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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has challenged People before Profit candidate Gerry Carroll on his support for leaving the EU.

The West Belfast MP said:

 “Gerry Carroll and People Before Profit are attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of people in West Belfast.

“People before Profit actively supported leaving the EU and Gerry Carroll was triumphant in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result, despite the devastating consequences that will bring for working class communities and also the very real prospect of a hard border with checkpoints.

“In the Assembly Gerry Carroll and People before Profit refused to support a motion calling for special designated status for the North within the EU.

“People before Profit also refused to back designated status for the North when Sinn Féin raised it in the Dáil. 

“Like the DUP and the Tories they have ignored the wishes of the people of the North who voted to remain in the European Union. 

“Gerry Carroll knows his support for leaving the European Union flies in the face of the overwhelming 74% remain vote in west Belfast. 

“He must think people have short memories over his party’s stance.

“Gerry Carroll needs to let the people of West Belfast know the answer to this question. 

"If the EU referendum was held again tomorrow, would Gerry Carroll vote to remain?”

"If the EU referendum was held again tomorrow, would Gerry Carroll vote to remain?”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said Tory cuts and austerity are seriously damaging the education system and public services. 

The West Belfast MP said: 

"Cuts by the Tories since 2010 have seriously undermined and damaged our frontline public services. 

"Next week I will meet with a group of principals from west Belfast to discuss the impact of Tory cuts on our education service. 

"Tory attacks on education budgets are an attack on the future. 

"I look forward to engaging with these principals about our continuing opposition to the Tory cuts agenda. 

"Sinn Féin stands firmly against Tory cuts and supports the protection of frontline public services." 

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has expressed deep concern at the escalating violence in Colombia which is threatening the fledgling peace deal.

Deputy Crowe's comments come after the assassination of two members of the FARC and six relatives of FARC members in Colombia this month.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Since 16 April, two members of the FARC have been assassinated and six relatives of FARC members, including a 14 year old girl, have been murdered by right wing paramilitary groups. Some of these relatives had been kidnapped and tortured by these armed groups before being killed.

“These killings represent a grave threat to the recent ceasefire and the implementation of the peace agreements. They also indicate the urgent need to implement the promised protection measures agreed in the final peace accord. In particular, the specialised unit to dismantle criminal organisations including paramilitary successor groups who are responsible for the ongoing attacks against human rights defenders, social leaders, and those involved in the implementation of the peace agreements.

“People around the world, and especially in Colombia, warmly welcomed the historic peace agreement between the Colombia Government and the FARC rebel group. The agreement has the potential to end the over 50 year conflict and it gives Colombians a once in a lifetime chance to live in peace after decades of conflict and war.

“However, that accord won’t live up to any of its potential unless human rights defenders, social leaders, and those involved in its implementation are fully protected. 

“Any fledgling peace deal cannot grow in a poisonous climate of fear and repression, and these latest killings are clearly threatening the peace process. This minority in Colombian society that do not want peace, equality and justice need to be confronted and stopped.

“I am calling on the Colombian Government to urgently bring to an end the continued brutal and violent actions of these right wing paramilitary groups and to fully implement all aspects of the internationally recognised peace agreement.”

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Speaking today, Mary Lou McDonald TD said: 

“I welcome the conviction of Jonathan Dowdall in court today. The details of the attack perpetrated by him are deeply shocking. I hope the sentence delivered by the court reflects the seriousness of the offence and the trauma endured by his victim. 

“Jonathan Dowdall left Sinn Féin some years ago. He subsequently worked with, and supported, a political opponent of Sinn Féin in the Dublin Central constituency.” 

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Sinn Féin's Oliver McMullan has condemned at arson attack on a house in Larne. 

The East Antrim Westminster election candidate said: 

"This latest petrol bomb attack on a house in Larne was wrong and I condemn it. 

"A mother and son were in the house at the time but thankfully were not seriously injured. 

"This is the latest of a series of attacks in the town and unless they stop we could be looking at a fatality. 

"There are clearly loyalist criminal gangs involved in this and the PSNI need to take action against those responsible, including investigating the assets of those directing these attacks."

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD published a Sinn Féin motion calling on the Government to honour its commitments in the Programme for a Partnership Government to fund and implement the National Maternity Strategy.

Deputy O’Reilly said that “it was imperative that ensure to the new National Maternity Hospital is built on the St. Vincent’s Hospital campus as quickly as possible, remains entirely within public ownership, and has legally guaranteed independence from all non-medical influence in its clinical operations within the laws of the State”.

