Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Progressive Book of Estimates in difficult circumstances

Last night I voted in favour of Waterford City Council’s Book of Estimates. I did so against a background of an economic crisis, major job losses and a national budget that robbed the poor to protect the rich. Balancing the books was not easy and difficult decisions had to be made. 2009 was a difficult year for Waterford City Council. We lost 56 members of staff. Council workers over the last two years saw a major reduction in their pay with direct pay cuts, income levies, pension levies and a ban on overtime. And yet despite this many right wing economists, politicians and journalists portray public servants as public enemy number one. These are people who clean our streets, remove our litter, empty our bins, repair our roads, provide and up keep playgrounds and open spaces, deliver keys to homes and much more besides. I commend the staff of the council for their hard work in difficult circumstances this year.

My approach to the estimates was governed by two things

Do they help in stimulating the local economy and assist in creating jobs
Do they support struggling families

On both counts I say yes. The estimates included a freeze on all local charges. That means no increase in commercial rates, no increase in non-domestic water charges, no increase in bin charges, no increase in the bin waiver charge, no increase in housing rents, no increase in parking charges, in fact no increase in any charge of which the council has responsibility. This is good for business and good for householders.

The estimates also include a strong investment in housing maintenance, remedial works and in maintaining open spaces and playgrounds. I proposed in earlier committee meetings an increase in the allocation of funds to the disability grant schemes. As a consequence the budget was amended and €100,000 extra is set aside for this important work.

The estimates also provide funding for the very exciting Waterford Crystal Project. This involves the refurbishment of the old ESB buildings and the construction of an iconic building on the city quays. In short this council took a big step in bringing crystal manufacturing back to Waterford. Funds were also set aside for the development of an historic quarter on the Mall, tourist promotion, festivals and the return to the city of the tall ships. In my view this budget is fair and positions Waterford to benefit economically, culturally and socially. It is economically literate and socially just and as a consequence I was happy to support them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Budget 2010 - Robbing the poor to protect the rich

Budget 2010 ranks as one of the worst budgets I have seen in my lifetime. It is unfair, deflationary and will serve to exacerbate the economic crisis. The country is at a cross roads and the Government had two options – the road to recovery or the road to a deeper recession. They chose the latter. In doing so they took money out of the pockets of those who could not afford to give and protected those who could afford to give most. They acted like Robin Hood in reverse; they robbed the poor to protect the rich.

Cutting social welfare payments, taking money of the blind, the unemployed, carers, widowers, people with disabilities and young people is despicable. The biggest fraud of all is the Governments claim that they had no choice. This is a lie. They could have introduced a third rate of tax for top earners, they could have standardised tax relief measures or they could have introduced a wealth tax. They did not do any of this. They looked instead at those who had most and left them alone. They looked also at those who had least and took from their already empty pockets.

A sustained campaign by many groups will undoubtedly ensue to reverse the unfair elements of the budget. This is laudable. However what is really required is a general election to remove this Government from office. It is time for more Irish people to reflect on how their vote impacts on their lives. If you feel the Government is making a mess of the economy then vote them out. If you don’t trust the main opposition parties don’t vote for them either. We in Sinn Féin must continue to offer a genuine alternative and convince people that we can and will do things better. There is a fairer way and a better way to sort out the economy. Our pre-budget submission pointed towards the road to recovery. Unfortunately the Government took the turn to deeper recession and in the process have driven more people into poverty. Shame on them!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An alternative to targeting low paid workers is possible

As we approach the end of another year we are facing into one of the toughest budgets in the history of the state. Our public finances are in tatters, 440,000 people are on the dole, more people now live in poverty and those on social welfare find themselves without the Christmas payment. And yet sections of the media, right wing economists and the Government join forces to make public sector workers public enemy number one.

This is wholly unfair and must not be allowed to happen. Workers in the public or private sector are not responsible for the current economic mess. Yet these workers and those who are without jobs are the Governments target as they prepare a savage budget. The Government will claim there is no alterative. This is a lie. Sinn Féin has proven in its pre-budget submission that targeting the low paid and those on social welfare can and should be avoided.

As I type Union leaders are negotiating with the Government ways in which to cut public sector pay. It looks like compulsory unpaid leave is on the cards. This is as unworkable as it is unfair. Many public sector workers earn less then the average industrial wage yet they face the prospect of losing two weeks pay. The Government could cap public sector salaries at €100,000 a year and instantly save €500million but are choosing instead to disproportionatly target the lower paid. It is no surprise that trade union leaders are acquiescing to this but it is still disappointing. There is a fairer way and a more equitable way to approach this budget but it seems the Government are intent on their mission to target the poor and those on low pay.

€8 million taken out of Waterford Economy

Figures presented to me by the Department of Finance show that 36,000 families in Waterford rely on the Social Welfare Christmas bonus. This payment is used to cover extra expenses which occur at this costly time of year and will result in parents turning to money lenders, inevitably compounding existing family money problems and forcing them into further catastrophic debt in the New Year.

This scrooge-like move will deny a lot of children a Christmas. The fact that the Government can seek to cut money from those on just €204 a week while seeking to protect those on over €200,000 a year is reprehensible.

This cut will also see huge pressure being put on parents who have lost their jobs and are living from hand to mouth. This will drive many into the hands of money lenders – both legal and illegal and will have serious repercussions and will send families spiraling into whirlwinds of debt.
This will also cause hardship for those pensioners already struggling to make ends meet. Last year many older people used the bonus to pay for fuel, rather than buy Christmas presents for their grandchildren or to meet their other festive costs. The bonus helped older people get through one of the coldest winters in recent years.

As well as the hardship it will mean for those directly affected, the axing of the Christmas Bonus makes no economic sense. It will result in millions of euros being taken out of local economies putting jobs at further risk. Over €8million will be lost in the local economy in Waterford. This will hurt Waterford retailers already struggling to stay afloat.

Many of the people who will be affected by the removal of the Christmas bonus are as yet not aware of the fact. The people affected don’t have savings to cope with this unexpected reduction in their income – unlike the golden circle that this government panders to; the people affected by this cut don’t have nest eggs tucked away or overseas bank accounts that they can turn to.
We in Sinn Féin have been running a campaign against the withdrawal of the Christmas Bonus over the past number of weeks and have highlighted outside the local social welfare office how this callous move will affect the most vulnerable.

