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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has told students to explore all their options after results day.

The Party's Further and Higher Education Spokesperson said, "Firstly, congratulations to everyone who has their received results in A' Levels or other courses."Whatever the results, this is a milestone as you move onto the next phase and decide what to do next."If you have not got the results you hoped for or are unsure of what to do next, take time and don't rush into a decision."There are many options in education, training or employment, so seek out advice from different sources and explore all that the universities, regional colleges and others have on offer including apprenticeships and 'earn while you learn' opportunities. 

"There are many different pathways, it is not a 'one size fits all'; so choose the path that feels right for you." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan held a meeting of Derry school principals with Education Authority officials to discuss school transport provision. 

The party’s Education spokesperson said:

“Today’s meeting gave school principals the opportunity to speak to the EA’s Director of Transport with views about the current school transport provision. 

“We also mapped out potential ways to improve and update how school transport currently works, including potential new routes for school buses. 

“This is important feedback and we also welcome that the Department of Education will begin further discussions with schools across the north to review the school transport system. 

“I would reiterate the call for anyone starting school in September wishing to avail of home to school transport, to apply through the online application process at the following link: https://transport.eani.org.uk/HomeToSchool/.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said Saturday’s reenactment of the first Civil Rights march is an opportunity to stand up for rights.

The march will take place on Saturday 18 August along the original route from Coalisland to Dungannon. 

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said:

“Fifty years ago, likeminded people from all communities came together to form the Civil Rights movement, they took to the streets and marched for rights and against inequality, the first of these marches took place from Coalisland to Dungannon. 

“In the north today, we are experiencing an unacceptable blockade on rights-based issues by the DUP, facilitated by the British government, including Irish language rights, marriage equality, women’s health, and the rights of victims.

“People also have huge concerns arising from the potential impacts of a Tory Brexit and the recent Boundary Commission proposals, seen by many as a new attempt to gerrymander the north. 

“I am calling on people to use Saturday’s reenactment of the first Civil Rights march to promote rights, equality and respect for all in our society today.

“This is the opportunity for our generation to speak out and stand up, to achieve and assert these rights. We cannot allow the progress of previous generations, sorely won, to be undermined and diminished in today’s Ireland.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny TD today said “the loss of 165 jobs at Stiefel Laboratories in Sligo is a huge blow for the area and to the local economy”.

Speaking today, Teachta Kenny said:

“This is very difficult news for the many staff and their families affected by this announcement in Sligo.

“Stiefel Laboratories has been a major employer in Sligo for over 40 years, and this closure will have a major knock on effect on local businesses in the area.

“This plant was threatened with closure back in 2012, but was saved after an IDA supported investment was approved.

“Minister Heather Humphreys must now ensure those who are laid off are given every support to maximise their retraining and ability to get new employment.

“In addition, the Minister should engage with the IDA to see if an Irish or multinational pharmaceutical company can be found who are looking for a manufacturing facility, who can use this site and hopefully hire some of the local workers affected by this closure.

“We are always hearing about the potential for growth in the pharma industry in Ireland, so it is particularly disappointing to see this announcement.

“FDI jobs in Sligo account for just 1% of the total number of jobs supported by the IDA, and so it is vitally important to protect these jobs in regional Ireland.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the Tory Brexit agenda is limiting the future of young people and has called on those who support it to explain their position to students. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"I want to congratulate all those young people who got their exam results today for all of their hard work and wish them every success as they make choices about their future. 

"Unfortunately they are getting these results at a time of great uncertainty brought about by the disastrous Tory Brexit agenda. 

"Brexit will limit the opportunities of young people by excluding them from EU study programmes such as Erasmus, as well as limiting their choices to study at universities across the EU. 

"If students here do decide to go to other EU member states to study they could have to pay international fees which are significantly more than those open to students currently as a result of our EU membership, putting such an option beyond the reach of many. 

"Brexit will also have a knock on impact on universities here who could potentially lose important EU funding. 

