Sinn Féin - On Your Side

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, on the third day of his official visit to South Africa, spoke to a specially convened session of the South African Parliament in Capetown.

Mr Adams thanked Deputy Speaker Geoff Doidge for inviting him to Parliament and for this "exceptional honour".

Mr Adams said:

"Your success is a beacon of light and encouragement for all those struggling throughout the world for freedom and democracy."

"As we in Ireland seek to make political progress following the recent IRA initiatives we understand that one of the greatest single challenges facing us, as we seek to achieve Irish unity, is engaging with our unionist neighbours.

"The reality and legacy of the partition of Ireland meant that a section of our people - the unionists - were given a special status.

"The peace process has created a new dynamic for change which many unionists find threatening. They are afraid that they will lose out economically and politically; that the traditional roles will be reversed and that they will suffer disadvantage and discrimination.

"Irish republicans will not condone or be part of such developments. The underpinning principle, which guides our politics, is equality. This means working in partnership with those unionists who will work with us to ensure a better future for all our people.

"Peace and political stability brings many benefits. That is evident here in South Africa. It can happen in Ireland.

"Sinn Fein is committed in the time ahead to pro-actively engage with unionists, to talk with them, share concerns, ideas, and seek a vision of the future in which all of us can feel comfortable and be prosperous. I believe we can achieve this. I believe the example set by South Africa marks the path which we too must follow.

"The father of Irish republicanism described this in our context as the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. I am confident in the time ahead that with perseverance, patience and persistence this can be achieved." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Michael Ferguson MLA has accused unionist members of the Southern Education Library Board of failing to appreciate the public mood in relation to the loss of the 2pm bus service.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Unionist filibuster tactics meant that a motion brought forward to the Education Library Board by the primary schools' representative was frustrated.

"It is unfortunate that on this occasion that unionists have missed the public mood in relation to the loss of the 2pm bus service. They seem to blow hot and cold on this issue yet it is of huge importance particularly in rural areas and to working families.

"However, I am confident that the Education Library Board will revisit this issue and that the campaign to have the 2pm school bus service reinstated will be successful." ENDS

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Speaking after the close of the Sinn Féin anti-poverty conference - 'End Poverty North and South - Local and Global' in North Belfast today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on poverty, North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton thanked the hundreds of participants and said that the message from the conference was clear - participation in anti-poverty campaigns was the key to ensuring that the issues remained a priority.

Participants included students and teaching representatives from schools and universities, political representatives from a range of political parties and members of many of the key NGO's active in the area of anti-poverty.

Speaking after the conference Ms Stanton said:

"The message from conference today was that there is a desire for people to actively campaign against poverty and that the NGO's particularly welcome the engagement of political parties.

"Today we brought together people active on the ground across a range of anti-poverty issues. It was about listening and learning. It is essential that politicians and those in power listen to the people who are working at the coalface.

"The lack of political will, particularly from the British and Irish governments, to deliver on commitments to tackle poverty both here in Ireland and across the world will only be successfully challenged through co-ordinated campaigning and political pressure.

"Coming from today there is a renewed sense of optimism, certainly within Sinn Féin, that we can make tackling poverty a priority. It is about the popular demand for equality and is driven by the commitment to fight for social justice." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Justice, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, has described the response, by the Minster for Justice, to a question he asked in the Dáil today, on the growing cocaine and crack cocaine problem in Dublin as, "an incredible and puerile piece of political gymnastics which has done nothing to address the very real and current concerns of many, many people across this state."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "his failure to address the growing cocaine problem, not just in Dublin but across the state, and instead to launch into another round of Sinn Féin bashing, shows that he is a Minister too blinded by his own prejudices to be capable of carrying out his duties properly.

"The Ministers response was an incredible and puerile piece of political gymnastics which has done nothing to address the very real and current concerns of many, many people across this state.

"Rather than try and divert attention by spewing the usual nonsensical anti-republican claptrap the Minister should be honest enough to admit that he has no coherent nor strategic plan to deal with the rising level of cocaine dealing and abuse in this State.

"It would appear that none of the lessons from the heroin epidemics of the eighties and nineties have been learned. It is obvious that Michael McDowell is much happier remaining in his ivory tower, spouting forth his anti-republican bile, than doing his job and addressing this crisis." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called for an urgent all Ireland and cross departmental strategy to be put in place to combat any possible Bird Flu outbreak in Ireland. Ms McDonald made her comments as Mary Harney is in England today for a meeting of EU health ministers to discuss plans for dealing with avian flu.

