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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 TD’s Imelda Munster and Dessie Ellis have expressed their disappointment that a bill they had co-sponsored to amend road traffic legislation to regulate quad bikes and scramblers, has been opposed by both the government and their partners in government Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Ellis said:

“I am angry that after a lot of work over the years on this burning issue that the first real chance we have had as legislators to regulate these vehicles has been shot down by both the government and Fianna Fáil.

“I have to question the support that public representatives from both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have given me on this issue when it is has been raised at a local level. 

“These same representatives are now opposing the bill I have brought forward in the Dáil which would end the torment and fear people have in their communities caused by the irresponsible and anti-social activity of those who ride their quads and scramblers in public park and through housing estates, without care or caution.

Deputy Munster also expressed her disappointment in the decision taken by Fianna Fáil and the government:

“By opposing this bill the only winners are those engaging in anti-social activity.

“The losers are the community, the elderly, families with children and all who use their local parks and amenities.

“This is a dangerous situation in some areas. We saw that in Darndale this summer when a man suffered catastrophic head injuries when a scrambler hit him while he was sunbathing in the park.

“Sinn Féin has been trying to change the law to regulate these vehicles for years, and we are blocked at every turn.

“Meanwhile communities continue to suffer and lives are put at risk because of the government’s inaction.

“Fianna Fáil and the government have offered no solutions to this problem and should  be condemned for their inaction and callous rejection of a bill which would end the scourge of these quads and scramblers and give public parks and spaces back to the community.”

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Sinn Féin member of the PAC  Deputy David Cullinane has said that no public office should be exempt from freedom of information legislation, including the office of the President.

Speaking today on the introduction of his Freedom of Information (Oversight of The Office Of The President) (Amendment) Bill 2018, Deputy Cullinane said:

"Freedom of Information is about transparency.

"The Public have a right to know what is being done with public monies, regardless of the recipient of those monies.

"The idea that the millions in public funds that the President receives is somehow exempt from public scrutiny is a throwback to the 1930s and the philosophy that the public have a right to know only what their government tells them.

"Unfortunately that is an idea that still runs through Irish state institutions.

"I see it every week in the Public Accounts Committee.

"We know that constitutionally the President is not answerable to either the Houses of the Oireachtas or the Courts – although this right is not absolute as the President can be investigated and impeached by the Oireachtas if needs be.

"However, saying that that the President is not answerable to the Oireachtas or courts in the course of his duties is different from saying the president should not make public what it is he or she does with public funds.

"I ask that this bill be allowed to proceed to second stage and that whatever constitutional concerns people may have are addressed through pre-legislative scrutiny.

"No office in this land – including that of the President – should be exempt from Freedom of Information legislation."  

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said it is time for tight regulation of receivers. He was speaking after a Finance Committee hearing with officials from the Department of Justice and Department of Business who confirmed the issue of regulation is not on the agenda. 

Deputy Doherty said: 

“I am alarmed that despite my calls for some years now for regulation for receivers that the issue has not been on the agenda of the various Departments’ working groups. This must be corrected and full, tight regulation put on the agenda without delay. 

“I, like many TDs, have heard horror stories of how receivers treat tenants including small businesses. Henchmen turning up in the dead of the night and in disguise to change locks is just one the types of behaviour that must be looked at. 

“Liquidators and examiners are regulated by law, but there is practically no regulation for receivers despite the powers they have over tenants and businesses. This is a financial issue too for the State with NAMA having paid €127m at last count to receivers over the last few years. 

“That is NAMA alone paying over €127m to unregulated, unaccountable bodies. That is unacceptable.

“Regulation, including a complaints process, authorisation rules and a complaints process must be in place as soon as possible.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon has congratulated the Rainbow Project and Cara Friend on winning ‘Community Group of the Year’ at the Pink News Awards. 

The party’s Equality spokesperson said: 

“I would like to congratulate the Rainbow Project and Cara Friend on winning this Pink News award for their hard work and determination in the fight for LGBTQ rights in the north.  

“These groups have a strong commitment to equality, diversity and bringing an end to the disgraceful denial of marriage equality by the Tory/DUP alliance. 

“Over the summer we saw the largest, most vibrant, colourful Pride parades which sent a message that the tide is changing and the ‘north is next’ for marriage equality. 

“It’s important that we continue to send solidarity to groups such as the Rainbow Project and Cara Friend for the tremendous help, support, education and advocacy they provide to LGBTQ adults and young people everyday.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill said tonight that in the event of a no-deal Brexit or a crash out of the EU there must be a referendum on Irish unity.

