Speaking during all stages of the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016 which presented before the Dáil today, Sinn Féin TD and Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin T.D said that this was an historic day for the Deaf Community in Ireland.
Deputy Ó Caolain said;
“Sinn Féin have long supported the campaign by the Irish Deaf Society and campaigners for official recognition of ISL as we have always recognised the importance of Irish Sign Language (ISL) to the Irish Deaf Community, their families and friends.
"We have been fully committed to supporting the passage of ISL recognition legislation as it is an incredibly important piece of legislation for the rights and entitlements of citizens who are deaf.
“Irish Sign Language, ISL, is a language of the face, hands and body that has been in existence for hundreds of years and developed from within the Deaf Community in Ireland.
"It is one of our two indigenous languages, the other, Gaeilge, being our first official language. It differs from sign languages in other countries. It is unique to Ireland.
"There are approximately 5,000 Deaf people in Ireland who use ISL. However, approximately 40,000 hearing people use ISL, ranging from a regular to occasional usage in Ireland.
“Last October, in my capacity as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, I was honoured to launch a report fully endorsing the need for the formal recognition of ISL.
“During the course of the hearings on this issue we heard of the extent to which the Deaf Community experiences exclusion and isolation through the lack of sign language provision.
"One witness described that experience as one of “extreme marginalisation”, and this extends from the personal level right through to interactions with key organs of State such as the education system, the Court Service, the Health Service and including this Parliament, Dáil and Seanad Éireann.
“The passing of this Bill would mean that deaf people in Ireland would finally be able to access state services in their own language.
"It will mean every public body having to devise and implement an action plan to promote the use of sign language within the organisation. It would also permit the use of sign language within the courts.
"It would advocate for the establishment of an Irish Sign Language Council which would regulate sign language interpreters and teachers. It will make a huge difference in the lives of so many.
"These are all massive steps forward and I am delighted to have played my part, however small, in this coming into being."
Sinn Féin Dublin Bay North TD Denise Mitchell has said the State and the Justice system have totally failed the victims and survivors of the Stardust Fire of 1981, and has called for the establishment of a full Commission of Inquiry into the blaze which killed 48 people.
Speaking in the Dáil today in reaction to the McCartan Report, Deputy Mitchell said:
“This fire didn’t just change the lives for the people who were there; it had a ripple effect through the entire community. It tore families apart.
"For the past 36 years these families have had no justice. They have never got the full truth of what happened on St Valentine’s night 1981. They have been let down by the Justice system and by the State.
“One thing that stands out to me, from all the reports, is that the witnesses statements all seem to point to the fire being well established in the roof space from very early on.
“We had a situation where there was flammable materials piled high in the roof-space store room. Planning and fire regulations were broken all over the place.
"Emergency doors were padlocked and chained shut and yet not a single charge was ever brought against the Establishment or management of the club. That alone speaks volumes.”
Deputy Mitchell commended the campaign for truth and justice by the Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee, adding:
“The only way we will get to the bottom of this is for a new, full commission of inquiry. Anything else simply will not do.
“It has been 36 years. Nobody, absolutely nobody, should have to wait that long to get the truth about what happened to their loved ones.”
Please find attached Deputy Mitchell’s speech in full below.
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said it is concerning that the UCAS End of Cycle Report for 2017 shows a drop in the entry rate of 18 year-olds to higher education from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in the north.
The Party's Further and Higher Education spokesperson said, "The UCAS End of Cycle Report for 2017 shows there was a small drop of 0.1 percent to 15.9 percent in the entry rate of 18 year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds while the entry rate of 18 year-olds from the most advantaged backgrounds increased by 0.8 percent to 46.6 percent.
"Pupils from the most advantaged backgrounds in the north are 2.9 times more likely to enter higher education than those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
"Everyone should have opportunities to access education and to achieve. Institutions have a duty to ensure a real emphasis is placed upon widening participation, particularly aimed at those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds."
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has said sport must be a safe and inclusive environment for all.
The party’s spokesperson on culture, arts and sport was speaking after a study Forza Football in conjunction with the LGBT rights group Stonewall found that football fans north and south would be comfortable if a footballer came out as gay or bisexual.
