice Committee. Is é an aidhm atá againn ná leas a bhaint as an oiread saineolais agus is féidir linn le déanamh cinnte go bhfaigheann muid seachadadh na seirbhíse póilíneachta atá de dhíth ar dhaoine agus atá tuillte acu. Our aim is to harness all the expertise we can to make sure we get delivery of the police service, which people need and deserve. The strongest allies of good policing are those who have experienced exceptionally bad policing. That includes many, many of you sitting here today. Our objective is to have legislation North and South which will provide equivalence in powers of Policing and accountability. Is mian linn go gcaithfear le gach saoránach ar an oileán seo go cothrom de réir an dlí. Ba mhaith linn go mbeidh na cearta céanna ag gach duine. We want every citizen on the island treated equally under the law. We want everyone to have the same rights. Sinn Féin is here to continue the momentum to a truly civic, representative, impartial and fully accountable service for the whole community. We will not stop until it is achieved. If we don’t, no one else will. That is why we are on the Policing Board, on the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships and the Justice Committee. We have the stamina and the strategy to do it. But let me be clear once more: Our support for policing North and South, is critical support. That means when we see bad policing, we will be the first to demand it is sorted! A chairde, I commend Motion 157 to this Ard Fheis in the knowledge that Policing and Justice can always and should always be changing and improving and therefore will always be one of the issues to the forefront of our political agenda throughout the whole of Ireland.
As you would expect, the motions touch on our party’s objective for an All-Ireland policing service and our determination that in the interim, the PSNI and An Garda Síochána are fully accountable to the communities they serve through the Policing Board and the Policing and Community Safety Partnerships in the Six Counties and the Joint Policing Partnerships in the 26 Counties.
139 garda stations, mainly in rural areas, have been closed in the last 18 months in the face of much opposition from the communities they have served.
For the last number of years, gardaí have endured the loss of hundreds of their experienced colleagues with no new recruits to replace them. They are often asked to protect our communities, driving clapped out vehicles that are not replaced due to cutbacks. They have witnessed the closure of garda stations across our cities and villages and cringed when Minister Alan Shatter explains that this is all about “smart policing” and “efficiencies”.
The government must examine the re-opening of Garda stations which have been closed and the restoration of full service in these stations.
They must provide for the lifting of the embargo to start recruitment of trainee gardaí to replace those retiring over the next number of years.
They must halt reductions in Garda numbers, ensure that gardaí have the required number of vehicles and ensure greater emphasis on community policing with resources dedicated to the promotion and support of community alert and neighbourhood watch schemes.
Equality is at the heart of everything that our party stands for. Equality is the cornerstone of Irish Republicanism.
Sinn Féin stands in solidarity with those across this Island who fight for their rights every day. This last while, we have been truly inspired by the women of the Magdalene Laundries. They must have proper redress with compensation and their full pensions granted.
We stand with disability rights campaigners. They inspired us too with their dignity as they protested outside Leinster House in the bitter cold.
There are a number of motions on the Clár, soon to be debated, advocating travellers’ rights and marriage equality. I urge you to support them.
I also urge you to support the amendments from the Oireachtas Group on motions 159 and 160. While I understand the sentiment behind the motions, I believe that the amendments better outline Sinn Féin’s approach to justice and penal reform.
We need a Sentencing Council and new Sentencing Guidelines for the judiciary to ensure accountability and consistency in sentencing, particularly for violent crimes and sexual assaults.
We also need to ensure that any remission granted to persons convicted of sexual offences is based on participation in the Prison Service’s Sex Offenders Treatment Programmes and genuine rehabilitation.
Finally, I would like to speak in support of motion 162 asking this Ard Fhéis to endorse the “Turn off The Red Light” campaign supported by trade unions and a wide range of civic society organisations.
There are as many as 1,000 women and girls for sale for sex in Ireland today. Prostitution is not a real choice for the vast majority of these women.
In countries, like Sweden, where the purchase of sex is illegal, there has been a massive decline in prostitution and a significant reduction in sex trafficking and organised crime.
The “Turn off The Red Light” campaign argues that the most effective solution is to tackle the demand for paid sex that fuels prostitution and trafficking.
There is no perfect panacea to this challenge but I believe that putting the onus of responsibility on the user rather than the woman or sometimes man prostituted is a more humanitarian and I would argue Republican approach. We also need to ensure that those in prostitution are supported to exit this life and make a fresh start by a range of government services working together in an integrated fashion.
I am delighted to be opening the section on Defending Rural Ireland. It has never been more important to ensure our rural communities and farmers are protected from the attacks from this current coalition government in Dublin, the Tory led administration in Britain and the bureaucrats in Brussels.
As I said earlier, agriculture and our rural communities are the backbone of Irish society therefore they are worth defending. Sinn Fein’s ‘Love Rural Ireland’ campaign has been rolling out across the country and I as the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the North have been doing all I can to defend and promote our rural industries, particularly agriculture and to enhance the quality of life and rights of our rural communities. In recent times our rural communities have been decimated by emigration.
Daily thousands of our young people are getting on planes to search for work abroad leaving our countryside largely devoid of youth with many GAA teams barely able to field teams. This needs to be addressed urgently. In the north I am investing £500 million through our Rural Development Programme in order that we can create employment in rural areas, invest in rural businesses and invest in rural tourism to create jobs. In addition we must tackle rural poverty and isolation.
