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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Rural Affairs and Regional Development Peadar Tóibín TD has said that the outcome of the Constituency Commission Report means that counties are completely split up with Meath for example, now reaching into four different constituencies.

Deputy Tóibín said:

“Local Authorities are in the main county based. Most people identify on a county basis and many services, sports and cultural organisations function on a county basis.

“To facilitate geographical consistency in governance it has been an objective of the Constituency Commission to organise Dáil Constituencies on a county basis also.

“Meath is now fractured into 4 separate Dáil Constituencies; Meath West, Meath East, Louth and now Cavan-Monaghan. This will cause major difficulties for the development of the county which is already beset with some of the lowest levels of state per capita funding.

“When a sliver of a county is included in another constituency it can never hope to have a local TD representing its due to the fact that the sliver does not have the necessary population.

“There is a significant danger that these slivers become forgotten peripheries to the main population areas the constituency.

“Many TDs try their best to ameliorate this problem by focusing representation in these areas, however in general most citizens will tell you that they feel their interests are best met when they are located in their own county constituency.

“Meath East could have easily been a 4-seat constituency. The county as a whole could have been a six-seat constituency as is allowed for in the constitution. This would have provided for better representation.”

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Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of demonstrating a “breath-taking level of indifference towards hard pressed citizens, consumers and families who are struggling to make ends meet”.

Deputy McDonald made the comments while raising the introduction of the government’s new charging scheme for waste collection at Leaders Questions today.

Teachta McDonald said;

“The Taoiseach clearly lives in a world where ability to pay isn't an issue.

“This new system will undoubtedly mean higher collection charges for householders.

“Citizens, already struggling with the cost of living crisis in mortgages, rents, childcare, water charges, property tax, and car insurance, are being hit once again.

“Nowhere within the new charging scheme has the government provided meaningful waiver or alleviation measures for those who will find it difficult to meet the increased charges.

“Those with medical conditions and disabilities, large families and low income households will bear the brunt of the government’s decision to allow private operators to charge whatever they want for an essential service.

“The Taoiseach was adamant that the pathetic grant of €75 per year, for those suffering long term medical conditions, is sufficient. This amounts to less than €1.50 a week.

“This insistence demonstrates a breath-taking level of indifference toward the most vulnerable in our society on the part of the Taoiseach.

“Minister Denis Naughten must tell us what the government is going to do for people who cannot afford to pay. The Taoiseach must ensure that he does so.

“The government’s present position of simply leaving those people to the mercy of commercial operator is unacceptable.” 

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Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the devil is in the detail of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s tax cutting proposals.

Teachta Doherty said the only commitment in the Taoiseach’s leadership manifesto was for a €441million tax cut for those earning twice the average wage.

He said;

“Taoiseach Varadkar’s commitment to cut income tax may be extremely popular but the devil is in the detail.

“The only commitment he made in his leadership manifesto was to ensure nobody pays a marginal rate of over 50%.  But only people earning over €70,000 per year, or twice the average wage, are paying a marginal rate above 50% and to bring it below 50% would cost €441million.

“That’s nearly a half a billion euro of a tax cut for some of the highest earners in the state meanwhile there is no commitment to invest the required funds to take people off hospital trolleys or to build the required amount of social homes that are so desperately needed.

“I find it absolutely outrageous that this is Leo Varadkar’s priority at this time, that he is saying he will find the money for tax cuts yet he won’t say he will find the money to invest in our health services or in houses.

“The next general election will be a contest between parties that are genuinely committed to fixing the crises in health and housing and parties who are committed to cutting taxes for some of the most wealthy people in society.  No party can do both - that is not possible.”

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Dúirt urlabhraí Shinn Féin ar an nGaeilge Teachta Dála Peadar Tóibín go raibh sé rí-shoiléir go raibh an Stáit ag teipeadh ar chearta luchta labhartha Gaeilge na tíre.

D’fhoilsigh Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga an Tuarascáil Bliantúil ó 2016 inniu, a léirigh go raibh méadú ar líon na gearán a bhí ag teacht isteach san oifig.