Mary Hanafin on one hand blames striking public sector workers for delays in making payments while on the other hand it is her very own colleagues in government axing completely the Christmas Bonus.

This is a cruel cut which will deny children a Christmas and will mean extra hardship for struggling families. It must be reversed. Sinn Féin in Waterford will step up its campaign over the coming weeks and will do all we can to force the Government to reverse this mean-spirited and counter-productive policy

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Government abandons social housing to bail out developers

The Department of the Environment recently informed local authorities that leasing units from the private sector will become the main driver of social housing delivery in the coming years. The plan will involve locking local authorities into a lease arrangement with a developer for periods of 10 and 20 years with the housing authority responsible for insurance, maintenance and upkeep. The tenants of the leased properties will be local authority tenants.

I think this plan is wrong and represents the wholesale privatisation of social housing. It is nothing more then a sop to developers and banks. The state is now going to spend tens of billions of taxpayer’s money over the next decade lining the pockets of developers. When these lease arrangements end neither the local authority nor the tenants will own a single brick on any of these properties. Families will also face the prospect of being asked to vacate a house that they lived in for 10 years or more and have made their family home.

This plan follows on from the Rental Accommodation Scheme which sees the state spending €500 million a year on private accommodation and seeks to extend this further and will inevitably see billions of Euros of taxpayers money wasted. The winners from this scheme are developers and landlords and the losers will be the taxpayer and potential social housing tenants. This is another Government sop to developers and must be scrapped.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Meanest cut in decades should be reversed

We have seen a lot of cuts from this Government in recent times. We have seen a lot of cuts from many Governments but surely none as mean as cutting the Christmas bonus for those on social welfare. Families with children use this money to cover basic costs of Christmas and removing it will force many into the hands of ruthless moneylenders. It is all the more galling that the decision to cut the payment was made by politicians who earn 15 times more then those who will be effected.

This payment has also been taken from pensioners. Elderly people use this additional payment to help cover the costs of fuel over the winter and as a result of this cut will undoubtedly go without sufficient heating this year.

This cut is part of a wider agenda of making those who can afford to pay least pay most. Those setting the agenda want us to believe that we must see cuts in social welfare at a time when billions are pumped into the banks. This ruthless agenda also seeks to divide workers, gut the public service, cut funding to the community and voluntary sector and essentially shield those who benefited most from the boom years from paying their fare share.

There is though another reason why this payment should be restored. The withdrawal of this payment takes money out of the local economy and will hurt local businesses. The only people who will gain are the ruthless moneylenders who prey on the poor. The Government should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for putting the poorest in our society into such a vulnerable position. Next week Sinn Féin in Waterford will step up our campaign to have the cut reversed by protesting outside the local social welfare office and taking our message directly to those effected. We will be joined in our campaign by Santa Claus in order to highlight the scrooge type nature of this cut.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nine reasons to say ‘No to NAMA’:

NAMA is working its way through the Dáil. Hundreds of amendments are being tabled by the opposition almost all of which are ignored. However the whole basis of NAMA is flawed. Most people realise that NAMA is a bad deal for them as a taxpayer and they are right. I offer below nine reasons why it is a bad deal and I would be happy to debate this issue with any member of Fianna Fáil or this Government.

Nine reasons to say ‘No to NAMA’:

(1) Economists have estimated NAMA will cost each man, woman and child in the state €15,000 (€60-€70 billion). That’s a lot of hospitals, schools, jobs and public infrastructure.

(2) The Government has done nothing to help families and businesses facing repossession, negative equity and economic hardship, they still have to pay their bills, and it is raising taxes and cutting public spending to pay for the mess they, the banks and developers have made.

(3) NAMA will pay more for developers’ loans than they are worth and let them pay them back at their leisure.

(4)The Bill relies on banks to act in ‘good faith’ when giving the taxpayer information about the bad loans.

(5)The loans these developers were given helped to drive up house prices, so we’re being made to pay twice.

(6)NAMA will be able to give taxpayers’ money to developers to finish projects and even force a purchase on land in the way of developments.

(7)The Minister for Finance (currently a Fianna Fáiler – the builders’ friends) will have the power to overturn ‘independent’ valuation of developers’ loans made by NAMA and pay them more.

(8)There is no guarantee that the banks will start lending even after NAMA clears their bank sheets.

(9) It will cost money to sort out the banks and the bad loans but nationalisation would allow us to deal with the developers, kick out the corrupt management, get banks lending again, protect homeowners and businesses, and entail the least pain for the taxpayer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Opening of new cable-stayed bridge and bypass great news for Waterford

I attended the official opening of the new cable-stayed bridge and bypass for Waterford today. The bridge itself is every bit as impressive as the one over the Boyne at Drogheda. The overall N25 project involves a Bypass extending from west of Kilmeaden to east of Slieverue in Co. Kilkenny. The route, comprising approximately 25 kms of motorway, crosses the River Suir at Grannagh, close to the location of the existing N24/N9 junction to the north west of Waterford City, providing Waterford with its second bridge over the Suir and allowing traffic on the N25 Cork/Rosslare route to bypass the city. The next phase of the project to open will be the section from Grannagh to Kilkenny.

This is undoubtedly great news for Waterford. Many people at many levels were involved in nurturing this project from conception to completion. The idea and demand for a new bridge pre-dates most of the politicians and civic leaders in attendance at today’s ceremony and is a long time in the waiting. It will greatly help traffic flow in the city itself by diverting thousands of cars and trucks on a daily basis. When opened in its entirety the new bypass will make Waterford and the Southeast more competitive as it shortens the drive time to key cities such as Cork and Dublin.

The only sting in the tale is the tolling of the bridge. The new bypass will be tolled also. I am not a fan of PPP’s or tolling as they cost more in the long run and line the pockets of privateers. Examples of this can be seen all over the country most notably the M50. The new Suir Bridge is now locked into a 25 year tolling charge mechanism. This is regrettable but outside the control of most local politicians. However the infrastructure itself is of the highest standard architecturally and looks fantastic. The opening of the bridge is very welcome and is a great day for the city.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Back to Education Allowance scheme needs to be urgently reformed

The Back to Education Allowance is widely recognised by those who work in the sector as an important bridge for those making the transfer from welfare dependency to employment. Presently over 400,000 are on the live register and are seeking employment. As a result of failed Government policies more jobs are being lost than created. There is no doubt that proper job creation and retention policies will help turn this tide. However with the best will in the world 400,000 jobs will not be created in the next 12 months and it is going to take some time and new thinking for us to get back to full employment.

