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Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on EU Affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly has said the government must deliver for Ireland in key areas like CAP and a youth unemployment fund in EU budget talks.
“The government has failed to budge our EU partners on dealing with our debt legacy and now it must show a firmer hand in these budget talks. CAP payments and youth programmes must be protected but more generally if the Irish Presidency is to be about economic growth and job creation then the EU must provide a budget to match.
“The EU says it is focussed on stimulus and growing the European economy but it looks set to slash its budget for the next round of EU funding which goes into the real economy. There are plenty of areas of EU spending like militarisation and the huge salaries of bureaucrats that could be cut. That is where they should be focussing on reducing the costs to citizens.
“The budget should also ensure that adequate resources will be available over the coming years to deal with youth unemployment in an ambitious way. The measure of a successful outcome should be whether EU citizens see the benefits of an active EU in their lives not the perceived reputation of politicians and the EU elite.”

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Following questioning by Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD at this morning’s Public Expenditure and Reform Committee meeting Minister Brendan Howlin TD ruled out tackling excessive pay at the top of the public sector in the any new Croke Park deal.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Minister Howlin talks of the need for rank and file public servants to work harder, longer and for many new entrants for significantly less pay yet he has ruled out addressing the massive pay inequity that exists across the sector in any new Croke Park deal. Currently top civil servants earn nine times that of a new entrant clerical officer. This kind of salary multiple simply does not exist in many European countries.

“Every time we raise the matter of public sector pay inequity with the minister his default response is a charge of populism. Insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong and Minister Howlin’s refusal to calmly discuss what we know to be true is deeply disappointing. Top managers across the public sector enjoy higher remuneration packages than most of their European counterparts.

“Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget 2013 – Making the Right Choices – includes an emergency three year measure to cap public sector pay at €100,000 and hospital consultant pay at €150,000. Our proposals also include a levy on excessive public sector pensions, reduction in Ministers, TDs and Senators pay and the withdrawal of a number of Oireachtas allowances. Politicians need to lead from the front during the on-going fiscal crisis.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said there is no excuse for delay or prevarication on the issue of legislation for the X case.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening Deputy Ó Caoláin challenged those who accused Sinn Féin of being opportunistic in putting forward this evening’s motion.

He said;

“I begin by placing on the Dáil record my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Savita Halappanavar whose tragic death has moved people across Ireland and across the world.

“I want to refute the spurious accusations that people who have come onto the streets in the wake of this tragedy are opportunists. The same accusation has been made against Sinn Féin in relation to this motion. I think it is a most insensitive accusation. There is no party political advantage in this for anyone. And there is certainly none in it for Sinn Féin. Far from it.

“We do need immediate action. We have waited too long and have not received even an indication or a signal that the Government will legislate. I repeat, will legislate. That intention should be made clear by Government now, here, tonight. The Government’s failure to give that commitment is very worrying. So too was Minister of State Kathleen Lynch’s exhortation that we “let wiser heads prevail”. Is that how she and her Labour party fellow Ministers in Government justified their decision to back James Reilly while their party colleague sacrificed herself on the pyre of accountability and standards in Ministerial office. ‘Wiser heads’ how are you. Leave it to your betters. Such rubbish.

“There is no excuse for delay. We have had 20 years of delay and prevarication. The issue can no longer be avoided. I urge all Deputies to support the motion.”

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Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech:


X case legislation PMB – 20.11.12

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson

I begin by placing on the Dáil record my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Savita Halappanavar whose tragic death has moved people across Ireland and across the world.

I pay tribute also to the courage of Savita’s husband Praveen and family for speaking out about their ordeal in such forthright terms, though the attention this has brought can only have made their time of mourning more difficult. In doing so the family has sought justice for Savita and safety for women who may face similar situations.

It should not take the tragic death of a woman in an Irish hospital to alert legislators to the need to address long identified deficiencies in our laws relating to the protection of the life of an expectant woman. But it has done so. It has alerted the thousands of people who demonstrated around the country in recent days under banners bearing two most powerful words: ‘Never again.’

And the tragedy has again challenged us as legislators to step up to the mark on this most difficult issue. And most difficult it certainly is.

I want to refute the spurious accusations that people who have come onto the streets in the wake of this tragedy are opportunists. The same accusation has been made against Sinn Féin in relation to this motion. I think it is a most insensitive accusation. There is no party political advantage in this for anyone. And there is certainly none in it for Sinn Féin. Far from it.

The opportunist approach, in terms of seeking party political advantage, would be to try to avoid the issue as much as possible. And there is ample evidence of this across this chamber and in the utterances and media performances of some beyond these walls. But we have not done so. In fact, we have long had a policy which calls for what this motion seeks – the introduction of legislation to give effect to the 1992 judgement of the Supreme Court in the ‘X’ case, to protect pregnant women where their lives are in real danger and to give legal certainty to medical professionals.

To restate Sinn Féin’s position for the sake of clarity: Sinn Féin is not in favour of abortion. We believe all possible means of education and support services should be in place.

However, in cases of rape or incest, or where a woman’s life or mental health is at risk or in grave danger, Sinn Féin argues that the final decision should rest with the woman concerned.
That said, not all Sinn Féin members concur with that policy. This is a most contentious issue with widely differing and strongly and sincerely held views in all political parties. It has cut across Irish society in a very divisive way on many occasions. That could be and has been used by political parties and legislators as an excuse for inaction. But it was never, and is it not now, an acceptable reason for doing nothing.