The Dublin Fingal TD continued:

“Ireland has the lowest number of consultant obstetricians per 100,000 women in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and a consultant obstetrician in Ireland is responsible for 597 births per annum, compared to 268 in Scotland. This is a startling contrast that highlights the challenge that our health professionals must overcome every day.

“Two key approaches are needed before we can move forward. Firstly, we must ensure the swift approval, dissemination and implementation of the National Maternity Standards for Safer Better Maternity Services. Secondly, we must work with nursing and medical unions in the recruitment and retention of medical staff, so that all maternity hospitals meet the ‘Birthrate Plus’ standard for midwifery staffing, as well as international standards for consultant obstetricians and gynaecologists.

“The shortcomings in maternity services have directly led to heartrending incidents involving mothers and children, including the tragic deaths of some. As legislators, we cannot abide this to continue when it is in our power to act. We must have the National Maternity Strategy and a National Maternity Hospital that is fit for purpose and free to act in the best interests of women’s health.” 

Note: Please see attached the Sinn Féin motion in question

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and South Antrim MLA Declan Kearney has extended May Day solidarity greetings to Irish workers and the labour movement across the island on behalf of Sinn Féin. 

“Across Ireland the Labour movement will mobilise for May Day rallies this weekend. 

“The May Day tradition originated in Chicago in the 19th century to commemorate the Haymarket Affair where activists campaigning for workers’ rights were attacked and four workers activists were executed. The date was subsequently adopted as International Workers’ Day by the international labour movement and remains a pivotal date in the calendar for all progressives and democrats. 

“It is a time when workers across the world celebrate the struggle for rights and the sacrifice of those who campaigned and battled to achieve economic equality and social justice. 

“May Day is also an occasion which highlights the economic and social challenges facing working people in Ireland and globally. 

“Today, more than ever, there is a need for a strong organised labour movement in Ireland. 

“Irish workers face many challenges; the prospect of Brexit threatens to strip away many of the rights that workers have won within the EU; we face the prospect of an emboldened Tory government in Westminster intent on attacking the most vulnerable in our society; and we continue to resist the attacks on public services from the most right-wing government ever in Leinster House. 

“The Irish labour movement has a strong tradition in resisting these attacks and defending workers’ rights. 

“It has an essential role to play alongside progressive political parties and sectors of civic society in campaigning for economic democracy, sustainable public services, citizens rights and an Ireland of equals. 

“On behalf of Sinn Féin I extend solidarity greetings to all workers on this May Day weekend and pledge our support for a strong labour movement in Ireland.” 

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Speaking today, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, commenting on tomorrow’s special EU summit on Brexit, said:

“Tomorrow’s special meeting of the European Council will agree guidelines for Brexit negotiations. The first draft of these guidelines fell short of what is required from Ireland’s perspective, including the North where the people voted to remain with the EU in last June’s referendum.

“The Government appears to be trying to get those guidelines, which will set out the overall EU positions and principles, amended. I welcome that, although I fear it might be too little, too late.

“The Taoiseach has failed to set out the Government priorities in a consolidated paper, as he promised in March. He has also failed to publish what amendments, if any, he will seek to the negotiations guidelines.

“Instead, there has been a deluge of spin about what the Government is doing. What it should be doing is seeking a political declaration from the European Council in its negotiation guidelines in relation to securing designated special status for the North within the EU.

“Such a declaration should seek to address the Single Market, Common Travel Area, EU funding streams, rights of Irish citizens in the north of Ireland and protection of rights and maintain access to EU institutions.

“After Britain leaves the Union, we believe that no agreement between the EU and the British government should apply to the north of Ireland without agreement of both governments as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement – an international treaty.

“We believe that transitional agreements should be put in place until Britain’s relationship with the EU can be agreed in order to protect the North’s economy.

“The north of Ireland should continue to have political representation within the European Parliament.

“Special provisions should be sought by the Irish Government in the negotiation guidelines which allow the North to seamlessly resume full membership status within the EU in the aftermath of a successful Irish Unity referendum in the future.

“We have been lobbying the EU27 member states on the merits of these provisions which we believe should be included in any finalised negotiation guidelines.

“The Good Friday Agreement institutions, human rights guarantees, all-Ireland bodies, and the constitutional and legal rights of the people must all be protected.

“The approach, thus far, of the Taoiseach to these negotiations has fallen far short of what is both required and expected.

“The Taoiseach has a seat at the table. He will be in the room when decisions are taken. He has a responsibility to argue strongly for designated special status for the North within in the European Union.” 

