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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP has accused the British government of 'being mesmerised by the divisions within unionism'.

Mr McGuinness said:

"Despite British government denials, everyone knows that their refusal to accord the electorate their right to vote is in part driven by the crisis within unionism. Where else would a key democratic process be suspended because of the internal difficulties of one political party? Where else would an election be cancelled because the outcome is not acceptable to a government?

"The British government is mesmerised by the divisions within the UUP. The peace process and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement have been frozen as a result. This inertia in the peace process has caused a dangerous crisis which others, opposed to political progress, have sought to fill. This includes people in the British system.

"Against this background political and community activists and republicans on the ground have done sterling work to reduce tension and ensure a peaceful summer. Their work has been made much more difficult by the political vacuum which the British government has created. But despite the difficulties, and on-going sectarian attacks by loyalists, their work has borne fruit and the summer marching season has seen considerably less conflict than before.

"Their efforts and energy is in stark contrast to the political inertia of the British government.

"If the crisis in the political process is to be resolved the British government must end its patronage of the Ulster Unionist Party. A firm date for the postponed election must be set. The British government's moratorium on politics must be ended." ENDS

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Newry & Armagh Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has hit out after fares on the Belfast - Dublin Enterprise service will from Monday be increased by 9.5%, three times the rate of inflation.

Mr Murphy said:

"From Monday a basic day return fare on the Enterprise will increase to £23.00.This increase comes at a time when according to the General Consumer Council standards on the route are falling, particularly in relation to punctuality.

"Translink and Irish Rail need to realise that given an improvement in the roads infrastructure south of the border these fare increases risk forcing people off the train and into the car.

"Those operating the Enterprise Service need to focus on improving the existing service rather than seeking five star fares for a three star service." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Seán Crowe TD has slammed the Catholic Church's statement attacking gay marriages. In a strongly worded statement Deputy Crowe described the Church's comments as 'reactionary and homophobic' and called on the Church to end 'its campaign of vilification' against homosexuals and same-sex marriages.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "The reactionary and homophobic teachings of the Catholic Church on this issue are the real threat to society, not same-sex marriages. Sinn Féin fully supports the right of same-sex couples to marry and adopt children and calls on the Government to introduce legislation to this effect, which we would be happy to support.

"For the Church to suggest that allowing children to be adopted by gay couples is tantamount to acts of violence against children is especially nauseating, coming as it does from an organisation whose institutionalised cover-ups of terrible acts of violence against children leaves it with no credibility on this issue.

"It is long past time the Catholic Church started embracing positive social change and ended its campaign of vilification against homosexuals." ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Paul Butler has criticised graffiti referring to himself which has appeared at the entrance to the Seymour Hill estate in Dunmurry close to where three young catholics were attacked on Sunday. Cllr. Butler said:

"This graffiti has appeared since the assault on the three young catholics on Sunday and is clearly an attempt to intimidate myself from continuing to highlight the loyalist sectarian campaign against Catholics in the Lisburn and Dunmurry areas.

"It is inaccurate, homophobic and sectarian. Community and political leaders in the estate should ensure its immediate removal.

"This sort of graffiti will not intimidate me or my party from continuing to campaign actively against sectarian attacks in this area or continuing to represent the people who elect us. Loyalist and unionist political leaders would serve themselves and their community better if they stood up against sectarian attacks and began to treat their catholic neighbours on the basis of equality." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today met President Bush's special envoy Richard Haass in New York.

Speaking after their meeting Mr. Adams said:

"Everyone I have spoken to in the US believes that the political imperative for the British government is to set a date certain for the election. I told Richard Haass this. I also told him that we welcome Mr. Blair‚s statement on Wednesday. I hope this is evidence of the British government realising that the cancellation of the elections was a mistake.

"The logic of Blair's position is that he should set a date certain for the elections and that in his words we can see the political institutions back up and running again." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has welcomed today's publication of the InterTradeIreland report on North South Trade but has called for the creation of a single measure on trade within the Ireland and a greater focus on developing the potential of trade within Ireland.

Mr Doherty said:

"Today's report from InterTradeIreland (North South Trade: a statistical ground clearing exercise) marks an important point in understanding the dynamics and importance of trade between the north and south of Ireland.

"However, the fact that data has had to be gathered from three different bodies points the urgent need to develop a single measure for monitoring economic activity between the two parts of this island.

"It is clear that the volume of trade has significantly increased over the past decade. The value of all manufacturing goods 'exported' from the north to the south has doubled and now account for 25% of our non-UK exports.