Overall the survey which polled 50,000 football fans found that overall 76 percent of would welcome an openly gay player on their team.
Sinéad Ennis said:
“The survey from Stonewall and Forza Football shows that attitudes in society are changing, we need to ensure that sport must be a safe and inclusive environment for all.
“Equality and acceptance for all must be promoted and ensure that no lesbian, gay, bi or trans people feel excluded from taking part as a fan or teammate.
“Homophobia, biphobia or any other form of discrimination have no place in sport.
“Gender stereotyping, bullying and a lack of visible LGBT role models create barriers which prevent young people and adults from being themselves and trying new activities like sport.
“These barriers need to be broken down so that everyone can participate in sport in whatever form they choose either as a fan, player, manager or referee.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams met the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan on Tuesday along with Peter Fitzpatrick TD, Declan Breathnach TD and Fergus O’Dowd TD, to discuss the incident in Omeath in October 2015 in which Garda Tony Golden was killed, Siobhan Philips grievously wounded and Crevan Mackin took his own life.
Teachta Adams said:
“On November 29th I raised with the Taoiseach during Leaders Questions the fatal shooting of Garda Tony Golden, the serious wounding of Siobhán Phillips and the death by suicide of Crevan Mackin in Omeath on 11 October 2015.
"Crevan Mackin had been arrested for possession of weapons and explosives and admitted to this. He was released without being charged with these offences, despite some detectives knowing that he had access to four other weapons.
"It is believed he used one of these weapons to murder Garda Tony Golden and seriously wound Ms Phillips, whom he had also brutally beaten, before killing himself.
"In October 2015 I gave a file on these matters to the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, and the then Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. I wrote to Deputy Kenny four times. I spoke to him directly on a number of occasions.
"I wrote to Deputy Fitzgerald eight times. I also spoke to her. I gave information to the senior Garda officer investigating the case and I wrote to Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).
"When Deputy Varadkar took over as Taoiseach I sent the same file to him. The Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan eventually agreed to meet with me on the case and we did this on Tuesday evening.
"I had asked for the meeting with Minister Flanagan because of my serious concerns at the lack of progress by An Garda Síochána into the incident; the delay in concluding its investigation and in producing a review of its handling of the case which it had undertaken.
"The Phillips family continue to raise legitimate concerns with this process; including the designation of the GSOC investigation as a section 95 investigation - which may preclude criminal proceedings - as well as concerns relating to a lack of resources within GSOC. I share these concerns, especially the lack of resources at GSOC.
"The family also have grave concerns, which I share, about how Siobhán was treated when she presented at Dundalk Garda Station with visible signs of being domestically abused.
"Minister Flanagan told me that there are new guidelines for the Garda dealing with complaints of domestic abuse. He said that he would send them to me.
"In respect of the ongoing Garda investigation and review, the central issue is that Crevan Mackin was arrested for the possession of weapons and explosives and he admitted to that. He was then released without being charged with these offences while some Gardaí had evidence that he still had access to other weapons.
"This is serious matter of public accountability that must be addressed. I expressed my disappointment to the Minister that he had not yet spoken to the Acting Commissioner on this issue. I urged him to do so as a matter of urgency. Minister Flanagan did not accept that he should and I appealed to him to reconsider his position.
"I also pressed him to meet with the family of Siobhán Philips and to establish a properly resourced public inquiry as the family have request."
Sinn Féin's Caoimhe Archibald MLA has said digital rights protections are needed to protect the principles of privacy and equality online, as the US Federal Communications Commission decides the future of 'Net Neutrality' today.
The East Derry MLA said:
"The internet has transformed how we connect with each other, how we share information, and how much of our behaviour is recorded.
"So much of our lives is now 'online'. We should therefore expect the same levels of privacy, safety and freedom online as we do in our places of work or study, or in our homes.
"A decision by the US Supreme Court today to repeal 'Net Neutrality' would empower Internet Service Providers and online tech-giants on the internet, making it possible to gradually control traffic online.
"The great service of the internet is the ability to connect us freely and on equal terms. Without these protections we stand to lose this freedom and equality of treatment.
"The north of Ireland could potentially lose this equality of treatment, if the EU's 'Open Internet Access' rules fall after Brexit.
