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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has this evening made a final appeal for a Yes vote in tomorrow's referendum on repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking from Dublin, Ms McDonald said;

“The Eighth Amendment has caused so much suffering and pain for Irish women.

“Thousands of women who face a serious threat to their health in continuing with a pregnancy, women who become pregnant as a result of rape, women who receive a devastating diagnosis of a Fatal Foetal Anomaly are so cruelly failed by this state because of the Eighth Amendment.

“It is time to show real compassion for women. To help women in these crisis situations, to ensure that they can access the care they need in their own country, to allow doctors to do their jobs, we must vote yes.

“This referendum is not about opposing or approving abortion. Irish women in crisis already have abortions. They are simply exiled to Britain and to other places or they take abortion pills, often alone and afraid, without medical supervision.

“I believe that the Irish people have had their fill of all that.

“The Eighth Amendment is a relic of an Ireland past, an Ireland of thirty five years ago. It is the greatest barrier to good, modern, and safe public policy in this area.

“It is time to trust women. We are the people best placed to make decisions about our pregnancies. Women, not constitutional amendments, are the very best defenders of the rights of children.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to correct this wrong against women.

“To ensure that no other Irish woman has their tragic experience referred to by a letter of the alphabet, to ensure that there are no more Savitas, no more unnecessary suffering, to ensure a better future for our daughters, granddaughters, and all Irish women, please vote yes tomorrow.” 

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD today met with the Executive of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) at their Arbour Hill Headquarters. IUNVA are a registered charity which provides advice and support to former Irish soldiers who served in the UN. Ms McDonald visited the museum which is on site and spoke to the members about their experiences abroad and their current work.

Teachta McDonald, who was accompanied by Dublin City Cllr Janice Boylan, said:

“I was delighted to meet with Chairman Jim Casey and the IUNVA Executive at their HQ which is located in the very heart of my constituency to hear about the work being provided and undertaken by their members. 

“We had a wide-ranging engagement, some of which focused on the need for greater support schemes for former soldiers. Their members were involved in long-term peacekeeping missions across the world including Cyprus, India, Angola, and Lebanon during extremely troubled times and I thanked them for their years of service. It’s important that we ensure that our veterans receive the necessary government help and support that they require.” 

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Gerry Adams in his weekly column with the Andersonstown News and on his blog has written this week about Friday's referendum to remove the eighth amendment. www.leargas.blogspot.com

Friday citizens in the south will have an opportunity to remove the eighth amendment. That is citizens will, if they wish to, remove this amendment from the Irish constitution or leave it in. This amendment was originally proposed by Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Charlie Haughey in 1982. The referendum on this was subsequently held under a Fine Gael/Labour coalition government in September 1983.  

The Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in 1982 took the decision to oppose this amendment. This was four years before Sinn Féin ended our abstentionist policy to the Oireachtas. So, the Ard Fheis decided not to campaign against the amendment, though individual party members, especially women activists, did. In the decades since then Sinn Féin has constantly revised party policy on the role and rights of women in Irish society.

35 years after the 1983 referendum the people of the south now have the opportunity to vote again on this issue and to right a wrong done at that time. The question we are being asked to decide on is whether a woman has the right to a public health service that allows her and her doctor to take decisions on her health if she has a crisis pregnancy. Or are women inferior, are they suspect, are they not to be trusted, are they to be criminalised, and should there be a constitutional bar that puts women’s lives at risk?

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Like everyone else I have been on a learning curve on this issue. I grew up in the fifties and sixties and I am from a family of 13. I have 5 sisters. My mother had 13 pregnancies. 10 of us survived. Three little brothers died either directly after they were born or were still-born. It was a household of its time. I was reared in a largely Catholic culture with all the strengths and shortcomings of that experience. Taught by the Christian Brothers I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. So I have a good sense of the matriarchal nature of Irish society, as opposed to the patriarchal nature of the state. The two states on this island are very patriarchal and very conservative.

In those days – if he had a job - the man brought home the wages and the mother usually did all of the rest – managing the household finances, cooking, cleaning, running the household, looking after the children, everything you could conceivably think of. Women were the home managers. The pawn shop was an essential part of this. We were poor. But so was everyone we knew. We were also homeless, living with my father’s mother or in a slum tenement. For much of those years we relied in my Granny’s on an outside toilet. There was a single water tap in the yard. Because of our family’s politics we had a slightly different attitude to the Catholic Church, on account of the hierarchy’s shameful attitude to the national question, and the way uncles of mine had been excommunicated.

