Sinn Féin MLA for West Tyrone, Declan McAleer, has spoken of his shock at a serious road traffic collision on the A5 road near Doogary which has left two young men dead.
Speaking from the scene of the accident Mr McAleer said:
“The terrible accident on the A5 today has left the families and friends of the two young men who have been tragically taken from us grieving and in shock.
“The death of these two young popular men will be felt widely. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this terrible news.
“I would urge everyone, particularly at this time of year, to exercise care on our roads.”
Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has met with Conradh na Gaeilge to discuss the rights of the Irish language community.
Speaking after attending a Conradh na Gaeilge conference, Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said;
"The issue of rights for Irish speakers is of huge concern to everyone in the Irish language community.
"As part of a Sinn Féin delegation, I attended a Conradh na Gaeilge conference which discussed the concerns of Irish speakers and what could be done to further their rights.
"We reiterated our commitment to securing an Irish Language Act and discussed a range of possibilities. These included the suggestion that Irish speakers should be included in Section 75 equality legislation, and the campaign to have court cases heard through Irish.
"Sinn Féin will continue to support and champion the rights of the Irish language community."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina has said there is clear concern among the business community over the British government's Brexit agenda.
Ms Anderson said;
"I met today with members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in Derry and it is clear there is growing concern over the British government's Brexit agenda.
"Theresa May and her government don't have a plan, pathway or clue what they are doing and appear to be making it up as they go along, preferring slogans rather than strategy.
"None of this is helping the business community, particularly young entrepreneurs who are keen to avail of the opportunities being in the EU and access to EU markets brings.
"In the midst of all the uncertainty, one thing is certain; the majority of people in the north voted to remain in the EU and that must be respected.
"The British and Irish governments, together with wider civic society, should now work to secure designated special status for the north within the EU to continue to support our business sector and provide a better future for young people."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, addressing the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin today has laid out the rationale for the critical decision by citizens in the north in June to remain in the European Union.
He said that Brexit posed economic, social and political challenges for the island of Ireland, and that basic human rights provisions are under threat as a result of the British Government’s insistence in dragging the north out of the EU.
He continued by saying that the Irish Governments negotiating position “must be about securing designated special status for the north”, and “has the right and in Sinn Féin’s view the obligation, to bring forward such proposals under Article 48 of the Treaty of the European Union”.
He acknowledged Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s address to the Seanad last week in which she said, ‘we are living in unprecedented times and those unprecedented times require imagination, open minds and fresh thinking’. Teachta Adams challenged An Taoiseach to follow Nicola Sturgeon’s example.
Teachta Adams said:
“There’s a basic fact that’s been largely ignored by most political actors and media commentators both on this island and in Britain that can’t be stressed often enough, and that is that on Thursday 23rd June, a majority of citizens in the north, in the so-called ‘Brexit’ referendum voted to remain in the European Union.
“It was only the second time since partition that nationalists, unionists and republicans have voted together in common cause. The first time was of course in 1998 when the people of the north, and indeed in the south, endorsed the Good Friday Agreement.
“Not unlike that historic decision almost two decades ago, the Democratic Unionist Party’s worldview was rejected.
“Citizens recognised that despite its many faults it was in their political and economic self-interest to be part of the EU. The EU has been a partner for peace; providing substantial political and financial aid over many years. It has contributed to greater economic and social progress in the north, and in the border region and across the island.
“I also believe that citizens in the north voted to remain because they recognise it makes sense that Ireland, in its entirety, should remain part of the same trading bloc, as part of the same single market, with the freedom of movement of people and goods and services that that membership guarantees.
“Many unionists too – especially in business – recognise that all-island trade, commerce, co-operation and movement is vital to our collective economic capacity and progress, and that is the context in which the many challenges posed by Brexit must be assessed and tackled in the coming period.
“Brexit is not just an issue for the north. It is as much an issue for the shopkeeper in Derry, or the farmer in Fermanagh, for the small farmer in Louth, the business person in Dublin, the fishing communities along our coast, the multi-nationals or the college student in Cork.
