Monday, January 31, 2011

New Leader, Same Party- O'Brien

New Leader, Same Party

Sinn Féin’s general election candidates, Cllr Jonathan O’Brien and Cllr Chris O’Leary, will be canvassing outside the social welfare office tomorrow to highlight the fact that “New Fianna Fail” is the same party that crashed the economy and imposed deep social welfare cuts and the tax rises on the low paid.

Speaking this morning, Cllr O’Brien said:

“Fianna Fail may have a new leader, but it is the same party that crashed our economy and imposed deep social welfare cuts and an iniquitous 7% levy on low paid workers at the last budget.”

“Michael Martin was part of the government that brought in that budget. He did not criticise it then and he stands over it today.”

“He has been a government minister for 13 years. He supported the policies of the Bertie years that prepared the way for the bust, then sat at the cabinet table and did nothing as the economy crashed and jobs were lost.”

“He cannot distance himself from the disastrous policies of Fianna Fail – the bank bailout, the deal with the EU/IMF, the savage cutbacks.”

“Fianna Fail is trying desperately to reinvent itself under its new leader, but it remains the same party as a fortnight ago. The only thing that has changed is the face on the poster.”

Note: Sinn Féin activists will be outside the social welfare offices on Hanover Quay from 10am tomorrow. For further information contact Cllr Jonathan O’Brien 085-2133907

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Universal Social Charge is Still Unfair- O'Brien

Universal Social Charge is Still Unfair-O'Brien

Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan O’Brien has said the government’s universal social charge remains unfair, despite the changes announced by the Finance Minister yesterday, and called for it to be repealed.

Cllr O’Brien said:

“The universal social charge is basically a flat tax: everyone with an income above €16,000 pays it at the same rate of 7%. As such it breaches the fundamental principal of progressive taxation - that those who have more, pay more.”

“Yesterday the Minister for Finance announced that Medical Card Holders will now be taxed at the lower level of 4%. While this is welcome, it does not go far enough. Hundreds of thousands of low paid earners will still be paying 7% of their income.”

“These are the people who have opened their pay packets over the past few weeks to find a large chunk has disappeared from their wages. The Minister’s announcement has done nothing for them. The inevitable result will be that families and households cut back further on discretionary spending, damaging local businesses and costing the country jobs.”

“Meanwhile the Minister has comprehensively failed to go after those who could and should pay more – the tax exiles and the wealthy. Sinn Féin has proposed a wealth tax of 1% on assets of over €1 million (excluding the family home) and a 48% tax rate on individual incomes over €100,000. There is no evidence that either proposal was even considered by the government. Even the limited measures announced in the budget – ending the remaining property tax reliefs – are being kicked to touch, with their implementation postponed pending “review” by a government-appointed committee.”

“This Finance Bill is the sting of a dying wasp. Even in their last days in government, Fianna Fail are targeting the low-paid and welfare recipients, while letting their cronies from the tent at the Galway Races off the hook. Sinn Féin wants the repeal of the Universal Social Charge. Any party wanting to form a government after the next election should introduce a new budget as its first priority.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Jonathan O’Brien @ 085-2133907

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Labour and Fine Gael in Cynical Political Exercise- O'Brien

Labour and Fine Gael in Cynical Political Exercise- O'Brien

Sinn Fein’s general election candidate for Cork North Central, councillor Jonathan O’Brien, has said the people should be allowed give their verdict on the budget in an immediate general election and accused Labour and Fine Gael of a cynical political exercise in supporting the government over the Finance Bill.

Cllr O’Brien said:

“Labour and Fine Gael claim to oppose last December’s budget, yet both parties are working with the government to ensure its passage through the Dáil.”

“Rather than rushing through the legislation to implement Brian Lenihan’s disastrous budget in the dying days of this government, they could have taken advantage of the government’s minority status to trigger an immediate general election. Every party would then have the opportunity to put its economic strategies before the electorate and voters could choose between them. By facilitating the passage of the Finance Bill, Labour and Fine Gael are further committing the country to the government’s slash and burn economics without letting the people have their say in an election.”