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 Sinn Féin spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD today called for a rethink of Ireland’s approach to attracting Foreign Direct Investment to Ireland in order to meet new challenges faced by major changes in the international political and economic environment.

The Limerick City TD said:

“The global environment for Foreign Direct Investment has changed radically and rapidly in the past year. In that time, Britain voted to leave the EU, Donald Trump was elected President of the US and a distinct move away from globalisation has been evident in many political campaigns around the world.

“The United States’ move towards cutting corporation tax to 15% and their move to introduce a one-time tax rate to incentivise companies to repatriate their profits to the US will pose a direct challenge to Ireland’s traditional targeting of US companies for FDI. Currently, 74% of all IDA supported employment here is from US firms.

“With Britain departing the EU, the potential for Britain to rebrand themselves as a low tax low regulation environment aimed at multinationals is quite real. As a result of these moves from Britain and the US, Ireland could find itself squeezed in the middle of a substantial adjustment of the current FDI environment.  

“Ireland must be prepared to meet these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities;

“Brexit means that many multinationals based in Britain will need to establish themselves in another EU member state to maintain access to the single market. To date, Fine Gael has not capitalised on this. Major firms have already chosen to locate elsewhere in Europe, most recently Lloyds Bank to Brussels and AIG to Luxembourg, to name examples.

“The shift in the United States’ tax policy gives Ireland the opportunity to forge stronger FDI relationships with emerging economies. Currently, we are extremely reliant on American FDI, at the expense of other major economies. For example, on the IDA listing of multinationals; only 7 Chinese, 6 Indian and 2 Russian companies are listed, despite these being some of the largest economies in the world. In a similar way to how Irish exporters need to diversify their exports from a reliance on Britain, Ireland needs to diversify our FDI from a reliance on the US and build a portfolio of global companies here.

“Yesterday, Revenue outlined that 10 firms pay nearly 40% of Irish corporation tax; this makes a large portion of our tax intake unsustainable and vulnerable. More investment is needed in Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland to ensure indigenous Irish businesses have the ability to expand, which will result in a greater balance of corporate tax take.

“The Government need to rethink their traditional approach to FDI investment, diversify the nationalities of multinationals here, and ensure that our corporate tax take is sustainable.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the European Union has a key role to play in assisting the transformation to Irish unity. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"There is growing support for Irish unity across Ireland and the prospect of Brexit and a hard border has led many more people to realise that unity makes sense. 

"I welcome the fact that Irish unity is now being discussed like never before both at home in Ireland and across Europe. 

"Reports that the issue of the north automatically joining the EU in the event of a successful unity referendum will be raised at tomorrow's European Council meeting are welcome. 

"We want to see the entire island of Ireland within the EU and it is clear many others now share that view. 

"Sinn Féin has also put forward a case for the north to secure designated special status within the EU in the event of Brexit.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the Taoiseach and the Irish government to make this case at the European Council meeting.”

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Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said the fight to protect emergency services at Daisy Hill Hospital must continue.

Speaking after a public meeting the Newry/Armagh MP said:

"At today's meeting myself, Cathal Boylan and Megan Fearon all pointed out the inequality between Daisy Hill and Craigavon.

"Newry is on the main Dublin to Belfast corridor and is very much dependent on the emergency services provided by Daisy Hill.

"Daisy Hill also provides for people living along the border corridor and as such the loss of the emergency services will be detrimental.

“On the back of today's meeting the Trust has announced a regional summit on options to sustain the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill Hospital.

"While I welcome this initiative I hope it has a positive outcome.

"We need to keep the momentum going and continue the fight to protect the services Daisy Hill Hospital."

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Sinn Féin's Elisha McCallion has said the upcoming Westminster election is an opportunity to vote against the Tory Brexit agenda and austerity. 

The Foyle candidate said: 

"In the last Assembly election the people came out and voted for equality, integrity and respect and that vote made a difference. 

"Now as we face into a Westminster election where the Tories and the DUP want to drag us out of the EU against our will, the vote of the people can make a difference once again. 

"Brexit will be a disaster for the economy, for local business, for farmers and the wider agri-food industry, for the health service, for workers’ rights and border communities. 

"Staying in the EU is vital to our future prosperity but it must be a changed EU.   

"There can be no EU frontier across Ireland. Trade tariffs and border controls are unacceptable. 

"Sinn Féin is the only party to put forward a credible alternative to Brexit with our case for designated special status for the north within the EU.

"That case will not be won at Westminster but across Ireland and throughout Europe. 

"What Sinn Féin wins in this election is a win for everyone who wants a new progressive politics which is modern and inclusive." 

