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Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O'Neill has said the implementation of previous agreements remains key to making progress at Stormont. 

Michelle O'Neill said: 

"The British government is not some sort of independent broker in this process. 

"The British government is a player and part of the problem. Their approach in the talks meant that no agreement was possible. 

"James Brokenshire cannot wash its hands of its responsibilities and obligations to implement the commitments made in previous agreements. 

"The key to making progress is for the British government to take some responsibility and honour its commitments.”

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Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy has said a new report published today by Oxfam includes irrefutable evidence that the Irish state is still being used for massive levels of tax avoidance by corporations, banks and wealthy individuals, despite the government claims to the contrary.

The report on the use of tax havens by European banks is based on 2015 figures that were only made available following the introduction of public country by country reporting for large banks last year.

Carthy, a member of the European Parliament's Panama Papers inquiry, said: 

"Yet again we have another report from a highly respected development agency that describes the Irish state as a tax haven - this time, for Europe's biggest banks.

"Incredibly, the figures show that five banks - RBS11, Societe Generale, UniCredit, Santander and BBVA - reported profits in Ireland of more than 100% of their turnover, something that can only be achieved through blatant profit-shifting.

"Combined, these big banks reported profits of €2.3bn in the Irish state on turnover of around €3bn, compared with Sweden which reported profits of €0.9bn on the same level of turnover. Oxfam's report further shows that the effective tax rate paid on these Irish profits by 16 of the top 20 banks was 6%, with three banks paying an effective tax rate of just 2%.

"This shows without a doubt the existence of tax laws and loopholes in the Irish state that continue to facilitate massive corporate tax avoidance. These must be addressed by ending mismatches and introducing strong controlled foreign company rules and stronger anti-abuse rules."

Carthy concluded:

"Most importantly these figures vividly illustrate the value of country by country reporting being made public instead of the figures only being provided to state tax authorities.

"The Irish Government should stop playing an obstructionist role on this matter in the EU Council, where it opposes public country by country reporting, and commit instead to maximum transparency."

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Tá ráite ag an Chomhalta Carál Ní Chuilín go gcaithfear an feachtas ar son comhionannais agus Acht Gaeilge a ghéarú i ndiaidh gur theip ar Rialtas na Breataine agus ar an DUP beart a dhéanamh de réir a mbriathar.

Ag labhairt léi i ndiaidh an léirsithe ar son Acht Gaeilge a reáchtáil an Dream Dearg ag Stormont inniu, dúirt Ní Chuilín:

“Tá sé thar am go mbeadh Acht Gaeilge ann.

“Ba cheart go mbeadh cearta chainteoirí Gaeilge faoi chosaint reachtaíochta.

“Tá ag teip ar Rialtas na Breataine agus ar an DUP a gcoimitmintí a chomhlíonadh.

“Má tá muid ag iarraidh Acht Gaeilge a bhaint amach, caithfidh muid bheith i mbun feachtasíochta. Mar a dúirt Gerry Adams an tseachtain seo chuaigh thart, caithfear gníomh agus eagrú ar son an Achta.

“Mholfainn do chách atá ag iarraidh chomhionnanas, meas agus cearta a bhaint amach, mholfainn dóibh a dtacaíocht a léiriú sna seachtainí atá romhainn.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Education and Skills Carol Nolan has today welcomed the expansion of the school meals programme but has said that more funding is required to ensure that the programme meets the needs of children.

Teachta Nolan said:

“I welcome the announcement of €3 million in additional funding for the school meals programme from September this year. Sinn Féin has consistently called for additional funding for this scheme.

“However, €1.5 million of this is to provide school meals to the new DEIS schools announced by the Minister in recent weeks and given the fact that there has been a moratorium on new DEIS schools since 2009, arguably the Minister is playing catch up and these schools should have been in receipt of school meals funding much sooner.

“As we know, the levels of consistent child poverty rates have risen in Ireland from 6.3% in 2008 to 11.5% in 2015. Initiatives such as the school meals programme play an important part in tackling the effects of child poverty.

