Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed new measures aimed at protecting tenants of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
The party’s Housing spokesperson said:
“I welcome confirmation that from April tenants in houses in multiple occupation will require a licence issued by Belfast City Council.
“The new system will help to protect the health and safety of tenants by allowing new tenants to check online if a house has a proper licence.
“There have been concerns raised about the poor conditions of properties and the behaviour of tenants — these new powers will allow for proper regulation.
"I look forward to seeing the full details on how this will be implemented and monitored as the rights of tenants are paramount, especially now that more public money is spent on housing benefit than that of the social housing sector.
“I have been lobbying for increased protections for HMO tenants for some time and this is a welcome step.”
Sinn Féin Councillor for Sandyford Glencullen, Chris Curran has welcomed the release of a Department of Environment Housing and Local Government circular that begins the process of affordable housing across the country as well as the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council area.
However, he has expressed concerns that a lost opportunity could prevent these housing units from being starter homes forever.
Speaking this evening, Curran said;
”The old system of affordable housing had one failure. That was that once a unit was sold on, the state no longer retained any ownership.
“I would ask the Minister to ensure that the legislation includes the council's ownership, perpetually. In doing so, it would ensure that these housing units would always be affordable starter homes.
“The biggest problem affecting potential buyers in Dublin is affordability and the purpose of this scheme is affordability. It makes sense that these units remain that way for generations.
“It is expected that each council area will have its own scheme and that the council can retain ownership of up to 40%
"From discussions with council officials, the qualification criteria and order of priority could include; that an applicant must be living in the county for at least 12 months.
“Another criteria could be that the units being applied for must meet the accommodation needs of the applicant and their families.
“The distance of the units to the school of the applicant's children is expected to also form part of the criteria.
“The order of priority will be within the scope of councillors.
“If the scheme is oversubscribed with applicants criteria being equal, it will then be decided on a first come first served basis.
“Also I understand that this new scheme will have no clawback and the council will retain its share until the unit is sold.”
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has said the British parliament is still debating fantasy Brexit options and needs to realise there is only one deal on the table.
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP said:
"Today the British government and British parliament announced another round of votes, including votes on fantasy Brexit options.
"This is indicative of the absolute chaos in the British parliament in British political system over Brexit.
"While the EU has said it has completed its preparations for a no-deal Brexit, the British Parliament is still preparing to debate fanciful deals.
"They need to realise there is only one deal on the table.
“The British parliament can debate all the scenarios it wants but the Withdrawal Agreement is the only way to avoid a no-deal Brexit and it is not going to change.
"And all the while we are heading closer to a disastrous, crash-out Brexit with the dire economic consequences that come with it.
"They need to accept reality and realise there is only one way to avoid a crash-out Brexit and that is the Withdrawal Agreement."
Sinn Féin Councillor for Cookstown John McNamee has condemned the erection of Parachute Regiment Flags in the town centre at the weekend that glorify the Bloody Sunday massacre.
Councillor McNamee said:
“I have received a large number of complaints since these flags went up over the weekend. While I’m aware that similar flags have been erected elsewhere those erected in Cookstown have a more sinister message on them.
“The flags I have seen have the message ‘Londonderry 1972 No Surrender’ emblazoned on them which is an obvious reference to the Bloody Sunday Massacre carried out by the Parachute regiment in Derry on 30th January 1972.
“This is a deliberate act to cause further trauma and distress to the families of those murdered on that day.
"In my opinion the erection of these flags is a hate crime and I am calling for their immediate removal.
“I am also calling on the PSNI to investigate those responsible for this hate crime as these flags were erected in full view of the town’s CCTV cameras.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said measures must be examined to curb international investors buying up whole new building projects for the purposes of renting them out. He said first time buyers and others must not be permanently priced out of what limited supply there is by wholesale investors.
The Donegal TD said:
“Today, we hear of yet another housing development sold before it is even built to the State’s largest landlord, I-Res. This type of fund enjoy very favourable tax benefits and are hugely profitable as we can see from the fact that their Chief Executive was awarded a 100% bonus of €330,000 last year.
“This is an intolerable situation where the State is relying on international capital to provide basic services, such as housing, while allowing these same funds pay little tax.