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The Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has welcomed a vote in the European Parliament on Thursday which calls for further supports for the family-farm structure in the European Union’s agricultural policies.  

Speaking after the vote on the Report ‘State of Play of Farmland Concentration in the EU: How to facilitate the access to land for farmers’, in Brussels Carthy said:

“Small and medium scale family farms play an active role in the economic fabric of rural areas, by conserving the cultural heritage, maintaining rural life, sustaining social life and making use of natural resources. This is in addition to producing high-quality food. Ensuring a broad distribution of land ownership is crucial maintains all of these factors, which have characterised rural Ireland for centuries. Nowhere is the Family Farm model so essential than within rural Ireland.

“That said, there are worrying trends across Europe at the moment with the overall figures showing 3% of farms controlling 50% of the land. High concentration of ownership is one of the main factors contributing to inequalities we see in CAP payments.

“The Report voted through this week taking stock of farmland concentration offers practical solutions to some problems, as well as cementing the small farm structure as the best way of ensuring responsible relationship with the land and sustainable land management.

“In Ireland over the last few months we have seen many farmers targeted by vulture funds, whose only interest is securing assets at the expense of livelihoods, jobs and entire ways of life. The report today calls on national governments to take measures that avoid speculative land transactions as well as recognising the need to curb the rise in farmland prices and rents. This is an area where our own Government is completely failing.

“In the West of Ireland, massive land grabs have taken place over the last year that see the likes of multinational pension companies buying up large swaths of land to plant forestry. This land may never make their way back into the hands of the local communities, yet the Government has done absolutely nothing about it. It has failed to close loopholes in existing legislation that actually encourage these actions at the expense of local farmers.

“I would urge the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and his colleague Phil Hogan to read what has been adopted in the European Parliament and to come forward with practical solutions at national and EU level that safeguard our rural areas.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has reacted to a new report showing that the types of schemes revealed in the Panama Papers cost the budgets of EU member states up to 237 billion euro per year. The report, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Panama Papers inquiry committee, was presented at a hearing of the committee today in Brussels.

Carthy said: “These findings show the high cost to governments across the EU of permitting these schemes that funnel money offshore. The schemes directly and very significantly reduce the amount of funds available to state authorities for spending on public services.

“The report estimates that the schemes revealed in the Panama Papers cost the budgets of EU member states somewhere between 109 billion euro and 237 billion every year.

“This is money that should be received by governments as revenue and then made available to fund vital public services like hospitals and schools.

“The report looks at just one example of what these funds could be used for if it wasn’t diverted to offshore tax havens – employment. The billions funnelled out of EU member states and into tax havens could be used to support an additional 3.5 million jobs, at a time when we still have 20 million people out of work across the EU.”

Carthy questioned the report’s author’s on whether there could ever be any legitimate reason for the use of shell companies, arguing that even those shell companies created for ‘legal purposes’ were used solely for tax avoidance by individuals, groups and corporations.

“Shell companies are at the heart of the offshore scam. These findings show that we need to take transparency seriously and we need to act urgently to stop money that should be spent on healthcare and education from being diverted into tax havens. We need to put in place public registers of the beneficial owners, or true owners, of companies in each state and ensure that corporations publicly report their earnings and tax paid in each country,” he said.

Today’s hearing followed a two-conference organised by Carthy together with fellow MEPs in the European United Left (GUE/NGL) group in Brussels to mark the one-year anniversary of the publication of the Panama Papers. The conference featured international tax justice activists including Professor Richard Murphy from City University London, representatives from Oxfam and the Tax Justice Network, and political representatives from Ecuador and Bolivia. ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said today that the coroner’s findings at the inquest into the killing of Bernard Watt that British soldiers were not justified in their use of lethal force underlines the need for the money to be released to the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests.

Bernard Watt died after being shot by the British Army in Ardoyne, Belfast, in February 1971.

The Coroner also ruled that Bernard Watt was not holding a bomb when he was shot by British soldiers and that he was not in the IRA.

The North Belfast MLA said:

“I welcome today’s findings.

“Barney Watt’s family have waited for over 45 years for truth and acknowledgement of innocence. Hopefully today’s ruling will bring the family closer to finding the answers they are seeking into the killing of their loved one.

“Today’s case also underlines the need for the money that has been set aside as part of the Fresh Start Agreement to be released to the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests.

“All families should be entitled to truth, acknowledgement and justice.” 

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Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O'Neill said the DUP and the British government should use the break in talks to develop positions, which deliver on outstanding commitments and to allow the speedy restoration of the Executive.

