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7 July 2005 Edition

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Voices in the House

Voices in the House

As the Dáil finishes for the summer and TD's head off to their constituencies, An Phoblacht takes a look back at the last six months. What were Sinn Féin TD's most vocal on and what have they being doing to forward the republican agenda? The following is a small glimpse at just some of the issues raised.

Exposing aid penny pinching

In January the world was horrified at the carnage caused by the tsunami in Southeast Asia. Irish people donated over €50million before the end of the month and there was a demand for the Government to match this. Under duress it released another €10 million from the Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Budget. While welcoming this Aengus Ó Snodaigh pointed out: "As the UN has stipulated, the Government's commitment must be additional, paid in cash and quickly. I am deeply disappointed that the Government's second €10 million will not in fact be additional monies, but instead will come from the existing Emergency Humanitarian Assistance budget."

Harney's shambolic health system

Also in January Tánaiste and PD leader Mary Harney, accused Martin Ferris of being on the IRA Army Council. Ferris hit back saying: "This is a very convenient way for Ms Harney to distract attention from her failure to tackle the health crisis in this state. Maybe if she spent a little more time in dealing with her portfolio as Health Minister instead of trying to undermine Sinn Féin then people would not have to lie on trolleys in our A&E departments."

Fine Gael attacks

In February Fine Gael tabled a private members motion blaming alleged criminal activity by the IRA for the current stalemate in the Peace Process. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Sinn Féin Dáil leader, said the motion reflected Fine Gael's ham-fisted approach to the entire Peace Process: "I am not going to use my very limited time to address every false allegation thrown around this House and around the media. Those charges are not about criminality. They are not really about the IRA. They are not even about the Peace Process. They are about party politics in this state."

Illegal nursing home charges

When illegal nursing home charges were exposed in the Supreme Court, Sinn Féin's Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said: "This ruling has exposed the Government's arrogance in its approach to legislation. In ramming it through both the Seanad and the Dáil without sufficient debate or scrutiny the Minister's actions have resulted in a legal debacle. This matter needs to be resolved as speedily as possible and proper and adequate information must be made public to ensure the confusion that is there is ended. Repayment of monies owed should now proceed with minimum bureaucracy and without thousands of people having to go to court."

Fine Gael exploit McCartney killing

In March Fine Gael used the death of Robert McCartney in Belfast as a political football without forwarding the family's search for justice by one inch. Showing their complete misunderstanding of the policing situation in the Six Counties and knowing that Sinn Féin could not support it they tabled a motion calling for anybody with information about the killing to bring it to the PSNI.

Sinn Féin tabled an amendment leaving open all avenues for information to be brought forward. This was defeated and Sinn Féin had to vote against motion giving Fine Gael the newspaper headlines they craved.. Caoimhghín O Caoláin said: "I have to say with regret that the refusal of the Fine Gael party to accept a reasonable proposition, and their contributions and those of others in the House, shows what I can only call a cynical exploitation of this very serious issue and for the narrowest of political motives."

Garda reform

Sinn Féin received cross-party support from the opposition for its call for a single Garda Ombudsman to investigate police misconduct. Speaking on the Garda Bill in March Seán Crowe TD said: "Sinn Féin recommends the establishment on a statutory basis of a fully independent Garda Ombudsman to investigate police misconduct. We welcome the Government's recognition that internal investigations and the Garda Complaints Board have proved totally inadequate. But Government commitments to establish an independent complaints procedure date back to 1973. This issue must be resolved in the proper way without further delay. We have an opportunity now to shape the policing of the future for the people of Ireland. It is critical that we get it right."

Dermot Ahern caught out

In April with the usual Dáil suspects canvassing for the SDLP in the Six County elections, Arthur Morgan had something to say when Dermot Ahern went into South Down to canvas for Eddie McGrady: "Sneaking into South Down, while avoiding the British military's heavily-fortified South Armagh is the easy option. Of course, Dermot was not available for the residents of the British-occupied six Irish Counties when unionist gangs, aided by the RUC were attacking children at Holy Cross school, Garvaghy Road and many other parts of the North. Amazing how the prospect of Sinn Féin's continued electoral growth can stir even the most lily-livered spirit."

GAMA

Morgan also revealed in April that he had raised the issue of Gama with the Tánaiste as far back as November 2003 and called on her to make a full statement outlining the actions which she and her Department took once the significant concerns regarding the pay and conditions of workers employed by Gama were brought to her attention.

Disability Bill

Also in April Aengus Ó Snodaigh. TD revealed that Sinn Féin would call a vote against the 'regressive' Disability Bill: "Sinn Féin strongly supports the need for a rights-based Bill for People with Disabilities. However, the Bill currently before the House is not a rights-based Bill. It is a resource-based Bill. In fact, it protects the state rather than People with Disabilities. It is regressive and may actually reduce protections available to People with Disabilities."

Eddie Fullerton

In the same month O Snodaigh raised the case of assassinated Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton. Some of the senior officers that were in charge of the original, fundamentally flawed investigation have been discredited by the Morris Tribunal. This was the beginning of an intense and ongoing campaign to get justice for the Fullerton family that included bringing them to Leinster House to meet TD's and Senators from other parties to seek their support.

Aer Lingus

In May Sinn Féin used Private Members time to oppose the privatisation of Aer Lingus. Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe said the sale of the State's majority share represented a sell-out of the Irish tax-payer and of the workforce of Aer Lingus. Sinn Féin received support from Labour, the Greens and some Independents but the motion was voted down by the Government parties while Fine Gael abstained.

Ó Caoláin suspended

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin got suspended from the Dáil in May when he challenged the Taoiseach over the flawed Disability Bill.

McDowell on the ropes

In June when Aengus O Snodaigh outlined Sinn Féin's opposition to Michael McDowell's ASBO p

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