As I became an adult I was also influenced by people like Fr. Des Wilson, who was very radical and progressive. My views were also influenced by the discriminatory manner in which women were and still are treated by the state, by the Catholic Church, by sections of the media, in business, and so on. The older I get the more I resent the undemocratic nature of the Catholic Church and its deeply unacceptable attitude to women.

I have come round to a position that it doesn’t really matter what position I, as an individual may have on abortion. This referendum isn’t about whether you are pro-abortion or anti-abortion. What you must be is pro-woman. And you have to set aside whatever position you may have yourself because we need to trust women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families and we need to enable health professionals to do their jobs.

I have listened to the testimony of women who had fatal foetal abnormalities, to the stories of women and their partners who had to go to England for an abortion, and to our own Ard Fheis discussing this issue for almost 30 years.

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I have many women in my life. Colette, our granddaughters. Their mother. My sisters, sisters-in-law, nieces, grand nieces, many women friends and comrades.

Any of them – though I hope it never happens –might find themselves in a crisis pregnancy. The only way to help women who are seeking a termination because they are pregnant as a result of rape, or who have received a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, is to vote YES on Friday.

I also have this abiding notion that if men could get pregnant this would not be an issue.

When I learned about symphysiotomy - when I learned about the Magdalene’s – when I heard about the horror of the Mother-and-Baby-Homes, about the Tuam babies, and how women were shamefully and disgracefully treated, then I have become more and more convinced that this is an issue of equality and an issue of rights. Whatever decision a woman takes that it is for her to take and the doctor and medical staff must be protected.

This is an issue for everyone. It is unthinkable that if the No vote wins that women could be saddled with the status quo for the next 30 years or so.

And what is the status quo? It is legal for a woman to go and have an abortion elsewhere but it’s not legal to have one in the 26 counties. So we have opted out. We export this issue. An English solution for an Irish problem. It means if you have the money, or can find the money, to travel to what is a strange place, generally on your own, then you can have an abortion. That’s not right. If a woman has the right to travel to terminate a crisis pregnancy, she should have the same right in her own place

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I know friends who have carried full term in the knowledge that the child would not live and that’s their right. And I know others who have had terminations because they couldn’t face the trauma. I think in both cases we have to respect the decision of those affected.

It’s also ridiculous and dangerous and illegal for a woman to take pills bought on the internet with no medical supervision. She is risking her health and a fourteen-year prison sentence. Society is forcing her into a very lonely, desperate place. This is not acceptable. I recently heard an interview given by a woman who was in a crisis pregnancy. She lived in a one-bedroom flat with her mother, and didn’t want her mother to know she was pregnant. She took a pill on her way home on the bus and became very ill. No one should be put in that position.

So, on Friday May 25th I am appealing for people to vote YES. I am especially asking men to trust women and to go out and vote YES for their wives, their partners, their sisters, their daughters, their nieces, their granddaughters, their friends.

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The Sinn Fein MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has been appointed shadow rapporteur by the European Parliament to examine the long awaited proposal from the Commission which purports to deal with unfair trading practices in the agricultural sector.

Speaking this week Carthy explained that his priority would be to strengthen the commission proposal so that it will outlaw the practices of retailers and processors which result in farmers being often forced to sell their products at below production-cost prices. 

He said:

“Commissioner Phil Hogan recently acknowledged to me in a European Parliament debate that his proposed legislation could have been stronger but he argued that it was better to start with a weaker position in the hope that it would be strengthened in negotiations with the council and parliament.  This appears to be a bizarre approach to take considering these proposals have been promised for several years and this process may be the only opportunity to protect farmers from oppressive business relationships for a generation.

“The weakness in the commission’s draft can be seen in the muted response from the large retail representatives.  If the proposals genuinely signalled a shift in favour of farmers the retail lobby would be responding in force.  Instead it is clear that they do not yet feel threatened by the proposal.  That leaves a challenge for the European Parliament to amend the legislation to really address the imbalances in the food market.

“While I welcome the introduction of many price observatories in the agriculture sector it must be complimented by mandatory price reporting. We also need to see new generation contracts where risks are shared rather than resting entirely with the farmer.

“One of the most striking absences from the Commission’s proposals is any attempt to tackle below cost of production buying. It now seems to be considered a revolutionary concept to suggest that farmers should receive a price above the cost of production for their goods.

