Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the Bank of Ireland debit card issue is only the latest issue to leave consumers without access to their own money and is completely unacceptable.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Today, Irish consumers have been left high and dry by another banking failure as Bank of Ireland’s debit cards ceased working for many.
"I have heard reports of people on holiday left without cash or people missing important transactions because of this failure.
"I am angered that, fresh in the wake of the Visa system failure and Ulster Bank’s various problems, once again customers are left without access to their own money.
"When we entrust our money with the banks the least we expect is to be able to get access to it when we need it.
"The usual story is the bank apologises and nothing more is done.
"We need stronger penalties and a more robust approach from the Central Bank to banks who fail their consumers to find out what happened and to be ready and willing to fine the banks for the disruption caused after swift investigations.”
Systemic failings in the education system highlighted by the Children’s Commissioner demonstrate the need for urgent action and investment, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Children and Young People Catherine Kelly has said.
The West Tyrone MLA was speaking at the launch of a Children’s Commissioner report in Hazelwood integrated College today, which highlighted ‘systemic failures’ in a number of areas including education, poverty and mental health as well as the negative impact of Brexit.
Catherine Kelly commented: “This report has again highlighted the need for additional investment in our education system and direct interventions to improve educational attainment and to address the inequalities that still exist in the system.
“In particular, she references the failure to implement the 2016 recommendations made by the UN committee on the Rights of the Child. These recommendations identified the ongoing use of unregulated transfer tests by some schools as a key driver of inequality within education and called for them to be abolished.
“That needs to happen if we are to ever fully redress the long tail of underachievement that persists within our system. It is a damning indictment that some schools persist with this policy of rejection when report after report demonstrates that it is damaging to children. It needs to end.
“The Commissioner also identified a number of other areas which negatively impact on children and young people including Brexit, mental health, poverty and resources.
“Clearly there is a need for an end to the austerity policies imposed by London which are having such a damaging impact on public services like education. Outstanding Good Friday Agreement commitments such as the Bill of Rights should also be implemented to provide a statutory framework for the protection of young people’s entitlements.”
South Down MP Chris Hazzard has welcomed yesterday’s announcement that Seatruck Ferries is investing £88m in Warrenpoint Port.
Mr Hazzard commented,
“This investment is a huge boost to the local economy and the wider district. Not only does it provide sustainability, it should also provide an important boost to business through the port.
“In the context of ongoing uncertainty caused by Brexit, this investment is a very welcome development.”
The Health system must recognise and respond to the failures which led to the neglect of vulnerable residents in Dunmurry Care Home, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Pat Sheehan MLA has said.
The West Belfast MLA was commenting after a party delegation, also including Carers spokesperson Colm Gildernew MLA, yesterday met with the Chief Executive of the Regulatory Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) following the damning report by the Older People’s Commissioner into the standard of care at the home.
Pat Sheehan said: "The recent report from the Older People's Commissioner exposed degrading and unacceptable treatment of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
"It is clear that in the case of Dunmurry Manor, the system as a whole failed people.
"At a time when older people most needed care and compassion some were instead neglected and left to suffer.
Colm Gildernew added: "It is of utmost importance that the RQIA, as well as each Trust involved, the Department for Health and Runwood Homes recognise themselves that the system failed people in Dunmurry Manor.
"Each organisation has a responsibility for addressing these failures individually and collectively to ensure they are not repeated anywhere in the north of Ireland.
"The RQIA, and all responsible authorities need to respond to the Commissioners report and demonstrate how the necessary changes will be made."
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed the official launch of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann which will be held in Drogheda between August 12 and 19.
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has commented on the publication of a new study on Apple’s tax rates and corporate tax structure following its 2014-2015 restructure. The report was published this morning, Thursday, by the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament.
Carthy, a member of the TAX3 special committee on tax evasion, tax avoidance and money laundering, said: “The TAX3 committee requested Apple appear at a hearing of the committee on June 21. The hearing took place this morning without Apple’s presence. It is not acceptable that Apple – and others – have refused to appear before the special committee, and the Parliament needs to take action in response to this.
“The GUE/NGL group has published a new report that examines Apple’s tax rates and structure post-2014, and also examines the role of Irish tax law and policy that facilitate tax avoidance.
