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Sinn Féin MLA, who is also the chair of the Culture, Arts and Leisure committee at Stormont commenting on the loss of £50million for severely sporting facilities said:

Speaking today Mr McElduff said:

“It is disappointing to see any sporting facility lose funding as sport is inherently good for the health and well being of our society and investment would only enhance participation.

“It has not gone unnoticed however by the wider sporting community that all of these facilities were located east of the Bann and they tend to provide for what would be considered elite sport in the greater part.

“What is absent, and has been for the past number of years, is investment in sporting infrastructure at the community level and across a wider geographical spread, which would include areas west of the Bann.

“In the last four years the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has not adequately invested in these fields.  Instead they have allowed the London Olympics to pilfer and indeed severely compromise the local community sport budget.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O'Neill has again offered her sympathy and support to the family of Andrew O'Neill today as they come to terms with the verdict and sentencing of the deathdriver who killed him while a student in Liverpool.

 
Michelle O'Neill said
 
"Andrew, who was killed at the hands of deathriders had so much to live live for and so much still to explore. But he was robbed of his young life in November last when those individuals convicted today drove into him and killed him in Liverpool where he was attending university.
 
"Andrew's family has expressed the view that the sentence was too lenient and that the apology from David Gaskell was crocodile tears to have his sentence reduced. I can empathise with their point of view.
 
"My thoughts and prayers are with the O'Neill family as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives after what has been a nightmare two months for them."

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Commenting on the threat of legal action from the Taoiseach Brian Cowen during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Tuesday Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

“During the course of Leaders’ Questions today the Taoiseach Brian Cowen stated to me:

‘There is no relevance whatever to me having a dinner with regard to what I do in the course of my duties. If the Deputy has any suggestion or evidence to the contrary, he should not abuse the privilege of this House. Let him go outside and say it and I will see him in court.’

“I am taking the opportunity of a public statement to say that the Taoiseach’s dinner with senior figures in Anglo-Irish Bank and a director of the Central Bank was and is relevant to his duties. I repeat outside the Dáil the questions I asked in the Dáil chamber and which the Taoiseach did not answer, instead threatening legal action.

“These are:

“How appropriate was it that a director of the Central Bank, appointed by the Taoiseach, would be engaged in debate on matters fiscal and economic, job creation and budgetary issues with three, either then or previous, senior directors of Anglo Irish Bank?

“Why did it take a question from me in the course of Leaders' Questions for the Taoiseach to offer the information that it was not only a golf outing with Seán FitzPatrick and Fintan Drury, but that he was also meeting that evening with Gary McGann and Alan Gray, a director of the Central Bank and a member of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, whom the Taoiseach had appointed when Minister for Finance in January 2007? Why did the Taoiseach not offer that information previously?

“What is the situation on the Taoiseach's dinner with the board of Anglo Irish Bank in April 2008 and Mr. David Drumm's claim that he spent at least an hour briefing him on the issues in regard to Anglo Irish Bank? Is Mr. Drumm lying or is it that the Taoiseach cannot recall all of the details?

“It has been reported that Mr. Drumm has secured a deal with Anglo Irish Bank which will block the Garda Síochána gaining access to confidential reports which are to be revealed in the context of Mr. Drumm's court case in the US.

“Is there any basis to these reports? Is there any fear that Mr. Drumm will evade full scrutiny in this jurisdiction and prosecution if same be appropriate because of this?

“Did the Minister for Finance or anyone approve such an arrangement as inferred from the reports before us?”

ENDS

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Commenting on the outcome of the Fianna Fáil TDs’ vote of confidence in Brian Cowen, the Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

“It matters little who is leader of Fianna Fáil. What matters is who governs and how they govern and this Fianna Fáil vote only serves to prolong for two more months the tenure of this disastrous Government.

“Fianna Fáil TDs have had their say and voted in secret ballot but Fianna Fáil and the Greens are denying the people their say in what should be an immediate General Election.

“On the very day of the Fianna Fáil vote the Government was drawing down IMF funds totalling €5.8 billion, a week after drawing down the first €5 billion from the EU. This is the working out of the sell-out IMF/EU deal, the result of this Government’s disastrous banking policy – a policy that has seen a manageable State debt being merged with a colossal and unmanageable private banking debt. People are being impoverished as a result and our public services are being destroyed.