During the course of the debate a number of swipes were made at Sinn Féin. I can understand the motivation behind these. After all, if you are being whipped to vote against a motion that you yourself strongly support, you will want to strike out at someone.

So it was with Deputy Ciara Conway’s remarks last night. She conveniently forgot to mention that the Sinn Féin members in the Dáil last April voted for X-case focussed legislation to be processed beyond Second Stage, when she and the Labour Party voted against it.

Our position on abortion in the Six Counties has also been misrepresented. Sinn Féin does not support the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to the North. We say that what is now required there is clear and robust guidance which protects the life of the mother. That position is in line with our party policy, on an all-Ireland basis and in line with this motion. There is no difference in our policy North and South as some have tried to claim.

Others, of course, have been galloping across the media, anxious to be seen, if not heard, talking themselves into knots as they endeavour to avoid the issue.

I believe that the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar and the discussion which has followed has opened many people’s eyes to the dangerous reality that the ambiguity in our laws has created.

It was for this reason Sinn Féin brought forward our private members motion. The Dáil needs to reflect in a timely manner the concerns of those who elect us and to address the pressing issues that we as legislators are elected to address.

The motion seeks an acknowledgement of realities.

It asks the Dáil to acknowledge the reality that the absence of the required legislation denies women protection and the right to obtain a termination in life-threatening circumstances. It asks the Dáil to acknowledge also that the lack of legislation creates an ambiguous legal situation for clinicians.

Can anyone here deny, as the motion states, that it is regrettable that successive Governments and Ministers for Health have failed to legislate?

We do need immediate action. We have waited too long and have not received even an indication or a signal that the Government will legislate. I repeat, will legislate. That intention should be made clear by Government now, here, tonight. The Government’s failure to give that commitment is very worrying. So too was Minister of State Kathleen Lynch’s exhortation that we “let wiser heads prevail”. Is that how she and her Labour party fellow Ministers in Government justified their decision to back James Reilly while their party colleague sacrificed herself on the pyre of accountability and standards in Ministerial office. ‘Wiser heads’ how are you. Leave it to your betters. Such rubbish.

The Government amendment fails to give the required commitment and is accordingly deficient and we cannot accept it.

The report of the expert group should be published. Let the legislators and the public see it and judge for themselves. There is no reason why that report should not be published immediately. The cabinet is wrong to suppress it for another week in order to shield itself from public scrutiny. Its deliberations on the report are covered by cabinet confidentiality but in the meantime we all have a right to know the subject of those deliberations.

It is most regrettable that an issue of trust and credibility arose about the HSE inquiry almost as soon as it was established. I do not question the credibility or integrity of any of those named on the initial inquiry panel.

However, the now reversed decision to include three consultants from Galway University Hospital left the process open to doubt from day one. Over and above that consideration, there is a need for an independent public inquiry, separate from the HSE investigation.

Savita’s family have expressed their lack of faith in the HSE inquiry. They have made the very valid point that if they had not spoken out and if there had not been a public outcry then even the HSE inquiry would not have been established.

If it turns out, as it very definitely appears this evening, that the HSE inquiry does not have the co-operation of the family of Savita and access to her medical records, then it will be simply untenable and if it proceeds on that basis, it would have no credibility whatsoever.

One thing is certain. A way must be found to ascertain the facts speedily and with the full co-operation of Savita’s husband and family and with fairness for all concerned – fairness for Savita, - fairness for Praveen, – fairness for the family, - fairness for the hospital staff and fairness for all pregnant women who use our healthcare system. There must be an independent public inquiry and it must be fully transparent. We need that decision now.

It has to be stressed that the experience of the vast majority of pregnant women in our healthcare system is positive and that this state is predominantly a safe place to give birth.

No-one who is calling for legal change denies that. However, the sad reality is that the legal ambiguity around this issue creates an area of danger to the lives of pregnant women and that danger – no matter how small the number of women who may encounter it – must be removed once and for all.

During the course of the Dáil debate on the private members Bill to legislate in line with the X case judgement last April, Health Minister James Reilly stated:

“I wish to meet our obligations, not simply to the European Union but more importantly to our citizens. The Government will take the correct action, based on the best advice available to it, to ensure no woman’s life is ever put in danger. The Government will do this based on information, both scientific and personal, but above all to inform the process and outcome with compassion and respect for the women who must face and endure the reality of the current position.”

That was last April. It is awful to contemplate that it has taken the death of a young woman in tragic circumstances to bring this issue back onto the political agenda.

There is no excuse for delay. We have had 20 years of delay and prevarication. The issue can no longer be avoided.

Ideally we should all move forward together towards the legislation required. This should not be an issue of party political contention and conflict. We had more than enough of that in the past. We should certainly seek the maximum possible consensus in this Oireachtas and outside it. But ultimately it is the responsibility of Government to govern and that is what the motion before us asks this Government to do.

In conclusion, let me restate that the Sinn Féin motion is not about abortion. We are not a pro-abortion party. I am not a pro-abortion Deputy. This motion is about protecting the life of pregnant women when that life is in real danger. It also seeks to give legal certainty to medical professionals.

As a husband and a father of young daughters I do not want my loved ones to ever have to face what Savita Halappanavar has had to face or pay the tragic price that she has had to pay for the failures of successive Governments to act.