There are many people on the dole at the moment who wish to avail of education and training courses but are unable to do so. Equally there are many people on courses who are being forced to leave because of the failure of the Back to Education Allowance scheme to meet their needs. In order to qualify for the scheme you must be at least 12 months on the live register and in receipt of a social welfare payment. This is simply not working. The scale of the current unemployment crisis is so bad that it is vital that this support is extended to unemployed people much earlier. We have a crazy system at present where people are being forced to sit on the dole for 12 months and draw social welfare as a means to qualify for the back to education allowance. I know of a number of cases where people are being forced to drop out of education altogether as they fall a little short of the qualifying criteria.

We need a job creation and retention package to urgently tackle the current unemployment crisis. A major part of this has to be up-skilling and re-training. The current system is failing those currently unemployed and needs to be urgently reformed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween and all that

The Halloween festival is only around the corner. When I was young I enjoyed Halloween night and most especially the bonfire. I don’t know why I enjoyed it so much. The community would come together, the fire would be lit and I and my friends would stand and watch in amazement. At least that’s what I remember. In recent years the atmosphere at bonfires has changed. A more anti-social dimension has emerged. Mini bonfires involving burning of people’s unwanted furniture and other items have devastated green areas and open spaces in the heart of housing estates. Binge drinking by teenagers has also become a feature at many.

This year a number of communities are making a concerted effort to stop bonfires. Not by hoping they will go away but by providing alternative entertainment for children. I attended a meeting of residents from the Larchville and Lisduggan estates tonight. They have long been working for an alterative to the bonfire. This year they have the support of the council, the Gardaí and local businesses. They also have the support of most of the community. A fancy dress party and other events will form part of a celebratory occasion in the local community hall. At last Halloween will be given back to the children.

As I said earlier when I was growing up I enjoyed bonfires. But times and circumstances have changed. We have become more environmentally aware and burning waste, rubber and other substances is not good for the environment. They also leave ugly craters in green areas. I have already mentioned the anti-social behaviour issues. It is time we move away from bonfires and support communities in providing alternatives that allow young children to celebrate Halloween in a different way. It is going to difficult but we must start and I commend those communities who have begun to do so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No apology just self pity

John O Donoghue’s speech today was a shameful exercise in re-writing history. The half truths he spoke about are surely his own recollections of how he abused the spending of taxpayer’s money. He may not have broken any laws; he may not have broken any rules and he may have acted within guidelines but he is guilty of a cavalier attitude to the spending of public money. Mr O Donoghue is a man in denial. He is indicative of the political class in this country who have lost touch with the people. For John and company no wrong can be done as long as it is within the rules as laid down by his peers. No thought is given to whether the rules may need to be changed.

For those expecting an apology it never arrived. For those expecting self pity and arrogance we got it in spades. John is representative of the disease that runs through Leinster house – this sense of entitlement and of being above the rest of us. It stinks to high heaven. I have no pity for John and I say this not callously but honestly. My only pity is that John and his friends in Fianna Fáil did not see fit to apologise for their lavish spending habits or use the opportunity of reforming the system. Let us not forget that John is only one of many. If Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and others fail to properly reform the system shame on them, if we allow things to continue as they are then shame on us.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Waterford Crystal Plan is a truly exciting prospect

At tonight’s meeting of Waterford City Council the City Manager presented a visionary plan aimed at reviving crystal manufacturing in the city. The plan consists of two phases the most exciting of which is phase two – an iconic building on the south quays. The intention is two build a barge out onto the river situated either side of the clock tower. The development will complement existing south quay buildings and will be a maximum of three stories. The barge will consist of 16,000sq foot 6,000 of which will involve the crystal dimension. It will also allow for retail and other development. A significant portion of the four lane road infrastructure on the quay will be replaced by single outer lanes creating new public realm in the centre.

This development is tremendous news for the city. Many of the jigsaw pieces are in place. The City Manager deserves huge credit for this. I have long advocated for a major development of our quays. This plan will truly make the quay a jewel in the crown of Waterford and the Southeast. It will create significant tourist opportunities and will complement the planned historic and Viking triangle. It will replace most of the existing quay car parks and replace them with sub-terannian parking. The most significant feature of the plan is that it will restore crystal manufacturing most precious to our city. In fact it will go further and bring it into the heart of the city centre.

In the excitement of the plans potential we must not forget all of those crystal workers who lost their jobs. The Waterford Crystal brand was built on the back of the blood, sweat and hard work of ordinary working people who developed exceptional skills and talent. Their sacrifices and their loss must also be remembered. However I am sure that they will see this plan not only as salvaging something from the wreckage but as an opportunity to build again for the future. I in no way understate my position when I say that this is the most ambitious, the most visionary and the most realistic plan for Waterford City I have seen in my time on the council. It has my full support and I hope it is delivered quickly.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rearranging deck chairs will not save the country from sinking

So the Green Party claim to have agreed a new so-called ‘Programme for Government’. This new programme is a mixed bag of re-hashed existing policies, vague promises and is a pathetic attempt to cling onto power at any cost. Rearranging the deck chairs will not save this country from sinking. The Green Party had it within their power to pull the plug on plans to make ordinary working people pay for the economic recession through NAMA and the McCarthy report. They also failed to provide new policies aimed at getting people back to work and helping those most in need.

NAMA will cripple this country for a generation. Its effects will be seen year after year at December time as money is put aside at each budget to pay for this flawed scheme. The Green Party and this Government has no mandate for NAMA or the recommendations in the McCarthy Report and they must not be allowed force them through. Internal green party support is no substitute for support of the people. I have no doubt that if NAMA is put to the people it would be overwhelmingly rejected. Saturdays vote by Green Party members was a desperate exercise in self-preservation. Ultimately it will fail. Vague promises and a re-hashing of existing commitments will be soon forgotten as the Government plan for a crippling December budget. The Green Party had an opportunity to put the country ahead of the party. The choosing of the latter will be their eventual undoing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama strange choice for Nobel Peace Prize

President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a strange choice to say the least. I am a fan of Obama and I wish him well in his term as US President. However he has not done anything of substance to deserve such a prestigious prize. The prize was devalued for me when it was awarded to David Trimble at a time when he was refusing to take a risk for peace. The awarding of the prize to Obama is at best premature and at worst down right silly. Obama has given a lot of great speeches, has talked a lot about diplomacy and has certainly begun to heal the wounds of the Bush era but has done nothing of substance to earn this prize.

