Sinn Féin National Chairperson and South Antrim MLA Declan Kearney is attending a GUE/NGL conference in Lisbon today (Saturday 21 October), which will consider unfolding economic and political developments across the European Union. He will deliver a speech on the theme 'The Challenge of Austerity & Brexit: Towards an Ireland and Europe of Equals.'

On the challenge of austerity Declan Kearney said:

“A new phase of political change has arrived; Brexit is a strategic moment.

“We are asking that the significant influence of the left in Europe and wider international community mobilises to assist us in building opposition to both Brexit and austerity.

“In Ireland, the Southern state is pointed to as the ‘poster child’ for austerity.

“The northern state remains gripped in an austerity crisis caused by the British Conservative government’s reduction of that region's public expenditure settlement.

“Sinn Féin has been the main force of opposition against austerity in Ireland.”

Declan Kearney made the case for Designated Special Status for the north within the EU, but he will say that Europe needs to change.

“The Brexit decision highlights again the contradiction and undemocratic nature of Ireland’s partition. The North of Ireland like Scotland, voted to remain in the EU.

“Against this backdrop, Sinn Féin believes an unprecedented opportunity exists to advance the democratic argument for an end to Ireland’s partition and to persuade for Irish unity both domestically and internationally.

“Sinn Féin believes Ireland’s place is in Europe, but that Europe needs to change.

"We look to comrades on the left and progressive civic opinion in Europe to support the strategic objective of getting Designated Special Status for the north of Ireland.

“Just this week Sinn Féin with the support of GUE-NGL launched crucial legal opinion in Brussels confirming that there is no legal impediment to the introduction of Designated Special Status.

“In the post-Brexit context that is the only way to protect the peace process; Irish national interests; economic opportunity; and to defend workers and social, democratic and human rights.”

The Sinn Féin chairperson also told the conference that time is running out for the DUP and the British government to end their denial of rights in the north.

"At this time, the fourth phase of talks since last March aimed at resolving the current political crisis is underway.

“However, time is running out for the DUP and British government to decide whether they are prepared to end their denial of rights and implement previous agreements, as basic requirements of a deal to establish sustainable and credible government in the north.

“If the political institutions cannot be re-established on the basis of equality, rights and respect then the British and Irish governments must bring forward a comprehensive plan which fully implements the Good Friday and subsequent agreements, and ensure the rights of all citizens are upheld." ENDS/CRÍOCH 


The Ulster Unionist Party is now firmly anti-Agreement and should be honest enough to admit it, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd has said.

The Mid-Ulster MLA was speaking after UUP Party Leader Robin Swann told his party conference that they would not support Irish language legislation.

“The UUP have clearly abandoned the Good Friday Agreement in favour of trying to out DUP the DUP,” John O’Dowd commented.

“Such reactionary, pathetic politics does a huge disservice to citizens, including many people from the unionist community, who are genuinely seeking equality and rights which are protected everywhere else on these islands.

“The UUP are now actively standing over the denial of those rights and, in so doing, are attempting to make the prospect of a resolution in the current talks all the more difficult. In their lurch to the right of unionist politics, they have clearly moved away from the principles of the Good Friday Agreement which they claim to support.

“They should drop the pretence and admit they are now an anti-Agreement party.”

John O’Dowd also slammed UUP MLA Doug Beattie after he branded Sinn Féin as ‘scavengers’ for seeking language and LGBT rights.

He commented: “Sinn Féin will make absolutely no apologies for seeking rights and equality. That doesn’t make us scavengers. It is what we have been elected to do, so Doug Beattie should withdraw this offensive remark.”


Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has appealed to the public to give assistance to police with investigations after a women’s body was found in the Ardmore area of Finaghy in Belfast.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:

“I have spoken with residents of Ardmore who were woken by a woman’s screams around 7am.

“There is real shock and distress in the area at the news of this murder.

“I would appeal to anyone who can help bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to book to work closely with the PSNI.” 


A refusal to support Féile an Phobail, shows that some within political unionism are still intent on disrespecting the Irish language and culture, Sinn Féin Belfast City Councillor Ciaran Beattie has said.

Councillor Beattie was speaking following a Council decision to reject a proposal to assist with Féile an Phobail’s 30thanniversary event next summer.