Sinn Féin has brought forward this Dáil motion and has encouraged, in a measured and reasoned way, its acceptance and most importantly of all, we have encouraged this Government to act and to fulfil its promises and responsibilities so that the appalling tragedy of the death of Savita will never happen again.

I urge all Deputies to support the motion.

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora, Seán Crowe TD, has welcomed the news that Hamas and Israel have agreed a ceasefire in the current conflict.

Speaking after the ceasefire was announced Deputy Crowe said:

“I welcome that a ceasefire has been agreed and there is now a structured end to the brutal violence which has claimed the lives of over 140 Palestinians and five Israelis.

“I hope that both sides will respect the ceasefire and commend the Egyptian Government on playing a substantial role in brokering the deal.

“The emphasis now needs to be focused on ensuring the ceasefire can hold in the long-term, and then on lifting Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza strip. This blockade has created enormous socio-economic problems in Gaza, even before this latest bombardment.

“The people of Gaza need to begin to rebuild their lives, their homes, and their neighbourhoods. They need to restock their hospitals and repair Gaza’s vital infrastructure. None of this can happen under the current illegal blockade of the region by Israel.

“I hope talks will start immediately on lifting this illegal blockade, which has lasted for over six years now and is causing massive suffering for the people of Gaza.”
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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed this evening’s truce in the Middle East between Hamas and Israel and has congratulated the Egyptian government for its perseverance and success.

Teachta Adams said:
“Today’s truce announcement is a welcome development. It will bring an end to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which has killed over 139 citizens, many of them women and children, and an end to the rocket attacks on Israel which have killed five citizens.

“However there have been many pauses between war in that region as successive efforts to achieve a negotiated political settlement have failed.

“The Egyptian success in this instance must be built on and a more comprehensive negotiation constructed out of which a durable peace settlement can be reached.

“It is crucial that the international community continue to play an active role in encouraging inclusive negotiations involving all of the participants.”
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21 November 2012

Sinn Féin justice spokesperson calls for X Case legislation
Speaking during tonight’s Dáil debate, Sinn Féin TD for Donegal North East Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn called for the introduction of legislation for the X case to allow for abortion in cases where there is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said;
“I should not be making this speech tonight. The thousands of people who took to the streets in the freezing cold on Saturday to demand this Government introduce legislation for X should not have had to be there.
“The people have spoken and it is time for this government to introduce legislation for the X Case. The Government amendment to our motion simply notes that the Expert Group is examining the matter, and it will propose a range of options as to how the Government should respond to the “complex and sensitive issues.”
“Convening the Expert Group was a cop out on the government’s behalf. They have known since 1992 that legislation is needed when the Supreme Court judgment in X was handed down. This was reiterated by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 when they delivered their judgment in the ABC v Ireland case.
“It is a scandal that for twenty years, seven governments have failed in their duties towards women on this issue. I was a teenager when the X case took place. Never did I think that I would be standing here, at nearly 40 years of age as an elected member of the Dáil seeking legislation on that very issue.
Women should know that if there life is in danger they will be saved – and doctors should know that if a woman’s life is in danger, they can treat them appropriately. It is time now, finally, for legislation to protect the rights of women as decided by the Supreme Court in 1992. This should be done in a reasoned, tolerant and considered manner and with maximum cross party consensus.”
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Note to Editors:
Speech as follows [check against delivery]

X Case PMB Speech: Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin should not have had to table this motion tonight.
I should not be making this speech tonight.

The thousands of people who took to the streets in the freezing cold on Saturday to demand this Government introduce legislation for X should not have had to be there.

They should not have had to march through the streets of Dublin and Galway, and hold vigils in towns around Ireland to make their voices heard when they said “never again.”

The Irish people who stand outside Irish Embassies in the United States, in Berlin, Vienna and London – exported by the vicious austerity policies of this and previous governments – should not be there tonight.

I do not for a second disregard the divisiveness of the broader issue of abortion rights and access in Ireland.

I am a person who believes in Christian values – values and teachings that are about love, compassion, respect and empathy. These are values that are not just central to me in life but also in how I conduct myself as a person elected to represent the people of my constituency.

I believe that my party’s policy as repeatedly agreed by our membership is in line with those values.

Sinn Féin is not in favour of abortion. We believe all possible means of education and support services should be in place. However, in cases of rape, incest and sexual abuse, or in which a woman’s life and mental health are at risk or in grave danger, Sinn Féin accepts that the final decision should rest with the woman concerned.

There are those who would argue against allowing abortion in the circumstances of rape and while I understand that for them it is an issue of conscience, I also know that rape and sexual crimes are one of the greatest violations a man can commit against a woman. Short of actually killing her, there is possibly nothing worse that a person could do a woman. It is a heinous crime.

I could not – and I would not – ask any woman to bear the child of her rapist.

The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland released statistics that showed in 2010 that 75 women who were pregnant as a result of rape used their services.

Due to the nature of underreporting of sexual crime, the real figure of women who found themselves in that situation is probably much, much higher.

RCNI said at the time, “The RCNI would have concerns that any rape survivor would be subject to restrictions and would have to travel oversees to another jurisdiction in order to access a termination….. Rape Crisis Centres will continue to support survivors in making decisions which survivors feel are the right choices for their circumstances.”

This is the key point. What is the right choice in their circumstance?

