Friday, 18 July 2014

Closure of Shannagh Nursing Home Devastating News - Flanagan

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has said he is saddened at news that Shannagh Nursing Home in Belleek is to close with the loss of around 40 jobs.

Mr Flanagan said:

"This is devastating news for the local community, for the residents and their families as well as those that will lose their jobs.

"Unfortunately this closure is as a direct result of partitionist and protectionist policies introduced, which do not allow patients from the south to be placed in nursing homes in the north, which is a ludicrous position along the border. I made representations to the Health Ministers in Dublin and Belfast as well as CAWT to amend this policy to allow patients from the south to be admitted. My colleagues Councillor John Feely and Michelle Gildernew MP also explored alternatives with the Western Trust to keep Shannagh open. Unfortunately, the will for cross border working in some areas just isn't there, which is a crying shame.

"I know very many people and their families who have personally benefited from the excellent standard of care in Shannagh over the last 20 years and they are extremely grateful to the team at Shannagh. The people of this area think very highly of the place and it will be sorely missed. Many memories were made in Shannagh and they will not be forgotten.

"Shannagh Nursing Home gave local people a chance to live close to their home, their families and friends instead of having to go to Enniskillen, which is not as accessible for visiting.

"Finding alternative accommodation for the residents is now a challenge for all involved and this must be done in a way that meets the needs of the residents and their families.

"I want to place on record my thanks and appreciation for the efforts of all those who have worked in the home since it opened to care for the elderly people of this area and to make their lives better. From speaking to the families and friends of residents over the years, I can attest that they certainly did that."

Friday, 4 July 2014

Flanagan calls for living wage

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has called on businesses to introduce the living wage for all employees. 
Speaking after Nestle became the first major company to adopt the living wage, the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said; 
"I have been calling on companies to introduce the living wage for all employees for some time. 
"This move from Nestle is welcome and I would encourage other firms to follow its example and adopt the living wage for all workers. 
"When major employers take this step it sends a very clear answer to the scaremongering from some in the business community that the living wage is unaffordable. 
"Paying workers a living wage would boost the economy because they would have more money to spend in local businesses. 
"Providing workers with a living wage would also help prevent the emergence of a two-tier economy which would leave behind those on benefits and low pay."

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

One tourism strategy for all of Ireland is the only way forward - Flanagan

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan, who is the Deputy Chair of the Assembly's Enteprise, Trade & Investment Committee, responding to the review of the NI Tourist Board and wider tourism structures said:
"Sinn Féin has argued for some time that three different bodies promoting tourism across Ireland is not the best model for delivery. 
"What this review actually needed to consider is the potential benefits for the economy if greater integration were to occur across tourism on the whole of Ireland.
"When people around the world look at potential destinations to visit, they look at Ireland as a single location and not two separate places. It is vital that our tourism promotion bodies embrace this reality and promote the island and all its attractions as a whole.
"If attractions like the Ring of Kerry, the Giants Causeway, the Marble Arch Caves and Cliffs of Moher were packaged as a single destination, more and more people would strongly consider coming here on holidays."

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Decision Not to Close Brollagh School Welcomed

Sinn Féin representatives have warmly welcomed the decision by Education Minister John O'Dowd MLA to reject the CCMS proposal to close St Mary's High School, Brollagh and to pursue the opportunities that exist for a cross-border area learning community with schools in south Donegal.

Speaking today, Michelle Gildernew MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone said:

"I am delighted at the decision by the Education Minister to reject the proposed closure of St Mary's by CCMS. As we all know, Brollagh is situated in a disadvantaged, neglected and isolated rural area and the future delivery of post-primary education in the locality is of maximum importance not only to the needs of the young people in the area, but also of the wider community. From the outset, Sinn Féin representatives from across North West Fermanagh were active supporters of the campaign to deliver a cross-border model at Brollagh and we are over the moon that that campaign has been successful. But the real work in delivering this and making it a success begins now."

Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone said:

"The decision taken today by John O'Dowd is a sensible one and I am delighted that the views of the local community that rejected CCMS's proposed closure of the school have been listened to. The delivery of a first class education system to all of our children is of primary importance to all of us and I am confident that the proposed cross-border model, that is now being fully explored, will allow the excellent teachers and staff that we have at St Mary's Brollagh, who have faced much uncertainty in recent years, to focus on continuing to deliver this high standard of education for the young people of the area."

Sinn Féin Erne North Councillor John Feely said:

"As a past pupil of the school, I am obviously delighted at the decision to retain post-primary education in this area. I want to take this opportunity to commend the local campaign group and the entire community that once again have rowed in behind St Mary's Brollagh. It is now vitally important that local people continue to support this school by sending their children to it. The opportunities offered by the cross-border partnership will significantly improve the ability of the school to deliver a wide range of subjects that meet the unique requirements of a rural community with huge demand for courses in agriculture and tourism."

Friday, 13 June 2014

Rural Dwellers Second Class Citizens when it comes to Broadband roll-out - Flanagan

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has said that rural dwellers are being treated as second class citizens when it comes to Broadband roll-out.
The vice-Chair of the Assembly Enterprise Committee was speaking after it was revealed that DETI will not achieve the Programme for Government (PfG) Commitment to provide fixed line broadband above 2mbps to all premises by 2015.
Phil Flanagan said:
"In an update to the DETI Committee today we were informed that the target of providing Broadband Services of 2mpbs to all households by 31 March 2015 will not be fully met fully due to accessibility problems in some areas and financial challenges.
"I am extremely frustrated at this turn of events as this was a PfG commitment with the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) the lead department for delivery.
"BT, as the company responsible for carrying out the work also has serious questions to answer.
"Rural dwellers are entitled to have access to the same basic services as their urban counterparts. In the modern world, high speed internet access is as necessary for people of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of where they live as is the telephone or car.
"Many rural dwellers rightly feel that they are being treated as second-class citizens by telecommunications providers and by DETI. This cannot be allowed to continue. The Minister must act as a matter of urgency to ensure whatever obstacles encountered are overcome and the target date is achieved"

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Flanagan calls for more focus on economically inactive

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has welcomed the latest unemployment figures showing the number of benefit claimants has fallen to 55,500. However, pointing out that this figure does not accurately reflect the true numbers out of work, Mr Flanagan urged the Executive to pay attention to those deemed economically inactive.

Speaking today, Mr Flanagan, Deputy Chair of the Assembly’s Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee said:

“While the latest figures indicating a further fall in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits are welcome, I believe that these figures do not reflect the economic reality.

"According to the Office for National Statistics, a further 54,000 people here are deemed to be economically inactive but want to work.

"This group of people for one reason or another are not eligible to claim unemployment or job seekers allowance and as such are not included in the official statistics. While the increase in the numbers of employee jobs and the decrease in unemployment claimants are to be welcomed, the official out of work figures would double overnight if economically inactive were to be included.

“I would therefore, while not letting up on reducing the claimant numbers, like to see much more proactive effort put into assisting the economically inactive become active.

"Despite all of the positive soundings about economic growth, financial hardship is still the order of the day for far too many of our people. Too many people are being left behind because they don’t impact on official statistics. We are still a long way off the recovery that our communities require and deserve.”

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Eel monitoring responsibility should be transferred to Loughs Agency

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has said that the responsibility for managing eel and fish stocks on Lough Erne needs to be transferred from ESB to a management body such as the Loughs Agency, which is dedicated to sustainable social, economic and environmental conservation and development of the fisheries and marine resources on a cross-border basis.

Mr Flanagan was speaking after a substantial eel kill was reported at Cathaleen's Fall near Ballyshannon.