"The internet is a public good, and should be enshrined as such for our common benefit. It's time to establish online equality, protect our privacy for data and internet usage, and maximise the ability of the internet to connect, educate and empower citizens."
Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said British Home Office policy of deporting foreign-born rough sleepers was racist and degrading, following a British High Court decision outlawing the draconian practice.
Michelle Gildernew MP said:
"This now prohibited British Home Office policy is a clear sign of the contempt and xenophobia which runs through the British government's treatment of the poor and vulnerable. A home is a universal human right.
"Fundamental European human rights safeguards, which are now threatened by Brexit, would protect citizens in the north from racist and aggressive policies of this kind.
"If this policy was a signal of how the British government plan to treat migrants post-Brexit, all of society in the north of Ireland must rally to defend the vulnerable from these attacks regardless of their nation of birth."
Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the decision by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment to recommend repealing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“Yesterday we received the very good news that the Committee on the Eighth Amendment had voted to recommend the repeal of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.
“It is my hope that the referendum vote will come quickly and that the people can have a comprehensive, respectful and democratic debate, concluding with the removal of the eighth amendment from the Constitution.
“This referendum will be an opportunity for a new generation to have their say on a matter of fundamental social importance. It has been a long time in the making so there can be no undue delay by Government in its commitment to hold the referendum in 2018.
“The task presented to the Committee members has been both complex and contentious.”
“I want to acknowledge the work of its members, including committee Chair Senator Catherine Noone and Sinn Féin’s committee members Deputies Louise O’Reilly and Jonathan O’Brien and Senator Paul Gavan, and to thank them for their efforts.
Sinn Féin MLA Maírtín Ó Muilleoir has welcomed an announcement from the Department for Communities that the 2018 Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme will open for applications from the 3rd of January 2018.
Maírtín Ó Muilleoir:
“I welcome the news that the Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme will open in January.
“I congratulate Carál Ní Chuilín for the initiative, which has exceeded it’s 2020 target of 20,000 this year.
“Hopefully today’s announcement means that discrimination against Irish-speaking children will not be tolerated in the future.
“The Irish language belongs to us all and it is time that an Irish Language Act was introduced so that Irish speakers and learners are afforded the same rights as citizens across these islands.
“Application forms can be downloaded from the Líofa website www.liofa.eu or by contacting Líofa directly on 028 9051 5058.
“The scheme will close on the 28 of February and successful applicants will be notified in March 2018.”
Deputy Kenny said;
“Earlier this week the EU parliament passed the Omnibus Regulation which amends the financial regulation that governs the EU budget including the CAP budget. The purpose of this is to simplify the CAP process from 2018 on.
“Any simplification of the CAP process is welcome news for farmers, as the amount of red tape that farmers are forced to go through has increased dramatically over the years.
“Young farmers are also to benefit with member states given the flexibility to increase young farmers’ payments from 25% to 50% of the basic payment entitlement.
“However one of the areas I’m concerned about is the change to the definition of an active farmer and allowing member states to discontinue applying the active farmer rule.
“Irish farmers produce world class produce and have complied with regulation after regulation from both the EU and the Irish government. There can be no dilution of the definition of an active farmer and payments under CAP should go those engaged in farming and no other industries.
“I intend to raise this matter with Minister Creed and call on him to ensure Irish farmers are protected.”
The EU has pledged to launch a new European medical command by the end of next year, this has been described by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs as one of "the building blocks of a Europe of security and defence".
Reacting to the news in Strasbourg, Lynn Boylan said.
"The willingness with which Mogherini and other EU officials openly call for militarised Europe and for increased military spending in order to achieve a defence union, shows exactly where the EU’s priorities lie’.
"Fine Gael fully support the planned new European medical command. The Fine Gael government is failing to address the crisis in the Irish health system but can commit to the development of a rapidly deployable EU military medical corps.
"While thousands of Irish people are forced to wait on trollies and thousands more have to wait months for appointments, Fine Gael has decided to commit Ireland to contributing to a 5 billion EU military research budget and a series of military projects. These include the medical command which is, according to EU officials intended, to make the EU a "credible power" in international politics.
