Imelda Munster TD, Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson for Transport, has welcomed an announcement that Bus Éireann has been awarded the contract relating to the operation of five city bus routes in Waterford City which had been put out to tender by the National Transport Authority.
Deputy Munster said:
“It is fantastic news for Bus Éireann that they have retained the contract to run bus services in Waterford City.
“This gives merit to the notion that Bus Éireann, as the national carrier, has the skills and experience to continue to run bus services across the state, and should be facilitated in doing so by the state.
“I would like to see more investment in the company, especially given how Bus Éireann suffered from serious neglect during the recessionary years and has been struggling in recent times as a result.
“The company needs support from the state to ensure that buses and services are first class, and are providing an excellent service across the state. This also rings true for our rail services.
“With sufficient investment and support our national transport network can be hugely successful, and there is no justification for government to steer us down the route of privatisation.
“With targeted state investment both Iarnród Éireann and Bus Éireann can thrive and provide first-class services that we can all take pride in.”
Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South, Liadh Ní Riada, has called on the Irish Government to draw down EU funds in order to upgrade Ireland's water infrastructure.
Speaking from Strasbourg Ms Ní Riada said;
“In Ireland, our water infrastructure is simply put, outdated and in serious need of an upgrade.
"This upgrade can be funded through EU programs, such as European Structural and Investment Funds or Horizon 2020. The government is duty bound to upgrade the system, which is failing to meet standards and is putting the public at risk.
“Construction of waste water collection and treatment infrastructure requires important investments, for which there are funding opportunities under the European and Structural and Investments Funds.
“Just last week we saw reports that a microscopic parasite that can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal illness has been detected in the drinking water supplies of two areas in north Cork.
“I will be writing to the Minister responsible, Eoghan Murphy, in the coming days asking him about our failure to meet the highest standards in waste-water treatment,
"I call on him here to today to explore avenues of funding that he and the Government avail of to upgrade our water system and protect the public's wellbeing."
Communities and statutory agencies must work together to combat suicide, Sinn Féin’s mental health spokesperson Órlaithí Flynn MLA has said.Addressing Contact’s annual suicide prevention conference in Belfast today, she also highlighted the success of united community and statutory responses following a spate of suicides in the Colin area.
Órlaithí Flynn commented: “The plan involved all agencies working together to ensure that as a result of one incident that we didn’t end up with a cluster of suicides.
“It involved counselling services, children’s services, youth providers, women’s & men’s groups, schools, churches and any other group that had a role to play.
“It was a joint community and statutory response - that was one of the things that worked.
“Since then, I’m glad to report, suicide rates have fallen dramatically in the Colin Area and so far we have not experienced a repeat of that terrible period.
“It just shows that action can be taken and deaths can be avoided and that should encourage us as we move forward.”
Sinn Féin has welcomed today's confirmation that a controversial proposal to close St Mary’s High School in Brollagh has been withdrawn.
Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Jemma Dolan said the news was welcome but also called for immediate steps to safeguard the long-term future of the school.
“Today’s news is fantastic for all those involved with St. Mary's and the campaign to retain the school,” she commented. “I want to commend everyone who worked so hard to prevent the closure.
“What we need to see now is an end to the uncertainty surrounding St. Mary’s and Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the Department of Education and the CCMS towards that end.
“We also repeat our call for CCMS to recognise the unique issues facing St Mary’s and, rather that constantly seeking its closure, work with the local community to develop feasible alternatives to sustain the school into the future.”
Sinn Féin infrastructure spokesperson Philip McGuigan has welcomed the announcement of a further £20 million from BT in ultrafast broadband in the North.
The North Antrim MLA said:
“The investment of £20 million will see 25 per cent of homes and businesses in the North scheduled to have access to ultrafast broadband by March 2019.
“This investment is significant and will help to further future proof the North’s internet economy and society, infrastructure and will see it rank favourably among the best fibre networks in Europe.
“However, it is essential there is additional investment in the future to ensure regional balance in access to broadband in rural areas and West of the Bann.
“Another welcome part of this investment is news that BT will recruit additional apprentices and graduates with 42 apprentices and graduates being recruited over the next 10 months.
“Roll-out of this latest phase of network will begin immediately and run until March 2019. The areas to benefit will be announced on a rolling basis and published on www.nibroadband.com.”
