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.