Sinn Féin MP and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has condemned those responsible for this morning’s bomb attack in east Belfast.
Speaking from Stormont, where he was joined by Sinn Féin representative for east Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile, Mr McGuinness:
“I condemn this attack, which was obviously intended to kill. This attack has no support within the community and serves no cause. The vast majority of people want a future together in peace. The people of Ireland overwhelming support the peace process. They want the political institutions and progress to continue. It is for us as political leaders to ensure that their wishes are fulfilled. Attempts such as this to derail the peace process must not be allowed to succeed.
This attack comes at the end of the week when other armed groups now recognise that there is no support for such actions.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my best wishes to the injured woman and am thankful that the potentially tragic outcome did not come to pass.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Arthur Morgan has described Finance Minister Brian Lenihan’s preview of the forthcoming Budget at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce as a promise to protect the wealthiest from paying their fair share while making low-paid workers and their families pay most for the recession by cutting the supports and services on which they rely.
Deputy Morgan said:
“Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has ruled out any income tax increases for the highest earners in the forthcoming Budget. To address the budget deficit he is going to rely totally on savage cutbacks across vital public services.
“It is absurd for Minister Lenihan to suggest that the wealthiest can pay no more and should not be required to do so. Income distribution is grossly distorted in this State so it is natural that higher earners pay collectively more tax – but they are still not paying their fair share. Far from it. There are still a host of reliefs and avoidance schemes that the super-rich employ very successfully to avoid paying tax.
“There is only one top percentage rate for income tax which means that someone on €37,000 per annum pays at the same percentage rate as someone on €1 million per annum. Top earners also own most of the State's wealth in assets and pay no tax on those assets.
“The introduction of a third income tax rate of 48% for earnings in excess of €100,000 would raise €355 million. Standardising all discretionary tax reliefs would raise €1.1 billion.
“These are but two examples of what could be done but instead Minister Lenihan promises protection for the super-rich from paying their fair share while making low-paid workers and their families pay most for the recession by cutting the supports and services on which they rely. Health, education and social welfare for the majority will be slashed while the highest earners will still benefit from private hospitals, private schools and untaxed private wealth.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Health Committee has stated the that the Investing for Health strategy that was brought forward by Bairbre de Brún when she was Health minster could potentially save millions of pounds in the long run for the health budget if implemented.
Speaking following the Committee meeting Ms Ramsey said:
“Through the CSR the health department has instructed its health trusts to make efficiency savings of 3%. These cuts are inevitably impacting on frontline services despite commitments by the Health Minster that this would not be the case.
“Despite this we are informed that beds could be under threat as are nursing jobs, ambulance hours have been cut, and a black hole has been created by the Northern trust cuts in Mid Ulster.
“There are other ways to save moneys such as addressing the high levels of bureaucracy, top heavy management teams, and also delivering on efficiency of service, not efficiency savings.
“A further way is to implement the Investing in Health strategy brought forward by Bairbre de Brún when she was health minister. This has the potential to save millions of pounds in the health budget by taking a holistic approach to preventative health care.
“Put simply, all government departments, agencies, social partners and community organisation must realise that to invest in health will transform our society and cut down on expenditure on treating preventable illnesses. “
Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Culture, Art’s and Leisure Committee Raymond McCartney has stated that monies received through the proceeds of crime by the NIO should be distributed to communities who are affected by crime in the form of aid and assistance to sporting, arts and community groups.
Speaking following today’s committee meeting Mr McCartney said:
“Proceeds of crime are currently held by the NIO and distributed through agencies such as the PPS or the Courts Service. There is however a new approach being taken by the Culture, Arts and Leisure committee who will be calling for such proceeds to be distributed to arts and sporting groups in the communities who are worst affected by crime.
“This is the model that is currently being applied in Scotland to great effect and community support. In Scotland a substantial amount of money from criminal assets and proceeds is channelled back into sporting projects for example the Scottish FA have received over £2 million to upgrade football facilities.
“In England and Wales the Community Cashback scheme has seen millions distributed also.
“Within the North there could be as much as £7million that could be utilised in order to assist communities and improve facilities for the arts and leisure.
“The emerging view on the committee is that these are better models improving the capacity of communities while also incentivising people in tackling crime.
“However as we are currently pressing the NIO to enact such a scheme it could be substantially streamlined following the devolution of Policing and Justice powers as it would then be the gift of locally elected representatives to determine where this money would go.”