"While the overall value and volume of goods from the south to the north has also increased it is clear from this statistical analysis that there is a far greater potential for growth in the volume and value of internal trade. In particular southern businesses need to wake up to the opportunities that exist in doing business with their northern counterparts.

"Work on removing barriers to developing the all Ireland economy needs to continue. In recent weeks there has been the recognition about the importance of a single energy market, we now need to wake up to the other opportunities that exist particularly in developing and growing indigenous business." ENDS

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Responding to an interview by the PSNI Chief Hugh Orde in today's Irish News Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly accused Mr Orde 'of making a blatant political intervention and electioneering'.

Mr Kelly said:

"When Hugh Orde took on the job of PSNI Chief Constable he declared that he was a policeman not a politician and that policing would be his only concern. He promised to be the man who would change the old system. From today's interview it is clear that rather than change the RUC the RUC has changed Hugh Orde.

"He concentrates the majority of his commentary and attention on alleged republican actions while ignores and seeks to minimise the extent of the ongoing loyalist campaign against Catholics. He doesn't comment on the admission by one of his senior colleagues Roy Suitters who admits the PSNI know the identities of those who killed Gerard Lawlor but have decided not to pursue them.

"He also seeks to continue the cover-up around collusion. He tries to explain the policy of state sponsored murder away with tired old line about a few bad apples and he contends that no members of the PSNI should face trial for their role in hundreds of murders. None of this washes with the nationalist community.

"The PSNI under Hugh Orde continues to be a highly political force at the centre of efforts to frustrate the advance of the peace process. Briefings to selected journalists at crucial and sensitive times in the process continue to emanate from the PSNI. Now we have its Chief Constable engaging in a political attack on Sinn Féin. Hugh Orde and the PSNI still have a considerable journey to make to reach the threshold of the acceptable and non-partisan policing service demanded by the Agreement." ENDS

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West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has called on the DSD Minister John Spellar to come clean and admit that the ever-increasing backlog in the processing of Child Benefit, Incapacity Benefit, DLA and Attendance Allowance applications from Castlecourt and the Child Support Agency is the result of a repeated breakdown in the EISIS computer system which is operated by the private multi-national company Electronic Data Systems (EDS).

Mr Doherty said,

"There has been a serious and significant increase in the length of time people are waitng to have their benefit claims processed through Castlecourt and the Child Support Agency since the British government entered into a multi-million pound contract with EDS.

"There have been cases of claimants being told that there is no record of claims having been made despite the fact that people are adamant that they have forwarded their applications.

"I have now learned that all these problems can be sourced to the continued failure of the EISIS Computer system.

"The British government‚s privatisation of this aspect of the benefits system has turned into a fiasco. Millions of pounds have gone to this private company in the name of increasing efficiency in the benefits system. Yet the system is not working and the terms of the contract mean that there are no financial sanctions against the company and apparently no get out clause.

"The result has been serious hardship faced by many people as well as a massive increase in the workload of Social Security Agency workers who are having to pick up the pieces of this computer system failure and revert to the manual processing of claims.

"Rather than increasing efficiency the net result has been to create chaos. Child Support Agency workers have also been issued with a dictatorial memo by senior management that forbids workers to mention anything about the computer system failure to claimants or elected representatives phoning in about benefit processing delays.

"This is nothing short of a scandal.

"Unfortunately with the suspension of the Assembly, the Public Accounts Committee cannot investigate the matter. However people have a right to know what is going on, and I am now writing to senior management of the Social Security Agency and the Child Support Agency requesting the disclosure of the problems that both agencies face as a result of this contract with EDS. I will also be the questioning the DSD Minister John Spellar as to the wisdom of continuing this contract with EDS given the failure of the EISIS system.

"This fiasco calls into question the continued push by the British government to privatise services. In this instance as in many other cases privatisation has and will increasingly cost the taxpayer more and lead to a diminution not only in services being provided but also in the working conditions of employees." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP arrived in New York last night where he continued to press the message that the British Government "has to set a date certain for the elections".

The Sinn Féin President told a meeting "not only is this a matter of political principle but I believe Mr Blair can be persuaded to go ahead with the elections if US opinion joins the growing lobby in Ireland demanding that this should happen".

Mr Adams left Boston after briefing a Massachusetts Congressional delegation on the current state of the political process. This two hour meeting with the delegation led by Congressman Richard Neal and which included Congressman Jim McGovern, Congressman Stephen Lynch and Congressman John Tierney, also focused on the very important issue of Collusion.