Sinn Féin has introduced a Tackling rural Poverty Strategy and has invested £26 million into initiatives to address this and we are making a difference to some of the most vulnerable and isolated in our rural communities.
No such initiative exists in the 26 counties and it is an issue that Sinn Féin will be challenging the FG/Labour coalition to introduce. In addition Sinn Féin in the north has introduced a Rural White Paper, which increases the rights of rural people across government and gives me as Rural Development minister the ability to hold all government departments to account in terms of their delivery to rural areas of the North.
These next few months are going be crucial for agriculture in Ireland with the Common Agricultural Policy negotiations coming to a conclusion hopefully by June. I have always argued for a well funded, flexible and less bureaucratic CAP that also protects the rights of small and medium farmers.
So far in the negotiations we have made some significant advances however there still many difficult issues yet to be resolved and I have consistently argued and promoted a Team Ireland approach to the negotiations.
I have worked closely with Simon Coveney and all of our 15 Irish MEPs and encouraged our farming unions across Ireland to use their collective influence in Europe so that we all can defend Ireland’s farming industry from the attacks on the budget from the Tory government in Britain and bureaucrats in Brussels.
It is also an important time for our fishermen. We have the on-going annual haggle each December of quota and days at sea which is a ridiculous way of doing business and we also have major reform of the Common Fisheries Policy coming to a conclusion.
I share the frustration of our fishermen on how this current policy has operated and I am pushing hard for more local control in the new policy that will allow us to shape our regulations to more suit the needs of Irish fishermen rather than the super trawlers from the continent.
In the north Sinn Féin is delivering for rural communities:
• £500 million in creating and protecting rural jobs and agriculture.
• Investing in rural childcare with 801 newly created childcare places and 178 new jobs.
• Investing an additional £6 million in rural broadband.
• Investing in rural transport with almost 150,000 trips funded in the first 16 months of the scheme.
• Investing in tackling fuel poverty with 1000 rural homes receiving insulation.
• Delivering a water bore well scheme giving isolated rural homes access to mains water for the first time.
In Government Sinn Féin delivers in defending rural Ireland.... we challenge the government in the south to do likewise.
An bhliain seo caite thosaigh Martin Ferris, mé féin agus comrádaithe eile ar aistear tuaithe. Tá ionsaí fíochmhar dhá dhéanamh ag an Rialtas ar na ceantair tuaithe, ach tá an-teacht aniar sna pobail céanna ach cothrom na féinne a fháil.
‘The Future of Rural Ireland – Mapping a Pathway to Recovery’ - the report we are launching at this Ard Fheis, is the fruit of a year-long consultation process which began here in Castlebar.
Martin Ferris, myself and many comrades along the way met with community and voluntary sector representatives from Gweedore to Dungarvan and from Edenderry to Ennis. We consulted young and older, disability groups, turf-cutters, farmers, fishermen, footballers, firemen, homemakers and emigrants. They told us this government is penalising rural dwellers inequitably for the sins of the bankers, bondholders and light touch regulators and that has to stop.
Tá na pobail tuaithe lán le spiorad, lán le cumas agus lán le deiseanna chun an tír seo a chuir ar ais ar a chosa.
Job creation must be our key priority. Sinn Féin believes in strengthening the support for local enterprise and co-operatives and we will amalgamate Invest Northern Ireland and Intertrade Ireland into All Ireland Enterprise.
We recommend the radical rebalancing of the CAP and EU fishing quotas to revitalise coastal communities and encourage more indigenous production.
Sinn Féin proposes a graduated tax on all gas and oil profits, of 80%, 60% and 40%, along with a 51% state share in all finds. We oppose the coming on-stream of the Corrib gas until such changes are implemented.
We also oppose the use of fracking. We favour moving towards the Scottish model of wind farm development with fewer but larger farms located well away from people’s homes.
We propose that €1 billion in funding be provided by the state to assist in the development of wind energy through state companies and the development of a €350m Bio-refinery plant.
We will tackle infrastructural deficits in the west and north west establishing a new region embracing counties Derry, Donegal, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway, Clare, Limerick and Kerry, prioritising the development of the Western Rail Corridor, the Atlantic Road Corridor and the continued work on the A5 Dublin to Derry road.
Sinn Féin would invest €2.5 billion in next- generation broadband and construct 50 new Primary Health Care Centres at a cost of €250 million. We would create 8,000 new construction jobs as part of a €1 billion capital investment social housing programme. Build an additional 100 schools and refurbish 75 more at a cost of €350 million over the next 3 years.
We would permit one-off housing for people from the locality and change the rural planning process to favour the development of sustainable rural housing.
The downgrading of local hospitals must be halted and suicide prevention must be made an area of co-operation under the all-Ireland Ministerial Council.
We would halt reductions in Garda numbers and vehicles while ensuring greater emphasis on community policing. We would lift the recruitment embargo to hire necessary frontline staff across public services.
Forbróidh muid Bille Nua Gaeltachta a iompóidh ar ais an dochar atá dhá dhéanamh ag an Rialtas seo do phobal na Gaeilge & na Gaeltachta agus chun an Straitéis Fiche Bliain a chur chun cinn i gceart.
Seasfaidh Sinn Féin le pobal na tuaithe agus ar son cothrom na féinne do gach saoránach ar an oileán seo.
