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Sinn Féin questions Minister for State's decision to axe crucial funding

27 January, 2005

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community and Family Affairs, Seán Crowe TD has questioned the Minister for State for Community Affairs, Noel Ahern TD about his decision to axe funding for the Community Workers Co-operative, an organisation that works on the ground fighting poverty, inequality and injustice.

Speaking in the Dáil last night he said "The Combat Poverty Group's most recent assessment of the Community Workers Co-operative at the end of 2003 acknowledged the quality of their work and their focus on poverty and exclusion. In fact the quality of their work and their commitment to addressing poverty is recognised locally, nationally and indeed internationally.

"Their provision of quality information, policy analysis, strategy guides, resources, and training are invaluable to thousands of local groups struggling to work against poverty. These groups are outraged about the negative impact the closure of the Community Workers Co-operative will have on their work.

"The Community Workers Co-operative has been a critical voice of Government policy on anti-poverty and equality issues for the last 24 years. The decision by Minister for State Noel Ahern to axe this funding has been described as a sinister move to silence an effective critical voice.

"The process by which this decision was made must be questioned. There was no discussion with the organisation.

"Were evaluation and assessment reports of the 10 networks considered in the decision? Apparently not, as the Community Workers Co-operative has consistently performed well, particularly in relation to its anti-poverty focus.

"Were others renowned for working in the field of anti-poverty work consulted? Again apparently not, as witnessed by the statements such as that of Helen Johnston of the Combat Poverty Agency or from the European Anti-Poverty Network.

"What is happening here appears to be political vetting of community work. The government clearly doesn't like what this organisation says, or its ability to bring diverse groups experiencing poverty together to work collectively."

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