Mr Adams said:

"Collusion is a word which doesn't accurately describe the reality of British agencies arming, training, providing intelligence and directing death squads.

"In the conclusion to his third report John Stevens accepted that "my enquiries have highlighted collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder.

"In any other country in the world this would lead to the fall of governments.

"This issue and the role and policy of British Governments over the last 30 years is a key matter which Mr Blair has to face up to." ENDS

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Belfast Sinn Fein Cllr. Michael Browne commenting on todays bomb alerts across the city said:

"The people who were behind these alerts are opposed to the Peace Process and opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and these actions were clearly designed to cause maximum disruption to ordinary people.

"These republican micro groups have little or no support and operate without neither a mandate or indeed a strategy to achieve political change or a united Ireland. These attacks are wrong and they should stop."

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Sinn Féin Chief Whip Cllr. Sue Ramsey has announced that in the first two days of the new party web site there were over 350,000 hits from 70 separate counties worldwide.

Cllr. Ramsey said:

"In the first two days of operation the new Sinn Féin web site received a staggering 350,000 hits from 70 countries worldwide. This has surpassed any predictions made in advance of the new site becoming operational.

"After enduring years of state censorship and hostile media coverage it seems that thousands of people are now utilising this opportunity to access up to date information on the Sinn Féin message and the republican project of Irish Unity." ENDS

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Responding to comments made today by British Prime Minister Tony Blair where he claimed he wanted to see the political institutions back up and running, Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew said:

"The cause of the current difficulties in the process is the decision of Mr Blair to suspend the political institutions and cancel the Assembly elections at the behest of negative unionism.

"If he is serious about wanting to see a resolution to the current difficulties in the process then there is now a real need for him to come forward with a definitive date, without qualifications or conditions, for the Assembly elections to proceed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP this morning led a party delegation to meet with the Human Rights Commission. The delegation included Human Rights spokesperson Bairbre de Brún and Belfast Councillor Chrissie McAuley. Speaking after the meeting Mr McGuinness said:

"The establishment of the Human Rights Commission was a key component of the Good Friday Agreement which Sinn Féin strongly argued for and supported. We are therefore deeply dissatisfied at the approach of the Human Rights Commission, particularly in relation to its approach on fair employment provisions which could have highly damaging implications for equality as well as the Chief Commissioner?s highly inappropriate behaviour in the Holy Cross case.

Fair employment is a cornerstone of building a new society. If you cannot even measure what?s wrong in respect of fair employment how can you possibly hope to tackle it? Ordinary people will not accept having the clock turned back to the days before monitoring of fair employment was introduced. Nor will they accept a society in which the rights of little children depend on the area in which they live or the religion of their family.

The Chief Commissioner?s response to the Holy Cross case has undermined gravely public confidence that rights will be promoted regardless of political background. The resignation of one quarter of the Commission's membership is a further cause of deep concern. A Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights recently identified serious problems with the Commission.

And actions, which threaten fair employment monitoring, 50:50 recruitment as recommended by Patten or voting safeguards in the Assembly will further undermine public confidence.

The Chief Commissioner has failed to provide satisfactory answers to the concerns expressed about the way the Commission has developed under his stewardship. We have sought a meeting with both governments to discuss these concerns and the way ahead. We need to look at a restructuring that will include the composition and appointments, the powers and resources of the Commission. The Human Rights Commission is broken. It needs fixed.

We approach this issue on the basis of wanting the best possible Human Rights Commission in place to drive forward the human rights aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

In our view there is a need for the British government to put in place the measures required to guarantee the integrity, independence and effectiveness of the Commission. We will vigorously pursue this matter with both governments in the time ahead." Ends

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Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has hit out at the individuals responsible for an extortion attempt on two South Down businessmen.

Mr Murphy said:

"Yesterday people masquerading as republicans demanded £3000 from two South Down businessmen. They were warned not to approach Sinn Féin or the PSNI about this matter and were given an address to drop the money off at. The men were told that if local republicans got involved their business premises would be destroyed and they would end up paying £20,000.

"Thankfully these businessmen did not pay this money and have decided to go public to alert others to this activity. These people are not republicans. They are criminal elements masquerading as republicans.

"If any other businessmen have been approached in this manner they should not hesitate to contact Sinn Féin and should not pay these individuals any money." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has criticised the British Home Office Minister Beverly Hughes for her refusal to meet with a cross party delegation to discuss the ongoing internment of asylum seekers in Maghaberry.

