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Sinn Féin highlight need for action to tackle Fuel Poverty

15 December, 2004

Sinn Féin anti-poverty spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Kathy, Stanton who jointly sponsored the 'Campaign Against the Cold' organised by coalition of charity groups including fuel poverty charity National Energy Action with unionist MLA George Dawson, has attacked the failure of direct rule ministers to prioritise action to tackle fuel poverty.

Speaking at the Stormont event, Ms Stanton said:

"We are here today to show the Department how important the eradication of fuel poverty is to many groups, organisations and constituencies across the North of Ireland; the Campaign Against the Cold will go on until Government finally takes the issue seriously enough to allocate the required resources to end fuel poverty. It is important that across the political spectrum politicians stand together and put direct rule ministers under pressure to find new money to tackle fuel poverty. This is a litmus test of the commitment of the British government to the issue of poverty.

"This event is a public commitment of Sinn Féin to work to eradicate fuel poverty. Our party has a track record on this issue.

"Everyone should be concerned at the extent of fuel poverty, made known from the Housing Executive's House Condition Survey, and that 203,000 households or one third of homes across the north are at risk. The most vulnerable in our society - older people, families with young children and people with disabilities suffer most. The overall figure of 33% hides pockets of extreme fuel poverty. In my own constituency of North Belfast, 47% of households are in fuel poverty. This is unacceptable and reflects the extent of social exclusion and poverty that my constituency alone has experienced over many years. It is well past time for real action on this issue.

"Fuel poverty is a combination of poor energy efficiency standards, low incomes and high fuel costs. Sinn Féin recognise that the cross departmental and crosscutting nature of fuel poverty needs a cross-departmental response. The problem of fuel poverty needs to be given political leadership at the highest level.

"Political leadership can get positive results, an example is the energy efficiency levy being approved in the Assembly. Sinn Féin have called for an inclusive, Cross-Departmental Ministerial Task Force as a vehicle for bringing all these partnerships together. We are not convinced that the plans for an interdepartmental group on fuel poverty, which excludes all other partners working on fuel poverty is the way to go. We will campaign for the creation of a Cross Departmental Task Force on fuel poverty." ENDS

Note to Editors

Sinn Féin and the DUP have jointly sponsored the conference on ENDING FUEL POVERTY - Where to go after the Fuel Poverty Strategy? In the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings today, Wednesday 15th December 2004. Speakers include Kathy Staunton MLA (11.00), Mr Albert Jackson, Majella McCloskey, Director NEA NI and George Dawson MLA (11.30).

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