Divide and conquer tactics must not pay off

It is now official. After months of kite flying the Minister for Finance confirmed today that the public sector will be hit and hit hard in December’s budget. Expect to hear a lot about waste in the public sector, inflated salaries, Rolls Royce pensions and anything and everything designed to paint a picture of a bloated and inefficient public service. A clear attempt is being made to divide and conquer and to pit public and private sector workers against each other. This is dangerous as well as divisive and must not be allowed to happen.

I need to make it clear that I am all for cutting public spending where necessary. Indeed my party has put forward reasonable and practical proposals to government on how public spending can be curbed. However in doing so we must protect front line services and those on low and middle incomes. Contrary to the picture being painted most public sector employees are on modest incomes and many are on less then the average industrial wage. The Rolls Royce pensions we hear a lot about are reserved for a privileged few at the top.

Reform and cuts are necessary but they must start at the top. We also need to recognise that the public sector has already seen thousands of job losses as well as abolition of overtime and the introduction of pension and income levies. New and severe cuts as is anticipated will result in dire consequences. While it is the Government who are making the running on this issue they are being closely followed by those in Fine Gael. If these parties have their way expect to see savage cuts in public services and the loss of front line staff such as teachers, nurses and gaurds. Too borrow and twist a Fianna Fáil election slogan ‘a lot were done – we have more to do’. But only if we let them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sinn Féin forces O’ Donoghue’s resignation

Earlier today the four Sinn Féin TD’s called on the Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue to resign. They did so because his position was untenable. Labour and Fine Gael followed suit. He has eventually announced his resignation and rightly so. He must go further and pay back expenses which he unnecessarily claimed. However the point has to be made that this cannot be seen as the end. John O’Donoghue should not be a sacrificial lamb. His actions were a symptom of a much deeper problem in the Irish political system. The lavish and outrageous expenses he enjoyed are enjoyed by many in both houses of the Oireachtas. His resignation must herald a new beginning of accountability, transparency and proportionality when it comes to the spending of tax payer’s money.

There is much talk of the need for the banking system to be cleaned up. It is now time to clean up our political system once and for all. The entire system of salaries and expenses to elected representatives at every level must be overhauled. One resignation is not enough. There are many more John O’Donoghue’s and Rody Molloy’s. However at the end of the day it is the system which needs to change. All political parties must now commit themselves to achieving this and bring about a new era of transparency and accountability in Irish politics.

Junket John must go

Recent revelations surrounding the lavish spending habits of Ceann Comhairle John O’ Donoghue are an example of the same cavalier attitude to the spending of public money that became all-pervasive during the Celtic Tiger years. It is an area that I have highlighted time and again and have consistently called for change. A culture of unaccountability and a sense of entitlement prevailed and has not passed with the death of the Celtic Tiger. It must come to an end.

This culture is not confined to John O’Donoghue. The lavish expenses enjoyed by TD’s and Senators are obscene. Our local Oireachtas members between them have drawn down hundreds of thousands of Euro since the last General Election. Those at the top in some state and semi-state bodies are equally as culpable. I am sure what happened at FÁS is only the thin end of the wedge. The un-vouched nature of some expenses to councillors must also be tackled.

While being rightly outraged about recent revelations we must keep a sense of perspective. Reasonable expenses and travelling is required by elected representatives and others in public life. The key here is accountability, transparency and proportionality. All of the political parties must sit around the table and thrash out new guidelines for the spending of public money. However the cavalier attitude of John O’Donoghue has made his position as Ceann Comhairle untenable and he must resign.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mixed feelings as I stood at the Brandenburg gate

I was catching a plane to Berlin early on Saturday morning as the early indications of the Lisbon result began to emerge. It looked like it was going to be a decisive yes vote. I arrived in Berlin in the late afternoon and joined hundreds of thousands of Berliners in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Berlin is a magnificent city rich in culture, heritage and history. As I stood looking up at the splendour of the gates and took in the history of this once divided city I did so with mixed emotions. It was great to be celebrating with the people of Berlin the unification of Germany but disappointing to hear of the official Lisbon result – two thirds in favour.

The result was unsurprising. The yes side had the weight of the entire establishment behind them not to mention most of the media. The treaty itself was presented as mere window dressing and its proponents skilfully turned it into a referendum on jobs and economic recovery. The result was always going to be a foregone conclusion. As the campaign dust settles we can now ponder on what it is we actually voted for. We have taken another step towards complete EU integration and the development of a European super state. We have given the EU more power, reduced our voting strength in key institutions, created a constitutional framework for the EU to act as a state on the International stage, lost our veto in key areas, given the EU power to significantly amend existing treaties without recourse to national parliaments or referendums, voted to reduce the size of the commission post 2014 and elevated competition rights over those of workers and public services. It felt ironic to be celebrating the ending of centralised power across Eastern Europe only to see history repeat itself once again. Only time will tell if this will be good or bad.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Social solidarity is necessary in the time ahead

I have given a lot of thought in recent times as to what type of society has emerged in Ireland as a consequence of the Celtic Tiger. Such analysis is important if we are to both work our way out of the current crisis and build a fairer society. Margaret Thatcher once famously declared that there is no such thing as community only individuals. Her Government fostered a dog-eat-dog mentality and worked against any notion of social solidarity. The welfare state had to be dismantled; public services privatised, small Government and low regulation was sacrosanct and massive wage differentials necessary to increase motivation. All ideas that underpinned Government policies here during the Celtic Tiger years and that has created a nation of individuals as opposed to a society.

Now that our economy has come crashing down around us and our public finances are in freefall the failure of these policies are obvious. People are becoming more and more irritated at the unjust and unfair nature of our society. Golden handshakes, outrageous expenses and the immoral salaries of bankers, business executives and some at the top of the public sector is causing understandable consternation among those feeling the pain of the current crisis. So how do we get out of this mess and what kind of new patriotism do we need?