Mr Murphy said:

"Earlier this month I took part in a cross party delegation which visited some of those asylum seekers being interned in Maghaberry. After the visit we wrote to the British Home Office Minister with responsibility for this matter, Beverly Hughes seeking a meeting. Ms Hughes has now refused to meet the delegation.

"This is a fairly typical response by a British Minister to a Human Rights issue. Since we visited Maghaberry children and pregnant women have been added to the list of internees. The British government should be ashamed of this policy. Instead they are trying to bury the issue, in typical New Labour style, in the hope that they can avoid bad PR.

"Sinn Féin will continue to highlight this issue and will continue to campaign to have those currently interned in Maghaberry released." ENDS

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The Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin should establish a full public inquiry into how dozens of unnecessary caesarean hysterectomies were carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, according to Sinn Féin Health spokeperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD.

He was commenting on the news that Dr. Michael Neary has been struck off by the Medical Council following their investigation into his practice at Our Lady of Lourdes. Deputy Ó Caoláin said: .

"The women victims of this scandal, some of them teenagers at the time of their operations, have been through dreadful experiences. Without their knowledge or consent, they had their wombs removed unnecessarily and were prevented from having more children. I have heard their stories first hand. What I was told ranks amongst the most horrific examples of medical malpractice that I know of. These women are victims of a form of medical butchery.

"It is disgraceful that the secret inquiry by the Medical Council into the conduct of a consultant at the centre of this issue has taken so long to complete.

"I met the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin on this issue on two occasions, including with members of Patient Focus, and I repeat now the call made then. There must be a full public inquiry and there must be a scheme of compensation for the women. We must know how such practices were allowed to continue for so long in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

"On my proposal the North Eastern Health Board recommended an appropriate process of compensation, and requested the Minister for Health and Children to establish a full public inquiry into the delivery of Maternity Services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. This should now be announced by the Minister without delay." ENDS

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Speaking at a press conference in Dublin Sinn Féin Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh and Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald called for an urgent debate on GM food and crops and issued a call to keep Ireland 'GM free'.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

"Consumers in this country have the right to have their say on whether they or not their children want to eat food that has been tampered with. It is unethical for genes of animals to be placed in the genes of plants, we are told that this is for the benefit of countries which cannot produce enough food to feed their own people, and that it will reduce the amount of damage to crops, and reduce the amounts of pesticides used.

"Genes are the right of everyone, no one has the right to own or to patent genes, but this is exactly what is happening. It is incredible that these people who use the argument that GM will help to feed the world, are the very same people who placed a TERMINATOR GENE in their seeds so that farmers cannot use seeds that are harvested to plant next years crops.

"Very few countries do not produce enough food. Per capita food production has outstripped population growth by 15% since 1970. India has over 300 million undernourished people and yet can produce a grain surplus of 60 million tons. The same food surpluses exist throughout Asia so it is a lie to claim that GM is needed to boost production.

"We must also reject the argument that those who oppose GM are preventing the feeding of the starving millions. A study by Aaron de Grassi of Sussex University proved that GM crops address none of the issues of hunger and poverty. They are not cost effective. They are not sustainable. And while crop output may increase, once the overall costs of inputs are taken into account they are seen to be less economic than traditional methods.

"People who today are starving are starving because they cannot access food or cannot afford it. Food has more to do with land reform, food distribution and the ability to access cheap credit, and the assistance to source food locally. Farmers in poor and underdeveloped countries cannot afford to buy seed each year, but this is exactly what the terminator gene is intended to do.

"Further to this debate the GM industry hailed the introduction of 'Golden Rice' as the savour of malnourished children, by the introduction of beta-carotene that converts into Vitamin A. What use is Beta-carotene when the body requires sufficient body protein and fat to produce vitamin A.

"We will not allow ourselves be pushed down the road of accepting GM by either the EU or US. The US government is closely aligned to the Genetic Industry, the US minister of agriculture Ann Vanneman used to be head of Agracetus, a subsidiary of GM food corporation Monasanto, which is the largest of the GM companies.

"What is the record of our MEP‚s in voting on this issue, I publicly call on them to state their voting history on this issue.

"We are calling on all NGO‚s, together with interested parties and individuals to support us in this call for an immediate public consultation on the banning Genetically Modified Food or crops on this island. We must hear our public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free." ENDS

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Speaking at a press conference in Dublin Sinn Féin Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh and Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald called for an urgent debate on GM food and crops and issued a call to keep Ireland 'GM free'.