Sinn Féin Policing Board Member, Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has said that the cost of contentious parades are clearly unsustainable and the organisers of such events should be required to take out public liability insurance.
Martina Anderson was speaking after it emerged that similar steps had been taken in Scotland due to the spiralling costs of policing Orange parades there.
Ms Anderson said:
“The Board’s human rights committee met with the Parades Commission yesterday (Wednesday) and were briefed on the cost implications of parades here.
“The cost of nearly 2400 parades in the North between June and August of this year is estimated to be almost £3 million.
“However, only 79 of these parades were considered contentious and the PSNI informed us that if these marches were taken out of the equation the cost of policing parades could be reduced by 75%.
“Clearly, in a time of economic restraint and limited resources, such costs cannot be sustained or justified and I be believe we should be following the Scottish example where the organisers of contentious parades are required to take out public liability insurance if they wish to march.
“This came about after it emerged that Orange parades and associated disorder cost the Strathclyde Police £1.7m last year.“I believe the organisers of the small number of contentious parades remaining in the North should be required to pick up the tab for the policing costs they incur. Requiring them to take out insurance is one way of doing so although I suspect that many of these parades would be uninsurable given their history of disorder.”
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh called for legislation to bring an end to self assessed performance related bonuses such as the €70,000 awarded to HSE Chief Executive Brendan Drumm.
Speaking this afternoon after his Dáil engagement with the Tánaiste Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has given a commitment that no bonuses will be paid out for the period covering 2008 and 2009. This, quite simply, is not good enough. These types of grossly excessive and unwarranted payments must be consigned to the past with the rest of Fianna Fáil’s economic concepts.
“People in my constituency and throughout Ireland are disgusted to hear of the €70,000 payment to Brendan Drumm for his role in overseeing the destruction of our public hospital network.
“At Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin many children are waiting for urgent operations as the resources are not forthcoming to deal with demand. Yet this Government feels justified in paying Brendan Drumm, a public servant on a higher salary than the Taoiseach, €70,000 in a bonus payment.
“Brendan Drumm should be ashamed to look for a bonus when sick children are having urgent operations cancelled. It symbolizes everything that is rotten with this state.
“This money and the monies from other excessive bonus payments to health service managers should be put into frontline services. Suspending these payments is not good enough. Legislation must be amended to ensure that these grossly excessive payments are never again permitted.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has described the NAMA Business plan, published by the Government last night, as grossly over ambitious. Speaking today Deputy Morgan accused the Government of massaging and manipulating figures and said, like the forecasts of the Department of Finance in recent years, the figures contained in the NAMA business plan are way out off the mark.
Deputy Morgan said:
“The NAMA business plan published by the Government last night is grossly over ambitious. Its figures, like the forecasts of the Department of Finance in recent years, are way off the mark.
“The business plan assumes that only 20% of the loans will default and it describes that figure as conservative. This is based on a comparison to Barclay's bank book defaults of 10% in the 90s, but that was based on their whole book. NAMA is a select number of loans that are inherently risky. The government is massaging and manipulating figures once again in a vain attempt to sell this financial black hole to the Irish people.
“The net profit NAMA assumes to make is based on fundamental numerically flawed arguments. One – that the full value of €88 billion assigned to these loans is correct, i.e. that developers put up 22% of all loans. Two – that property values have only fallen by 47% (when land values have in some cases fallen by 85% and land makes up 36% of NAMA's loan book. And three – that no more loans will default and that the minister won't take on more loans.
“Fees and expenses add up to €2.64 billion over ten years – this is outrageous. €2.64 billion would act as a real jobs stimulus for the economy, but this money been blown on advisors and expenses.
“By the end of the year, NAMA will have taken on only 10 loans amounting to 16 billion. If the loans are this large per developer, it only takes a couple of developers defaulting to go way over the 20% default assumption.
“A business plan for NAMA from the same government that year after year failed to predict the economic crisis that was coming, and in fact stoked it, is useless. They are heading towards further economic melt-down, again because of construction and the banks, only this time the instrument they are using is NAMA.” ENDS
We need to put children’s needs at the centre – it is our duty, our responsibility and we must rise to the challenge.
That was the message from the Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane as she made a keynote speech to the education community in the Titanic Pump House today.
Speaking at the event, the Minister said: "My mission, my responsibility as Minister is to enable every young person to fulfil her or his full potential, to ensure that every child receives the highest quality of teaching and learning at every stage in their education and that equality is at the core of everything we do.