“Féile an Phobail made a request to the Council to fund a proportion of the up-front costs of the 30th anniversary events in August 2018.

“There was no risk to the Council as the up-front costs would be recouped from ticket sales and the Féile Committee had even committed to taking out insurance in case ticket sales did not match expectations.

“Despite these assurances, the proposal was rejected after it was opposed by unionist parties.

“Unfortunately, this once again demonstrates the disrespect for Irish culture, language and identity that we have come to expect from elements within political unionism.

“We are one week away from submitting our bid to be the European Capital of Culture, sadly today’s decision would show that there are still those that want us to be a city of some culture but not all culture."


Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has welcomed Ibrahim Halawa’s release from an Egyptian prison.  Speaking today MEP Boylan said Mr Halawa had been illegally detained for four years and a further one month after being found not guilty of all offences.

She said;

“I am delighted with the news that Ibrahim has been released.

“Ibrahim was illegally detained for more than four years and for a further month after he was cleared of all charges.

“I now look forward to him returning home to his family and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

“It is important that Ibrahim has the proper supports available to him in order to begin the process of rebuilding his life.”



Yesterday in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Agriculture spokesperson, Martin Kenny TD, raised the issue of the 6,000 farmers awaiting their 2016 GLAS payments. He brought it up with Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle TD.

Deputy Kenny said:

“The 6,000 or more farmers waiting for their GLAS money are waiting for their 2016 payments, and we are now nearly at the end of 2017.  I am given to understand that a lot of the reason for this is to do with nutrient management plans which have not yet been submitted or have been delayed in being submitted. 

“We also have coming up very soon the issue of the commonage framework plans, which also are supposed to be submitted or people will not get their money.  As the Minister of State knows, because he lives in a mountainous part of the world in County Wicklow, a lot of farmers on commonage will have to do up this framework plan and submit it.  The plans have to be in by 31 October and yet the portal to submit the plan only opened up on 1 October. 

“We understand there is a bit of a row going on between private planners and Teagasc, as there was in regard to the nutrient management plans, because the private planners have to get access to it through Teagasc.  There are a lot of problems there, the reason for which is poor foresight, because they were not sorted out in the beginning and worked through.”

Minister Doyle responded that there were no delays, but that some applicants had still to submit outstanding documentation including management plans.

Deputy Kenny said that the minister was blaming farmers again to which the minister said that he was also blaming advisors.

Deputy Kenny said:

“There will always be somebody who is a little late.  Everybody does not get every wisp of hay home; that is life but farmers have been waiting for their money for a very lengthy period as the Minister of State will acknowledge. 

“What needs to be acknowledged is that there is a problem in the Department in regard to the IT systems it uses.  I am not blaming the Minister of State, the Minister or anyone else at present but the problem needs to be acknowledged and a solution needs to be found to deal with it.” 


Sinn Féin Limerick City TD Maurice Quinlivan has welcomed the news that 20 additional beds are to be opened in St. John’s Hospital in Limerick in a measure aimed at addressing the overcrowding problems in the Limerick region.

Speaking today, Teachta Quinlivan said;

“Today, I received confirmation, in a response to my Parliamentary Question, that 20 beds will be re-opened in St. John’s Hospital in Limerick in the coming weeks.

“I welcome this move by the HSE, as it will begin to help the chronic overcrowding that University Hospital Limerick is now experiencing on a daily basis.

“12 of the beds are to open on Monday October 30th and the remaining 8 will open as soon as the required staff are hired and in place, which given the severity of the situation in Limerick hospitals, should be as soon as possible.

“I have been constantly advocating for additional beds and staff for Limerick hospitals to help address the crisis, and I am glad some action is now being taken.

“Having 902 patients on trolleys in UHL in September was totally unacceptable. Today Friday, there are currently 48 people lying on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick, the highest anywhere in the state.

“Although this announcement of 20 extra beds in welcome, it is not even enough to match the current overcrowding levels, let alone the meet the demand winter will put on our hospitals.

“Funding must be put in place to progress the building of the 96 bed block for University Hospital Limerick to ensure patient safety and comfort and to meet the demand of our growing population.” 


Sinn Féin TD for Meath West Peadar Tóibín has castigated the government for the utter chaos that exists in the delivery of LEADER funding to communities in Meath. 