Ms McDonald warned that a coordinated response from both Departments of Health, Departments of Agriculture and the all Ireland cross border working groups was required to ensure 'full preparedness'.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin is on record as far back as the beginning of this year, calling for a joint all Ireland approach to the issue of the Bird Flu virus. Such a pandemic, were it to emerge, would respect no land borders. Therefore from a public health and animal health perspective, it is imperative that there is an all Ireland and cross departmental working group put in place to implement a working strategy.

"There should be no political impediments to the establishment of such a taskforce. In the six counties, the lack of political progress is frustrating a unified response, particularly the unionist refusal to engage with Sinn Féin. In the south, Minister Harney's department has previously postponed two meetings on this matter. Her department asked for the postponement of a meeting with their northern counterparts until the new health structures had bedded in.

"My colleagues Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and John O'Dowd MLA, spokespersons for Health, Martin Ferris and Michelle Gildernew, spokespersons for Agriculture and Rural Development, have been in contact with the relevant departments to press for such an approach." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has said that people are becoming increasingly concerned that high level elements within the PSNI and British system are conspiring to ensure that admissions by former Special Branchman Eric Anderson that he stole confidential files is being swept under the carpet.

Mr Doherty said:

" It is now a week on since Eric Anderson admitted on camera to the theft of confidential PSNI files in a bid to undermine and subvert the work of the Police Ombudsman. Yet a week on we have yet to hear from the British Secretary of State Peter Hain or the PSNI Chief Hugh Orde on the issue of the files theft and Anderson's admissions.

" We have also seen no attempts to arrest or charge Eric Anderson or retrieve the confidential paperwork which he has admitted to stealing. I have already met with the Police Ombudsman to discuss this issue and I have sought an urgent meeting with the British Direct Rule Security Minister Shaun Woodward to convey directly to him the real and growing concerns of nationalists and republicans regarding these very serious matters.

" Given the amount of time which has elapsed and the fact that there appears to have been little effort by the PSNI to effectively deal with this case and the issues it raises there is now a growing suspicion that high level elements of the RUC old guard within the PSNI are conspiring with elements of the British security system to try and bury this story and sweep it under the carpet." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has called for the scrapping of plans by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney to provide land at public hospital sites for the development of private hospitals which will also receive massive tax breaks. In reply to a Dáil Question from Deputy Ó Caoláin, the Tánaiste admits that she has met numerous people over the past year in connection with the plan, including private commercial interests.  

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Tánaiste’s plan is a fraud. She claims that it would be too costly for the State to provide a further 3,000 public hospital beds as promised in the National Health Strategy. But the Government does not know the cost of its tax breaks for private hospitals – tax breaks that will form the basis of this new plan. The Tánaiste does not know how much her plan will cost.

"With this scheme the Tánaiste has shredded what’s left of the Fianna Fáil 2002 General Election manifesto health commitments. That manifesto claimed it wanted 'the end of the two-tier health system'. The Tánaiste has denied that we have a two-tier system while her private hospital plan will reinforce that very system.

"The Tánaiste’s plan relies on massive tax breaks for developers of private hospitals. Yet such tax reliefs are currently under review by the Minister for Finance and the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service. Former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has admitted that he brought in the private hospital tax break on the basis of a lobby from a developer in his own constituency. No cost-benefit analysis has been carried out and the cost to the State of these subsidies to the private health business is not known.

"The bottom line is that public money should be spent only on public health facilities which are available equally to all. They should not be used to subsidise the private health business." ENDS

  

Dáil Question and Tánaiste’s Reply

*  To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the persons she has met in the past 12 months in relation to the development of private hospitals on public hospital sites; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin T.D

In the last year, I have had numerous meetings with many people in my office in Dublin and throughout the country where the development of private facilities on public hospital grounds was raised and discussed, often as part of wide-ranging agendas.   Among them, I have met consultants and management at Waterford Regional Hospital, consultants at Limerick Regional Hospital and members of the Limerick Hospital Trust, members of the board and management of St. James' Hospital, consultants and management at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, the promoters of the Beacon Clinic and Hospital, and representatives of the management of the Mater Private Hospital.

