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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has condemned an arson attack on a shop selling so-called 'legal highs' in Larne. 

The East Antrim MLA said; 

"This attack was wrong and endangered the lives of residents living in flats above the shop who had to leave their home in the early hours of the morning because of the blaze.

"It is only by luck that they were not injured. 

"There is no doubt that the misery caused by these toxic substances evoke strong feelings in the community but attacks like this must be condemned. 

"There is now a legal mechanism available to remove these dangerous substances from our streets and stop them being sold. 

"Belfast City Council have been very successful in tackling the issue of legal highs. I would encourage the Causeway Coast and Glens Council to engage with Belfast City Council to ensure that everything possible within the law is being done to prevent the sale of dangerous substances.

"An all Ireland approach is needed to deal with these potentially deadly substances. Currently, once a substance is banned in the North it can go back on the market if a single ingredient is changed. In the South a new license must be obtained before a product can be sold, with the seller having to prove that it is not harmful."


Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has commented on the publication today by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) of their report into the child protection and welfare services provided to children living in direct provision.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said;

 “HIQA has raised “grave concerns” about the high number of children living in direct provision centres who have been referred to Túsla (The Child and Family Agency). While the general population has an annual referral rate to Túsla of 1.6%, approximately 14% of the population of children living in direct provision were referred to the Child and Family Agency in one year. This goes to show how inappropriate the system is for caring for a vulnerable population.

“Sinn Féin has long said that the direct provision system for asylum seekers is not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced. We have been highlighting this for many years now and I commend my colleagues in the Oireachtas Pádraig Mac Lochlainn T.D. and Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh for their important work on this more recently. The Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, of which Pádraig Mac Lochlainn is chairman, has called for a series of changes to the existing regime, but ultimately wants it to be scrapped.  This is a position that I have urged over many years, having in the last Dáil proposed and participated in a visit to both Mosney and St. Patrick’s (Monaghan) Direct Provision Centres by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.

Mental Health

“Some common themes were identified in the HIQA report on the referrals relating to child welfare and protection issues. These included mental health issues for children and parents, the effect of same on children, physical abuse, proximity to unknown adults and inappropriate contact by adults with children. We must remember that there are roughly 1,600 children in direct provision accommodation at present, a system now 15 years old.

“We also know that these centres are overcrowded, that they hamper normal family life and do not allow residents to work. I understand that in Louth/Meath, there were significant delays in social work interventions. In 27 cases children were not seen by social workers despite concerns about their safety and welfare. This is most concerning.

“One case related to serious concerns about alleged physical abuse.  However, this case ended up closed without the children being seen. It appears there were no standardised protocols on how Túsla and the providers of direct provision accommodation should work together and communicate. This led to the bizarre situation where families involved with child protection and welfare services were moved without their social workers being informed.

At-Risk Population

“HIQA has made four recommendations to Túsla including the completion of an audit to ensure there are no children at risk of harm because of outstanding or incomplete assessments due to the movement of families between accommodation centres. I call on the Minister for Health to ensure that adequate mental health services are available for this particularly at-risk population and I also call on Government to ensure that this system of Direct Provision is soon a thing of the past” concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.


Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed the result of the marriage referendum and has called for these same rights for gay people to be extended to the North.

Mr McKay was one of the sponsors of a recent debate in the Assembly on the issue.

He said

"This result was truly seismic and represents the lifting of discrimination against the gay community in the rest of the island of Ireland.

"The North now sticks out like a sore thumb as the only part of these islands, indeed the only part of far Western Europe that does not permit marriage equality. That does not present a welcoming image to gay people at home or abroad. I do not see the sense in not giving gay couples the freedom to marry in Ballymena or Ballycastle in their own communities and with their own families when they have the right to do so in Dundalk and Donegal.

"Regardless of referendums however gay people should have the same rights as anybody else.

"I am the only local North Antrim MLA to support marriage equality but I do think that the result at the weekend shows that public opinion in Ireland, north and south, is ahead of where many politicians are at.

