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4 September 2008 Edition

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Economy tops agenda at TDs' Howth summit

ON THE HILL: Senator Pearse Doherty and TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan and Aengus Ó Snodaigh go through the agenda with MEP Mary Lou McDonald

ON THE HILL: Senator Pearse Doherty and TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan and Aengus Ó Snodaigh go through the agenda with MEP Mary Lou McDonald

SINN FÉIN’S Leinster House parliamentary team has held its annual party ‘think in’ in Howth, County Dublin, on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week in advance of the return of the Dáil.
Speaking as the two-day event got underway, Dáil group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
“There are huge challenges facing the country in the time ahead and attention is rightly focusing on government policy. Whatever people’s views are of how the Government handled the economy in the past, it is clear now that they are out of their depth. They have no meaningful strategy to tackle the downturn in the economy and are going to try and return to a failed strategy from the 1980s of putting the burden on families and small businesses who are already struggling to cope with the cost of living.
“Sinn Féin’s major priority for the coming year is the economy. Sinn Féin intends to hold the Government to account, to show the same constructive leadership which we showed during the Lisbon Treaty campaign and to work with communities the length and breadth of the country to defend essential frontline services.
“Today we are launching an initiative to track cutbacks in frontline services, particularly in health and education. We will publish this information each month. It is clear that cutbacks are already having an impact. Just last week, Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty revealed that the Department of Education is approving extensions to schools but not providing adequate funding for the extensions to be built.
“The current funding given to schools is €1,200 per square metre despite the actual commercial cost being €2,700 per square metre. At least 26 schools in one regional area alone have been given approval for school extensions but cannot proceed with building due to inadequate funds.
“Last month I revealed that dermatology services in the North-East region have ground to a halt. GPs in the region were written to by the Dermatology Department in St James’s Hospital, Dublin, to inform them that St James’s will no longer take referrals from this or any other region outside its own catchment area due to the limitations of ‘current resources’.
“Later this year, Martin Ferris TD and Senator Pearse Doherty will be publishing two major Oireachtas reports on the rebuilding of the economy in the West of Ireland.
“Unlike other opposition parties, we will not be content to snipe from the sidelines. We intend to bring forward solutions. The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle has established an Economic Strategy Group to bring forward a major position paper on the economy early next year. Our focus will be on proposals to stabilise the economy in the short-term, stimulate the economy in the medium-term, and promote a fundamental re-orientation of the economy in the longer term.”
The party will also be discussing two other key issues - the situation post-Lisbon and the issue of community safety and policing.
Dublin MEP and National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald will head up a major campaign in the autumn around the detailed proposals Sinn Féin published following the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty. This campaign will focus on the core issues raised by citizens’ and interest groups throughout Europe which, the Sinn Féin Dáil leader said, “can and must be addressed” by the Irish Government and EU leaders.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh is finalising the party’s submission in relation to next year’s Garda Policing Plan and preparations are underway for an extensive public survey on community safety, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said.
As well next year’s local government and European elections and the work of the newly-formed Task Force on Irish Unity, the Dáil team reviewed preparations for a major event in the Mansion House to mark the 90th anniversary of the First Dáil.
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