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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, has this morning welcomed the statement of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, that he supports the repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Teachta Adams said:

“I want to welcome Deputy Micheál Martin’s support for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

“It is a positive development.

“Sinn Féin wants to see a referendum held as soon as possible and we will campaign vigorously for repeal. It is my great hope that the people will vote in support of that proposition.

“Repealing the Eighth Amendment is the right thing to do. It will correct a historic injustice.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy embarks on three-day trip to Toronto today where he will engage with a range of leading trade unionists.

Carthy will brief the trade union representatives on Brexit and its impact on Ireland, the campaign for Irish unity and will seek to deepen links and solidarity between Sinn Féin and Canadian trade union movement. 

Over the weekend, the Sinn Féin MEP will also attend an event organised by Friends of Sinn Féin and deliver a speech on the issues of Brexit, the border and the campaign for a United Ireland.

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin, has welcomed the drop in homeless figures for December, but has warned Minister Murphy not to lose sight of the fact that 3,079 children are still living in emergency accommodation.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The December homeless figures, released this morning, show that adult, child and family homelessness is all down compared to the previous month.

“The figures indicated that during December there were 8, 587 adults, 3,079 children and 1,408 living in emergency accommodation.

"The latest numbers are welcome though it must be noted that there has been a 23% increase in the number of children in emergency accommodation in the last twelve months. 

“I sincerely hope that these figures reflect a downward trend and not a one off Christmas dip as families and friends accommodate loved ones over the festive period.

“To turn this one month drop into a genuine trend the Minister must do more to tackle the crisis. 

"Landlords issuing vacant possession notices to quit when selling their property are the single biggest driver of family homelessness. 

"The Government must end its opposition to tabling legislation to deal with this issue. 

“The government must also adopt far more ambitious Housing First targets. Under Rebuilding Ireland only 200 additional Housing First tenancies have been created Minister Murphy should make a commitment to increase the number to 1,000.

“Also not enough is being done to purchase turnkey homes, not for sale on the open market, to get families out of emergency accommodation. 

"1,800 properties have been offered to the Government in the last 12 months with just 429 purchased.

"These three actions if implemented in a consistent and ambitious way would have a real impact on the homeless crisis."

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Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Deputy Louise O’Reilly called on the Minister for Health to broaden the scheme which assists living organ donors to include people who do not work outside the home.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“For some time now, I have been raising the issue of the lack of cover for living organ donors who do not work outside the home.  I raised this issue, which was raised to me by Nicola from Lusk, who recently donated a kidney to her sibling and who could not benefit fully from the scheme.

“The current scheme provides for those who work outside the home in whatever job or sector, but it has a discriminatory blind spot in that it offers no support for those living organ donors who do not work outside the home.

“Not only is this discriminatory, but it is deeply unfair. Those who work within the home make a huge contribution to society and family life. Their contribution is unquantifiable.

“However, the same as someone who works outside the home, their ability to work in the home is affected by donating an organ. It is only fair that they should receive the same benefits as anyone else.

“The Ministers response (delivered in the Dail by Minister of State, Catherine Byrne) was disappointing and indeed it is worrying that when I raised what I believe is an anomaly which impacts on people who are working outside the formal economy in the home, the Minister tried to imply that to include these people would somehow constitute a financial inducement to become a living donor."

“The refusal by the Minister to correct this anomaly is simply not good enough and I will continue to pursue this on behalf of Nicola and all living donors.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said there is a need to ensure the skills are available to maximise opportunites arising from the Knowledge Economy.

The Party's Further and Higher Eucation spokesperson said:

"The 2017 Connect Knowledge Economy report produced by Ulster University Economic Policy Centre has highlighted the strength of the Knowledge Economy in the north.

"Knowledge Economy export sales are worth one third of the north's output, while new business creation in the Knowledge Economy is at an all-time high. We need to build on this.

"There is a need to ensure we have the skills necessary in terms of our workforce to maximise opportunities in the Knowledge Economy. This will require planning in both the Education and Further and Higher Education systems to produce the skilled workforce required.

"Automation also creates the need to adapt to changes, and produces a challenge in upskilling the current workforce to take on changing roles and  jobs arising from more automation in processes. 

"A focus is therefore needed on skills development both for young people coming through the education system and also for those already employed to provide retraining opportunities."

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Luaigh urlabhraí Gaeilge Shinn Féin, an Teachta Peadar Tóibín, gur chuir an comhlacht árachais AA cosc ar cheann dá bhfostaí Gaeilge a labhairt le custaiméir ar an bhfón.