Dúirt an Teachta Tóibín:

“Is díomách an rud é a fheiceáil go bhfuil méadú ar na gearáin. Is fianaise crua é go bhfuil ag teipeadh ar an rialtas ar Ghaeilgeoirí agus lucht na Gaeltachta ar fud an Stáit. Fuair an oifig 768 gearán an bhliain seo chaite, figiúir suntasach.

“Deir an Coimisinéir é féin, Rónán Ó Domhnaill gur léiriú é seo ar na deacrachtaí atá ag an bpobal teacht ar sheirbhísí sásúla i nGaeilge ón Státchóras.

“Bhí nach mór aon trian dos na gearán bainteach le foráil den scéim teanga (cártaí aitheantais, suíomhanna gréasáin agus foirmeacha san áireamh). Bhí breis is ceathrú dos na gearán mar gheall ar easpa Gaeilge ar chomharthaíocht agus stáiseanóireacht. Tháinig 19% de na gearráin ó cheantair Gaeltachta, agus 45% de na gearáin ó Baile Átha Cliath.

“Dhein an Coimisinéir tagairt don easpa earcaíochta atá á dhéanamh ag an rialtas do dhaoine le Gaeilge fheidhmeach acu sa Státchóras.

“Tá ocht roinn rialtas gan aon phost Gaeilge aitheanta acu is léir go bhfuil an rialtas ag déanamh faillí ar chearta lucht labhartha Gaeilge.

“Is gá do Joe McHugh Acht na dTeangacha a bhrú chun tosaigh mar ábhar práinne. Cabhróidh sé seo go mór le cúrsaí earcaíochta in san Státchóras – leis an gealltanas go mbeadh 20% d’earcaithe nua sa tseirbhís phoiblí ina gcainteoirí líofa.

“Is léir go bhfuil an stáit ag teipeadh ar fhreastal ar an bpobal Gaeilge – ach tá deis iontach anois ag an rialtas feabhas a chur ar an scéal.”

The highest ever amount of complaints received by the Irish Language Commissioner – Peadar Tóibín TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for the Irish language Peadar Tóibín TD, has said that it was all too apparent that the State was failing to uphold the rights of Irish speakers of the country.

The Office of the Irish Language Commissioner published their yearly report from 2016 today, which demonstrated that there was an increase in the amount of complaints which were coming into the office.
Deputy Tóibín said:

“It’s disappointing to see that there was an increase in complaints. It’s hard evidence that the government are failing Irish speakers and those living in the Gaeltacht throughout the State. The office received 768 complaints last year, a significant number.

“According to the commissioner himself, Ronán Ó Domhnaill, this demonstrates the difficulties that the community experiences when trying to come across satisfactory services through Irish in the State system.

"Almost one third of the complaints were in relation to the provisions of the Irish language schemes (identity cards, websites and forms for example).

"Over a quarter of the complaints were in relation to the lack of Irish on signs and stationary. 19% of the complaints came from Gaeltacht areas and 45% originated in Dublin.

“The Language Commissioner made reference to the lack of recruitment carried out by the government to get people with applied Irish.

“There were eight government ministries without any Irish position identified by the and it’s patently obvious that the government are neglecting Irish language speakers’ rights.

“Joe McHugh has to prioritise the Languages Act as a matter of priority. This would help a lot with recruitment in the civil service – with the promise that 20% of new recruits would be fluent speakers.

“It’s clear that the State is failing to attend to the needs of the Irish language community – but there is a brilliant opportunity now to improve things.”

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Speaking ahead of today’s Private Members’ debate on his motion to ban the use of the anti-malaria drug Lariam for Irish Defence Forces serving overseas, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said:

“For many years, I have lobbied successive Government Ministers on the dangerous and potentially fatal side effects associated with Lariam and I am hopeful that my motion, which will be debated today, will pass when it is voted on tomorrow.

“It is simply scandalous that the Department of Defence has refused to replace Lariam with a safer alternative. They have ignored the plight of serving and retired personnel who have suffered from its serious side-effects and have dismissed the very credible and growing body of research into the serious side effects of Lariam.

“Moreover, they have failed to comply with UN guidelines on the dangers of Lariam and the advice that an alternative drug should be administrated to soldiers serving in countries where there is the risk of malaria.