“Currently, the school meals programme provides only 90% of the funding for school lunches in some circumstances and I am aware of schools that will run out of money before the school year for the programme.

“Clearly, the level of funding for the school meals programme is not adequate, given the prevalence of educational disadvantage that currently exists.

“I am aware of a number of schools that cannot understand why they have not been included in the DEIS scheme, given the levels of disadvantage reported in their schools. 

“I know a number of these schools have applied in recent years for funding for school meals and have been refused, as the funding was sufficient to primarily cover those with DEIS status only, meaning these schools have effectively lost out twice.

“In our Alternative Budget, Sinn Féin provided for a 40% increase in the programme, which would help meet the demand and ensure that no child is forced to sit in a classroom, trying to learn, with an empty stomach.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O'Neill has said a deal to implement previous agreements is required in order to form an Executive. 

Michelle O'Neill said: 

"I spoke to the leaders of the other main parties and sought their agreement to cancel today's sitting of the Assembly. That was the right decision. 

"Sinn Féin is standing firm on our view that in order for progress to be made we need to see a commitment and plan to implement previous agreements. 

"An Executive can only operate on the basis of equality, respect and integrity and that must include the honouring of agreements made. 

"The DUP and others who have blocked rights and equality provisions need to realise there can be no return to the status quo. 

"All of these issues can be resolved but for that to happen a step change is needed from the British government and the DUP."

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said the campaign for equality and an Acht Gaeilge must now be intensified following the failure of the British government and the DUP to step up to the plate.

Carál Ní Chuilín was speaking after today’s demonstration at Stormont by An Dream Dearg at 4.15pm campaigning for an Acht Gaeilge.

Carál Ní Chuilín said:

"It is past time for an Irish Language Act.

"The rights and entitlements of Irish speakers should and must be protected by legislation.

"The DUP and the British government continue to fall short on their commitments.

"If we want an Irish Language Act we must go out there and campaign for it. As Gerry Adam's rightly put it last week, we must mobilise and organise. 

"I would encourage everyone who wants equality, respect and rights to show their support today and in the weeks to come." 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has criticised Minister Simon Coveney and Deputy Barry Cowen's “empty rhetoric” on the housing crisis. The Dublin Mid-West TD said that “ending the housing crisis demands real investment in social and affordable housing not hollow spin and back-of-the envelope proposals”.

Deputy O Broin said:

“Today, Minister Coveney has claimed that he is making progress in tackling the housing crisis, despite the fact that homelessness continues to grow and the pace of house construction is glacial. 

“He claims to have provided 18,000 social housing solutions last year. However, of these, the actual increase in social housing stock owned by Councils and Housing Associations is just 2,204 new units and 2300 refurbished long term vacant units.

“The Minister also claimed that 15,256 homes were completed last year. Independent experts have challenged the method of calculating these figures and claim that the real number is closer to 7,532.

“Despite the fact that there are 198,000 vacant homes across the state, the Minister is only planning to bring 6,600 into use over the next six years. Minister Coveney is only targeting 3% of the vacant housing stock demonstrating once again his lack of urgency in addressing the housing crisis. 

“Desperate to get in on the act, Deputy Barry Cowen announced his latest proposals today for a new housing agency. This is typical ‘back of the envelope’ stuff from Fianna Fáil with no detail and no substance. 

“The solutions to the housing crisis were outlined in a cross party Dáil Housing and Homeless Committee Report last July. We need an increase in social housing stock of 10,000 units a year. We need real action to tackle home repossessions and spiralling rents to reduce the flow of families into homelessness. We need Government-led affordable purchase and rental housing and we need to reduce the cost of providing private homes to increase affordability.

“Given that Fianna Fail created the housing crisis and six years of Fine Gael-led government have made it worse, it is hardly surprising that these parties do not have the policies to end the crisis.” 

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Tomorrow evening sees a vote in the Dáil which was deferred from last week on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire’s motion regarding the establishment of a Truth Commission to achieve full truth in what went on in Mother & Baby Homes in decades gone by; an injunction on potential sites of interest; and to grant access to the records held on victims.