Ag labhairt dó inniu sa Seomra Dála dúirt an Teachta Tóibín:

“Bhí an abhcóide cáiliúil, Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh, ag iarradh athnuachan a dhéanamh ar a chuid árachais cairte le AA. Bhí sé ag labhairt le fostaí a bhí líofa agus d’impíodar ar an nGaeilge go nádúrtha. Chomh luath is a bhí an beart gnó déanta, d’imigh an líne fóin. 

“Tuigim gur chuir Daithí glaoch ar ais orthu and dúradh leis nach raibh cead ag an baill foirne a chuid gnó a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge. Tá an méid seo deimhnithe ag AA féin. 


“Seans go bhfuil cur amach agat ar an bhfeachtas ar líne maidir leis an nGaeilge darbh ainm ‘Níl sé ceart go leor’ (#nílsécgl).

“D’eascair sé seo ón leatrom laethúil in éadan lucht labhartha na Gaeilge. Tá a gcuid cearta teanga á shéanadh lá i ndiaidh lae. Tá AA ag feidhmiú in Éirinn agus tá siad ag cur cosc ar idirbheartanna inár dteanga dhúchais, fiú nuair atá daoine ar fáil leis na scileanna teanga acu.


“Léiríonn sé seo dímheas ollmhór don teanga. Is léir nach bhfeiceann AA go bhfuil buntáiste iomaíoch ann nuair a bhíonn seirbhísí á sheachadadh trí Ghaeilge. Beidh mé ag bualadh leo an tseachtain seo chugainn chun tuilleadh plé a dhéanamh ar an ábhar seo.”

CRÍOCH//


Citizens' language rights must be respected by companies – Peadar Tóibín TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Irish language, Peadar Tóibín, today raised the refusal of AA insurance to allow one of their employees to speak Irish with a customer on the phone. 

Speaking in the Dáil Chamber today, Deputy Tóibín said: 

“Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh, a well know barrister was seeking to renew his car insurance with the AA Ireland. He happened to speak to a staff member who was fluent and the engagement changed naturally to Irish. As soon as the transaction element was done in Irish the phone line dropped. 

“I understand that he called back again and the Daithí was told that the staff member was not allowed to carry out his business in Irish. AA Ireland themselves have confirmed this. 

“Now you might have been aware that that there has been an online campaign with regards the Irish language called ‘Níl sé ceart go leor’ (#nílsécgl).

“This is born out of the everyday negative discrimination against Irish speakers. Irish speakers have their language rights denied day on and day out. AA Ireland operates in Ireland and ban transactions in the national language, Irish, even where the skills exist.

“This shows such disrespect to the language. Clearly AA don’t see that there is a competitive advantage in offering services through Irish. I will be meeting with them next week to further discuss this issue.”


ENDS//

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Elisha McCallion, Foyle MP, and fan of hit-series ‘Derry Girls’, has today said the show’s runaway success is shining a unique and positive light on City of Derry.

The Sinn Féin MP said:

“Every week well over a million people are tuning in to watch a good-natured comedy about my native city. When I travel throughout Ireland, and to London, the reaction of people to the show’s portrayal of Derry is uniquely positive.

“This success is shining a positive light on the rich cultural heritage of Derry City, while raising the profile of our city, sure to encourage tourism and engagement.

“I would like to congratulate and commend Lisa McGee, the show’s creator and a Derry native, for her achievement and immensely positive contribution in bringing Derry to an international audience on a Thursday night.”

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Automation has the potential to redefine the nature of work to benefit the wellbeing and livelihoods of workers, Elisha McCallion MP has said.

The Foyle MP was speaking following the publication of the 2017 Connect Knowledge Economy Report, which outlined the job creation and economic benefits of a growing knowledge economy in the north of Ireland.

Elisha McCallion MP said:

“The rapid technological advances in our society in recent years mark the growth of a new economic era of automation.

“The 2017 Connect Knowledge Economy Report outlines the significant opportunities, and challenges, of a changing nature of work.

“A radically more productive and automated economy has the potential to generate new employment opportunities, while guaranteeing better conditions for workers.

“Maximising these new opportunities requires new skills. We must train and educate young people to realise the potential economic benefits of their generation. A strong knowledge economy is essential.”

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The failure of the Housing Executive to meet even a modest rural homes target shows the need for an immediate programme of new-builds, Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Carál Ní Chuilín has said.

The North Belfast MLA was commenting on the Housing Executive’s first annual Sustainable Rural Communities report which she described as “extremely disappointing”.

Carál Ní Chuilín added: "The report conceded that even the very modest target relating to unmet need for social housing in rural areas has not been met.

“The Housing Executive had set a target of 166 new build social housing units for the year 2016/17 but only actually began construction work on 84, almost half of which were ‘off the shelf’ purchases so not technically new-builds.