“The position adopted by this Government contrasts with most other countries, including the United States who only issue Lariam for military personnel in exceptional circumstances. ‘Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’ has been the stock response to the suffering of our military, whose scandalous treatment is impossible to fathom.

“If this motion, which has the support of the majority of the opposition, is ratified we will be demanding that the government finally act and implement the will of House and stop prescribing Lariam to our troops serving overseas.” 

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Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy has argued that the ‘Wifi4EU’ scheme must benefit rural areas most in need of improved internet connectivity. 

Speaking from Brussels this week, Carthy said: 

‘Wifi4EU funding amounting to €120million will provide up to 8000 free public Wi-Fi hotspots across the EU. 

“As shadow rapporteur of this file in the Transport and Tourism Committee, I proposed amendments to prioritise rural areas in in the scheme’s rollout. 

“I am pleased to report that these amendments received overwhelming support from MEPs and the final agreement will grant funding on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis but, crucially, will prioritise rural and remote communities, who do not currently avail of public Wi-fi hotspots. 

“This is an important commitment. Unfortunately successive Irish governments have failed abysmally in providing rural committees with the levels ofconnectivity required. 

“A digital divide exists between rural and urban areas, as a direct result of government broken promises to provide a scheme of rural broadband. It often appears that the Fine Gael government is purposefully trying to keep rural Ireland in the dark ages. 

“In our work in the European Parliament I, and my Sinn Féin colleagues, are committed to voicing the need for substantial internet connectivity in rural areas. Rural communities require the same internet resources as urban areas, which is a measure of quality of life. 

“Increased internet connectivity benefits the promotion of tourism, which is an essential sector in many rural areas. Additionally, the development of local domestic economies, particularly those dependent on SMEs, rely upon a decent infrastructure and reliable internet connectivity in order to emerge into a rapidly changing market. 

“People located in rural areas deserve to be able to live and work in their areas and not have to move to where internet connectivity and other resources are accessible. It is unacceptable that rural broadband is not a norm across the fifteen counties of the Midlands North-West constituency, unlike other EU regions. 

“The approach of the Wifi4EU initiative provides an opportunity for rural areas to avail of internet connectivity in public spaces, as the Irish government has absolutely failed to do so. 

“I will endeavour to ensure rural communities are aware of the proceedings and possibilities of the Wifi4EU scheme. Applications should open at the end of the year and I will be encouraging local authorities to apply for the scheme”.

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Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan and Councillor John Costelloe have called for decisive Garda action to stop the recent surge in anti-social activity in the Old Cratloe Road area.

 Recently the area has been suffering from a large group of teenagers roaming the area and randomly assaulting total strangers with apparent impunity.

According to local residents, a number of adults have suffered severe beatings while one man has had his suffered a broken nose and eye socket, another has been stabbed in unprovoked attacks.

Deputy Quinlivan said;

“It is totally unacceptable that law abiding residents are being subjected to this lawlessness by a large group of roaming teenagers, a number of whom are already well known to the Gardaí.

“What is going on here has moved far beyond anti-social activity and has descended into outright criminality. People are frightened in their own homes.

“I have spoken with the Garda Chief superintendent and requested that extra Gardaí be deployed to the area. I have had numerous calls form upset local residents demanding that the Gardaí clear this element from their streets."

 Councillor Costelloe said;

 

"Residents feel particularly vulnerable after a recent assault when they claim that it took the Gardaí one hour and 20 minutes to respond to the 999 call. An Garda Síochána need to urgently get a grip on this situation.

 

“It will take a robust Garda response to bring this situation under control. I am disappointed, that a week after the recent serious assault that nobody has yet been charged with the offence.

 

“The Gardaí need to give this criminality the attention it deserves and bring the culprits before a court of law where hopefully the sentences will match the severity of the crimes committed.

 

“Is not simply good enough to send around a patrol car now and again. This problem needs a properly prepared and resourced Garda plan of action."

 

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Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that information released today to the members of the Oireachtas Health Committee ahead of today’s meeting with the Minister for Health and the Health Service Executive have shown mental health and intellectual disability teams are disgracefully understaffed.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“Information received by the members of the Oireachtas Health Committee in advance of today’s meeting has shown how Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Teams (MHID) across the state are disgracefully understaffed.