“For these reasons there should be an immediate dissolution of the Dáil and a General Election.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on the Government to end the recruitment embargo in the area of mental health services. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said it is a myth that mental health was protected in budget 2011.

He said:

“There is an urgent need for the government to address the crisis in our mental health services.

“It is a myth that mental health was protected in Budget 2011. The cut of almost 2 per cent comes on top of chronic under funding year-on-year.

“And the true extent of the cuts is masked by the recruitment embargo which has hit mental health services disproportionately.

“In patient bed numbers and community care provision have been cut and acute inpatient beds are being cut across the country.

“There is an urgent need for government to end the recruitment embargo in the area of mental health.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has stated that the latest arrests by the Spanish government are not conducive to the development of a peace process in the Basque Country.  Commenting on recent arrests he said:

"Last week ETA stated that its ceasefire was 'permanent' and that it would be 'verifiable by the international community'. This was a courageous step in the search for a 'just and democratic solution to the centuries old conflict'. "Sinn Féin has urged the Spanish Government to grasp this opportunity for peace.  However the Spanish state appears determined to continue to pursue a so called security agenda.  The arrests last night of 11 members of Basque civic groups, Askatasuna and Ekin, is not conducive to the search for a political solution.

“This is not the way to advance a peace process. The Spanish government must play its part and build confidence in the process".

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Speaking before a special budget meeting of the health committee Sinn Féin health spokesperson Michelle O’Neill has said its clear that the two Health Economists who will be giving their assessment of the health budget are agreed that the plans set out by the Health Minister, Micheal McGimpsey lack credence.

 

Speaking today Ms O’Neill said:

“The scaremongering that we have witnessed from the health Minisiter over the last week in relation to job losses, bed closures and loss of services is blatantly absent of any kind of detailed analysis. It appears that he has plucked the figures from mid air.

“What we need to see are concrete spending plans.

“In both papers submitted from Prof Ciaran O'Neill and Prof Charles Normand it is stated very simply from these experts that the information is clearly lacking and the detail is absent.

“It is high time Michael McGimpsey stood up for the health service. It is high time he protected frontline health and social care workers.

 

“All departments have difficult budgets to manage as a result of this Ministers Tory masters cuts agenda. It is clear that once again, Michael McGimpsey, in his role as minister has failed.”

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has branded those responsible for a series of attacks in Co Tyrone over the weekend on Strawletterdallon, Dergina and Mullnahunch Orange Halls as 'motivated solely by sectarian bigotry'.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The attacks over the weekend on these Orange Halls throughout Tyrone are unacceptable; it is wrong and it must be condemned.

"Those who carried them out are motivated solely by sectarian bigotry.

"They are no different to those who carry out attacks on GAA halls, churches and other cultural and community facilities.

"They do not reflect the community in Tyrone or the wider area."

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Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, responding to Mícheál Martin’s interview on Morning Ireland this morning, has said Ireland needs a complete change of direction rather than simply a new Fianna Fáil spin doctor at the helm.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Speaking on Morning Ireland this morning Mícheál Martin said he agrees with the policy and the direction that Brain Cowen has led us in. However he feels the Taoiseach has not communicated properly and that he could do a better job.

“That is an insult to the Irish people who are suffering at the hands of this Government and is typical of the arrogance of Fianna Fáil.

“That arrogance is also typified by the current leadership heave within Fianna Fáil. The fact that they would take a poll of their parliamentary party but continually ignore the wishes of the people shows exactly where their priorities lie.

“Ireland needs a complete change of direction rather than simply a new Fianna Fáil spin doctor at the helm.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has accused the SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie of back tracking on a promise to publish the details of the SDLP corporate donors and accused the party of ‘once again joining with the unionists in keeping party donations secret’.

Mr Doherty said:

“When Margaret Ritchie was running for the leadership of the SDLP she promised to publish the list of SDLP corporate donors by April 2010. She said that this was vital to make politics here more transparent. But when push came to shove the SDLP leader reneged on her commitment citing the Westminster election as the reason for her failure to publish.

“Yet here we are almost a year on and still no sign of the SDLP donor list. And to add insult to injury the SDLP have once again joined with the unionists in urging the NIO to pass legislation keeping corporate donations to political parties here secret.