Speaking after visiting the Irish International Immigrant Center in Boston to discuss the plight of the Undocumented Irish, Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir pledged “unstinting support” for efforts to have the status of the undocumented regularised.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:
“While the entire issue of immigration remains a volatile one in the US, it’s crucial that the plight of the undocumented Irish who are living in a limbo in their adopted country is not forgotten about.
“An estimated 50,000 Irish citizens — from right across the island — have been left in an immigration no-man’s-land due to circumstances beyond their control. All are contributing to the US with their skills and taxes but find they can’t leave the US to attend a funeral or wedding or to visit relatives back home in Ireland without giving up their residency in the US.
“I applaud the Irish International Immigrant Center, under the leadership of Antrim-native Ronnie Millar, for providing support for the undocumented Irish but also for their commitment to provide sanctuary to immigrants from around the world who make their home in Boston.
“Their vision of 'a shared society where all people are welcomed and valued and enjoy equal opportunities and protections’ is one which is shared by people of goodwill in their sister city of Belfast.
"It was inspiring to hear how immigrant and refugee families are contributing to Greater Boston's economy and vibrancy.
"I was also delighted to hear that the Ulster University's US Intern Placement Program is going strong and the J1 interns I met this morning are doing amazing work here in Boston.
"What a nice outcome of the Belfast-Boston Sister City Partnership.
“I will be meeting with senior State and national politicians over the next 48 hours and have pledged to raise the case of the undocumented Irish with them again."
The Dáil has today accepted the Multi Party Action Bill, proposed by Deputies Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Pearse Doherty. The Bill was supported by Fianna Fáil, Labour, Solidarity & People before Profit as well as Independents.
Speaking today, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, said that this was significant news for those who had been ripped off in the tracker mortgage scandal.
“I am delighted the Dáil has passed this bill, and I believe it is a very significant statement in favour of this model of litigation.
“For far too long the law has been balanced in favour of the powerful and the wealthy. This bill redresses that Balance significantly.
“Powerful bodies have advantage of the fact that those affected are often not in a position to take an action themselves, because of the financial cost in doing so alone.
“People, who have been ripped off by banks, or who have suffered due to negligence or fraud or malpractice on the part of individuals or institutions, can now come together and move forward on the basis of strength in numbers.
“It allows people who have been affected by a similar injustice to take an action together.
“We want to give those affected by scandals like the tracker mortgage scandal the tools to take on the banks, and the passing of this bill is a significant step.
"The bill will now proceed to committee stage, and I look forward to engaging with other deputies on improving the bill and making it law."
The West Belfast MLA also said an urgent review must be held regarding PIP assessments which are unfairly disadvantaging claimants:
"From the start, the implementation of Universal Credit has been a disaster that has only caused more hardship in areas where it is now operational.
"The six week waiting period is a shameful policy designed to punish vulnerable welfare recipients. It should be scrapped immediately.
"Extortionate helpline charges, which are often the only means by which recipients can make benefit queries, are unfair and should also be scrapped.
"Sinn Féin will also be pressing Capita, a private firm conducting reassessments, to review their assessment process which has proved restrictive and unjust.
"The fact that so many claimants are unfairly rejected, only to have these decisions overturned on appeal, signals a deliberate attempt to drive away citizens from benefits to which they are entitled."
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that this Government has, like its predecessors, has not taken enough action on tackling White Collar Crime.
Speaking last night during the second stage of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill, the Cork South Central TD said that there was significant areas which had been neglected in this legislation, though Sinn Féin would be supporting the modest measures.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said:
“Corruption, whether in Public Life, or in Business and Commerce, has been a part of the History of our state. We have had Tribunals into various issues, we have had Planning corruption, zoning controversies, bribery, corporate fraud, and more.
“Yet, the Governments attitude towards corporate fraud and corruption has been casual and slack, and although not exclusively confined to white collar crime, it appears to date where the Government have been most passive.
“This legislation has some significant and obvious gaps. In particular, it is incredible that there is nothing on the issue of reckless lending. There is little about individuality accountability, or liability, beyond what the EU had recommended and the consolidation of mostly already existing offences here.
