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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as a 'sick charade' the Health Service Executive's new Daily A&E Bulletin. The Bulletin claims that no-one was waiting in A&E in Monaghan General Hospital. "That is some achievement," stated Deputy Ó Caoláin, "since there is now no A&E department in Monaghan General Hospital."

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: "The new Health Service Executive A&E bulletin can only be described as a sick charade. The HSE states that it records how long and how many patients have been waiting for admission to a hospital ward from the time they have been referred by the A&E team for admission. Yet in the bulletin for Tuesday 26 September the HSE lists Monaghan General Hospital as one of the hospitals having no-one in A&E waiting for admission to a ward. That is some achievement since there is now no A&E Department in Monaghan General Hospital.

"Clearly the HSE's new bulletin is designed to counteract the Irish Nurses Organisation's Trolleywatch which has been informing the public of the real crisis in our A&E departments for years. The listing of Monaghan General Hospital among hospitals with A&E departments exposes the HSE bulletin as an attempt to pull the wool over people's eyes."

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources, Martin Ferris TD has questioned the motivation behind Shell's attempt to abandon its legal action against Mayo landowners who are objecting to the Corrib gas pipeline. Shell will make the application this morning in the High Court and if successful will not have to comply with the order of discovery made by Justice Mary Laffoy in July which would require the company to hand over documents concerning the lease and development plan to representatives of the objectors.

Deputy Ferris said: "Having pursued this issue through the courts for over a year, and having engineered the imprisonment of the five men from Rossport, Shell's decision to drop the legal action is entirely disingenuous. I have absolutely no doubt but that they are doing so for the sole reason of not exposing the terms of the deal that was made with regard to their securing of the lease. This of course begs the question as to what exactly Shell are attempting to hide?

"It is vital that this information is made public and in that spirit I have requested Minister Noel Dempsey to make these documents available not only to the representatives of the protestors but to the public who have a right to know on what basis a valuable national resource was handed over to a multi-national corporation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has this morning addressed a breakfast event at the British Labour Party conference in Manchester regarding prospects for the peace process and the November 24th deadline.

Mr Doherty was accompanied on the platform by Nigel Dodds, Reg Empey and Alisdair McDonnell. Peter Hain also addressed the event.

Speaking today Mr Doherty said:

"This morning's event provided Sinn Féin with the opportunity to address the issues which lie ahead of us in the coming months. There are big challenges and decisions ahead for the DUP and they know this, in regards to sharing power with the rest of us and on the equality and all Ireland agenda. Sinn Féin is ready to move forward, but it remains to be seen whether or not the DUP is ready to move forward with the rest of us.

"At today's meeting I also stressed the absolute need for the British Government to put in place a financial package to target issues such as the infrastructural deficit and to redress almost 35 years of British under funding and neglect in the Six Counties." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today welcomed a resolution signed by all political groups in the European Parliament which urges the government of Sudan to accept a United Nations Peacekeeping force in the country, and calls for an end to attacks upon civilians and humanitarian workers in the region.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Darfur has perhaps been one of the forgotten conflicts of recent times. The huge political and media interest on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan has pushed the situation in Darfur to the margins.

"However, there has been tremendous loss of life in Sudan with at least 30,000 deaths, more than one million internally displaced peoples and more than 200,000 refugees in neighbouring Chad. As this European Parliament resolution points out, attacks upon humanitarian workers has ensured that their work has ground to a halt in many areas thus ensuring that the civilian population will continue to suffer.

"I want to welcome this resolution's call for the Sudanese Government to recognise and not hinder a United Nations peacekeeping force from operating in the country. It is my understanding that the UN Security Council has given the go ahead for up to 22,500 peace keeping soldiers and police officers to take over the operation in Darfur.

"I want to commend the work that has taken place thus far to bring an end to the conflict in Sudan and help with the rebuilding effort, particularly the African Union, UN and the EU. It is essential that this work is continued and buit upon to ensure that Sudan does not slip back into full scale conflict." ENDS

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West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has described the announcement by Education Minister Maria Eagle that she is going to close St Joseph's High School in Plumbridge as a flawed and short-sighted decision which will have a devastating affect on not only the children attending the school and their parents but on the wider community in Glenelly who will lose their main social and cultural hub.