“Ireland is not the only place facing this type of imbalance in the market. I note Amsterdam has announced it intends to put in place a ban on new houses being bought for the purposes of renting them out. While that may be a different challenge in terms of tourism, it is that type of emergency measure needs to be fully examined. We cannot allow a situation to develop where young workers and families are forced to rent because they cannot compete with funds buying up whole apartment blocks who are free to set rent outside the caps in the case of new housing.
“The long term economic and social consequences for the Irish people are deeply worrying. A small few cannot be allowed control the housing market, making mega profits while the majority are forced to compete to rent forever and a day. Legislative, tax and all other measures must be put on the table as soon as possible.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said confirmation received by Sinn Féin in a parliamentary question confirms that any future carbon tax increases would also attract VAT means that the mooted carbon tax jumps will be even more regressive than anticipated. He said it amounted to “a tax upon a tax”.
Speaking today Deputy Doherty said:
“Sinn Féin is opposed to the increase in carbon tax because it will disproportionately punish those on low and middle incomes while big business and corporate polluters will not be made to pay their fair share.
“The government has failed to provide any meaningful alternatives to citizens to enable behavioural change. It now seeks to pass the buck to households, once again, for their policy failures. The fact that VAT must be applied to carbon tax means the tax will itself be taxed.
“We need to tackle the catastrophic reality of climate change in a fair way. The bills faced by ordinary people are already too big from sky-high rents to inflated insurance premiums. Government investment can help bring about change such as through free insulation and retrofits, making electric cars affordable and developing the charging infrastructure and through public transport expansion and fare reductions.
“These programmes are not on the agenda for the Taoiseach or Minister for Finance as they fixate on increasing carbon taxes even though the evidence does not show that it is an effective way of changing behaviours especially without alternatives being put in place.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the government to provide funding for South Dublin County Council to purchase a 15.4-hectare residential site within the Clonburris Strategic Development Zone to increase the output of social and affordable housing in Dublin Mid-West.
The Dublin Mid-West TD said:
“As reported in the Irish Times, there is a 15.4-hectare residential site for sale for €11.5m within in Clonburris Strategic Development Zone that has the capacity for up 850 new homes.
“The government should immediately provide South Dublin County Council with the funding required to purchase the site and build social and affordable housing. The private market will not provide the social and affordable homes that people require.
“Unfortunately, the Clonburris SDZ is currently being held up due to appeals from Fine Gael Councillors, NAMA and others, to An Bord Pleanala. However, it is important that once this SDZ gets the green light that the maximum amount of social and affordable housing will be delivered.
“Acquiring this site would mean that South Dublin County Council would have a combined holding in the SDZ of 37% which along with the 10% social requirement under part V would increase the total output of social and affordable homes to 45%.
“€11.5m is not a huge investment when you consider the price of land in other parts of Dublin. Sinn Féin Councillors on South Dublin County Council will be lobbying the Council management to purchase the land while as TD for the constituency I have written to Minister Murphy urging him to provide the funding necessary.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has warned that index-linking future pension increases to inflation will not ensure income adequacy for recipients.
Speaking in response to Minister Regina Doherty’s plans to introduce such changes, Teachta Brady said:
“Sinn Féin welcomes any moves by Government to end the political football around pension increases which occurs every year as we approach Budget time. We also welcome an end to the uncertainty that this creates for those who rely on social welfare, including State Pension recipients.
“The need to ensure adequacy in our social welfare system extends beyond the State Pension payment alone. The Minister cannot examine any such changes to the rate at which payments are made without looking at all social welfare payments.
“During the debate on the Social Welfare, Pensions & Civil Registration Bill 2018, a Sinn Féin amendment which was passed, commits the Minister to ‘consult with stakeholders on examining in which social welfare rates are increased with the aim of ensuring adequacy for all recipients’ and to do so in the first quarter of this year.
“This engagement with stakeholders is crucial when it comes to any changes to the way in which social welfare payment rates are set. As part of our work to progress the Sinn Féin Social Welfare Commission Bill, extensive engagement with stakeholders has clearly shown that adequacy of payments, and not index-linking to inflation is key.
“I would again appeal to Minister Doherty to consider our proposal to establish a Social Welfare Commission which would examine the level of income necessary to ensure an adequate standard of living across different household types who rely on social protection and recommend any such increases in rates where they are really needed.”
Sinn Féin’s Siobhán Currie has condemned those responsible for the robbery of an ATM at a filling station in Irvinestown.
