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Speaking today (Sunday 11 December 2011) Sinn Féin vice president, Mary Lou McDonald TD said “the deal agreed by 26 EU leaders on Friday gives the European Commission and European Court of Justice greater powers over Irish economic affairs than those currently held by the Troika”.
Deputy McDonald said:
“Friday’s hastily cobbled together EU 26 agreement gives the European Commission and European Court of Justice greater powers over Irish economic affairs than those currently held by the Troika.
“Unelected Eurocrats in Brussels will get an even greater say in budgetary and fiscal policy than under the current EU/IMF austerity programme.
“The deal introduces a draconian 0.5% of GDP deficit ceiling into constitutional law, condemning Ireland to a decade of crippling austerity and economic stagnation.
“It will block economic growth, lead to greater poverty and unemployment and continue to destabilise the single currency.
“In Ireland it means more austerity budgets beyond 2015, in order to reach the damaging and arbitrary deficit target of 0.5%.
“Fine Gael and Labour must come clean with the electorate and tell them that they have signed up to austerity budgets for the remainder of their term of office.
“In the final analysis Irish citizens must have their say on any agreement with such far reaching consequences. The government must commit clearly to a referendum on this issue.’
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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe speaking at a rally outside Leinster House today said that cuts to Community Employment Schemes (CES) announced in Budget 2012 will have serious implications for people on the schemes and those communities who depend on their services.
Deputy Crowe said: “Cuts announced in this week’s budget will impact on schemes across the country and see local community resource centres that assist thousands of people forced to close their doors for good.
“These schemes are sponsored by voluntary boards of management and running costs are covered from within the materials and training budget. It is looking even more likely that the 2011 budget cuts will mean that sponsoring a CE scheme is no longer viable.
“The information I have received suggests that the network of 24 Congress Resource Centres around the country could also see closures as a result of these cuts.
The centres - which are currently run with support from FAS - provide advice on social welfare and work-related issues, along with training programmes to some 500,000 people every year.
“They also house many community and voluntary services that may also be forced to cease operating in the event of closures.
“It looks like we are faced with another government which seems intent on cutting of the supports of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
There are approximately 22,000 people availing of Community Employment Schemes. Their training is provided to assist with basic skills that will eventually lead to fulltime employment.
Community Employment participants provide key services for the unemployed and their families and much of this will be lost due to cuts.

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Speaking about this week’s budget, Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe said:
“This is a budget of broken promises that has taken €3.8 billion out of the economy. The majority of cuts have targeted the vulnerable with most of the money saved being used to service the unsustainable debt resulting from bad government policies and bailing out the banks.
“The government has succeeded in ripping the guts out of the local economy. Cuts to child benefit, to disability allowances, back to school grants, health care, fuel allowance, drugs taskforces and community employment schemes are all evidence of that.
“The cut of €543 million from the health services will devastate healthcare provision and make patients suffer. It will deepen the crisis at Tallaght Hospital and result in additional closures of residential homes such as St Brigid’s.
“The increase in the threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme from €120 to €132 imposes another burden on the sick and their families.
The reduction in Child Benefit for third and subsequent children is a further attack on families struggling to manage on the bare essentials.
The abolition of the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance for two and three year old pre-schoolers is another roll back on the coalition’s supposed commitment to the children of low income families.
“Ordinary citizens are being asked to dig deeper and the cuts are manifesting themselves in areas of society that need supports the most
Increasing the student contribution fee by €250 will make it more difficult to attend further education and continue the slide towards making it the preserve of a smaller elite.
“The subtext of the budget is that working families low and middle incomes who voted for change are seeing the same polices of the previous administration being implemented in order to mollycoddle and reward the wealthy and powerful elite who created the crisis we have to endure.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has accused the Labour Party of a “profound dishonesty when trying to justify the party’s savage cuts to social welfare supports.”

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Over the last two days the Minister for Social Protection has trotted out the same tired line that by not cutting the jobseekers payment she has protected vulnerable individuals and struggling families.

“The Government’s own figures tell a very different story. Half of the people on the live register receive less than the maximum personal weekly rate.

“20% or 89,000 receive no payment.

“15% or 70,000 receive payment for part of the week only.

“A further 15% or 70,000 others receive Jobseekers Allowance or Jobseekers Benefit of less than the maximum personal rate of €188.

“Just this morning Labour Leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore denied his Government had cut the Social Welfare budget by €811 million in a full year.