Fianna Fáil have tabled an amendment, which left out both the injunction and access to documentation and testimony elements of the original motion, something which survivors believe to be of paramount importance.

Deputy Ó Laoghaire said;

“It looks as though Fianna Fáil is willing to push ahead with their amendment, an amendment that falls far short of what is required.”

“That would imply they are unwilling to support the substantive motion, and by doing so are preventing the wishes of victims.

“I have met with Fianna Fáil and asked them to withdraw their own amendment, or at least present something that would be consistent with the aim of the original motion.

“There are no votes to be won in this motion; it is about doing the right thing. It is only what is just and fair to those who suffered abuse at the hands of both religious institutions and the state.

“I would hope that Fianna Fáil have a change of heart between now and the vote tomorrow evening, and can withdraw the amendment."

“On that note, I would hope that the Government and the Labour party could do the same.

“We’ve looked at their amendments, which again do very little for those involved.

“Sinn Féin is not willing to pass a motion on this matter that does not ensure sites not be interfered with, and ensure access to own documentation. And it is for that reason that we cannot support any of the amendments tabled. They are wholly inadequate. "

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called on Ulster Bank to reverse its decision to close a range of branches across the state.

Carthy also called on government representatives to come out of hiding and begin to address the continuing attacks on the services provided to rural Ireland.

Matt Carthy said:

“The decision taken by Ulster Bank to shut another list of branches is deeply disappointing and must be challenged.

“These planned closures will mean that residents and business owners in those towns will no longer have access to banking services locally, or will at minimum experience severe disturbance, should these closures go ahead, and this will obviously have a devastating impact on our local economies.

“While this will be sold as a corporate decision which has been made by a private company, I would strongly urge Ulster Bank to reconsider its decision and to make every effort to keep these branches open for the good of the local communities involved. 

"Only three months ago Sinn Féin questioned Ulster Bank over what plans if any the company had to close further branches, and the bank gave no indication then that further closures were imminent.

“Ulster Bank needs immediately to sit down with the communities involved and discuss the fate of local branches in an effort to retain these vital services.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were satisfied to burden Irish families with €64billion of private debt in order to bail out the banks, the least they can do now is protect those communities who suffered as a result of that decision.

“For my part I am willing to work with everyone to keep these important services open, and to working with the communities involved to do so.”

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has said that the position of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan is untenable.

Commenting as Sinn Féin published a motion of no confidence in the Commissioner, Deputy O’Brien said;

“It is clear public confidence in An Garda Siochana would be further eroded by Noirin O’Sullivan remaining as Garda Commissioner. Her position has become untenable. The Government should now use the power provided to it, under the 2005 Garda Siochana Act, to remove her from office.

“The Garda Commissioner has failed to adequately explain the cause of the Garda errors which led to the wrongful conviction of 14,700 people for motoring offences and to 937,000 breath tests being wrongly recorded on the Pulse system.

“We are also mindful of the fact that the Charleton Tribunal is investigating serious allegations made in a protected disclosure concerning the actions of the Commissioner.

“The people of this state are entitled to a standard of policing in which accountability is central to the ethos of the service. This must be achieved on the basis of fairness, impartially and objectivity. This standard does not exist presently. The necessary public confidence in Garda management does not exist at this time.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the government to remove the Garda Commissioner as it is clearly in the best interests of an Garda Siochana and the future of policing and justice in this state.”

ENDS

Full Text of Motion follows:

That Dáil Éireann:

Recognises: 

-  everyone is entitled to policing that serves the people, by police services that are accountable, representative of the community and held to the highest professional and ethical standards; 

-  the need to hold the police and criminal justice systems to account on the basis of fairness, impartiality and objectivity;

- that public confidence in policing bodies is contingent on them and the persons who direct their activities being held accountable; 

Notes:

- The recent press statement made by Noirin O'Sullivan in regard to the recent disclosures that 937,000 breath tests were wrongly recorded on the Pulse system;

- 14,700 wrongful convictions of citizens due to Garda error;