The Irvinestown representative said:
“This is yet another attack on our rural communities which saw the ATM being stolen from the shop and filling station. The shop is closed as a result.
“McAleer’s, on the Dromore Road, is a family owned business which provides a vital service for the community.
“I would urge the PSNI to increase resources to their dedicated task-force probing ATM thefts in order to tackle this latest spate of robberies in our area. Similar attacks have recently been carried out in Omagh and Kiltyclogher and several others in recent years.
Jemma Dolan MLA continued:
“I would urge anyone with any information to bring it forward to the PSNI to help catch those responsible.”
The family of Martin Mc Guinness have thanked the thousands of people who came out to support today’s Chieftains Walk in his honour.
The walk, from Ebrington Square to Brandywell, was hailed a huge success a huge success as huge crowds defied atrocious weather to take part.
Fiachra McGuinness said: “It was an incredible experience once again to see so many people turning out to remember our father and to raise funds for the Foyle Hospice and the Intensive Care Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.
“We want to thank the organising committee who did so much work to make it a success, the stewards, Derry Sinn Féin and all those who helped out in any way to make the walk another huge success.
“And of course we want to thank the people of Derry and further afield who registered, donated and turned out in huge numbers to honour our father in such a fitting way.”
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has said the clock is still ticking toward a crash-out Brexit while the British Parliament is is chaos.
Speaking ahead of the launch of a Brexit countdown clock and poster, the Newry and Armagh MP said;
“With the clock ticking towards a crash out Brexit Sinn Fein representatives will be at the launch by the Border Communities Against Brexit of a count down clock and poster in the carpark of the Church graveyard, Jonesborough, on Monday morning at 10.30am.
“The clock will count down towards March 29, which is when we could still crash out of the EU with no deal as a result of the chaos, confusion and delusion in the British Parliament.
“Brexit is mired in chaos and uncertainty and our businesses and farmers are desperately worried about what will happen.
“The hardline Brexiteers need to step back from the brink and realise that the only way to avoid a disastrous crash out Brexit is through the Withdrawal Agreement."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has branded An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as “completely out of touch with the daily realities facing ordinary people”.
Ms McDonald was responding to the Taoiseach’s address at his party’s Ard Fheis tonight.
The Sinn Féin President said:
“The Taoiseach has shown through his empty words and mud-slinging tonight just how completely out of touch he is with the daily realities facing ordinary people.
“Leo Varadkar had nothing to say about the cost of living crisis which is crippling families. He had nothing to say about the low wage economy and precarious work which is causing huge levels of stress and insecurity among working people.
“For all his talk of reducing tax, the Taoiseach will shortly impose a carbon tax on families who are already living hand to mouth. Who are already struggling to make ends meet. Who are at the mercy of endless expense and a health and housing system in constant crisis.
“The fact is that the Fine Gael government is inherently ineffective and unstable. It is lurching from crisis to crisis and has lost control of budgetary spending as was evident in the National Children’s Hospital debacle.
“The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil alliance has done nothing but damage and the empty rhetoric from Leo Varadkar tonight shows that we need a new direction and a government that will start delivering for people."
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA, has welcomed the launch of a Relatives for Justice report into the murder of Peter Gallagher in 1993.
Speaking after the report's launch in Toome today, the South Antrim MLA said:
“I was honoured to speak at the launch of the Relatives for Justice (RFJ) report into the murder of local Sinn Féin member Peter Gallagher in 1993, and have this opportunity to pay tribute to my friend and comrade, who remains fondly remembered and sorely missed by his wife Bernie, their seven children, seventeen grandchildren, large family circle, and wider community of Cargin and Toome.
“I commend RFJ for this very comprehensive report into Peter’s murder. It is especially poignant that it was launched today in the village of Toome, and only a stone’s throw from his family home in Trea Gardens, from where he set out for work, for the last time 26 years ago.
“This compelling report provides a very personal insight into Peter’s life. Importantly, it also details the wider context of his murder by a unionist death squad at his place of work in Belfast early on the morning of 24th March 1993, and raises important questions which remain unanswered by the British state.
"RFJ report that Peter Gallagher's details featured on RUC security montages supplied to unionist paramilitaries. He was a victim of the UDA's Belfast based 'C Company', which was a specific death squad heavily infiltrated with British military agents, and directed by the British army's notorious Force Research Unit.