The local MP said,

"The mood in Glenelly today over this decision matches the bleak weather. The decision was supposed to be made last month but given the delay there was increasing hope among campaigners that the Department of Education was giving serious consideration to the many submissions that were made during the consultation process. These submissions proved the evidential basis on which the CCMS made their original proposal to close the school to be flawed as it was based on incomplete and outdated information.

"Alas, the Department has ignored the new information that was brought forward during the consultation including evidence of increasing not decreasing enrolment figure projections and the pending development of a further 200 homes in the catchments area of the school.

"Also, the Minister has chosen to ignore the fact that St Joseph's is the social and cultural hub of this large rural area and, as I said in my own submission, any decision to close the school would run contrary to the education policy of using schools not just as places of education from 9am-3pm but as a resource to be used to engender stronger and more cohesive communities.

"The Parent Action Group galvanised the entire community and elected representatives from across the political spectrum in the fight to keep the school open and I‚m sure that in the coming days they will be sitting down and planning their next step to fight this decision." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has endorsed the Ulster Farmers Union campaign against red tape.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The reform of CAP and the Single Farm Payment was supposed to ensure that farmers had the freedom to farm and the freedom to diversify. However, the culture of bureaucracy and red tape that continues to exist within DARD is making a mockery of that objective. If anything the situation is now far worse. Farmers are facing a death by a thousand cuts.

"Farmers are not getting a fair deal, they are being strangled by an overly bureaucratic approach, particularly to the implementation of EU regulations.

"Sinn Féin have already fully endorsed the demand for a 'Charter of Farmers' Rights' in the north, similar to the one in the south to protect the rights of the farming community. The comparison between the Œzero tolerance‚ approach adopted by DARD compared our counterparts in the South shows the need for a new approach here.

"Similarly a comparison about the way that DARD operate the single Farm Payment scheme in the north again highlights the culture of red tape. Bureaucracy, a lack of support and inflexibility are the hallmark of the way that DARD does business in the north.

"There have been a number of very interesting comments in recent weeks, particularly from political figures such as Ian Paisley and Jim Allister, about the relationships and comparisons across the island.

"Sinn Féin has consistently argued that our farmers in the north are not getting a fair deal. The department has not been their champion and the British framework doesn‚t just fail our industry it sells us short in Europe.

"The case for the all-Ireland approach is extremely strong when it comes to all of the farming sectors, as well as the fishing industry and in relation to the implementation of EU regulations. I welcome the growing acknowledgement of this across the political spectrum. It is essential that as champions of rural communities that we put the interests of our rural industries, particularly farming, and rural communities first." ENDS

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Speaking in advance of attending a meeting between Members of the European Parliament and Prime Minister Siniora of Lebanon in Strasbourg on 27 September, Bairbre de Brún has called for increased EU support for Lebanon.

Ms de Brún said:

"The European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group that I work with in the European Parliament proposed the initiative to ask the Parliament to invite the Prime Minister of Lebanon to inform MEPs of the current situation. I am delighted that this proposal has been taken up by the Parliament and that Prime Minister Siniora is to address us today and to answer questions from MEPs in an open meeting of the Conference of Presidents.

"The people of Lebanon need the support of the international community in order to rebuild their country. They also need us to call for the full withdrawal of Israeli troops and for safety and security for those carrying out vital reconstruction work in their country in the time ahead.

"The EU and the international community stand accused for their slowness in reacting to recent attacks. We now have the opportunity to make amends.

"Rebuilding the shattered infrastructure of the country is a major task, but defending Lebanese sovereignty is an even bigger one. The European Parliament must give adequate assurance to the Prime Minister of Lebanon on both these issues." ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today following two shootings in 12 hours in the Dublin 12 area Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central and Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh condemned the government for failing to ensure that the Garda fight against gun crime is adequately resourced.