“This shows how little difference there is between Fianna Fáil and the so-called opposition on the economy. It is a cynical exercise to spare these parties the political cost of implementing policies similar to those of Fianna Fail if they are in government after the election.”

“Sinn Féin has consistently opposed both the budget and the Finance Bill. We want the Irish people to be given an open and democratic choice about the economic future of this country and we are calling on any party which wants to be part of the next government to give a commitment to introducing a new budget as soon as they come into office.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Jonathan O’Brien 085-2133907

Community Wardens Must Be Preserved- O'Leary

Community Wardens Must Be Preserved-O'Leary

Sinn Fein’s general election candidate for Cork South Central, councillor Chris O’Leary, has welcomed the City Manager’s commitment to maintain the community warden service in the city, despite a 50% cut in funding from the Department of the Environment.

Cllr O’Leary said:

“Community wardens provide a vital service which we cannot afford to lose. This is particularly so as Cork was recently named as the dirtiest city in the country in the Irish Business Against Litter Survey.

“In response to a question from myself last night, the City Manager confirmed that funding from the Department of the Environment for the Community Warden scheme had been reduced by 50%. However he also gave a commitment to try to find alternative money within the council’s budget to maintain the service.”

“It is important that this commitment is fulfilled. Since the closure of local housing offices in areas like Togher, Community Wardens have become important contact points for the community in addition to their primary function of preventing illegal dumping and litter. The 50% cut to funding for the programme is one more example of how government policies are hitting ordinary people.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Chris O’Leary @ 087-2794307

Monday, January 24, 2011

Councils Should Set Up Clinics to Facilitate Voter Registration- O'Leary

Councils Should Set Up Clinics to Facilitate Voter Registration

Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary has called on the council’s franchise office to take special measures to facilitate registration of voters in advance of the election.

Cllr O’Leary said:

“We are facing into the most important election in our recent history. Yet there is broad agreement that the electoral register is deeply flawed, riddled with inaccuracies and excludes many voters.”

“The electoral register is now closed and voters wishing to be registered for the election can only be included on the supplementary register, which requires presenting themselves at a Garda station. Many would-be voters may be turned off by the bureaucracy involved and effectively disenfranchised.”

“Sinn Féin is calling on the franchise departments of the city and county council to set up voter registration clinics in communities around the city and county. These would be staffed by officials from the franchise departments, who would give voters any advice they required in filling in the registration forms, and community Gardai. This would facilitate a significant number of electors who would otherwise be disenfranchised to register and have their say in this critical election.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Chris O’Leary @ 087-2794307

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Concerns Over Future of Farranree CDP- O'Brien

Concerns Over Future of Farranree CDP- O'Brien

Sinn Féin Councillor Jonathan O'Brien has expressed concern about the future of the Community Development Project in Farranree, after it became known that a number of staff at the project had been let go.

Cllr O'Brien said:

"The CDP is an invaluable asset to this area, and is one of its largest employers. It provides a range of services including childcare, after-school services, assistance with jobseeking and CV preparation, and support to ex-prisoners and families at risk."

"In the current economic climate, the work of the project in tackling poverty and disadvantage has never been more vital."

"Due to government cutbacks the project has this month been forced to let go two members of staff. I have since received a large volume of phonecalls and personal approaches from local residents concerned about the project's future."

"It is critical for the community that this project be sustained. In a week dominated by the squabbling among Fianna Fail ministers, it is in communities like Farranree that the effects of their failed economic policies are being felt most."

For further information or comment contact Cllr Jonathan O'Brien @ 085-2133907

Retiring Ministers Should Forgo Double Pensions- O'Leary

Retiring Ministers Should Forgo Double Pensions- O'Leary

Sinn Fein councillor Chris O’Leary has said retiring ministers should show leadership by forgoing either their ministerial or Dail pension and not accept a double payment.

Cllr O’Leary said:

“In the last budget, the weekly incomes of social welfare recipients were cut and workers on low and middle incomes were hit with a 7% levy.”

