Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Dublin said: “Today I brought forward two proposals to the party’s Ard Chomhairle – the first was to move our Ard Fheis from November to June and the second was a motion to go to that Ard Fheis which would amend party policy in line with the recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee.
The party leadership has backed both proposals and also finalised our campaign plan for the referendum. For the next two months the party will campaign passionately for the removal of the 8th amendment from the Constitution and then at our Ard Fheis in June our party members will debate and decide on our policy.”
Ms McDonald said:
“This is a very important referendum and Sinn Féin will campaign passionately for the removal of the 8th amendment. The 8th amendment should never have been put into the constitution. Irish women access abortion services every day in other countries or through abortion pills purchased online without any medical supervision.
“We can no longer stand by and allow women’s lives, health and wellbeing to be damaged. It is time to act. We owe this to every girl and woman in this state, to the victims of rape and incest and the parents who receive a Fatal Foetal diagnosis. But we also owe it to women like Savita Halappanavar to do the right thing. It is time to trust women and to trust doctors and to show compassion to women facing heartbreaking decisions.
“Today I put two proposals to the the Ard Chomhairle. The first was to move the party’s 2018 Ard Fheis from November to June. The second was a motion to go to that Ard Fheis, which would amend party policy in line with the recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee regarding the termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape or other sexual assault.
“The party leadership backed both proposals and also finalised our campaign plan for the referendum. For the next two months, the party will campaign passionately for the removal of the 8th amendment and then at our Ard Fheis in June our party members will debate and decide on our policy.
“I am well aware that within Sinn Féin, just as in wider society, there are mixed views on the issue of abortion. I accept that and I respect that. We need to respect peoples’ views but we also have to protect women and ensure that compassion prevails.”ENDS
Draft motion for June Ard Fheis
This Ard Fheis
Reasserts that abortion should be available where a woman’s life, health or mental health is at risk and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.
Supports the Joint Oireachtas Committee findings that it is not possible to legislate for abortion in the case of rape in a compassionate way.
Recognises that Irish women already access abortion services every day in other countries or through abortion pills purchased online without any medical supervision.
Accepts that abortion without specific indication should be available through a GP led service in a clinical context as determined by law and licensing practice for a limited gestational period.
Sinn Féin members of a legislature shall act in line with the view of the Ard Chomhairle which will be informed by the best available medical advice, when legislating regarding the limited gestational period.
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said now that the British government have accepted the commitments it made on Brexit in December it must now come up with credible proposals which would ensure no diminution of rights in the north.
Martina Anderson said:
“Its is clear from today’s meeting between the David Davis and Michel Barnier that the British government have now accepted the agreements it has already entered into both in December and just weeks ago when the draft withdrawal agreement was published.
"Despite denials from Theresa May there is now confirmation that the British government is accepting the agreements made, including the backstop option which would see the north remaining in the customs union and significant elements of the single market.
“There must be no diminution in rights and no hardening of the border in order to give legal effect to what has already been agreed and what the European Parliament has voted on in successive resolutions.
“The Taoiseach must now ensure that the rights of people in the north are protected and that the outstanding issues are addressed in a way that realises his pledge that citizens in the north will never again be left behind by an Irish government.
"So while progress has been made more work needs to be done to ensure that there is no diminution of rights for citizens in the north."
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has praised the actions of local party activists in Rostrevor who took down Irish National flags which had been erected at the village’s Church of Ireland.
Sinéad Ennis said:
“A local man erected national flags yesterday on scaffolding at Rostrevor’s Church of Ireland.
“Local party activists quickly removed the flags despite being verbally abused by the man responsible for erecting them.
“He clearly doesn’t know or doesn’t care that the Irish national flag is a symbol of peace between our two main traditions.
“It is Sinn Féin’s position is that no flag or emblem should be erected to mark out territory, to harass, or intimidate anyone and it was clearly provocative to erect flags close to a place of worship.
“There have been good relations between all the people who live in Rostrevor and its hinterland.
“The actions of one individual responsible for erecting the flags certainly do not reflect the will of the people of Rostrevor and will be roundly condemned.” ENDS/CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin Senator Máire Devine has apologised for the hurt caused by her tweet last night.
Speaking today, Senator Devine said;
"It was never my intention to cause any distress or hurt, particularly to victims of the conflict. I want to offer my most sincere apologies to the family of the late Brian Stack.
"I accept the decision by the party national chairperson to suspend my membership of Sinn Féin for three months.
"I deeply regret what has happened, and want to profusely apologise for all the offence and hurt caused by my twitter activity."
Sinn Féin Senator Máire Devine has been suspended from the party for a period of three months following what the party has described as “unacceptable twitter activity” last night.