Deputy Tóibín said:

“Not only are we dealing with 18 bureaucratic steps for rural enterprise and community organisations to draw down LEADER funds, but we also see Meath’s draw down for 2017 on the floor compared to other counties. 

“LEADER funding is a critical facility to allow community groups and rural enterprises to achieve the necessary funding to proceed with vital projects. These projects create jobs, increase output, and improve lives of people right through rural County Meath. 

“This funding is more critical than ever given the widening economic gap between rural Ireland and Dublin city. The government has serious questions to answer as to why Meath is in the ha’penny place when it comes to this funding. 

“Shockingly, just prior to the recent budget, I found out that Fine Gael had raided LEADER funding to the tune of 10 million euros. Fine Gael is leaving rural Ireland behind and this has to change. 

“We are calling for no more than our fair share of LEADER funding for the county in 2018 and we are demanding that the government reform the process so that rural energies are not swallowed by bureaucracy, but are directed towards developing rural enterprises.”


Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O'Neill MLA met today with the British government's international trade secretary Liam Fox and made it clear to him that the Tory Brexit agenda will have disastrous consequences for Ireland, north and south. 

Speaking after the meeting Michelle O’Neill said:

Michelle O'Neill said: 

"We made it clear to him in no uncertain terms that the Tory Brexit agenda would have disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement and for Ireland, north and south, in terms of citizens rights, trade, our economy and the issue of the border.

"In today's meeting we told Liam Fox it is clear that he and his fellow Brexiteers in the Tory cabinet simply regard the north and its people as collateral damage in the Brexit process. 

"It is clear the Tories are floundering over Brexit as their approach to these negotiations is being rejected by the EU. In fact the only people now supporting the Tories on Brexit appear to the DUP, regardless of the dire consequences for the people of the north.

"We also reminded him of the unique circumstances of the north of Ireland and reiterated that a unique solution is required. Securing special status for the north within the EU is not only a credible alternative to the reckless Brexit agenda of the Tories, but it is achievable. 

"Support is growing for that position across Ireland and across Europe and Sinn Féin will continue to lobby to build further support for special status." 


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Business, Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD has this morning said that sporting fans are continuing to get ripped off by ticket touting due to Fine Gael’s refusal to act on the issue.
Deputy Quinlivan was speaking after Irish fans were left disappointed when tickets for the Ireland-Denmark World Cup playoff match in the Aviva next month, sold out in minutes but were immediately on secondary re-selling sites for multiples of their face value.
Deputy Quinlivan said;

“This morning we again saw Irish consumers getting ripped off due to the lack of regulation in the sale of tickets for sporting and cultural events.

“The upcoming Ireland-Denmark match at the Aviva Stadium is a major match for Ireland’s hopes of reaching the World Cup in Russia next year, and as such, interest is high.

“This interest is again being exploited, resulting in fans getting ripped off, while ticket touts profit from the total absence of regulation.

“Viagogo has tickets on their website priced at €460 per ticket, an enormous mark-up on their face value. It’s a disgrace. Fans that follow the team all year are prevented from going to this crucial match, due to the unregulated disgraceful behaviour of ticket touts.

“I introduced a Bill in March, the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017, which would have stopped this abuse of the entertainment ticketing system in Ireland.

“This piece of legislation would have capped the resale of tickets at 10% above face value, preventing this continued abuse of the market, whilst at the same time ensuring fans can sell on their tickets if they can no longer attend a concert or match.

 “The Bill came before the Dáil in May and Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voted together to kick my Bill down the road for at least 9 months, simply because it was a Sinn Féin Bill.

“I find Deputy Noel Rock’s hypocrisy on the issue bizarre. He voted to delay my Bill and since then he has done absolutely nothing to solve the problem.

"It seems that he is happy to be spokesperson on the issue each time the problem arises, but has no intention of doing anything to solve it.

“This delaying tactic means my Bill will not be move forward until February 2018 at the earliest and, as a result, consumers can expect to continue to get ripped off by ticket touts and unscrupulous secondary selling sites, thanks to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael stalling this legislation."


Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Climate Action Brian Stanley TD has said that the blunt effect of global warming means more extremes in the environment, making destructive weather patterns such as storm Ophelia much more frequent and that dealing with climate change is something that needs a clear strategy by every State and our plan is aspirational in its construct.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Laois TD said:

“In the programme for Government, on the issue of climate action, I quote: ‘We believe that Ireland should be repositioned to give global leadership in this area. It will fall to the new Government and the Oireachtas to agree the first statutory nation low-carbon transition-mitigation plan’. The mitigation plan falls way short. We have international targets that we have to meet by 2020, including a reduction of 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has said that the best case scenario is that we will achieve 4% to 6%. There was an all-day Cabinet session which met to discuss this issue recently. We have seen the events earlier this week throughout the country. We have also seen the effects of global warming. The national mitigation plan falls short. It is an aspirational document. We have highlighted this repeatedly.

“There are no binding sectoral targets. We are facing increased global warming and also fines in the order of €600 million to €700 million per year from the European Union. We need to start putting that money into mitigation and not into fines.”

Speaking later, Teachta Stanley said:

“By the end of this week, we will have been hit by two storms, one of which was unprecedented in 50 years. The Minister’s response was to refer to the National Mitigation Plan, which sets out the State position on climate action measures. This document however is aspirational at best, and silent on specific actions.” 


 Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane today welcomed the EU Council's decision to keep the border and the Good Friday Agreement on the agenda, adding that only a political solution will suffice.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“It is vital to the interests of the people of Ireland that there is no border on the island and that the Good Friday Agreement is protected in all its parts.

“It is clear that the present round of Brexit talks have not delivered on these issues and in that context I welcome the EU Council's decision to continue with round one talks until December. 

“It must be said, however, that a worrying narrative is developing in the South that treats the border issue as simply a trade and customs issue.

“It is not. 

“This is recognised by the EU who put the border into the first round of talks precisely because it cannot be resolved by technical means and an absence of tariffs.

“Designated special status for the North is the only practical solution to the political and economic issues thrown up by Brexit.

“This means that the North stays in the customs union and the single market and that the institutions and cross-border bodies of the Good Friday Agreement remain part of the EU legal framework.” 


“If we get an appropriate mandate, a decision to go into government will be determined by a special Ard Fheis of the party. It will be a collective decision taken by all.”

In his blog this week, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD writes about Sinn Féin’s approach to what may arise following the next General Election.

The article is available here:


The Department of Infrastructure should immediately engage with the Equality and Human Rights commissions over proposed changes to transport regulations which threaten vital transport services, Sinn Féin MLA Sean Lynch has said.

Speaking following a meeting with senior department officials, the Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA commented: “The Department plans to bring forward proposed changes to minibus regulations despite the fact that a consultation is still ongoing.

“And while we appreciate the timeframe has been brought forward to November 1st due to a legal challenge, it presents difficulties for many service users including teachers, health workers, youth workers and community organisations.

“In our meeting, we recommended that the Department engages with the Equality and Human Rights Commissions to seek alternatives as these changes will have an adverse impact on communities and service users, particularly given that the process has now been expedited.

“The focus must be on the services that will be affected by these changes and we will continue to engage closely with the Department to ensure that vital services are safeguarded."


Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has accused Fianna Fáil of turning their backs on older people by denying them access to their State Pension at retirement.

Deputy Brady was speaking after Fianna Fáil opposed a Sinn Féin amendment on restoring the Transitional State Pension. 

Teachta Brady said: 

“Fianna Fáil has raised concerns on numerous occasions at the appalling treatment of 65 year olds who are forced to retire at 65 and are left with no option than to sign onto a Jobseekers payment, unable to access their State Pension.

“Sinn Féin amended the Fianna Fáil Pension Motion to include an acknowledgement of the fact that there are more 65 year olds on Jobseekers payments than any other age category in the State and called on the Government to restore the State Pension Transition until such time as mandatory retirement is abolished.

“This is an issue that Fianna Fáil has raised on the floor of the Dáil yet, when it came to addressing the issue, they chose to turn their backs on these people. 

“The State Pension Transition was abolished by Fine Gael and Labour in 2014. It was paid to people who were contractually obliged to retire at 65 but were unable to access their pension until they reached 66.

“Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget contained proposals to restore the pre-September 2012 pension bands and rates at a cost of €70 million and to restore the State Pension Transition at a cost of €84 million. It was possible for Fianna Fáil to do the same but they chose not to. 