Speaking at Queen’s University tonight, Michelle O’Neill said:.

“The Sinn Féin leadership met the British Prime Minister and the British Secretary of State in London on Monday.  

“We made it clear that in the case of a Brexit crash-out and no-deal scenario it is absolutely incumbent on them to put the constitutional future of the north to the people here through a unity referendum. 

“The Tories’ planned imposition of Brexit in Ireland demonstrates the failure of partition, and exposes further the gaping democratic deficit inherent in a partitioned Ireland. 

“People from across this society, and yes even those of a British identity, are questioning what will be the merits, benefits of staying within the union after Brexit. The EU has said in the event of reunification the whole of Ireland will automatically be subsumed back into the EU.

“So the debate on our constitutional future is as much about our relationship with Europe as it is about Ireland itself.”

And Michelle O’Neill urged EU negotiators and the Dublin Government to ensure the backstop becomes legally enforceable in any Brexit withdrawal agreement. 

“We must avoid economic apartheid on this island and a hard border. The proposed ‘backstop’ is a safety net and insurance policy.

“I urge EU negotiators and the Dublin Government to ensure the backstop becomes legally enforceable in any Brexit withdrawal agreement.

“As the most obvious symbol of the peace process, the invisible border on the island of Ireland is essential. Any reversal of that will have huge adverse economic, social, political, security, but also psychological impacts on people both in border communities and on the island as a whole.

“Brexit represents the greatest economic threat to the island of Ireland in a generation.

“I am absolutely opposed to the British Government dragging us out of the EU against our will.

“Sinn Féin has influenced and made our case to the EU27 in the Dáil and the European Parliament. We will continue to make our voices heard and to build a progressive coalition around our national interest in the coming weeks ahead.” CRÍOCH/ENDS



 “WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE NORTH?”

PUBLIC LECTURE DELIVERED BY SINN FÉIN VICE-PRESIDENT MICHELLE O’NEILL MLA, 17TH OCTOBER 2018, QUEENS UNIVERSITY BELFAST


INTRODUCTION

I want to thank the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard English, Ryan Feeney and Queen’s University for the invitation to speak here this evening.

I would like to acknowledge the vital role that Queen’s University plays in its contribution to society here, in terms of research and education, but also the regional economy.  

It is a world-class University, one of the foremost higher education establishments on these islands and ranked in the top 200 universities in the world.

We are therefore proud that Queen’s is one of our key selling points when working to attract foreign direct investors to locate here and the fact that the University is responsive to business, creating graduates with skills, competency and acumen in business-relevant areas.

Tonight I want to take the opportunity to speak about the future.

We live in peaceful, yet turbulent times politically. 

So, what are the present realities and challenges we face and what does the future hold for the North?

PEACE PROCESS

In April past we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

This, despite our ongoing challenges, gave us all time to stop and reflect on what has been achieved, how over the past two decades the entire island of Ireland has been transformed as a result of the Irish peace process, where we have emerged from decades of political conflict and towards a more prosperous, peaceful and democratic society, of which this Agreement of 1998 is the very foundation stone. 


The agreement was reached after the IRA cessation of 1994 which resulted in multiparty negotiations, forming the basis of a political agreement between the Irish and British Governments and the parties.


The agreement received overwhelming endorsement in referenda held North and South.


The Good Friday Agreement provided an end to conflict and provided a peaceful, democratic alternative and a huge opportunity for us all to design a better society for ourselves and future generations to live in.


The declaration by the parties at the start of the Agreement says, ‘We are committed to partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of the relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South and between these islands.’

When I reflect back to that time as a 21-year-old living in County Tyrone where we had endured a long conflict, grown up under British military occupation, witnessed first-hand the heartache of family, friends and neighbours being killed I recall the year of 1998 being one of optimism and a time filled with hope.

This was what motivated me to become active in politics and public life, and a desire to help build and shape the new future and opportunities before us.

Having served in the Assembly alongside unionists and those of a different cultural, religious and political tradition as myself I inevitably formed friendships with people on a human level, and political partnerships while working together to improve and deliver public services and a better quality of life for the people that we represent.

That partnership and friendship was no more epitomised in the relationship between the late Ian Paisley and the late Martin McGuinness while serving together in 2007 as First and deputy First Ministers.

After a turbulent number of years from 1998 to 2007 of the Assembly being up, then down, this period from 2007 once more gave everyone renewed hope.

There was a sense that these once arch opponents had come together and led us over a threshold into a new era and were making good on promises given and working together in good faith.