 Since the issue has often been raised in the context of other discussions, it is not feasible to look back through all meetings and occasions where discussions might have taken place or advice or information offered. 

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy tonight addressed the annual T rinity College Historical Society Debate entitled - "That the Peace Process Has Let Unionism Down".

The debate was chaired by Garrett Fitzgerald and included contributions from former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, British Secretary of State Peter Hain, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, the PUP leader David Ervine and the SDLP leader Mark Durkan.

Mr Murphy told those assembled that 'instead of embracing concepts of conflict resolution and embracing the equality agenda as a mechanism to undo years of systematic discrimination unionist political leaders have sought to undermine it, they have sought to filter the basic demands of the Good Friday Agreement through a unionist prism as they seek to maintain an unsustainable status quo.'

The full text of Mr Murphy's speech follows.

" It is unrealistic to simply take the enormous political developments of the last 10 or 15 years in isolation from the decades since partition which preceded this time. We have to examine the causes of conflict. The nature of the six county state. The political forces which conspired to institutionalise discrimination and the failure of others including successive governments in this state to defend the rights of Irish citizens in the north.

Nationalists and republicans were undemocratically locked into a statelet to which they had no affiliation and no allegiance. A statelet whose government and institutions were as Craigavon correctly proclaimed a 'Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People'. As the late human rights lawyer PJ McGrory declared - Nationalists were in effect foreigners in our own land.

For decades nationalists and republicans endured a system of institutionalised discrimination. That fact is irrefutable. The six county state was not, as revisionists within unionism seem to believe, some sort of model society. The reality is that a system of one party rule operated for half a century which along with partition itself resulted in sowing the seeds of the violent conflict which we have all lived through for the past three decades and more.

In the 1960s at a time when the rest of the world was embracing an exciting new era, the unionist response was to baton and shoot the civil rights movement off the streets and anti-Catholic pogroms in Belfast and Derry with the B-Specials and RUC leading the way.

Violent repression was met by violent resistance and so began the cycle of conflict and division which we are now finally emerging from.

The British government embarked upon a failed strategy of trying to defeat Irish republicanism, the oldest political ideology on this island, through a mixture of military force and political sanctions. We have lived through Shoot -to -Kill, Collusion, Criminalisation and Ulsterisation. Yet this was always a political conflict. It could only be solved through politics. It could only be solved through dialogue.

When the IRA took the courageous decision in August 1994 to call a cessation of their military operations, unionism would be challenged as never before since partition to face up to deal with the inequality which underpinned the northern state since its inception. We can all recall that the response of the then UUP leader James Molyneaux to the cessation was to describe it as the most destabilising event since partition. Equality is a difficult concept to deal with when the state is so tilted in your favour. But equality was always going to have to underpin the future if the causes of conflict were to be addressed at all.

The equality agenda which has been advanced since 1994, but is no where near completion yet, has been about addressing the imbalance. There would not have been provisions on equality and human rights in the Agreement if we did not live in a society which fostered discrimination and human rights abuses. The process has been about creating a level political playing field.

Equality should threaten nobody. But instead of embracing concepts of conflict resolution and embracing the equality agenda as a mechanism to undo years of systematic discrimination unionist political leaders have sought to undermine it, they have sought to filter the basic demands of the Good Friday Agreement through a unionist prism as they seek to maintain an unsustainable status quo.

By embarking upon such a strategy unionist political leaders have ensured that the process of change which is necessary and demanded now by an international treaty has been viewed with suspicion and hostility from within their community. This was entirely the wrong approach. Unionism cannot stop the process of change. It cannot stop equality or human rights. The Good Friday Agreement offered unionism a template to move forward upon.

However the vast majority of political unionism choose to ignore this path. Instead of selling the Agreement and its positive benefits for all citizens they retreated to the sort of outdated sectarian certainties offered by organisations like the Orange Order and presented the Equality agenda as a threat to unionist communities. This compiled with the collapse of the traditional, protestant dominated, industries such as ship building, led to an increased sense of loss. But catholic areas continue to experience disproportionately high levels of poverty and deprivation.If unionist or loyalist communities claim to be voiceless then that it not a reflection on the peace process - it is a damning indictment of the standard of political leadership offered by the DUP and UUP in the years since 1994. If similar sentiments were being expressed by republican or nationalist communities I would not whinge about it - I would get into those communities and begin to deliver for them.