Speaking during Order of Business he said, "The government are not channelling enough resources into the fight against drugs and related gun crime, including 2 shootings in the Dublin 12 area in the space of 12 hours today. Operation Anvil has failed absolutely to deliver on its purported objective of tackling gun crime, as a result of under-resourcing and despite the courage of Gardaí, leaving thousands of Dublin residents at risk."

Speaking afterwards he said "Michael McDowell needs to sort out his priorities. He's recently taken on the role of Tánaiste despite the fact that he's failing in his duties as Justice Minister.

"When it was introduced in May 2005 Operation Anvil was declared to be the principle Garda response to gun crime. However it has proven to be, for long periods, little more than a clap down on vehicle tax and insurance. And while recent drug-related arrests and seizures are to be welcomed we must not ignore the fact that Operation Anvil was established to tackle gun crime and since its introduction serious gun crimes like the two shootings today within a space of 12 hours, appears to be rising. A mere 135 firearms have been seized under the operation in the last 9 months and the number of firearms searches have also been relatively low when compared with other areas of Garda focus.

"In mid August it was announced that the traffic core was to receive an additional 200 Gardaí. Using fully-trained crime fighting Gardaí for traffic duty is not an effective use of resources. Sinn Féin have argued for a long time now that such tasks should be civilianised to free up Garda numbers. Its about time gun crime was given the attention it urgently requires."

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said there are "bigger resigning matters" for the Government than the current controversy over the Taoiseach's finances. He said Sinn Féin's position on the need for open competition for appointments to State boards had been vindicated by the Taoiseach's admission that he had appointed friends.

Speaking to the media outside Leinster House, Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "In his RTÉ interview the Taoiseach admitted appointing people to State boards because they were his friends. I have challenged the Taoiseach on this in the Dáil previously and he has stated that all appointments to

State boards were on merit alone. Sinn Féin has called for all such appointments to be made on the basis of open competition and the Taoiseach has opposed this. Our position has been vindicated.

"The Taoiseach and this Government are responsible for far more serious issues than those now being aired in relation to the Taoiseach's personal finances. These are resigning matters not only for the Taoiseach but for this Government -- far more so than the issues in the current controversy. They include the dire state of our health services and the housing crisis, with the Government's developer friends being allowed to buy their way out of their obligation to provide social and affordable housing.

"Today the Government's disgraceful privatisation of Aer Lingus has been completed with the flotation of the former national airline. On the basis of these failures and many others this Government should go. They should call a General Election and we in Sinn Féin are ready for the contest."

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Responding to the Comptroller & Auditor General's report for 2005 Sinn Féin's Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said that the section on the purchase of the site for the proposed super-prison at Thornton Hall is a vindication of Sinn Féin's position. Pointing out that the report estimates the price for the site was 'at least twice the market price' he said that if the special inquiry he had called for before the purchase was complete, had been carried out perhaps 'Minister McDowell would not have wasted so much of the people's money'.

The Dublin South-Central TD said: "Sinn Féin has repeatedly stated that the site for the proposed super-prison at Thornton Hall was purchased at a multiple of its market value and will tie the state into a wasteful Public Private Partnership for the next 35 years.

"The report for 2005 from the Comptroller & Auditor General published today states:

'The price paid for the site at Thornton is likely to have been at least twice the market price at the time for well-positioned agricultural land with development potential in the target area.'

"It describes the state's negotiating position as 'weak', that there was no real competition to obtain the lowest possible price and that the procurement process 'did not position the State to acquire the land at the lowest cost economically achievable'.

"This follows revelations in Village magazine this month that a number of sites in the same area as the Thornton site were purchased recently for a fraction of the cost.

"The debacle at Thornton Hall is something I have raised a number of times in Leinster House. I called for the Comptroller & Auditor General to carry out a special inquiry into the proposed purchase before it was finalised and perhaps had this been Minister McDowell would not have wasted so much of the people's money.