Pictured on a recent visit to the hydro-electric power plant at Cathaleen's Fall are (l-r) Councillor Martin McGovern, Michael Colreavy TD, Councillor Michael McMahon, Phil Flanagan MLA & Dr Denis Doherty, ESB Fisheries Biologist.
Pictured on a recent visit to the hydro-electric power plant at Cathaleen's Fall are (l-r) Councillor Martin McGovern, Michael Colreavy TD, Councillor Michael McMahon, Phil Flanagan MLA & Dr Denis Doherty, ESB Fisheries Biologist.

The Fermanagh & South Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA said:

"I am deeply alarmed to hear of this substantial kill of elvers on Lough Erne, which accounts for a quarter of the elver population going into the Erne system being wiped out in a single weekend due to negligence. Along with some of my colleagues from South Donegal and North Leitrim, I recently visited the plant to discuss my concerns directly with ESB.

"This kill demonstrates the need for responsibility for managing eel and fish stocks on Lough Erne to be transferred from ESB to an organisation dedicated to the preservation of fish and the promotion of angling such as Loughs Agency, which already plays this role in other border areas.

"Across Europe, this has been a peak year for elver numbers. We need to ensure that existing stocks are protected in order to allow the Erne to return to sustainable levels for eel fishing in the future.

"I have communicated my concerns to the Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure on this matter and am awaiting a response from her on what action she intends to take to resolve this long standing problem."

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Flanagan urges minister to support a living wage

Sinn Féin Phil Flanagan MLA has called on the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) Arlene Foster to think again on the issue of a living wage.

The Fermanagh MLA and Deputy Chair of the Assembly's ETI Committee said:

"Earlier this week I called on the minister to back a living wage for businesses supported by Invest NI.

"The minister's claim that support for a living wage would result in job losses is a tired rerun of claims made by big business when the minimum wage was introduced.

"Despite all the scaremongering then the roof didn't fall in.

"And with respect it is the responsibility of public representatives, not business, to set benchmarks for an acceptable standard of living.

"Money paid to workers would do more to lift the local economy than dividends paid to shareholders. Workers support indigenous business by spending their wages in the local economy.

"By getting behind a living wage for workers the minister could do more to prevent the emergence of the two-tier economy a recent PwC report predicted would leave behind those on benefits and low pay."

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Daily Disposable Income doesn't even cover a Return Train Ticket from Belfast to Portadown or Derry - Flanagan

Sinn Féin Vice-Chair of the Assembly Enterprise Committee, Phil Flanagan MLA speaking about the latest Asda Income Tracker Report said:
"It is obvious that we must do more to lift people out of a life of poverty.
"The latest Asda Income Tracker shows that people in the north of Ireland have less disposable income than any part of Britain.
"Local families are struggling with an average disposable income of just £80 per week in comparison to £231 per household in London.
"This is the equivalent of just £11.40 to spend per day - less than the cost of a return train ticket from Belfast to Portadown (£12.50) or Derry (£17.50).
"Successive British governments have overseen the most unequal economy in Europe and families in the North of Ireland are consistently worse off than families anywhere in Britain.
"While local disposable income has begun to move in the right direction, increasing by £4 per week in comparison with last year's figures, people still have less money in their pocket than they did in 2012.
"In the past two years we have seen eleven food banks opened across the north and one in three people are struggling to meet housing costs. We must do more to lift people out of a life of poverty.
"Sinn Féin is seeking support from other parties for action on three areas which will increase peoples' disposable income.
"Oppose the introduction of welfare cuts which are part of the right wing Tory/DUP austerity agenda to ensure that our welfare system protects rather than exploits the vulnerable and disadvantaged - introduce a living wage and reduce fuel and energy costs.
"The proposed welfare cuts would not only wipe out this meagre increase but would plunge people even further into abject poverty."

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Liquor Licensing Laws Not Fit For Purpose - Flanagan

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has said that the Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland is failing in his duties by not updating the laws covering liquor licensing.