We need a new commitment to social solidarity. We need to move back to being a nation of communities and not individuals. Thatcherist policies need to be given a decent burial. In November the trade union movement is mobilising for a national day of action designed to force the Government’s hand in advance of an expected painful budget. These are mostly the same trade unions, with notable exceptions, that acquiesced to Government policies through successive partnership agreements that increased wage differentials and did nothing to tackle poverty. There is one certainty about what needs to happen in the future – the need to sort out our public finances. This will require a combination of tax increases, cuts in public spending and fresh policies to grow the economy. To get back to what I was advocating earlier – social solidarity – all of this needs to happen with an explicit commitment to protect the most vulnerable, the unemployed and those on low pay.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lies, damn lies and statistics

As we approach the final few days of the Lisbon Mark 2 campaign it is fair to say that the debate has seen its share of lies, damn lies and statistics. If we are to believe everyone on both sides Lisbon is about Job creation and job losses, economic recovery and economic ruin, strengthening democracy and ending democracy as we know it. The first casualty of this campaign was truth. Some on the fringes of the no campaign say that if Lisbon is passed the Minimum wage will be reduced to less then €1.80 (lie), conscription will be introduced (lie), abortion will be legalised (lie) and our elderly will be the victims of euthanasia (lie). On the other hand Fianna Fáil and their friends in Fine Gael and Labour tell us that if we accept Lisbon it will mean jobs (lie), investment (lie), will lead to economic recovery (lie), we keep our permanent commissioner (lie), our neutrality is protected (lie) and that workers rights are strengthened (lie).

So now it is up to the people to decide. It is going to be a difficult task for people to sift through the spin and the lies. Supporters of the treaty have very skilfully turned the referendum into a vote on the economy and recovery rather then on what we are actually voting on – the treaty. Equally groups on the fringes of the no side have brought issues into the campaign which have nothing at all to do with the treaty. When people go to the polls on Friday they will be asked to vote on one thing and one thing only – the Lisbon Treaty. The only question that people should really ask themselves is whether or not they believe Lisbon is good or bad for Ireland. All of the bogus issues should be left outside the polling booth. This will be difficult but if we are to do ourselves justice we must pass judgement on what we are being asked to judge – the treaty.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Community allotments and Gardens should be provided

With the current economic downturn people are looking at ways to become more self sufficient. I followed Corrigan’s farm on RTÉ and I enjoyed the first series. A second series will be aired shortly. The programme motivated me to submit a motion to Waterford City Council calling for the provision of community allotments and gardens as a method of civic participation in creating a healthy, clean and sustainable environment. It is actually something that came up a bit on the doorstep during the recent local election and it is an area that many community groups are interested in. There are currently no allotment spaces available for members of the public to rent from the city council.

Section 2(1) of the Acquisition of Land (Allotments) Act 1926 (we really need to update some of our laws) states that the local authority may provide allotments as a result of demand made by members of the public. Does such a demand exist? I believe it does. Interestingly the Minister at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has recently announced that he will be ensuring local authorities include an allotment officer who will work to ensure the provision of adequate land for allotments and provide support to users.

There are many benefits to providing allotments and community gardens. Aside from the obvious one in that it could provide a valuable source of income for the city council it could also help meet the social needs of citizens and maintain a sense of community. It would also be good for the Environment and possess a range of health benefits. I also see opportunities in providing educational benefits to children and others to learn about vegetable growing. It might even provide opportunities for some of those who are out of work. As Chairperson of the Council’s Environment Strategic Policy Committee this is an issue I intend to pursue. I have submitted a motion to be debated at a full council meeting and I hope it is both supported and implemented.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rody Molloy scandal enough to turn your stomach

Recent revelations that Rody Molloy had his pension boosted by nearly €1.5m by the Tánaiste are stomach turning. Roddy Molloy was responsible for gross negligence and of wasting millions of Euro of taxpayer’s money. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming from his job. The Government’s response was to award Mr Molloy a golden handshake and a boosted pension. This deal is crooked and should be reneged on. It says everything about this Government – they will go to any length to protect their friends and the golden circle in Irish politics.

For the full extent of this scandal to sink in you need to put it into context. Over 400,000 people are on the dole. Many are struggling to pay basic bills. Most are in debt. This deal was done at a time the Government was taking decisions to cut services and increase taxes. It was also done at a time when Waterford Crystal workers were left high and dry without any pension. For Rody Molloy, this Government and their ilk it is business as usual as they line their own pockets. It is easy to call for someone’s resignation and it is often done in the political sphere. But I am convinced that the Ministers involvement in this sordid scandal is reason enough to resign. She is not fit to hold public office. She should resign, this sordid deal should be reneged on and Rody Molloy should be made pay back expenses that he abused as Director of FÁS.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is NAMA the only show in town?

A local newspaper editorial announced this week that NAMA is the only show in town. I appreciate the point that was being made – that this is the Government’s device and it is the only one they are willing to pursue. But the real question is whether or not NAMA is the best device to sort out the banks. A number of alternative propositions have been put forward by the opposition and all have been rejected. Why? Are these propositions worthy of debate? If the Government genuinely feels they are unworkable then at least debate them in the Dáil. Instead the Government have railroaded through their plans with little or no debate about the alternatives.

The Government believes NAMA is the only show in town because it is the only one which protects the failed bankers and the greedy developers. We in Sinn Féin have called for the two main banks to be nationalised, cleaned up and put to work in the interests of the Irish people. NAMA on the other hand has nationalised the debt but privatises the profit. The state has taken over the banks toxic loans, the bad loans or to be frank the irresponsible loans. The profitable loans, the ones which will be repaid remain the private property of the banks. When the banks dump their bad loans on the taxpayer and make a profit on the good loans as well as customers deposits the profit will remain the banks. In other words the taxpayer gets saddled with the toxic loans and the banks get to carry on as normal and bag the profits. It might be the Government’s only show in town but in my view hardly the best one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lisbon debate at City Library

I took part in a debate on the Lisbon Treaty tonight at Waterford City Library. The speakers included Cllr Tom Cunningham (FG), Brian Jordan (FF), Cllr Davy Walsh (WP) and myself. The event was hosted by Nicola Beresford. The debate was lively and robust. However I have still not been presented with a single reason why we should vote yes by the yes speakers other then the fear of saying no. Vote no and we will be marganlised. Vote no and we will become isolated in Europe. Vote no and we will become second class citizens. Indeed if we are to believe the FF representatives and their friends in Fine Gael and Labour if we vote no we are destined for economic ruin. What nonsense. Even if we take at face value what these guys are saying - what does this say about Europe. Are you happy to be part of a Union which treats its people like this? If not, express your opinion in the most effective way you can and vote No on October 2nd.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cross party delegation to meet Minster for Trade and Enterprise

At a meeting of Waterford City Council tonight it was agreed that a cross party delegation would go and meet the Minister for Trade and Enterprise to discuss the serious job losses in Waterford and economic activity in the city. I agreed with the proposition but not without reservation. Firstly I think it is important for local elected representatives to voice our concerns at the haemorrhaging of jobs in Waterford and the failure of Government policies. The Minister and the Government need to feel the heat and be made aware of the human cost of job losses, Government cuts and failed Government policies.