The provision of social and affordable housing is a key objective of Irish Republicans. Sinn Féin has been consistent in calling for investment in new housing stock.
We are dealing with the longest waiting lists both states have ever experienced. In the north there are 20,000 people every year declaring themselves homeless with 40,000 on the waiting list.
Most are advised to go to the unregulated private rented sector to deal with their long term housing needs. Having a home is essential to the mental well-being, health, education and employment prospects of families and individuals.
Sinn Féin has consistently worked to ensure the issue of social housing provision is prominent on all agendas.
We have a proud record of campaigning on housing issues and brought change to communities who for years had struggled to have bad housing replaced by modern decent housing.
The face of housing provision is changing in the North many would argue for the worse. The abolition of the Housing Executive in its present guise holds fears for many people.
We need to ensure that the community and social ethos of social housing provision forms the major part of any new housing structure.
As the party of social change, we need to ensure that any new structure will stand the test of time. Objective need must be at its core and be retained in the public sector.
I believe this can only be done with the formation of one landlord organisation that would have control of the 90,000 houses belonging to the Housing Executive.
There would need to be a new regional body to look after housing strategy, housing benefit, homelessness, community safety, sustainable and safe communities. Including social enterprise.
We should remember it is not just about building housing, but building strong communities. We have not always seen eye to eye with the Housing Executive but we do respect the professionalism, which exists at many levels.
We are concerned at the continued shedding of jobs and uncertainty amongst its work force. These workers are essential to future housing structures.
We have in the past called for a review of housing associations and the housing division of the department of social development to see if both are fit for purpose. We would echo that call again.
Both states are dealing with increasing numbers of people who are losing their homes due to the financial crisis.
In the North we have seen another 15% increase in the number of actions being taken against people. Housing Rights reported a 35% increase in people seeking advice.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. In the North mortgage defaults are growing. Over one third of mortgages taken out from 2005 are in negative equity.
Sinn Féin have argued that a strategy needs to be put in place to deal with this issue including realistic funding for good advice but which also helps people stay in their homes.
Comrades, the housing selection scheme is in a mess and has been for some years.
It does not work in areas of high demand.
It is discriminatory against nationalists.
Who lives in high demand areas?
Urgent action is required to put this right.
It is also a throwback to the 1950s and 60s with elements of the same family living in the one house.
We have made it clear that there are serious flaws in the housing selection scheme.
We have identified where those flaws rest and how things could be put right.
In 1979 the Housing Executive had over 220,000 houses under their control, today that figure stands at 90,000 due to the sale of houses to their tenants.
This has had serious consequences for those on waiting lists, whilst new social build programmes are crucial in dealing with growing waiting lists.
Re-lets are the biggest provider houses for allocation.
But there has been a serious decline in the availability of these houses for allocation due to the house sales scheme. Failure to deal with this could see the total demise of the social housing stock in the North.
There are serious problems for thousands of homeowners who are in receipt of benefit or who are low earners and have seen the condition of their homes deteriorate. The withdrawal of financial assistance in the way of grants to home owners is having serious consequences.
This funding should be re-instated as it would ensure these houses would be refurbished to the highest environmental standard.
It would also provide much needed employment for the hard-pressed construction sector. Failure to do so will cost more in the longer term.
The proposals contained within Tory welfare cuts will devastate many communities and increase poverty. The proposal to levy a fine for each bedroom under-occupied has huge implications for thousands of tenants.
It is an attack on the poorest in our society.
It is wrong.
Sinn Féin is opposed to welfare cuts and to the bedroom tax. We have been to the fore within committee in fighting its passage and will be challenging this bill on the floor of the assembly in the coming weeks.
I would ask for support for motions 122 and 125
Sinn Fein believes that all people have a right to housing. We also believe that this right should be enshrined in the constitution in the 26 counties and in a Bill of Rights in the 6 counties.
A National Housing Agency should be set up to oversee all aspects of housing with powers to act as well as develop policy.
We also feel that Local Authorities and voluntary housing groups are best placed to deliver social housing for those in need and who cannot afford private housing.
An Ombudsman should also be appointed to monitor all aspects of housing both private and public.
There is a major crisis in housing across the 26 counties with over 98000 families representing several hundred thousand men, women and children on waiting lists for social housing.
On top of this there are 24,000 families on RAS, the rental accommodation scheme, and a further 80,000 and Rent Supplement who are falsely counted as properly housed.
Rent Supplement and RAS is costing the state over 600 million euro a year and this is going to private landlords.
Housing policy has now become a mixture of social housing by Local Authorities, housing by voluntary bodies and housing from private landlords through RAS and Rent Supplement. The balance though is fastly shifting to private provision either in the traditional sense or with massive state subsidy. This is an ideological drive by the likes of FF, FG and Labour which we must resist.
We have been told NAMA is going to deliver housing to local authorities but what we have instead is leasing arrangements mainly with voluntary housing groups. After over 3 years of NAMA they have delivered less than a tenth of the 3800 home promised again and again as a solution.
Recently Pearse Doherty and I jointly tabled a Private members Motion in the Dail relating to housing and distressed mortgages. In the motion we outlined how the state could begin to provide up to 9000 new over the next two years. We also showed how extra funding could be supplied to deal with the serious maintenance and refurbishment issues in the public housing system.