If abortion was to be allowed in those circumstances, no person would be compelled to have one. Even church teachings hold a deep regard for an individual’s conscience, and when discussing the matter of a woman who is pregnant as a result of rape, whose conscience takes priority?

The woman, a rape victim, seeking the procedure? Or the legislators who must provide a legal framework for her to access that?
This is a discussion that I can see taking place further down the road. And, like the grounds for X – it is something that we will end up revisiting.
But with regard to this evening’s motion. It is very simple.
The people have spoken and it is time for this government to introduce legislation for the X Case.
The Government amendment to our motion simply notes that the Expert Group is examining the matter, and it will propose a range of options as to how the Government should respond to the “complex and sensitive issues.”
Convening the Expert Group was a cop out on the government’s behalf. They have known since 1992 that legislation is needed when the Supreme Court judgment in X was handed down.
This was reiterated by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 when they delivered their judgment in the ABC v Ireland case.
It is a scandal that for twenty years, seven governments have failed in their duties towards women on this issue. I was a teenager when the X case took place. Never did I think that I would be standing here, at nearly 40 years of age as an elected member of the Dáil seeking legislation on that very issue.
The Expert Group was convened as a way of delaying matters further. It was a way of ensuring that government TDs did not have to come in to the Dáil chamber and place on the record where they stood on this.
There was a time when the Labour party called for legislation to X, however this call has now developed in to a more nuanced position of calling for “legal clarity.” We must be clear in saying that a statutory instrument will not suffice. This matter requires primary legislation.
If a statutory instrument is produced, Government members know full well that it will be subject to legal challenge – but it may be an opportunity to put off the inevitable of legislating for just a little bit longer.
Over the past week my inbox has been filled with emails from people from my constituency demanding not that “something be done about it,” but making a very clear demand – “you must legislate for X.”
This is a motion that calls for legislation to provide women with access to abortions in cases where there is risk to their life. That is not to be hyperbolic – we must make no mistake about this – it is about life and death situations.
No pregnant woman in Ireland should ever have to worry that if something goes wrong in her pregnancy she will be faced with a medical practitioner who refuses her the necessary treatment because of a legal vacuum that legislators in this house have stood over for twenty years.
Women should know that if there life is in danger they will be saved – and doctors should know that if a woman’s life is in danger, they can treat them appropriately.
I have heard people say throughout the course of this debate that there is no medical condition in which a pregnant woman would need an abortion to save her life.
While I’m conscious that there is an inquiry in to the death of Savita Halappanavar, I would respectfully suggest that her grieving husband Praveen would beg to differ on that point – and the husband of Sheila Hodgers may agree with him.
The death of Savita Halappanavar has shocked and saddened people right across Ireland. It has underlined in the most tragic way possible the need for long overdue legislation in this state.
This government has stated its intention to bring forward legislation but successive governments have failed to deal with this issue for 20 years.
It is time now, finally, for legislation to protect the rights of women as decided by the Supreme Court in 1992. This should be done in a reasoned, tolerant and considered manner and with maximum cross party consensus.
On this basis, Sinn Féin has brought forward a Dáil motion that seeks, in a measured and reasoned way, to get the Irish government to act and to fulfil its responsibilities so that appalling situations, such as that which led to the death of Savita Halappanavar, can never happen in this country again.

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Waterford Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has commended the community based Waterford Gives a Shirt Campaign for taking their concerns directly to Leinster House. He said it was good to see a grass roots campaign emerge that involves Waterford citizens standing up for their city and county.

The Waterford Gives a Shirt campaign has seen thousands of people donate shirts to charity to send a message to government that they may as well have the shirt of their backs and to make a demand that the government stops neglecting Waterford and the Southeast.

Senator Cullinane said the campaign representatives were positive about Waterford and its future, are proud of their city and county but will not tolerate any further government neglect.

Speaking from outside Leinster House today Senator Cullinane said:

“I commend the Waterford Gives a Shirt campaign for their initiative. It is heartening to see citizens stepping up to the plate and demanding better treatment for their city and county. The campaign representatives are very positive about Waterford and its future. They are proud of their city and their county. But they are understandably frustrated and angry that the city and county is being so badly neglected by government.

“Waterford City and County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Many big companies have closed and have not been replaced. There is not a family in Waterford who has not seen their young either emigrate or leave the county in search of employment. This is unacceptable. It is the sole reason that I requested that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs and Enterprise bring forward a comprehensive jobs plan for the county and the region.

“The government is also forcing an amalgamation of the city and county council which on balance I feel is wrong. The region is being broken up and this will undoubtedly affect our city gateway status.

“Perhaps the most pressing issue of all is the potential downgrading of our regional hospital and the loss of jobs and vital tertiary services. It is one of the single biggest challenges facing Waterford and the Southeast in the time ahead. The people of Waterford are not looking for preferential treatment. We are simply demanding a level playing field and we are not getting that from this Government.”

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Sinn Féin’s TD for Laois/Offaly Brian Stanley TD has tonight urged, “TDs from all political parties to set aside their personal positions on abortion and face up to our responsibilities as legislators.”

Speaking during his party’s Dáil motion calling on the government to legislate for the Supreme Court judgement, Stanley said;

“The eyes of the world are on Ireland, particularly on the legislators here tonight. We are having a debate and a vote that should have taken place twenty years ago. Consecutive governments have failed to legislate. The Taoiseach can no longer hide behind reports and enquiries. The government must legislate as a matter of urgency. Women of Ireland deserve no less form their government.