"This medical centre is intended to improve the capacities of EU troops deployed as part of EU missions outside the EU - it ads nothing to European defence. It merely enables NATO members such as France to strengthen their imperialist adventures in north Africa and the Middle East.
"By supporting these projects the Irish government is committing Ireland to providing logistical support to NATO supported wars.
"The joint medical centre is just one of the projects the EU intends to implement as part of PESCO. Fine Gael have also voted in favour of the creation of a common travel area which will be created through the development of special railways and roads for the movement of troops throughout the EU.
"The EU was not created to be a federalist military union, or indeed an international power. The development of a military union as part of the EU will only contribute to global instability and lead to more conflicts and humanitarian disasters."
The DUP may have failed to prevent last night’s defeat for Theresa May on Brexit but they are still preventing the restoration of power-sharing at Stormont, Sinn Féin’s Leader in the North has said.
Michelle O’Neill was speaking after the Tory Government lost a key Westminster Brexit vote despite the support of the DUP MPs.
“The DUP couldn’t prevent their Tory partners from suffering a humiliating defeat but, unfortunately for our public services and population, they are preventing a restoration of the power-sharing institutions,” she commented.
“Ongoing cuts to hard-pressed public services are a consequence of the DUP’s decision to prop up the Tory Government while their refusal to drop their anti-rights and anti-equality stance is blocking an agreement to restore the Executive.
“Sinn Féin want the Executive restored. We want to be in there driving forward the transformative change that is required in areas like health and education but the DUP is, in effect, putting unpopular party and personal views ahead of our health, education and other essential public services.
“The majority of MLAs also want to see marriage equality, language rights and legacy inquests delivered. The majority of MLAs are progressive in their thinking.
“But the main block to the delivery of these basic rights and to the full and immediate restoration of the political institutions is the DUP. Its anti-rights agenda is entirely out of sync with public opinion across these islands. The DUP needs to end this stubborn anti-equality blockade which would allow us all to get back to the work that we were elected to do.“The British government also needs to stop pandering to the DUP by allowing them to block rights they afford their own constituents.”
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer is demanding an intensification of engagements with the British and Irish Governments to protect the Good Friday Agreement from the impact of Brexit.
Speaking after meeting with senior officials from the Department Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, he warned that Brexit posed a major threat to existing areas of co-operation across the island.
“There are 142 areas of All-Ireland cooperation that could be adversely impacted by Brexit,” he commented.
“Sinn Féin have made it very clear to department officials and the British Government of the need to establish an all-Ireland process on cross-border areas of cooperation as a matter of urgency.
“There is also a clear imperative for a stronger role for the Irish Government in these processes."
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald today sought confirmation from the Tánaiste that the Taoiseach will seek additional assurances from the British government and EU Commission that the joint report is legally cast iron before allowing the Brexit talks move to Phase Two.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“The Taoiseach is attending the European Council Summit, a meeting that is crucial to Ireland’s economic, political and social future.
"When endorsing the joint report from the European Commission and the British government last Friday, the Taoiseach described that report as “cast-iron and rock solid.
“While acknowledging the positive language in the joint-report, Sinn Féin warned that it fell far short of what is needed to truly protect the national interest – north and south.
“We cautioned that the commitments were not legally binding and that your government needed to be very careful in its dealings with the Tory government.
“Over the days that followed, Sinn Fein’s caution was proven to be well founded. Britain’s Brexit Spokesperson David Davis described the joint-report as merely a ‘statement of intent’.
"Senior officials from the Department for Exiting the European Union at Westminster have already rowed back on the British commitments.
"They have claimed that ‘full alignment’ will only apply to six areas of north-south cooperation as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
“The looseness of the joint-report was further highlighted when, on Monday; the EU commission confirmed that the joint report is ‘not legally binding’ describing it as ‘a deal between gentleman’. This is hardly the language of rock solid and cast iron agreements.
“We are left with a set of contradictions.
"It is claimed that there will be no hard border in Ireland, but the fact is that Britain is leaving Customs Union and the Single Market and will drag the north of Ireland with them.
"There will be no diminution of rights, but Britain is leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. There is no threat to the Good Friday agreement but we are facing the biggest social and political rupture to impact on our island in generations.
“So there is a huge square to be circled here and relatively little time in which to do it.