Senator Devine retweeted an offensive tweet in relation to Prison Officer Brian Stack who as killed by the IRA. This along with other tweets from Senator Devine have caused hurt to Mr Stack’s family.
Speaking today after making a report to the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle, National Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA said;
“This is unacceptable behaviour from a Sinn Féin elected representative.
“The Ard Chomhairle has suspended, with immediate effect, Senator Devine from party membership and all party activities for a period of three months. The whip has been removed and Senator Devine will be outside of the Leinster House team for that period.
“Sinn Féin strongly disapproves of what has happened. There can be no excuse for the hurt and offence which has been caused to the Stack family.”
Sinn Féin joined a community-led protest in Dungiven today, in opposition to the current electoral boundary proposals which will see the town split into three constituencies.
Speaking after the protest, East Derry MLA Caoimhe Archibald said:
"We were at the protest today to support the people of Dungiven in their opposition to the electoral boundary proposals which will see the town split into three constituencies.
"The implementation of these proposals would see either side of Dungiven's Main Street located in two different constituencies, Mid Ulster and West Tyrone.
"There is also the ridiculous situation where the County Derry GAA centre of excellence at Owenbeg would be situated in the West Tyrone constituency.
"Dungiven is a small town with a tight knit community and strong ties with its surrounding areas. There is no doubt that locating Dungiven on the edge of three constituencies would have a negative impact on its future.
"The message from today's protest is clear, Dungiven will not be divided. The Boundary Commission should return to the 2016 boundary proposals which kept Dungiven and its hinterland intact.
"We would urge members of the public to make submissions to the Boundary Commission before 26th March and demand fairness in the electoral process."
Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin is in Athens speaking at a two-day European conference, organised by SYRIZA 'to discuss the present and future of Europe and the perspectives for common action of the progressive forces'.
Other political international representatives speaking at the conferenceinclude: the Prime Minister of Greece, and President of SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras; Head of the European & International Affairs, SYRIZA, Dimitris Papadimoulis; MEP Georgi Pirinski, Bulgarian Socialist Party; MEP Ska Keller, Co-President of Greens/EFA group Die Gruenen, Germany; Member of Executive committee, Die Linke, Heinz Bierbaum, Germany; and MEP Ana Maria Gomes, Portuguese Socialist Party.
Eoin Ó Broin said:
“I am speaking at the 'Pillars of a New Europe' section of the SYRIZA organised conference along with other political and academic representatives from across Europe. This is an important exchange of views with other members of the European Left, Socialists and the Greens, along with academics and progressive political initiatives members from Greece.
'I am taking this opportunity to not only provide the Sinn Féin vision of the EU, and the radical changes required to establish a more equal Europe, but also to outline the problems confronting the people of Ireland with Brexit, austerity and the very serious threat facing the 'Good Friday Agreement' and the political institutions in the North.
“Iam requesting strategic assistance to ensure a more equal Ireland based on the rights of citizens.
'International support and solidarity is essential in bringing about progressive change. Sinn Féin have developed strong links with our friends in the European Left, European Socialists and the European Greens. This conference allows us to develop and strengthen those ties.” ENDS/CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams was the ‘Honoured Guest’ at this morning’s St Patrick’s Day breakfast held by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Speaking at the event Gerry Adams wished his audience a happy St Patrick’s Day, thanked Mayor de Blasio and praised the support and solidarity of Irish America for peace in Ireland over many generations.
Gerry Adams said;
“Go raibh céiliúradh síochánta agus sultmhar agaibh ar lá ár bPatrún agus Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig daoibh go léir. May you all enjoy a peaceful and enjoyable celebration of our Patron and a happy St. Patrick’s Day.
“I am very pleased to be the Honoured Guest at Mayor de Blasio‘s annual St Patrick’s Day breakfast celebration.
“Lá Féile Pádraig is an opportunity each year to thank Irish America and to reaffirm the strong bonds between Ireland and that very important part of the Irish diaspora. Irish America has never lost sight of Ireland and the desire for peace and independence, and it continues to be as supportive of this today as in previous generations.
“The Irish in New York are especially proud of their roots and of the enormous contribution they have made to building the United States of America. I want to thank all of you for your support and I look forward to that support continuing in the time ahead as we secure and win a referendum on Irish unity.”
Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has called on education authorities to consult extensively with parents, pupils, staff and the wider community to ensure the educational well-being of pupils is at the heart of ambitious plans to reorganise education in east Down.
The South Down MP was commenting after the CCMS presented proposals this week to teachers, governors, and parents that would see the merger of De La Salle High School, St Mary's High School, St Patrick's Grammar School, all in Downpatrick; and St Columba's College, in Portaferry.