“If the Tánaiste had bothered to turn to page 31 of his Government’s Expenditure Budget book he would see in black and white that that Labour in Government has shamefully cut the Social Welfare budget by €811 million in a full year.”

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Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald this morning called on the government to reverse its decision to cut new state contributory pensions by €30 per week from September 2012 for retiring workers with a yearly average of between 20 to 29 PRSI contributions over their working life.

Ms McDonald has also criticised the Tánaiste for trying to hide the full extent of the cuts to the Social Protection of €811 million in a full year as detailed in the government’s own Budget book published on Monday.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Is the Labour Party so sheltered from the horrendous economic and social realities facing communities that it is content to deliver a draconian budget, shut down debate in the Dáil and to continue blindly on despite wide-spread public outrage at the punishing cuts to Social Welfare?

“Labour and Fine Gael are cutting €811 million from the social welfare budget in a full year. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore shockingly disputed his own Government’s Budget figures in the Dáil this morning. The government’s Budget 2012 announcements clearly state that the cut to the Social Protection budget in a full year is €811 million.

“The introduction of a 1% wealth tax would have generated an extra €800 million for the public purse.

“Fine Gael and Labour could have made the political choice to protect Community Employment Schemes and lone parent supports.

“Cutting the weekly state contributory pension by €30 per week from September 2012 for retiring part-time workers whilst protecting at all costs wealth and bondholders tells us exactly what this government’s priorities are.”

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Speaking in response to the statement by the heads of the Eurozone released today, Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD said:

“Once again the Fine Gael/Labour government has buckled under pressure from bigger Eurozone states and signed up to a deal that is bad for Ireland.

“The Taoiseach’s refusal to bring these proposals before the Dáil for debate is bad enough but to deny the people their say would be a betrayal.

“By agreeing to pursue tighter integration with stricter budget rules for the single currency area Enda Kenny is not representing the best interest of the Irish people.

“This deal means ordinary citizens will continue paying for the banking crisis. There was no agreement to increase the EU’s bailout fund but the burning of bondholders is forbidden.

“The consequences of this deal for Ireland are severe. Power will be transferred from elected politicians in the Dáil to judges and Eurocrats in Luxembourg and Brussels.

“The government has no mandate to agree to this. Irish citizens must have their say. This issue must be put to the people in a referendum.’

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De bharr an comhaontú ata déanta ag Enda Kenny caithfidh gach tír riail nua a chuir isteach sa bhunreacht nó i gnáth reachtaíocht. Agus is riail déine atá i gceist. Sa todhchaí beidh an Aontas Eorpach i mbun faireachas ar an tír seo. Beidh cúirt Eorpach in ann pionós a thabhairt duinne mar thír múna ngéillfimid dóibh ar chúrsaí ar tír fhéin.

Is córas uafásach é seo. Níl sé a dhóthain solúbtha. Ní bheidh se dírithe ar riachtanais an gheilleagar Éireannach ar chor ar bith. Beidh sé dírithe ar riachtanais geilleagair na Gearmáine agus na Fraince.
Is cúlú ar dhaonlathas é seo freisin. Ní bheidh muidne mar dhaoine in ann ár gcuid polasaithe féin a chruthú as seo amach.

Freisin beidh Éirinn faoi glas I riail déine. Tá siad ag iarradh polasaí déine a chuir isteach in ár mbunreacht. Cosnóidh an riail seo poist, ísleoidh an riail déine seo rátaí fáis fadtéarmacha. Bheadh sé mar bhac ar fhás ár gcuid geilleagar.

Agus sa bhreis ar seo tá seans mór ann go bhfaighidh an tír seo pionós. Ta sé dochreidte go bhfuil aon rialtas Éireannach sásta ceannas ar geilleagar a scaoileadh chun siúil. Freisin tá sé dochreidte go bhfuil an Lucht Oibre sásta glacadh leis an riail déine seo.

Níl aon chinneadh déanta fós ar an balla tine, an EFSF nó ar obair Bhanc Ceannais na hEorpa, príomh fáth an cruinniú. Tá an rialtas ag iarradh an togra seo a thógaint isteach gan reifreann mar go bhfuil a fhios acu go mbeidh móramh na tire seo ina aghaidh. Ní mór don rialtas éisteacht le guth an phobail ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo.