"So today as those who are acting as cheerleaders from the Tory Brexit disaster, such as the DUP, congratulate students for all their hard work perhaps they would try to explain why they are supporting a policy that limits their future. 

"In order to protect the opportunities of our young people and the rights of everyone we need to secure special status for the north within the EU."

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has expressed concern over PowerNI’s decision to increase electricity prices by 14 percent. 

The party’s spokesperson on Energy, Environment and Climate Spokesperson said:

“It is deeply disappointing and concerning that PowerNI has made the decision to hike its energy prices for the second successive year.

“This surge will see an annual bill increase of £68 per year for Power NI customers, on top of a 5.6 percent increase in 2017, ultimately placing increased pressure on many people who are already struggling to pay their bills. 

“PowerNI has stated that the increase is due to rising gas and oil prices which have made electricity supply more costly.

“While Sinn Féin acknowledges the rising costs of energy production, we feel these issues could be partially mitigated if PowerNI took more steps to diversify its electricity supply.

“We recently launched our Powering Ireland 2030 document, which advocates for electricity suppliers to move towards using renewable energy to generate electricity.”

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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has called on the DUP to explain how it knew a house in Ballysillan Avenue would become vacant a week before its occupants were forced out of the property.

The party’s Housing spokesperson said:

"Recently there has been a spate of sectarian attacks in north Belfast aimed at forcing Catholic families out of their home.

“A DUP Councillor stood outside the property of one of the victims of these attacks and claimed it was not sectarian. Sectarian graffiti was daubed on the house behind him.

“We have since learned that the DUP had advance knowledge that a property in Ballysillan Avenue, which was attacked, would become vacant.

“The DUP must explain how they knew it would become vacant and stop denying that there is a sectarian element to the attacks.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Business, Innovation and Enterprise Maurice Quinlivan TD has today launched the party’s five year apprenticeship strategy. 

The party aims to increase the number of apprentices to 60,000 within 5 years, and develop 63 more apprenticeship programmes to ensure a greater diversity of educational and training opportunities in the sector.

Speaking outside Leinster House today, the Limerick City TD said;

“Fine Gael has failed to meet their own targets for apprenticeships set out in their Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeship in Ireland 2016-2020.

“In 2017 just 391 people took part in newly established apprenticeship programmes, significantly missing the government’s own target of 800. In addition, only 9 of the promised 15 new apprenticeship programmes were introduced last year.

"To be so far off target at the midway point of their own plan is totally unacceptable and shows a lack of commitment by this government.  

“Worryingly the government seem to be completely off target again this year. A response I recently received from a Parliamentary Question states that the current number of apprentices on new courses is just 424, compared to a target of 2,370 for 2018.

“This document sets out Sinn Féin’s plan to increase the number of apprentices to 60,000 within 5 years, and develop 63 more apprenticeship programmes to ensure a greater diversity of educational and training opportunities in the sector.

“We believe apprenticeships should be developed as a key component of the education and training system in Ireland.

"Craft based apprenticeships have served our domestic construction industry excellently, in addition to benefitting many cities across the globe with our highly skilled workers.

"We want to build on this success, and replicate this across other growing and emerging sectors.

“In Ireland there can be a belief that after secondary school, the choice is to go straight to college. This can lead to people choosing a degree course for the sake of it, and later dropping out. Or on the other hand it can mean that a person’s education and training stops after their leaving certificate, if they take up full-time employment.

“We want to provide another significant avenue, to give people the widest possible choice in their education and career prospects.

Apprenticeship training will allow people to earn, learn and gain work experience whilst also working towards a qualification. In additional it will help equip Ireland with the skilled workers it needs for growing and emerging industries in the coming years.

“The level of female participation in the Irish apprenticeship system remains shockingly low. In 2018, there are just 160 female apprentices in training out of a total apprenticeship population of 13,589. To have a female participation rate of just 1% in 2018 is ridiculous and something that needs to be immediately addressed.

