Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson enjoyed a very warm welcome from the people of Omagh on Friday when she visited the town for a series of engagements focussed on promoting EU funding opportunities for our local community and voluntary sector as well as Small Medium Enterprises and our independent retail sector. Ms Anderson was accompanied at her different engagements by her party colleagues, Pat Doherty MP and Declan McAleer MLA and Cllr. Sorcha McMahon.
The former Junior Minister in the Office of First Minister& Deputy First Minister made her visit to Omagh just days after hosting a strong and effective delegation to the European Parliament, Brussels representing local Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, and cross border networks. Delegation members who traveled to Brussels included the incoming President of Omagh Chamber of Commerce, Julian McKeown
Speaking after her engagements which included a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB), Mr Pat Colgan at EU House in Kelvin Road, Ms Anderson told local journalists:
“SINCE the inception of the European Peace Fund initiative, the North has seen the funding of over 22,000 projects, benefiting hundreds of thousands of people. But it is not just Peace Funds that have assisted projects across Ireland.
“While projects such as conflict resolution and victims and survivors’ projects were helped greatly by these funds, infrastructural, transport, tourism, enterprise and knowledge-based projects have also been boosted by other EU funding streams, such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF)
“The financial package negotiated by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson with the British Government will see an additional €50million on top of the recent proposal for €150million Peace IV funding from Europe. While these funding streams will ensure the continued development of many worthwhile, community-based projects, there are many other opportunities presenting to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and research and innovation projects.
“The Horizon 2020 EU Funding programme, which runs from 2013-2020, is specifically targeting research and innovation. ERDF funding for integrated sustainable development is also available and these funding streams are an under-utilised potential financial resource for SMEs.
When EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn recently appeared before the European Parliament, I raised the lack of awareness or understanding of how to access this funding by SMEs. I pointed out that, in the North in particular, out of a pool of over 70,000 companies, only 400 invest in R&D with the majority unaware of how to access EU support.
“I reiterated my position of encouraging a more joined-up approach on the policy of innovation, research and development on an all-Ireland basis.
“As a low-performing area, I believe that the North would benefit greatly through increased co-operative planning and joint enterprise between Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland. I would like to see more evidence of the promised simplification of the application process. I would also like to see a strategic role for the Commission in encouraging and facilitating an all-Ireland synergy in this area.
“Recognising the benefits of the all-Ireland synergies that exist should allow business and higher education and public research institutes to benefit from the strategic framework of Horizon 2020. I would like the Commission to encourage those interactions.
It is important that we recognise the contribution of SMEs, which account for more than 98% of Europe’s businesses and provide more than 67% of jobs in the EU.
“The future success of SMEs and their role in job creation over the coming years will depend on governments putting in place economic policies that will allow SMEs to flourish and to develop quality products and services. Ease of access and flexibility in EU funding allocations is essential so that SMEs can take full advantage of all financial assistance packages available.
“Over the course of recent days I hosted a cross- border delegation representative of Chambers of Commerce, other business organisations and partnerships in the European Parliament in Brussels. The purpose of the delegation was to investigate how best the European Union can promote social and economic development while delivering growth and jobs (particularly along the Border Corridor) by encouraging our local SMEs and independent retail sector to avail of much-needed EU funding streams.
The delegation’s focus was on the areas that I had raised with Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn – the need for simplification as well as streamlining, flexibility and transparency regarding the funding application process.”
During her visit to Omagh, Ms Anderson also met with representatives of the local Community & Voluntary sector including FOCUS, Omagh Area Network, Tyrone Donegal Partnership as well as groups based at the Omagh Volunteer Centre before visiting Omagh Enterprise Centre.
Sinn Fein MEP, Martina Anderson has voiced strong opposition to the appointment of any serving MEPs as EU Ombudsman. Ms Anderson was commenting when it became known that the two largest groups in the Parliament were proposing members of their respective groupings as nominees for the position.