Addressing distressed mortgages we acknowledged that there are approximately 180,000 households in some form of arrears. The personal insolvency legislation introduced by this government goes nowhere near enough to addressing the huge burden placed on homeowners.
Debt forgiveness should play a major part in any solution. It was the banks and lending institutions who went on a lending spree which led to the negative equity many people find themselves in today.
These same banks shouldn’t have a veto over cases and we call for an independent arbitrator to adjudicate on individual cases.
These points inform motion 117 and I commend it to you and ask for your support.
The Homeless Strategy introduced by this government claims it will end long term homelessness by 2016. This is achievable and I welcome the government’s commitment but it will not be achieved when government policy continues to be not about providing housing and cutting from the housing budget. A housing led approach as proposed by the policy statement requires one major element missing from government policy, the provision of actual housing which is secure, adequate and affordable.
When a government leaves 98,000 on waiting lists and is putting rent supplement recipients at risk of losing their homes with limits and cuts how can we take them seriously?
Tackling homelessness needs permanent solutions to housing need. The voluntary sector cannot do it on their own, the private sector will not do it at all. It is a job for the state.
We send solidarity to the former residents of Priory Hall and their families. We salute your courage and fortitude in standing up for your rights and the rights of all people who have suffered injustices from unscrupulous developers whose poisonous greed has caused so much heartache to the people of Ireland.
We wish you well. You have our support and I commend our own Cllr Michael MacDonnacha for his work on this also.
The pyrite problems affecting tens of thousands of homes are still unresolved and I am calling on Minister Hogan to immediately bring forward the promised legislation to levy the industries identified and to put in place an emergency fund while this levy fund is building.
Internationalism has always been a core part of Irish republicanism.
Historically Irish Republicanism has always stood firmly against racism, sectarianism, colonialism, and imperialism in Ireland and across the world. Sinn Féin proudly continues to promote that tradition today.
International solidarity and our on-going international work are a key component of our work and our struggle.
Someone once said: “No part of the human community can live entirely on its own planet, with its own laws of motion, and cut off from the rest of humanity.”
That quote belongs to Hugo Chávez and when he passed away last month the world lost a true internationalist, who dedicated his life to fighting poverty and inequality, and supporting oppressed people around the globe
On your behalf, I would like to send my solidarity greetings to all those Venezuelans who are continuing to implement the social, economic, and progressive policies that Chávez dedicated his life and Presidency to.
A chairde, since our last Ard Fheis Sinn Féin’s Foreign Affairs Department have been very active on a wide range of global justice issues and we have worked with a variety of international organisations and individuals.
We have supported and promoted the vital work of NGOs and human rights defenders, particularly in areas of conflict or upheaval, including in Bahrain, Western Sahara, Colombia, the DRC, Syria, and the Philippines to mention just a few.
We have supported on-going peace processes and negotiations around the world and my colleague Gerry Kelly again visited the Philippines to assist in peace negotiations between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
We have also increased our support to our Catalan and Basque comrades at critical junctures in both their struggles for self-determination.
We have continued to work, both nationally and internationally, to raise the plight of the Palestinian people who have continued to see Israel ignore international law and deny them their basic human rights.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with those opposing the spreading of illegal Israeli settlement colonies in the West Bank and the savage bombardment of Gaza in October.
Politically we have supported the work of Irish Aid and overseas aid programmes. Recently there was a controversy after €4 million of Irish Aid’s money was misappropriated in a high-level, elaborate scam in Uganda.
This is a vitally important issue, considering Ireland’s own economic crisis and the sacrifices and hardship that many families are having to endure just to make ends meet. Delegates we must not lose sight of how important Irish Aid and assistance is to impoverished people around the world. It has had a hugely positive impact on people’s health, education, housing, and access to food in some of the poorest countries in the world
Sinn Féin stands in solidarity with those who are struggling against imperialism, we must also stand with those brave women and men who are fighting poverty and hunger in Ireland and right across the world.
As Irish republicans we have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that we continue to support people struggling under the unfair global economic system, that puts power before rights, and profit before people.
A chairde, just as we cannot sit idle until we see achieve a true Irish republic, a real Ireland of equals, we must also not stand still and ignore global injustice, poverty, and oppression. We cannot remain silent in a world where one half lives in plenty while the others starve or scrapes for an existence for their families.
Sinn Féin will continue to highlight these injustices, will ensure that in all our dealings with the international community, we will aim to keep Ireland at the centre of global justice.
Éire - Ireland. Known as the land of saints and scholars, the emerald isle. Known as a clean, green country.
Or if Arlene Foster, Pat Rabitte and some others get their way, soon to be known as the global centre for the extraction of non-conventional gas and oil.
That’s quite a mouthful.
Ach sin an rud atá i gceist
Not only does it sound harsh and sound like a bad word. It is harsh, and by God is it bad.
In the run up to the 2011 general election, on 14th February 2011, one of Conor Lenihan’s last acts as a Fianna Fáil Minister, in a collapsing government, was to grant licence options to two companies to explore for non-conventional hydrocarbons on what is known as the Lough Allen Basin.
What a Valentine’s present that has turned out to be for the good people of Leitrim.
And in a remarkable show of cross-border co-operation, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, in one of her last acts as Minister before an election, oversaw the awarding of exclusive exploration and extraction licences to the same outfit in West Fermanagh.