“The proposal also allows a number of unfavourable practices to remain if set out in the contract.  These allow buyers to drive the farmer’s profit margin close to zero or even less.

“My objective during the parliamentary process will be to find agreement to introduce measures that ensure that these terms do not eat up the tiny profit margins farmers can hope to receive.  Because, the truth is that should the legislation remain unchanged we will not see the type of change required and farmers will continue to be the poor relation in their dealings with retailers and processors”.

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill today welcomed the call by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to convene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference and she said we are a crunch time in the negotiations on EU exit.

Michelle O’Neill was speaking after attending a lecture delivered by Jeremy Corbyn at Queen’s University Belfast today.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“I welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s call to convene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. 

“Sinn Féin has been calling for the conference to be convened so that the two governments, working together, can take decisions to resolve the issues and pave the way for the restoration of power-sharing.

“And unlike the British Conservative party, who have slipped in and out of here without speaking to people and engaging with political leaders on Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn came here today to hear first hand about the disastrous implications of Brexit for border communities in particular.

“Sinn Féin wants the Labour Party to move further.

“We are at a crunch time in the negotiations on Brexit.

“The people of the north voted to remain in the European Union and that democratic decision needs to be respected.

“Our economy can’t withstand being outside the Customs Union and the Single Market and we need to see our special circumstances recognised, with no hardening of the border, citizens’ rights respected and the Good Friday Agreement protected in all its parts.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Transport Imelda Munster TD has today criticised Minister for Transport Shane Ross for his failure to address the serious capacity issues on the M50 motorway, and has asked him to come clean on whether he intends to introduce multi-point tolling in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles using the road.

Deputy Munster said:

“At a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Transport Committee, the CEO of Transport Infrastructure Ireland put forward multi-point tolling as a remedy to this issue.

“No other option was proposed. The CEO also stated that this is a political decision for government.

“I am asking Minister Ross to clarify whether he intends to introduce this measure.

“The M50 is at capacity. Motorists are spends hours every day stuck in traffic.

“This is primarily due to poor planning, underinvestment, and lack of joined up thinking from successive governments.

“Is this the Minister’s automatic go-to response? Is he going to penalise motorists, yet again, because he has no plan to reduce vehicles on the M50?

“It is not the fault of motorists that the government has not invested or planned for sustainable transport or adequate infrastructure to deal with the level of traffic on the roads.

“I have written to Minister Ross seeking clarity on this matter, and I intend to raise it with him next week in the Dáil.” 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has today said that “Homeowners living in Celtic tiger properties with latent defects deserve a redress scheme to assist cover the costs of remedial work”.

Deputy Ó Broin has called on the Minister for Housing to “initiative a short public consultation with all stakeholders on how best to proceed”.

The call was made in advance of a Dáil debate on a cross party Oireachtas Housing Committee report which called for the introduction of a series of measures to tackle the legacy of latent defects.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The Oireachtas Housing Committee published the Safe as Houses report in January which recommended that a redress scheme to assist home owners with latent defects should be established.

“The Committee unanimously agreed that homeowners living in Celtic tiger properties with latent defects deserve a redress scheme to assist cover the costs of remedial work.

“Today I am calling on the Minister for Housing to initiative a short public three month consultation with all stakeholders on how best to proceed.

"The consultation should engage with homeowners, their representative organisations, the construction industry sand those with direct experience of similar schemes previously established by Government.

“The creation of such a scheme is complex and a number of issues must be teased out including establishing responsibility, determining eligibility and crucially who pays for the works.

“In Sinn Féin’s view those responsible for the defects should bear the cost. However where companies are no longer trading there must be some process in place, funded in part or wholly by industry to offset the cost to homeowners.”

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Next Tuesday (29th) at 6pm, the Seanad will debate Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan’s ‘Removal of Sub-minimum Rates of Pay Bill 2017’.

The Bill, which is co-signed by Independent Senator Lynn Ruane and Sinn Fein Senator Fintan Warfield, would put an end to the exploitative sub-minimum rates of pay - a loophole through which young workers are exploited by businesses.

Sub-minimum rates of pay are currently being used by some employers as a mechanism through which a worker in their first or second year of employment (typically a young person) can be paid as little as 80% of the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Speaking earlier, Senator Gavan said: 

“The reality is that sub-minimum rates of pay constitute discrimination. They are exploitative of young workers and the Irish State should recognise the principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work. 