"They also conclude that Peter was in all probability killed with a Browning pistol imported as part of the consignment of South African weapons organised by British agent Brian Nelson.
“Organised collusion between British state forces and unionist death squads, and state sponsored assassinations defined British state policy in Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s.
“Between 1989 and 1993 fourteen Sinn Féin members, including three councillors, were murdered. Peter was one of those assassinated during that period. Other family members were killed and dozens with connections to Sinn Féin were injured.
"The Gallagher family and RFJ have asked the Police Ombudsman to investigate specific circumstances relevant to Peter's killing, and any relevant RUC association to these circumstances.
“Behind every loss in the conflict, there is a human story: There is a person, a family, loss, and grief.
“Peter Gallagher was a devoted family man who lived to work, and worked to provide for his family. He was a much loved and highly regarded personality in Toome, and he was a deeply committed republican.
“Peter Gallagher's family, and so many others deserve truth and justice.
"It is an indictment of the British state that powerful elements of the British political and military establishment continue to deny these families maximum information disclosure about what happened their loved ones.
“The blocking of legacy justice rights by the British state, and refusal to implement the Stormont House Agreement legacy mechanisms has created a new momentum for truth. Today’s launch of the RFJ report into Peter Gallagher’s murder is the latest example of this unstoppable momentum for truth and justice.”
Carthy to host “Brexit: What’s Next?” Event in Donegal on March 29th
Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy will host a special “Brexit Day” event in Donegal on Friday March 29th.
The event entitled “Brexit: What’s next?” will take place in Dillon’s Hotel, Letterkenny at 8pm.
Ahead of the event Carthy said:
“March 29th is the original Brexit date. So it makes sense that we would hold a public meeting on that date in one of the regions that has most to lose from a bad Brexit deal.
“The fact that there remains huge uncertainty about what will happen is symptomatic of the absolute chaos in the British Parliament and particularly their cavalier attitude to Ireland.
“Farmers and other businesses in Donegal and in other areas along the border don’t know what impact Brexit will have other than knowing there is no such thing as a good Brexit.”
Carthy again reiterated that the backstop is the basic minimum acceptable to the people of Ireland.
“The backstop remains the least bad option but even if the withdrawal agreement is adopted it will still leave many challenges for Ireland.
“Therefore this public meeting in Donegal will be an opportunity to provide an update on what’s happening with Brexit at that stage. It will also be a chance to discuss how we can deal with all of the potential scenarios in order to protect our communities, farmers, businesses and workers. We will also discuss the issue of Irish Unity recognising, of course, that Brexit has highlighted the failure of the partition of our country in very stark terms. “I would encourage people from Donegal and neighbouring counties to join the conversation in Dillon’s Hotel in Letterkenny on ‘Brexit Day’ next Friday evening, March 29.”
Carthy calls on government to resist EU Vulture Fund Directive
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called on the Irish government to ensure that domestic legislation designed to subject vulture funds to Central Bank regulation is not trampled on by the proposed new EU Directive on creating a secondary market for non-performing loans. The Midlands North West MEP has been negotiating the package on non-performing loans for the left group in the European Parliament.
Carthy said: “First up, my view is that this proposed Directive needs to be withdrawn. It was proposed on the basis of an impact assessment that took absolutely no regard of the rights of EU citizens such as the right to housing assistance under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
“It will lead to more evictions, more harassment of homeowners by debt collectors, and more housing stress and homelessness. It is grossly unfair because it puts the blame and the punishment for the 2008 crisis on the shoulders of ordinary families and homeowners instead of the financial institutions that caused the crisis.
“In an Irish context, we have made only limited progress to date in terms of regulating vulture funds and protecting consumers and mortgage-holders. Yet even this modest progress made in the Dáil – usually in spite of Fine Gael opposition – will now be under threat by this EU Directive.
“For years Irish campaigners for the rights of mortgage-holders have demanded that the vulture funds themselves, and not only the middlemen – their intermediary debt collectors, referred to as credit servicers – must be directly regulated by the Central Bank. Ireland’s Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2018, which came into effect in January, is a positive step forward in that it allows the Central Bank for the first time to regulate, investigate and sanction the owners of the credit agreements and not just their designated debt collectors.