“After the state aid ruling, we’ve been told by Apple and the Irish government that things have changed and Apple is paying tax at Ireland’s statutory rate of 12.5%. But this report shows that with the help of the Irish government, Apple has successfully created a structure that has allowed it to gain a tax write-off against almost all of its non-US sales profits.
“Despite the state aid ruling and despite the Irish government pledging to take action to combat tax avoidance, Apple today continues to pay almost no tax on its global profits. Researchers found that Apple may be paying as little as 0.7% tax in the EU from 2015 to 2017.
“The structure Apple uses today, that was partially exposed in the Paradise Papers and which the authors of the study dub the ‘Green Jersey’, was designed by the industry and willingly implemented by the Irish government as a replacement to the Double Irish scheme. It is based on the use of capital allowances for expenditure on intellectual property and massive intra-group loans to purchase the IP, with full deductions on the interest paid for these loans, in order to cancel out the tax bill arising from sales profits.
“The study shows that the Irish government’s decision to introduce the 100% rate on capital allowances for IP followed a recommendation made by the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland in 2014.
“Apple is not alone in using this scheme, and corporate law firms are advertising that this structure is now typical for large multinationals engaged in trading in intellectual property – and that it can reduce the tax rate in Ireland to 2.5%.
“The government has failed to ensure that Apple and other IP-based multinational corporations pay a fair rate of tax in Ireland. We urgently need a reappraisal of the capital allowance and interest deductions that apply to the intellectual property brought onshore over this period (2015-2017) and afterwards.”
Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has criticised the lack of transparency in the workings of a large-scale private forestry fund operated by the European Investment Bank (EIB). Carthy this week questioned the Vice-President of the EIB, Andrew McDowell, during a hearing in the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.
Matt Carthy said:
“Last year, the EIB announced that it was backing an initiative with the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to push for new investment in privately owned forests across Ireland. The fund is worth €112m and is managed by Dasos, a Finnish Capital Investment firm. The loans are only open to large scale capital investors, to the exclusion of local farmers.
“I have attempted on several occasions to secure answers from the EIB on the inner-workings of this fund, which has so far been operating away from public scrutiny, including previously meeting privately with Mr. McDowell.
“The loans are affecting local land prices, local land availability, biodiversity in terms of the species of trees planted, and local flora and fauna due to blanket forestry blocking out light. Furthermore, the presence of these unknown capital investors is having a negative impact on local communities who are suddenly witnessing the mass purchasing of land by unknown speculators.
“This week in the European Parliament I asked Mr McDowell specifically how many low-cost loans have been approved, how much money has already been disbursed, and what regions were being targeted by investors. This is information the European Commission and the Irish Government have already refused to furnish.
“Again though, Mr McDowell refused to disclose any information on this fund.
“I find it extremely concerning that while the private sector now owns almost half of the forests in Ireland there is absolutely no transparency on who owns these forests or how much of the state funded forest premium fund is going into the pockets of these so-called investors.
“It is not uncommon for EU Member State Governments to put in place rules to protect agricultural land from threats such as excessive price speculation and ownership concentration. In fact the European Commission issued guidelines late last year on exactly how to do this.
“Why then is our Government not only facilitating the large scale buy up of farmland in Ireland by foreign investors, but also hiding information from the public on the outworkings of that fund?
“I am now calling on the Minister to immediately impose restrictions to control sales of farmland in order to protect agricultural communities. These must include, where foreign investors are concerned, prior authorisation from local authorities for the acquisition of land, limits on the size of land to be acquired and pre-emption rights for local farmers.
“This is particularly necessary in counties such as Leitrim where the difficulties caused by these activities are especially acute”.
Speaking in London today after a senior party delegation, which included Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill MLA and Órfhliath Begley MP, met with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said:
"Today we met both British Prime Minister Theresa May and Secretary of State for the North, Karen Bradley where we set out in very clear terms how their reckless Brexit is certain to cause untold social and economic damage across the island of Ireland, including to citizens who the DUP claim to represent and defend. It is reckless. It is mindless and it is a gross act of political vandalism.
“The Joint Report of the EU and British negotiators published on 8th December last year reiterated its commitment to protecting the Good Friday Agreement, including the effective operation of the institutions and bodies of the Agreement.