"But as well as the issue of the Government wasting taxpayers money in this regard a number of other questions remain about the Site Selection Committee's evaluations of various sites and that neither comprehensive site surveys nor comprehensive costings on the work that would be necessary to make the site suitable for a prison were conducted."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is attending the opening of the 75th Annual Ploughing Championships in Tullow, Co Carlow this morning. He is joined by a large Sinn Féin delegation including the party's agriculture spokespersons Martin Ferris TD and Michelle Gildernew MP, local Carlow/Kilkenny general election candidate Kathleen Funchion and Sinn Féin councillors John Dwyer (Wexford) and John Brady (Wicklow).

Mr Adams will be available to talk to the media at 11.30am at the Sinn Féin stall at Stand 235, Row L.

Speaking ahead of the event Mr Adams said: "The number of organisations, businesses and groups that have taken stalls at the Championships this year is indicative of the strength and vibrancy that remains in rural communities. This is all the more creditable when we appreciate the decline in family farming and the lack of substantial investment in rural areas.

"Government indifference to the plight of rural communities, combined with an urban-centric economic development policy, has led to a massive demographic shift in Ireland's population over the last four decades. Communities have been forced to wage decades long campaigns for access to healthcare, as at Monaghan Hospital, or access to public transport, as with the West-on-Track campaign.

"Sinn Féin believes we need a more even distribution of economic growth and investment, and real decentralisation, not just of civil servants, but of power and resources. We need to maximise the potential that exists in the bio-energy sector for farmers to tackle energy poverty, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and to ensure security of energy supply.

"But we also need to listen. Too often the people furthest from the corridors of power in Dublin are ignored, misunderstood and misrepresented by an urban political and media establishment. Events like this are an opportunity for that ignorance to be confronted and I am delighted to be able to attend today with my party colleagues."

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Sinn Féin's Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD announced this afternoon that Sinn Féin will be publishing legislation during this Dáil session to reverse the changes to the Part V of the Planning and Development Act brought in by the government in 2002. Joined by the party's TDs and local activists at Leinster House, Deputy Ó Caoláin described Fianna Fáil as being owned 'lock, stock and barrel by the construction industry' while Social Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD challenged the other parties to support Sinn Féin's legislation.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: "Over the summer there has been mounting evidence of the success developers and property speculators have had in shredding Part V of the Planning and Development Act. Developers are buying their way out of their commitments to build social and affordable housing. This is legalised bribery. As reported yesterday, they are even bullying local authorities out of providing homes for low income families.

"We should not be surprised that a party owned lock, stock and barrel by the construction industry should design legislation to benefit them over the housing needs of the people. Sinn Féin will be introducing legislation before the next election to reverse the changes introduced by Minister Cullen at the behest of developers to free them from their obligations. I am calling on all TDs to back us on this matter."

Sinn Féin's Social Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD added: "There are almost 44,000 families on the housing waiting list and the cost of a home anywhere in Ireland, but particularly in Dublin, is out of control. Reports over the summer indicated that key public sector workers such as nurses, firefighters and teachers are being forced out of major cities as they can't afford to buy a home.

"We get empty rhetoric from Minister Ahern about taking on property speculators while this government abdicates its responsibility to the people. Sinn Féin introduced legislation to provide for a constitutional amendment to insert a right to housing in the constitution, but was opposed by Fianna Fáil, the PDs and their ideological partners, Fine Gael. We will be giving those parties a second chance to do something about the housing crisis in this country, and I challenge them to take it."

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Sinn Féin Átha Cliath are holding a picket in solidarity with the people of Rossport, about a hundred of whom have successfully prevented Shell staff from entering the Ballinaboy refinery site this morning. The protest will take place at 6pm at the Statoil Station at Usher's Quay (Opposite the Four Courts). Dublin Sinn Féin Environment spokesperson Councillor Daithí Doolan, who will attend the picket, has called for further solidarity pickets across the country.

He said, "Local resistance to Shell's attempted proceedings in Rossport has the full support of Sinn Féin and solidarity pickets across the country will be organised from six o'clock this evening. Dublin Sinn Féin will hold a solidarity picket at the Statoil station at Usher's Quay opposite the Four Courts and I would ask people to show their support for this picket. I am also calling for further solidarity pickets to take place right across the island.