Mr Hazzard said:
“The CCMS, and the trustees of the De La Salle congregation in Downpatrick have long favoured the creation of a fully inclusive co-educational post primary college for local pupils, however the lack of concrete detail emerging this week is alarming.
“Bearing in mind the ambition of such a proposal would include upwards of 1,600 pupils located within a new college it is vital that the school community are presented with as much information and detail as possible.
“It is my understanding however that this has not been the case following these first consultation meetings.
“Parents, staff, and school governors have been left with far more questions than answers; straightforward queries were often brushed aside; and the voice of pupils was entirely absent from this initial consultation process.
“This is not acceptable. Education authorities must avoid an ad-hoc drip-feed of information that only serves to create confusion and frustration amongst families and staff.”
Mr Hazzard added:
“These proposals represent an opportunity to build a truly inclusive, modern, and successful education system for local children in the east Down area. But for this to become a reality the education authorities must engage meaningfully and in a transparent manner. They must address the genuine fears and concerns of parents and staff
“But most importantly, they must remember that the pupils – both current and future – should be at the heart of all considerations.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said that public sector workers deserve equal pay for equal work, and that this must be a priority of the Government in the next budget.
Speaking today, Teachta Doherty said;
"The decision by Minister Donohoe to enter into talks with Unions regarding lower bands of pay for new entrants to the public sector is to be welcomed.
"Some 58,000 new entrants to the public sector have been negatively affected by the cross-board cut to their pay scale imposed upon them in 2011. The cost to rectify this unfair decision over the course of a full year is €200m. It is an issue that must be rectified as soon as possible. It cannot be dragged out over years.
"Sinn Féin opposed the lower pay scales when they were imposed by the Government and have vigorously held successive Governments to account on this issue since. The issue of equal pay for equal work must be a priority for Minister Donohoe come the next budget.
"There is now an opportunity to resolve this injustice through dialogue, and I hope that Minister Donohoe heeds this notice and makes this a priority for budget 2019."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Transport Imelda Munster TD has today sought an explanation from the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the Minister for Transport Shane Ross regarding the ongoing traffic chaos on the Luas system, as today it was announced by the NTA that the new longer Luas trams have been withdrawn from service due to a fault in the system.
The trams are not expected to be returned to service until May.
Deputy Munster said:
“There has been ongoing disruption in Dublin since the Luas Cross-City was introduced in December.
“Travel by Luas at peak times has been extremely challenging for commuters due to the reduction in service frequency and resultant over-crowding. College Green has also been something of a nightmare for commuters, and Dublin Bus services have been seriously impacted.
“This latest development has compounded these problems on the Luas, and this week commuters have experienced total chaos on the service.
“I have written to the NTA and the Minister seeking an explanation for the shockingly poor planning and the chaos that has resulted from that in recent months."
Departmental officials are attempting to hide the full extent of the disastrous impact that Brexit will have on the North of Ireland, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said.
“Last month a leaked British Government report showed that the North of Ireland could face a 12 percent drop in economic growth as a direct consequence of Brexit.
“That would be catastrophic for our economy and communities but I have now become aware that the actual figure could be as high as 20 percent.
“The Civil Service here has done its own impact analysis of Brexit, which takes into account the particular circumstances in the North of Ireland and our unique vulnerabilities, given our reliance on All-Ireland co-operation and trade for example.
“The results of that analysis are so damning that the Civil Service has not put them into the public domain.
“However, the public have a right to know the full extent of the calamity that we are facing into. They have a right to know where the Tories and the DUP are determined to drag the people of the North against their wishes and against their best interests.
“I am seeking an urgent meeting with the acting head of the Civil Service David Sterling and I will be telling him, in the interests of transparency and openness, he needs to release this information immediately.”
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD addressed a meeting of Friends of Sinn Féin in New York today. At the event she paid tribute to the former President of Friends of Sinn Féin, General Jim Cullen, who passed away in December last year.
Deputy McDonald outlined a vision and pathway to achieve a new and united Ireland. She invited those who support Irish Unity to continue to work, to lobby and to campaign for unity and made clear Brexit cannot be allowed to impose a hard border across Ireland.
During her address, Mary Lou McDonald TD said;
“Ireland is changing. The challenge for us, for this generation of Republicans, is how we shape that change, how we build a new and united Ireland.
"An Ireland of prosperity and opportunity. An Ireland of equal rights in which everyone has a place. An Ireland that provides jobs, homes and healthcare for its citizens.