“In relation to the Protocol on IrelandTheresa May agreed at that time that a backstop solution for the border will form part of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, and that this backstop would apply, unless and until, another solution is found.
“The EU rejected her latest position earlier this month, which was an attempt to play for more time.
"Today during the course of our meeting she downplayed her Government’s commitment to the backstop and poured cold water on the European Council meeting later this month as being of any real significance.
“The Irish Government and the EU 27 need to be alert and must stand firm in the face of this dangerous agenda and defend our citizens, our economy and our peace and political process."
Sinn Féin Leader Mary-Lou McDonald told the British Prime Minister that their toxic pact with the DUP is preventing the return of power-sharing and undermining our economy and peace process.
She said: “The British Government claim their priority is to see the restoration of the power-sharing institutions but we heard nothing today to suggest that they have any plan, strategy or intention to actually make that happen.
“In fact, it is clear the opposite is true. Theresa May’s government has adopted a do-nothing approach in order to protect their toxic pact with the DUP. They are refusing to challenge the DUP on their ongoing denial of rights which would not be tolerated here in Britain. That is what is preventing the return of power-sharing and the British Government need to start taking their responsibilities to equality and previous agreements seriously if there is to be any prospect of restoring the institutions.
“In return for this blind eye from the Tories, the DUP are actively supporting Theresa May’s catastrophic pursuit of a hard Brexit over citizens and sectoral interests locally.
“The onus is now on the two Governments to remove the obstacles to restoring the Executive and we have told Theresa May that she must get on with convening the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to redress the denial of rights for citizens without further delay.”
Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has condemned those responsible for erecting loyalist flags on the Ormeau Road.
“Let me be quite clear there is no justification in using flags to intimidate, harass people or to mark territory."
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has accused Minister Murphy of “buying time” as he struggled in Committee today to explain why he had no information ready on the recent alleged miscategorisation of homeless figures.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Minister Murphy arrived at a special session of the housing committee to discuss the recent alleged miscategorisation of homeless figures without the information on the alleged miscategorisation error requested by the committee.
“The Minister declined an earlier request to appear in front of the Housing Committee on the alleged miscategorisation issue on the grounds that he did not have all the information.
"He committed to attending the Committee when two homeless reports then in preparation where completed.
“However, nowhere in either of the reports published yesterday and presented to the Housing Committee is the issue of alleged miscategorisation dealt with. When asked why this was the case Minister Murphy said the data was not yet ready and would be published at a later date.
“This is not credible. The Committee has asked for a full breakdown of the families removed from the March and April homeless reports by Council area and family type.
"We have also asked for the detail of their accommodation arrangements at the time the were removed from the homeless list and a justification for their removal.
“The Minister has this information as it was used to take these families off the list. Why almost two months after it being requested is he still refusing to give it to the committee.
“The Minister’s continued delay in providing the information to the committee is undermining our ability to fully scrutinise his decisions.
“The May monthly homeless figures are due next week, will we see hundreds more people removed from this report too without any basis in fact?”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has raised concerns at the serious failures within the Department highlighted in the Ombudsman report published today.
Teachta Brady said:
“The Ombudsman report published today makes stark reading when it comes to the practices undertaken by the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection.
“For a Department so concerned with combatting welfare fraud, it need not look too far for grave errors on their own behalf when it comes to overpayments and Departmental errors.
“The Ombudsman states that out of the 953 complaints received against Government Departments, 655 were against the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This accounts for well over half of all complaints made against Government Departments in 2017.
“When examining the 95 complaints received regarding overpayments, 60% were concluded in favour of the complainant. On closer examination of the Department’s administrative practices when it comes to dealing with overpayments, several matters were identified by the Ombudsman.
“The Ombudsman has highlighted seven areas of such concern including practices in cases where overpayments are made to customers because of error on behalf of Department staff and not the customer.
“This report makes for grim reading for the Department and for Minister Regina Doherty. I am calling on her to initiate an immediate review of practices in place by her Department when it comes to overpayments. We need to see action on the issues highlighted by the Ombudsman.
“This report also serves as important information to people who may have been overpaid by the Department through no fault of their own, especially if they are being made to pay back this money to the Department. I would urge people to contact the Ombudsman if they feel that they have been treated unfairly by the Department."
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has accused the Government of ignoring the ongoing crisis in health and housing by refusing to invest €1.4 billion available to the State under the fiscal rules.