“Even issues raised by the Central Bank, such as the need for a new offence of giving misleading information to the Central Bank, are not addressed which is very disappointing; that could and should have happened. We also need Class Action type legislation, which Sinn Féin proposed this week in the Dáil.
“We need a major cultural shift, but this Bill won't deliver that or the legal changes we need. Today’s plan would not have prevented the banking crash or brought more of those responsible to Justice.
“These cultural issues reflected in a study conducted by EY in June of this year, which saw some 47% of Irish employees interviewed believed bribery and corrupt practices were widespread, while 22% said they would be prepared to act unethically to improve their career progression or remuneration package. These are much higher than other countries.
“To tackle this, we need changes in legislation, but also an overhaul and more funding for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The ODCE has brought no prosecutions and achieved no convictions in this state in the past two years. Only 43 prosecutions have been brought by the ODCE in the past decade, a shockingly low amount over this period of time, and given the context of all that has gone one since 2007.
“It has also recently come to light that the most senior Garda position in the ODCE has been vacant since September 2016. Why is this? In addition, the annual reports of the ODCE show that almost €6 million in its allocated funding has been returned to the state over in the past three years alone, including €2.7 million in 2016, in the same year when no prosecutions or convictions were achieved by this agency.
“That simply isn’t good enough. One of the things that frustrated the population most over the course of the recession was that while people suffered, and people suffered grievously, that it appeared that no one was being brought to justice. We did not see the level of court cases that were brought in the US, or in other jurisdictions, where corrupt and immoral practices took place, and reckless to the point of wrongdoing practices, took place. Yet, they did not see the people who many felt were responsible, brought to Justice.
“We will be supporting this legislation, however, the Government has not, and is not doing anywhere near enough to tackle White Collar Crime - and it is not a victimless Crime.”
Speaking after a meeting with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this evening, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the Taoiseach should stop pretending the current crisis in the North is because of a row between Sinn Féin and the DUP and called on the government to seek a formal meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to secure rights and the implementation of previous agreements.
The Sinn Féin delegation to the meeting included Mary Lou McDonald TD, and MLAs Michelle O'Neill and Conor Murphy.
Speaking today Gerry Adams said:
“Since the resignation of Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin has sought to have the rights of citizens in the north of Ireland respected and previous agreements implemented.
“This is a completely reasonable ask and expectation.
“These rights include marriage equality, language rights, a bill of rights and the rights to an inquest in legacy cases. These are enjoyed here and across Britain.
“For over 10 months Sinn Féin has sought to resolve these issues. The move by the British Government to impose a budget was an acknowledgement that no agreement with the DUP was possible.
“The DUP have, so far refused to respect these rights and honour the previous agreements. The British Government, led by Theresa May, is prepared to put up with this for her short-term electoral survival.
“The DUP cannot be given a veto on rights and previous agreements.
“It is now time for the governments to act. If we are to re-establish the Executive, the role of the Irish Government will be decisive.
“The Irish Government are neither neutral or neutered on this matter. They need to make clear that the way forward is the full implementation of the agreements and the rights of citizens.
“These issues are not going away. Irish Government must now seek a formal meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to secure rights and the implementation of previous agreements.
“Sinn Féin will also be meeting the British Prime Minister Theresa May on these issues next week.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has again called on the Taoiseach to withdraw his “deliberately incorrect” comments about homelessness in this State.
Speaking this evening during a Dáil debate on homelessness, Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Since the Taoiseach made his deliberately incorrect comments on the level of homeless at the weekend, the debate around this important issue has reached new lows from some people who should know better.
“The comments from the chair of the Housing Agency and the head of the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive are deeply concerning since these are the people tasked with finding solutions to the crisis. They were also very hurtful to those who are or have experienced homelessness.
“The idea that homelessness is a result of 'bad behaviour' displays a set of values from a Victorian era that I thought was long gone.
“The truth is they are victims of a housing crisis and a government who have presided over a 300% increase in family homeless since taking office in 2011.
“The most disturbing set of comments this week however were from the Taoiseach. We have all seen the report the Taoiseach spin office used to base his claims on.
“There is not a shred of evidence in that 2017 OECD report that allows the Taoiseach to make the claim that our levels of homelessness are low by international standards.
“On that basis I think the Taoiseach should withdraw his comments. It is not acceptable for the leader of the country to deliberately down play the levels of homelessness to hide his own Governments failure to meet the housing need of thousands of people.”
Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the European Parliament's support for a resolution on the rule of law in Malta, which he co-authored.
Carthy, a member of the Panama Papers Inquiry Committee, said the resolution came in response to last month's assassination of an investigative journalist, as well as broader issues around fundamental rights, corruption, and the separation of powers in Malta.
"I welcome today's vote in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Malta. I was one of the authors of this resolution, which comes in response to the assassination of the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in a car bomb attack last month.
"The resolution makes a strong condemnation of this assassination, and calls for an independent international investigation into Daphne’s murder.
"It raises serious questions about some of the systemic problems in Malta regarding freedom of the media and independence of law enforcement bodies and the judiciary.
"We also focus on the fact that the political figures named in the Panama Papers and suspected of possible financial crime by Malta’s financial intelligence unit have not been investigated by the police and remain in government.
"We often criticise countries around the world on human rights issues. But it is vital that fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of the press, are upheld within the EU itself."
Sinn Féin TD for Sligo/Leitrim Martin Kenny asked the Taoiseach what he plans to do to address the lack of respite services and CAMHs services for people in this area.
Deputy Kenny said;
“Families are fighting for these services for years now and all we are seeing is one controversy after another. There is a lack of qualified personnel in CAMHs, Solas respite centre closed, and issues regarding mental health services in St John ’s hospital.
“We now hear the HSE is providing respite services in a hotel in Sligo. This raises a number of questions.
“Does the hotel know that the rooms been hired by the HSE are for the purpose of providing respite services?
“Is the hotel HIQA approved?
“Does the hotel have the necessary equipment required for providing respite services?
“The Taoiseach says there is more funding allocated to these services for 2018, but what these families need is a proper facility for respite services and they need it now."
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O'Reilly TD today questioned the Minister for Health on the issue of transvaginal mesh implantations and the health difficulties now facing a number of women who received a mesh implantation procedure and how many have reported a possible complication or defective implant.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Over a month ago I started raising this issue through Parliamentary Question’s and I am doing so again today. This is a health issue which should worry us all.
“The issue of transvaginal mesh implantation procedures and subsequent complications due to the use of possible defective devices is one which needs to be immediately addressed by the Minister for Health and the HSE.
“The implants have been widely used as a simple, less invasive alternative to other more traditional surgical approaches for treating urinary incontinence and prolapse, conditions that can commonly occur after childbirth.
“The issues around complications post transvaginal mesh device implantation have caused huge scandals in both the US, Britain, and Australia, however, the HSE and the Department of Health seem to think Ireland is an outlier and it is not an issue here.
“To date the HSE has been unable to outline the number of women who received a transvaginal mesh implantation across the State, and without the data on the number of mesh implants procedures carried out then we cannot know how serious the issue is here.
“Indeed, I find the fact that the HSE does not hold this data another indication of this state’s utter disregard for women’s healthcare, given that this issue disproportionately affects women.
“I cannot help thinking that if this was a men’s health issue thst the HSE and the Department would have answers.
“So far there have been a reported six women who have come forward to the Health Products Regulatory Authority as regards complications from transvaginal mesh implantations.
“I believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg and that the HSE need to immediately conduct a review into how many patients received a transvaginal mesh implantation as part of a healthcare procedure, and the Minister needs to immediately instruct the HSE to establish a register of women impacted by complications from the procedure so we can investigate the seriousness of the matter."
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard, has said the British government are trying to accelerate the process of undermining rights and economic security in Ireland with the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Sinn Féin TD for Offaly and North Tipperary, Teachta Carol Nolan, has expressed disappointment at the refusal of the Minister for Justice to give a specific commitment to increase Garda numbers in Offaly to address increased crime.
Teachta Nolan was speaking following a topical issue debate on the issue in the Dáil last night.
Teachta Nolan said:
"I am hugely disappointed with the Minister's response on this serious issue.
"The fact is that Garda numbers were decimated under successive Governments and over a hundred rural garda stations were closed.
"We are now seeing the outworkings of those policy decisions on rural communities.
"Communities in Offaly are living in sheer terror and they need action from this Government.
"Unfortunately the Minister seems to be more interested in scoring petty political points that dealing with these concerns.