"We should always remember the unseen devastation that has been caused by prejudice against the gay community. The sense of isolation, self-harm, the suicide rate amongst many young gay people is something that must be tackled once and for all. The result at the weekend will help that. The continuing blocking of the rights of gay people at Stormont will not.

"Sinn Féin will continue to work towards equality for members of the LGBT community. I am delighted with the result of the referendum. I will be even more delighted when I see the same rights being extended to gay men and women here in North Antrim and the North as a whole."


This week we are facing into a building crisis in the political institutions in the North. 

The immediate difficulties we are facing into have been triggered by the DUP’s decision to bring forward a welfare bill to the Assembly, which does not implement the protections agreed at Stormont House for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities, the long-term sick and large families.

It appears that the DUP is responding to pressure and demands from the Tories in London. In my view that is a major tactical error.

However, the crisis we are facing is not of the making of the parties in the Executive.

The crisis has been created by the austerity cuts agenda of a Tory administration in London, which is attempting to decimate our public services and punish the most vulnerable people in society.

Sinn Féin stood in the recent elections against Tory austerity and for social justice and equality. Our approach was mandated by over 176,000 voters, almost 25 per cent of the popular vote

In contrast the Tories received only 9,000 votes in the north, just over one per cent of the vote. This is a party, which doesn’t have a single Assembly or local council seat. They have no democratic mandate for their austerity policies in the north of Ireland.

Yet they have already taken £1.5 billion from the Executive's block grant. And Cameron’s cabinet of Tory millionaires have announced plans for further eye-watering cuts of £25 billion to our public services and to welfare protections for people with disabilities, the long-term sick and large families.

These new cuts are set to begin almost immediately and they will devastate our core public services.

In meetings last week I challenged the British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers on two occasions for a breakdown on how the proposed £12bn cut to welfare and £13bn cut to public services would impact on the people of the North.

She refused point blank to tell me despite indications the Tories are even prepared to tax Executive top-up payments for the most vulnerable.

That is unacceptable to Sinn Féin.

We made it very clear in our election manifesto that the Executive needs a viable budget for frontline public services and welfare protections for the most vulnerable.

Sinn Féin will not support a welfare bill, which does not contain those protections and we will not be part of any agenda, which punishes the poor and dismantles public services.

In my view the measure of any society is how it treats those most in need and those most vulnerable.

In the face of such devastating Tory cuts our public services, our welfare system, our departments and the Executive itself is not sustainable.

None of the Executive parties stood on a platform of implementing these Tory cuts and Sinn Féin will not abandon children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities, families with children and the long-term sick.

Sinn Féin has moved a Petition of Concern to stop the passage of the Welfare Bill this week. The SDLP has now supported our position.

I urge the DUP to withdraw the bill and re-engage in the negotiations to achieve the implementation of the welfare protections agreed at Stormont House.

It has always been my view that the outstanding issues in the welfare bill can be resolved, but this requires political will, particularly on the part of the unionist parties to protect the most vulnerable.

But make no mistake about it the biggest threat to our political institutions remains the ongoing Tory austerity agenda of cuts to our public services and the welfare state.

This is a time when the Executive parties need to stand together to defend our public services particularly in health, education and welfare. We need to stand up for the people who elect us, rather than acting in the interests of a Tory elite.

We need an immediate negotiation with the British government for a budget, which protects our public services and for fiscal powers that give us control over our economy.

We are not alone in this battle against austerity. The Scottish Executive has already requested a tripartite meeting of the representatives of the Scottish, Welsh and local Assemblies.

We should be taking this offer up and developing a common position within the Executive and with the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies in opposition to Tory austerity.


Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams has extended sympathy to the family and friends of a Bill O'Herlihy after the death of the veteran sports broadcaster.

Gerry Adams said:

“I was saddened to hear of the death of Bill O'Herlihy.