“It is hard to put into words how utterly scandalous these understaffing levels are, but we have a situation where adult MHID services have only 32% of the staff necessary and child MHID services have on 6% of the necessary staff as set out under ‘A Vision for Change’, the strategy document which sets out the direction for Mental Health Services in Ireland. 

“There can be no mincing of words regarding this situation, it is utterly disgraceful.

“While the problems in the health service and the inability of the Government to adequately tackle them are well versed, I was utterly devastated to see that Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Teams for adults and children are operating with just 32% and 6% of the respective necessary staff.

“This information also comes on the back of a response to a Parliamentary Question I received which highlighted that community teams for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have barely half the necessary staff, 53%.

“How can we as a wealthy state and a compassionate people stand over a situation where child Mental Health and Intellectual Disability teams are operating with only 6% of necessary staff and community teams for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services have only 53% of the necessary staff? 

“It is completely and utterly disgraceful, and it behoves us all to speak out about his scandalous situation.

“It is said that part of the moral test of any government is how they treat the sick and those with disabilities, the evidence to date shows that Fine Gael and Minister Harris are failing that test abysmally.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform David Cullinane TD has said today that talk of social cohesion is meaningless without the policies and funding to back it up.

Speaking at the National Economic Dialogue, Deputy Cullinane said:

"The most effective way the government can prepare for Brexit is to boost the productive capacity of the economy in the medium-term is to invest in the future - and this means more resources for capital spending and social infrastructure."

"This means investing in roads, ports, schools,  hospitals, houses, and transport.

"The weakness of private investment only increases the need for the public sector to step into the breach and invest.

"Given almost ten years of under-investment and unmet demographic pressures, the shockingly low level of capital investment is reckless and unsustainable."

"For tens of thousands of Irish families the reality continues to be worries over money, having a roof over their head or paying hospital bills or back-to-school costs."

"The high cost of living and struggling public services means that many families are working long hours and still cannot make ends meet."

"The cost of health, housing, child care and transport all add to the overall cost of living and are crippling ordinary people and families."

"We need to secure social cohesion and now is the time to build."

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Following the publication of figures in the national press recently showing that the top ten recipients of CAP payments received over €200,000 each, with two farms in which Larry Goodman or his family are directors netting €217,153 and €214,275 respectively, Deputy Martin Kenny, Sinn Féin spokesman for agriculture, food and the marine, asked the Minister how this was compatible with a ceiling of €150,000 on payments.

Deputy Kenny said:

“In the context of the Teagasc figures on farm incomes showing an average earning of €24,000 per annum for farms, the top ten CAP recipients’ figures are shocking.

“The gap between rich and poor is enormous and this kind of differential is not in the spirit of the direct farm payments which are supposed to be creating a level playing field for farmers and to preserve and protect the agricultural sector.

“The Minister told me that no one received over €150,000 in direct payments, but that the balance was made up variously of Greening, Young Farmer and Protein Aid Schemes.

“The heart of the matter, however, is that payments should be redirected to those in most need of support. The future reform of CAP after 2020 should include a definite ceiling on payments and a redirection of resources towards those farming small holdings, those farming in difficult conditions and to protect vulnerable farmers against the volatility of the market and climate.

“The government must stand up for small farmers and ensure that the family farm, the basic unit of the Irish farming sector for generations, be supported and helped to survive into the future. This is the bedrock of the quality produce of which we can be proud and that quality can only suffer if the scales are weighted in favour of millionaires at the expense of the small farmer.” 

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Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin TD and Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly has said that information released to members of the Health Committee ahead of today’s meeting with the Minister for Health and the Health Service Executive highlight a worrying number of approved consultant posts being filled on a temporary basis.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“The information received by members of the Health Committee highlighted a worrying number of approved consultant posts being filled on a temporary basis. According to the HSE there are 201 approved consultant posts being filled on a temporary basis in our public and voluntary hospitals.

“Nearly a quarter of these approved posts filled on a temporary basis are in the area of Psychiatry. This is a completely unacceptable situation given that we already know that Community Mental Health Teams for both adult and child and teen mental health services are dramatically understaffed, operating with only 78% and 53% of the necessary staff, respectively.