"Despite the best efforts of many, our education system is letting too many children down – 4,500 are leaving primary school without basic literacy and numeracy skills and by the end of post-primary, almost 11,000 leave school without five good GSCE's including literacy and maths. This cannot continue.
"There is much discussion around the education sector about post-primary transfer. For decades our education system has been flawed and disadvantages many of our young people, but thankfully the 11 plus is now gone and will not be coming back. While this is a very important issue, there are many, many other reforms on-going in the Department, there is much exciting work happening across the education sector and we will continue with this work to create a better education system.”
The Minister continued: "Today, I have outlined the interconnected and complementary reforms which are intended to revitalise and invigorate our system, ranging from ESA; Every School A Good School; the Revised Literacy and Numeracy Strategy; the Early Years Strategy; the Review of Irish-Medium Education; the Revised Curriculum and Sustainable Schools. We need to step up a gear, push forward with the reforms and make our education system one to be proud of.
"One of the major reforms taking place is the Entitlement Framework, which will be a statutory requirement from 2013. From today, I am spelling out to all post-primary schools that I want to see a change in pace, a stepping up of efforts. All schools will be required to demonstrate how they will effectively deliver the Entitlement Framework and seek to maximise choice for children in the future - I want to ensure their plans are not only robust but will deliver a high quality learning experience."
The Minister outlined five pillars around which the education system will be developed:
· raising standards for all;
· closing the gap in achievement by improving access and equity;
· enhancing the quality of teaching by developing our workforce;
· improving the learning environment through targeted investment; and
· transforming management cutting out bureaucracy and delivering the support that schools need.
During her speech, the Minister referred to the 'Together towards Entitlement', report which is soon to be published by the Area Based Planning Group chaired by Adeline Dinsmore.
The Minister said: "Area Based Planning is a key piece of work for my Department and a significant amount of work has been completed in this area. Area Based Planning will drive the reshaping of our estate and the consequential investment plans. I have commissioned a review of current projects to ensure that all are consistent with the overall policy framework and will be viable and sustainable in the long term.
"In the current budget period, 2008-2011, I intend to invest some £718million on school and youth services and over the 10-year period to 2018, total planned investment is £3.5billion.
"I will soon be able to publish the area-based planning report which sets out a road map to delivering a better, more equitable post-primary education system that will serve the needs of all our young people. I want to thank all involved in producing this report, both at the central and local levels. Their invaluable work will help to shape the future of education."
Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast Paul Maskey has stated that the shooting of a 28 year old man in West Belfast will achieve nothing and has called on those responsible to deist from these actions.
Speaking today Mr Maskey said:
“The shooting of a man in Lenadoon is wrong. It was carried out by groups attempting to make themselves relevant however they must learn from the past and see that so called punishment shootings achieved very little.
“However, the danger is that, differing from other shootings, this man was shoot in the abdomen which could easily have killed him and we would be dealing with a murder in west Belfast.
“There are other ways to deal with the issues affecting us all, both with the community and with the PSNI. Those behind the shooting must desist from these actions and engage with the community in order to actively promote community safety partnerships and accountable policing so that we can bring an end to these incidents. “
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights, Martin Ferris TD, today raised the issue of the threat to Coca-Cola workers in the Dáil. The workers have been on strike for almost two months as part of their campaign to stop the company outsourcing their distribution section which will result in the loss of 130 jobs, as well as undermining the wages and working conditions of other employees.
Deputy Ferris said: “Coca Cola Ireland is part of an extremely successful multinational company that continues to make massive profits. There is therefore no excuse for the proposed lay offs or the other conditions which the company is attempting to force on the workers.
“Coca Cola has also refused to abide by a Labour Court proposal regarding the redundancy package being offered to those whose jobs are to be destroyed. This is yet another example of a large company using the current economic situation to weaken the position of their employees and in that light it is incumbent on the Government to intervene and to ensure that the workers are treated fairly.” ENDS
West Belfast MLA Paul Maskey has expressed concern at reports that a Belfast business which owns licensed premises in west and north Belfast has gone into receivership and says that everything possible must be done to retain the jobs affected by this development:
"Sinn Féin's primary concern is for all of those whose livelihood depends on this local employer. We need to retain employment in all spheres at this time. As far as I am aware at present, those employed will retain their jobs whilst the viability or future ownership of the premises affected is being explored."