There is undoubtedly deprivation and poverty within working class unionist areas and this needs to be tackled and addressed. Sinn Féin are committed to doing this. However deprivation and poverty can only be tackled on the basis of need - not perception. 150,000 children in the North live in poverty and half a million people live in poor households. However all of the poverty indictors prove that the reality remains that the majority of wards in which people continue to live below the poverty line are in nationalist areas. Almost twice as many Catholics as protestants remain unemployed. More catholic young people leave school without formal qualifications than their protestant counterparts. These statistics sadly are facts and undermine much of the nonsense being offered by unionist politicians in recent weeks to excuse the violence witnessed on the streets of Belfast.

Lets be very clear, the riots in Belfast were nothing to do with deprivation. What they were about was a demand from the Orange Order to open a gate in the peace line which remains closed 365 days of the year to allow them to cross into a nationalist area and coat trail through that community. The Orange Order flagged up to us all well in advance that they were planning violence. They sat on a forum with all the main unionist paramilitaries to discuss their parade tactics in the run up to the parade. So what happened on the streets should come as a surprise to nobody.

Unionist political leaders must bear the responsibility for the position within which unionism finds itself. If unionist political leaders continue to hark after an era which has long since past then political unionism will remain in a cul -de -sac. Their response to the recent historic initiatives by the IRA is evidence of that. The IRA initiatives do not in themselves solve the crisis in the peace process. It can only be solved through dialogue and meaningful engagement. But the DUP continue to refuse to talk to Sinn Fein the largest nationalist party - while simultaneously sitting on forums with the leadership of the UDA and UVF.

All of the evidence shows that the protestant working class is most disadvantaged by current educational arrangements, yet both the DUP and UUP continue to oppose changes to the education system - a system which currently means that only 2% of children from the Shankill area go to third level education.

Sinn Féin do an extensive amount of outreach to the broad unionist community

- civic, business, churches and community. It is our belief that many of these sectors are far in advance of their political leaders when it comes to the job of rebuilding the process and putting the political institutions back in place.

The peace process has the capacity to deliver enormous political and social changes which will benefit people across the island. That is without dispute. Society has been transformed in the years since 1994. The recent IRA statement is evidence of that. But much more work remains to be done in the time ahead. The institutions have to be put back in place. The outstanding aspects of the Agreement need to be delivered upon. A strategy to deal with sectarianism and racism has to be put in place. The issue of loyalist weapons and ceasefires needs to be tackled and deprivation needs to be tackled across the spectrum.

But unionist political leaders need to embrace change. They need to end the pretence that the peace process is a line of concessions to nationalists. Obviously properly tackling inequality will result and has resulted in those previously enjoying a privileged position being challenged. But deprived communities whether protestant or catholic, the Shankill or the Falls can only benefit from equality, economic development and political stability. Change cannot be stopped. It can only be managed. And that is the task of all of us including unionist leaders in the time ahead.ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald this afternoon met with the President of the European Parliament Josep Borrell in Brussels. This was the first meeting between Sinn Féin and the European parliament President and follows on from last week's visit to Brussels by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

Speaking after the meeting Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP said:

" Since the recent historic initiatives by the IRA Sinn Féin have sought to galvanise international opinion behind a sustained effort to seize the opportunity presented and see the Good Friday Agreement implemented and the political institutions re-established.

" Martin McGuinness has carried out an extensive series of engagements in the US and Canada and Gerry Adams is currently in South Africa carrying out a similar programme of events. Today's meeting between ourselves and the President of the European Parliament is the first such engagement and it offered us an opportunity to impress upon Mr Borrell the important role which Europe still has to play in consolidating and advancing the Irish peace process.

"One very practical way in which EU support for the process can be demonstrated is through a PEACE III programme covering the period 2007 -2013 being brought forward. Securing the extension of this crucial funding remains a priority for Sinn Féin in the time ahead.

"Today's meeting was positive and constructive and underlines a long standing commitment to the peace process by the European Parliament and institutions. We look forward to this support continuing in the time ahead as we seek to breath much needed momentum back into the political process with the clear objective of seeing a speedy re-establishment of the power sharing and all-Ireland institutions." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children and Young People, West Belfast MLA Sue Ramsey has welcomed the demand from the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Nigel Williams for the government to develop a comprehensive play strategy.

