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Opinion piece by Martin McGuinness on current political situation in the Assembly

This is a time when the Executive parties need to stand together to defend our public services particularly in health, education and welfare. We need to stand up for the people who elect us, rather than acting in the interests of a Tory elite.

Martin McGuinness

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has commended the strides made yesterday for equality, but has highlighted the many other aspects of...




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Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan said it’s hard to believe that DETI are carrying out a consultation exercise, to identify ‘not-spots’ and weak areas for access to broadband - online.

The Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA comments came following the publication of an initial list of postcodes where DETI believe people are unable to access broadband faster than 2Mbps has been published.

Phil Flanagan, who is the Deputy Chair of the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee said:

“How you can find out areas that do not receive broadband or are weak by conducting a survey online is beyond me.  

“This consultation will not work if it is solely an online exercise. DETI need to be more proactive with this process and engage with local councils and elected representatives, as well as community and voluntary organisations to help paint a fully informed picture of the current situation.

“The focus has to be to prioritise those areas in greatest need in any future funding interventions.

 “We are all aware of the importance of high speed broadband for everyone in our community and there has been significant progress in the role-out of broadband in recent years thanks to investment from the Executive.

“However, there are still many gaps in rural areas, particularly in places like West Fermanagh, where the level of broadband availability is very low. This is evident by both the lengthy list of affected postcodes and those that are missing from the list.

“These gaps in provision are unacceptable and those affected communities need to ensure that they respond to this consultation so that their postcode is added to the list."

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Enterprising rural businesses from the north will be a key feature of the DARD exhibition at the National Ploughing Championships in New Ross, County Wexford.

Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill has extended an invitation across the agricultural sector for all to visit the DARD exhibition at the Championships which this year takes place from Tuesday 25 to Thursday 27 September.

A dedicated pavilion will showcase small rural businesses and organisations supported by DARD with the aim of helping them to develop new market opportunities. The exhibitors will be promoting a range of goods and services, light engineering as well as research and development.

The Minister said: “The National Ploughing Championships are always at the peak of the Irish farming calendar and present agricultural and rural businesses with a unique opportunity to put their wares on show to a very large audience.

“In the current economic climate, everyone is after that extra edge in the marketplace. The National Ploughing Championships is a unique event which has the potential to help improve diversifying farmers’ and rural business prospects. This year my Department will be facilitating a number of local rural enterprises who will showcase the north’s food and drink industry, light engineering and rural tourism as well as environmental products for equine and farming sectors.”

The Minister added: “I am always very keen to promote our products and hope our stand at this national event will help secure new opportunities for the rural business participants which I know has been the case in the six years my Department has staged an exhibit at the event. A warm welcome on the DARD stand will be awaiting anyone attending the ploughing championships.”

One of the largest outdoor exhibitions and agricultural trade shows in Europe, the National Ploughing Championships attracts upwards of 1,000 exhibitors and crowds in excess of 180,000. This spectacular event incorporates all sectors of agriculture and rural Living from the latest development in agric-machinery to education, business, craft, food, health, lifestyles, home and garden, sports and leisure as well as tourism and fashion.

Discussing local competitors’ prospects in the championships, the Minister said: “I wish all our local ploughmen the best of luck at this year’s event in Wexford. I am confident that they can perform well in this prestigious competition.”

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Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson has met with George Lyon MEP to discuss the crisis in the grain sector.

 Speaking from Strasbourg the MEP said,

 "The crisis in the grain sector is affecting pig-farmers all over Europe, but the situation in the north is particularly bad, with farmers being paid an average of £8 per pig less than their British counterparts.

 "The whole pig farming industry is experiencing difficulties due to the increasing cost of feed and the costs of complying with welfare regulations.  I asked MEP Lyon, who is meeting with the Commission to discuss this, to keep me informed of any developments.

 "Our farmers are doing their utmost to adhere to the strictest welfare regulations, and they are succeeding, yet they are not being rewarded with a fair price for their produce. When you consider the price farmers from different regions are getting for what they produce, you can see there is a definite disparity.

 "I will also be further discussing this issue with Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill, when we are both at the Ploughing Championships. It is an issue I intend to keep following.

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Sinn Féin MLA and party spokesperson on the issue of victims Mitchel McLaughlin has reiterated the need for a comprehensive and independent truth recovery process to deal with the past. Speaking ahead of the DUP motion in the Assembly to be debated on Monday seeking an apology from the Irish Government Mr McLaughlin said:

"This motion is not about truth recovery. It is designed, by taking a selective approach, to deflect away from the issue.

"It ignores the role of the Unionist government pre-1972 in creating the conditions for conflict, the aquiesence of the British government throughout this period and the roll of the British government and unionism there after. 

"Sinn Féin is on public record as to our willingness to deal comprehensively with the past. But if you only ask some of the questions, then you will only establish some of the truth.