If only she would engage in such pragmatic cross-border co-operation in the fields of telecommunications, job creation, tourism promotion or in attracting foreign direct investment, our economy wouldn’t be in the shape it is today.
You’d think after being exposed the first time, no Minister would ever engage in such underhand and sneaky behaviour again.
But fast forward to Easter Week of 2013 and hidden away in a small corner of the Irish News was an advertisement indicating that Arlene’s department intends to grant a prospecting licence in five more northern counties.
No mention of shale gas or shale oil in the advert.
In fact, no mention of gas or oil at all.
No mention of fracking.
Not one person was notified that this was on the cards.
And we have to wonder why?
Because Arlene Foster and those intent on forcing fracking onto our communities know that the majority of people here don’t want a bit of it.
So they decide to ignore the evidence, which shows how dangerous and damaging it is.
They stifle debate and label those of us who rightly oppose fracking as being involved in scaremongering.
And this coming from a party that believes the earth is only six thousand years old.
If that were the case, I’d love to hear how we have fossil fuels in the first place or do they think we can just wait for more to be produced.
Sinn Féin want to see a sensible debate on the issue of fracking looking at all the concerns that people have.
Ba fhearr linn dá mbeadh díospóireacht ciallmhar ann ar fúd na tíre ar fracking.
We are confident that if that debate took place then the people of Ireland would overwhelmingly reject the proposals for fracking to take place.
For that reason, we will, in the next short while, bring forward proposals to set out that Fermanagh District Council carry out a referendum across the county to let the people have their say on the issue of fracking.
But let me be very clear about one thing. There is no such thing as safe fracking. The only option is no fracking.
A chairde, ní gáth ach ruin 91 agus 92 a léamh chun iad a thuiscint agus tuiscint nach bhfuil muid chun seasamh le ionsaithe nó gearrtha siar ó Páirtí an Lucht Oibre nó ó aon chearn eile.
Tá muid I gcoinne bochtanas seachas é a chothú mar atá an tAire Joan Burtion agus an rialtas sa stáit seo le na gearrtha grana ar pinsinéirí, páistí, lucht an éagcumas agus súid eile atá ag brath ar an chóras.
motions 91 and 92 are self explanatory, they reject this government’s targeting of those dependent on social welfare and reiterates our commitment to ending poverty, and creating a social protection system that is based on equality and does what it is meant to do – protect those who are vulnerable.
This government, and in particular Labour made all sorts of promises to the people during the last general election. They promised the sun, moon and stars. And even after in the Fairytale book called the Programme for Government that they would ‘protect the vulnerable’. Well their actions give a lie to that promise, that commitment.
Their solution to a banking crisis is to further empty the empty pockets of the poor. They are even targeting breast feeding children, that’s how low Joan Burtion would go. She has gone as far as targeting the Maternity Benefit also, the respite care grant, the fuel allowance, the pensioners household benefits package. And yet she would brazenly still say that she has affected social welfare rates. She has, ask the lone parents, ask those now on job seekers benefit.
To cap it all her solution thus far for the unemployment crisis is to create more and more slave labour, 20 quid and your dole, 50 quid and your dole – all free labour for multinationals and others ready to always exploit vulnerable workers or unemployed people. Stacking selves dosnt require an 9 month internship. And more shameful is that the state under this government is abusing these interns by locating them in government department where there is no prospect of a job because of the government jobs embargo.
Labour may celebrate the centenary of the Lockout this year, however with policies like this you could be forgiven for wondering which side of the Lockout they’re celebrating.
A situation which I came aware of only recently is one where the Department of Social Protection is now undermining the emergency cover given by retained/part-time firefighters across the country by refusing those not in employment job seekers allowance, thus forcing those out of their area of cover or into poverty. That’s how meanspirited the department and the minister is
I am urging you to support these motions to send a clear message to the government that members and supporters of Sinn Féin will not take broken promises. There is a better way.
The Narrow Water Bridge has the potential to open the entire North Louth and South Down region for tourism and economic growth yet I believe it is being delayed by red tape and incompetence.
Unionist Ministers, Sammy Wilson and Danny Kennedy have fallen well behind their Southern counterparts in bringing forward the necessary elements needed for construction to begin.
I am extremely worried that this bridge project is becoming embroiled in departmental red tape as opposed to looking at the benefits that would flow from its construction. The vast majority of finance has been secured from Europe through the SEUPB and the Irish government has stepped up to the mark – yet we still await answers from Danny and Sammy.
Danny Kennedy needs to publish the Bridge Order immediately, while Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has also dragged his feet on the issue. Sammy Wilson needs be reminded that he is Finance Minister for the entire Six Counties and not greater Belfast - and that cross border projects benefit entire communities and release the necessary funding now.
This bridge is a vital economic and strategic infrastructure project for the border region. Its impact is vastly greater than the €18 million needed to construct it. The bridge has cross party and cross border support.
The local chambers of commerce are behind the project as is the vast majority of the local community. Every effort now needs to be made by the Irish government and the Executive to accelerate the construction of this bridge. If they have the political will, construction can start almost immediately, which would also add impetus to the local construction sector.
I am now calling on both Ministers to take their Ministerial pledges seriously and act on behalf of the entire community by giving the necessary go ahead to get this bridge started.