“This information is even more worrying given that last week it was revealed to me in a response to a Parliamentary Question that there are 128 doctors who do not hold the specialist division registration but are nonetheless operating in the position as consultants in the health service.

“Overall, this information further highlights the inability of the health service to recruit and retain doctors of all levels. Resultantly, we end up with a situation where hospitals have to fill hundreds of posts on a temporary basis or they appoint doctors as consultants who do not have the requisite skills.

“On one hand, the hiring of not specialist doctors to consultancy posts could endanger patient safety and, on other hand, the filling of approved posts on a temporary basis results in a huge loss to the taxpayer as when a temporary post is filled by a locum doctor it is at a much greater cost to the exchequer than a permanently filled post.

“The information which has been coming out regarding the hiring and filling of consultancy posts over the past number of weeks beggars belief.

“It behoves the Minister and the HSE to immediately make a statement on this matter and to outline a plan of how they intend to address this problem and the problem of recruitment and retention which is part of the cause.” 

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Speaking after the announcement by Minister Denis Naughten on the new household waste collection charging, Brian Stanley, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Environment, said that we need to know how the more vulnerable will be charged under this new regime.

The TD for Laois/ South Kildare said:

“We are concerned with how different households are going to be charged under this new regime. For example, low income households that may have young children or those with disabilities that may produce more waste. The last government committed to bringing in a waiver scheme for low income households but failed to do so and is not included here.

“The Minister is only setting out certain bands for charging; he has no power to set prices because this industry has been privatised, much to the loss of the people.  

“We have to question whether competition alone will keep charges reasonable. Previous governments of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens have presided over the privatisation of waste management, including landfill in this country. This should never have happened.

“We need to have drastic reduction in the volumes of waste produced by industry and at wholesale level. This should not be passed onto households to dispose of and these changes introduced do not in any way prevent waste being produced in the first place. This needs to be addressed along with addressing the charging of low income households.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said Tory plans about the rights of EU citizens will harm the north's economy. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"Many parts of the economy in the north depend on workers from across the EU, particularly the agri-food, hospitality and health sectors. 

"In fact a recent report found that 91 per cent of contract labour demand at peak times is fulfilled by EU nationals in the hospitality industry. 

"The registration process proposed by the Tories as part of their scattergun approach to Brexit would restrict the free movement required for these workers and, as a result, have a negative impact on our economy. 

"The principle of free movement is key and should apply to all EU nationals across the island of Ireland. 

"All EU nationals, including those currently resident here and those who may come in the future, should have all current rights guaranteed post-Brexit. 

"Those rights should be enforced by the European Court of Justice and the way the best way to ensure this, and the rights of EU citizens, is for the north to secure designated special status within the EU. 

"Given the new axis between the DUP and the Tories at Westminster, the DUP now need to clarify if they will follow the lead of their Tory paymasters or act in the best interests of the north by protecting the rights of EU citizens." 

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Speaking this evening in the Dáil on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, Sinn Féin TD and Justice spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has said that while Sinn Féin supports the Bill, “it is limited in its effect, and is a tiny move forward in a scheme that is systemically flawed”.

Deputy O’Brien added that “it is essential that we have an independent and impartial judiciary which is representative of the community it serves – a truly representative judiciary would enhance confidence in the justice system”.

The Cork North-Central TD said:

“We support this Bill, however we are conscious of the criticisms of this Bill and wish to address them in this contribution and outline the rationale for our support.

“We are in favour of this Bill, but this is not unqualified support. We agree with members of the House who have criticised for the way in which this Bill is being handled. It isn’t good enough that it is being rammed through.

“Confidence in the justice system is contingent on a judiciary which is free from political control or political or other bias. Not only must society have a judiciary that is free from bias but it must also be free from the appearance of bias.

“It is essential that we have an independent and impartial judiciary which is representative of the community it serves – a truly representative judiciary would enhance confidence in the justice system.

“It is our view that future judicial appointments should be drawn from a wider pool of qualified candidates that is fully representative of the community in order to eradicate the corrosive and unaccountable system of patronage previously in operation.

“There must be a fair and accountable appointment process for the judiciary which is representative of the public interest.