Ms Ramey said:

"The demand for a strategy to be put in place for play and leisure is too important to ignore. Children are our future and we should be investing now for the future.

"We need a strategy and resources to develop both policy and leisure and play facilities. Not just because there is a demand from children and young people to have play and leisure provision but also because learning how to play is important to the development of children and young people.

"No one should underestimate the importance of play for children. It is about learning, interaction, development and health. It is about having fun and enjoyment." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Thomas O'Reilly speaking after attending the 2-day seminar on the future vision for the environment organised by the Environmental Heritage Service has challenge NIO Environment Minster Jeff Rooker to deliver an independent all-Ireland Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr O'Reilly said:

"Reports stretching back over the last decade, including the Waste Management Advisory Boards' highly damming report into the DoE's environmental protection and waste management record demand real solutions. Sinn Féin believes that an all-Ireland Environmental Protection Agency is a viable alternative to DoE failures.

"We need radical solutions to a problem that will not go away. Crown immunity from prosecution for the DoE, and indeed all government departments and agencies should be removed. We need to put the emphasis on prevention rather than cure.

"Sinn Fein believes that the DoE should be stripped of its environmental protection powers because it has abjectly failed to do its job. We believe that there is a very strong case for the creation of a single all-Ireland Environmental Protection Agency. A new agency with strong enforcement powers and a strong commitment to ensuring that the polluter is held responsible for their actions and meets treatment costs.

"An all-Ireland EPA could also take the lead in ensuring that all government department meet environmental targets on, for example, using energy from renewable sources and recycling.

"There is also a crisis in waste treatment capacity. It makes no sense to look at the problems of waste management or illegal dumping in a segregated way. We need an all-Ireland waste management strategy driven by an Implementation Body with tough enforcement powers to move us away from landfill and incineration.

"In particular with EU Environmental directives there is an onus on us to act faster and to invest more in meeting tough new guidelines. Failure to comply with these EU directives will potentially cost us millions and this will hit local councils, who have not been given the support or resources they need, particularly hard." ENDS

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Responding to the latest report by the IMC released in Dublin this afternoon, Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy said:

" The IMC were established outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. In our view the IMC have no positive or constructive role to play in the peace process. In fact, they have provided the pretext for political discrimination against democratically elected politicians.

" The IRA has fulfilled all of the commitments made in the historic statement of July 28th. They have addressed unionist concerns and removed any further excuse for non-engagement.

" The DUP must now decide if they want to come on board the peace process and the two governments must urgently address the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement including the early restoration of the political institutions." ENDS

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Responding to the announcement by the British Secretary of State Peter Hain that the British government are to end the discrimination against Sinn Féin and our electorate through sanctions, South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey said:

" Sinn Féin is opposed to the IMC and to politically motivated sanctions against democratically elected politicians. The British government had no right to discriminate against any Irish political representative.

" Sanctions against Sinn Féin are undemocratic and motivated by a desire to prevent the further development of the party and prevent further electoral advances. They are unacceptable and should be removed.

" Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the role being played by the IMC and the political cover it seeks to give to the British government to discriminate against Irish political parties and their electorates." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD has called on the Government to "stop patting" themselves on the back in relation to the most recent population and migration estimates.  Deputy Morgan was speaking during statements on the Quarterly national household survey in the Dáil today.  Deputy Morgan said that the Government had abjectly failed to plan for the needs of the increasing population saying, "we have overpriced houses, 50,000 on social housing waiting lists, overcrowded hospitals, traffic congestion and jam-packed commuter trains."

"By April of this year, the population of this state had reached 4.13 million.   Rapid population increases as a result of economic growth have exasperated problems in provision of public services, transport, health care, education and housing and has contributed to a deterioration in quality of life for many in the state," he said.

"Increased tax revenues from the increased workforce have not been put back into increased services for an increased population.   This is a dangerous mistake.  As the population continues to grow services and infrastructure are stretched to their limits."

Full text of statement

Quarterly national household survey - population and migration estimates  - Statement by Arthur Morgan TD

This debate is a timely opportunity to discuss this Government abject failure to plan for the needs of the increased and increasing population. I am talking about the failure of the Government to prepare for the housing needs, transport needs and the healthcare needs of the increased population.

So lets stop patting ourselves on the back.