As the new Vice-President of the Sinn Féín I want to keep faith with that hope, drive change and get us back to rebuilding partnership and friendship in a working Assembly and Executive which allows us to open the door and let the future in.

I truly and passionately believe that we need to get back to the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

It was, and remains a precious gift of peace to our young people and it is indispensable. 

But I also recognise that peace alone is no longer good enough for a new generation who rightly demand to be afforded civil, social, economic and cultural rights in the year 2018 which are taken for granted and routine elsewhere on these islands, but unjustly denied here.

Much has changed and been achieved since the civil rights campaign of 1968 but to think that any minority or group in 2018 still has to fight for basic rights including women, LGBT, Irish speakers, ethnic minorities is simply not sustainable.  

It is unjust in the modern era.

PRESENT REALITIES AND CHALLENGES

I won’t rehearse the past 21 months of political breakdown and deadlock, deal and no deal, because I want to seek to focus on resolutions rather than recrimination, but while we are accustomed to crises, to disappointments and setbacks in this part of the world, it is imperative that we arrest the political drift that we are currently in and stop the attempts to unravel the Good Friday Agreement, its political institutions before it becomes unsalvageable. 

Clearly that is a monumental challenge otherwise it would be done already.

There is no way of escaping the two present realities and challenges which are undermining any genuine attempt to restore the Executive at this time.

The first is an unwanted Brexit.  This is being imposed against the wishes and best interests of people here.

The second is the DUP/Tory Confidence and Supply arrangement at Westminster where Theresa May’s Government is wholly reliant on the DUP to stay in power, therefore prioritising this self-serving agenda over the peace and political processes.

And both of these realities are putting at risk our hard-won peace.

This deal with the DUP robbed Theresa May and her government of any pretence of impartiality in the negotiations for the restoration of the north’s political institutions. The idea that her government could act as an honest broker while beholding to the DUP stretches credibility to breaking point.

Karen Bradley as British Secretary of State disgracefully moved to suspend her powers to call a future Assembly election because the courts were likely going to force her to do so, and disguised this by in tandem cutting MLA pay – something Sinn Féin told her to do over a year ago.

Why has she done this? Because the DUP did not want to face a court forced election while the RHI inquiry is running as they are exposed for incompetence, dysfunctionality and allegations of financial malpractice by the day.

At this time it is my absolute firm assessment that Karen Bradley has no plan to do anything to constructively aid the restoration of the Assembly.

The Sinn Féin leadership met Theresa May and Karen Bradley on Monday and we told them in plain terms that this is the case.

It is therefore the duty and responsibility of the Irish Government as co-guarantors of the Agreement and peace process to hold the British Government to their responsibilities and through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference which will meet in a number of weeks in Dublin, insist, that together they arrest this situation of stasis and agree to remove the obstacles to restoring the Executive.


This can be done, should be done and must be done without delay.


This could pave the way for a new Executive.

What nationalism expects to see is that the equality, mutual respect and all-Ireland approaches enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement are fully embraced by the DUP. 


That the negative attitude and disrespect to Irish national identity and culture is consigned to the past and those who wish to live their lives through the medium of the Irish language can do so and have protection before the law.

That prejudice felt by women, the LGBT community and ethnic minorities not only stops, but is prevented by government, rather than facilitated.

The public deserve to have functioning government and one which they can have confidence in.  

It would also be hard to find anyone inside or outside this room who does not believe that reform of how the Assembly and Executive and our body politic operates is a necessity, not a choice.

Every government wrestles with difficult and complex challenges, and we are no different, but the basic norms of power-sharing, parity of esteem and principles of the Good Friday Agreement must be accepted and embraced by everyone in order for us to succeed.

This means:


  • Discharging our duties in good faith;
  • Serving all of the people equally;
  • Preventing discrimination;
  • Promoting the interests of the whole community;
  • Upholding our commitment to genuine power-sharing, respect and mutual trust towards one another;
  • It means actively promoting reconciliation, and building bridges we can all cross to end sectarianism and bigotry at every level of society.

I want an Assembly which operates differently from what went before, and to usher in a new kind of politics, which is progressive, respectful, and has integrity.

Public confidence must be earned and trust rebuilt if the Assembly and Executive is going to have any credibility. 

Any new Executive should in my view be an inclusive partnership coalition Government.

Never ever again can we see scandals like Red Sky, NAMA, RHI happen in this place.

It is totally unacceptable and unethical behaviour.

We need civil service reforms and proper checks and balances too.

Whatever the civil service’s role has been in contributing to the RHI debacle, nobody doubts that it has a critical role in ensuring there is never a repeat, therefore we must look at serious reforms.