“Sinn Féin’s position north and south is consistent. Introducing legislation in the south based on the 1992 Supreme Court judgement will in fact harmonise the law north and south. No amount of mischief making by journalists can alter that.

“Our motion is a reasonable response. It gives a voice to the majority view in this state. It is balanced and we believe it is acceptable to all TDs in the house. I would urge TDs from all parties to set aside their personal views on abortion and support the Sinn Féin motion.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, has welcomed the government’s u-turn on introducing a supplementary health budget. The Cavan/Monaghan TD described today’s confirmation from Brendan Howlin that the government will have a supplementary health budget as evidence of a government “with no coherent strategy for health, incapable of managing the health service and making up policy on the hoof”.

He said:

“This is evidence of the Minister for Health’s failure to realise promised savings in the health budget in areas such as the drugs bill and recouping the real cost of private care in public hospitals.

“For months now the Taoiseach and Minister have rejected any suggestion of a supplementary budget. Everyone else knew that, given the severe cuts being forced on the health budget by the government, and the deficits being run up by hospitals, a supplementary budget was not only essential but inevitable. Yesterday, at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health the Minister reaffirmed the government's intent to cut a further €900 million from Health in December’s budget. Can this now also be revisited?

“This morning when challenged on the issue of a supplementary budget by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams the Taoiseach refused to answer the question and waffled a response. The government is pushing the health service over a cliff. Their cuts programme is unsustainable.”

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Note to Editor: Gerry Adams questions Taoiseach in Dáil this morning.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Will the Taoiseach confirm whether there will be a supplementary budget for health this year? He is aware of the cost overruns in health and that the HSE deficit stood at €394 million at the end of September. Moreover, this is despite savage cuts affecting home helps, public nursing home patients and staffing in hospitals, as well as disability and carer's allowances.

An Ceann Comhairle: Thank you.

Deputy Gerry Adams: I also refer to the failure to make savings in other areas. Can the Taoiseach confirm there will be a supplementary budget for health this year? If so, when will it be brought before the Dáil and can the Taoiseach indicate what size it will be?

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot deal with that.

The Taoiseach: I can confirm for the Deputy that all these matters are relevant to the budgetary discussions that are under way and have been for quite some time. Changes made in the structures to the health system, which the Deputy specifically mentioned, and all of that will be concluded in good time before the budget on 5 December.

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, has challenged today’s media reports that the installation of equipment to fit water meters, “will cost €20m. The full cost of this project will cost the tax payer a massive €1.2 billion.”

Deputy Stanley said, “According to the Local Authorities Professional Officers the full cost of water meters will be €1.2billion. Minister Hogan admitted that the contract would be paid with the National Pension Reserve Fund. The government would be better off investing in upgrading our crumbling water system. The State’s water distribution network is antiquated. In some local authority areas up to 60% is leaking away.

“An Bord Gáis is also looking to appoint a managing director for Irish water. This position will cost the tax payer a further €250,000.

Sinn Féin opposes the introduction of domestic water meters and water charges. Sinn Féin is calling for the establishment of a National Water Sector Framework Team. This team, at no added cost to the public, would oversee governance of the water sector and capital investment for the sector. We support the introduction of district metering which is far more effective and cost effective than installing domestic water meters in every household. This allows for local authorities to monitor water usage and leakage at neighbourhood level.” ends

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Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on Welfare Mickey Brady has stated that with the awarding of the new Personal Independence Payment assessments to Capita Business Services Ltd, we must ensure that the shambles of the assessment process carried out previously by ATOS must not be repeated.

Speaking today Mr Brady said:

“The Work Capability Assessments carried out by ATOS have proven to be a shambles, not fit for purpose and excessively costly to the public purse.

“I would hope that the PIPs process would adhere to human rights and equality standards and that it will treat people with disabilities with respect and afford them the dignity that they deserve.

“Capita, the company who has won this contract, must ensure that the health professional they employ for these tests is qualified to deal with the complex and varied needs of those who will have to undergo the assessments.

“This process must be monitored very closely to ensure that people are not disadvantaged and that the gross failures of the ATOS assessments are not repeated.” 

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Today the Minister for Jobs announced that he is to undertake a consultation with small business on changes to the supports offered by County Enterprise Boards.
Peadar Tóibín TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said:
“Last year when the Government unveiled plans to do away with County Enterprise Boards I raised a number of concerns and believed that the proposals were being rushed and could lead to a potential vacuum in supports to our local business. It is now clear that the minister drove ahead with this policy over the past year without consulting with our taking on board the views and experiences of the small business sector.
“After almost a year on the minister has now accepted that the views of the SME sector are central to the development of new supports and structures and initiated a consultation process.
“We remain concerned that this consultation is coming at the end of the process and may amount to window dressing. It is clear that business supports need to resourced and restructured. It is clear that the SME sector is central to this. It remains to be seen if the government will heed to needs of small businesses.”
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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has slammed the announcement from Minister Alan Shatter that the budget for the Reserve Defence Forces is to be halved as well as the numbers of reserve personnel.

The Donegal North East TD said:
"This announcement last evening is the latest kick in the teeth for our Defence Forces. Despite profound concerns about these cutbacks being repeatedly expressed by the representative organisations for the Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces, PDFORRA and the RDFRA, the Minister has continued to enforce even more.