“This expansion plan aims to facilitate some of the 25,448 young people under the age of 25 who signed on the live register last month. In addition with a hard Brexit now a strong possibility, these extra places could cater for new courses in new areas such as customs and tariffs for example, or for workers who may need to upskill due to job losses that come as a result of Brexit.

“Fine Gael must refocus their attention on apprenticeships to ensure young people have a wide range of educational opportunities and Ireland has the skilled workers needed for the future.”

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Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has commented on the findings of the latest study by the homeless charity the Simon Communities.

The report shows that just 8% of rental properties surveyed across 11 areas are priced within the reach of households receiving Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rent Supplement.

The Waterford TD said:

“The Simon Communities’ ‘Locked Out of the Market XI’ looked at the cost of renting in eleven locations across state.

“The report found that, out of 530 properties available to rent, 489 of these were above the HAP/Rent Supplement limits with just 41 available within the limits of the four categories of household within the study, which are singles, couples, couple/one parent one child, and couple/one parent and two children.

“The report also highlighted a growing area of concern that no properties were available in Galway City Centre, Limerick City Centre, or Portlaoise across all four categories.

“Furthermore, just one property was available across all categories in Athlone, Dublin City Centre, North Kildare, Sligo Town, and Waterford City Centre. 

“This is the lowest recorded point in a downwards trend that has been declining since Rent Supplement and HAP limits were increased in July 2016.

“This report further highlights how private rented sector government subsidised accommodation is out of reach for a lot of citizens and it is pushing people into homelessness.

“Increasing the supply of real social housing units is the only way to adequately tackle this crisis. The government must at least double capital expenditure in social and affordable housing in Budget 2019.

“This must be coupled with the introduction of real rent certainty and security of tenure.” 

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Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP & Mickey Brady MP have met with Newry, Mourne & Down Chief Executive Liam Hannaway to discuss a number of issues including the upcoming Newry Southern Relief Project, Newry city centre regeneration, and the urgent need to deliver fit for purpose Broadband across the district.

Speaking after the meeting South Down MP Chris Hazzard said:

“I want to thank Liam for taking the time to update us on a number of key projects locally. I was especially keen to discuss the delivery of fast, fit for purpose Broadband across the district. This will be a vital step in building our local economy and tackling rural isolation.

“It was also pleasing to hear that local Council are proactively working alongside officials in the Department for Infrastructure to ensure the eagerly anticipated Newry Southern Relief Road project is continuing to progress through the various development stages towards construction in the time ahead. Given the continuing uncertainty caused by the ongoing Brexit negotiations; it is pleasing to see Council take a proactive approach to such important projects.

Newry & Armagh MP Mickey Brady added:

“For a number of years now Sinn Féin locally have been advancing various schemes and projects within the wider Newry city area aimed at regenerating local streetscapes, amenities and the local economy.

“One of the most important tasks for the Council now in the years ahead is to build upon this success and deliver increasing employment opportunities and office accommodation for those local and national companies who want to locate in Newry.

“Ideally situated along the eastern economic corridor between Dublin and Belfast, the wider Newry area must now realise its huge potential and grow as one of best locations in Ireland to live, work, or play. It was heartening to hear that the local Council shares these ambitions.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has urged young people receiving their A-Level and AS-Level results to follow their passion when fulfilling their educational or career path.

Speaking on A-Level results day, the Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson said:

“I want to wish everyone receiving their A-Level and AS-Level results every success and congratulate students on their efforts. 

"I would also like to reassure those who may have been disappointed by their results that support and guidance is available as they look at their options and plan their next move. 

“These days young people face a lot of pressure when choosing a path for the future. The advice I would give those receiving results today is to follow your passion.

“Exam results steadily improve year on year, and credit must be paid to the students, their teachers and public sector staff for their efforts in achieving this in a time of relentless Tory austerity and cuts to school budgets. 

“Our society prospers through the work of our teachers, carers and parents, and today is a day to celebrate their role in educating and supporting young people in what can be a challenging time in their lives.”