“We have workers in their 20’s being paid 80% of the National Minimum Wage simply because it’s their first or second year in employment.

"I don’t see these same workers receiving a 20% reduction in the cost of their rent or living expenses. They are doing the same work; they should get the same pay. 

“This is just another way for businesses to take advantage of cheap labour. 

“Due to their nature, these rates of pay exclusively target younger workers. In the words of Geoffrey Shannon, one of the Governments own Special Rapporteur; these rates of pay 'constitute unjust discrimination'. 

"Shannon has called for the NMW to be paid at a minimum to all workers regardless of age or experience, and that is what Sinn Féin is seeking to do this our piece of legislation.

“Mandate the Trade Union has also submitted a paper to the Low Pay Commission on this issue citing serious levels of exploitation in the workplace by employers.

"This abuse cannot be allowed to continue. 

“The concept of sub-minimum rates of pay is outdated and punitive. These rates of pay have been negotiated and totally removed from all collective agreements in Ireland’s retail sector. "And they have been abolished in Germany, Spain, Korea, Canada and in Belgium. It’s about time we did the same in Ireland.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers' Rights David Cullinane TD has said that the Government must commit to pay equalisation by 2020.

Speaking in the Dáil today, deputy Cullinane said;

"My colleague Jonathan O'Brien cannot be here today unfortunately, but on his behalf I wish to express the view that unequal pay for equal work is unacceptable in any progressive society, be it within the public or private sector.

"The current inequality within our public sector is increasingly unjustifiable in a time of sustained economic growth.

"Sinn Féin opposed the lower pay scales when they were imposed by the Government and have held successive Governments to account on this issue since. Today over 60,000 of our public sectors workers draw less pay than their colleagues for equal work.

"This includes over 20 percent of workers in our education sector, and a quarter of the workforce in our health services. Today, 10,000 of our nurses receive less pay for equal work while fighting on the front line of a creaking and mismanaged health system.

"This reality is no longer tenable and road map to equal pay is clear.

"It is our position that pay equalisation can and should be achieved in its entirety within the period of the current Public Service Stability Agreement, with post-January 2011 entrants attaining equal pay with their colleagues, for equal work, by the close of 2020.

"However, there is a longer journey to travel. The report sought to examine the inequality of pay scales, but failed to consider the abolition of allowances that followed, which contributed to a further pay gap between those who started before 2011 and those who were unfortunate enough to start after.

"This report, while examining one element of the cuts, failed to acknowledge or examine the losses endured by those Section 39 workers who have suffered without any moves to pay restoration.

"While the issue of pay inequality can and should be redressed now, it must be one part of a broader envelope of redress for all workers that have suffered since the age of austerity began."

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said that evidence from community groups, charities and marts about the increase in the price of insurance was shocking and amounts to more evidence of a market failure in insurance in Ireland. 

He has called on the EU Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to extend their investigations into the industry to cover wider questions than just motor insurance. 

Deputy Doherty said: 

“Today, on my initiative, the Finance Committee heard of shocking increases of 200 and 300% for community groups and other non-profit organisations. 

"Jobs have been lost, organisations have been closed down and the country has missed out on international events due to the insurance crisis. 

"I predicted that after the focus was put on motor insurance that other types of insurance would also increase. 

"The same pattern is emerging-massive increase with no justification or justified by pure spin, an absolute lack of transparency and a complete lack of competition.

"This is an insurance crisis and a market failure. The refusal of the State to play a role in the insurance industry has left drivers, community groups and society a whole reliant on an industry that is failing us. 

"The current government working group is not delivering. It is being obstructed by insurers and is not radical enough in its intent in any case. 

"Patience has run out, it is time for concrete urgent government action. 

I am also calling on the EU Commission and the Competition and Consumer protection Commission to extend their investigations into the industry to cover wider questions than just motor insurance.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has welcomed the decision of the High Court to overturn the City Council’s decision to allow a tower block to be built next to residential homes in the Market area despite the land having being zoned for social housing.

 

The South Belfast MLA who was in court with residents and party housing spokesperson Carál Ní Chuilín MLA said:

 

“This is a landmark decision and a victory to those who believe in a shared, inclusive  and prosperous Belfast.

 

“The Market Community are not prepared for their community to be treated as second class by developers.

 

“This  verdict makes clear that it is not good enough for Belfast City Council to grant planning permission for a tower block bigger than the Europa on a site zoned for social housing. 