"If we are serious about a truth recovery process let us establish an independent international truth commission where all participants to the conflict are encouraged to take part. Selective and piecemeal approaches will not serve to move this issue on."

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 Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has met with representatives from the National Youth Council Ireland and strongly welcomed the initiative to lower the minimum age to vote to 16.

 Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg Ms Anderson said,

 "I have signed the Written Declaration 27 which calls for the EU Member States to lower the minimum voting age. Elected representatives across the board need to waken up and recognise the widening gap between themselves and the citizens, especially the younger generation, they represent."

 "Much more must be done to engage with this sector of society and it is absolutely vital that young people have the right to democratic participation, voting for politicians who will make decisions which will often heavily impact upon their lives."

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The Assembly will debate a Sinn Féin motion on Monday calling for the introduction of a single visa scheme for all visitors to the island of Ireland. 

 The motion follows the success of the Short Stay Visa Waiver Scheme, which was introduced by the Dublin government in July 2011 and allows visitors from 16 emerging markets going to Britain or the north of Ireland to travel around the rest of the island without the need for a separate visa.

 Speaking in advance of the motion, Sinn Féin's Tourism spokesperson and Deputy Chair of the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee Phil Flanagan MLA said:

 "Having two separate visa schemes operating on the island is impacting on our attractiveness as a destination for both tourists and business travelers. 

 "People coming here from countries such as China, India or Russia will want to see as much of the country as possible. They will not want to be restricted to certain parts of it or have to complete additional and unnecessary paperwork.

 "This is even more important now given the number of flights from qualifying countries such as the United Arab Emirates that arrive in Dublin Airport. 

 "I am relaxed about whether such a scheme would be administered solely in Ireland or if it would cover Ireland and Britain; that is something that the Irish and British governments need to agree upon. 

"What needs to do is make this place as attractive as possible for all potential visitors, particularly those from emerging markets, if we are to achieve the ambitious targets set out in the Programme for Government. The introduction of a single visa scheme for all of Ireland would certainly aid that." CRÍOCH/END

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Sinn Féin MLA and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said there needs to be renewed urgency to find an accommodation to the Ulster Covenant parade in North Belfast, which takes place in less than two weeks time.

 Martin McGuinness said:

"The Black Institution calmed the situation with their apology and the statement from the Orange Order that followed but since then we have seen no movement from the Loyal Orders to engage with the residents of Carrickhill.

“While we have heard talk of 'quiet conversations' going on this must involve those who file for the parade, the Grand Lodge and those who file for the related protest, the Carrickhill Residents Association.

“Time is running out to reach a local accommodation and with the Parades Commission due to meet on Tuesday, the Loyal Orders need to step up to the plate and engage directly with those concerned as soon as possible.

“Direct dialogue is in everyone's interest and the most logical way of reaching a resolution.” CRÍOCH/END

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Speaking after a demonstration in Dublin today to demand the release of Marian Price, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin North West, Dessie Ellis called on the new British secretary of state for the North to act on her case and those of Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough.
“The wrongful imprisonment of Marian Price, Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough continues to cause serious concern, particularly so as Marian Price is not well.
"These citizens are entitled to due process which they have been denied. They should be released and the North’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, is raising these with the new British Secretary of State.”
Sinn Féin continues to be proactive on these prisoners and is in contact with Marian Price’s legal team. Sinn Féin’s Raymond McCartney and Jennifer McCann have made representation to Marian Price’s parole board and also met the US consul regarding her case.
The party will continue to do all it can to secure the release of these prisoners.
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McGuinness to raise Price and Corey with new secretary of state: Adams
Speaking after his party’s ard comhairle meeting in Dublin today, Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams TD, commented on the appointment of a new British Secretary of State for the North: Theresa Villiers MP.
Deputy Adams said:
“I hope that Theresa Villiers will bring a new and more progressive focus to the issues which need attention now. They were not dealt with properly by her predecessor, Owen Paterson.
“There are outstanding matters from the Good Friday and Hillsborough Agreements, such as a bill of rights for the North, corporation tax and cross-border development, which the British government needs to deliver on.
The Sinn Féin leader also highlighted the continued imprisonment of Marian Price and Martin Corey, saying: “These citizens are entitled to due process, which they have been denied. They should be released and Sinn Féin will be raising their case with the new secretary of state. The Irish government also needs to seek their release.”
The Sinn Féin president also confirmed the party’s nominees to the Constitutional Convention: Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister of the North and deputy party leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD along with Deputy Adams.
“Sinn Féin has nominated its party’s leaders because of the seriousness with which it takes the process and will participate fully in the convention.
“This is an opportunity for the government to begin to form a truly national consensus for fundamental change and to transform the constitution taking account of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is an opportunity to reimagine Ireland in the 21st century. It is a chance to put in place a constitution that has all the citizens of this nation, of this island, at its heart, to deliver on the promise of the 1916 Proclamation.”

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Martin McGuinness answering questions from pupils of St Patrick's Primary School.