What struck me about tonight’s meeting however was how heavily dependent we are on central government and how weak our local government system is. Why is it that we have to continuously go cap in hand to a Minister to get what we deserve as of right? I am also conscious of not raising unrealistic expectations. A delegation of Waterford City Council meeting with the Minister will not create a single job. Our greatest strength is our ability to bring agencies together and force action locally.

On a separate but somewhat related note I was intrigued by a contribution by Cllr Jack Walsh of the Labour Party at the meeting. He spoke passionately about the need for us to pass Lisbon or face the prospect of being marginalised and scare potential inward investors. Does he really believe that investors will base their decision to come or go on whether or not we vote for Lisbon? I doubt it even rates as an afterthought. However the intriguing part of his contribution for me is that if we do pass Lisbon, give more power to the EU and take a step closer to complete economic, political and military union then it will not be national Ministers we will have to meet in the future but unelected EU commissioners.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Launching a local Economic Development Document – Getting Waterford Back to Work

This week I launched a local economic development document – Getting Waterford Back to Work. I believe the document is practical, deliverable and is a call to action. While the responsibility for causing the economic crisis lies squarely with the Government there is an onus on everyone to play a constructive part in helping to solve the problem. I am not prepared to sit on the sidelines and blame others without offering solutions.

Recent job losses in Waterford City have devastated the local economy. Job losses at Teva, Waterford Crystal, Bausch and Lomb and ABB have matched job losses in the construction, tourist and service area. Unemployment in Waterford City has risen by over 50% in the 12 months to the end of July with 12,744 people signing on, up from 8,383 in July 2008. The adjusted figure taking into account recent redundancy announcements will push the jobless figure to over 14,000.

There is no silver bullet solution and economy recovery will be slow at best. There are though a number of positive steps that can and must be taken to secure the long term economic viability of the region and the city. Waterford City must become the engine and the economic driver of the region. Undoubtedly Government support and investment in the city as the gateway of the region has been poor. Equally we must start performing more locally and lesson our dependence on action from central government. Therefore Waterford City Council must act as a catalyst for this by bringing agencies together and fostering local solutions to local problems.

I recently presented the City Manager with a document – Getting Waterford Back to Work outlining specific proposals that could in the short and long term help Waterford’s local economy stave off the worst effects of the economic downturn while also leaving it better placed to grow sustainably in the future. These proposals include helping local firms access National and EU funding, arranging a meeting of local bank managers to discuss in a transparent way banking practises, the front loading of key infrastructure and employment intensive programmes, moving forward with transport infrastructure plans, more regional spending in Green Technology, support for locally driven R&D as a new platform for job creation, revive crystal manufacturing in the city and the establishment of an educational taskforce to help those who have lost their jobs.

Some of these proposals need action from central Government. The single greatest act that would assist the region is the designation of WIT as a University. However most can be delivered locally. We need urgent action. We cannot sit on the sidelines and simply blame others. I hope my proposals will be received well. Now more then ever there is a need for Waterford politicians, civic leaders and communities to work together to ensure that Waterford City is not left behind

Friday, September 11, 2009

Déjà vu - I thought we had this debate before

I took part in a debate in Limerick City last night on the upcoming Lisbon Treaty. It was with a sense of Déjà vu as we had the debate before; we had the arguments, the leaflets, the posters, the vote and the result. A majority of people voted on referendum day and of that a majority said no. Over 900,000 people to be precise. The people gave the Government a mandate to go and get a better deal. They wasted that opportunity and are now asking us to vote again on exactly the same treaty.

I believe that voting no simply on the basis that we have already said no is not reason enough. The world has changed since the last referendum. Ireland’s economy has gone into freefall. Our public finances are in a mess. The prospect of direct IMF intervention is real. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. Savage cuts are being implemented in health, education and across the public sector. Nama is being set up to bail out greedy property speculators and incompetent bankers. So I agree, we do need a new referendum. We need a new treaty for the new changed economic circumstances we find ourselves in.

The economic philosophy which underpins Lisbon and Europe – Neo Liberalism – has failed. It is a system that has brought us boom and bust. It is a system that has increased wage differentials, brought about greater inequality, trapped more people into poverty, privatized public enterprises, weakens public services, undermines workers rights and above all supports the primacy of the free market. This failed ideology is not what we need to turn things around. You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. So we have a choice. We can say no again and for the right reasons again and in doing so send a strong message to our Government and to Europe – we need a new treaty for a new times..

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Parents express anger at Education cuts

Today I and other members of Sinn Féin handed out leaflets outside a number of primary schools in Waterford City. The leaflets highlighted the impact the education cuts announced last year are having on schools. These cuts are now beginning to bite. Parents were very receptive and were seething in their anger of the Government. It is a disgrace that young children are being asked to suffer because the Government made a mess of the economy. Sinn Féin activists in Dungarvan, Tramore, Dunmore East and Portlaw also spoke to parents at their local schools. The leaflets encouraged people to contact local Government representatives and the Minister for Education and send them one simple message - hands off our schools.

Workers at Morris Builders Providers forced to strike

I joined workers at Morris Builders Providers this morning on their strike picket against what they see as a selective and unfair redundancy process. Over 30 members of the UNITE Union are on strike. The strike is not about money or wages. It is about an attempt by the management of the company to force through redundancies by the use of a manufactured and unfair selection process. The workers reluctantly withdrew their labour following three meetings of the Labour Relations Committee.