“Basic human rights provisions are also under threat.
“The Good Friday Agreement is a historic compromise. It is not a settlement. It is an agreement to a journey.
“The outcome of that journey might be a United Ireland, or a continuation of the union with Britain, or indeed some other constitutional arrangement, but whatever its outcome that is a matter for peaceful and democratic debate.
“An integral part of the Good Friday Agreement are a range of safeguards and legislative measures that are intended to ensure equality of treatment and parity of esteem.
“It specifically states that the North/South Ministerial Council must consider the European Union dimension in all relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework.
“It calls for arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.
“The Agreement also required that the British Government incorporate into the law of the North the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
“This allows direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the Convention, including power for the courts to overrule Assembly legislation on grounds of inconsistency.
“All of that is now at serious risk.
“In Sinn Féin’s view, our collective objective in the coming months and years has to be about securing the position of the island of Ireland within the European Union, in line with the democratically expressed wishes of citizens in the north.
“There is a plethora of possibilities, and rather than wait to see what the British government does, we need to be proactive about setting out alternatives - constitutional, political and otherwise - that protect and promote the national interests of our island.
“We must be about securing designated special status for the north, and the Irish State, as a continuing member of the EU, has the right and in our view the obligation, to bring forward such proposals under Article 48 of the Treaty of the European Union.
“First Minister Sturgeon in her address to the Seanad last week said, ‘we are living in unprecedented times and those unprecedented times require imagination, open minds and fresh thinking’.
“The Taoiseach should follow Nicola Sturgeon’s example.
“Rather than being mesmerised by what the London government is going to do he needs to develop an all-island vision.
“Rather than being blinkered by the parameters of this state government policy has to be for a designated special status for the North within the EU.
“I welcome the Taoiseach’s establishment of the all-Ireland Civic Dialogue though when Sinn Féin first proposed such a national forum it was dismissed and the Taoiseach’s introduction of that idea to the DUP leader was clumsy; and less than sure footed.
“However, the initiative I think provides the potential to democratise an all-Ireland approach which takes on board the democratic will of the people in the North without changing the current constitutional position.“We need to think all-island and act on that imperative. As Nicola Sturgeon has said these unprecedented times require imagination, open minds and fresh thinking.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has said he is seeking a meeting with the PSNI to discuss comments made by Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin this morning.
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing said there can be no tolerance for paramilitarism or criminality in any part of our society.
Mr Kelly said;
“There can be no place for criminality or paramilitarism in any sector of our society.
“It’s important to acknowledge that legitimate community organisations and community activists make a huge contribution to society. They make a real difference delivering services on the ground where they are most needed.
“It is unfortunate that their efforts are being overshadowed by the criminality and paramilitary activity of a tiny number of people.
“Therefore I will be urging the PSNI to ensure that where there is any evidence of criminal activity they do all in their power to bring those responsible before the courts.”
Sinn Féin MLA Seán Lynch has welcomed the start of a £600,000 Flood Alleviation Scheme at Newbridge Road, Lisnaskea.
Mr Lynch said:
“I welcome this news from the Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard. This work will prevent the closure of this important rural road should we see another flooding event like those which occurred in previous years.
“These improvements will deliver benefits for the local community and visitors to the Fermanagh area for many years to come.
“Work on a temporary road, adjacent to the existing road, to facilitate light traffic will begin on Monday 12 December and will be completed before Christmas 2016.
“The main work will get underway in the New Year and is expected to be completed by March 2017."
This week in the Dáil, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has introduced a Bill to abolish mandatory retirement.
Teachta Brady said:
“I am delighted to introduce this Bill before the House seeking the abolition of the mandatory retirement age.
“There were attempts to bring legislation to abolish mandatory retirement forward in 2014 however, with the end of the 31st Dáil this did not succeed.
“Every year, people are forced to leave their job because of their age. This is blatant discrimination and it is wrong.