“In a 49 year broadcasting career, Bill became a very familiar figure on TV screens in homes across Ireland, from presenting major sporting events including the Olympic Games and the soccer World Cup. 

“He was a huge figure in the Irish sports and broadcasting worlds and is associated with some of the major sporting moments for this country.

“He will be sadly missed by many people.

“I wish to extend my sympathy to Bill's wife and children, as well as his wider family and friends at this sad time.” 


Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist for the World Bank and probably the world's best-known economist, has echoed Sinn Féin's view that the current recovery is not a fair one as inequality is rising and that there danger signs of new bubbles being created. 

Deputy Doherty said the government should be listening to Professor Stiglitz saying:

“As today's Irish Times makes clear, the Nobel prize winner agrees that austerity was both unnecessary and damaging economically, including to the Irish economy. Joseph Stiglitz is a renowned economist and voice we should listen to. 

“He makes the same points we in Sinn Féin have been making. Austerity damaged the economy. It deepened unfairness and inequality in Ireland which means that the recovery is passing most people by. And current policies are storing up future problems, such as the house price bubble without building new homes. 

“The government need to listen to the likes of Professor Stiglitz instead of pandering to demands from people who contributed to the crash and now want a return to the unsustainable Mc Creevy model. Following their poor showing in Carlow/Kilkenny Fine Gael and Labour need to reassess their irresponsible plans for Budget 2016 and instead start taking seriously commentators and economists who are not content to fall into the lazy narrative of this government.”


Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has called for bank holidays to be harmonised across the island of Ireland. 

Mr McElduff said; 

"As Irish republicans we believe there is too much duplication across the two states on the island of Ireland. Unfortunately this even extends to bank and public holidays. 

"This Monday is a bank holiday in the north but not in the 26 Counties. Next week there is a bank holiday in the 26 Counties but not in the north.

"This creates difficulties for many people across the island, particularly those in business in border areas with the closure of services on either side for two successive weeks. 

"As we move closer to the creation of an all-Ireland economy, such barriers should be removed to support businesses across the island. 

"Having the same bank holidays on the same date throughout Ireland would also benefit tourism providers North and South. 

"That is why bank holidays should be harmonised right across the island, for the benefit of business, tourism and everyone across the island."


Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has commended the strides made yesterday for equality, but has highlighted the many other aspects of Irish life where inequality still exists.

Speaking today Mary Lou McDonald said,

"Yesterday the people spoke in favour of equality. It was another marker on the road to building an equal and inclusive republic.

“The campaign was supported by many working class and rural communities that have suffered and continue to suffer economic inequality and inequality in access to public services.  The social and economic rights of these communities need to recognised, respected and enacted

“Two key elements driving forward the campaign were young people and the diaspora. Yet this government has ignored recommendations to lower the voting age to 16 or to extend voting rights to the diaspora and Irish Citizens living in the north.

“Yesterday demonstrated the power of the people, the power of democracy. Sinn Féin will continue to press for extending democratic rights to our young people, to our emigrants and to our citizens in the north.

“In extending rights to everyone in the Irish nation, I am sure that we will have many more good days like yesterday.”


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD has commented on the failure of the Presidential Age Referendum, highlighting the fact that though Sinn Féin had supported the referendum, there were constitutional issues of greater significance which the Government have failed to address.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“Sinn Féin is a republican party. Equality and democracy is central to the republican vision. We supported this referendum, believing that if someone is capable of being nominated to run for President, then it should be up to the people to decide to change this arbitrarily chosen age.

“However, the people have spoken and a majority are not ready yet for constitutional change. We have to respect that.

“It must be noted that this was a referendum brought about by a government that failed to deal with bigger constitutional issues. These include the extension of voting rights to the Diaspora and Irish Citizens in the north.

“The Government has also reneged on its commitment to hold a referendum on extending the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds by the end of 2015.

“The Presidential Age Referendum though worthy in itself, was essentially a tick boxing exercise by the government. Extending voting rights to the young, the diaspora or Irish citizens would have had a greater impact on our democracy.”

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