“This modest but significant step forward in our framework for regulating vulture funds is now under threat by the EU Directive, which aims to impose a regime where the vulture funds themselves are entirely unregulated in the EU and only their ‘credit servicer’ subsidiaries are subject to any rules.
“I welcome the fact that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe confirmed in a letter to me on March 6 that he has communicated to the Council that this is a ‘redline’ issue for Ireland in the Council negotiations on the Directive. The government must be held to this commitment, and all Irish MEPs in the European Parliament must also defend this position.
“The second substantial principle we need to defend is of course my colleague Pearse Doherty’s ‘no consent, no sale’ bill requiring banks to gain the written consent of their customers before selling their mortgage to a vulture fund; if this bill becomes law based on the will of our elected representatives in Dáil, it will be simply overruled by the EU through this Directive.
“I have tabled amendments to the Parliament’s report on the Directive demanding the direct regulation of the vultures; the need for banks to obtain the written consent of their customer before selling their loans on to a third party; a debt buy-back scheme for customers to have the right to purchase their own debt at the same reduced price that their bank would sell the loan to a vulture for; and for a range of additional consumer protection improvements to the Directive.
“But these amendments are not enough. I will also be working with consumer protection groups and housing campaigners in the coming months to call for the total withdrawal of this extremely damaging proposal.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Mayo Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has urged Fine Gael representatives in Mayo to apply pressure to their colleagues in Cabinet to sign off on the pyrite redress scheme, as time is of the essence in order to facilitate necessary repairs.
Senator Conway-Walsh said:
“With the onset of spring and summer, the only opportunity that householders have to arrange for necessary repairs to be carried out is fast approaching. Complex external structural work can only be completed in relatively good weather. I have seen many of the affected houses and I can testify that many of them will not last another winter.
“Last year I held up a photo in the Seanad showing the damage that one stormy night can do to a house that was already showing the signs of pyrite related defects. Many houses around Co Mayo are in this precarious state. The homeowners need certainty. They need a date. They need to plan and prepare.
“The situation seems even more ridiculous when Minister Eoghan Murphy recently told my party leader that the only thing that was holding up the redress scheme was the need to ‘finalise the details’. I have seen the houses, Government Minsters have seen the houses – hurry up!
“I am therefore calling on all Mayo representatives, particularly those who are in cabinet or who regularly tell us that they have the ear of the Government, to act now on the homeowners behalf. I certainly don’t want to be highlighting more cases of houses, where the redress scheme has come too late.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said today that Brexiteers in the DUP and Tory party now need to accept reality and avoid a disastrous crash-out Brexit.
The South Down MP said:
"An extension or delay, regardless of the length, does not solve Brexit or avoid the possibility of a devastating crash-out.
"It prolongs the chaos in the British parliament and adds to the uncertainty for the business community, the farming sector and everyone else.
"The only thing which will avoid a crash-out Brexit which would drive our economy off a cliff edge is the Withdrawal Agreement.
"The British parliament needs to abandon its delusional belief that there can be any renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop it contains.
"The Brexiteers in the DUP and Tory party now need to finally realise where this reckless course they are on will lead and take a step back and avoid a disastrous crash-out Brexit."
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe, has expressed his deep concern at the decision of the US President, Donald Trump, to declare that the occupied territory of the Golan Heights is part of Israel in direct contravention of international law. This follows on from the US declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of the Israeli state.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“Israel invaded Syria’s Golan Heights in 1967 in an act of aggression that displaced 95 percent of the region’s population, approximately 130,000 people. Israel has illegally occupied the Golan Heights ever since and numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions have condemned Israel’s illegal occupation of that territory.
“This latest move by the Trump administration is another flagrant disregard for international law and it could have majorly disruptive effects on regional stability. I am conscious that there are currently hundreds of Irish troops in the Golan Heights on a UN peacekeeping mission and this declaration threatens their safety.
“The fear now is that the United States could make a similar declaration about the West Bank in Palestine. This would be an attack on Palestinian sovereignty and a two state solution.
“Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights are illegal under international law. This latest move by the Trump administration puts them at direct odds with the rest of the international community. It is short sighted and potentially disastrous for the region at large, which is still trying to recover from the latest botched attempts at US intervention.
“I am calling on the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, to distance Ireland from this US declaration and restate that Ireland recognises that Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights is illegal.”