“A person’s age does not determine whether or not a person can perform their duties in their job.
“This Bill is about giving people a choice when it comes to their retirement. On approaching retirement, some people are ready to retire and looking forward to it however, other may not have the required contributions to qualify for a State Pension and may wish to continue working. For some people, this is necessary to avoid poverty on retirement. Others may simply wish to remain in their job and this can be for many different yet, valid reasons.
“I look forward to a full Dáil debate on this Bill in the New Year.
“This Bill will put an end to the facilitation of ageism in employment which should have no place in our society.” ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Arts, Peadar Tóibín TD, has commented on the Creative Ireland Programme, which is the primary mechanism for implementing the priorities identified in Culture 2025.
Speaking today following the programme’s launch, An Teachta Tóibín said:
“We welcome this programme which is ambitious and contains many promising initiatives. However despite being in government for six years Fine Gael only ever promise things in the future. If there was no future tense in the English language, Fine Gael would be rendered speechless”.
"Under Fine Gael we have seen the worst cuts to our arts and culture budgets - between 2008 to 2014, there was a 76% reduction in Arts, Culture and Film investment. In this year’s budget, there were cuts in capital funding across the cultural sector.
“Naturally, a plan such as this needs an implementation strategy that is actually adhered to as well as adequate investment in order to realise its aims. I note that the document states that the plan will be financed by “well-designed funding mechanisms” which is in itself a show of creative wording to avoid explicit financial commitment to the initiative.
“I would appeal to the Taoiseach and Minister Humphreys to provide adequate funding so as to support the actualisation of the plan, as well as tangible commitment as to its delivery. I would hope that Creative Ireland can avoid the fate of the “20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language” which has been utterly neglected by the government and whose plans and promises have utterly failed.”
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has challenged Fine Gael representatives to join her in standing up for small scale and inshore fishermen.
The Ireland South MEP said the party's hypocrisy on the rights of small scale fishermen was exposed when their parliamentary group opposed her amendments to fisheries legislation.
Ms Ní Riada had put forward amendments which would distinguish between small, sustainable operations and destructive super trawlers and factory vessels.
“I had put forward amendments to fisheries legislation on how fishing vessels could be better characterised and defined," she said.
“There are major flaws in legislation that do not properly distinguish between small and large industrial fishing vessels.
“The European People's Party (EPP), which is the parliamentary group that Fine Gael MEPs belong to, were in charge of that legislation. Shamefully, they opposed my amendments that called for greater expansion of the characterisations for large vessels exceeding a certain length to include not just gross tonnage and engine power but also cargo and fuel capacity, processing ability and output in the criteria.
“Thankfully, we still managed to get the majority of our amendments through into the legislation and we will also be pushing the Irish government in the Council to support this position. If successful this legislation will be a step in the right direction in tackling super trawlers whilst not impeding small-scale fishermen.
"There needs to be a proper separation of small boats from large vessels in this regard, especially super trawlers, and I would like to encourage the Fine Gael government and their MEPs, such as Seán Kelly and Deirdre Clune, to actually defend the interests of small-scale Irish fishermen in the EPP in that regard and take a leaf from Sinn Féin's book by putting forward concrete proposals of their own.
“Other than the rare superficial statement or parliamentary question Fine Gael have not presented or even supported any initiatives to protect Irish fishermen and our coastal communities, or reduce access to Irish Waters for super trawlers.
"Paying lip service to the issues Irish fishing communities face will not help an industry that is in ever deepening crisis; they must join with other Irish MEPS to act in their defence."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, responding to remarks made by the Taoiseach this evening, has said that if the Taoiseach is serious about assisting victims he should focus his energy on establishing a proper truth recovery process.
Teachta Adams said:
“Why has the Taoiseach waited until now to make this call when a process was agreed between me and Austin and Oliver Stack that culminated in a meeting between the Stack brothers and a former IRA leader in 2013?
“At that time the Stack family thanked me for my work on their behalf.