Essentially the company want to select who they wish to sack. The workers have a right to object to this and to seek a fair and just selection process. To this end I have called on the management of the company to engage with the union and to agree to a voluntary redundancy process. To many employers think that they can use the current downturn as an opportunity to treat workers in whatever way they like. They must not be allowed to do so.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I attended a protest organised by SIPTU today in Dublin to fight back against cuts in the Community Sector. I commend SIPTU for organising the march and for mobilising thousands of people nationally from across the community sector. It is vital that the sector unites against savage cuts which will devastate communities especially those worst hit by the recession. The Community Service Programme has seen its funding cut by €10m. €44million has been cut from the Community Development Programmes and partnerships. Many Family Resource Centres are under threat of closure. €2.6m has been cut from the National Drugs Strategy. As a voluntary member of a Community Development Project in Larchville and Lisduggan and a former board member of Waterford Area Partnership I know at first hand the impact these cuts will have. These are organisations working at the coalface in disadvantaged areas trying to bring about social inclusion.

It is right that people in the sector are angry that the Government are making the vulnerable pay for their mistakes. However it is not enough to be angry. We need to turn that anger into action. The best way for the sector to achieve this is to unite behind a campaign to have these savage cuts reversed. I am calling on everyone involved with or who benefited from community development type programmes to attend SIPTU’s national march organised for September 30th in Dublin. Only be working together and uniting behind a single campaign can we successfully force this Government to abandon their strategy of making the vulnerable pay for their mistakes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Greed, Greed, Greed behind Teva Job losses

It is truly devastating for everyone in Waterford to hear of the news that Teva is to cease its tablet production in Waterford. I was attending an important meeting of the City Development Board where we were discussing economic development when news seeped through that 315 jobs were to go at the plant. My immediate thoughts were of anger that faceless people motivated by greed can make such decisions with no regard for those who work for them. I thought of the 315 people, their families and dependents and what it will be like for them as they attempt to find work in these challenging times.

It is important that we do no lose sight of the human side of all of this. Nearly 15,000 people in Waterford are now on the dole. That is 15,000 families with mortgages to pay, children to provide for and all on just over €200 a week. These job losses will further weaken an already battered local economy. How much more can we take?

I am hesitant to make the typical call for the setting up of task forces and the like. We need action. In Waterford City we must lesson our dependence on Multi-nationals. We need to see greater development of local indigenous industry and give better support to the SME sector.

This week I furnished the city manager with a document – Getting Waterford Back to Work. The document is a call to action. The coalition Government has failed Waterford and has failed the 15,000 people now signing on. To say they need to do more is an understatement, however let us not sit on our backsides and wait for someone else to do something for us. We all have a responsibility to come up with solutions and play our part. While it is difficult to be positive and easy to be angry we must be constructive in helping to sort out the mess others have created.

Friday, August 28, 2009

College Registration Fees increased to €1,500

Many young people who recieved their leaving certificate results recently have been offered places in third level institutes. This is an exciting time in their lives. They should be thinking about all of the positives and the opportunities that lie ahead. Instead many are trying to scrape together the money to pay the college registration fee. I remember paying mine all those years ago. It was 200 pounds. I was working part-time and was able to pay for most of it myself. My parents paid the rest and helped to cover the accomodation costs in Dublin.

Today the fees stand at €1,500, up from €900. The increased revenue is not being spent on new facilities or to improve schools. It is simply an increase to cover existing costs. It is another stealth tax for parents. On top of this the Government are talking about introducing third level fees. Excuse me but is €1,500 not a fee! Introducing another fee will result in treble taxation. You pay once through your taxes, again through registration fees and if Batt O Keefe has his way again through new college fees. This is not on. We are venturing down the American road of making going to college a privelage and not a right at a time when the current American President is doing the opposite. This madness must stop.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ben Gavin R.I.P.

On behalf of the Sinn Féin party I extended our deepest sympathy to the family of the late Ben Gavin. Ben served the people of Tramore well as a local town councillor. He served on numerous committees and is best known for his high profile position as chairperson of Waterford Port of which he only recently vacated. He will be fondly remembered by the people of Tramore and beyond. May he rest in peace

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ireland loses a true friend – Ted Kennedy R.I.P.

It is with sadness that I heard of the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. I met Senator Kennedy last year as part of a council delegation to Capitol Hill in Washington. He was in his element as he hosted a reception with Congressman Richie Neal and other members of the Congressional Friends of Ireland committee to mark Bertie Ahearn’s address to the house. He was also very friendly to the Waterford delegation as he posed for photographs. Ted Kennedy was a powerful figure in American politics. He played an important role in the development of the Irish peace process. He was instrumental in advising Bill Clinton to grant Gerry Adams a visa to the U.S. in the early stages of the process. He was also a strong advocate for social justice. He was a leading campaigner for universal health care and his wish was to see every American citizen have equal access to health services. I am sure he will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.

Waterford Sinn Féin meet to discuss political priorities and campaigns

Sinn Féin members in Waterford held an important meeting tonight to agree a political and campaigning strategy over the coming months. Over 80 party activists met to discuss a wide range of issues and to agree a programme of work in the time ahead. The programme of work will involve campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty, opposition to NAMA, working to reverse Educations cuts, promoting local solutions to job creation and retention and highlighting the growing drug and heroine problem in the city and county.

It is important that people fight back against cuts in Education, Health and welfare payments. The young, the old and the vulnerable should not be punished for the economic incompetence of this Government. At a time when ordinary people are being made to suffer as a result of increased taxes and cuts in services the Government are planning the crime of the century in setting up NAMA. NAMA is a corrupt device, devised by corrupt politicians to bail out corrupt bankers and greedy developers. Sinn Féin will publish detailed alternative proposals that will clean up our banking system in the interests of ordinary people and oppose plans to socialise debt but privatise profit. There is lots of work to be done in the time ahead!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NAMA in a nutshell

Many people have asked me, how does NAMA work and how much will it cost? I decided to put pen to paper and offer an example. Joe has lent Mick €200,000 to build a house that Mick wants to sell for €300,000. Mick has built the house but can't sell it, and even if he could, he wouldn't get €300,000 for it because the housing market has collapsed, he'd be lucky if he got €100,000 for it. So he can't pay Joe back. Mary has come to Joe and asked for a lend of €50.