"I would like to congratulate the protestors in Rossport for successfully preventing Shell staff from entering the Ballinaboy refinery site this morning. They are perfectly within their rights to oppose what is clearly an unpopular development in the area." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Social Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD today accused the Government of an ‘abject failure in ensuring that social and affordable houses are being constructed.’ Describing a recent pledge from Minister Ahern to tackle property speculation as ‘empty rhetoric’ he reiterated Sinn Féin’s call for a reversal of the dilution of Part V of the Planning and Development Act.

 

The Dublin South-West TD said: “With original legislation in 2000, developers were compelled to agree to provide 20 per cent social and affordable housing in any new development. However with a subsequent amendment in 2002 this legislation was considerably watered down allowing developers to effectively buy their way out of such commitments. Sinn Féin has consistently called for procedures to be put in place to reverse the dilution of Part V so that Local Authorities are never put in a position where they are held to ransom by private developers.

 

“It is worrying that according to reports certain local authorities, despite having the cash, are failing to provide social and affordable housing. Local Authorities have a duty to provide housing for those who cannot afford to do so and their failure to do so condemns tens of thousands of people on housing waiting lists to limbo. In addition developers are allegedly using bully tactics to avoid their obligations. Developers clearly feel they are immune from the law and from moral decency, issued a blank cheque by this government for their actions.

 

“If this Government is serious about promoting social inclusion in housing then it is high-time that Minister Noel Ahern stood up to those developers who are buying or bullying their way out of their obligations to provide social and affordable housing. His recent pledge to tackle property speculators is exposed as nothing but empty rhetoric.

 

“While this Minister presides over a housing crisis with nearly 44,000 on the housing waiting list and an estimated 5,000 homeless, property developers and speculators, by no coincidence major donators to Fianna Fáil, continue to amass huge profits.”

 

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Sinn Féin MLA Francie Molloy has reaffirmed the Party's continued support to halt the imposition of the double taxation policy of the British Government as outlined in the Water & Sewerages Draft Order 2006.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance was speaking at a cross party sponsored event organised by the Consumer Council at Stormont to address key issues prior to the establishment of the new Government Owned Company (Go - Co) in April 2007.

Mr. Molloy commented:

" This morning's event allowed all of the political parties to put forward their views on key issues, such as metering, regulation, affordability, sustainability, formation of the Go-Co and crucially protecting workers rights and entitlements.

"The Water Reform agenda has managed to do one thing, unite all the political parties in voicing their opposition to such a non-democratic and unfair set of proposals.

"The Consumer Council have been a key agency in the whole water reform agenda I congratulate them on the role they have played to date in sharing information and informing consumers. I would particularly thank the Consumer Council in the organising of today's event.

"Sinn Féin have consistently outlined our stance on the introduction of a separate charge - we are vehemently opposed to this British revenue raising policy. We are constantly lectured by British Direct Rule, one day a week Ministers, that if our communities want adequate health services, better educational delivery for our children, roads, infrastructure and so on, that we must pay for it. This mantra is rhymed out despite the fact that rating reform will mean severe increases in householder bills, socio-economic deprivation not been addressed, ever rising energy costs, all set against the backdrop of slashed budgets in our roads, education and health services as things stand.

"The Sinn Féin analysis is simple, we have been paying for water and sewerage provision through the domestic rating system for decades. Why should we pay twice?

"Sinn Féin are deeply sceptical about the timing and entire roll out of this privatisation agenda. We have concerns over two key issues, which are often overlooked. One is the issue of the establishment of the Go-Co, and future sustainability of such a body. The second is the right of current water service employees to retain their status as public sector employees with all existing pay, pension and working conditions attached.

Mr. Molloy said:

"There is absolutely no guarantee whatever that the Water Service as it morphs into a Go-Co will be sustainable in the long term.

"The GoCo is to be created on commercial principles. It ( the Go-Co) will be able to simply increase the rates paid and the charges levied for a range of services currently provided by Water Service.

"The only way this can be achieved is for the service to remain a public service. Crucially, it is about ensuring that workers rights and entitlements are upheld.