“We agreed before meeting that it would be on a confidential basis, and the issue was not raised again until the general election three years later.
“It has been raised again now as a result of the Fianna Fáil leader and the Taoiseach trying to exploit victims in the name of scurrilous political point scoring.
“The process the Stacks and I put in place was on the basis of trust in the absence of a proper truth recovery process.
“If the Taoiseach wants to assist victims he could focus his energy on assisting in establishing such a process, which Sinn Féin has consistently called for.
“That is the only viable way for families to achieve justice.”
Speaking after the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness withdrew from a planned visit to China to enable doctors to conduct a medical assessment Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said;
“I’m sure everybody who values his work will send best wishes to Martin, Bernie and their family. I met with Martin as normal at Stormont on Monday. I have been in regular contact with him since and he is totally committed to fulfilling his duties.”
Speaking on the Planning and Development Bill in Leinster House Deputy Dessie Ellis called the Bill a wasted opportunity. The Dublin North West TD said “ as usual the government have missed a chance to deal with some important aspects that are causing our housing emergency. The provisions that are contained in this Bill are weak and Sinn Féin have stated categorically many times that the Minister missed an opportunity to amend the Bill and insert rent certainty provisions.“
Continuing Teach Ellis said “ I have couples and families coming into my office in Dublin North-West who are working, and in good jobs, yet they cannot afford to keep up with rent increases at the moment. They are now in danger of becoming homeless.
The consequences of these continuous rent increases are not trivial and it affects everyone dependent on the private rental sector for accommodation. This includes middle income working families who cannot afford to save to buy a home, low income families that are paying up to 60% of their disposable income on rent. The situation is such that many parents have no choice but to decide between paying rent and covering increasing back to school costs or Christmas presents. The Government must recognise that rent certainty is key to alleviating pressure on these households.”
Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesman, Martin Kenny TD, who represents Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan and South Donegal, asked Minister Simon Coveney about access to credit for small business and business start-ups from the European Investment Bank, which is opening an office in Dublin this week.
Deputy Kenny said:
“The EIB is opening an office in Dublin to encourage state agencies and other bodies to access credit from it along with small businesses. There is still need for assistance for many small business people to access credit as the retail banks will not deal with them due to bad credit history, which might be solely due to the economic crash and not due to bad business decisions on their part.
“I asked the minister if it would not be possible to set up a channel, via the Local Enterprise Offices, for people wanting to set up, or indeed, start again in business.
“Sometimes those whose credit history, due to the economic crash, is not good, but who have a sound business idea and healthy potential, need another channel besides their local retail bank to help them get credit.”
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD has said he is concerned at the lack of coordinated thinking from Minister Mitchell O’Connor’s office around the importance of the national spatial strategy to the issue of job creation. Speaking during Minister’s questions in the Dáil, Deputy Quinlivan said:
“Brexit is a game changer which has made the need for an innovative National development strategy all the more urgent.
“I am concerned that the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation do not appear to be prioritising this issue or to realise its significance.
“We have a major problem in this country that must be addressed if we are to make genuine progress on the jobs front - and this is the issue of regional inequality.
“What we have is the untrammelled over development of the greater Dublin region at the expense of the rest of the country.
“Regional underdevelopment did not happen by chance – it resulted from a conscious approach to economic policy that prioritised the growth of Dublin, at the expense of the rest of the country.
“In broader societal terms it is not acceptable to follow this failed economic model.
“Announcing 20 or 30 jobs here and there will do nothing to deal with the enormous issues faced by the large urban centres of Cork, Limerick, and Waterford; it will do nothing for the South-East; or for Sligo, Mayo, Donegal and the border region.
“These areas have high levels of unemployment; a huge deficit when it comes to infrastructure, poor access to public transport networks, and limited opportunities for young people to access training and apprentice schemes.
“The Department of Jobs should be proactive and take an all-Island approach to the issue of regional development within the context of the National Spatial Strategy.
“We urgently need investment in infrastructure and capital projects if we are to achieve any semblance of balanced and sustainable regional development.