- The failure of the Garda Commissioner to adequately explain the cause of this error and her failure in the statement to provide clarity needed to restore public confidence in An Garda Síochána

Also notes that;

- The Disclosures Tribunal into the treatment of Garda whistleblowers chaired by Mr. Justice Peter Charleton is now underway;

- That the Tribunal has been tasked with investigating serious allegations made in a Protected Disclosure concerning the actions of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan;

- The potential negative impact on public confidence in An Garda Síochána when the actions of the sitting Garda Commissioner are central to the investigations of the ongoing Tribunal; 

Further notes:

- Section 11 (1) (C) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 stipulates a person who holds the office of Garda Commissioner may be removed from office where the person’s removal from office would, in the Government’s opinion, be in the best interests of the Garda Síochána.

Considers that: 

- The removal from office of the Garda Commissioner would be in the best interests of An Garda Síochána.

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Senator Fintan Warfield will use Sinn Féin Private Members' Time on Wednesday 29th March, to bring forward legislation that will allow the voting age in Local Government and European Parliament elections to be reduced to sixteen years of age.

Senator Warfield said:

“Our amendment Bill titled; Electoral (Voting at 16) Bill 2016, seeks to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 for Local and European elections. This Bill is timely in advance of the 2019 Local and European elections, particularly given an official endorsement by the European Parliament to support voting at 16 in European Parliament elections and a recommendation of the Constitutional Convention in 2013.

“The referendum for Scottish independence and the referendum for civil marriage equality represent a reality that young people are at the cutting edge of change. Their voices must begin to be heard by our political representatives, who at times have proven themselves to be out of touch with young people, and in turn struggle to hold their political representatives to account. Only by widening the political franchise can we guarantee that the rights of young people stay firmly on the agenda of politicians.

“Sinn Féin are serious about legislating for the rights of young people. We are hopeful that this ask will be heard and supported by Senators across the chamber, particularly given the longstanding commitment to this issue by the National Youth Council of Ireland and many other youth organisations”.

Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, who is seconding the Bill, said:


“It’s a sad fact that it is young people who are most affected by political decisions taken today but have no voice in who makes those decisions for them. Inclusion of Irish citizens between the ages of 16 and 18 in the democratic process is the only way this will ever change.


“This Bill is a crucial first step in realising a stronger and more vibrant democratic contract between the Irish people and our European political representation and local government structures.


“Reducing the voting age for local government is vital to ensure the full engagement of young people with local politics and their local communities. Moreover, during this crucial period for the future of the European Union, we need young people to have a voice in deciding our future role in a post-Brexit EU.


“The Government have recently demonstrated a commitment to broadening democratic participation, with the recent announcement of the referendum to extend presidential voting rights to our diaspora. In the same spirit, we ask that they ensure the speedy passage of this legislation through the Oireachtas.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will host a task force of MEPs from across Europe in Ireland this week to see at first hand the impact of Brexit. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"The British government's Brexit agenda will be disastrous for Ireland, north and south, and it will hit the border regions particularly hard. 

"This week I will be hosting a task force of MEPs from countries across Europe to see at first hand the impact of this reckless Brexit agenda. 

"We will be visiting Monaghan, Louth, Armagh to see how the imposition of a border, hard or soft, will impact on the lives of people living in these areas. 

"Myself and my fellow Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy will also be holding a public meeting in the Carrickdale Hotel, on the Armagh/Louth border on Thursday at 7.30pm to discuss the impact of Brexit. 

"The task force will then travel to Belfast on Friday. They will meet local community groups who have benefited from EU funding before going to Stormont to meet Sinn Féin MLAs to discuss how to build further support for our case for the north to have designated special status within the EU."

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Speaking in Belfast today Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill said:

“This talks process has run its course. Sinn Féin will not be supporting nominations for Speaker or the Executive tomorrow.

“When the extent of the RHI scandal became apparent and the First Minister refused to step aside, Martin McGuinness acted and made clear there could be no return to the status quo.

“The decision by Martin McGuinness to resign was endorsed in the election.