“This is yet another example in a long list of Fianna Fáil saying one thing and doing another. They are masters at it.

“Today, Fianna Fáil has ensured that 65 year olds will not receive their State Pension at retirement, they have enforced the farcical situation of these people being forced onto Jobseekers payments and they have denied these people the pension that they have spent their working lives paying into.”


Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has accused the government of ‘rank hypocrisy’ when it comes to a Labour Court ruling about pension entitlements for CE supervisors.

Speaking today in the Seanad, the Galway West – South Mayo Senator says:

“The public and Government Ministers alike are rightly outraged at the unfair pension regime for certain women due to changes in eligibility criteria in 2012. This minority government have been presiding over another inequality in relation to pension provisions for Community Employment Scheme supervisors.

“In 2008, a Labour Court ruling found that a pension scheme should be introduced for CE supervisors and should be funded by FÁS, but subsequent Ministers including the current Taoiseach have failed to do so.

"The CE functions of FÁS have transferred to the Department of Social Protection and the Ministers in that department have also failed to implement the findings.

“This means that there is huge uncertainty for CE supervisors and assistant supervisors as to where they stand, what pension entitlements they have and this is grossly unfair.

“When questioned by my Sinn Féin party colleagues in 2011, the then Minister Joan Burton said a scheme to address this would cost around €33m. But neither she, Leo Varadkar, Michael Noonan nor Pascal Donoghue have righted this wrong since.

“The government are shirking their responsibilities to these highly valued workers. But they are also sending a worrying message to other employers that Labour Court rulings can be flagrantly ignored. 

“The government has kicked to touch to a ‘forum’ to ‘scope’ the issues. They didn’t need to do that in FÁS when €48m was spent on ‘advertising’ and when giving an outgoing director general there a €1.4m package. 

“The government need to implement the Labour Court recommendation immediately and show these workers the respect they deserve.”

Fimíneacht dochreidte ón Rialtas faoi pinsin do saoistí Scéimeanna Fostaíochta Pobail - An tSeanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh

Tá sé curtha i leith an rialtas go bhfuil ‘fimíneacht dochreidte’ ar siúl acu i dtaobh cinneadh ón gCúirt Oibreachais i 2008 maidir le cearta pinsin do saoistí Scéimeanna Fostaíochta Pobail. 

Ag labhairt dó inniu sa Seanad, deir Seanadóir Ghaillimh Thiar – Maigh Eo Theas: 

“Tá fearg dhá léiriú ag daoine agus Airí Rialtais agus údar acu, maidir le réimeas pinsin éagórach a tugadh isteach i 2012. Ach, tá siad féin freagrach as éagóir eile maidir le cearta pinsin do saoistí ar Scéimeanna Fostaíochta Pobail dá gcuid. 

“I 2008 rialaigh an Chúirt Oibreachais gur cheart scéim pinsean a thabhairt isteach do na Saoistí Fostaíochta Pobail agus gur chóir do FÁS íoc as agus tá teipthe ar Airí éagsúla, an Taoiseach reatha ina measc, an rialú sin a fhíorú.

"Tá cúraimí na Scéimeanna Fostaíochta Pobail aistrithe ó shin chuig an Roinn Coimirce Sóisialaí agus tá teipthe ar Airí éagsúla sa roinn céanna an rialú a chur i bhfeidhm. 

“Ciallaíonn sé seo go bhfuil mí-chinnteacht ollmhór ann do na saoistí agus leas saoistí seo, mar níl fhios acu cá seasann siad, nó cé na cearta pinsin atá acu agus níl sé sin ceart. 

“I 2011, nuair a cheistigh comhghleacaithe de mo chuid as Sinn Féin an tAire ag an am, Joan Burton, deir sí go gcosnódh sé €33m an scéal a chur ina cheart. Ach, níor cheartaigh sí féin, Leo Varadkar, Michael Noonan ná Pascal Donoghue an éagóir seo ó shoin.

“Tá an rialtas ag teip ina gcuid dualgais i leith na h-oibrithe seo a bhfuil ardmheas orthu sna pobail. Ach, níos measa arís b’fhéidir, tá siad ag cur teachtaireacht an-chontúirteach amach d’fhostóirí gur féidir neamhaird iomlán a dhéanamh ar bhreithiúnais de chuid na Cúirte Oibreachais.  