We need ministers competent to do their jobs.

We need legislative reform to ensure that Special Advisors operate in an accountable and lawful fashion if we are to uphold the highest standards in public office.

We need open government where decisions and how they are taken and in whose interests are laid bare and properly scrutinised day and daily with no hiding place for any risk of malpractice or cronyism.

Can this be done?

Yes, of course it can.

We all need to know that if we were to re-enter talks that those participating have the political will to reach agreement; have the mandate and authority to actually take decisions; and know what it is they are looking for – each party brings their own issues, and every party has issues they want resolved.

Progress is and has always been possible.

If there is political will, there is surely a way!

BRITISH WITHDRAWAL FROM THE EU

Brexit was not our choice and it is unwanted by the majority of people and parties in the North.

There is no good that come from Brexit for Ireland North or South.

Throughout our peace process the European Union has been a critical partner for peace providing substantial political and financial aid which has led to greater economic and social progress on an all-island basis.

The Brexit crisis is deepening, it is unprecedented, it is chaotic and how it will pan out is unpredictable to everyone at this point.

As the Brexit negotiations enter the critical final phase, outstanding issues remain to be resolved, not least the question of the Irish ‘backstop’ and the nature of the future relationship between Britain and the European Union.

If a deal is reached there remain a number of challenges to overcome, including obtaining the consent of the Westminster Parliament for any final deal.

These issues all raise profound questions, not only for the North of Ireland and the EU, but also for the future of the Union itself.

The majority of MLAs elected are anti-Brexit.

We are mandated to defend the North’s interests.

The DUP are isolationists and on the wrong side of the argument and the democratic will of people here who voted to remain.

They support Brexit at the cost of imposing a hard border or as Nelson McCausland said, ‘a Brexit at any cost’.

Arlene Foster insists that the DUP will not accept any deal that introduced new regulatory differences between the North and Britain, and that this ‘red line is blood red’ for the DUP.

We must avoid economic apartheid on this island and a hard border.  

Michel Barnier has said that checks are unavoidable if the erection of a physical border is to be prevented, and that the EU wishes to make them not too burdensome in particular for smaller businesses.

He says that their proposal limits itself to what is absolutely necessary to avoid a hard border – customs procedures and the respect for EU standards for products.

It does not include measures on free movement of EU citizens, services, healthcare or social and environmental policy, but gives the North of Ireland benefits that no other third country enjoys, including access to the EU single market for goods and continued benefits from EU Free Trade Agreements, and the continuation of the Single Electricity Market.

The proposed ‘backstop’ is a safety net and insurance policy.

The Common Travel Area in the event of a Brexit deal or none, will continue to allow British and Irish citizens only in Britain and on the island of Ireland associated rights and entitlements including access to employment, healthcare, education, social benefits, as well as the right to vote in certain elections.


Brexit cannot be considered an Orange and Green issue and I think there is considerable merit in all of us looking at post-Brexit Rights and Entitlements through a new lens.


There is obvious value in a Bill of Rights for the North as referred to in the Good Friday Agreement, in mitigating the potential rights impacts of Brexit.


There is also value in a Charter of Rights for the whole island also referred to in the Good Friday Agreement. 


This would also support the provision in the Agreement on equivalence of rights on the island.


We along with the SDLP, Alliance and Greens want the North to remain within the customs union and single market, we want to preserve the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, protect human rights and together make clear that the ‘backstop’ is the bottom line to protect our future economic stability.


Together we met EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier on 5 October as the majority voice for people in the North of Ireland. 


He assured us that the backstop would apply, unless and until, another solution is found. 


Chequers fails to offer another solution and Michel Barnier has been clear on that.


Sinn Féin is arguing for the North’s unique and special circumstances to be recognised within the EU.

A special status relationship outside of the EU would do little to deal with the massive political, social and economic challenges thrown up by Brexit.


As a former Agriculture Minister I am acutely aware of the critical importance of the agri-food sector to our economy and it is uniquely vulnerable to the loss of EU funding and potential tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.


For example, almost 30% of the North’s milk is processed in the South, which also receives 40% of our live lamb exports.


We all know that Brexit poses major challenges to agriculture but also to manufacturing, retail, hospitality, higher education, tourism, energy – all sectors will be impacted negatively.


We know that the fluctuating euro-sterling exchange rate will be compounded if there are additional trade tariff costs imposed on business, which some firms could find it impossible to keep trading.


Impacts on trade and employment and the need for competitiveness and innovation are all amplified. 


When trying to attract investors we talk about our strategic location to British and European markets.