"The fact that local business-people in west and north Belfast are affected by the present economic difficulties is no surprise. We have been raising concerns for some time about the responsiveness of banks to the needs of small to medium size enterprises. Small businesses do not have the same financial cushion as larger firms. It would certainly appear that some banks, which have enjoyed financial stimulus packages, are still not sharing that financial support with local businesses."
"In this case, I think the surprise has come by the haste with which the bank involved with this local business has moved to put it into receivership. Sinn Féin has been in contact with the receiver who has been appointed to oversee the running of the premises affected and I expect to meet with him later this week to discuss the situation."
Speaking after attending the launch of a Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign today Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the Government must re-focus its energies in the fight against drugs. He said it is economically wise to invest in drug rehabilitation programmes as it reduces the justice spend.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “The extension of the National Drugs Strategy to include alcohol is a welcome development. However I would question the Government’s commitment to this strategy given its proposal to cut €2.6million of its funding. There is no point extending the scope of the strategy while at the same time cutting it’s funding, particularly at a time when Drugs Task Forces are already stretched to capacity.
“At a time when new and ever more addictive drugs are entering the Irish market the Government must re-focus its energies in the fight against drugs using every available resource.
“It is also economically wise to invest in drug rehabilitation as every euro spent in this area significantly reduces spending requirements in the justice area.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as a travesty the response of Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the Dáil today when Deputy Ó Caoláin challenged him on the approval given by the European Commission for a €54.5 million grant from the Polish government to Dell to facilitate the removal to Poland of 1900 jobs from the multinational’s Limerick plant.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“When I challenged the Taoiseach on the floor of the Dáil today on the scandal of the European Commission approval of a Polish government grant of €54.5 million to facilitate the removal of 1900 jobs from Ireland, the response I received from the Taoiseach was pathetic.
“He cravenly thanked Dell for their sojourn here, saying the maintenance of their manufacturing facility ‘for such a length of time’ was a major achievement. There was not a hint of criticism from the Taoiseach of Dell’s decision. There was no recognition that the European Commission has encouraged this dumping of workers.
“The Taoiseach’s statement that Dell’s pullout was ‘also was part of ensuring that Dell would maintain a presence, albeit much reduced, in the mid-west’, was a piece of double-speak worthy of George Orwell’s 1984.
“The Taoiseach completely failed to address my core question which was the folly of EU policy which facilitates such practices by multinationals, playing one disadvantaged region off against another and driving wages down within the EU overall.
“Dell did very well for itself when in Ireland. This company was able to pay its Chief Executive and its Chairman €3 million annually on the profits it made in Ireland and worldwide. The motivation behind displacing 1,900 Irish workers was to maximise profits by transferring the work to lower paid workers within the EU. It is an absolute travesty that the Taoiseach should try to discharge the European Union from any responsibility in this.” ENDS
On Monday Sir Thomas Legg pigeon-holed letters at Westminster for all MPs.
The Sinn Féin Finance Department today issued the following statement.
“The electorate has the right to expect the highest standards from those holding public office and to be confident that taxpayer’s money is being used properly. There is deep public anger over the abuse of allowances by MPs at Westminster. There is anger at the systematic ripping off of tax payer’s money from those elected to high office and anger at the complete lack of transparency and accountability.
“The five Sinn Féin MPs yesterday received letters from Sir Thomas Legg in relation to his enquires into MPs expenses.
“At the outset of this inquiry we stated publicly that we would co-operate fully with the investigation.
“The inquiry has identified an error made by the House of Commons Fees Office in relation to the over payment of two months rent for Martin McGuinness rental property in London in 2006.
“This error was not picked up on at the time either by the Commons Fees Office or by Sinn Féin. Having had this matter brought to our attention we have immediately taken steps to refund this overpayment. At no time was any money paid directly to Martin McGuinness.
“There have been no other requests by Thomas Legg for any of the other Sinn Féin MPs to pay back any monies claimed. Sinn Féin and those who vote for us expect the highest standards from all of our public representatives. We will continue to act in an open and transparent manner. And we will do all that we can to end the corrupt political culture which operates on both parts of this island” ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as “nauseating” the decision of the Board of the HSE to approve a €70,000 bonus payment for HSE Chief Executive Brendan Drumm.
Deputy Ó Caoláin stated:
“It is no wonder that Health Minister Harney and HSE Chief Brendan Drumm have made decisions to impose cutbacks which cause patients to suffer throughout our health services. The very existence of massive bonuses for top executives who are already paid the highest salaries in the public service, let alone the approval for such bonuses in the present economic crisis, shows that these people are totally divorced from the everyday reality of ordinary citizens.