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Speaking after figures released in 'The Detail' showed an increase in those seeking immigration advice post Brexit referendum, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for minorities rights, Michaela Boyle said:

“The figures on the numbers of people seeking advice on immigration following the Brexit referendum, highlights the great uncertainty it has created.

 “Having met with many groups and individuals since the referendum I have heard first-hand how some individuals now feel unwelcome, many are reconsidering their future here and others have reported increased hostility.  All of this is unacceptable.

 “EU citizens living and working in the north have made valuable contributions to our economy and society, likewise those that have come from other countries and made their homes here.

“Freedom of movement within the European Union has allowed citizens to live, study and work unhindered across member states with many sectors relying on citizens from other countries, so it is vital that this continues post Brexit for the benefit of the economy.

“The rights and entitlements of all citizens must be protected in the context of Brexit.

“I would encourage anyone has encountered difficulties or who has queries to contact advice organisations or myself as our Party spokesperson.” 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Carers, Colm Gildernew has requested a meeting with the Belfast Trust to discuss serious concerns around the safeguarding of vulnerable people in Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

Speaking today Mr Gildernew commented: “I have serious concerns regarding alleged abuse of patients in Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

"Patients in Muckamore have mental disabilities and are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

"This is a distressing time for affected patients and their families and concerns need to be addressed.

"I have requested a meeting with the Belfast Trust and Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly and I will be requesting a meeting with the PSNI regarding their response to allegations of abuse.

"I will also be raising these concerns with a meeting with the PPS early next week." 

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Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue has condemned the ‘display of hate’ that took place at a bonfire in the Bogside area of Derry.

Cllr. Logue said: "There were several hate fires that took place in this city over July and August but nothing justifies what occurred in Meenan Square and those responsible for putting poppy wreaths, flags and other hate messages on the bonfire are intent only on causing extreme offence and damaging community relations.

"This is nothing but a display of hate and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with republicanism.

"The people of the Bogside do not want this bonfire and they certainly do not want displays of hate designed to cause distress and antagonism to their neighbours in this city." 

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A Sinn Féin delegation led by MLAs Colm Gildernew and Emma Rogan met with NIPSA today to support their call for the retention of electoral offices across the north. 

Speaking after the meeting, Colm Gildernew said:

“Electoral offices play a key role in ensuring people can exercise their democratic entitlements. 

“They are also an employer and staff and unions are obviously concerned at plans to reduce the number of offices as a cost cutting measure. 

“Electoral offices should not become the latest target of DUP/Tory austerity cuts. 

“Sinn Féin fully support NIPSA’s call for the planned closure of electoral offices to be halted until such times as a viable plan is in place to replace them. 

“This is crucial both in terms of protecting workers and protecting the democratic rights of citizens.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney, has called for wage increases in order to help protect workers from rises in inflation.

The call comes after the Bank of England announced that it expects inflation to rise for the first time since November.

The party's Workers’ Rights spokesperson said:

“With the rise in inflation set to dwarf the value of wages and inhibit workers spending power, there is an onus on Employers and the British Government to raise wages for workers. 

“This would provide workers with economic stability and would ensure that they are not priced out of buying basic goods.

“In July 2018, the Office of National Statistics reported that average wages in the north are 9% less than those in Britain, therefore workers here are more inhibited by increases in inflation than anywhere else. 

“It is clear that workers here are underpaid in comparison to the South and Britain, this must change. The British Government has the power to increase the living wage under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and Sinn Féin is calling for this to be implemented. 

“Sinn Féin will not accept a pay gap between workers here and those in Britain particularly when inflation is on the rise.”

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Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has welcomed and thanked the Big Lottery Fund for awarding £402,720 to TinyLife, a charity dedicated to premature babies, for their five year-year Positive Minds for Premature Parents project.

The Newry Armagh MP commented,

 “I wish to congratulate the Big Lottery Fund for awarding this money to a very worthy cause.