“For a number of years now, the Reserve Defence Forces have been hampered by the moratorium on public service recruitment in anticipation of this so called ‘Value for Money’ review. The Government can use terms like ‘efficiency’, ‘doing more for less’ and ‘value for money’ all they like but they are fooling no one. These cuts to our defence forces have sapped the morale of personnel across the state.

"This decision to halve the budget of the Reserve Defence Forces and halve the numbers of personnel is totally unnecessary. The saving of 10 million euro per annum could have been found in a myriad of other ways as Sinn Féin demonstrated in our pre budget proposals. For example, if we cut fees to those on state agencies by 25% and cut the pay of Ministers to €100,000 and TDs to €75,000: that would amount to the same in savings.

It is all about choices. The government have chosen to dramatically undermine a proud voluntary and patriotic service across so many rural Irish parishes rather than lead by example by cutting politicians pay and political appointees".

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Speaking to a report on official EU languages in Strasbourg this week Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:

“Tá Leagan Gaeilge do Shuíomh gréasáin na Parlaiminte seo de dhíth anois

“For almost 6 years this Parliament has breached the principle of non-discrimination, by producing its website in 22 of the 23 official EU Languages, but not in Irish.

“This blatant discrimination against the marginalised cannot be justified.

“The Irish language derogation does not justify it - it concerns legislation, and not communication with the public.  Nor is there any shortage of qualified translators.

“For almost 2 years the European Parliament has in fact been defying Council Regulation 1257 of 20 Dec 2010, which says clearly: ‘The institutions will continue to take steps to improve access to information in Irish on the activities of the Union’.

“The passing of the report on the recording of interventions in plenary should at least ensure that speeches made in Irish will remain on the website in Irish and not be removed as soon as they are translated into English. A small but important step!

“A formal complaint of language discrimination against the European Parliament has now been lodged with the European Ombudsman.  Tá sá thar am go mbeadh cothrom na Feinne againn anseo".

Martina Anderson added:“In response to a letter which I wrote to Vice President Miguel Ángel Martinez who has responsibility for multilingualism within the Parliament, I have now secured a meeting to discuss this issue further.

“I intend to pursue this matter until it is satisfactorily resolved and Irish takes its rightful place alongside the other 22 Official languages of the EU Parliament”. CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson has signed a declaration calling on the EU to ratify the Council of Europe’s convention on domestic violence.

Martina Anderson said: 

“I find it unbelievable that while the combatting and preventing violence against women and domestic violence, Convention of the Council of Europe was adopted eighteen months ago that to date only Turkey has ratified it. 

“This is an unacceptable situation given that thousands of women die every year across Europe as a result of domestic violence. 

The fact is that domestic violence knows no boundaries – geographical or social class – it is therefore, incumbent on all of us and on every government and institution to do all that we can to ensure that this Convention is ratified by all member States and implemented without further delay.” CRÍOCH 

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has said today that the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) must be maintained if we are to encourage people to stay on in education.

 Mr. McElduff, who is a member of the Assembly’s statutory Committee  for Employment and Learning stated,

“Many young people make a decision to leave education prematurely due to financial concerns. The introduction of the EMA was designed to give young students the option of staying on in education and removing financial barriers in their way of doing this.

“Today’s demonstration in Belfast highlights the level of feeling amongst students who are afraid of losing this allowance which offers them a form of independence.

“Sinn Féin supports the retention of EMA but we are concerned that the five options that were put out in the recent consultation will not meet the needs of many students who currently avail of the allowance.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work with students and their representative bodies in order to find a formula that will increase the numbers of students staying on longer at school.” 

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today called on the Irish government to raise the issue of the on-going violence in the Middle East as an urgent matter and to use its influence to get an EU intervention at this week’s EU summit.

Speaking in the Dáil during statements on the EU Council Teachta Adams called on the international community to act in a decisive way now before the situation deteriorates further.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“A real peace process must be inclusive, based on dialogue and equality, and all sides must respect the right of citizens to elect or select their representatives.

“So Taoiseach I would ask that you ensure this issue is considered by EU leaders this weekend.

“The Government should also use its influence in the EU and its new membership of the UN Human Rights Council to raise the current hostilities, the denial of sovereign, as well as human rights, to the Palestinian people and the six year illegal blockade of Gaza by Israel.”

The full text of Mr. Adams remarks:

“Taoiseach I want to ask you to raise the issue of the on-going violence in the Middle East as an urgent issue and to use your good office to get an EU intervention.

“Over recent decades the international community has failed to demonstrate the necessary resolve to help end this conflict.

“By last night approximately 130 Palestinian and five Israeli citizens have been killed. Half of those killed in Gaza are women and children.

“The EU Council should not meet without you using Ireland’s special status to raise the urgent need for peace in the Middle East.

“I believe there needs to be an immediate end of armed actions by all of the combatant groups.

“The rocket attacks on Israel should stop and the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip should end immediately.

“But in the meantime there is an onus on the international community especially the EU, to act in a decisive way now before the situation deteriorates further.

“You can play a leadership role in this Taoiseach. It is also vital that we should not be distracted by unbalanced media reporting which presents this conflict as one between equals. It is not.

“The Gaza Strip is a third world region, poor, under economic siege for six years and with most of its citizens living in poverty and relying on international aid.

“The Palestinian people have been robbed of their land, imprisoned by separation walls and borders into ghettoes, and have little power or influence.