“It is nauseating that the HSE Board should approve this bonus for the year 2007. It was in the autumn of that year that the current regime of health cutbacks was first imposed.
“Contrast these bonuses with such heartless cuts as the slashing of home support hours for children with autism. Contrast them with the fact revealed yesterday that children with arthritis must wait up to 13 months to see the State’s only paediatric rheumatologist in Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
“This system of bonuses should be ended. More importantly, Minister Harney and her Cabinet colleagues, along with their disastrous health policies and disastrous management of our health services, should be turfed out.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA and education spokesperson, John O’Dowd has today dismissed the meeting of several of the political parties on academic selection as a publicity stunt by some of the parties involved and as an attempt at levering some amount of credibility on their failed positions in terms of academic selection
Speaking today Mr O’Dowd said:
“Today’s meeting on academic selection is inspired by the recent focus by the Belfast Telegraph, who are clearly an organ of the pro selection lobby, as an attempt to grab another headline.
"The 11plus lobby need to understand their days of having an unhealthy influence in the corridors of power is over and done with, the 11plus is gone and their era is over.
“The ridiculousness of the situation is clear. This meeting is being held at 12 o’clock today. At 2 o’clock today the parties represented at this meeting will sit on the education committee, the very same committee that over the past two years has had ample opportunity to find consensus and discuss the critical issues affecting education and our children.
“On top of that the same parties are represented on the Executive where education proposals were blocked from discussion by the DUP. What is ironic is that proposal to phase in the abolition of academic selection was on the table when the minister brought forward compromise proposals for discussion to the Executive.
"The DUP and UUP rejected the proposal and the SDLP accused the Minister of a climb down because she sought compromise.
“Let’s be clear. Sinn Fein have never stymied debate on this issue. What today’s meeting represents is a publicity stunt and an attempt by some of these parties to lever some amount of credibility on their failed positions on academic selection. They have blocked change and have failed to provide leadership on our children’s educational needs and this is an attempt to look squeaky clean on this vital issue.”
Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Children Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin today welcomed the report of the Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan on the provision of housing for children with special needs.
Speaking on the report, Deputy Ó Caoláin stated that the Government and all local authorities must work tirelessly to improve housing provision for children with special needs and that the level of need is nowhere near adequately catered for.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “Sinn Féin have long advocated that all new build accommodation be built under lifetime adaptability guidelines to enable people with special needs to live full lives in accommodation that is suitable for them. There are 59,000 families in need of social housing, many of whom have been waiting five or six years to be housed. A number of these have specific accommodation requirements because there is a child with special needs in the family unit. Five years is too long for that child to live in inadequate housing.
“Local authorities should take a child-centred approach when housing people. The best interests of the child should be among the deciding factors when making decisions regarding housing. Children’s needs should be prioritised during the allocation process.
“There needs to be a reorientation of housing policy towards the provision of social housing – poor levels of social housing stock are compounding the problems faced by people in need of social housing.
“Sinn Féin are calling on local authorities and the Government to work proactively in meaningful consultation and partnership with the families of children who have special needs in order to ensure they are provided with suitable housing and at the earliest time possible after the application is received.” ENDS
Cathal Boylan, Sinn Féin spokesperson on planning, commenting on the
report of the Independent Working Group into outstanding issues
relating to Draft PPS 21, which has been posted on the Planning
Department website said;
‘Whilst the report is overdue, we welcome it’s publication as a positive step in the introduction of the building blocks that will ensure the sustainability of the wider rural community. The report recognises that the settlement pattern on the island of Ireland is clearly different from that of its neighbours, and that a ‘one size fits all’ policy will not facilitate the needs of our rural population.’
The Newry and Armagh MLA continued;
‘The report also acknowledges the wide variation of our rural landscape and its capacity to accommodate development, as well as recognising the different perceptions and attitudes towards rural housing in the North, especially between East and West of the Bann.’
‘The IWG clearly indicates that any policy must conform to the Regional Development Strategy, (RDS), and the opportunity exists through the formulation of a new Rural White Paper and the RDS to help identify areas for development.’
‘In conclusion, the report highlights the need for the Government departments of the DoE, DARD and DRD to work closely together to integrate a policy which will be to the benefit of the wider rural community and rural dwellers, and not just the farming community.’