“It’s important that the Housing Executive and the Department of Communities also take heed of today’s judgement.

“All these bodies must become strong advocates of social housing especially when land has been zoned for that purpose rather than attempting to simply meet the needs of developers.”

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Speaking this week following reports that Minister Heather Humphreys had approved a mandate for the European Commission to enter into Free Trade Negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said:

“The pace and depth at which EU free trade agreements are being negotiated is extremely concerning.

“Just last month, the European Commission concluded a Free Trade deal with Mexico in a record speed of under two years.  The complete lack of transparency during this process means that the fact that a tariff free quota of 10,000tn for Mexican beef was agreed is still unknown to most.

“It’s not just the cumulative effect of this, the recently agreed Canadian deal and the ongoing Mercosur talks that raise concerns, but also the fact that there has been zero debate at national level about the damage these deals could do to workers rights, environmental standards and of course sensitive sectors such as agriculture.

“As one of the negotiators of the European Parliament’s submission to the New Zealand and Australian FTAs, I argued for the exclusion of certain sectors from the mandate.

“Once again of course while we have been told that a mandate has been agreed, the parameters and detail of that mandate remain a secret.

“These are agreements the European Commission’s own impact assessments issue caution over.  Increased market access for primary agriculture will negatively affect the standard of living and traditional lifestyle of small farmers in Ireland and across the EU.

“Adverse impacts on rural employment in both skilled and unskilled agricultural labour are also predicted by these impact assessments.

“It is disappointing that Minister Humphreys has signed up to a mandate at EU level for another potentially dangerous trade deal without initiating a debate on this issue at home. If there are overriding priorities that the Government puts ahead of protecting rural Ireland and the agricultural sector, then it should be upfront about that.

“It is bizarre, and quite frankly unacceptable, that the Minister, as someone from a rural community, would agree to open negotiations on yet two more free trade agreements in a back room before a national study is even conducted on the cumulative effect of these and other free trade deals.  She should explain her reasons for doing so.”

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has branded as “disgusting” the distribution of fake leaflets which mimic Women’s Aid leaflets in colour and ribbon logo by an anti-abortion group.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The Women’s Aid charity does unbelievable work across the state to stop domestic violence against women, and for the anti-abortion group called Protect Women Protect the 8th to circulate leaflets mimicking the Women’s Aid ribbon logo and colouring to push their own anti-abortion agenda is disgusting.

“The claims in the leaflets are designed to confuse those who read them into believing the Eighth Amendment should be retained and makes claims such as women ‘depend on’ the Eighth Amendment to prevent them from being forced into terminations by their partners.

“The leaflets distributed by the group mimicked Women’s Aid colours, purple and white, and included the International Women’s Day ribbon.

“Incidents like this show how those on the No side seek to sow disinformation. They are not interested in addressing the facts because, in a debate on the facts, they lose the argument.

“We on the Yes side will stick to the facts because the evidence and the facts show that the Eighth Amendment must to be repealed.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has welcomed a decision by the High Court to overturn a decision not to prosecute the soldier who shot Derry youth, Daniel Hegarty during Operation Motorman. 

Raymond McCartney said:

"We welcome the High Court's ruling to overturn a previous decision not to prosecute the soldier who shot dead Daniel Hegarty at close range during Operation Motorman in Derry. 

"I would like to commend the Hegarty family who have been campaigning for many years to have the truth told about how Daniel was killed. This ruling is an important step on their road to reaching the truth and justice. 

“All families are entitled to truth and justice and the best way to achieve that is through the legacy structures agreed at Stormont House. They should be established without further delay. 

“The British Secretary of State should immediately release the funding and enable the Lord Chief Justice to proceed with his plan to clear the backlog of legacy inquests.

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Speaking after this morning’s Oireachtas Health Committee meeting, Sinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said she is quite concerned at the evidence given where experts stated that it was their belief that the decision to outsource the testing of cervical smears was a political decision apparently motivated by cost.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The evidence given at this morning’s Health Committee meeting on screening programmes and the outsourcing of cervical smear testing to the US raises serious cause for concern.

“In response to questions I put to representatives from the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association and the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine on the issue of outsourcing, the experts stated their belief that the decision to outsource the testing of cervical smears was a political decision taken by the Fianna Fail government in 2008.