“Several of the Ministers who sat around the cabinet table and approved that budget are now retiring with massive pension entitlements, paid out of the public purse. Health Minister Mary Harney, for example, will receive a €300,000 pay-off followed by an annual pension of €120,000. This while her department is suffering massive cutbacks, and unprecedented numbers of patients are waiting on hospital trolleys this winter.”

“Given the hardship being suffered by so many people at the moment, is it too much to ask these ministers to forgo just one of their dual pensions? In the case of Mary Harney, for example, she could choose to retain either her Dáil pension of €50,600 or her ministerial pension of €70,000, and forgo the other. Either would be a multiple of the sum her government believes social welfare recipients or employees earning the minimum wage require to survive.”

“At a time when public cynicism about politics has never been so high, is it possible that at least some members of this government might provide leadership?”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Chris O’Leary @ 087-2794307

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fianna Fail Leadership Farce Underlines the Need for an Election- O'Brien

Leadership Farce Underlines the Need for an Election

Sinn Féin's Cllr Jonathan O'Brien has described the Fianna Fail leadership contest as a farce and said the country needs an immediate general election.

Cllr O'Brien said:

"In the last week we have had days of rumours about Brian Cowen's leadership, followed by days of "consultations", now followed by a motion of confidence and a possible leadership contest. The situation is now a farce. At a time of national crisis, all the energies of Fianna Fail are being spent navel gazing about its own future. This is a continuation of the indecision and incompetence that has marked the government's response to the crisis throughout."

"We have now had months of speculation and uncertainty about the future of this government, ever since the Greens declared their intention to pull out of government after the budget. This is not good for the country or the economy. It is time to bring the uncertainty to an end. We need an immediate general election which will elect a government with a new mandate to implement a programme of recovery and reform."

For further information or comment contact Cllr Jonathan O'Brien @ 085-2133907

Friday, January 14, 2011

Decision Time For Fianna Fáil TDs

Decision Time For Fianna Fáil TDs

Cllr Chris O’Leary today urged Fianna Fail TDs who have been critical of Brian Cowen’s leadership, including Michael McGrath and Noel O’Flynn, to support Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach when it comes before the Dáil.

Cllr O’Leary said:

“Brian Cowen has presided over the most disastrous government in Irish history. Under his watch we have seen unemployment reach nearly 450,000, the return of mass immigration, national bankruptcy, and the intervention of the IMF.”

“The decisions that have led us to this sorry pass did not come about by accident. This week’s revelations about golf rounds and cosy dinners with key players in Anglo-Irish Bank confirm what many of us have long suspected: that a golden circle has privileged access to the Taoiseach and a powerful voice in government policy. In consequence, the future of the country has been pawned to rescue a privileged elite.”

“A number of Fianna Fail backbenchers, including Noel O’Flynn and more recently Michael McGrath, have publicly criticised Brian Cowen. Sinn Féin has tabled a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach, and I would challenge these TDs to support it. Let them put their money where their mouth is. If they have genuine concerns about Brian Cowen’s leadership, and are not simply trying to distance themselves from an unpopular government, they should help us bring a close to an administration that has brought Ireland to the brink of ruin.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Chris O’Leary @ 087-2794307

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Plans to Promote St.Finbarr's Cemetery Welomed- O'Brien

Plans to Promote St Finbarr’s Cemetery Welcomed

Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan O’Brien has welcomed the decision of the City Council to recognise the historical importance of St Finbarr’s Cemetery by erecting proper signage directing visitors to it and placing information panels at the republican plot.

Cllr O’Brien said:

“St Finbarr’s cemetery is the burial place of pivotal figures in Irish history, including Tomás MacCurtain, Terence MacSwiney, and Tom Barry. However there are few signs directing visitors or tourists to the cemetery, and nothing at the cemetery itself to alert them to its historical significance or tell the stories of those buried there.”

“Therefore I am glad the City Council has tonight passed a motion from myself committing it to erect proper signage for the cemetery as well as information panels at the republican plot commemorating some of the legendary figures who are there laid to rest.”