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As the Social Welfare Bill recommences this morning and is likely to conclude debate this afternoon, Aengus Ó Snodaig, Sinn Fein's spokesperson on Social Welfare and party whip ratcheted up pressure on Labour Party TDs to vote against the right wing cuts contained in it.
Calling on those with a social conscience and who agree with the teachings of aman they profess to revere James Connolly, Ó Snodaigh said "live up to your mandate, stand by the poorest in society, reverse the cuts, support the CE workers and reject this bill.
“Have the courage of your conviction, as Patrick Nulty, Tommy Broughan and Willie Penrose have shown and vote against the Thatcherite cuts Minister Joan Burton is attempting to force through the Dáil today.
"The poorest in Irish society, those dependent on state support, many who lost jobs in the recent past will suffer hugely if this bill, along with the other social welfare measures, which only require Minister Burton's signature with no Dáil debate, are allowed to pass."
Sinn Fein will be opposing the bill today at all stages.
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Speaking in the Dáil today on the latest ECB interest rate cut, the Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty called on the government to take steps to ensure that this reduction is passed onto mortgage holders.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Today the European Central Bank cut interest rates by 0.25%.

“This should be welcome news to the more than 100,000 families in mortgage distress across the state and the many thousands more at risk of falling into arrears.

“However this will depend on whether the government will take the necessary action to force the banks to respond positively to today’s ECB announcement.

“Last month, despite all the bluster from government, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank refused to pass on the last reduction to hard pressed mortgage holders.

“The government promised to take action but when it came to the crunch they hid behind the advice of the Financial Regulator.

“Today some banks have announced their intention to pass on the rate cut. However Bank of Ireland has said it will only pass on a portion of the cut and Allied Irish Bank has said it would not pass on the cut at all.

“It is time for the government to intervene and introduce the necessary legislation to force the hand of those banks who behave in such a reckless fashion. Considering the amount of tax payers’ money that has been given to the banks it is about time they were forced to give something back to struggling mortgage holders.”

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Speaking on the Social Welfare Bill Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD described the Bill and the budget as “anti children”.

He said the social welfare cuts would penalise children of low income families.

Criticising Social Protection Minister Joan Burton he said:

“Exactly a year ago on 7 December 2010 the then Labour Party finance spokesperson Joan Burton TD said in her Dáil speech on Budget 2011: ‘There is pain for the poor, money for the rich, particularly for the bankers, and the rolling back of the State...There is no modern example of a developed economy deflating to this extraordinary degree but claiming it can grow...’

“As Social Protection Minister, Deputy Burton has now signed off on a budget that continues the futile austerity programme that she lacerated last year. Minister Burton’s Social Welfare Bill makes the vulnerable and the poor pay the price yet again for the austerity programme. It takes a massive €811 million out of the Social Protection budget.

“Last year Deputy Burton pointed out that under Budget 2011 a family with three children lost €40 a month, which is in addition to the previous cuts in child benefit in 2010, where they lost a significant amount. Now under Minister Burton’s Social Welfare Bill a family with four children will be down €432 in 2012 rising to €768 by 2013. This is the measure of Minister Burton and the Labour Party’s achievement in Cabinet regarding child benefit.

“Repeatedly over the years Deputy Burton, her party colleagues and I sat in this chamber and listened to a succession of Fianna Fáil/PD/Green Ministers point out what they called the generous universal child benefit payment in this State and use that payment as an excuse for not providing better childcare, better early education and better healthcare for children.

“Now we see Minister Burton proceeding with the cuts to that universal safety net - child benefit. Forgive us if we don’t thank her for wielding a knife instead of an axe.”

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Speaking on the Social Welfare Bill, today in the Dáil, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social Protection, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD accused cabinet ministers of lying when they claimed they had not cut social welfare rates.

He pointed to a litany of broken pre-election and programme for government promises and argued that had alternative choices been made the cuts would not be necessary.

Pre-election the Labour Party promised to protect those on low incomes from further cuts. Your party’s candidates across the state proclaimed child benefit a red line issue and social welfare rates sacrosanct. You secured your election on the back of those promises
Your hands are not tied. This is your Bill, your programme of cuts, that you have chosen to make – despite your promises.

In our costed pre-budget submission my party detailed a range of alternative cost-saving and tax-raising proposals from which you could have chosen. Sinn Féin’s alternative budget would have protected those on low and middle incomes, stimulated the economy and created jobs while making an equivalent total adjustment.

When you proposed the cuts to Disability Allowance you made an inexcusable decision to target young people with disabilities for severe cuts, in doing so you heartlessly scared thousands of families, you need to press stop and not pause on these cuts and you need to delete the provisions from the Bill in their entirety.