“When I questioned the experts this morning and asked them if the decision to outsource was a clinical one, Gerrard O’Mahony the former Chief Medical Scientist at the Cytology Department of Cork University Hospital said the decision to outsource to the US came line a ‘bolt out of the blue’, as neither he nor anyone in the cytology fraternity at that time had assessed the clinical suitability of the US lab.

“In addition to questioning on the political decision to outsource and the lack of a clinical consideration, Dr Irene Regan, President of the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine, stated that Ireland seems to be the only country that outsources any part of its screening programmes to another country.

“The information provided to the Health Committee today raises many more questions about the issue of outsourcing in general as well as the decision to outsource the testing of smear tests by the Fianna Fail government in 2008 and any role that decision played in the CervicalCheck scandal.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has said that the 2017 Teagasc National Farm Survey confirms that the beef and sheep sectors are on the verge of collapse unless immediate action is taken.

Carthy, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said:

“The headline figure that average farm incomes have risen to €31,300 hides the real crisis that the Teagasc survey exposes.  The rise is principally associated with growth in the volatile dairy sector which indicates average income of €86,000, primarily attributed to larger farm enterprises.

“Worryingly there has been no growth in the beef and sheep sectors with an average farm income of €16,900.  Suckler income averages were as low as €12,680.

“That two of our most vital agricultural sectors are receiving just 54% of the national average income should be setting alarm bells ringing.  That the Teagasc survey finds that only 47% of our farms are economically viable reaffirms that we are in the centre of a farm income crisis.

“This crisis did not just happen overnight; in 2013 sucker farm incomes were €20,019; but the Irish government and European Commission have been ignoring the warning signs for several years.  Their inaction and neglect has led to greater market concentration, depressed prices and vital farming sectors on the verge of collapse. 

“Of course, the imbalances are even starker when viewed on a regional basis. Cattle rearing farm incomes in the Northern and Western regions are €9,881, wholly unsustainable.

“Behind these figures are farm families facing uncertain futures.  Successive Irish governments have paid lip service to the notion of saving our traditional Irish family farm network but have stood over a system that allows 35% of these farms to survive on an income of less than €10,000 per annum.

“Those farms are the backbone of rural economies.  After years of austerity and emigration that have particularly impacted on rural communities local farms are the last industry that remains in many areas.  If they go out of business rural communities suffer.

“We now need to move beyond platitudes from the government and the commission.  We need an immediate response that includes direct supports to suckler farmers.

“An analysis carried out by UCD on behalf of the IFA showed that every €1 of support provided to suckler farmers generated over €4 of economic activity.

“We also require immediate measures to ensure that farmers receive a fair price for their product; that CAP payments are rebalanced to the farmers who need the support most; and that EU trade deals, that will put additional stress on Irish farmers, are abandoned.

“The Teagasc Farm survey shows that vital farm sectors are on the verge of collapse.  It must be responded to with immediate political action”.

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Kathleen Funchion TD called on Minister for Education Richard Bruton to address the issue of July provision for children with disabilities.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Teachta Funchion said:

“The July provision at schools provides children with disabilities with much needed activities including sensory, communication, clinical therapies, and outings during the summer holidays from school.

“At the moment, parents are dependent on the goodwill of teachers and the school to be willing to provide this vital service which provides structured stimulation and therapy in order to ensure the ongoing development of children with disabilities.

“Following the withdrawal of funding by the DES in 2010 for this service, parents funded the programme themselves with a reduced capacity as it was of such importance to them and their children.

“Upon the reintroduction of funding by the DES in 2013, it was announced that it would only be for children with a severe / profound intellectual disability or a diagnosis of Autism.

“How can the Minister justify the exclusion of children who have severe and complex physical needs but no intellectual disability from this provision? These children have equal need of this provision as often their physical needs affects their ability to access education.

“Children with a severe / profound disability cannot access a summer camp in the community due to the nature of their disability and this means that these children face eight weeks of isolation in the absence of universal July provision as they do not have the opportunity to socialise with their peers outside of school.

“The July provision also provided a much needed 4 hours of respite for parents during which they could complete other daily tasks and practicalities that go alongside caring for a child with complex needs.

“This is not how we should be providing education and care for some of the most vulnerable children in our society and the whole provision requires a review of the eligibility criteria, adequate resourcing, and a child and family first approach.” 

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Speaking in Westminster today on ‘A Hundred Years of Women’s Suffrage: Looking back, moving forward’ panel Megan Fearon MLA said women must be involved in the political and economic reconstruction of society. 