“It is particularly welcome that the council should take this decision given that the 90th anniversaries of the death of Lord Mayors Terence MacSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain took place in the year that has just ended. Encouraging a greater awareness of this significant aspect of Cork’s heritage also has the potential to bring more visitors to the city.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Jonathan O’Brien @

Council Should Assess Status of Service Pipes and Stopcocks- Cremin

Council Should Assess Status of Service Pipes and Stopcocks

Sinn Féin councillor Henry Cremin has called upon the City Council to assess the status of service pipes and stopcocks providing water to houses across the city in the wake of the big freeze, to ensure they are buried deep enough to avoid freezing in a repeat of the severe weather.

Cllr Cremin said:

“During the recent severe weather I was inundated with calls from people who were left without water because the service pipes or stopcocks providing water to their homes had frozen. Frequently this was the case because builders had neglected to place the pipes at the recommended depth to avoid freezing.”

“The City Council is responsible for the maintenance and repair of service pipes giving access to the homes of Council tenants. It is not responsible for those on private property, but I believe it should at the minimum provide advice to homeowners worried that their service pipes may be buried at an insufficient depth.”

“In the wake of the big freeze the council should now review its records of emergency calls to identify homes where service pipes or stopcocks froze and left householders without water. Where these are council properties it should ensure the pipes are either reburied at greater depth or insulated to prevent freezing. In the case of private households, the council should advise householders about the measures they should take to address the problem.”

“Particularly in the case of newer homes, where builders are found to have neglected to bury service pipes and stopcocks at the recommended depth, the householders should have legal redress.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Henry Cremin 086-2662874

Upgrading Water Supply to the Northside a Priority- O'Brien

Upgrading Water Supply to the Northside a Priority- O'Brien

Reacting to the City Manager’s report on the severe weather crisis, Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan O’Brien has said upgrading the water supply to the Northside must now become a priority.

Cllr O’Brien said:

“There is much to commend in the response of the council to the severe weather crisis that affected the city through December and into the New Year. In particular, the council staff who put in long hours over the Christmas period gritting roads and working to fix broken pipes deserve to be congratulated.”

“However this is also the second year in a row in which large parts of the Northside experienced water shortages. This was largely due to the inadequacy of the pumping facilities at the Lee Road water station, which could not cope with the upsurge in demand caused by leaking pipes as the thaw set in. By contrast, the Southside of the city, which is supplied directly from Inniscarra, suffered significantly fewer problems.”

“Rectifying this situation must now become a priority for the council. It can either increase the pumping capacity at the Lee Road station, or put in place an inter-connector between Northside and Southside. Neither measure would involve huge expenditure. I would suggest that some of the €1 billion which the government plans to spend installing domestic water metres to facilitate the introduction of water charges might be better spent ensuring the people of the Northside can access a secure water supply in future winters.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Jonathan O’Brien 085-2133907.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Government Policies Are Making jobs Crisis Worse- O'Brien

Government Policies are Making Jobs Crisis Worse- O'Brien

The government’s austerity measures are making the jobs crisis worse, according to Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan O’Brien. He was speaking in response to the latest unemployment figures, which showed a rise of 5,200 in the numbers signing on during December, bringing the numbers on the live register to 444,000.

Cllr O’Brien said:

“Today’s figures show the human cost of the government’s economic policies. Behind the statistics are real people – families struggling to pay mortgages and give their children a decent life, young people close to giving up on a future in Ireland and emigrating abroad, men and women driven to despair by the search for jobs that simply do not exist.”

“This government, which has poured almost €100 billion into our criminal banks, has done nothing for the unemployed. Minister O’Cuiv today cited Tús, the scheme whereby the government is forcing 5,000 unemployed people to work in the community sector in return for the dole, as an example of it taking action on unemployment. Is this the best he can do? The unemployed need real jobs with a real future, not a workfare programme.”

“The truth is the government’s policies are making the jobs crisis worse. By gutting the spending power of low- and middle-income earners, four hairshirt budgets have strangled economic recovery in the cradle. It is no accident that the latest rise in unemployment comes directly after the government unleashed its most savage budget to date.”