"The election result has transformed the political landscape. The approach of the unionist parties and the governments must reflect this change. 

“We entered talks to implement what had already been agreed, to rebuild public confidence in an Executive and Assembly, operating on the basis of equality and respect and rights for all in society. 

“This was an entirely reasonable approach.

“Sinn Féin in the talks sought the full implementation of the outstanding issues of equality and rights. The governments and the DUP have failed to step up to the plate.

“The British Government has refused to honour its responsibilities. Their objective has not been truth and healing but continued cover-up of their actions in Ireland. 

“They have also set aside the democratic wishes of the people and are intent on imposing Brexit and continued austerity.

 “Sinn Féin is still intent on honouring our mandate and agreements made. We want to see the institutions restored but when we said there will be no return to the status quo we meant it.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Justice Jonathan O'Brien, speaking following Garda Commissioner Nóirín O Sullivan's statement about revelations over wrongful convictions for motoring offences and major discrepancies in the recording of breath tests on the Pulse system, has called on the Government to express their no confidence in the Commissioner.

Deputy O'Brien said:

"Garda Commissioner Noirín O Sullivan's statement simply does not go far enough to explain how and why such disastrous discrepancies occurred within the Pulse system.

"Her statement that it is inevitable more examples of bad practice within the system will unfold is not good enough. She must provide more clarity.


"The 14,500 people wrongfully convicted of road traffic offences deserve more clarity. The public deserve an answer to the hugely exaggerated drink driving test numbers.

"This follows a litany of scandals which has eroded public trust in An Garda Síochána, including the appalling treatment of Sgt. Maurice McCabe, the penalty-points scandal and the smear campaigns against whistle-blowers within the force.

"The Commissioner has not stepped up to the plate in terms of her clarity of events and taking responsibility for such a disastrous and, what seems to be a never ending mess.

Sinn Féin have expressed no confidence in the Commissioner in the past and continue to call for her resignation. I am also calling on the Government to express no confidence in O'Sullivan.

"I am  calling on Minister for Justice Francis FitzGerald to demand a full and comprehensive statement from the Commissioner immediately.


“As the state will have to cover the costs of such an abhorrence, this should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee.

"The Commissioner no longer has public confidence, this scandal, along with all other scandals have been below the standard for which the public expect from Garda Management. It is time for major change within policing and the justice system." 

ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD is in Stormont Castle today with Michelle O’Neill and the Sinn Féin negotiating team. The Irish and British governments are there also. The DUP is not.

Speaking this morning Gerry Adams said:

“Unionism is at a crossroads. The DUP needs to decide whether and when it will rise to the challenges of this time and work in genuine partnership with nationalists and republicans, and all sections of our society, on the basis of equality and respect. For everyone.

“Regrettably, thus far in the talks process there has been no substantive progress across all of the key issues that are at the core of the current impasse.

“Martin McGuinness set the tone for the current phase of negotiations when he said that there can be no return to the status quo.

“The DUP’s approach thus far has been to engage in a minimalist way on all of the key issues, including legacy issues; an Irish Language Act; a Bill of Rights; and marriage equality.

“They have been reinforced in this by the British Government’s stance. This is unacceptable and a matter of grave concern.

“I am sure this concern is shared by the Irish government. The Taoiseach knows that he is the co-equal guarantor, with the British PM, of the Good Friday and other Agreements. People across this island need to see the Taoiseach standing up for these agreements. 

“For our part Sinn Féin wants to see the institutions up and working for everyone. We are not looking special favours or privileges for anyone. The terms for the re-establishment of the institutions are clear. They threaten no one.

“Sinn Féin is up for building a pluralist rights based society as set out in numerous agreements. Is the DUP?”

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Daivd Cullinane, Sinn Fein member of the Public Accounts Committee, said today he is shocked but not surprised at the news that NAMA's property loan fire-sales to vulture funds may have cost the State up to €18 billion.

Daputy Cullinane said:

"We know from the PAC's investigation of the Project Eagle sale that in 2012 NAMA changed strategy and started bundling loans together in fire-sales to vulture funds.