“Tá na caora curtha thar abhann ag an rialtas agus an cheist seo curtha faoi bhráid ‘fóram’ acu chun ‘scópáil’ a dhéanamh air. Ní raibh aon ghá dóibh sin a dhéanamh i FÁS nuair a caitheadh €48m ar ‘fhógraíocht’ agus áit ar tugadh ‘pacáiste scoir’ de luach  €1.4m do Stiúrthóir Ginearálta.

“Caithfidh an rialtas breith na Cúirte Oibreachais a chur i bhfeidhm láithreach agus an t-ómós cuí a thabhairt do na h-oibrithe iontach luachmhar seo”.


Note: Téacs iomlán na díospóireachta – Full text of debate follows

Community Employment Schemes Supervisor

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit, atá ina chuairteoir rialta ar an Teach seo, bail ó Dhia air. Tá mé ag ardú ceist inniu a bhaineann leis na maoirseoirí ar na scéimeanna fostaíochta pobail ar fud na tíre agus lena gcuid cearta pinsin. There is, rightly, a whole debate under way about pension entitlements and changes which were brought in in 2012, but I want to draw the Minister of State's attention to another pension inequality which was brought to Government's attention long before 2012. I am told the Minister of State has been talking about this issue for quite a while, but we have not seen anything done in respect of it. I was contacted by a constituent, on behalf of her mother who is a community employment scheme supervisor and is due to retire, in respect of the Labour Court recommendation, LCR19293, dated 22 July 2008, which determined that "an agreed pension scheme should be introduced for Community Employment Scheme Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors" and that such a scheme "should be adequately funded by FÁS". Following LCR19293, supervisors around the country understood that their pension rights were secured, but this woman, who is due to retire soon, has no pension provision, unlike her public sector peers. This matter has repeatedly been brought to the attention of the Departments of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform but there has been no clarity on the future pension entitlements of these people who have served their communities and the country. We often hear Senators say how wonderful our CE schemes and the people who work in them are, so the issue really must be addressed.

As far back as 17 November 2011, Deputies Ó Caoláin and Pearse Doherty raised this issue with the then Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, who said that the cost of the introduction of any scheme would likely be of the order of €3 million, with retrospective costs in the region of at least €30 million. At that stage, Deputy Burton said there was an issue because we did not have the money in the State coffers to pay for it. Given that we have now an economic recovery and are told that we have emerged from recession and in light of the fact that CE played a supporting role in this regard, is it not appropriate that the issue be reviewed because the excuse to which I refer is no longer applicable?

I am informed that the woman to whom this matter relates did not make alternative pension provision because she always believed that provision - as obtained by other parties recognised under LRC 19293 - would be made through equivalent channels.

Other Deputies also raised this issue in 2011. A point of discussion arising out of that is the basis on which the Department can reject liability for these costs - to be met from public funds - falling on it as a result of the ruling of the Labour Court. The Department assumed responsibility for CE schemes from FÁS following the controversy in respect of the spending of resources by that agency, most notably, €48 million on advertising and, to add insult to injury, a retirement package for the director general - enhanced by €1.4 million - to leave five years early. The source for that information is the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. Using the Minister's own valuations, such expenditure would have adequately funded the spine of FÁS - the CE supervisors - until 2018. Does the Government not have a responsibility to the workers who embodied the true ethos of FÁS during that period?

Our current Taoiseach was Minister for Social Protection in 2016 when this issue was raised with him in the context of a CE scheme. He referred to places relating to that scheme being amalgamated and the issues of redundancy needing to be discussed. He obviously took on board the fact that this was an issue for the Department to at least examine.

I am told that the community sector high-level forum was convened and met on a number of occasions to give consideration to the issues involved. In that context and in light of the number of occasions on which this matter has been raised, will the Minister of State clarify the position? Aside from this working group being given another name, has a chair been appointed? What has the group achieved in the past two years? What were the objectives, targets and outcomes achieved? Do minutes of the meetings of this group exist and can they be made public? What budget was designated for it and why have we not seen any movement on this issue? I know the Minister of State appreciates the CE schemes. It is a bit hypocritical of Ministers - including the line Minister - to talk about the anomaly in the pensions system that has been the subject of discussion in recent days without seeking to address the anomaly to which I refer. I hope that a resolution can be found.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Damien English: I thank Senator Ó Clochartaigh for raising this matter. I apologise that the line Minister cannot be present to deal with it.