“There must also be fairness in terms of who gets to appoint the judiciary in the first place.

“Despite the protestation of members of this House who came here via Kings Inns, this is not a particularly radical piece of legislation.

“It is disingenuous to attempt to portray fears for not being able to reward certain members of the legal profession with ‘jobs for the boys’ as being concerns for the competency of people in judicial ranks.

“At least a third of the country's judges has personal or political links to political parties before being appointed to the bench.

“As far back as 2013, we in Sinn Féin tabled a Bill on judicial appointments and it was blocked. We will be seeking some amendments to this Bill – some regarding the make-up of the lay aspects of the Commission itself in order to attempt to address the potential for it to be occupied by former political appointees. We want to see commitments to ongoing training included.

“We would like to see the matter of removal of members of the Judiciary as well as regulation of conduct of members of the judiciary addressed as a matter of urgency.

“In conclusion, we welcome this Bill but it is not the radical reform and attempt at modernisation that Fine Gael will tell us. It does not have the implication for the administration of justice that Fianna Fail tell us it has.

“It is limited in its effect, and is a tiny move forward in a scheme that is systemically flawed.” 

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Sinn Féin Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín has stated that the government is purposefully missing the point of the proposed, Dáil-mandated international investigation into the North South Interconnector.

The Motion that was passed in the Dáil asked the government to ‘evaluate the potential impacts of both undergrounding and overgrounding the North-South Interconnector on surrounding areas, considering such aspects as its impact on local tourism, health, landscape, agriculture, heritage, etc’.

It also required the government to ‘analyse the real costs to date, and estimated future costs, of the current proposed overhead pylon project’.

Deputy Tóibín said:

“The proposed terms of reference of the government investigation does not do what it says in the Dáil motion. I have raised it with the Minister Denis Naughten a number of times that any investigation must quantify the loss in value to homes, farmland and business along the length of the interconnector if it’s over grounded and compare this with any loss that would occur if the line is undergrounded.

“If it’s completely missing from the terms of reference of the investigation, it will not magically materialise in the final report. All Minister Naughten has added today is a study of compensation levels for overhead pylons international. These many not be accurate with regards loss of property value and they will not allow a contrast with undergrounding the 400kv cables.

“The government must go back to the drawing board and get it right. Otherwise, it is clear that this infrastructure will not be built.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has welcomed clarification from the European Commission that the Shannon LNG terminal and its connecting pipeline will not have its status as a ‘Project of Common Interest’ affected by Britain’s departure from the EU.

Liadh Ní Riada said:

“The Shannon LNG Terminal has been identified as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) by the European Union on two consecutive listings of strategic energy projects that can access EU funding.

“PCI status is awarded to projects that contribute to security of supply, sustainability and greater infrastructural connection across two or more EU member-states. In this case Shannon is important to both Ireland and Britain.

“Natural gas currently provides about 30% of Ireland's energy needs and accounts for 60% in its electricity generation mix.

“In addition, Ireland has limited interconnections and is highly dependent on Britain’s gas transport system. The Shannon LNG project could provide Ireland with a second major gas supply import route. This could help address the supply-demand imbalance in the country, avoid the costs of moving gas from within the British system and give rise to increased competition in the local gas market.

“Gas from Shannon LNG could also reach the north via the South-North Pipeline and be exported to the British market via Moffat. 

“Britain’s departure from the EU put continued European support for the Shannon project in doubt. I raised Shannon LNG with the Commission and asked that it recognise the special status of Ireland as a unitary energy market that is subject to geographic limitations on connectivity, and as a country that is at risk of severe disadvantages in terms of connectivity, transport and trade as a result of Brexit. 

“I welcome the response from the Commission, which states that Shannon LNG will not be disbarred from EU support under the current round of PCI awards, despite the triggering of Article 50 by the British Government and the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

“Shannon LNG is hugely important to the North Kerry and West Limerick region and this decision may help create jobs in the area and further stimulate the local economy.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and National Chairperson Declan Kearney said today that the DUP have not yet moved on the basic rights, which collapsed the Executive.

Declan Kearney said:

“Discussions are continuing today and time is running short but the DUP have not yet moved on the basic rights issues which caused the collapse of the Executive.