“Sustainable job creation requires an integrated approach - one that looks at housing, infrastructure, public services and economic growth in a holistic manner”.
“Brexit gives us an opportunity to prioritise the growth of indigenous companies and achance to finally deal with the issue of regional inequality in all its manifestations”.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills, Teachta Carol Nolan, has welcomed the fact that the Oireachtas Committee on Education has committed to conducting hearings on the impact of Brexit on the Education sector after she proposed the item on this week’s agenda.
Teachta Nolan said:
“I welcome the fact that the Committee has agreed to conduct hearings with relevant stakeholders on the potential impact of Brexit on the education sector.
“There are huge issues in respect of student mobility north and south and also in respect of third level funding for research and development.
“It is important that the various stakeholders have an opportunity to present to the committee so that we have a full overview of the issues affecting the sector and the plans of government to deal with them.
“I look forward to meeting with all of the relevant stakeholders as soon as possible to discuss in detail the relevant concerns for the sector and help inform the debate and the government’s approach to this issue.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has expressed serious concern about the consequences, “unintended or otherwise,” of a controversial government planning Bill that has just passed second stage in the Dáil.
Deputy Ó Broin said
“Sinn Féin agrees with the government on the need to increase supply of all forms of housing. We are open to reforming the planning system to achieve this. However the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 in its current form does not accomplish this. The controversial Bill has the potential to compromise good planning decisions, undermines Local Authorities, exclude citizens from the planning process and impede the building of sustainable communities.
“The centrepiece of the Bill is a proposal to fast track housing applications, of 100 units or more, to An Bord Pleanála. The Minister is effectively bypassing the local authority and weakening the county development plan. This is a profound change to our planning system. During second stage debate on the Bill I outlined a more transparent and democratic way in which large planning applications could be processed more speedily.”
Sinn Féin’s concerns were echoed in a statement from the Irish Planning Institute that states: “These provisions could encourage applications which do not comply with Development Plans and fundamentally alter the relationship between local communities and planning authorities, damaging the credibility of local government and the planning system as a whole.”
“I am also very concerned with aspects of the proposed environmental impact assessment screening process. While there is a need for such a process I am concerned that what is proposed does not comply with International and European legal requirements such as the Aarhus Convention and the EIA directive.
“The proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act aimed at strengthening tenants’ rights are exceptionally weak. We know that a large number of families presenting as homeless are in that situation because of buy to let landlords or banks serving a notice to quit when selling the property. The Minister’s original proposal would only have covered 0.56% of landlords. The Bill as amended in the Seanad only covers 5.9% of landlords. The vast majority of families at risk of homelessness because their landlords are selling their properties will get no extra protection from the Bill. If this measure is to mean anything it must be available to all tenants. “
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Heritage, Peadar Tóibín TD, has commented on the government’s failure to submit their appeal in time against the High Court judgement protecting Moore Street from demolition.
Deputy Tóibín said:
“The government were supposed to have submitted their appeal against the High Court judgement on Moore Street yesterday, but they have missed the deadline. This follows on from a three month extension on the appeal which was granted to them on the 18th of September.
“It strikes me as highly unusual that they have not yet submitted the appeal. It would appear that they don’t actually know what they are appealing – hence the delay. This is despite the government having deployed a huge legal team, estimated to consist of up to 12 barristers, to pick holes in the case.
“The entire decision by the government to take the case to the High Court for the demolition of our National Monument in the first instance was abhorrent. The appeal is a further outrage. What’s more, it is at a massive financial cost to the Irish taxpayer.
“Estimated millions have already been spent on this case – money that could have put to better use – for the purchase of the Pearse surrender letter as a case in point. Surely now is an opportune time for the government to withdraw the appeal and allow Moore Street to develop as a cultural quarter befitting of it’s iconic and historic status.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has said that the Government’s amendment to his Dáil motion on Pensions was seen for what it was and that has led to the Government’s defeat.