The community sector high-level forum was reconvened in 2015 by the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, to examine certain issues pertaining to the community employment sector, having regard to the consequences for costs and precedent. This includes community and employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme dating back to 2008.

In considering the particular matter referred to, regard must be had to the costs and precedent of such an arrangement were one to be created. At the most recent forum meeting in April, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform outlined its intention to conduct a detailed scoping exercise in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues under consideration. This exercise is currently being progressed and will be completed shortly. The next meeting of the high-level forum will take place on 2 November and the results of the scoping exercise will be made available to its members on that date.

It continues to be the position that State organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not possible for it to provide funding for such a scheme. The employees are, or were, employed by private companies, notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, reliant on State funding. In considering the matter, regard must be had to costs and the precedent of such an arrangement were one to be created in view of the fact that the individuals employed in that sector are not employed by the State, even if many of the services they provide are funded by the State and are certainly essential because we can all see the benefits of the great work they do. There is, however, a desire to discuss the matter and arrive at an outcome.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: The Government is engaging in rank hypocrisy in this regard. There is a legal basis to say that when programmes are directed and funded by the State - and the State really controls all the elements relating to the employment of those people - it has a de facto responsibility to recognise that fact. There has been a Labour Court ruling on the matter. Is the Government really saying that it does not need to abide by such rulings? What kind of precedent does that set for all the other people who have taken cases to the Labour Court? It is disgraceful that the Government would provide that type of example. In light of what is being said about other pension issues at present, the Government really needs to look at this scenario because people are retiring. It needs to rectify the situation and tell the group that is convening to make its deliberations far more quickly and resolve these issues for those people who, while we are speaking here, have no idea where they stand as regard their pension entitlements.

Deputy Damien English: It is best to let the forum do its work. It was convened by the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and will meet again in November. A process is in place.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: How long is it going to take?

Deputy Damien English: It is only a few weeks away. It is best to let that continue and see what comes out of it. We can debate the matter further at a later date. Again, I apologise. The Minister was caught up in the Dáil and could not be here to take the debate. The Senator must understand that a process is in place and it is best to let that continue its work for now.


Speaking after the shocking news of the death of a young man in Drogheda today, Louth TD Imelda Munster has called on the government to take decisive action on the homelessness crisis.

Deputy Munster said;

“I was shocked and saddened to hear that a young man lost his life on the streets of Drogheda today. This follows news of another homeless man who lost his life this morning in Dublin.

"It is dreadfully sad news for the family and friends of both men, and those who knew them. Our thoughts are with them at this time.

“The homelessness crisis across the State is continuing to escalate, and the sad fact is that for as long as the government fails to deal with the homelessness and housing crisis, tragic events like this are inevitable."

“There are 4,132 households on the housing list in Co. Louth, many of whom are waiting up to ten years to be housed. There are approximately 38 people accessing Simon services in Dundalk and Homeless Aid services in Drogheda. There are an estimated 15 people sleeping rough in Drogheda.

"There are currently over 53 acres of council-owned land banks in Louth, including in Drogheda, that are lying barren of any housing purely because the government will not fund the roll out of a proper social housing building programme.

“Nobody should have to sleep rough. Everyone should have a home. Those who find themselves in circumstances where they are sleeping outside are vulnerable to illness, malnutrition, violence, drugs and alcohol.

"The nights are getting noticeably colder in the past few days and the real winter hasn’t even set in yet.

“What is the Minister for Housing doing to ensure that nobody else dies on our streets? These deaths are preventable, but it seems that the political will is not there. 

"Minister Murphy needs to ensure that there are sufficient beds for people who are homeless, whether they are families or single people.

"He also needs to ensure that these services can cater to the complex needs of those experiencing homelessness to ensure that people are not driven out onto the streets by inappropriate accommodation.”


Responding to the news that the Spanish government will move to suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy on Saturday, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said;

“Prime Minister Rajoy’s decision is aggressive and will serve only to deepen the crisis. The international community, particularly the European Union, must defend Catalonia’s right to political autonomy.