"An Ireland where everyone has a place in society and a chance to succeed. An Ireland where it is about what you do, and not about who you know.
"An Ireland where the politics of the past, the nod and wink politics of the past, remains in the past. Where there is transparency and openness in government, where decision making is clear and free from any suspicion of undue pressure. An Ireland that can hold its head high as an equal on the world stage.
"That is our task. That is our job as republicans and supporters of unity.
"The support of Irish America is crucial to this task. As it has always been the case. The Fenian movement crossed the Atlantic.
"The Rising was only made possible with the support of the Ireland's exiled children. Their contribution writ large in the proclamation. They embraced the cause of civil rights and were central to the peace process.
"There wouldn't have been a Good Friday Agreement without American support and without Irish American support in particular."
"But our work is not done. We have many challenges to face, not least from Brexit. Let me be clear there should not be any border in Ireland and there cannot be any hardening of the border following Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.
"I ask you to continue your support as we work towards a new and united Ireland.”
Writing in his latest blog, following a recent trip to San Francisco, Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Declan Kearney, has called on Irish America to mobilise in defence of the Good Friday Agreement.
He noted that nearly 6,000 miles from Ireland the same issues were being raised by Irish Americans in terms of the lack of unionist leadership: Brexit and denial of citizen’s rights.
During his trip to San Francisco and Sacramento, Declan Kearney met senior local politicians including State Governor Jerry Brown and current San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell.
In a statement he said:
"Everyone I met grasped the gravity of the political crisis in the north.
They understood the threat to the GFA, and instinctively got the catastrophe of Brexit.
The irrefutable strategic lesson to be learned about the north of Ireland from the period since 2010 particularly, is that the political and peace processes cannot be taken for granted.
This existing crisis is the combination of 20 years ‘push back’ against the GFA by political unionism.
The DUP specifically, is now emboldened in its opposition because it believes (correctly) that the British Tory government has its back.
The DUP decision to pull away from the definitive accommodation and very advanced draft agreement arrived at with Sinn Féin on 14th February, raises fundamental issues about leadership authority, decision making, and commitment to genuine power sharing within that party.
Many within Irish nationalism are saying that it would be preferable to have the political institutions re-established on the correct terms, but 20 years after the signing of the GFA they are also asking if political unionism has squandered its chance to share power with Irish nationalists as equals.
The political crisis is deepening.It is not an option to stand back and spectate as a full-blown vacuum unfolds.
That must be prevented.
This is a crucial juncture for the Irish peace process and future of the GFA.
The political advances of the last 20 years must not be allowed to be reversed or squandered.The influence of Irish Americans is now once more essential to entrench and defend the peace process.
Irish Americans need to be launching new campaign initiatives within and beyond the diaspora.
They need to be energetically lobbying US politicians and the Administration itself to become more engaged and interventionist in defence of the GFA, and in opposition to the negative repercussions of Brexit.
Those who have invested so much in the peace process and vision of the GFA must act together.
The future of the peace process and GFA requires Irish Americans to once again refocus and remobilise their significant political and civic influence across the United States.
Sinn Féin Transport Spokesperson Imelda Munster TD has today raised concerns about the future of public bus services after the announcement that a British commercial transport company, Go Ahead, will now be running six bus routes in the Dublin Commuter Area along the Kildare corridor previously operated by Bus Éireann.
Go Ahead, a foreign commercial transport agency, previously secured the tender to operate 10% of Dublin Bus routes.
Deputy Munster said:
“I have serious concerns about the continued privatisation of routes by the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross.
“There is nothing to stop the NTA from increasing the percentage of routes that they intend to put out to tender, or even privatising the entire public transport bus service in this State.
“Private companies exist only to make profit. Public transport is about providing a public service.
“The shift from service-provision to profit making is a worrying one, given that private operators will not have an interest in providing services on loss-making routes, which provide an invaluable service in rural areas.
“Workers must also be protected, and the existing entitlements of Bus Éireann staff must not be affected by this disastrous decision by the Minister and the NTA.
“Minister Ross should concentrate on looking after the existing public transport network. Investment in Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann must increase and we need guarantees that he does not intend to privatise more services."
Responding to news that referrals to the PSNI's online child safety team has more than doubled in the last year Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly MLA emphasised the importance of educating children and young people on the dangers of the internet.
The party’s spokesperson for children and young people said:
“Children and young people need to be extremely careful about what information they upload onto social media sites.
“There has been a rise in the number of indecent images of children on the internet and many of these indecent images are uploaded by children themselves”
“More education for children on the dangers of the internet is part of the solution
“Hopeful Minds, which provides training for school children on online security, is an exemplar project in this regard. I would also encourage young people to use the ‘Think before you share’ resource”.