"I appeal to my colleagues who attended today's event, none more so than the DUP to show leadership and responsibility, engage with all the political parties, in the first instance with Sinn Féin to revive the political institutions on the basis of equality, so that as elected representatives, we are the one's who take the decisions which lie before us, to tackle the socio-economic agenda which is failing all our communities. Sinn Féin are serious about resolving the issue of water charges - are the DUP? This issue goes right to the heart of the equality agenda. Will the DUP deny its electorate their right to equal treatment as well as the rest of us? I hope not." ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Francie Molloy is the Sinn Féin MLA spokesperson on Finance & Personnel. He has previously chaired the previous Assembly Committee on DFP. Currently, Mr Molloy is the Deputy Chair of the Preparation for Government Committee.

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe has expressed his deep concern at a new report to be issued by the European Transport Safety Council today which will place this state near the bottom of EU member states on road safety.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "It is extremely worrying that Ireland has one of the poorest road safety records of all EU member states and doubly shocking that according to the report we are one of four countries that not made any noteworthy progress since 2001. France, Luxembourg and Belgium have been able to cut road deaths by over 25% according to the report, yet 276 people have lost their lives on this state's roads this year, no improvement from last year.

"The Government has stood idly by while our roads becoming more dangerous. Sinn Féin proposes a comprehensive all-Ireland approach to road safety. It makes no sense to have different road signs, driver education and speed limits on this small island.

"Driver education is key, and we propose that it should become part of the school curriculum. There also needs to be a reform of the provisional licence system to encourage driver training and practice instead of widespread test avoidance. The driving test backlog of 140,000 also needs to be cleared, with people having to wait up to a year in my own constituency.

"Driving instructors should be regulated as set out in the Road Safety Act. This measure will prevent the current situation, which is nothing short of scandalous whereby a driver can put a sign on the roof of their car and 'teach' the public how to drive. In addition driving lessons should be made affordable to boost uptake.

"There needs to be high visibility deterrents to combat bad driving behaviour such as speeding. Check points and speed cameras should be deployed in risk areas with accident black spots rather than largely concentrating on major roads. We need these measures to improve road safety not merely collect guaranteed revenue for the state.

"A single avoidable death on our roads is one too many. As many people are forced to purchase private cars due to the incompetency of this government's public transport management, it is the government's duty at least to ensure that the roads on which they drive are safe."

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Sinn Féin's Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD is in Wexford this morning where along with Wexford Sinn Féin Councillor John Dwyer he will visit Wexford bio-fuel producers as part of the campaign for the retention of an Irish sugar industry and for the retention of the sugar plants in Mallow and Carlow for the production of bio-fuels. Deputy Ferris will launch a Sinn Féin discussion document at the Ploughing Championships on Thursday entitled, 'The case for keeping an Irish sugar industry.'

Speaking prior to the meeting Deputy Ferris said, "The asset stripping of this successful public enterprise and the huge profits made by Greencore from the closures at the Mallow and Carlow sugar plants was nothing short of a disgrace. What added insult to injury was that the Government, who maintained a golden share in the company, stood idly by and allowed this to happen.

"The sugar plants at Mallow and Carlow should be maintained for the production of ethanol as a bio-fuel. This would help us to meet our European requirements that bio fuel replaces 5.75% of petrol imports by 2010 and, more importantly, it would maintain an Irish sugar industry and provide a stable income for growers and producers in Ireland. At a time when the rural way of life and farming are coming under such intense pressure we cannot afford to throw away this strategic crop.

"The government have the power through the golden share to negotiate for the transfer to the state of these plants at a reasonable price. What is needed now is political will, the will to maintain and build on this traditional Irish industry." ENDS

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Commenting on the current controversy over the finances of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the reality was that the Taoiseach had been "let off the hook" on bigger scandals than those alleged in the current controversy. He said the facts revealed today about how developers were being allowed to "shred" Part V of the Planning and Development Act and refuse to build social and affordable housing showed the "hand-in-glove relationship" between the FF/PD Government and unscrupulous developers.

The Cavan/Monaghan TD said: "Most people will question why the Taoiseach received large donations and/or loans from a group of business people and why he did not address his personal affairs, including legal bills, in the way most people do. The only reason this is in the public domain is because the Mahon Tribunal is investigating if the Taoiseach received money from property developer Owen O'Callaghan.