Teachta Doherty said;
“By making the decision not to invest €1.4 billion available under the fiscal rules, this Fine Gael led Government are choosing not to address the social crises clearly seen across the State.
“That lack of investment has resulted in hospital waiting lists standing at over 700,000, it resulted in 100,000 people waiting on trolleys in our hospital’s emergency departments last year along, and it has resulted in over 4,000 children sleeping in emergency accommodation last night.
“It is absolutely reckless that we have a government that has now decided - when there is money available - not to invest that to help meet the challenges we face as a society.
“Trying to normalise lacklustre public services is not good political practice for the Taoiseach. It is socially and economically irresponsible.
“Everyone appreciates the value in putting a few bob aside for an unexpected event or an emergency, but we have emergencies now and they’re not going to fix themselves.
“They need investment, which the Minister is proposing to hold back and that’s shocking.
“The choices made in October will either deepen the prevailing social crises in the State, or they will tackle them head-on."
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly welcomed the unanimous political support from TDs for a Sinn Féin PMB proposing solutions to the hospital waiting list crisis.
Speaking this afternoon, Teachta O’Reilly said:
“There isn't a family in Ireland currently unaffected by the crisis of hospital waiting lists.
“In May that list grew to a new record of more than 707,000 people waiting for a medical procedure.
“On this list there are 511,904 people waiting for an outpatient procedure and 147,387 of these outpatient appointments are outstanding for over a year as of May.
“The inpatient waiting list was no different in its severity; in May the inpatient procedure list stood at 79,649 with nearly 6,000 of those waiting for over a year.
“These people are not numbers - they are living, breathing, feeling people who are on a waiting list because they need medical attention.
“This State is washing its hands of its responsibility to these people and that can never be normalised or accepted.
“But there are solutions. For many years now Sinn Féin have called for the introduction of an integrated hospital management waiting list system, such as the one used in the Portuguese health service which has delivered significant and sustained reductions in waiting times for surgery since it was first introduced in 2004.
“Indeed, a similar system is working here on a smaller scale in the RCSI Hospital Group. The RCSI Hospital Group was the only hospital group in the State who managed to reduce their outpatient waiting lists from May 2017 to May 2018 - reducing the waiting list by 2,613.
“We need to see sustained investment in the public health system as well as the roll out of a new and single Integrated Hospital Waiting List Management IT System as used in the Portuguese NHS and the RCSI Hospital Group so we can once and for all tackle the waiting list crises."
A recent PQ submitted by Sinn Féin Seanad spokesperson on Mental Health Senator Máire Devine and Pat Buckley TD has revealed that the HSE spent almost the entire increase in the mental health budget for 2018 in the first three months of the year.
The department stated a spend of just under €13 million from January - March of 2018 on private agency costs.
Speaking before the Seanad debate on the issue this evening, Senator Devine said:
“The Future of Mental Healthcare Committee of which I am a member has been hearing extensively the staffing crisis within the mental health division for several weeks now.
"The Minister has long been aware of the problems, but instead of addressing them, he is stuffing the tax payer’s money into the gaping wound to try and stop the hemorrhaging.
"We all remember the celebrations of the increase of a measly €15million in the mental health budget for this year; and any hope any of us may have had is well and truly dead as that money now sits in the pockets of private business.
"This is a crisis and the Minister needs to step up now.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said said the international community and the EU in particular is not doing enough to help refugees.
Speaking from Brussels on World Refugee Day, Martina Anderson said:
"Today marks World Refugee Day and there has never been a more appropriate time to consider the plight of refugees and to do something about it.
"The shameful and disgusting images we have witnessed in recent days from US detention camps of young children snatched away from their parents brings into sharp focus the need to address the world refugee crisis.
"I and the other Sinn Féin MEPs have written to the President of the European Commission expressing our outrage at what is happening in the USA under President Trump and calling on the EU to do everything it can to put a stop to this inhumane policy.
"Across Europe and across the world the attitude of keeping refugees out instead of keeping them safe is shameful.
"Despite international treaties mandating it to act the EU is turning a blind eye to the great shame of our time; the refugee crisis.
"The international community and the EU in particular needs to put compassion back into its approach to refugees and recognise their humanity instead of pursuing inhumane policies."