“A United Nations report, before this recent violence, stated that by 2020 there will be virtually no reliable access to safe drinking water and no reliable electricity for the people of the Gaza strip.

“Eighty per cent of the citizens of Gaza are dependent on international aid and over one million are refugees.

“Taoiseach, Israel by comparison is a first world, highly developed, rich and heavily armed super-state with nuclear weapons.

“Taoiseach, the international experience and one of the main lessons from the Irish peace process is clear.

“Refusing to engage in dialogue; demonising opponents; treating them as non-citizens; stripping them of their rights and entitlements, of their self-esteem and integrity as human beings; engaging in censorship and vilification, makes war inevitable and peace harder to achieve.

“A real peace process must be inclusive, based on dialogue and equality, and all sides must respect the right of citizens to elect or select their representatives.

“So Taoiseach I would ask that you ensure this issue is considered by EU leaders this weekend.

“The government should also use its influence in the EU and its new membership of the UN Human Rights Council to raise the current hostilities, the denial of sovereign, as well as human rights, to the Palestinian people and the six year illegal blockade of Gaza by Israel.”

ENDS

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Tá sé curtha i leith Aire na Gaeltachta, Dinny McGinley, ag an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, go bhfuil faillí tíreolaíoch agus inscne ag baint leis na ceapacháin atá déanta aige ar bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta. Tá líon na mban ar an mbord gearrtha go beirt agus tá líon na gcomhaltaí as Gaeltacht na Gaillimhe laghdaithe ó ochtar go beirt.
Cé go bhfáiltíonn an Seanadóir roimh an bhfógra agus guionn sé gach rath ar na baill nuathofa, ardaíonn na ceapacháin cuid mhaith ceisteanna bunúsacha faoi cur chuige an Rialtais, dar leis an gClochartach.
"Tá daoine den dtuairim gur de bharr dílseacht pholaitiúil atá cuid mhaith de na ceapacháin seo déanta agus go mbeidh tromlach an-mhór ag daoine atá fabhrach d’Fhine Gael & an Lucht Oibre ar an mbord. Seo an imní a bhí chuid mhaith de phobal na Gaeltachta nuair a d’athraigh an tAire an leagan amach daonlathach ar an mbord’, a deir Seanadóir Ghaillimh Thiar. ‘Níl an bhord nua tofa ag an bpobal dar díobh iad agus is laigeacht mór san ionadaíocht é sin, dar liom."
"Tá fimínteacht ag baint le cur chuige an Rialtais freisin. Ar thaobh amháin tá siad ag iarraidh reachtaíocht a chuir chun cinn le líon na mban sa gcóras poiblí a mhéadu, rud atá ceart, ach nuair a bhí deis ag an Aire Gaeltachta cothromaíocht a thabhairt do mhná ar bhord an Údaráis, a mhalairt atá déanta agus ionadaíocht na mban gearrtha caoga fán gcéad aige. An deá-chleachtas atá ar fud na hEorpa ná go mbeadh ar a laghad ceathracha fán gcéad ban ar bhoird stáit, ach níl sa bheirt atá ceaptha ag an Aire ach 16% den iomlán. Deis eile caillte aige", dar le Ó Clochartaigh.
"Is í Gaeltacht na Gaillimhe an ceantar is mó daonra sa nGaeltacht le suas le 45,000 duine ann. Tá sé beagnach dúbailt chomh mór le Tír Chonaill ina bhfuil tuairim 24,000 duine. Ach, tá ceathrar ionadaí ar an mbord nua de bhunadh Thír Chonaill agus gan ach beirt as Gaillimh, áit a raibh ochtar roimhe sin. Níl muid ag lorg aon cheo breise do Ghaillimh seachas aon cheantar eile, ach ní coibhneas faireáilte é sin", a deir an Seanadóir.
"Ba chóir don Aire míniú duinn chomh maith cé na critéir a d’úsáid sé chun na baill nua a roghnú. An bhfuil cáilíochtaí pleanála teanga acu? An bhfuil cónaí orthu sa nGaeltacht? Cén taithí gnó agus cruthú fostaíochta agus forbartha pobail atá acu? Ba chóir dó chomh maith eolas a thabhairt faoi aon bhallraíocht a bhí, nó atá acu, in aon pháirtí polaitiúil, nó ar thacaigh siad ariamh le iarrthóirí ó aon pháirtí ar leith aimsir toghcháin?’, a deir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. ‘Tá sé seo tábhachtach i gcomhthéacs na daoine eile a chuir iarratais isteach le bheith mar bhaill boird agus nár éirigh leo. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé soiléir gur de bharr taithí agus cumas a rinneadh an cinneadh, seachas aon cheo eile.
"Is maith an rud go bhfuil ionadaíocht ar an mbord nua ó na Gaeltachtaí beaga, ach ba chóir don Aire dá bhrí sin soiléiriú a dhéanamh ar ionadaíocht na ndaoine a bheidh ainmnithe ó Chomhairlí Chontae na Mí, Corcaigh agus Port Lairge amach anseo. Tá sé sa reachtaíocht go mbéidh siad ag babhtáíl gach bliain. Más ea, ceard a tharloidh d’ionadaíocht na Mí an bhliain seo chugainn. Ní cosúil ach an oiread go bhfuil éinne ceaptha ag an Aire a bhfuil cónaí orthu ar oileán Ghaeltachta agus is mór an trua sin, mar go bhfuil ról faoi leith ag na hoileáín i saol agus cultúr na Gaeltachta.
"Bhí amhras orainn nuair a bhí Bille na Gaeltachta dhá bhrú thríd an Oireachtas agus athruithe ar bhord an Údaráis le tabhairt isteach, go mbeadh laghdú ar an daonlathas, ar an ionadaíocht ó na pobail agus go mbeadh fábhar do pháirtithe an Rialtais sna ceapacháin. Tá sé tabhachtach go léireoidh an tAire anois nach amhlaidh atá, le go mbeadh muinín ag daoine san Údarás agus an obair fíorthabhachtach a dhéanann sí", a deir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Críoch