Michelle O'Neill said:

"The calling British general election was a self-serving decision by the Tory party and has effectively sabotaged any prospect of agreement in these talks. 

"But the reality is that the DUP and the British government had not moved to address the issues that led to the current crisis and the collapse of the political institutions. 

"These issues of rights, equality and respect need to be resolved if the Executive is to be reformed.

"I welcome the dialogue that Arlene Foster has opened with the Irish language community and I hope that this leads to a change of approach on this and the other issues.

 "The DUP and the British government can and should utilise the time now available to develop positions which deliver on outstanding commitments and would allow the speedy restoration of the Executive after the election in June.

"Sinn Féin remains committed to the restoration of the institutions but it can only be on the basis of equality, respect and integrity." 

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Sinn Féin's South Antrim MLA & National Chairperson represented the Party at the Workers'' Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony at Stormont earlier today.

Speaking afterwards Mr Kearney said:

"International Workers' Memorial Day highlights the importance of building trade union organisation and campaigning for stricter enforcement of health and safety laws with higher penalties.

"This year's theme emphasised good health and safety for all workers regardless of their background.

"I was pleased to join local trade unionists at this morning's dignified NIC-ICTU organised wreath laying ceremony in the grounds of Stormont at the memorial tree dedicated to David Layland of the GMB Union.

"Today's event is especially important at a time when workers rights and conditions are further threatened in the context of the Tory Brexit agenda.

"I also want to warmly congratulate West Belfast Sinn Féin member and trade unionist Pat Neeson who received an ICTU/HSE Health and Safety Representative Excellence Award afterwards at an event in the Stormont Hotel." 

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Sinn Féin deputy Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has issued his support for staff in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services who have balloted for strike due to management decision to cease employer contributions to a staff defined benefit pension scheme. He described the decision to engage in industrial action as a regrettable but unavoidable move due to the cavalier actions of management in ceasing payments.

Deputy Buckley said:

“Strike action in a health service setting is a difficult decision to make and I am sure that the nurses who made this decision did so with the interests of those they care for at the forefront of their minds. These staff members are professional and trained to a very high standard. They deserve respect from their employer and proper terms and conditions which ensure their pension is in place for their future.

“No one can be expected to do their job to the best of their ability when they are worried for their future and their employer is undermining that by reneging on agreements made.

“St Patrick’s Mental Health Services staff defined benefit pension scheme members were told in March their employer would be stopping contributions and would transfer its funds to a defined contribution scheme. This came after neither discussion nor consultation with workers or their unions. Employers cannot be allowed to act in this way.

“Sinn Féin earlier this year published the Pensions (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2017 which would have protected against this move by employers. The Bill would have provided for an appeals mechanism where a pension scheme is being wound up by the trustees of that scheme. Unfortunately, despite the Bill passing a vote in the Dáil, the Government, who opposed the measure, have not allowed it to progress further.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Mental Health Mary Lou McDonald has expressed her support for the launch of the Green Ribbon campaign by SeeChange this evening and encourages everybody to end the stigma around mental health by wearing the Green Ribbon.

Deputy McDonald said;

“I welcome the launch this evening by SeeChange of their annual Green Ribbon campaign.  I will be showing my support for this worthy campaign by wearing the Green Ribbon. I encourage as many people as possible to take this small step to help end the stigma around mental and wear the Green Ribbon during May.  Daily life brings so many stresses and strains that all go to affect the mental health of people.  This campaign encourages us to look out for each other, talk to each other whether it’s a family member or a friend because a problem shared is a problem halved.  

“We need to take care of our mental health.  We need to end the stigma around mental health.  The Green Ribbon campaign will help start conversations and raise awareness about mental health.  Wear a Green Ribbon this May.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan and South Donegal and Agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny today said he regretted that the chairman of the Western Development Commission, Paddy McGuinness had been driven to ask Minister Michael Ring not to reappoint him, such was his frustration at government inaction on rural decline.

Deputy Kenny said:

“There is a lot of lip service paid to addressing rural decline, but precious little action. The litany of damage done with the closure of post offices, garda stations, rural schools, cutbacks in transport, and a failure to provide broadband shows us how little this government and the Fianna Fáil-Green government before it cares about rural areas.

“Next week, my Rural Equality Bill will reach second stage in the Dáil. It aims to tackle discrimination against rural areas and enshrine rural-proofing in legislation. I hope that Fianna Fáil TDs, especially those in the North West, will support this bill and begin to act to undo the damage done to rural areas over the past decade.” 

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