"It led, in part, to the seriously deficient sales process that surrounded the disposal of Project Eagle, NAMA's northern loan-book and a probable loss of €190 million.

"Today's report in the Sunday Business Post shows that the fire-sale strategy may have cost the Irish taxpayer an additional €18 billion in lost revenue.

"Eight years ago NAMA paid €31.8 billion for €74.4 billion in loans from five banks.

"This crystallized losses for the banks of €42.6 billion. Because of the bank guarantee, the State had to give them this amount through capital injections and promissory notes in order to keep them open.

"The bulk of that €42 billion is now lost for good. We will be paying back the loans to cover the amount for the next 36 years.

"In that context, the actions of NAMA and Minister Noonan to favour quick sales to vulture funds is inexcusable.

"At the moment, the State is struggling to borrow for investment in health, housing, education and infrastructure.

"The €18 billion in lost revenue from NAMA, alongside the €13 billion in lost revenue from Apple, leaves us with €31 billion that Fine Gael are happy to see walk out the door while the crisis in our hospitals continues.

"Today's report appears to show that the issues surrounding Project Eagle were not unique to it.

"The sooner we are able to get to the bottom of what really went on in NAMA over the past eight years the better."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Water Eoin Ó Broin has described the contents of a letter from the European Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella as “extremely revealing” and said it confirms that Simon Coveney’s charge for a so called excess water use “is a Trojan horse for universal water charges”. 
 
Deputy Ó Broin said: 
 
“Yet again Fine Gael and the European Commission are trying to influence the work of the Oireachtas Water Committee. Despite the fact that Minister Coveney set the Committee up to ‘take the heat’ out of the water debate, his party and their allies in the Commission are seeking to apply inappropriate pressure to shape the outcome of the Committee’s work. 
 
“The latest move comes in a carefully choreographed exchange of letters between Dublin MEP Brian Hayes and Commissioner Vella. As you would expect the Commissioner is seeking to help Fine Gael in their fake battle with Fianna Fail. 
 
“However Commissioner Vella’s letter is extremely revealing and confirms what Sinn Féin has believed all along. Simon Coveney’s charge for so called excess water use is nothing more than a Trojan horse for universal water charges. 
 
“Commissioner Vella’s opposition to Fianna Fáil’s proposal to use the 2007 Water Services act as an alternative to Fine Gaels excess water charge is extremely telling. He says that the the Fianna Fáil proposal would not establish a reliable source of revenue to cover the cost of water services. 
 
“If this is true of Fianna Fáils proposal it is also true of Fine Gael’s excess water charge. Given the low level of household water consumption and the high cost of implementing the Fine Gael proposal, its charge would more than likely be loss making. As it would then fall could Commissioner Vella’s ‘reliable source of revenue’ test the Governments claim that charges would have to be expanded to all water users.  
 
“Sinn Féin has said from the start that Simon Coveney’s proposal to charge for so called wilful waste of water  is a Trojan horse. He wants to complete the universal water metering programme, put in place a billing system and over time expand charges to all households.  
 
“Sinn Féin remains committed to the complete abolition of this unwanted and unjust form of double taxation. A majority of TDs in the 32nd Dáil support this position. We have wasted enough time debating the issue. It is time to allow the Dáil to decide once and for all to scrap the charge.”  
 

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Bernie McGuinness, wife of Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness, has asked the party to issue a statement on her and the family’s behalf.

In this statement she thanks all of those who offered their condolences in recent days on the death of Martin and the many thousands who visited the house, held vigils or attended the funeral service on Thursday.

Bernie McGuinness said:

“On my own behalf and Martin’s family I want to thank all of those who have offered their condolences since Martin’s death, including the countless people who sent messages, mass cards and prayers.

“I want to thank the doctors and the nurses who looked after Martin during his illness.

“I also want to express our deep appreciation of the many thousands of people who attended vigils in the course of the week in many parts of Ireland and overseas.

“From Martin’s return home on Tuesday, and until we left for the funeral service on Thursday, long queues of people visited our home. The family took great comfort from their presence. I want to thank the local businesses who during this time very kindly provided food and sandwiches for those visiting the house.