“Sinn Féin publish our accounts north and south for scrutiny. We do not receive corporate donations. The principal donors to the party operation in the six counties are our assembly team.

“Given the corruption of politics in the south mainly by the SDLPs sister party and the concerns in the north over certain parties links to property developers the public have a right to expect parties who preach the need for openness and transparency to follow through with their actions.”

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Willie Clarke today called on the SDLP and in particular John Dallat and Patsy McGlone who are both members of the Assembly Public Accounts Committee currently investigating procurement failings at NI Water to publicly explain their position on pre-empting the outcome of that PAC inquiry before it has formally concluded.


He said, “Today in the Assembly Chamber during the DRD Ministers Statement on the recent winter freeze/thaw situation, SDLP member John Dallat asked Conor Murphy to apologise to former NIW Director, Declan Gormley, whose dismissal for procurement failures at the company Mr Dallat described as “erroneous”. 

He further stated, “Conor Murphy also revealed that SDLP MLA, Patsy McGlone, has also been phoning his Department in recent times similarly asking for an apology for Mr Gormley.  Given that both these MLAs are members of the PAC which has not yet concluded its investigation into procurement failings at NIW this seriously calls into question their judgement and independence in this matter.”

Mr Clarke, who is Deputy Chair of the Standards and Privileges Committee, said, “This may be an issue for my own Committee to look into as it would appear to me that there is a clear conflict between these SDLP Assembly Members lobbying for Mr Gormley whilst sitting on the Committee which is currently investigating the issues which took place under Mr Gormley’s Directorship at NI Water.”
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Sinn Féin Culture spokesperson Barry McElduff MLA has said that the hate crimes against Celtic management and players need to be taken seriously.

Mr McElduff stated

“Over the past few weeks we have seen bullets sent to the Irish manager and players of Celtic Football Club and now we have a hate page on the Facebook website.

“The players and management of Celtic are professional sportspeople and they should not be singled out for sectarian abuse because of the team that they play for.

“The PSNI must take these threats seriously and Facebook must co-operate with the PSNI in helping to identify the people who are espousing this hate. This incitement to hate needs to end and those espousing it must be investigated and brought to book.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking today as the Government prepares to draw down the first tranche of €5.8 billion from the IMF Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the funds will be given to zombie banks and head straight back out of the country leaving nothing but debt for Irish taxpayers.

He said the Government is as much a failure as the banking system.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The imminent draw down of the first tranche from the IMF which is due tomorrow totalling 5.8 billion, comes fast on the heels of the draw down of the first €5 Billion from the EFSM last week and marks another black day for Ireland.

“This money will be given to zombie banks here so that the leading banks of Europe can avoid the consequences of their own reckless lending decisions. The money is heading straight back out of the country, leaving only increased debts for Irish taxpayers.

“The State’s Exchequer deficit is fixable; it is the banking crisis that is pushing us over the edge.

“Sinn Féin would not draw down this loan from the IMF/EU. We don't need these funds – Europe’s banks do.

“We would burn bank bondholders – apply a market solution to a market problem. We would introduce a bank resolution plan that protects depositors, and at the same time, taxpayers.

“We have set out our six year alternative to closing the Exchequer deficit which involves protecting the vulnerable in our society, taxing the rich and maintaining our economic sovereignty.

“This government is as much a failure as the banking system. When it is finally prised from office, we will insist that the new Dáil repudiates this deal, which delivers up the hard work and incomes of Irish taxpayers to parasitic bankers across Europe.

“We pledge our opposition to this deal and encourage all citizens and voters to demand that other parties do the same.” ENDS

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Bairbre de Brún MEP has paid a warm a glowing tribute today to Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza John Ging, as the UN announces he will leave Gaza to take up a new post in New York.

Ms de Brún said:  "As John Ging moves to a new post with the UN in New York, he will be sorely missed in Gaza where he has done tremendous work to highlight the needs of the population there and to strive to meet those needs in very, very difficult circumstances.

"He has brought to his work a sense of the human dignity of all and an approach based on respect for basic human rights and the rule of law.  In ensuring that education and other services are provided by the UN despite a shortage of resources, in speaking out against human rights abuses and in calling openly for an end to the siege of Gaza and to the suffering it brings, he has put the needs of the refugee population he serves to the forefront.