Mr Flanagan was speaking after a number of pub owners raised their concerns with him after they lost out on considerable trade over the Easter weekend as a result of being forced to close early.

Phil Flanagan MLA in the Crowe's Nest, Enniskillen with Manager Feargal Shannon

Phil Flanagan said:

"The legislation dealing with liquor licensing is completely out of date and is in urgent need of reform.

"The Minister with responsibility for this matter, Nelson McCausland, is failing in his duties to deal with this issue.

"A public consultation exercise was carried nearly two years ago to find out what people thought about changing the permitted opening hours of pubs across the north. To date, there has been no progress on this.

"If we as a county are to continue attracting tourists, then we need to allow pubs to open at a time that customers want. Forcing pubs to close at 11pm every night of the week makes no sense. Forcing pubs to close early over Easter when they are actually busy makes no sense.

"I have spoken with a number of landlords over the last few days who are extremely frustrated at the licensing arrangements.

"To be fair to the PSNI, they are only implementing the legislation that is in place.

"Publicans are angry that at a time when they could be making money and helping the local economy, that they are forced to close and turn away customers. It is an extremely hard time to run a licensed premises with the cost of doing business soaring and people's spending power being squeezed.

"I intend raising this matter in the Assembly in the coming period to ensure that this antiquated licensing is updated and meets the needs of our economy."

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

EU/US 'free trade' treaty could cost Irish jobs

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan said this morning he is concerned about the loss of Irish jobs if a European free trade treaty is agreed with the US.

Mr Flanagan was speaking after a meeting in Brussels looking at the proposed Transatlantic, Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States of America.

"Jobs could be lost as a result of these proposals and the environmental impact could be devastating," said the Deputy Chair of the Assembly's Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee.

"This agreement would stipulate that any US regulations would be sufficient for the European market and as such, any additional European regulations would be sidestepped.

"This is of particular concern to anti-fracking campaigners across Europe, especially in Fermanagh and Leitrim.

"Pro-fracking politicians tell us that regulation will protect us from fracking and the mistakes from the industry in America won't be repeated in Ireland.

"This treaty would remove those protections.

"Another worrying aspects of this agreement, would be to allow the European market to be flooded with genetically modified (GM) foods imported from the US.

"This could put Irish farmers out of business as a result of food being imported from industrial and intensive US farms.

"In reality, these negotiations are not about free trade, but they are about removing and undermining much-needed regulations, which serves public policy goals and corrects market failures."

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Flanagan welcomes EU Vote ending roaming charges

Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has welcomed the EU Parliament Vote today in favour of abolishing Mobile Roaming charges across Europe effective from 2015.

Mr Flanagan, Deputy Chair of the Assembly's Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee, said:

"The vote in favour of legislation to abolish roaming charges across Europe from 2015 is a welcome development and a victory for consumers.

"This is good news for consumers, not only across Ireland, but right across Europe.

"For many years mobile phone operators have been urged to voluntarily reduce roaming charges but failed to do so, thereby continuing to unfairly exploit their own customers.

"As a result, the European Parliament has now taken action through legislation to eliminate this exploitation.

"The legislation is very important and I hope that it contains safeguards to ensure that operators cannot introduce alternative charges to compensate for the loss of the windfall profits accrued from roaming charges."

Partnership approach to Youth Unemployment required - Flanagan

Sinn Féin Deputy Chair of the Enterprise Committee, Phil Flanagan MLA, has called for a partnership approach between government and business to tackle youth unemployment.

Speaking from an event in Belfast on Youth Unemployment organised by Business in the Community, Phil Flanagan said:

"I commend those involved in organising this event and the businesses who participated.

"Dealing with the challenge of youth unemployment needs a partnership approach between government and employers. 22.3% of young people aged 18-24 are unemployed 30% of the total unemployed are aged 18-24. This represents a huge pool of talent and youthful ambition that is being lost to our economy.