Údarás Board appointments unrepresentative – Ó Clochartaigh

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has accused the Minister of State for Gaeltacht affairs for failing to ensure the gender and geographic spread of the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta was representative. The number of women on the board has been reduced to two, and the number of representatives from Galway has been reduced from eight to two.
While the Senator welcomed the announcement of the Boards membership, and wished the new members well in their work, Senator Ó Clochartaigh has stated that the makeup of the board raises basic questions about the Government’s approach.
“There are many people of the view that the appointments are on the basis of political patronage, and that the overwhelming majority of members of the Board are aligned to Fine Gael and the Labour Party. This was one of the concerns of the Gaeltacht community when the Government changed the democratic make-up of the Board,” according to the Galway West Senator. “The new board has not been elected by the people, and that is a massive flaw in the make-up of the board in my view.
“The Government is also being quite hypocritical as well. On the one hand, it is bringing forward, rightly in my view, legislation to increase the representation of women in political life, however, when the Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs has the opportunity to ensure that women are given proper representation, he has done the opposite and reduced the representation of women by 50%. It is good practice throughout Europe, that at least 40% of state boards are female, however, the two appointed by the Minister to the board, only make up 16%. This is another missed opportunity.
“The Galway Gaeltacht is the most populous area in the Gaeltacht, with some 45,000 people living there. This is nearly twice as populous as the Donegal Gaeltacht with 24,000 people. However, there are four representatives from Donegal, and only two from Galway, which previously had eight representatives. We are not seeking any special treatment for Galway, however, these are not fair ratios.
“The Minister should also explain what criteria he used to select the new members. Do they have language planning qualifications? Are they living in the Gaeltacht? Do they have experience in enterprise, job creation and community development? He should also provide any information as regards any involvement the members of the board have or have had with political parties, or whether they have ever actively supported any candidates for election. It is important in the context of those who applied for membership of the board but did not succeed. It should be clear that these appointments were made on the basis of experience and ability rather than on any other basis.
“It is positive that there is representation on the board from the small Gaeltacht areas, but the Minister should clarify the issue of representation from Meath, Cork and Waterford County Councils. According to the legislation, representation from these County Councils is to rotate on an annual basis. If this is the case, what will become of representation from Meath next year? It also appears as though the Minister has not appointed anyone to the Board who is living on an island Gaeltacht, and that is a shame, because the islands have a particular role in the life and culture of the Gaeltacht.
“We were concerned when the Gaeltacht Bill was passing through the Oireachtas, and the changes to the make-up of the board were being brought in, that there would be a reduction in democracy, in representativeness, and that the Government party appointees would predominate. It is essential that the Minister ensure that this is not the case, so that the people have faith in the Údarás, and in its vitally important work”

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has welcomed the ending of the protest at Maghaberry by a majority of prisoners taking part.

The Foyle MLA and Vice Chair of the Assembly’s Justice Committee said:

“I welcome this development which now creates the space for the resolution to the prison dispute.

“The agreement reached in 2010 provides the way forward and with good will on all sides this is an opportunity to end the protest within the prison.

“Prisoners and prison staff need to be treated with dignity and respect and the minister’s intention to seek a technological solution to the issue of strip searching provides an avenue to resolving the issue.”

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Speaking in London last night, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy hit out at the behaviour of the British government in the continuing imprisonment of Marian Price, Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough.

Conor Murphy was speaking at a public meeting in Westminster, on a panel which included Fianna Fáil TD Eamon O'Cúiv, British Labour MP John McDonnell, former Armagh prison chaplain Fr Raymond Murray, and prisoners campaigner Moya St Leger.

 Addressing the Price and Corey cases, Mr Murphy said:

 "These two people should be released immediately. Their detention without trial and due process is unjust and runs contrary to natural justice. They are detained on the basis of secret allegations by British intelligence agencies, which they are unable to challenge, contest or refute.  Everyone is entitled to due process and to a fair trial Marian Price and Martin Corey are being denied this. This represents a serious breach of their human rights and their continued imprisonment undermines the justice system. We are against the use of ‘revocation of licences’ as a substitute for due process.

On the continued imprisonment of Gerry McGeough, Conor Murphy said:

 "Sinn Féin believes that Gerry McGeough should not have been arrested,  should not therefore be in prison and should be released immediately. We have made this position clear publicly on many occasions since Gerry’s arrest, including during the course of many meetings with both the British and Irish governments. Several of our MLAs have visited the prisoners in Maghaberry many times over the course of the past two years. 

“They have met with Gerry McGeough and discussed his predicament. They have repeated our position to him personally.  Indeed, during these visits Gerry has expressed his appreciation for the efforts Sinn Féin has made on his behalf. Most recently Sinn Féin tabled motions at a number of Councils,  north and south,  calling for his release". CRÍOCH

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