"The reality is that the Taoiseach and his Government have been let off the hook on bigger scandals than those alleged in the current controversy. At the core of these scandals is the close relationship between the Fianna Fáil/PD government and property developers and the oil and gas industry. These scandals include:

· The changing of Part V of the Planning and Development Act after intensive lobbying from developers. The original Part V required developers to provide 20% social and affordable housing in all developments. This was changed by the FF/PD Government at the developers' behest so that they can buy their way out of their obligations by paying money to local authorities. As a direct result lower income families have been deprived of homes

· The granting of major tax concessions to developers of private hospitals. Bertie Ahern's successor as Finance Minister, Charlie McCreevy, admitted that he brought in this concession after lobbying from a private hospital developer in his constituency.

· The allocation of land at public hospital sites to private developers to build private for-profit hospitals while our public hospital system struggles from crisis to crisis.

· The ongoing robbery of our natural gas and oil supplies by multinationals that have been handed these resources free gratis by successive governments, including the present administration.

"All of these measures are legal but totally unethical and against the public interest. The Taoiseach and his colleagues should be held accountable for them."

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Responding to the Irish Prison Service's annual report that demonstrated a substantial increase in the cost of keeping people in prison at three times the rate of inflation Sinn Féin's Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD blamed the 'ideologically right wing, populist and ill-thought out war on crime approach favoured by the PD Justice Minister.' He went on to point out that detention for non-violent offenders costs 30 times the amount of a community service order and that the Minister had misled the public on the prison overtime bill.

The Dublin South-Central TD said: "The ever increasing cost of the prison system to taxpayers is a direct result of the ideologically right wing, populist and ill-thought out war on crime approach favoured by the PD Justice Minister and the rest of the establishment parties. The approach is doomed to fail both in terms of reducing crime, and the costs of crime, and this is evidenced by the monumental failure of the same approach in the United States.

"The solution to prison spending inflation does not lie, as McDowell and others would have us believe, in building a superprison, rather the answer lies in changing sentencing practices. According to the Irish Prison Service's annual report the number of people in detention for violent offences has decreased while those detained for lesser non-violent offences has increased. A quarter of all those sentenced for 6 months or less are in prison for the non-payment of fines.

"The cost of keeping those people in prison is on average €45,000 while a 6 month community service order under the supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service would cost just €1,500. If we want to seriously address the costs of keeping people in prisons we must look seriously at ensuring alternative sentencing options are available for non-violent offenders. The current Government has starved the Probation and Welfare Service of resources because their preferred route is to simplistically lock up their problems.

"The Minister has misled the public by claiming he had the overtime overspend sorted out and by indicating that he would invest the savings from this agreement on rehabilitation. Yet according to the Irish Prison Service annual report they spent more on overtime in 2005 than in 2004. With no investment in rehabilitation, rates of re-offending will not be improved and the taxpayer's prison spending bill will continue to increase."

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources, Martin Ferris TD has congratulated picketers who this morning prevented access to the proposed gas terminal at Ballinaboy in North Mayo. This was the latest attempt by the Shell-led Corrib consortium to proceed with work on the site since the jailing of the Rossport Five. He went on to call for solidarity pickets at Shell and Statoil stations across the state.

The Kerry North TD said: "I would like to express my support ad admiration for the protestors who are perfectly within their rights to oppose what is clearly an unpopular development in the area. As yesterday's poll for TG4 proved, the overwhelming majority of people in Mayo want the gas to be processed off-shore despite a dishonest propaganda offensive from Shell and their supporters in the media throughout the summer.

"Despite this, Shell is committed to ignoring the interest of local people and has absolutely refused to consider off-shore processing to placing the pipeline on land. Any attempt by Shell to proceed will be met with resistance by people locally and that resistance will have the full support of Sinn Féin.

"Solidarity pickets are being organised for 6pm this evening in various parts of the country at Shell and Statoil stations and I would urge people to show their support for the campaign as they did so powerfully last year and stand again with the people of Rossport."

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