"Skills accrued in the formative years through education need to be harnessed, expanded on and utilised quickly or they are lost forever.

"I believe that a properly funded youth guarantee programme should be rolled out across Ireland. This would give out-of-work young people guaranteed access to paid employment or a useful training or skills development programme. My colleague Martina Anderson MEP is leading the fight for this in the European Parliament.

"To date, the Department of Learning approach to dealing with this issue has been overly dependent on schemes which deliver little return for young people. They are massaging the true impact of youth unemployment with young people placed in temporary, unpaid and often menial work to replace actual jobs.

"Instead of 'schemes' what is needed is deliverable and quantifiable 'projects' providing real opportunities for young people's development to meet their full potential."

Foster criticised after Fracking Licence extended - Flanagan

Sinn Féin Energy Spokesperson Phil Flanagan has criticised minister Arlene Foster after her department granted a six-month extension to a company interested in fracking in Fermanagh.

The extension to Tamboran's licence will give the company further time to decide whether to proceed with its plans to drill in West Fermanagh.

Mr Flanagan has revealed he is seeking legal advice as to whether or not this decision lay outside DETI's remit and whether it should have been referred to the Executive for consideration.

Speaking this afternoon, the Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said:

"I am disgusted at the decision to unilaterally alter Tamboran's terms of licence for fracking in Fermanagh for a further six months.

"In allowing this extension to happen, DETI has shown total disregard for the will of the Assembly, which voted for a moratorium on fracking in December 2011.

"The minister Arlene Foster assured the ETI Committee she would keep us informed of any changes or developments in the fracking process.

"But worse than that, it is my view that she may have breached the Ministerial Code of Office when her department allowed this extension to take place.

"On 15th October 2013, Arlene Foster informed the Assembly that she recognised fracking as a "novel and controversial issue" and as such "will be a matter for the Executive as a whole to decide on".

"I will now be seeking legal advice as to whether or not this decision should indeed have been referred to the Executive for consideration.

"Based upon that advice, I will then decide whether a legal challenge to this decision in the courts would be appropriate."

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

'Net Fiscal Balance Report nothing but guesstimates' - Flanagan

Commenting on a Net Fiscal Balance Report from the Department of Finance (DFP), Deputy Chair of the Enterprise Committee (ETI), Phil Flanagan MLA said:

"It is clear that this Report contains absolutely no statement of fact but is based purely on guesstimates and speculation.

"Last week at a NICVA sponsored event on the need for accurate economic data in order to plan fiscal policies my party colleague Daithí McKay said; 'sound economic decision-making is dependent on having accurate data. Accurate and comprehensive economic data is central to developing and implementing policies for economic growth and job creation'.

"It is obvious that this Report does not meet this criteria. The fact is that there is no accurate statement/data on - among other things - income tax revenue. Even the British Treasury and its Office of Statistics make it clear that these figures are neither accurate nor official.

"Rather than carry out so-called research for the purpose of justifying its subservient bidding to Whitehall fiscal policies, DUP Ministers would serve the people here better by producing accurate and comprehensive data to enable us to formulate sound and sustainable economic policy. Estimating revenue based on poorly researched surveys is no substitute for accurate data. 

"The ETI Committee has agreed to carry out a detailed inquiry into the issue of inaccurate, missing and untimely economic data available in the north of Ireland.

"This report is an unnecessary and wasteful distraction from the debate on transfer of full fiscal responsibilities that needs to take place.

"The report was withheld while Simon Hamilton attempted to reconcile his dodgy figures with the equally dodgy figures produced by British Revenue and Customs. The £1bn difference between the British and local figures, is an illustration of just how inaccurate both sets of figures are. The report is poorly calculated, poorly presented and two years out of date

"The fact is that data relating to the North's public finances is not available and that is the deficit that Simon Hamilton needs to address."

The report can be accessed by clicking the following link: