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Massive crowd in Dublin for Right2Water rally

Some of the sights and sounds of today's massive Right2Water rally on Dublin's O'Connell Street this afternoon (March 21).  Reports that up to 80,000 people from all across Ireland traveled to attend.

Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has said documents released today by Sinn Féin clearly show the DUP acted in bad faith over the Welfare Reform Bill.



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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the legal profession has a responsibility to challenge states which flout international human rights legislation. 

Speaking at a law student's society ball in Derry, Ms Anderson said; 

"Ordinary citizens look to you as lawyers to fight injustices, defend communities and to shine human rights law on state wrongs. 

"One case close to the legal profession which highlights the need for justice is that of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, who was murdered 26 years ago. 

"Despite the call on 2004 from Canadian independent judge Peter Cory for the British government to honour  its commitment to hold a public inquiry, the family are still waiting for justice. 

"26 years on from Pat Finucane's murder, David Cameron has still refused to order a full, formal public inquiry in the assassination.

"The decades of delay have but one objective; to bury the truth of a state murder trail that led all the way to Margaret Thatcher's door. 

"The case of the Bloody Sunday families and of Pat Finucane stands as a monument to the immoral failure of a British State that flouts international law and which corrupts human rights.

"There is a real need for campaigning human rights lawyers to stand up against injustice and challenge states who flout international human rights law, whether it is Britain's dirty war in Ireland or Israel's human rights abuses against the people of Palestine." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said he is not surprised by the figures provided by Age Sector Platform that 2,390 pensioners have died as a result of conditions related to fuel poverty over the past four years.

 Mr McMullan said,

 “Nearly 600 pensioners are dying needlessly each year due to conditions related to fuel poverty yet the Tory Government refused to extend the Warm Home Discount to the North.

 “This payment of £140 would go a long way to helping pensioners meet the cost of heating their homes during the coldest months of the year.

 “I have no doubt pensioners are choosing between eating or heating which is adding to their health issues causing early deaths.

 “We also need to have the supply of natural gas extended to all areas of the North giving pensioners a cheaper option than oil or electricity provide at the minute.

 “This extension of mains gas should no longer be deferred on the basis that it is not economically valuable to the supplier as everyone should have access to the cheapest fuels available.

 “I am calling on landlords and on social housing providers to embark on a scheme which will make pensioners’ home energy efficient so they spend less on remaining warm during cold periods.”

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has questioned the Health Service Executive (HSE) over changes they introduced which he claims have left many elderly incontinent patients with inferior pads. Crowe claims his views are backed by many service users and he has called on the HSE to immediately address the issue.

The Dublin South West Deputy was responding to a reply he received from the HSE to a Parliamentary Question that he asked on the issue, which suggests that the specifications for incontinent pads is currently under review in advance of any future contracts being awarded.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

"Families of elderly people and children who are incontinent have been in touch with my office regarding changes that have been made to the delivery and type of pads that had been introduced over the last twelve months, which they claim are inferior and have forced them say to double up their usage.”

“These changes are having a negative effect on vulnerable users and their families and this is clearly unacceptable.”

“The HSE’s suggestion in their reply to my parliamentary question that the pads be ‘fluffed up’ might seem reasonable to the authors, but disregards the physical ability of many of these users, some of whom also suffer from additional ailments like severe arthritis.”

“I do welcome that the specifications for incontinent pads is currently under review in advance of any future contracts being awarded.”

“These pads are vital for the dignity of the user and in many ways help people live a normal independent life.”

"For anyone using these pads, confidence and certainty about their quality, and the sustainability of the product is vital.”

"I suppose the most important factor is that they don't leak and can be relied on to last for a reasonable period.”

"Many people personally spoke to me of their hardship of having to ‘double up’ and that ‘accidents’ were constantly happening.”

"I would hate to think that in the race to save money in the HSE, vulnerable people were being used as guinea pigs for inferior products to somehow save some cash.”

“This appalling vista is the belief held by many of the individuals who approached my office and led me to submit a Dáil question on their behalf.”

“Numerous families also believe that the availability of pads have also been reduced in recent years, putting further pressure on their finances and their loved ones who are dependent on the pads.”

“Surely we need to be doing everything in our power to support these families and not cutting back on the quality and the basic essentials that necessary to live some sort of normal life. The fact that the present Government is doing this on the background of slashing the respite grant suggests that they give little thought to some of our most vulnerable citizens”. 

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Speaking ahead of this afternoons’ presentation on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) by EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to Oireachtas member’s, Sinn Féin Jobs Spokesperson Peadar Tóibín has accused the government of pursuing an agreement that will cost dearly in terms of sovereignty, worker’s rights and decent regulation in multiple areas.

The Sinn Féin West Meath TD said:

“Political sovereignty is central to Sinn Féin. We believe that Irish people should determine the future of Ireland. Not bondholders, not bankers, not developers, not London nor Brussels or Berlin and certainly not the proposed Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism attached to the EU/US trade agreement currently under negotiations. 

“This quasi and covert judicial system supplants existing robust domestic, European and international laws that provide the necessary protections for investors. Jobs Minister Richard Bruton has actively sought and openly called for the ISDS mechanism to be attached to the TTIP agreement and this should be a cause of alarm for citizens, policy makers and businesses alike. 

“TTIP is damaging and will cost dearly in terms of sovereignty, worker’s rights and decent regulation in multiple areas. Big question marks remain around the inclusion of public services including public procurement; state owned enterprises and exactly what services are included in the negotiations. 

“It is my firm view that where opportunity exists with regards logical and practical work to make transatlantic trade more accessible and there are clear evidence based benefits to Ireland on such specific areas of trade these opportunities should be pursued. 

“However this is not what TTIP seeks to achieve. It will fundamentally undermine sovereignty, public services, hard won workers’ rights and regulations. At its core this is a deeply dishonest and secretive agreement that has been drafted in the interest of big business alone.” ENDS 

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Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has called on An Taoiseach to personally contact President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt in order to secure the release of Dublin teenager Ibrahim Halawa.

Speaking today ahead of a demonstration organised in Dublin tomorrow afternoon Ms. Boylan said:

“I am calling on An Taoiseach to intervene and secure the immediate and unconditional release of Ibrahim Halawa.

“Ibrahim is facing his fifth mass trial date in Egypt this Sunday and has been imprisoned for over 600 days.

“Ibrahim is the only EU citizen still detained after the protests in Egypt over a year and a half ago and I will be raising this when I meet with Federica Mogherini’s office, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, in April.

“I am calling for all those with an interest in seeing justice done to join Ibrahim’s sisters on their demonstration tomorrow afternoon outside the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

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Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has welcomed EirGrid’s announcement that pylons will not be erected in the north east but has expressed disappointment that there has been no changes to the north-south interconnector plans.

Deputy Colreavy said:

“I welcome the changes in plans for electrical transmission in the south east of Ireland from the use of pylons to updating the existing infrastructure.”

“This is a welcome relief for residents of that region who have expressed serious concerns about the impact that pylons could have on their community.”

“I also welcome the public consultation process that will be embarked on by EirGrid in relation to the Grid West project.”

“It is encouraging to see that underground cabling is being proposed as an option for part of this project.”

“However, it is disappointing to see that there have been no changes made to the North-South Interconnect project.”

“It had previously been stated that the undergrounding option for the North-South Interconnector was not an option due to technical concerns.”

“From the proposals for the Grid West project we now see that this is a possibility.”

“EirGrid must look for an undergrounding option in the case of the North-South Interconnector.” 

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Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the resignation of Sue Conlan the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council from the Government’s Working Group on the Direct Provision process as “a matter of deep concern which brings into focus the failure of the government to end a punitive system for refugees seeking asylum in this state.”

Last month, Gerry Adams visited the Direct Provision Centre at Mosney. It was his second visit in recent months. The visit was part of an all-party Oireachtas delegation.

Teachta Adams said:

“The Direct Provision centre is a punitive, harsh and inhumane system that holds children born in this state in semi-captivity and denies them their status as Irish citizens. The treatment of people held within the system is a blight on the international reputation of this state.”

“In October 2014, the government established a Working Group to examine improvements in the protection and direct provision system under the chair of High Court Judge Bryan McMahon. It is due to hand over its report to the Minister in the next few weeks.”

“Several days ago, the Minister for Justice published the Heads of the International Protection Bill which is intended to radically reform the direct provision system through the creation of a single applications procedure for international protection.”

“The resignation of Sue Conlon of the Irish Refugee Council raises real questions about the impact of the proposed new Bill and the likely content of the McMahon report, and whether these will positively transform the Direct Provision system.”

“According to Ms Conlan, the Working Group was not allowed to have sight of or discuss the new Bill, about which she has expressed reservations.”

“In her letter of resignation, Ms Conlan has also expressed concern that ‘any attempt within the Working Group to propose change which involves legislation, such as putting accommodation and support in a Bill or changing legislation to extend the role of the Ombudsman or Children’s Ombudsman has been resisted by the Department of Justice’.

“These have long been viewed as essential elements in ensuring that the immigration system in this state is properly scrutinised, transparently accountable and in line with international standards. The Direct provision system should also be included within the Freedom of Information rules.

“The Direct Provision system has been in place for 15 years. It was originally intended to accommodate asylum seekers for six months. Today, almost half of the 4,324 people living in the system have been there for five years and many have been there longer than that. There are 1529 children.”

“The system should be scrapped and a new process, based on international best practice, introduced.”

“The resignation of the Irish Refugee Council CEO suggests that this government is intent on repeating the mistakes of Fianna Fáil.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said today the biggest challenge to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement comes from the British government’s plans for further massive cuts to public services and welfare.

The North Belfast MLA was speaking after he and Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy met with representatives of the British and Irish governments and the other Executive parties this morning.

Gerry Kelly said:

“Today’s meeting reviewed the progress to date of the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

“Progress has been made across a range of issues including work to bring forward mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the past.

“Sinn Féin is also continuing to work constructively on schemes to implement welfare protections for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities, the long-term sick and large families.

“The biggest challenge to the Stormont House Agreement however, comes from the British government’s plans to make further massive cuts to public services and to reduce welfare spending by £12bn.

“We have made it clear that the Tory assault on the block grant and the welfare state contributed to the current difficulties in the political process.

“We made it clear to Theresa Villiers that the further massive cuts announced recently by the British Chancellor George Osborne are unacceptable and would undermine the ability of local parties to implement the agreement.”

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Sinn Féin TD and Agriculture Spokesman Martin Ferris has said that the plight of farmers with designated land will not be resolved by GLAS.

 Deputy Ferris said:

 “The minister points to payments under GLAS as compensation for those farmers whose land has been designated for the protection of the hen harrier. This is totally inadequate for those whose entire holdings are sterilised.”

 “Their farms are unviable in the present situation and the €7,000 GLAS payment is a drop in the ocean for farmer who cannot work their land.”

 “There is also significant devaluation of designated lands on the open market. While preservation of species is, of course, important, it is unjust to take away a farmer’s livelihood without adequate compensation because of the misfortune of having their lands designated under this EU directive.” 

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