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has called for greater investment in respite care following the provision of a PQ to party colleague Louise O’Reilly TD which shows a significant decline in overnight respite hours over recent years, including in the CHO 8 which covers Louth and East Meath.
Teachta Adams said:
“The HSE and associated agencies funded by it provide respite care to children and adults with disabilities. This is a hugely important service for person who is disabled and for their family.
"According to the Department of Health the number of overnight respite hours has dropped from 180,901 in 2014 to 158,296 last year. CHO 8 saw a drop from 17,637 to 16,312 in the same period. Last year alone there was a drop of 17,259 overnight respite hours.
"Last December Minister Finian Mc Grath announced an additional €10 million euro’s for respite services. This is to include an additional respite house in each of the nine CHO areas. It will also provide 19,000 respite nights.
"While this is a welcome investment the reality is that when set against the loss of hours last year this investment will only provide 1,741 additional hours for 2018. This is significantly less than is required. There will also be 591 fewer day respite sessions.
"According to Census 2016 there are over twenty thousand people in Louth /East Meath with a disability. In December there were only 9 available respite beds for adults with intellectual disabilities. There are also no emergency services.
"Much more needs to be done to support those living with a disability and those who provide care.
"Speaking to the Taoiseach in the Dáil three months ago, I proposed that he provide 2 million additional home help hours, and 2,500 homecare packages. This would cost €72 million. I also proposed that the government increase respite care hours by 20%. That would cost €13 million euros.
"The government has failed to act. This is not good enough. Citizens with disabilities and their carers have rights and the responsibility of the government must be to support those rights and to resource them."
South Down Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan has insisted that the needs of all pupils must be protected or enhanced during the proposed merger of four post-primary schools.
The South Down MLA was commenting after the CCMS announced proposals that would see the merger of De La Salle High School, St Mary's High School, St Patrick's Grammar School, all in Downpatrick, and St Columba's College, in Portaferry.
She said: “Children attending St Columbanus College in Portaferry who have special educational needs currently have access to support through a dedicated Learning Support Centre. It is absolutely crucial that the Education Authority and CCMS work together with parents to ensure that these children do not experience a reduction in provision. Opportunities must be made to enhance rather than reduce provision.
“Moving forward there could be additional challenges regarding transport for children with special educational needs to any proposed new site and it is essential that the Education Authority and CCMS listen to and take account of the views of parents.
“As St Columbanus is located within a rural setting it is imperative that both CCMS and the EA ensure that any proposals are in line with statutory obligations under the rural needs act.
“I would also urge all parents and interested parties to fully acquaint themselves with the proposals regarding the merger and respond to the consultation process.”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the resolution of an industrial dispute at Kerry Foods in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. It was announced last night that SIPTU members at the plant had accepted an improved redundancy offer from the company.
Matt Carthy said:
“The news that the industrial dispute at Kerry Foods in Carrickmacross has been resolved is very welcome news for the workers, their families and indeed for the wider community in Carrickmacross.
"I am glad that the company came back to the table with an improved redundancy offer and that this has now been agreed to by workers and I commend them for that.
"I want also to commend the workers for their steadfast action in defence of each other and their employment conditions, and the work of the trade union representatives involved.
“The difficulties faced by Kerry Foods which led to the dispute in Carrickmacross is another negative example of the impact of Brexit and the fluctuation in sterling on businesses, especially the agri-food business.
"The Kerry Foods plant in Carrickmacross is right in the Brexit firing line, as it produces frozen prepared meals which are sold directly to Britain.
“The Government needs to put in place contingency plans to support those businesses, and the workers they employ, from the shocks to the economy which will invariably occur if the British government pursue their current stated Brexit position.
"There is little evidence of any government plan in this regard and many people are rightly concerned that as Brexit approaches we could see further problems with businesses particularly along the border and those selling products into Britain.”
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Raymond McCartney has welcomed confirmation that the North is to get its first specialist drug and alcohol courts.
The Foyle MLA was speaking after the Department of Justice announced plans to establish Family Drug and Alcohol Courts among a suite of measures which would act as alternatives to custodial sentences.
He commented: “This approach has been operated successfully in different areas of the world where an offender’s addiction is seen as a central cause of the crime and therefore something which needs to be addressed as part of any sentencing.
“This can be an effective alternative to simply imposing punitive jail sentences which do not necessarily reduce re-offending because they do not address the underlying causes of the offending behaviour.
“If a justice system is to be truly effective that it must embrace the latest and most effective evidence-based approaches to crime and offenders and drug and alcohol courts are a step in that direction.”ENDS/CRIOCH