The party’s equality spokesperson said:

“The political landscape in Ireland is rapidly changing. Regardless of what happens within the next period, it is crucial in going forward that women are involved in the political and economic reconstruction of society and indeed Ireland.

“As we pay tribute to the many women and men who struggled long and hard to win votes for women, although universal suffrage didn’t truly exist for quite some time as it was 1969 before many in the north of Ireland could vote, it is important to remember people like Kathleen Lynn, Isabella Todd, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and of course the first female MP and proud abstentionist Constance Markievicz.

“They all believed fundamentally in the intrinsic equality of all people. They fought to achieve that. We must continue their fight and we are reminded, just how far we still have to go to realise true freedom and equality for women in Ireland.

“It is time we stood up because it has been estimated that a child born today will be drawing her pension before she is equally represented in most of the world’s parliaments. 

“Because across the world women’s rights and agency are under attack in the most vindictive of ways. 

“Because women still don’t have equal pay. 

“Because women still don’t have equal representation. 

“Because women still don’t have access to appropriate healthcare. 

“Because one in three women will be beaten, sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime. 

“Because people still ask what the victim was wearing.

“On Friday, Ireland has a unique opportunity to begin the process of changing the law on abortion rights by repealing the 8th Amendment.

“Currently women whose life, health or mental health is at risk, facing a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality or have been raped or sexual abused can’t access healthcare they need.

“This campaign has ignited a public discussion about women’s rights and our place in Ireland for first time in years.

“There has been a reawakening across Ireland of the need to advance a rights-based society and we have a real opportunity to change the political landscape by harnessing the untapped potential of many in our society including women.” 

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Nursery provision for children with Special Educational Needs must be protected and delays in the statementing process eradicated, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Karen Mullan MLA has said.

The Foyle MLA was speaking as Sinn Féin made its formal submission to the Education Authority's Consultation on Special Education Nursery Provision which closes tomorrow (Thursday).

Karen Mullan said:

“Sinn Fein welcomes the framework approach being adopted by the EA to the provision of Special Education Needs and believes this approach has the potential to help improve the lives of children with special educational needs. 

“However, in our submission we raised a number of concerns and areas where greater clarity is needed.

“In particular, we would have concerns around any proposal to reduce provision hours and our submission makes the case for full time provision which is 4.5 hours based on the individual child's needs. 

“We would also like to see closer collaboration with the Department of Health so that children born with early identifiable disabilities no longer face delays in statements. Also required are assurances that pre-school children will have their statements completed before nursery provision applications are made.  

“Our submission has also asked for clarity regarding the new Early Years Practitioners and if these posts are additional or replacing any existing role.

“We look forward to seeing all of these points addressed in the next stage of the consultation.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said there is an urgent need for the Minister support the Gardaí in improving their technologies to tackle child abuse online.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“The Garda Inspectorate today in the Oireachtas Committee has outlined its criticism of the manner in which Gardaí handled some child sex abuse cases. This arose from a report which reviewed the implementation of recommendations made in a 2012 report into An Garda Síochána’s approach to child sexual abuse cases.

“The review found that only half the actions the Garda Inspectorate required the Garda to implement to properly protect children had been taken. Given the seriousness and nature of this type of crime, this is a matter of serious concern given the time that has elapsed since the report was produced.

“66 per cent of all sex crimes reported to the Garda involved child victims, and there is no question but that child sexual abuse is one of the most serious types of crime for the Garda Síochána to deal with.

“According to the Inspectorate only half of the recommendations of the report have been implemented, and is disappointing and – in the Inspectorate’s opinion – has had a negative impact on the services currently delivered to victims.

"The inspectorate found victims were being dealt with by untrained Gardaí, Gardaí assigned to specialist child protection units had not received any child protection safety training; convicted offenders were not being properly supervised upon release; and communication failures between the Garda and Tusla.

"Of most particular concern is the fact that technology is available to the Garda to provide real-time intelligence on those accessing child abuse material.  However, this technology is not being activated because of the additional demands it would produce and the difficulty in allocating time to assess it.  Clearly this is an unacceptable state of affairs, and needs to be addressed urgently.

“Minister Flanagan needs to frontload the Garda IT budget to account for this. He also needs to ensure that the staff are allocated to use this equipment and technology. The Protective Services Bureau are a positive step, but I am concerned that they will be too few."

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