Speaking from Strasbourg this morning Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson extended her warmest congratulations to Malala Yousafzai who is the recipient of this year’s Sakharov human rights prize and looks forward to her visit to the Parliament in Strasbourg next month

Martina Anderson commented:

“Malala Yousafzai is a very courageous young person who fought valiantly for girls and women’s rights to education in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where the Taliban regime had banned girls from attending school. After a failed assassination attempt on her life by Taliban gunmen in October 2012, she became the symbol of the fight for girls and women’s rights to education across the globe.

“I welcome the awarding of the Sakharov prize to Malala Yousafzai, in recognition of her courage and determination to improve the lives of girls and women in her native country and across the world.”

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has voted in support of a resolution to improve air safety by ensuring that flight and cabin crew have sufficient alertness levels to carry out their duties.

Martina Anderson said:

“It is clear that flight time regulations have a strong impact on air transport safety. It is imperative that we apply the highest standards of regulation to ensure optimum safety for passengers and air crew alike.

But criticising the proposals brought forward by the Commission which she doesn’t  believe address the issue of fatigue sufficiently, Ms Anderson commented:

“The European Commission proposals have been badly thought out with little apparent consideration for the very serious detrimental safety implications they would have for the pilots working in this industry and therefore, for passengers.

“Indeed, an exhausted Pilot is a dangerous Pilot – and Pilots themselves are the first to accept that and to acknowledge that a tired cabin crew will not be able to respond effectively in an emergency.

“We need to do all in our power to make sure that pilots are alert and passengers are safe.  Human error is responsible for 73% of aviation accidents and crashes.

“Therefore it is foolish for the commission to make proposals which could increase pilot fatigue and increase the likelihood of fatal mistakes.

“The Commission’s irresponsible proposal does not take into consideration the safety of passengers and pilots alike – and as a frequent flyer that gives me no comfort whatsoever!

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has voiced her disappointment after a vote calling for Environmental Impact Assessments to be applied to all planning involving Fracking failed to receive the necessary support.

Ms Anderson warned:

“If you value the environment be careful who you vote for in next year’s EU elections.

“In the EU Parliament in Strasbourg today I voted in favour of Environmental Impact Assessments being extended to the exploration and extraction of shale gas and was disappointed that it did not get sufficient support in the Parliament to be carried.

“This was despite the fact that over 100 local governments across Europe including in France and countries around the world like South Africa, Canada and Australia have a ban or moratorium on Fracking. There are well documented concerns that greed and the unscrupulous pursuit of profit is destroying the Environment around us.

“If we continue to ignore the damage we are doing to the environment through processes such as Fracking it won’t be too long before the Fields of Ireland go from 40 shades of Green to 50 shades of Grey.

“Fracking involves drilling at a depth below ground water level which can cause contamination to drinking water supplies as well as despoiling the countryside. There are serious concerns about the potential damage to cropland affected by contaminated ground water and to public health from polluted drinking water.

“While I believe that we should always apply the precautionary Principles when faced with evidence such as the seismic tremors caused by shale gas exploration in the North West of England, it would seem that too many MEP’s are influenced in their voting by lobbyists on behalf of multi-national exploration companies.

“It was precisely because of this cosy relationship between MEPs and lobbyists that one of the first issues I tackled on taking my place in the EU Parliament was to campaign to have the rules and regulations regarding lobbying reformed to ensure that members would act in the best interests of their constituents and not of large conglomerates. I will continue this campaign but I would caution the electorate to be careful who you vote for if you want to protect the environment for your children and grandchildren.”

Restricting tobacco products – protecting children & young people and saving lives

Sinn Féin Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development Michelle O’Neill MLA accompanied by Martina Anderson MEP and Councillor Cara McShane chair of Moyle District Council visit Rathlin Island of the North Antrim coast to hear first hand from the residents of the Island of the particular problems faced by that isolated community and how they can best help to promote the Islands natural beauty.

Tobacco - why MEPs should support 75% warnings on the top of the pack
Tobacco – why MEPs should support 75% warnings on the top of the pack

Speaking in Strasbourg this morning on the proposed Tobacco Products Directive Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has called for stringent regulations to combat the increasing death toll and health damage caused by these products.

Welcoming the opportunity to address the issue Martina Anderson said:

“Although the large tobacco companies and their well-resourced lobbyists can lay claim to many victories in their delaying tactics over the course of this directive we are finally at the stage of voting on this crucial legislation which could help protect generations of young people.

“It is obvious that the profit driven aims of the tobacco industry can never be reconciled with those of public health.

“It is estimated that the measures proposed by this directive would reduce after 5 years the number of people smoking by 2.4 million. It would result in a net increase of 2,243 jobs created due to increase disposal income spent on other goods and services. It would have a beneficial impact on the 20% most deprived areas in our constituencies where the rate of smoking-related deaths are double that of more affluent areas.

“Without doubt the amount of lobbying by tobacco companies reached unprecedented levels – despite some of the “goodies” sent to me by the industry to try and influence my vote, I will vote to save lives and to deliver for those constituents of mine who are anxious to see new tobacco control measures implemented – not in the vested interests of the Tobacco Industry .

“In Europe each year, the total deaths caused by road accidents, drugs, murder, suicide and accidents at work – do not come up to a fifth of those caused by tobacco. 700,000 of our constituents die every year as a result of tobacco-related diseases.

“That’s 700,000 – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and children – some of them relatives, yet, there are MEPS who still find it difficult to vote in favour of public health measures to combat these avoidable and  unnecessary deaths.

“This legislation would provide necessary and effective measures to drastically reduce the number of deaths and relieve the pressures on public health resources.

“Picture and text health warnings, banning characterizing flavours like chocolate, bubble-gum and vanilla and a ban on slims will prevent such attractive gimmicks being used by the tobacco industry to get children and young people addicted to their deadly product.”

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has reacted angrily to the announcement that £18million of EU Funding under the SEUPB programme has been withdrawn on the back of the DUP reneging on a Programme for Government (PfG) commitment to construct a Peace and Reconciliation Centre on the site of the former Long Kesh Prison Camp.

Martina Anderson commented:

“While I exert every ounce of effort possible to lobby my colleague MEPs to support funding of projects here to assist the evolution from conflict to reconciliation it is galling that unionist politicians can frivolously snub substantial EU funding in order to assuage the lowest common denominator within anti-peace process unionism.

“No amount of spin or hijacking of victims feelings will camoflage the fact that Peter Robinson caved in to unionist reactionaries such as Jim Allister, the PUP and UVF elements who specialise in whipping up and playing on misinformed fears in the unionist community.

“This is not just a matter of snubbing £18million of hard won EU funding it is squandering an opportunity for what could have been the catalyst for other investment that would have created up to 5000 jobs.

“I welcome the committment and determination by joint First Minister Martin McGuinness to retreive this project and have the funding reinstated. That is the type of determination and leadership that unionism also needs. I will do all I can to assist this process in Europe despite the fact that I will have to do so without any assistance from the other two northern MEPs, Dianne Dodds (DUP) and Jim Nicholson (UUP).