We talk of our skilled workforce;


Our competitive operating costs;


Our advanced infrastructure;


These things are at risk because of Brexit. 


The EU helps fund much of what we take for granted.


To retain our economic competitiveness we cannot incur additional trade costs, and need to retain access to labour and skills.


I firmly believe that we need to develop and nurture, build and grow the All-Ireland economy where we develop closer regimes and models of integration.


In light of Brexit it is imperative that the island of Ireland redoubles our efforts to develop and rebuild a modern, competitive and sustainable economy where we open doors to trade, investment, tourism and jobs but also develop and invest in our indigenous industries.


We need to improve our competitiveness through investing in our public services and infrastructure. 


EU support clearly helps us to do these things and brings massive economic and social benefits. 

These programmes are important drivers of regional development in a cross-border context and allow for practical support of the Peace Process and the advancement of the Good Friday Agreement.


As the most obvious symbol of the Peace Process, the invisible border on the island of Ireland is essential.


Prior to the Good Friday Agreement, security checkpoints on the border, British Army military installations, which had been built and reinforced from the 1970s onwards, were symbols of division and conflict. 


The demilitarisation of physical border crossings and checkpoints is both a symbol of and a dividend from the success of the Peace Process. 


People’s daily lives in the border region have been transformed. 


Any reversal will have huge adverse economic, social, political, security, but also psychological impacts on people both in border communities and on the island as a whole.


Brexit represents the greatest economic threat to the island of Ireland in a generation.


I fully respect the right of the British people to leave the EU and I wish them well – However, I am absolutely opposed to the British Government dragging us out of the EU against our will.


Sinn Féin have influenced and made our case to the EU27 in the Dáil and the European Parliament. 


We will continue to make our voices heard and to build a progressive coalition around our national interest in the coming weeks ahead.


REFERENDUM ON A UNITED IRELAND


There is a growing sense that circumstances are rapidly changing which will inevitably lead to the final break-up of the constitutional structures of the United Kingdom which Theresa May and the DUP say they are committed to preserving.


The Sinn Féin leadership met with the British Prime Minister and the British Secretary of State in London on Monday. We have made it clear that in the case of a Brexit crash-out and no deal scenario that it is absolutely incumbent on them to put the constitutional future to the people here through a unity referendum.


Their planned imposition of Brexit in Ireland once again demonstrates the failure of partition, and exposes further the gaping democratic deficit inherent in a partitioned Ireland. 


People from across this society, and yes even those of a British identity, are questioning what will be the merits, benefits of staying within the union after Brexit.


The EU has said in the event of reunification the whole of Ireland will automatically be subsumed back into the EU.


So the debate on our constitutional future is as much about our relationship with Europe as it is about Ireland itself.


The Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful democratic pathway to Irish Unity.


The issue of Irish Unity has taken on a new dynamic because of Brexit.


Demographics are changing and so too is the political landscape.


This cannot be ignored. 


Peter Robinson’s remarks here at Queen’s University when he gave his own lecture back in June acknowledge this. 


The Good Friday Agreement gives people the opportunity and choice to decide our future together.

How we live together.

How we work together.

How we share this island together.

The political momentum on change is moving in that direction.

Sinn Féin wants a New Ireland, a fairer Ireland, and a united Ireland.

But we do not claim to own the debate.  

I have absolutely no doubt that there are many, many within the unionist community who look at Brexit with the same fear and trepidation as nationalists and republicans.

A Unity Referendum is coming and we need to be prepared for it.

There is a duty on all of us to prepare for it.

All options must be on the table as we shape the future.

There is no contradiction in declaring and delivering on our firm commitment to power sharing with unionism and a functioning Assembly while also initiating a mature and inclusive debate about new political arrangements which better serve all of us who share this island.

Similarly, there is no contradiction in unionism working the existing constitutional arrangements while taking its rightful place in the conversation about what a New Ireland would look like.

It is a time to hear all voices within this debate.  

We must continue our journey of dialogue, of listening, of sharing ideas because in the New Ireland we speak of, there can only be a victory for us all.

CONCLUSION

I want to thank you for taking the time to come here this evening and hear what I have to say.

I want to finish by saying this:

The debate on our constitutional future actually threatens no one, therefore let’s have it in a mature and rational manner.

What has brought us together as community divided by identity and allegiance has been the Good Friday Agreement, so let’s defend it and not allow others to rip it, or us apart and recognise that it is indispensable. 