“When I met with cross-community sectoral groups in the north earlier this week they felt far from assured, clear or certain about their future. There is clarity only on one thing and that is nothing is cast-iron or rock solid.
“Will the Taoiseach seek additional assurances from the British Prime Minister and our EU partners before allowing the talks to move onto phase two and will these assurances be put in writing, published and be legally cast-iron and rock solid?”
Responding to a proposal in a major report by expert advisory panel into improving adult social care in the north Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said domiciliary care should not be means tested.
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Carers and Wellbeing commented:
“While I welcome the report as a starting point for discussion on how to transform and improve adult social care the proposal regarding domiciliary care is not realistic as it is currently based on ‘critical need’.
“Social care should not be means tested. It is Sinn Féin’s position that health and social care should be free at the point of delivery.
“Sinn Féin will continue to engage with health providers and service users to ensure that the important work continues to move forward as part of the overall transformation agenda which is essential within our health and social care system.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD today welcomed the publication of the Business, Enterprise and Innovation Committee’s report on the working conditions of migrant fishermen in the Irish fishing fleet, and said that the report highlights serious problems that need addressing in the industry.
Speaking today, Deputy Quinlivan said;
“We spent a number of Committee meetings discussing the working conditions of non-EEA crew in the Irish fishing fleet, exploring how the industry operates and hearing from both employers and workers organisations.
“Many issues were identified in the course of our discussions but of particular concern were the conditions some workers face on certain vessels in the Irish fleet.
“The most harrowing story was to hear how an injured worker was put in a survival suit and thrown overboard to be picked up by another vessel.
“The issue of undocumented migrant workers was also highlighted, a group that because of their legal status, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“In the past year, inspections by the Workplace Relations Commission 198 contraventions were detected over 159 vessels that were inspected.
“We are concerned that the WRC will not have sufficient resources needed to continue inspections to ensure conditions are being monitored.
“One of the main recommendations of this report is for one Minister and Department to take responsibility for the fishing industry and its workers, as currently the responsibility is spread over Agriculture & the Marine, Justice, Transport and Business Enterprise and Innovation. This is resulting in no one department taking the lead, and allowing issue to persist and drag on, at the expense of workers.
“Today we also encouraged the employer and worker representatives to engage in constructive discussions to try and address some of the issues in the industry.
“The industry is vital to many communities around the coast of Ireland, employing 11,000 people and contributing €1.1 billion to the Irish economy last year, so it is vitally important it is properly regulated to ensure worker’s rights are upheld and business owners are supported."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking in a Dáil debate on Wednesday evening about current developments in the North accused the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin of “speaking drivel.”
Gerry Adams said:
"Last Friday, the Taoiseach said that Northern nationalists would never again be left behind by an Irish Government. Teachta Martin's phony outrage at this would be amusing if it was not such a serious issue.
"The reality is that nationalists in the North were abandoned for generations by successive Irish Governments, but today, like a broken record, Teachta Martin repeats the sham argument about the two problem parties and accuses Sinn Féin of contriving to pull down the institutions or preventing them being reinstated.
"He chooses to ignore, as he did when he was in office, the serious allegations of corruption in his own party and the allegations about abuse of the RHI scheme made by a former DUP Minister and the enormous financial cost, estimated at £700 million, it will inflict on the public purse.
"Teachta Martin turns a blind eye to the abundant evidence of DUP disrespect for, and rejection of, the rights of nationalist citizens in the North. I notice there is only one other Fianna Fáil Member on the Fianna Fáil benches this evening. They are probably as sick of listening to his drivel as everybody else.
"In his obsession, and it has become an obsession, he wants people in the North, who are living in a state that never wanted them, to meekly tolerate being treated as second class citizens. That might be the Fianna Fáil leader's way.
"He has brought being a hurler on the ditch into disrepute. He misleads the Dáil regularly with untruthful statements and puts words in my mouth that I never said. He refuses to accept the Sinn Féin mandate in the North while refusing to contest elections in the North.
"I have a message for Teachta Martin about nationalists in the North. He has missed this, but I do not believe the Government has missed the sea change in the attitude of nationalists in the past year. We will never again accept any British Government, unionist leader or any Dublin politician deciding what is or is not acceptable for us.”