Martina Anderson said:
“I was dismayed to learn of the decision by the two major blocks in the EU Parliament to put forward names from their own groups as nominees for the position of EU Ombudsman. While I do not wish to make any aspersions regarding an individual’s ability I do have serious reservations about those who are serving MEPs – some for multiple terms – with strong partisan political records, being put forward for what should be a politically neutral position.
“As a strong advocate of the need for the services of an Ombudsman that can act independently I believe that the holder of the Office should have no political baggage that could be used to undermine any decisions s/he has to take.
“Article 9.2 of the Ombudsman’s Statute states that “When taking up his duties, the Ombudsman shall give a solemn undertaking […] that he will perform his duties with complete independence and impartiality. How would this be possible if the person appointed has fixed political affiliations?
“It is my opinion that the obvious person meeting the criteria laid down in statute is Emily O Reilly – presently the Ombudsman in the South of Ireland. She has experience, reputation and ability to bring the independence and transparency required to this important position.
“I would urge all MEPs but particularly my fellow Irish MEPs to lobby their respective blocks in the Parliament to keep this position free from the influence of political allegiances and vote for Emily O’Reilly as an independent, impartial Ombudsman.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson speaking at a ‘Privatisation of Public Goods’ conference in Brussels this afternoon voiced strong opposition to the policy.
Chairing a session on water privatisation at the Conference Martina Anderson said:
“The issue for discussion at this session will focus on water privatisation, unfortunately something we in Ireland are all too familiar with.
“Water is a precious resource which costs money to bring to the tap. But access to it is universally recognised as a basic human right. It is already paid for through general taxation and taxpayers should not be expected to pay for it again through privatisation.
“Sinn Féin has always taken a strong stance on the issue of water privatisation in Ireland – North and South. We have and will continue to vigorously oppose the introduction of water charges.
“In the North, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy MP when Minister for Regional Development refused to introduce household water charges, halted proposals for universal metering and ruled out the privatisation of these services (as was proposed by a Direct Rule British Minister in 2007). Households in the North (and indeed across Europe) are already under considerable strain due to difficult economic circumstances and would understandably find it difficult to cope with an additional financial burden
“Unfortunately, the present right wing FG/Labour coalition in Dublin is striving to bring in similar measures to those proposed in 2007 for the North by the British government.
“The Irish government claim it wants to introduce water metering to better conserve water supplies. If you want to conserve water, you don’t do it through privatising and metering water used. The logical way to conserve water is through maintenance and repair of the delivery infrastructure which is presently leaking 40% of the human consumption water supply. Rather than borrow €300 million from the peoples national pension reserve fund to install household water meters so that it can charge the people again for a service that should be fully funded through progressive general taxation, the Irish government should be investing in repairing and replacing the outdated water infrastructure.
“This is just another example of regressive and punitive austerity policies, of hidden taxation, presently being devised by governments across Europe. Extracting more money from struggling families to please the Troika has once again won out over the provision of quality services to its citizens.
“Having voted against Sinn Féin amendments to poverty proof their bill an Taoiseach and his Labour coalition partners are bending over backwards to please the Troika by punishing the over 200,000 people in the State living below the poverty line.“ CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson is hosting a delegation from Chambers of Commerce, SMEs and other business interests from across the North and Border Region in Brussels.
Martina Anderson said:
“In line with my commitment to bring Brussels to the people and bring the people to Brussels I have hosted a delegation representing almost every Chamber of Commerce and other business representative body in the North and Border Region at the EU Parliament over the past two days.
“The visit gave the delegation an opportunity to meet with staff from the Directorate Generals (DGs) of all of the funding and support Departments of the Commission.
“Very informative meetings were held with DGs in Research and Innovation and in policy development in the area of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises(SME) as well as the urban dimension of cohesion policy and sustainable urban development.