“We need a comprehensive job creation strategy as well as fiscal stimulus to get the economy growing again. Sinn Féin has put forward 80 specific suggestions about how we would create employment, while our pre-budget submission included a €7.6 billion stimulus package over three years. If a fraction of the money that has been put into the banks had been invested in creating employment, today’s live register figures would be much lower and the country would by now be well on the way to economic recovery.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Jonathan O’Brien 085-2133907

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

O'Leary Accuses Labour of Hypocrisy Over Coalition

O’Leary Accuses Labour of Hypocrisy Over Coalition

Cllr Chris O’Leary has accused the Labour Party of hypocrisy for being prepared to vote in a Fianna Fail Lord Mayor of Cork in June while their national leadership is ruling out coalition with the party. He also reiterated that Sinn Féin will not prop up either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael in government.

Cllr O’Leary said:

“Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has loudly ruled out going into government with Fianna Fáil. Yet in a few months’ time Labour members on Cork City council will vote in a Fianna Fáil Lord Mayor.”

“They will do so under the terms of their pact with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael on the council. But how can they reconcile this with their stated opposition to the government’s policies or their leader’s position on coalition with Fianna Fail?”

“Unlike Labour, Sinn Féin will not prop up either conservative party – Fianna Fail or Fine Gael – in government. Here in Cork our party has consistently opposed the efforts of the pact parties to stifle debate on Cork City Council and has provided the only real opposition. Labour on the other hand seems happy to support the status quo in return for a share of perks and perquisites.”

“If the Labour Party wants to be taken seriously as offering an alternative, I challenge them act consistently with the leader’s position on coalition and to vote against the installation of a Fianna Fáil Lord Mayor in June.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Chris O’Leary @ 087-2794307

A Small Investment Would Prevent Future Water Shortages- O'Brien

A Small Investment Would Prevent Future Water Shortages

Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan O’Brien has said a relatively small investment in the city’s water system would prevent ongoing problems with the water supply to the city’s Northside in coming years.

Cllr O’Brien said:

“The immediate cause of the water shortages over the past couple of weeks has been burst pipes due to the big freeze. However the problem has disproportionately affected the city’s Northside - which is the same pattern as occurred last winter.”

“The reason is that while most areas of the Southside draw their water directly from the reservoir at Iniscarra, water for the Northside comes through the pumping station on the Lee Road. This means that when there are leakages within the system due to broken pipes, there is sufficient pressure and volume remaining to supply most areas on the Southside; however this is not the case on the Northside, leading to the kinds of problems we are currently seeing.”

“In response to a number of questions from myself, the City Manager yesterday stated there are two ways of rectifying this; either to increase the pumping capacity at the Lee Road or to put in place an interconnector between the Northside and the Southside. Neither of these measures would cost a fortune; an interconnector, for example, would cost no more than €2 million. This should be seen in the context of the government’s plans to spend €1 billion over the next few years installing domestic water metres in all homes to facilitate the levying of water charges. It is Sinn Féin’s view that this money would be better spent upgrading our existing water supply.”

“Both the problem and the solution have been known to council officials since the water crisis last winter. Nothing was done, and as a consequence hundreds of families were left without water for the New Year. The council and central government must now prioritise upgrading the city’s water system to ensure this situation does not occur again. Otherwise the water shortages we have seen in the past week will become a recurring feature of life for people in the Northside each winter.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Jonathan O’Brien @ 085-2133907

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

HSE Must Clarify Situation at South Infirmary- O'Leary

HSE Must Clarify Situation at South Infirmary – O’Leary

Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary has said the HSE must clarify the situation at the South Infirmary Hospital after reports that parts of the building have been without heating for the past four days.

Cllr O’Leary said:

“There are reports that the heating in the male medical ward at the South Infirmary has been failing for the past four days. Extra blankets have been issued to some patients but there have not been sufficient supplies to accommodate them all.”

“This is a very serious situation for patients and the hospital and reflects badly on health service management. It is appalling to contemplate a situation where patients are left without adequate heating in the middle of winter.”

“I am calling on the HSE to clarify what the situation is at the South Infirmary Hospital and to state clearly when it expects the problem to be resolved.”

For further information or comment contact Cllr Chris O’Leary @ 087-2794307