Let’s try and reinvent the optimism and hope we have all witnessed before by turning a corner and creating a new kind of politics which is democratic, energetic and progressive and which allows everyone irrespective of identity, nationality, race, colour, creed, disability, gender or sexual orientation – to feel that they belong – let’s get down to business and design a better society and economy for ourselves and future generations to live in.

A shared history does not mean a shared memory or even experience of the past, but:

We can determine and create a shared future together

We can open doors and, 

We can let this future in.

We must give people hope and our young people opportunity.

This is the most defining period since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Change is happening.  

Dialogue is crucial.

We need courage not chaos.  

We must choose hope over fear.

Thank you for listening.

Go raibh maith agaibh go leor.

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Sinn Féin Councillor Órla Nic Biorna said the Tory/DUP Brexit agenda will have a disastrous impact on students and young people in the north. 

The Belfast Councillor was speaking after attending a ‘Students Against Brexit’ rally at Queen’s University today. 

Órla Nic Biorna said:

“Today I joined other students outside Queen’s University who are also rightly concerned at the impact that the reckless Tory/DUP agenda will have on our rights as students and young people. 

“If successful, their Brexit agenda would exclude citizens in the north from EU study programmes such as Erasmus, as well as limiting our choices to study at universities across the EU. 

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

“Students have a history of progressive and radical campaigning against inequalities and Brexit is no different – a majority of young people here voted to remain within the EU and the British government and the EU must respect that vote. 

“In this critical time in the Brexit negotiations, we need to hear the voices of other students to protect the rights and opportunities of young people by demanding special status for the north.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has commended the 'Let's Do Business' initiative which links businesses to the local Further Education colleges and is supported by the Department for Economy.

The party's Further and Higher Education spokesperson said:

”The 'Let's Do Business' initiative which is supported by the Department for the Economy, offers local businesses the opportunity to access research and innovation expertise and to access training for their existing staff.

"Our colleges are a valuable resource for local businesses in terms of skills and knowledge transfer. 

"The ability to access resources of this type and to collaborate with experts through initiatives like ‘Let's Do Busines’s provides business with important opportunities to compete and grow.

"With the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit being a threat to business, it is vital that businesses are provided with support and clarity." 

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed the decision by the High Court to instruct the Special Criminal Court to hand over transcripts of proceedings before the Special Criminal Court relating to Adrian Crevan Mackin who shot dead Garda Tony Golden in October 2015.

Teachta Gerry Adams said:

“Crevan Mackin shot dead Garda Tony Golden in October 2015. He also shot and grievously wounded Siobhan Philips, before killing himself.

"Crevan Mackin was previously arrested in January 2015 in possession of explosives and firearms, which he admitted. He was not charged with these offences but instead with an offence he had denied. He was granted bail in the Special Criminal Court.

"I have raised my concerns about the manner in which Adrian Crevan Mackin was dealt with by the Garda, the many offences which he admitted to but he was not charged with, the low bail that was set, and his access to other weapons, with the Minister for Justice and An Taoiseach.  

"In April the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) agreed to initiate a public interest investigation into these matters after I wrote to it and presented it with papers that I had received relating to the case.

"At the time I gave these papers to the investigating officer in the Garda, to GSOC, to the former and current Taoiseach and to the former and current Minister of Justice.

"The decision by the Special Criminal Court to refuse to hand over to GSOC the transcripts of proceedings involving Crevan Mackin was incomprehensible. That one part of the justice system would refuse to cooperate with another is a matter of grave concern.

"Public accountability and public confidence in the rule of law and the institutions of policing and justice are essential. GSOC should never have been forced to go to the High Court."

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Sinn Féin member of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee David Cullinane TD will tomorrow move legislation in the Dáil to amend the Freedom of Information Act to allow for the Office of President to be subject to freedom of information requests.

Speaking today Teachta Cullinane said;

“Sinn Féin believes that accountability, particularly when it comes to the use of public monies is of the utmost importance.  No use of public funds should be above scrutiny.

“I will move a piece of legislation in the Dáil tomorrow to ensure that the Office of the President is subject to Freedom of Information requests.

“I hope to see its speedy passage through the Oireachtas.”

ENDS

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The toxic alliance between the DUP and Tory party, cannot be allowed to poison the Brexit negotiations, Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey has said.

The West Belfast MP was speaking at a Brexit protest in Stormont ahead of the latest EU Council summit gets underway in Brussels. He was joined by Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew and party Brexit spokesperson Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA to hand in a letter of protest to British Government officials.

“In 2016 the people of the north voted to reject Brexit and remain in the EU,” Paul Maskey said.

“They did so because they realised Brexit will be a disaster for the north, for our economy, for jobs, for manufacturers and our agri-food industry, socially, culturally and for our rights.