The vital role that child benefit plays in reducing child poverty cannot be overstated and because it is spent locally it acts as a vital economic stimulus protecting jobs. Both of these arguments were championed by the Labour Party pre-election. Despite the clear and categoric promises that Labour Party candidates made to the electorate in your Bill today you are cutting the child benefit paid to almost a quarter of all families. Even at this the eleventh hour I implore you to reconsider this cut.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party are hammering lone parents and their children with this budget and this Bill. Between the harsh changes to the earnings disregard, the withdrawal of concurrent payments and the lowering of the age of the youngest child to 7 – this bill will force thousands into long term welfare dependency. These cuts will further impoverish lone parents and their children.”

Aengus also spoke out against a range of other cuts around which there will be no debate and no vote because they do not require legislation including the cuts to fuel allowance, back to school allowance and CE scheme budgets.

“By making all of these cuts to social protection the Minister is sucking €811 million directly out of local economies. Social Protection payments are not saved or invested overseas, they are spent locally.

“This budget targets the most vulnerable and copper fastens the recession.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on Welfare, Mickey Brady, has welcomed the announcement by the Executive that cancer sufferers who are receiving treatment are now to receive £100 as a winter fuel payment.

Speaking today Mr Brady said:

“This is very welcome news and something which Sinn Féin have been campaigning on for some time now.

“Those who undergo treatment for cancer can have a reduced immune system and are also faced with the prospect of having to leave work therefore facing the prospect of financial difficulties.

“Taken together these two factors indicated the pressing need to stop those suffering from cancers falling into fuel poverty and compounding their illness and hardship.

“This is an example of the Executive identifying an issue that clearly affects vulnerable people and has brought forward a mechanism to alleviate the difficulties that this section of our community are facing.”

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This is Human Rights Week and the Ballymurphy Massacre Relatives group was in the Dáil today to brief TDs and Seanadóirí and to distribute a letter seeking support for their campaign. (See attachment)

The families also left a copy of the letter for An Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Government Buildings who has agreed to meet them.

The visit was sponsored by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams TD.

Speaking after the visit Mr. Adams said:

“The families made a huge impact on those TDs and Seanadoirí they met today. Their accounts of the deaths of their fathers and mother were moving and distressing.

“Recently the Attorney General in the north ordered new inquests into ten of the eleven people from the greater Ballymurphy area who were shot dead by the British Parachute Regiment 40 years ago.

“This decision represents a landmark legal judgement which provides the families with an opportunity to get to the truth about the killing of their loved ones.

“None of those killed had any connection to any armed group. They were all innocent civilians and their deaths were part of a planned policy by the British government to pacify the community.

“The families are seeking a thorough international investigation and an apology from the British government which recognises the innocence of their loved ones.”

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Sinn Féin MLA’s, Raymond McCartney (Foyle) and Jennifer McCann (West Belfast) visited Hydebank Young Offenders Center and Women’s Prison as well as Maghaberry Prison yesterday in their efforts to address ongoing concerns about conditions.

Following the visits, Raymond McCartney MLA Sinn Féin Justice Committee vice-Chair has once more reiterated the Party’s call for the Prison Service to implement all of the recommendations of August 2010 to resolve the continuing problems in the Prisons.

Raymond McCartney said:

"It is incumbent on the Prison Service to honour the agreement reached in August 2010 in spirit and practice. The failure to implement the recommendations on the agreement only serves to exacerbate already existing tensions which serves no purpose.

Jennifer Mc Cann added:

“During our visit to Maghaberry we met with Prisoners in Roe House and listened intently to their accounts of conditions and Prison Service practice. It will be to every ones benefit – Prisoners and Prison Staff - that the ongoing concerns are addressed and done without any further delay.

“The situation in the prison is tense and there is real need for the prison administration to move on this issue. All prisoners need to be treated with dignity and respect.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams TD, speaking in advance of tonight’s EU crisis summit, said in the Dáil today:

“Sinn Féin has seen a document detailing the European Council’s package of measures to be presented to EU leaders in Brussels tonight.

“The proposals include a number of significant treaty changes aimed at imposing austerity on EU member states. It also includes proposals for forcing member states to enshrine the same golden rules of austerity into member state law.

“Proposals being presented to EU leaders tonight in Brussels are bad for Ireland and bad for the European Union.”

The Louth TD went on to say: “The proposals seek to enshrine policies of austerity into EU and member state law. This will plunge us all into a lost decade of stagnation. It is bad for our economy and bad for our democracy.”