"I have called on the Minister to provide increased resources to the gardaí in Offaly so that they might be better equipped to deal with the threats facing our communities.
"Minister Flanagan has not given any commitment to provide these resources and this is simply not good enough.
"It shows clearly that the Minister is not serious about addressing this issue and it is a slap in the face to the communities he has been elected to represent."
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan has met the leading Department of Education official today to press for school budgets to be protected.
The discussions come in the wake of hundreds of local schools writing to the British secretary of state in protest at their lack of resources.
The Foyle MLA commented: “I raised a number of concerns with the Department Permanent Secretary, not least the issue of school budgets.
“Children should not have to pay the price for Tory-Dup austerity and if schools are saying they do not have the necessary resources than that needs to be heeded. That is why Sinn Féin worked so hard to secure additional funds for the Education budget in July and October and it remains our position that school budgets should be adequately resourced.
“And while I also acknowledge the steps taken by the Department to review changes to free schools meals criteria which threatened to remove this entitlement from thousands pf children, I stressed we will continue to pursue this issue until such times as we are satisfied that no child loses out as a result of a technical change rather than an improvement in their circumstances.
“I also reiterated Sinn Fein’s firm opposition to the proposed closure of Ardnabannon outdoor education centre. This is a counter-productive move and the Department should rethink its plans.”
Sinn Féin is to introduce a private members motion this evening in the Seanad calling for the JobPath scheme to be ended.
Speaking ahead of this evening’s debate Senator Rose Conway-Walsh said:
“This scheme is estimated to cost €65 million this year and €350 million over the six year period. This money is paid to private contractors who were given this contract in a shroud of secrecy.
“Increasing numbers of people are reporting major problems with the JobPath programme. There are instances of people being made to travel long distances to jobs that are unsuitable, where training is inadequate and often little or no experience.
“These problems and others are well articulated in Sinn Féin ‘s ‘JobPath Exposed’ document published by my colleagues Deputies John Brady and Denise Mitchell.
“We have asked questions about the fees paid to each company for registering each new long-term unemployed person. Each time we have been refused this information, due to ‘commercial sensitivity’.
"It is unacceptable that Departmental funds and tax payers’ money is being spent in such an unaccountable manner.
“Other schemes such as Local employment Service and CE schemes have been affected by JobPath companies effectively stopping people from choosing positions available on them.“Very often these positions are far more suited to the person in terms of location, experience gained and future employability. Yet in the drive to get more people signed up to JobPath they are vetoed from signing up.”
A Sinn Féin delegation met with senior police officers in Derry this morning to discuss a spate of recent shootings across the city. The Sinn Féin delegation included Elisha McCallion MP and Raymond McCartney MLA.
Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Raymond McCartney, reiterated a call for the "PSNI to get to grips with armed gangs".
Raymond McCartney said:
"Sinn Féin today met with the PSNI to discuss the ongoing shootings and incidents across the city in recent months.
“This has included a number of young men being shot in the legs; shots being fired into houses, and armed gangs attempting to enter homes.
“I made it clear to the PSNI that they must step up to the mark and tell the public exactly what they are doing about these incidents, and that needs to go beyond giving stock answers.
“I also highlighted the very serious questions that are emerging about how the PSNI is handling these incidents. There is a growing perception in the community that these armed gangs are operating with impunity.
“The community has rejected these attacks, there is no place for guns on the streets of our city.
"Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the PSNI in the time ahead to ensure progress is made in bringing these attacks to an end before someone loses their life.”
Direct payments for families to source their own domiciliary care packages should only be used when this is their informed and willing choice, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Carers and Wellbeing Colm Gildernew has said.
The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA was speaking after the latest Health Trust figures showed a sharp increase in the number of direct payments being made.
He commented: “Between June and September this year in Belfast, the number jumped from 515 to 709 and in the Western Trust the number increased from 615 to 829 over a 12-month period.
“That in itself is not a bad thing but this option should only be pursued when it is through an informed and willing choice by the family concerned.
“There is a risk that families and carers struggling to get the care packages they need may feel pressurised into accepting direct payments and try to sort arrangements themselves.
“That should never be the case and the Trusts should ensure that steps are taken to ensure the most effective direct payments model is in place as part of the ongoing review into adult social care.”