“It also threatens to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and damage our peace process.

“We cannot allow that to happen. The North cannot stand exclusion from the EU.

“The DUP do not speak for the people of the North on Brexit. They cannot be allowed to poison the Brexit negotiations and drive us over a ‘no-deal’ cliff edge as a result of their toxic alliance with the Tories and their long-standing desire to dismantle the Good Friday Agreement.

“The British Government, as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement must not let that happen as a result of their axis with the DUP.

“It must honour the agreement it has made on the backstop and ensure the rights of the people of the north are protected from Brexit.” 

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Sinn Féin Dublin Bay North TD Denise Mitchell has criticised the Government for its failure to voice support for a Bill which would give the Gardaí extra powers to deal with the misuse of quad bikes and scramblers in parks and public spaces.

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Mitchell said:

“It is totally unfair on residents who are being kept up at all hours of the night by these vehicles tearing through their estates, and on GAA and football teams who show up to play matches only to find their pitches torn-up by these vehicles.

“62 people were injured in incidents involving scramblers last year, including one man who was very seriously injured in Darndale.

“It is incredibly difficult for the Gardaí to intervene or pursue people misusing these vehicles without making the situation even more dangerous.

“So with that being the case, the focus needs to be on ensuring the Gardaí have adequate powers.

“That means Gardaí must have the power to seize these vehicles. It also means addressing the grey area in terms of the legality of the use of these vehicles in local authority parks which are subject to local by-laws. That is what this Bill is about.”

Deputy Mitchell, who is Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, also called on parents not to purchase quad bikes and scramblers for children:

“Parents who are buying these vehicles for children who are under the age of 16 are breaking the law.

“These parents need to have a bit of cop on, and realise they are not only putting their own child in danger, but they are endangering other people in the area.”

ENDS

Editor’s Note: The vote on the proposed ‘Road Traffic (Quads and Scramblers) (Amendment) Bill 2017’ will take place on Thursday. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have indicated they will vote against the Bill.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed today’s decision by the High Court to grant GSOC access to transcripts regarding investigations that are ongoing. 

Speaking this afternoon, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said; 

“Today’s decision by the High Court to grant access to transcripts held by the Special Criminal Court to GSOC is a welcome.

“The transcripts relate to two sensitive cases currently under investigation by the Garda Ombudsman; namely the cases of how Gardaí dealt with the cases of Adrian Creaven Mackin, the killer of Garda Tony Golden, and Eimantas Valteris. 

“The cooperation of state bodies is integral to the work that GSOC do, and they should not be inhibited in any way when carrying out investigations. 

“Both these cases carry their own sensitivities, and it is of the utmost importance that any final decision made in relation to them is done so with all information being made available.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has said there is an onus on everyone to ensure that all children, all families and all communities have the right to live free from poverty.

Speaking on International Day of the Eradication of Poverty the party’s anti–poverty and welfare spokesperson said:

“Today is also an opportunity to talk about the stubborn rates of poverty and destitution which blight Irish society.

“Poverty is a grinding reality in many people’s lives and impacts on everything from educational attainment to community cohesion and prosperity, health outcomes and life expectancy.

“There is simply no excuse in this day and age that people have to endure poverty.

“There is an onus on all of us to ensure that all children, all families and all communities have the right to live free from poverty.

“The causes of poverty and deprivation are numerous. Many of them have their roots in ideologically driven austerity policies imposed by a Tory government as well as the legacy of past discrimination and underinvestment. 

“Those interested in meaningful change must stand up to a rotten economic system that has left so many behind, and fight for a better society founded on equality, solidarity and universal rights.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly has urged parents and guardians to be vigilant about children's online use after the NSPCC issued a warning that the use of video chats and live-streaming among children is leaving them vulnerable to abuse.

Catherine Kelly said:

"I would urge parents to be extremely vigilant of their children's usage of the internet.

"The internet is such a big part of our young people's lives, with up to 95 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds owning a smartphone, therefore it is critical that they understand the dangers. 

"While the internet offers opportunities for us all to connect with each other and engage with society in new ways, it can also expose children and young people to very real dangers.

“I therefore emphasise the importance of parents speaking to their children about the dangerous elements of the internet to ensure that children and young people themselves can keep themselves safe."

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has welcomed a £5 million donation towards data analytics research at the Ulster University Magee campus. 

The donation was made by Mrs Angela Moore in memory of her husband Dr George Moore CBE who was a leading figure in the data analytics industry.

The Foyle MP said:

"I welcome this £5 million investment in data analytics which will help to establish Magee university as a centre of excellence in the field of data analytics.