We have overpriced houses, 50,000 on social housing waiting lists, overcrowded hospitals, traffic congestion, jam-packed commuter trains. 

By April of this year, the population of this state had reached 4.13 million.   Rapid population increases as a result of economic growth have exasperated problems in provision of public services, transport , health care, education and housing and has contributed to a deterioration in quality of life for many in the state.

Increased tax revenues from the increased workforce have not been put back into increased services for an increased population.   This is a dangerous mistake.  As the population continues to grow services and infrastructure are stretched to their limits

Housing

The Government has failed to plan for the long term housing needs of a growing population.

The housing stock per population in the 26 counties was 390 per 1000 population at the end of 2003 compared to the EU 15 average of 440. 

There are currently 50,000 families on social housing waiting lists.  Many of these people have been waiting years to be housed.  Some, such as single males, find particularly difficult to secure social housing.

The National Economic and Social a Council that “an increase of permanent social housing units, owned and managed by local authorities and voluntary and co-operative bodies, in the order of 73,000 in net terms between 2005 and 2012 is necessary to meet the need for social housing.”  Nearly a year on from the publication of that important report the government has yet to make any statement indicating whether they have accepted this recommendation. 

In no other area of policy is the hands off approach more evident than with regard to housing.  It is bizarre that something so vital to life is so ignored.  What is the Government housing strategy, how does the Government intend to address the housing needs of the increasing population?

Health Service

Population growth has not been met by a growth in the capacity of the health service.  The effects of this are seen from overcrowding in A&E, bed shortages and unacceptable waiting times for urgent medical intervention.

3,000 extra beds in public hospitals were promised in the 2001 National Health Strategy by 2011 (650 by end of 2002). Only 800 have been provided by this month, according to Government figures. Plans for Primary Care centres across the state have been put on hold.

Migrant workers

The treatment which many of the migrants who come to this state receive is the unpalatable truth that lies behind these statistics.  I wont go into this issue in detail now suffice to say that the Government reaction shows no sign that they are committed to cracking down on this exploitation.  The pathetic strength of the labour inspectorate along testifies to this. 

According to these figures the total immigration flow into the state in the twelve months to April 2005 was estimated at 70,000, 38 per cent of whom were national of the 10 new EU accession states.

At the time of accession of these states the Government introduced a habitual residence (2 year) requirement before workers can access social assistance.  Sinn Féin opposed the introduction of these restrictions arguing that the proposals would expose migrants workers to unnecessary hardship. 

There is now evidence of the hardships which such workers experience in situations such as when they have unexpectedly become unemployed and in some cases homeless where their accommodation was linked to their employment.

Yesterday the Irish Congress of Trade Unions published a briefing paper on Migration Policy and the Rights of Migrant Workers in which they called for the amendment of the habitual residence requirement to “specifically allow for the payment of social assistance/benefit to workers on employment permits, who are made redundant or who have been unfairly dismissed, including constructive dismissal”.   This is a reasonable demand which I would urge the Government to act on without delay.

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has said that the tackling of deprivation cannot be done as a political sop to any one section of the community.

Speaking after British Political Development Minister David Hanson announced a range of measures to tackle deprivation in Unionist areas Mr McCartney said,

"The fact remains that on the Noble Indices of areas of deprivation the vast majority of areas in the top 100 are Nationalist including many areas of Derry such as Creggan Central, Brandywell and Shantallow.

"The announcement made yesterday was I believe a political sop to Unionism after the recent unrest in Unionist areas. This unrest followed the refusal of the Parades Commission to allow an Orange Order March down the Nationalist Springfield Road and had nothing to do with deprivation. To allow the leadership of Unionism to paint up the reasons for the unrest as deprivation is only to paper over the cracks.

"While there is deprivation in many Unionist areas as well as Nationalist areas it must not be tackled in a sectarian fashion as a sop to political leaderships.

"Deprivation in all areas will only be tackled when proper investment is made by the British Government in areas of employment, housing and education right across the North.

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Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD and Newry Armagh MP Conor Murphy will be available to speak to the media at the Kildare Street entrance to Leinster House at 4pm today, Wednesday 19th.

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Sinn Féin's Dublin Spokesperson on Economic Development & Dublin South East Representative, Councillor Daithí Doolan, today called on the government, "to introduce a budget that ends child poverty in this state. The Minister for Finance does not go to bed hungry so why should he expect 1,000's of children to do so?"