Northern Agriculture Spokesperson Gerry McHugh added:

"Once again we see the European Legislators are coming at this with a 'one policy fits all' approach.

"There has only been a superficial debate in the north yet it appears that Tony Blair already has his mind made up on GM. In his last cabinet re-shuffle he exiled Michael Meacher, a vocal critic of GM, to the back benches. An 11 July report said there was little economic benefit from GM then last week another report by scientists stating that the scientific advice was that there are apparently few risks associated with eating GM food.

"It is clear that the British government is going to adopt GM food and crops, they do not support the European model of farming, while Tony Blair is only interested in appeasing big business interests.

"The risk of Hybrid Cross contamination to indigenous varieties of crops is extremely high. This will result in the loss of genetic diversity, and will also have serious, possibly fatal consequences for the organic farming sector.

"Sinn Féin will be arguing with the North‚s Minister of agriculture, that Genetically Modified Food and Crops must not be planted or allowed for sale in the North. When devolved government returns to the North, we will peruse this with a local Minister, and through as many of the relevant committees as possible.

"Sinn Féin will also be seeking a meeting with the Minister of agriculture to express our concerns and the need for a simultaneous public consultation with the South. I know my colleague the former health Minister Bairbre de Brún shares all of my concerns on this issue, because of the huge risks associated with human health.

"Farmers have a lot to loose if Genetically Modified Food is grown in Ireland, they have no to control over the Hybrid nature of these plants. There is so little knowledge about the possible impact from cross contamination and the entry of new genes into the Irish. Crop gene pool Local farmers will also be at the mercy of consumers if this technology goes wrong, they will be the ones who will suffer huge losses not the large corporations like Monsanto.

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"We must hear the public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free"

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin Sinn Féin Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh and Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald called for an urgent debate on GM food and crops and issued a call to keep Ireland 'GM free'.

Deputy Ferris, who will meet with the three farm organisations over the summer, to get their opinion on Genetic Engineering said:

"Since legislation on the regulation of genetically modified food and feed was passed at the start of July by the European Parliament, along with further passing of co-existence guidelines which wish to prohibit national or regional governments in banning the use of Genetically Modified Organisms, the European Union has rolled over to the threats of the US and the profit hungry GM companies.

"The legislation allows for the sale of GM food products once it is labelled for GM content above 0.9%. The way will now also be open to grow GM crops although there may be some scope to allow member states to prevent the growing of such crops in specific zones. It is vital that a full public debate takes place in this country and that all of the issues surrounding GM are aired.

"In a written reply to a parliamentary question by me on Tuesday 17 June Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh stated that he does not have any proposals to initiate a formal public consultation. This is a typical of a Minister who is out of touch with public opinion, and an arrogant denial of the right of Irish People to have their say in whether they want to consume Genetically Modified Food.

"Irish farmers are also being denied the opportunity to voice their opinion. This debate must take place on an Island wide basis; this island cannot allow one part to opt for Genetically Modified Crops or Food, while the other part abstains. Cross contamination of hybrid plants and crops could contaminate the whole island.

"We need to look at the future of the Irish agriculture industry and the potential of selling and marketing Irish food as safe and environmentally friendly. WE also need a real assessment of the economics of GM crops, particularly for a small country that exports 80% of what we produce. We must hear our public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free.

"We must expose the myth that GM increases agricultural productivity. Research from the United States proves that the main GM crop, Roundup Ready soya has up to 11% lower yield than non-GM soya. A Soil Association report, Seeds of Doubt concluded that GM crops have led to lower yields, greater dependency on herbicides and pesticides, a loss of markets and lower productivity for farmers in the US.

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Commenting on the publication of the latest Permanent TSB house price index which has shown that house prices in the State have increased by an average of 6.9% in the first six months of this year, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan T.D. blamed government inaction for the continuing rise.

Deputy Morgan said

"Government inaction in the face of ever increasing house prices is highly irresponsible. Houses are becoming more and more unaffordable. Minister of State Noel Ahern must explain why at a time of economic slowdown, house price increases are greater than for the same period last year.

"The ongoing housing crisis will have enumerable consequences for Irish society in the years ahead. The government has not shown any initiative to control the spiralling cost of houses. Measures must be taken to control land prices which are the greatest contributor to the price of houses. A national housing agency must be established as a matter of urgency. We need to see a strategy from the government outlining how they intend to tackle this crisis" ENDS

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