Estimates 2005 reflect effective campaigning - Ó Snodaigh
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed proposed budgetary increases in a number of areas that have been highlighted by Sinn Féin over the past two years as "the result of effective campaigning by the sectoral groups themselves and their opposition supporters including Sinn Féin."
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I see a number of things to welcome in the estimates, that I have personally campaigned for over the past two years. This year Legal Aid, which has been strangled by this Government, will now see a pretty significant increase. The same goes for the Probation and Welfare Service, long starved of resources by this Government. I don't know if it will be enough to compensate for chronic underfunding and the cuts of the past two years, but I acknowledge this as a positive response to demands that I and others have been raising.
"I believe the Sinn Féin agenda that the voters have embraced has had an influence on these estimates. Last year and the year before we saw a whole range of cuts across the Equality and Human Rights measures. This year we see increases. I particularly welcome the 40% increase in the programmes to combat Violence Against Women, which is an issue area that has never received sufficient attention from any Government. Once again, given the level of underfunding of all these sectors, these increases probably won't be enough to offset the damage done by the previous years of cuts, but they are to be welcomed all the same. The combination of effective campaigning and, I believe, a strong vote for Sinn Féin, have influenced these results.
"However, there are still some disturbing problem areas that show a lack of vision and real commitment to an equal society. The chronically underfunded Human Rights Commission - a core element of the Good Friday Agreement - and the IMC - an element that is totally outside the Agreement - receive almost the same level of funding. The Peace Programme is being cut by 50% this year. There is still no adequate funding for TG4. The National Action Plan on Racism appears to have been completely defunded. There will be no increase for crime prevention measures and a cut for prisoner education and training programmes. And the budget for the Garda Complaints Board ? which allegedly will be defunct later this year ? has increased by a whopping 43%. All these budgetary decisions are cause for continuing concern.
"But the apparent decision to drop the commitment to the UN target on Overseas Development Aid is probably the biggest disappointment. It is a betrayal, it is not acceptable, and I urge the Government to reverse before the final Budget." ENDS