Week in Review
26 February – 3 March 2015
Austerity `part of the problem, not the solution’ – Adams
As Sinn Fein stepped into a strong election footing, with candidates selected across Ireland, on 2 March Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD addressed the launch of the election campaign for west Belfast MP Paul Maskey. In his remarks, Mr Adams asserted Sinn Fein’s position as `consistently opposed to the economics of austerity’ as `economically counterproductive and unjust’.
Austerity politics `championed by governments in the EU, in London and in Dublin’ had `failed across Europe, Britain and failed in Ireland’ he said.
He said the working poor, the unemployed, the sick, the young and old and by those forced to emigrate were `paying the price for austerity which `British and Irish governments continue to impose’.
He said the recent Stormont House Agreement provided for `progress on a number of issues’, and that when the SDLP `folded on welfare’, Mr Adams said Sinn Féin `stood firm and put in place additional protections for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long term sick’. Sinn Fein had `ensured no one would pay the bedroom tax and we protected large families from the impact of the benefit cap through a unique system of top-ups and flexibilities’.
He said there would be `no reductions in benefits under the authority of the Executive’.
Progress was also made, he added `on the issues of the past, parades, flags and emblems’.
However, he warned that the Agreement `did not resolve the issue of the ongoing budget cuts to the block grant in the north’ and that the British Government still continued to `strip hundreds of millions from the budget in the name of austerity’ whilst `their partners in the Irish Government stood silently by supporting the Tories’.
He called for a `progressive alliance against British Government cuts’ and said that it was `misguided and a diversion to attack the Stormont House Agreement’. Some who did this, he added were `motivated by party political interests’. The responsibility for the cuts `comes from Westminster, not from any party in the Executive’, Mr Adams said.
He warned that simply handing over power in the north to Tories for direct rule would `be wrong and will only increase hardship’. He said that the `hard-fought safeguards on welfare would be lost and any protection of public services surrendered’ and that it would `give back powers on all aspects of life including equality, parity of esteem, policing and justice back to a British government’.
He said the solution `has to be found by building a campaign that increases the budget and delivers the powers for the people in the north to determine and deliver a fair recovery’.
He concluded that Sinn Féin had `shown that austerity is not the solution. It is part of the problem. There are fairer alternatives. There are other choices that a Government can make. Sinn Fein has made clear our opposition to punitive, regressive taxes aimed at those who can least afford them and for a reformed, progressive tax system, which could sustain public services, accessible to all.’
Over 2,000 visitors expected at Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Derry this weekend
On 3 March Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald launched the Clár for the party’s Ard Fheis which takes place in the Millenium Forum in Derry this weekend.
Deputy McDonald said the party was `delighted’ to be holding our Ard Fheis in Derry for the first time, and that recent years had seen the party has grow `from strength to strength’.
She said that some 2,000 visitors would be coming to Derry for the Ard Fheis and 218 motions on a number of key themes would be discussed, including standing with communities against austerity; delivering a fair recovery; and 2016 and building a United Ireland.
Gerry Adams Presidential Address will be at 8.30pm on Saturday, covered live on RTE and BBC. There will also be a live section between 11am and 1pm. The entire Ard Fheis will be live streamed from www.sinnfein.ie
Ms McDonald said that a number of fringe meetings would take place over the weekend with speakers on issues as wide ranging as the culture of marching bands – Londonderry Bands Forum, the future of the Irish language, Palestine, women for independence and unity, TTIP, collusion, Tar Isteach and the all-Ireland economy.
Some 52 exhibitors and over 30 campaign groups will be in attendance, as well as a wide range of international guests and members of the diplomatic corps. Guest speakers at the Ard Fheis will include Euclid Tsakalotos – Syriza Foreign Minister for International Economic Relations; Ahmad Abdelrakez – Palestinian Ambassador; Gorka Elejabarrieta – Sortu, Basque Country; and Sue van der Merwe from the ANC.
Sinn Fein MPs in London and Manchester for St Patrick’s celebrations 2015
Next week, as a fortnight of St Patricks events being, Sinn Fein MPs and Senators will travel from Ireland to join community and political events in London, Manchester and elsewhere.
On 10 March MPs Michelle Gildernew and Conor Murphy will be in Westminster for the cross-party CHAMP event in the British House of Lords; and for the Irish Embassy reception in London, hosted by the Ambassador Dan Mulhall.
Later, on 15 March, Pat Doherty MP will join the London St Patrick’s Parade and St Patricks Ball in London and Francie Molloy MP will travel to Manchester for their annual community parade. Senator Aengus O Snodaigh and MP Paul Maskey will join the All-party Irish in Britain Group of MPs event in the House of Commons, and the Labour Party Irish Society reception, respectively on 17 and 18 March.
Pat Doherty MP said that Sinn Fein welcomed the opportunity `to join such a wide range of ever-growing events with the Irish community and political parties across the spectrum’ around St Patrick’s Day. He said that, in the run up to the Westminster election, the events were also an opportunity to keep the political issues on the agenda. He added `it is clear from our discussions that Irish people in Britain, who will have votes in the upcoming election, care about what positions the political parties take in relation to the peace process and the need to continue to positively engage and drive forward all of the Agreements.’ He said that the political parties had to listen to the concerns of the diaspora, who were also facing the same kinds of effects of austerity policies and cuts `that we are facing at home in Ireland, north and south – thanks to austerity governments in Dublin and Westminster’. Mr Doherty commended the organisers of the London St Patrick’s events, and the range of other events across many cities and towns.
Government continuing to treat Irish immigrants as second class citizens – Ó Clochartaigh
On 3 March Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Diaspora, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh responded to the Government’s policy document Global Irish published that day.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh said that whilst it was good that the Government had `finally set out its stall in relation to its diaspora policy’, it was a lengthy document which he would `need to read carefully to make an informed assessment of its policy proposals’.
However, he added, `it would appear Minister Deenihan has once again dropped the ball in terms of the Irish diaspora. For example, while acknowledging the importance of voting rights for the Irish abroad he goes on to say the Government would first need to analyze the issues that might arise if the franchise was extended.’
`In other words, the decision to extend voting rights to Irish citizens living abroad has been put on the long finger. In light of the return of high levels of immigration, this is simply not good enough.
He said Sinn Fein was calling for diaspora representation in the Seanad and the extension of voting rights to Irish citizens living abroad.
He concluded: `Until this happens the government is continuing to treat the Irish abroad as second class citizens.’
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