Saoirse O\Neill - Irish Unity and Youth
This generation needs to be a generation of ‘impatient republicans’ and as impatient republicans the reunification of our country is an urgent priority and vital objective.
That’s why we are launching this border poll campaign to encourage our generation to get involved in the struggle to smash partition.
In the North, with all the benefits of peace, comes a semblance of normality. And while the majority of the nationalist community is behind our project, the danger of apathy setting in is difficult to avoid. Young people in particular, many of whom have little to no memory of conflict, are particularly susceptible.
The urgency of what we intend to achieve must be communicated in simple and clear terms, and indeed we have to listen to their perspective on what partition means to them. For a lot of young people, it’s things like two mobile phone networks, two sets of currency, language rights, the British Army presence and public services being duplicated.
We will continue to promote national consciousness and develop a unitary Irish identity that we can all – nationalist, unionist and other – be proud of.
We need to communicate this, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, ‘Ballymena is as Irish as Ballymun.’
A combination of a partitionist media, hostile to republicanism, an establishment comfortable with the status quo, and an underlying mentality that the national question is settled means that support for reunification isn’t what it should or could be.
It isn’t exactly on top of the agenda for most people so it’s abundantly clear we need to get the national question back on the agenda and being debated.
We need to make it clear that a united Ireland would not be a ‘26-County state deluxe’ but something new, a clean break. After all, this isn’t about lines on maps: it’s about making the quality of life better for everyone.
But it’s not just the wider nationalist community who have to be engaged with. If we really want a united Ireland it’s up to us to persuade the open-minded people who have no ideological attachment to either unionism, or republicanism; to persuade people that we can afford a united Ireland and that the quality of public services wouldn’t deteriorate in a united Ireland.
More than that we need to persuade them that a united Ireland is economically and democratically the most viable option.
This campaign will be taking on our traditional objective, quite simply ‘The reconquest of Ireland by the people of Ireland’, in an innovative and imaginative way, widening the debate and mobilising Irish youth.
There will be videos, talks, debates, publications, protests and murals, along with some more unconventional methods.
How well will it work? As impatient republicans, our success will be measured simply by how long we have to wait.
Such qualities and abilities cannot be allowed to be wasted in years of unemployment. Neither can we let such talents be exported abroad for the benefit of other economies and societies.
For generations, this island has been crippled by the effects of young people leaving our shores. The adverse affects of youth unemployment are clear to many people across Ireland who are faced with the reality of emigration.
Not only are young people faced with the grim decision of leaving behind friends and loved ones, but the detrimental effects to the economy are hampering recovery and growth, creating a vicious austerity cycle for years to come.
There are more than 5 and a half million young people across the EU not able to find work. Across the European Union, 22% of people between the ages of 15-24 are jobless, a figure that swells to as much as 50% in Greece and Spain.
Long-term youth unemployment reveals an even starker reality: over 30% of young people have been unemployed for more than 12 consecutive months.
Martina Anderson MEP has lobbied for the use of the European Social Fund to support programmes aimed at tackling this problem.
The global economic downturn has meant that young workers can often only access precarious, temporary jobs or traineeships, which offer little real prospect of career progression.
The EU ‘Youth Jobs guarantee’ aims to ensure that member states guarantee every young person under 25 a job, training or educational placement within a set number of months of becoming unemployed.
Sinn Féin as members of the GUE/NGL group urged the Commission and the European Council to dedicate a sufficiently financed specific fund to create a true ‘youth guarantee’ which would secure the future of Europe's youth by guaranteeing them real rights to qualified, adequately paid and stable employment and social security, the right to housing, and the establishment of an ‘autonomy allowance’ mechanism in the context of a European minimum wage.
Ireland has much to lose to ignore this youth unemployment and emigration crisis any longer. We need immediate action if we are serious about Ireland's future.
Sinn Féin Republican Youth believe that the future of this country is dependent on the utilisation of the skills and abilities young people have to offer and therefore we are calling for increased and continued Capital Investment Programmes that will put young people at the heart of building the economy and delivering on the vision of an Ireland of Equals.
Young people are the key to recovery. Areas such as green energy, bio foods, bio pharmacy, the IT sector and tourism play an essential role in the development of jobs initiatives for young people.
Sinn Féin Republican Youth are calling for recognition of the importance of investment in such areas in tacking the issues of youth unemployment and emigration. No longer can this country continue down the path of hardship and heartbreak as a result of youth unemployment and emigration. This is an issue that can and will be resolved.
Mairead Farrell, is a member of the National Youth Committee, she was a member of the outgoing ard comhairle and is studying for a masters at present.
We have all heard the empty rhetoric of the importance of a knowledge-based economy. This is being spouted at a time when a significant percentage of Irish students are living in abject poverty as a result of increases in registration fees and cuts to grants.
So today we have the appalling situation where Athlone’s Institute of Technology has been forced to establish its own soup kitchen and over 150 of its students are surviving on food vouchers. Athlone is not the exception, it is the rule. Student unions across the 26-counties continue to provide food parcels for impoverished students.
This is happening as the grants provided are insufficient and the numbers of students qualifying for them has declined sharply in recent years.
The launch of the new system for providing grants, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), has made the present bad situation worse.