Sinn Féin have put the real issues around pensions on the political agenda and given a voice to the thousands of people affected by Government inaction on pensions. Sinn Féin have also ensured that the issue of Pensions is on the work programme for the Social Protection Committee which meets to discuss this issue next week.
Speaking after the vote, Teachta Brady said:
“The Government amendment put to Sinn Fein’s motion on Pension Equality & Fairness was completely irrelevant to the issues addressed in the motion.
“The Government’s amendment failed to address the core issues that Sinn Féin had sought to tackle in our pensions system.
“This motion was about fairness and equality. It was about fairness for those obliged to retire at 65 in accessing their State Pension as oppose to signing on for Jobseekers. It was about equality for women giving them an equal pension to men in tackling the 37% pension gender gap.
“Fine Gael TDs were like rabbits in headlights when it came to voting on our motion today.
“Fianna Fáil’s amendment which was passed was bizarre. The majority of Fianna Fáil TDs have highlighted the inconsistencies within the pension system particularly, the gender pension gap of 37% and the impact this is having on women. Yet, when it came to taking action on this matter, Fianna Fáil has failed to do so.
“A clear message has gone out today to thousands of people particularly, women that have been impacted by changes to pension bands and rates made in 2012 and the 5,075 men and women forced onto Jobseekers on retirement.
“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil know the issues, they shout about them and cry crocodile tears for those affected but they are not willing to do anything about it. Hopefully, now that Fianna Fáil has eventually found the courage to vote against Fine Gael, voting in line with Sinn Féin on important matters, they might start a new trend for themselves.”
One of the best ways of keeping people from reaching crisis point is to equip them with the skills to cope with life’s more difficult challenges such as relationship break up, bereavement, redundancy, exam pressure, and so forth.
That was the key message from Health Minister Michelle O’Neill as she visited the newly refurbished Lenadoon Community Counselling Service in west Belfast.
Established in 1998, Lenadoon Community Counselling provides counselling services to young people and adults aged from 14 years old. Counselling is by appointment and takes place after an initial assessment is carried out by a counsellor.
The Minister said:
“We must bear in mind why services such as those provided by Lenadoon Community Counselling are so vital.
“The fact is that there are too many tragic deaths by suicide in this area and in the north of Ireland as a whole.
“Many more people die by suicide here per year than die in road traffic accidents. Each loss leaves behind grieving families and friends. All sudden deaths are difficult to come to terms with, but bereavement through suicide is particularly traumatic.
“In the north of Ireland, the suicide rate in the 20 percent most deprived areas is three times higher than in the 20 percent least deprived areas. The association between suicide and deprivation is very clear. That is why it is so important to have the necessary services located in the areas where people are most in need of them.”
The Minister concluded:
“We all have times in our lives when we feel like we can’t cope. You might think that things are not going to get better and that no-one else has ever experienced what you are going through. If you are feeling like this, you should know that you are not alone. Talking can help so speak to a friend, family member, your GP or a counsellor and get the help and advice you need.”
Addressing business leaders in Boston today, Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said the US has a key role to play in continuing to support economic development and the next phase of the peace process.
Speaking at an Irish American Partnership BUSINESS event, the Minister said:
“US support over the past two decades has played a key role in supporting our economy and a successful peace process. The challenge facing the Executive is to continue to build the peace through economic and political progress to deliver the shared and prosperous society we all envisage. I am confident we can do with the continued support of Irish America.
“Over my two day visit to Boston, I will meet key business government and political representatives to urge a fresh start to the mutually beneficial relationship between our people and the diaspora. Boston is at the capital of Irish America. I was proud to sign the sister city agreement with Boston in 2014 when I was first citizen of Belfast. I look forward to meeting with Boston’s outstanding Irish American Mayor Marty Walsh."
During his visit, Minister Ó Muilleoir will meet with the Mayor of Boston Martin J Walsh, Massachusetts Comptroller Thomas G. Shack III Esq, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Senator Michael F Rush and Representative Daniel J Ryan.