"He showed particular courage and determination following the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2008 and in the period since then. 

"The work he has achieved so far has been remarkable and I am sure he will continue to achieve much more. He has never once stopped aiming for greater good and his efforts have been an inspiration in difficult times.  As an MEP dealing with Palestinian affairs, I feel it has been a privilege to work with him.

"I wish John Ging well in his new position in the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in New York, and look forward to newer accomplishments from him." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Fra McCann MLA has called on the Social Development Minister Alex Attwood to come before the Assembly to give an explanation on the Housing Executive’s handling of the winter crisis.

Mr McCann’s comments come after another attempt was made today to bring Mr Attwood in front of the Assembly to answer questions on this issue of concern.

Speaking from Stormont Mr McCann said;

“A number of important questions in relation the Housing Executive and Association’s handling of the winter crisis remain unanswered; despite several attempts to get clarity from the Minister he has not been forthcoming.

We saw one Minister appear to answer questions on a similar issue today but no such move from the Housing Minister, despite recognition from all parties and Mr Attwood himself, that the Housing Executive did not come up to scratch.

Countless citizens remain without the necessary repairs carried out to their homes, we have heard of no investigation about the communication breakdown during the Christmas period and another issue of huge concern to people is the lack of information or clarity from the Minister or his department on the issue of compensation for those tenants who have been so negatively impacted upon.

It is time for the Minister to stop treating Housing Executive and Association tenants with such contempt and ensure that the necessary lessons have been learnt and that people left in dire conditions will be urgently assisted.” CRÍOCH

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The all-party cross-border political group that supports the retention in Irish ownership of Quinn Insurance Ltd and the proposals that best secure the retention of all existing jobs in Quinn Insurance Ltd in Cavan, in Enniskillen and in Blanchardstown and Navan and elsewhere and that offers the best prospect of securing the tax-payers’ interest regarding the €2.8b owed by Seán Quinn to Anglo Irish Bank, now in State ownership, confirm that they met on Saturday in Cavan following on the previous evenings Cavan Chamber of Commerce hosted meeting for employees and relevant interested parties and attended by Dáil and Seanad representatives from Cavan/Monaghan and other elected voices from north and south of the border.

The all-party group from across the region met in the Hotel Kilmore on Saturday afternoon. A thorough consideration was given to all possible actions and approaches to be taken, with a programme of meetings to be sought agreed, as were specific initiatives to be undertaken in both Houses of the Oireachtas and in the Northern Assembly over the coming days.

The group advise that all meeting requests were issued on Sunday (yesterday – 16th January) by both email and by post and that a pro-active follow-up will be employed in an effort to ensure the earliest possible engagements with all the relevant decision makers and stakeholders. It is the group’s explicit request that these meetings would take place this week.

Meetings have been sought with the following;

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan TD
The Joint Administrators
The Chief Executive and Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank
The Financial Regulator and the Governor of the Central Bank
The Chief Executive of the National Treasury Management Agency

Cavan/Monaghan Dáil Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has been appointed Convenor of the all-party group. All meeting requests have issued in the joint names of all the participating Oireachtas and Assembly members with others expected to append their names over the coming days. The full list of those already signed up to the group are:

Brendan Smith TD (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)
Michelle Gildernew MP MLA (Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development)
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD (Convenor of the group)
Dr. Rory O’Hanlon TD
Margaret Conlon TD
Seymour Crawford TD
Frank Feighan TD
Senator Joe O’Reilly
Senator Diarmuid Wilson
Tommy Gallagher MLA
Gerry McHugh MLA

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Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has called for an end to the policy of keeping donations to political parties in the Six Counties secret. Mr Doherty has also called for the current threshold of £7500 for reportable donations to be lowered to £500.

His comments come after the NIO revealed that legislation should be brought forward to ensure that the identities of donors and lenders should continue to be kept confidential for a further two years.

Speaking today Mr Doherty said;

“Each year Sinn Fein publishes the party’s financial statements for both the North and the South. We do this in line with party policy on the issue and in the interests of transparency and openness.

Like all organisations political parties need sufficient income to cover their expenditure. The general public understands that fundraising and donations are part and parcel of generating that income.