“They haven’t moved on ending the denial of rights to Irish speakers.

“They haven’t moved on ending the denial of rights to the LGBT community.

“They haven’t moved on honouring the commitment to a Bill of Rights.

“Those are the issues, compounded by the RHI scandal, which caused the collapse of power-sharing.

“We need to see substantive progress on all of these if there is to be an agreement and a credible Executive put in place.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has congratulated Cork City on being chosen to host the 2020 European Maritime Day.

The Ireland South MEP said the event would be an opportunity to showcase the city to the most influential people in the sector.

“This is fantastic news for the city, the Council of the European Union could not have chosen a better place for the event,” she said.

“Cork has a rich maritime history, a bustling port, one of the largest natural harbours in the world, a world class tradition of seafood and is the home of much exciting marine research.

“The event will coincide with annual the SeaFest celebrations and the 300th anniversary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, making 2020 a banner year for the city and its relationship with its waters.

“The event itself will bring thousands of maritime policy makers, researchers, academics and NGOs not just to Cork, but to Ireland for the first time, giving us the opportunity to build crucial relationships with influential groups in what will be a post-Brexit Europe.

“This event is not only a recognition of Cork's unique maritime history, facilities and resources, but an opportunity that the entire country can't afford to miss.”

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Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that somebody must be held accountable for the awful treatment of Kathleen and Michael Devereux.

At Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, Deputy McDonald raised the case of the elderly Wexford couple who have been forced apart for the first time in sixty-three years of marriage following the HSE’s decision to accept Michael’s application for nursing home care under  the Fair Deal scheme while turning-down Kathleen’s application.

Speaking following the exchange with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Teachta McDonald said:

“Somebody must be held accountable for the awful way that the Devereuxs have been treated.

“Let’s be clear. An initial decision was made to deny nursing home care to Mrs Devereux. That decision was then endorsed following an appeal from the family. So, the decision was made twice. It was not a mishap.

“Whoever in the HSE decided that Kathleen Devereux was not entitled to nursing home care, knowing the trauma it was causing to an elderly couple, should not, in my view, be working in the area of healthcare.

“The decision-making demonstrates a shocking lack of compassion and humanity.

“That person or persons involved must answer for it.

“The Taoiseach said that he was distressed by the case. I do not doubt that.

“Expressions of distress are not good enough when you are the Taoiseach. Citizens expect more. They expect Mr Varadkar to take responsibility.

“The reality is the Devereux would still be in that terrible situation had they not gone to the media. That is a damning indictment of the HSE and the Government.

“The Taoiseach also accepted that there are other similar cases? We need to know how many cases and we need to know what the government is doing to resolve them.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Cork East Pat Buckley has said that the short staffing in Cork County Council has to be addressed as it has led to serious problems in service delivery and maintenance. He made his comments in response to a decision by SIPTU members in the Council to begin industrial action over the refusal by management to recruit more staff.

Deputy Buckley said:

“The decision by the SIPTU members in the Roads and Drivers section of the council to begin industrial action is completely understandable when you look at the effect short staffing is having on services and maintenance in this section. We cannot continue to seek to save money on wages and through outsourcing when the result is poorer maintenance which will cost far more in the long run.

“The people of Cork County will be all too aware of the annual deterioration of our roads in recent years. This is as a direct result of a failure to adequately staff the Council's road section with full time workers. Over the last year, 205 Gateway intern positions, similar to the notorious JobBridge, were taken on but were not rewarded with a single full time job at the conclusion of their contract.

“Gateway forces unemployed people into effectively unpaid work with very low likelihood of attaining proper employment as can be seen in this case. Gateway interns had done good work but because they received little or no training they were often unable to do certain jobs which were needed; the sheer number taken on shows that the council has been eager to increase staff numbers and recognises the need for a larger workforce but does not want to pay for that work to be done. This is unacceptable.

“I support the members of SIPTU who have made this decision. Workers need to stand strong against this kind of exploitation which does nothing for the unemployed while allowing roads in the county to continue to crumble. The council must engage in genuine combined efforts with the workers to bring on new full time staff so that we can ensure a decent standard of maintenance and protect against major problems in the future.” 

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