Joe can't lend Mary any money because he's waiting on his loan, with interest, back from Mick. So he gives his buddy NAMA a ring and asks NAMA will he take on Mick's loan and give Joe the €200,000, because at least then he'll have his original money back. The sane thing for NAMA to do here is tell Joe that he and Mick took a mad gamble with that loan given that houses prices were on the verge of collapsing and that Mick should sell the house for what he can get and Joe should take what he can get. Instead, NAMA says no problem, even though he's not sure Mick will ever pay him back.

NAMA makes one condition. He won't give Joe the whole €200,000 because he knows houses will never sell for that much this year. But they might sell for a bit more in the future (yeah right), so he'll give Joe €180,000. NAMA doesn't really care after all, because it's not his money anyway (it's the taxpayers'). NAMA says he's interested in Mary getting the loan too, but both NAMA and Joe know that Joe mightn't lend Mary the loan, because Joe just got stung by Mick and isn't sure he wants to take the risk again. Unless NAMA promises to keep picking up the tab. And it is you, the taxpayer, who will pick up the tab and pay anything up to €90billion. I will let the reader decide if this is a good or bad deal.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Education cutbacks will begin to bite in September

Last year, I and other local Sinn Féin Councillors conducted an education cuts survey in Waterford to find how national education cutbacks would impact locally. The results were devastating. Most schools would lose teachers or would not get new teachers needed. Most class sizes are set to increase. Extra-curricular activities will be severely curtailed while school libraries will suffer as a result of grant cuts.

Overall this will mean children will suffer. Many will not get the education they deserve as they will continue to be taught in sub standard schools. So clearly it is time for parents and teachers to fight back. Sinn Féin in Waterford will shortly launch a 'Leave our Schools Alone' campaign. The campaign will be a visbile one and will give me and my party colleagues on Waterford County Council an opportunity to talk and listen to parents about how these cuts will affect them. More importantly it will provide us with an opportunity to fight back - leave our kids alone!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Centralisation of medical card applications

I recieved a letter today from IMPACT in which they are lobbying elected representatives to oppose the HSE's plans to centralise medical card apllications. This is something I strongly oppose. IMPACT's campaign to have this decision reversed is well worth supporting. If this goes ahead it will result in a slower and less accessible service to people. It will also be the thin end of the wedge as the Government looks to centralise more and more services. I am all for effective streamlining of services but not at the cost of poorer, slower and less effective services to people. Many people are already waiting up to 16 weeks to have their claims processed locally. Centralising will create longer delays. I intend to support the camapign and play my part in opposing the HSE's plans.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Family Resource Centres under threat of closure

An Bord Snip Nua in its report wants to discontinue the Family Support Agency and the Family and Community Services Resourse Centre Programme. They say it will save €30 million. This is another short-sighted decision. It recommends that a portion of the community and voluntary funding be retained and unified with other state programmes.

Do they not realise that there is a world outside of Dublin and that there is a need for Family Resource Centres in areas like Waterford. Unlike Dublin, these centres may be the only service in the area and discontinuing them is not an option. To retain a portion of funding is not adequate, nor is unifying it with other programmes- funding will be spread too thinly on the ground and services will be compromised. We cannot cut family support or mediation services in times of economic uncertainty, when the family unit is under the greatest strain, it is simply not viable.

We can’t just support the family in times of prosperity, we need to do it most in times like these as well. I am meeting representatives of Familiy Resource Centres in Waterford this week to offer my support and to explore ways in which I can help in the campaign against the cuts.

Share the pain but not the wealth

I returned from Holiday last week and I was feeling energised and re-charged. On the trip back from the Airport I switched from radio station to station absorbing the news in an effort to catch up on things. And something struck me. Everybody was talking about sharing. The Government was at it. The main opposition party was at it. Even right wing economists, developers, bankers and IBEC were at it. So had they finally seen the light? Well, no. They were talking about sharing the pain. Social Welfare had to be cut, child benefit cut, jobs in the public sector had to go and more tax increases for ordinary working people were all needed to, yes you guessed it, share the pain. Why is it that it is now necessary and indeed ‘patriotic ‘to share the pain' when these very same people expressed no interest in sharing the wealth. Same old, same old. I felt a drain on my new source of energy!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lisbon 2

Sinn Féin launched its No to Lisbon (again) campaign today. Almost 1,000,000 people, or 53% of the electorate rejected the Lisbon Treaty on June 12th 2008. People voted for a better deal for Ireland and Europe. The result presented the Irish government with a strong mandate to go to the European Council and negotiate a better Treaty for Ireland and Europe. The Government wasted that mandate.

The Government and the Yes side are claiming that the so called legally binding guarantees secured at the European Council meeting in June have addressed the concerns of the Irish people about this Treaty. These ‘guarantees’ are nothing more than a series of clarifications of some aspects of the Lisbon Treaty. They do not alter the text of the treaty in any way nor do they change the impact that the treaty will have on Ireland and the EU. Their legal status is irrelevant. On October 2nd we will be voting on exactly the same treaty, with exactly the same consequences for Ireland and the EU, as we did last year.

These consequences include the erosion of Irish Neutrality, the weakening of Ireland’s position in Europe, the loss of the Irish Commissioner, the erosion of workers’ rights and public services, the loss of an automatic right to a referendum on future treaty changes, continued participation in the European Atomic Energy Community, advancing the cause of tax harmonisation, the promotion of common foreign and defence policies and the militarisation of Europe and much, much more.

After the last referendum Sinn Féin presented the government with a detailed series of proposals for a better deal for Ireland and the EU. Our proposals aimed to create a more democratic, equal, just and peaceful EU with protocols on Irish neutrality and tax sovereignty, a strengthened social clause, the retention of a permanent commissioner for all member states and the removal of the self amending clauses. The Government’s guarantees do not address any of these issues.

The Lisbon Treaty was a bad deal for Ireland when it was presented to the people last year and it remains the very same bad deal. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for a better deal for Ireland and for Europe. In order to get a better deal we must reject this treaty once again. I am calling on the voters to do just that.”

Gay Pride March in Waterford

Hi all,

A Gay Pride March has been organised for Saturday in Waterford City. I have recieved a number of phone calls and messages from people opposed to the march. Some say they oppose on relegious grounds, others on moral grounds and some were just downright homophobic.

I support the march and I hope it is a success. I wish the organisers all the best and I hope to join them on the day.