SUSI has been an unmitigated disaster and its failure can be directly attributed to poor planning, a massive lack of resources and staff who were ill-prepared for the challenges of implementing a centralised system that had to replace 66 awarding authorities.
The SUSI debacle has had profound consequences for students who have been forced to live in severe hardship, with many having to drop out of their courses as they were unable to survive at college. The contempt shown by this government to the plight of students is in sharp contrast to its approach when bailing out the banks.
It is worth recalling that three senior government ministers who have allowed this to happen were once high ranking activists in the Union of Students in Ireland; Eamon Gilmore, Pat Rabbite and the present Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn.
All of this is forgotten now that Labour is in power.
Unlike this government, and particularly Labour, Sinn Fein believes that education is a right, not a privilege, and everyone, regardless of their social and economic background, should be entitled to benefit from a third level education.
Darren O’Rourke, is the Sinn Féin local representative in Meath East and was a candidate in the recent by-election. He is a political advisor to the party’s health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
“Welcome to Ireland, where mortgage payments are optional and the banks are a mess”.
So read a headline from an international magazine just last week.I think we can all agree that the author was....half right. The banks most certainly are a mess.
Mortgage payments, however, are not optional.
While unemployment is stagnant at above 14%, when more than 1.8 million people have only €50 left at the end of the month, when more than 180,000 mortgages are in serious distress and when 115 more fall into distress every day, for many people paying the mortgage is simply not an option.
The reality is that families across the country are suffering. They are distraught. Will I feed my children or will I pay my mortgage? That is not an option. This is not game theory. You feed your kids. We feed our kids.
The alarm bells on the mortgage crisis started ringing in December 2009. The exponential rise in the subsequent three and a half years reflects the absolute and abject failure of successive governments to deal with the situation.
Fianna Fáil created the crisis. As 49,000 mortgages fell into distress they did nothing. Their words ring hollow now. Fine Gael and Labour, who waited so patiently in the wings and who promised so much in opposition have continued in the same dismal vein. For them it was clearly a case of lights, camera, inaction!!
Instead of taking decisive measures they continue to employ the kid gloves approach with the banks, allowing the threat of repossession to loom large. Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering mental, emotional and financial anguish. Many are suffering in silence. They need real and meaningful action, now.
Sinn Féin has proposed the establishment of a non-judicial, independent mortgage resolution body with the power to impose agreements on lenders and borrowers: a body with real teeth that doesn’t take its lead from third parties.
Empty words or the promise of a solution in the distant future at the behest of the banks, simply won’t do.
The banks, as we know, are a mess. This government is no better.
Rural communities are the heart of Ireland, they are and always will be the backbone of Irish society. So we must work to protect, enhance and support them to thrive.
It has been a particularly challenging time in recent years for the farming community due to events largely outside our control such as the weather, global prices and the demand for cheaper food.
However despite these challenges and throughout the world-wide recession, our farming and agri-food sectors have continued to perform well.
Agri-food is one of our economies most important sectors, with a turnover of over 30bn across this island employing in excess of 265,000 people.
We need to build on this as we try and bring this country out of the economic mess left by previous and current governments in the 26 counties. To build on this I have initiated the development of an agri-food strategy bringing government, the processing sector and farming communities round the table, which will see the whole supply chain working together. The key to the success of this work will be fairness in the supply chain.
One of the key elements in shaping future supports for the farming and rural communities will be the new CAP. We are hopefully approaching a conclusion of the negotiations in Brussels in the coming months. So it is increasingly vital that we maintain the Team Ireland approach that I called for at the outset of the negotiations. Progress has been made but there is more to do.
Despite the efforts of the British government to strip the supports from the rural community we continue to make and demand a new policy, which is well funded, which is flexible to adapt to local needs and which is simplified away from the current bureaucratic regime. Sinn Féin will fight this tooth and nail to ensure a better distribution of the funds.
We will also continue to protect the most vulnerable in our rural communities and that is why Sinn Fein have, in the north invested £26 million into tackling rural poverty and isolation by increasing rural transport, increasing rural childcare places, tackling fuel poverty, providing access to mains water and working towards tackling the issue of lack of rural broadband.
We also by the end of next year will have invested £500 million into rural development in the six counties, growing rural businesses, developing rural tourism and creating rural jobs.
Sinn Féin has set out a pathway to recovery for rural Ireland. We have demonstrated our commitment to rural communities and will continue to deliver in the years to come.
Stand up for rural Ireland.
Cllr Rachel McCarthy, Bandon, Co Cork
I am speaking today on the effects of austerity on
public services in Ireland and in particular the detrimental affects that
austerity is having in rural areas like West Cork and my home town of Bandon.
Budget after budget over recent years by the troika of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael
and Labour have brought services in Ireland to breaking point where it seems it
is now more important to save a euro than it is to save a life. Where instead
of reform--- closure and centralisation of services has become the norm and the
quality of life and ease of accessibility for those who avail of public
services whether in health, education, justice or transport has become a
I want to focus on the now annual cuts to the local government fund which all across the country is putting enormous pressure on local authorities to do even the most basic of repairs to housing stock, roads, lighting and signage. Reduction after reduction in this funding is making life intolerable for many living in social housing as they are forced to wait for long periods of time before the most routine of repairs are carried out. Further to this is the fact that Councils do not have funds to renovate vacant, boarded up properties to alleviate the long waiting lists for social housing which is growing year on year across the country. It is very disheartening for people who are on the social housing list for so long, having to walk past a house left idle and falling into further disrepair due to inaction by the relevant authorities. Applications for social housing is now near 15,000 for Cork City and County..While Voluntary Housing Organisations are working hard to try and provide homes for those on the waiting lists, they may in the future face closure as social housing has not been made exempt from the Family Home Tax. Many of these organisations work with marginalised groups in society such as the elderly, disabled and families in need. This FG/Labour government needs to wake up and get real, taxing the most vulnerable people in society is a step too far even for them!