 “The Positive Minds for Premature Parents Project gives much needed practical and emotional support to parents who are bringing up premature babies.

 “This project puts parents at the heart of its development with child development specialists advising so that TinyLife can put together an information booklet to support families with premature babies.

 “Many people do not fully appreciate or understand the physical and emotional implications of caring for a premature baby, however, this project is a step forward in helping these families receive better support.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Fingal Louise O’Reilly has called for more funding for Home Support Services for older people and those who are ill or have a disability following the release of figures from the HSE which show that 594 people are waiting for home support services in Fingal and north Dublin. 

Teachta O’Reilly said: 

“Home Support services allow older citizens to stay in their homes and provide support for those who are ill or disabled. 

“Care delivered in the home is the preferred form of care for most people and their families. Therefore, it is important for older people that they can live independently for as long as possible.

“Unfortunately, funding by this Fine Gael-led government, with the support of Fianna Fáil, means that this service is seriously underfunded and cannot meet the need that exists for the service.

“A Parliamentary Question response released to me by the HSE has shown that there are 6,118 people waiting for a home support service across the State. Of this total 594 are located in Fingal and north Dublin, meaning this area has the third highest Home Support waiting lists in the State.

“The HSE can only deliver Home Support relative to the funding it receives, and currently it is not receiving enough funding to deliver Home Support to meet the needs of older people.

“The result of this is that some older people are waiting for long periods of time to access these supports, and some of those who can access Home Support are not receiving enough hours care.

“The government has a responsibility to ensure that older people and those with disabilities who need home support are cared for with the dignity and respect they deserve, and politicians in Fingal have to speak up for our older people. 

“All opposition politicians need to put pressure on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to ensure that in the budget they agree between themselves in October that sufficient funding is available to end these unacceptable waiting lists for older people.”

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Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has said cycling can improve physical and mental health and has encouraged people to use their bike during ‘Cycle to Work Day’. 

The party’s Infrastructure spokesperson said: 

“I am a keen cyclist and experience first-hand the many positive benefits that come with cycling. 

“Cycling is great for improving physical and mental health, this has been demonstrated through the increase in the number of people taking up cycling as a leisure activity and as a means to commute to and from work. 

“Politicians and government policy should help to promote this growth and continue to build better cycling only infrastructure in our urban centres, alongside safer roads for cyclists and family friendly cycle paths and greenways where parents feel safe cycling with their children.

“Encouraging and facilitating more people to cycle is a positive for society and I commend the ‘Cycle to Work Day’ initiative. An increase in cycling will save our health service money and reduce the damage being done to our environment.”

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The Electoral Office are failing in their responsibilities to the people of North Antrim through the poor handling of the Ian Paisley recall petition, Sinn Féin’s Philip McGuigan has said.

The North Antrim MLA was speaking after a number of political parties expressed concern that people felt intimidated from signing the petition in case they were identified by DUP supporters.

“The Electoral Office had the option of opening up to ten locations where people could sign the petition, yet they opted to go for just three in Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle,” he commented.

“It is already clear, and a number of parties have expressed similar concerns, that many people do not feel comfortable attending some of these locations because it would be obvious that the only reason they are there is to sign the petition.

“The Electoral Office could have easily prevented this by opening more centres across the constituency and we would again call on them to do precisely that.

“The Chief Electoral Officer must also take steps to address the other serious concerns that have been raised since the petition opened. I have been made aware of a number of incidents including signage being damaged or removed altogether, a constituent arriving to find the door locked and the petition being moved to a less accessible room.

“This situation has been compounded by the lack of an effective public awareness campaign and the restrictive opening hours of the signing centres.

“The people of the North Antrim have democratic rights with regard to the petition to remove their MP from office. The Electoral Office should be facilitating them in exercising that right and not putting obstacles in their way.

“The current arrangements are simply not good enough and the Electoral Office will be failing in their responsibilities to the people of North Antrim if they do not take immediate measures to rectify them.” 

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