“They also met with the Head of Unit: Access to Finance for SMEs and with Stephen Langley, Programme Manager Ireland and Britain responsible for Regional Development and ensuring compliance with the rules and to coordinate programmes for the North, South and East of Ireland.
“Before leaving Brussels to return home the delegation had discussions around the Barosso Task Force with Junior Ministers Jennifer McCann and Jonathan Bell who were also in Brussels on Executive business.
“I believe that all the representatives will return home with a better understanding of the available funding and support mechanisms of the EU and I am confident that they will put this knowledge to productive use.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has welcomed Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill’s presence at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Luxembourg this week.
Martina Anderson said:
“I am encouraged that Minister O’Neill is attending the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Luxembourg this week. I believe that we need strong representation to ensure that we get the best result for our Agriculture sector. While we don’t have our own seat on the Council and we are depending on Owen Paterson to present our case, it is important that the Minister is there to ensure that he presents our expectations accurately.
“We need CAP to be implemented regionally in a way that suits our needs. For instance, our Minister is attempting to obtain an option to allocate entitlements only to those claimants who were engaged in production activity in 2011, which would exclude most non-farming landowners. Although a fairer way of allocating funding, this position is not wholeheartedly supported by Owen Patterson. Therefore it is good that the Minister is in a position to remind him of the importance of this position to us.
“It is also crucial that she is there to oppose any attempt to reintroduce the proposed ploughing ban on carbon rich and wetland soils in cross compliance.
“While the Council priorities may change as it enters the final days of negotiations in Luxembourg it is essential that we have someone there to look after our interests.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has accused an Taoiseacht Enda Kenny and the Irish EU Presidency of duplicity after misleading reports of a supposed deal on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 (MFF) negotiations appeared in the media.
Martina Anderson said:
“The European Parliament (EP) publicly stated that there was no deal on the MFF. Yet an Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore allowed misleading information to be fed to the media. Although this type of media manipulation may be unfamiliar to other Europeans it is something that we in Ireland have come to expect from this Fine Gael/ Labour regime.
“It is blatantly obvious the EU Heads of States cannot agree a package of measures to provide the necessary funding required to deliver growth, jobs and in particular aid to the most deprived including programmes to fight youth unemployment across Europe.”
“Although the information released to the media yesterday was merely a proposal by the Irish Presidency to be submitted to the European Council next week, Eamon Gilmore did not clarify this and allowed it be reported as if agreement had been reached or was imminent.
“Even if it is approved next week at the European Council, it is the European Parliament that decides if there is sufficient basis to continue negotiations, therefore it will have to come back to the European Parliament for deliberation. As it stand presently ratification at EP level is unlikely as none of the European Parliament demands has been fulfilled.
“No agreement was reached. The negotiation team stopped all negotiations. It’s a scandal how the Irish presidency and the European Commission have intentionally misled the public. I fully respect the decision of the head of the EP negotiating team to step back.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson met today in Brussels with the Linking Generations group from the North of Ireland.
Commenting on the meeting Martina Anderson said:
“As Junior Minister in the Stormont Executive I gave my support to the Linking generations project and I am pleased to continue pledge my support and that of Sinn Féin to this excellent cause.
“As we face an ever ageing society, the key links between the generations must be reinforced both for the welfare and happiness of older citizens and that of the younger generations. Social inclusion should be comprehensive and it is groups such as Linking Generations which are so essential in helping to achieve this.
“It is fantastic to see such a group bringing their expertise and enthusiasm on the issue of intergenerational solidarity to Brussels. It is important that groups such as these are able to promote their very worthwhile projects on an international stage. Being proactive in sharing best practices with their European counterparts is to be commended.
“During my time as Junior Minister, we were able to secure a grant scheme for community groups and voluntary organisations working on intergenerational solidarity and active ageing. It is very encouraging to see that since then Linking Generations are continuing their vital work with such enthusiasm. I wish them well on their trip to Brussels.”