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The full text of Deputy Adams’ speech follows:


Gerry Adams TD, PMB Speech on European summit
08-12-2011

Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an rún.

I want to support the motion from the Technical Group.

I thank them for bringing it forward.

Sinn Féin rejects any further loss of fiscal powers for the Irish people.

Sinn Féin has seen a document detailing the European Council’s package of measures to be presented to EU leaders in Brussels tonight. The proposals include a number of significant treaty changes aimed at imposing austerity on EU member states. It also includes proposals for forcing member states to enshrine the same golden rules of austerity into member state law.

The proposals also seek to give the European Commission and the Eurogroup far reaching powers to interfere with national budgets. They want to take decision making on crucial areas of economic and fiscal policy away from democratically elected politicians and hand them to unelected Eurocrats in Brussels.

These proposals are bad for Ireland and bad for the European Union. They seek to enshrine policies of austerity into EU and member state law. This will plunge us all into a lost decade of stagnation.

The proposals are bad for our economy and bad for our democracy.

The proposals also include a prohibition on any burden sharing aimed at reducing the unsustainable levels of debt held by countries such as Ireland. This week the Taoiseach ruled out a debate in advance of today’s summit.

He refused to circulate the Von Rompuy proposals to the opposition despite the fact that the report had clearly been given to sections of the media.

That is no way to deal with these vital negotiations.

It is reflective of the arrogant way the Government is treating the Dáil.

The Government should circulate the Von Rompuy proposals to the opposition now.

An bhfuil cóip de na moltaí agaibh ansin a Theachtaí Dála Rialtais?

Muna bhfuil cén fáth?

Tá cearta ag gach pobal a chaitheann vóta anseo, araon linn an freasúra moltaí Von Rompuy a fheiscint anois.

Last week speaking here the Taoiseach made clear his support for the idea of enforceable conditions and stronger governance for the European Union and the Eurozone.
This is a mistake.

Is léir óna moltaí seo go bhfuil deireadh le h-aon cumhachtaí fioscach á mholadh, rud atá i bhfad Éirinn níos mó ná leasuithe teoranta ar an gconradh.

Agus, bhí an Taoiseach mar chinnire ar Fhine Gael, mar bhall den EPP (European People’s Party) a thabharann le chéile páirtithe eile cosúil libh trasna na hEorpa.

Aontaíonn an rialtas le tuilleadh lárnú a dhéanamh ar an EU.

I Meán Fómhair 2009 d’iarr tú ar dhaoine vótáil ar son Conradh Liospóin le tuilleadh cumhachtaí fioscach a thabhairt don EU.

Ach, níl Enda Kenny ansin mar chinnire Fhine Gael nó mar bhall den EPP. Caithfidh sé a bheith ann ag seasamh ar son cearta Éireannaigh an stáit seo.

The reality is that what is being proposed goes far beyond limited treaty change.
It clearly involves the loss of any remaining fiscal powers.

In the last week the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed wide ranging changes to the EU treaties aimed at centralizing the control of the budgets of member states.

Last night it was revealed that they are proposing a new framework with the goal of creating a common tax base which would see an end to our advantageous corporation tax rate.

This may be nothing more than a negotiating ploy by President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel to frighten the Irish government into acquiescing on fiscal union in return for taking the corporation tax rate off the table.

Whatever the truth, for the government it is time to face facts.

The EU and the French and German governments want a strong and centralised fiscal union which requires this government to give away more of our economic sovereignty.

The message from Ireland must be a firm NO.

This is the only legitimate position for the Taoiseach to take.

It is also a position which will be favoured by citizens in all the member and Eurozone states, including Irish citizens.
Progressive citizens right across Europe are concerned at the loss of their rights.

Throughout this Euro crisis the French and German governments have taken upon themselves the role of European leaders – and keep getting it wrong!

The Taoiseach and the Irish Government so far have acquiesced in this.
Enda Kenny now needs to put on the Green Jersey.

He needs to act in the Irish national interest.

Sinn Féin is the only party in the Dáil which has been consistent in our position on successive EU referendums.

The latest developments show that what we warned against has indeed come to pass.

Sinn Féin argued that the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty, the Amsterdam and Nice Treaties were all steps in the transformation of an economic community of independent states into one big European State.

Is tionscnamh Frainceach, Gearmáineach é seo.
An é go bhfuil an rialtas tar éis glacadh leis nach dtabharfaidh said cead do dhaoine a vóta a chaitheamh i reifreann anseo san h-athbhliain.

An bhfuil faitíos roimh an rialtas roimh an bpobal bhreith a dhéanfar oraibh ?

One of our primary objections to this process was the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the union that was evolving.

The behaviour of the French and German leaders in recent weeks has demonstrated this very clearly.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s attacks on our corporation tax is clear evidence that these larger states are operating in their own interests.

During the most recent EU referendum campaign on the Lisbon Treaty Sinn Féin argued that a better deal was possible.

We also warned that the treaty would reduce Ireland’s say in Europe and would allow future changes to EU Treaties to be passed without a referendum.

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour claimed that passing the Lisbon Treaty would lead to more jobs in Ireland.

Just this week the number of people on the dole in this state jumped to 448,000 and 54,000 have emigrated since the election.

It is clear that Fine Gael and Labour are desperate to avoid a referendum.

This is in line with the behaviour of previous governments who ignored the views of the electorate following the rejection of the Nice and Lisbon referenda.

A Thaoiseach, ar mhaithe muintir an oileáin seo caithfidh an Taoiseach seasamh ar son cibé daonlathais atá fágtha ins an tír seo agus gan
tuilleadh cumhachtaí a thabhairt don Bhruiséal níos mó greim a bheith acu ar bhuiséad an stát seo.

Céim eile siar a bhéas ann muna dtarlaíonn sé seo.

Ba chóir don rialtas ráiteas láidir a eisiú inniu ag rá nach bhfuileadar chun géilleadh d’aon lárnú cumhachtaí fioscach eile don Eorap.

The Taoiseach needs to spell out clearly that the bigger states will not be allowed to encroach any further on what remains of Irish sovereignty.

He needs to stand up to them.

He has to remember that he is there as an equal in an EU that is supposed to be based on equality between states.

The Taoiseach needs to make it clear that the government will not agree to further centralization of fiscal powers in Brussels.

That’s not the way out of the current crisis.

I am calling on the Irish government to reject the proposals being put to the European Council summit tonight. The solution is a combination of sensible fiscal policies and a credible growth strategy.

It is clear that the austerity policies being implemented across the EU, but particularly in the so-called peripheral states, is failing.

A European-wide investment programme accompanied by debt restructuring is needed.
The Taoiseach needs to make this clear at the EU summit today and tomorrow.

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Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed news that the Olympic Torch is to go to Dublin in June 2012.

The International Olympic Committee today confirmed that the torch will travel across Ireland and will be in Dublin on 6 June.

The Minister said: “I am delighted that the spirit of the Olympic Torch will come to all parts of this island. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the people of this island.

“The Olympic flame is a very iconic symbol of coming together in friendship to compete through sport. It is a flame which I think has the ability to inspire our young people to get involved in sport and I want everyone to be inspired by its history and purpose.

“The torch’s journey will promote Ireland to an international audience and will bring benefits to the tourism and hospitality sectors here – it has the potential to bring a timely and welcome economic boost to us in 2012.

“The torch’s journey will be broadcast via a 24/7 website. It will visit many areas of outstanding natural beauty and will also showcase our amazing built environment. From new iconic buildings in Belfast to the many ancient monuments and heritage sites that reveal the diversity of our shared history.

“ Concluding, the Minister said: “This event will build on the success of the MTV music awards and once again show people across the world that Ireland is the place to visit in 2012. In a few short months after the torch visits we will host the 2013 City of Culture in Derry and the World Police and Fire Games. The torch's iconic visit marks the start of an exciting period of intense sport, art and cultural activity. I call on everyone to join the celebration."

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The Sports Minister has welcomed badminton players from 37 countries to Lisburn for a London 2012 qualifying tournament.

The 244 athletes from around the world including Europe, Malaysia and China are competing in the Yonex Irish International Badminton Championship at the Badminton Centre in Lisburn which begins today Thursday 8 December. The tournament also allows players to compete for places at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Carál Ní Chuilín said: “It is an honour for Lisburn and indeed the north to host 37 countries over the next four days for this international competition, where athletes will also compete for places for the 2012 Olympic Games.

“My Department, through Sport NI has been working with the governing bodies of sport and local councils for some time, targeting teams and athletes to visit the north for events and training in the run-up to 2012. Many of those discussions are now bearing fruit, such as this prestigious event. We also had 33 countries take part in the CP ISRA Boccia World Cup a Paralympic pre qualifying event at the University of Ulster earlier this year.

“Events like this one organised by Badminton Ireland with support from Lisburn Racquets Club, Lisburn City Council, Badminton Ireland, supported by DCAL and Sport NI bring the Games alive on our doorstep.

“Badminton is a very popular sport. As well as being played in halls up and down the country there are 13,000 affiliated players in Badminton Ireland.

“In addition, this sporting event provides a boost to the local economy – hotels across Belfast and Lisburn have received booking with a total of almost 2300 bed nights booked as a consequence of this event.”

“As we prepare to welcome the Chinese Gymnastics team, the Australian boxing team and the Paralympics Ireland team for their pre Games training camps, I would encourage communities across the north to take up the opportunity to see both our home grown talent and the visiting International stars at the top of their game.”

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill today highlighted the need for greater feedback from the industry to help in the drive to simplify working practices.

The Minister was speaking during a visit to the flagship event in the dairy industry calendar - the Winter Fair held at the Kings Hall, Belfast.

Minister O’Neill said: “It is vitally important that the industry tell the Department about specific problems they are having in undertaking their administrative and statutory obligations. Where they think there is excessive paperwork or can think of a better way to implement a system while continuing to fulfil all EU requirements, I am committed to working with them to make the working day simpler.”

DARD is currently implementing the second year of their Better Regulation Action Plan which deals with the 10 most burdensome regulatory areas. The Action Plan covers the period up to 2013 and has shown so far to be reducing the hours which farmers spend on paperwork.

The Minister added: “Although the Better Regulation Action Plan has delivered some improvements, greater feedback from the industry would help us look at the areas that matter to farmers every day and where we can make further progress.

“I call on the industry to take this opportunity to work with us on this. If we can identify and reduce the amount of unnecessary or outdated systems they are asked to comply with, it may also lead to further efficiencies within the Department and at this time of austerity we can all benefit.”

DARD will be undertaking various promotional activities in 2012 in an effort to raise awareness of the campaign to help reduce any unnecessary administrative burden on the industry. An online feedback facility is also available through the Department’s website.

The DARD exhibit at the Winter Fair provided an opportunity for all those attending to discuss the particular issues which affect them in their own individual situation, with staff from CAFRE, Veterinary Service, Countryside Management and Quality Assurance.