The farcical notion that payment of the family home tax will improve these services is just plainly wrong and only an attempt by the government to further tax those who are already to the pin of their collar. For those who bought at the height of the boom the new tax on the family home and the fact it is going to be deducted at source without any consideration of ability to pay will only serve to increase the numbers of people falling into mortgage distress and hardship. Having spent the last number of weeks collecting signatures for the Sinn Fein petition against the family home tax in Bandon and Kinsale the true extent of the austerity path which Fine Gael and Labour have continued on has been highlighted to me again and again. In council chambers from Bandon to Bundoran government councillors especially those in Labour are speaking out against government cutbacks to these very local services and if one was being cynical you would think the upcoming local elections was fuelling their apparent anger. The fact is that the support of these very councillors to their parties gives those in the cabinet the very security to make the decisions which directly harm those they were elected to represent. Those very councillors need to realise the source of their ire is within their own parties and if they are going to talk the talk they should be prepared to walk the walk.
PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST Minister Hogan’s plan for local government reform does the exact opposite and puts people last. It is time for reform at local government level but a properly resourced model which provides for transparency and accountability and the ability to fund local services is what’s needed. Not a layer of democracy dependent on cuts to survive and unable to provide the most basic of needs.
January 2013 marked the 7th anniversary of the implementation of a vision for change, a national policy framework that was to see a major transformation in mental healtth services that would refocus services from the old style outmoded institutional care and an almost exclusive medication based model to a modern community based model that was not about just about managing mental illness but a radical shift to adopt a recovery model at the heart of delivery mh services in ireland.
In its 7th out of a ten year plan the m h c- not usually known for directness- reported that vfc is slow and inconsistent.
Mental health issues have exploded within recent years yet the irish public are still being ill served by lack of community and inpt services. There is no proper plan or funding in place to keep present service levels never mind investment in this new vision. Hampering vfc’s implementation includes:
· no director of mental health services has been appointed
· moratorium-staffing levels have dropped by 13% in past 2 yrs the promised 900 posts for community development disappeared into the ether
· actual spending has decreased from 8% in 2009 to 5% last year delayed spending of ring-fenced 35m
· the dissolution of the policy’s monitoring group with no plan to review this.
As a society our mental health has never been as fragile- it effects each and every household- with the incidence and burden falling mostly on the lowest income families. The incidences of anxiety, depression, distress, suicide and dash in Ireland is one of the highest in Europe.
On a positive note- sf acknowledges and supports:
· the significant roll out of youth friendly services that are responding to the distress of our young for some)
· the inclusion of service users in advising on mental health matters.
· campaign groups which give voice to service users.
· the publication of guidelines on promoting positive mental health and suicide prevention in schools and broaden the dialogue.
We support the Niamh Campaign ‘change your mind’ launched in the 6 counties
Countless reports rage against the failure of mental health services. Mental health has been the perennial Cinderella of the entire health system .it is difficult not to conclude that the government are ultimately using VFC document as a fiscal scalpel to cut services. There has been little replacement of hospital services in the community. This is not the spirit on which VFC was devised.
We are a society in trouble and we have a moral responsibility to demand sufficient resources and an enthusiasm to guarantee provision of a modern mental health system to meet today’s needs.
There can be little doubt that abuse, no matter what its shape or form, is a stain on our society. A stain, sadly, that some were all too willing to cover up, preferring to protect the institutions rather than the victims who had been placed in their care for protection.
I know that when the issue of abuse is raised that the focus invariably turns to the institutions of the Church. Let us be clear, the Church has been consistently guilty of covering up abuse and of moving abusers from parish to parish. What they sought was to hide the problem but the end result was that more children were abused.
However, child abuse was not just limited to the Church or its institutions alone. Child abuse happened and unfortunately still happens in families, communities and wider society as well.
We all have to play a part in protecting our children and young people from this horrendous crime. For those of us in power we have to remember that we have a duty of care to those who are placed in institutions.
In the North the Executive recognised that responsibility when it established the inquiry into historical institutional abuse.
When young people were placed into care then the institution took on the role of acting as a parent.
Caught up in this position young people had no outlet to inform people of what was happening to them.
Fearing, rightly in my opinion, that if they were to report the abuse that not only would they not be believed but that they would suffer further abuse.
The survivors of institutional abuse, those young children who were placed in their care, whether they were run by the state or not, had a right and an expectation that the state would care properly for them.
That was not the case. The state failed many of those young children and we have a responsibility now to address those failings, not only to make reparations for what took place in the past but also to ensure that it is never repeated.
Recently we have begun to see that survivors of institutional abuse were not only young children but women who were located in what have become known as the Magdalene Laundries.
We also have a duty of care to address what took place in these institutions and I am confident that we will also properly address this issue.