“I want to especially acknowledge the many thousands who attended the funeral. Words cannot express our appreciation at the outpouring of love and solidarity, which embraced us throughout Thursday.

“Finally, I want to thank all of Martin’s comrades in Sinn Féin, especially here in Derry, the many stewards, the friends who travelled from overseas, and in particular all of those who attended or participated in the funeral service in Long Tower Church and at the Republican Plot, including the singers and the musicians.

“I and our entire family have been touched by the efforts of so many to provide solace and comfort to us throughout this very difficult period.

“Martin was my husband, a father and a grand-father. He was a republican activist for all of his adult life. He was passionate about his political beliefs but also about his many other interests. Despite the frequency with which his political activism took him away from our home and family, he was at heart a proud family man who took great delight in the accomplishments of our children and grandchildren. He loved his family. And we love him. Our hearts are broken.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan was part of a delegation which travelled to Egypt to present the prestigious ‘Right Livelihood Award’, widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize', to renowned Egyptian feminist and human rights activist Mozn Hassan and her organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies.

 Speaking after the ceremony in Cairo tonight, MEP Boylan said:

 "'The Right Livelihood Award’ was established in 1980 to honour and support courageous people and organisations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems. In my mind there is no one more worthy of this award than Mozn Hassam.

“It is hard to articulate how great an honour it was to be part of the delegation to present the award to Mozn. The work that she and Nazra for Feminist Studies have done, and continue to do, in asserting the equality and rights of women in circumstances where they are subject to ongoing violence, abuse and discrimination is remarkable.

“Like nearly all great activists in their struggles, Mozn has been targeted by the state and lives under the constant threat of persecution and imprisonment. Resultantly, she is now at the centre of an investigation launched by the Egyptian authorities as part of its ongoing crackdown on civil society.

"For Mozn and her colleagues in Nazra this means being investigated for receiving 'illegal' overseas funding. But, there is no doubt that Nazra is being specifically targeted because of the work it does around human and civil rights.

“Mozn was to be presented the award at the annual ceremony in Stockholm, however, she was unable to attend as she has been banned from leaving Egypt on account of the investigation. Therefore, it was up to us travel to Egypt to see her and present her with the award for her tremendously hard work and her bravery.

“It was a great honour to attend tonight and also to reassure her that she has the support of feminist activists and progressive political activists from all over the world."

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the homeless figures for Louth and across the state as "deeply depressing and evidence of the absolute failure of the Government to properly and effectively tackle the homeless crisis. He then called on Minister Coveney to bring forward the launch of his vacant homes strategy. 

Gerry Adams said: 

“While the homelessness statistics for last month (February) show a slight decline in Louth, across the state there has been another significant increase in those forced into homelessness by the failed politics of the Government. 

"The homelessness figures for February show that there are 105 adults homeless in the North East, of whom 104 are in Louth. In the North-East there are 67 men and 38 women homeless. According to the figures produced by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government there are also 10 families, including 5 which are single parents, with 17 children, all homeless in the North East. 

"Across the state the number of people in emergency accommodation reached a new record high of 7,421 in February. This is an increase of 254 or 3.5%. The number of children experiencing homelessness has risen from 2,407 to 2,546. This is 35% increase in child homelessness on the same period in 2016. 

"The homelessness crisis in Louth and across the state continues to deepen. The reality is that contrary to Minister Coveney’s claims his policies are not stemming the flow of people into homelessness. He made a commitment that no families would be living in hotels and B&Bs by July this year. We are almost into April and the problem grows worse. The promised rapid build homes promoted as a means to house families have not yet materialised and are significantly behind schedule. 

"The Minister needs to urgently review his current plan. With his own deadline looming Minister Coveney must bring forward the launch of his vacant homes strategy. This must contain an ambitious, well-funded acquisitions programme.  He must also increase funding for Housing First tenancies. We need a minimum of 1,000 new Housing First tenancies this year.” 

  

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