Justifiable public cynicism is generated when it is perceived that political parties are not being open and transparent about their financial affairs. Vested interests being allowed to secretly contribute to political parties does a disservice to politics in general. It is a practice which needs to be brought to an end. Sinn Fein does not receive any corporate donations.

In response to this consultation we demanded an end to the practice of secret donations and also called for the current £7500 threshold for reportable individual donations to be lowered to £500.

Sinn Fein and those who vote for us expect the highest standards from all of our public representatives. Regardless of the outcome of this consultation we will continue to act in an open and transparent manner with regards to our financial affairs and we would encourage the other parties to do likewise.
I have no doubt people will be frustrated that on this occasion the SDLP, the DUP and the UUP have ensured that their corporate donators will remain hidden from public scrutiny.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Assembly Health Committee member Sue Ramsey MLA has said her party have today tabled an emergency question in the Assembly on what measures Michael McGimpsey has taken in response to recent Swine Flu deaths in the North.

Speaking from the Assembly Ms Ramsey said;

“So far we have seen nor heard very little from the Minister in relation to this matter so I am glad our question will force him to the floor of the Assembly for members to scrutinise the ongoing failings within his department.

Many parents of young children are particularly concerned about this matter and we need to hear clearly from the Minister what measures he has taken in response to recent deaths; for example what discussion has he had with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and more importantly is he minded to widen the policy for vaccination to include all children under five years old.

Michael McGimpsey might seek to have a semi-detached relationship with the Executive and Assembly but for our part we will ensure that he cannot dodge the important question to which people urgently want answers.” CRÍOCH

NOTES TO EDITORS: The text of the Sinn Féin questions:

MONDAY 17 JANUARY 2011


QUESTION FOR URGENT ORAL ANSWER


To ask the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, in light of recent deaths associated with swine flu and the public concern around arrangements for vaccination, what discussions he has had with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and whether he is minded to widen the policy for vaccination to include all children under 5 years old.
[Ms S Ramsey]

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Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has said if Mícheál Martin has no confidence in Brian Cowen he is only catching up with the rest of us.

He said:

“The Fianna Fáil heave with its accompanying media circus is turning into a farce.

“If Mícheál Martin has no confidence in Brian Cowen he is only catching up with the rest of us.

“Both Brian Cowen and the Fianna Fáil party have no credibility and should have left the stage long ago.

“If they have a shred of decency left they would dissolve the Dáil now and call a general election.” ENDS

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Padraig MacLochlainn was today endorsed as Sinn Féin’s candidate to contest the general election in the Donegal North East constituency. Cllr MacLochlainn addressed hundreds of Sinn Féin members and supporters in Letterkenny saying that his party needs to grasp the opportunity and elect two Sinn Féin TDs in Donegal.

Cllr MacLochlainn told the crowd;

“Sinn Féin has outlined how we would reduce the real deficit by asking the very wealthy to pay their fair share at last and by radically reducing the pay of those highly paid in the public services. We have also outlined how we would get our people back to work by investing billions from our National Pension Reserve Fund into delivering Sinn Féin’s job creation proposals and building new schools, roads, and other public infrastructure.

“Sinn Féin has successfully led the campaign for the A5 Donegal to Dublin dual carriageway but we now need to ensure that the national roads within the county are upgraded to reap the full benefits of this crucial project.

“No political party has been more focused on getting our people back to work than Sinn Féin. What we ask is the chance to implement these policies in Donegal".

“Republicanism is about the people being sovereign. It is about equality and fairness. The people of Donegal have recently witnessed what they can expect from a genuine republican TD. Pearse Doherty has energised the people. He has given them hope and reminded them of what we are all supposed to be about. He has made them proud.

“The people of Donegal are good, honest, and hard working people. They deserve so much more than the tired civil war conservative politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. They deserve to be met half way. They deserve real leadership and hope.

“We in this room are leaders. We didn’t betray the Republic. We didn’t build alliances with the Gombeen men and the cronies. We were their victims. We didn’t turn our back on our brothers and sisters in the Six Counties.

“It is time for new politics in Donegal. It is time for Sinn Féin. We can elect two Sinn Féin TDs for Donegal.

“This is our time. Let us grasp this historic opportunity with every ounce of our being. Let us build towards the Republic of our dreams, the Republic yet to be.

“We can do it. Ta an lá ag teacht.” ENDS

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