"It is through inclusive dialogue and inclusive international mediation that a way forward will be found.

“Yesterday, I called on the Taoiseach and the Irish government to take a leading role in this imperative.

“The Spanish government must pull back from this disastrous decision."


Sinn Féin Water spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has accused the Minister for Housing of “interfering with the scheduling of the Oireachtas Committee scrutiny of the Water Bill 2017” and of “trying to railroad the Bill through Committee to meet his own public relations timeline."
Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Today the Dáil referred the Water Services Bill 2017 to the Oireachtas Housing Committee for detailed scrutiny. Before the Bill had even passed Second Stage Minister Murphy, with the assistance of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs, were trying to railroad the Bill through Committee. He is doing this solely to meet his own public relations timeline.

“On publication of this Bill, Minister Murphy announced that he wanted refunds paid by Christmas. As a member of the Committee I have no issue with this so long as it doesn’t undermine our ability to properly scrutinise the other aspects of the Bill.

“On a number of occasions in the past both water and planning legislation was railroaded through the Oireachtas to meet Government timelines despite the Bills including drafting errors and unintended consequences. 

“The Water Service Bill 2017 is a significant Bill that seeks to introduce a charging regime for so called excessive use.

"Important issues such as how so-called excessive use is calculated, how exemptions from the charge will operate, what the charging regime will be and how it will be enforced for households that have no meter are all complex and contentious issues. The Committee must be given sufficient time to scrutinise all of this.

“The Committee agreed to dispense with pre-legislative scrutiny. However, despite the objections of a number of members the deadline for submission and consideration of amendments to the Bill was shortened and additional Committee meetings were added to the schedule for next week despite the fact that they clash with other Oireachtas Commitments of key Committee members.

"In my own case the Committee scheduled for 5.15 on Thursday next clashed with the Oral Questions with the Minister for Housing at 6pm on the same day. The fact that Fianna Fáil are facilitating him in this is both disappointing and unsurprising.“It is yet another example of this minority Government sacrificing substance for spin. Minister Murphy is undermining the ability of an Oireachtas Committee to undertake our important legislative responsibility.”


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Heritage, Peadar Tóibín TD has welcomed a government Bill which will reduce the release time of state records from 30 to 20 years. However, Deputy Tóibín has aired his misgivings over new powers given to the Minister regarding which documents will meet the criteria for early release, as well as the added burden the Bill will have on Departments already struggling to meet the 30 year deadline.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Tóibín said

“I welcome the move to reduce their release from 30 to 20 years. While I have a few misgivings, this is a progressive action which will see the eventual alignment of the release of Irish state papers with those of Britain.

“Currently, the difference between the two countries is problematic, particularly when Anglo-Irish relations are involved. With the earlier release of the British state papers, we are only getting one side of the story. Naturally, Sinn Féin is supportive of a speeded up release of documents from the Irish government to offer a fuller and more balanced account of events.

“Could the Minister elaborate on who deems a record to be ‘relevant’? There seems to be a lot of additional power given to the Minister in this Bill as to determine what is of significant historical or public interest. Can this ever be ascertained in an objective manner? I would fear that political motives could obscure the truth in this regard – that items of huge historical importance could be simply locked away in order to spare blushes or worse.

“I am also hugely concerned that capacity issues could be of a huge hindrance to the effective implementation of the bills objectives. Currently, many Departments are struggling to meet even the 30 year release deadline. Without additional resources, the execution of this Bill will be impossible.

“Remember that under Fine Gael, we saw devastating cuts to the Arts and Heritage Budget. There was no additional provision given to resourcing of the National Archives last year. In this year’s budget, increases in to the National Archives budget was not mentioned in the Ministers’ press statements of measures given increased funding.   

 “We support the passing of legislation to make these archives open, but we entreat the government to provide the necessary funding for people to access them. An archive can only function as an archive if what is stored therein can be accessed easily. If these files can’t be easily obtained due to lack of resources, then this is the worst type of gesture politics.”

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Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, Cllr Mícheál Mac Donncha, Mary Lou McDonald TD, Carol Nolan TD, Maurice Quinlivan TD, Eoin Ó Broin TD

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