“This will also see Dr Moore become an Honorary Graduate of Ulster University through the establishment of an endowed chair in his name to honour his significant contribution to data analytics. 

“The digital economy will be a key feature of the future and this investment will support some of the world leading research that is already ongoing at Magee while also supporting the overall expansion of the university as a key driver of the North West's Strategic Growth Plan.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Central, Mary Lou McDonald has welcomed the news that An Bord Pleanála has refused plans for a pedestrian plaza at College Green in the city centre.

Deputy McDonald said:

“The plans to pedestrianise College Green were not feasible and they failed to address the real impact to traffic, particularly for buses and taxi drivers.

“There has already been ongoing disruption in Dublin since the Luas Cross-City was introduced in December.

“College Green in particular has been something of a nightmare for commuters, and Dublin Bus services have been seriously impacted.”

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Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson for Transport, Imelda Munster TD has said that An Bord Pleanála made the correct and prudent decision in rejecting plans for a pedestrianised plaza in College Green, as studies on the impact of the plaza on traffic were insufficient.

Deputy Munster said:

“We are in favour of any proposal that will create public pedestrianised areas in our cities, however we have to plan such measures carefully, and in this instance that did not happen.

“There are serious problems in Dublin with congestion, and we have to ensure that traffic is managed. This means prioritising public transport and ensuring that we don’t create bottlenecks.

“College Green has been subject to ongoing disruption since the Luas Cross-City began operations at the end of last year.

“Any further plans to reroute traffic must be subject to rigorous planning to ensure that we don’t make matters worse in other parts of the city.

“We look forward to revised plans for the proposed plaza down the line.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has raised concerns of further issues being faced by Illness Benefit recipients. 

Teachta Brady said: 

“It has come to my attention that a number of illness benefit recipients have had their payments stopped after the new automated system failed to record receipt of forms sent in by recipients. 

“The forms concerned are the medical review forms (MR1 forms) which are issued by the Department and must be filled in and returned by recipients within 21 days. 

“Recipients who received the form, filled it in and returned it well before the 21 day deadline have had their payments stopped by the automated system. 

“The new computer system in place sends out the MR1 forms automatically and in some cases the forms have been sent out to the same individual as many as six times.

"Other Illness Benefit recipients have been receiving their payments at different and incorrect rates every week. 

"The phone lines in the Illness Benefit Section are seemingly closed with local Intreo offices unable to get in touch with the Section.

“These issue need to be addressed by Minister Doherty immediately. People relying on Illness Benefit are losing their payments through no fault of their own due to an automated system that is clearly not functioning.”

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Commenting on a series of Oireachtas Justice Committee hearings on ‘Community Policing and Rural Crime’, Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has said a cross-border task force on rural crime could make a significant difference in supporting communities and dealing with the perpetrators of rural crime.

Speaking from Leinster House after today’s meeting, Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said;

“At this morning's meeting the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) outlined starkly the real fears that exists amongst the farming community and rural population in the twenty six counties, due to the fallout from ongoing incidents of rural crime.

"At last weeks Justice Committee, we heard from the Gardaí and PSNI about the positive and tangible benefits of cross-border policing. 

"Much rural crime takes place on a cross-border basis and requires a strategic, collaborative  response from key stakeholders, not least policing services. 

"Hearing about the existing all-Ireland cooperation between the Irish Farmers Association and the Ulster Farmers Union and at today’s presentation is welcome and the IFA made a significant call for our Committee to support the establishment of a Rural Crime Task Force similar to those which operate in Britain. 

"Given the assertions at both today’s and last week’s meetings, any such Task Force, if it is to operate effectively, must operate and deliver on a cross-border basis.

I look forward to pursuing these themes with my Committee colleagues as we further develop our report on these matters.” 

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Speaking in Leinster House today, Sinn Féin Rural Affairs spokesperson Martin Kenny TD, who was attending the Rural and Community Affairs Joint Oireachtas Committee, said that more money is needed for the Local Improvement Schemes.

Deputy Kenny, who represents Sligo, Leitrim, North Roscommon and South Donegal, said:

“The Local Improvement Schemes (LIS) is to help people living in rural areas to resurface roadways approaching their homes.

“Severe weather conditions can play havoc with the surfacing on small country roads and, until the instigation of this scheme, it was up to the people living along it to pay for resurfacing.

“The LIS gives them some help and I am glad to hear Minister Ring say that he is considering giving more money to this scheme.

“There is huge need for this due to county councils lacking funding to carry out proper maintenance of small roads.” 

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