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“The Government is not interested in any discussion on its budgetary measures, and in particular seems too embarrassed to even discuss the changes to Single Parents Allowance”, according to Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
The Sinn Féin Senator from Galway called again today for a Seanad debate to be held with the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, to discuss the cuts to the One Parent Family Payments, his proposal however was turned down for the second day in a row by Government Senators.
“The cuts and changes to the One Parent Family payments announced in this week’s budget will have a devastating effect and have created great concern among these families, many of whom are already facing a severe struggle financially. Many of these families are in a very vulnerable position and the reduction in the eligibility age level from fourteen to seven by 2014 and the resulting cuts in support will push many of these families over the edge.”
“In addition, the changes to the income eligibility thresholds will mean these parents cannot work part time, without jeopardising their supports and they are also excluded from participating in schemes such as Jobridge, which contradicts the governments supposed interest in supporting more people in their efforts to return to the workforce.”
“There is a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty about these changes, and whether they will be revisited. Given that the Social Welfare Bill to bring these changes in is due to come before us next week I felt it was essential that the Minister come in to the Seanad immediately, to discuss the equity of the cuts being proposed. I think it is appalling that the Government representatives saw fit to vote against this modest request.”
“In my view, the Government is gagging debate. They wouldn’t facilitate a debate on these matters before the budget and they don’t want to discuss them afterwards either. This is probably because they will find these savage cuts so hard to justify when they had other options open to them.”
“I would ask people to question their local Government TDs and Senators, who were elected on a platform of change and of renewal, on this issue, and yet a few months later are following the same failed agenda, and victimising the most vulnerable, as we see with these cuts to Single Parent Family payments.”
Caithfidh an Rialtas na ciorruithe don Íocaíocht Tuismitheoir Aonair a chuir ar ceal - Ó Clochartaigh.
“Níl suim ar bith ag an Rialtas plé ceart a dhéanamh ar impleachtaí na socruite buiséid agus go háirithe is cosúil go bhfuil náire faoi leith orthu faoi na hathruithe atá molta ar Íocaíochtaí Teaghlaigh Tuismitheoir Aonair”, dar leis an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
D’iarr an Seanadóir as Gaillimh arís inniu go mbeadh díospóireacht Seanaid ann leis an Aire Coimirce Sóisialaí, Joan Burton, le plé a dhéanamh ar na ciorruithe atá beartaithe aici ar na hÍocaíochtaí Teaghlaigh Tuismitheoir Aonair, ach diúltaíodh don iarratas don dara lá as a chéile, mar gur vótáil ionadaithe an Rialtais ina choinne.
“Beidh tionchar tubaisteach ag na ag na hathruithe a fógraíodh an tseachtain seo do na hÍocaíochtaí Teaghlaigh Tuismitheoir Aonair agus tá imni mhór agus neamhchinnte cruthaithe do na clanna a fhaigheann iad, go leor acu atá i gcruachás airgid cheana féin agus atá ag strachailt le billí a íoc. Tá go leor de na clanna seo i staid an-leochaileach cheana féín agus má athraítear an aois cáilíochta ó 14 go 7 mbliana i 2014 agus má thagann na ciorruithe atá molta leis sin, beidh an dream seo fágtha in anchaoi ceart”.
“Sa mullach ar sin, ciallaíonn na hathruithe seo nach mbeidh na tuismitheoirí seo in ann oibriú go páirtaimseartha gan cuid dá gcuid liúntais riachtanacha eile a chailliúint agus freisin ní féidir leo páirt a ghlacadh i scéimeanna cosúil le Jobridge, rud a bhréagnaíonn ráitis an Rialtais go bhfuil siad ag iarraidh tacú le daoine atá ag iarraidh filleadh chun oibre”.
“Tá cuid mhaith imní agus míshuaimhnis faoi na hathruithe seo agus faoin seans atá ann go ndéanfaí athbhreithniú orthu. I bhfianaise go bhfuil an Bille Leasa Shóisialaí le teacht os ár gcomhair an tseachtain seo chugainn le feidhm a chuir leis na cinntí seo, mheas mé go raibh sé ríthábhachtach go dtiocfadh an tAire isteach sa Seanad láithreach le plé a dhéanamh ar chothromaíocht na gciorruithe atá beartaithe. Sílim go bhfuil sé scannallach amach is amach gur vótáil Seanadóirí an Rialtais ar fad i gcoinne an moladh réasúnach seo.”
“I mo thuairim sa tá an Rialtas seo ag tachtadh aon díospóireacht fhiúntach. Ní thabharfaidís cead na cúrsaí seo a phlé roimh na cáinfháisnéise agus níl uathu iad a phlé anois ach an oiread. Sílim gur b’shin de bharr go mbeadh deacracht ollmhór acu na ciorruithe damanta seo a chosaint, nuair a bhí roghanna eile ar fáil dóibh”.
“Bhéinn ag impí anois ar an bpobal a gcuid Teachtaí Dála agus Seanadóirí , a toghadh mar gur gheall siad cur chuige difriúil agus cothrom, a cheistiú go dian ar an ábhar seo. Cúpla mí ina ar aghaidh tá siad ag leanúuint an straitéis céanna a bhí ann rompu, ag bualadh cois orthu siúd atá thíos agus leochaileach, mar a fheiceann muid leis na hÍocaíochtaí Teaghlaigh Tuismitheoir Aonair seo.”
Trevor Ó Clochartaigh
Seanadóir/Senator
Teach Laighean/Leinster House,
Baile Átha Cliath 2/Dublin 2
Éire/Ireland

[email protected]

(00353) 1 6184067
(00353) 87 2476624

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Speaking from the UN Climate Talks in Durban, Bairbre de Brun MEP said:

"As the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol comes into view, there is an urgent need to seek a second commitment period for, without it, the world is rapidly moving towards an extremely worrying 'limbo' situation.
 
"At a time when we should be pushing to further our ambition in the field of climate change and close the ‘gigatonne gap’ (the difference between what science says we must do to limit climate change beyond dangerous levels, and what is actually pledged), it is unnerving to think that a 'gap' between Kyoto commitment periods could seriously hinder any progress which has been made to date.
 
"There also needs to be a clear mandate and timescale for achieving a deal which will also include major players that are not party to the Kyoto protocol. Climate change is a problem which will affect us all, some more than others, and it is essential that we address this problem now. Nature will not wait for us to make up our minds. "Grenada's Environment Minister, Mr Karl Hood, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), has said: "We in AOSIS have not come here to negotiate ourselves out of existence, but this is what will happen if we give in to some of the proposals put forward in the last couple of days" ENDS 

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