Speaking at the End Child Poverty Coalition pre budget launch today, Cllr. Doolan said:

"I am delighted to support today's event, it puts in stark focus the challenge for this government, to end child poverty or to simply ignore it and let the situation deteriorate. Consecutive government have, unfortunately, chosen to be politically expedient and ignore the plight of 1 in 7 children that live in poverty in our state. The very same government minister will offer self-congratulations and bouquets while families struggle to pay rent and put food on the table.

This crime against children is made even more unacceptable by the fact that we live in the one of the richest countries in the world, our economy continues to be the envy of many nations yet our children suffer in silence.

"Today's launch proves we have the money, we have the ability to end child poverty, the only part missing in the equation is the government's lack of political will.

Sinn Fein has committed itself to supporting this Coalition and it's aims, we will continue to work with those whose aim is to build a more inclusive society where child poverty truly is history."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan, said, "the Minister now has a golden opportunity to end child poverty, if he does not commit himself to this in the forthcoming budget then he should resign and let someone who is committed take over." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Women and Older People, Pat O'Rawe MLA, is calling for a major review of the Winter Fuel Payments for older people with a view to increasing it in line with the price of Home Heating Oil.

Ms O'Rawe said:

"Since 2000, the Winter Fuel Payment has remained stagnant at £200 despite the drastic rise in the price of oil in the same period. While £200 may have went a long way towards filling an oil tank in 2000, it is unlikely to even half fill a tank in 2005. I have spoken to many older people in the Newry/Armagh area, as well as the various support groups, and there is no doubt that this is one of the major issues affecting the elderly within our communities.

"Speaking to an older constituent in the Armagh City and District area", continued Mrs O'Rawe, "I was told that, with the cold weather lasting from almost October to March, the heating is being used a lot more to keep a warm home. With the Winter Fuel Payment of £200, usually being received in November, this constituent feared running out of oil in the depths of the winter. Unfortunately, this story of fear can be reciprocated by elderly people right across the entire North.

"I will be contacting the relevant minister on this issue and will be asking for the Winter Fuel Payment to be adjusted to a realistic figure for keeping the homes of older people warm this winter." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast and party spokesperson on Poverty, Kathy Stanton has called today for urgent action to be taken to combat the growing levels of poverty across Ireland. Speaking today Ms Stanton said:

"In the week that saw the UN day for the Eradication of Poverty we see that poverty continues to increase across Ireland. Poverty affects one in four adults and one in three children in Ireland. If we continue to ignore this problem it will only manifest its severe conditions for future generations.

"What is required is real political will to combat the causes of poverty. The resources are present to eradicate poverty yet it is not the priority of the Irish or British Governments. These are not poor governments, yet the direction of their policies only exacerbates the conditions that lead to poverty.

"Each day we ignore this issue we effectively push the most vulnerable in our society including families, the elderly and children into an existence of a day to day struggle to survive and subsistence.

"We need to see an urgent redirection of current governmental objectives and a wide ranging engagement with those in society who are tackling poverty on a daily basis in order to provide and effective and coherent anti-poverty strategy." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for North Antrim Philip McGuigan, has called on the Unionist paramilitaries in the Ballymena to cease their campaign of hatred and intimidation on the Catholic community in Ballymena before they end up killing someone. His calls come in light of the last nights two petrol bomb attacks on Catholic families in the north end of the town.

Mr McGuigan said:

"Honestly, this has got to a stage were it is no longer safe for a Catholic to live in their home, in their own area in Ballymena. Some of these days I await the news of a tragedy similar to that of the Quinn children in Ballymoney, carried out by the unionist paramilitaries.

"Last night we see again the hatred felt within the loyalist community in Ballymena. These attacks have to be described as nothing more than anti Catholic. This is a step up in their attempt to intimidate these families. Just three weeks ago they were both paint bombed but now its petrol.

"It is my believe that more needs to be done within the unionist community by their so called leaders to make these people see sense and to alleviate the problems that stare the Catholic community in the face. Ian Paisley claims himself to be the leader of Unionism. If so, lets see him use his power.

"There needs to be genuine engagement within his community to get these attacks stop. I look forward to the day when I can engage with all communities to work these kind of situations out. The day can't come quick enough for the Catholic community." ENDS

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