“The need for additional social housing in rural areas has been clearly demonstrated and needs urgent action, including an immediate and ambitions new-build programme.

“Instead the Executive has set a new target of 193 units for next year which is described as a ‘considerable uplift’. However, this ignores the backlog of 82 units which were not delivered as planned last year and there will be a great deal of scepticism regarding this new target unless the Housing Executive can demonstrate they are prepared to take definitive action.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald today called on the Government to scrap the local property tax once and for all.

Speaking in the Dáil today, the Dublin Central TD said:

“The penny has finally dropped with the Finance Minister that having set rates when property prices were low, the property tax will be even more punitive in nature now that house prices have risen significantly.  

“We have the ludicrous scenario of a Government desperately trying to wangle itself out of its own policy objectives.  Sinn Féin advised the Fine Gael led Government in 2013 of the property tax design flaws, and all that we warned against has come to pass.

“The local property tax is punitive, and the proposed review framework is a belated public acknowledgment by Government of this fact. Home owners in Dublin and across the country steeped in mortgage debt they cannot afford and negative equity simply cannot take a hike on what is in effect is a tax on their debt.

“Sinn Féin continues to call for this tax on debt to be abolished, and we’ve demonstrated time and again how this can be done with the political will to do so.”

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Additional capacity must be provided within the domiciliary care system, given the vital role that it plays in the health service, Sinn Féin spokesperson for carers, Colm Gildernew has said.

The Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA also praised the contribution made by carers in relieving pressure on the wider health system.

He said: "Informal carers are playing a vital role in caring for family members at home and avoiding further pressures on emergency departments, and are to be commended.

"More capacity needs to be provided in domiciliary care to support those in need and their families.

"Fundamental to this is improving the conditions for the domiciliary care workers and attracting more into the workforce.

"This would create better capacity to deliver services in the community and reduce pressure on beds due to delayed discharge."

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Addressing workforce issues within the Health and Social Care Service is central to dealing with the severe pressures facing emergency departments, Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has said.

The party’s Health spokesperson was commenting after attending a briefing with the Permanent Secretary of the Health Department.

He said: "Tackling the problem of nurse shortages is vital to addressing the serious problems being experienced in health and social care including pressures in emergency departments across the north.

“The current rate of nurse vacancies in the system is not sustainable and capacity needs to be built to meet increasing demands.

"A workforce strategy is needed to ensure experienced nurses already in the system are retained, new nurses are attracted into the system and all are valued for the vital services they provide."

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has commended all those who travelled to Leinster House today to make their voices heard for pension equality and fairness.

Addressing the crowd, Teachta Brady said:

“It is time for the over 42,000 people who are wrongly in receipt of reduced State Pensions to receive what they are entitled to from this Government.

“We know that the changes made to the State Pension in 2012 have directly caused this anomaly and this cannot be allowed to continue. If it does continue, then a further 8,000 people will retire on reduced pension payments every year, adding to the figure already of over 42,000.

“Next Tuesday, Minister Doherty will bring a proposal paper to Cabinet with a number of options as to how the Government can go about righting this wrong that has impacted so many of our older people.

“The message from today’s protest is clear. Older people want what they are entitled to in order to live their lives without fear of poverty or financial stress.

“All eyes will be on the Government to see if they will deliver on their promise to solve this crisis once and for all.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Ulster Bank’s tracker mortgage victims deserve real answers as to why they are being made wait while other banks are further advanced with their redress and compensation schemes.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Both the Minister for Finance and Central Bank Governor have now addressed the Finance Committee and made excuses for Ulster Bank. This scandal has been playing out for years now, yet Ulster Bank are far behind the other banks in giving back what they stole from their own customers.

“This is the same bank that left their own customers without banking services for weeks in 2012. Six years later, we are asked to accept the reason they are so slow at paying back their customers is because of an inadequate IT system.

“The time for excuses is well and truly passed. Thousands of Ulster Bank victims are still waiting for redress and compensation without any proper explanation as to why.  The Central Bank and Minister should be on the side of those victims, instead of making excuses for Ulster Bank.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has welcomed the announcement of a plastic strategy by the European Commission.

Speaking from Strasbourg, the Dublin MEP said:

“The issue of plastic pollution is one that we cannot ignore and a strategy to deal with it is long overdue.

“The Commission’s proposals are comprehensive, including measures to clamp down significantly on single use plastics such as drinking straws and takeaway cups, improved access to tap water on the streets to curb bottled water use and increased funding for research into better design, durability and recyclability of plastics.

“However, I do have concerns about the Commission’s blind faith in the social conscience of the private sector to deliver on these proposals. The Commission referring to an industry pledge to reduce plastic waste as a ‘concrete’ measure is bizarre given our experiences with industry pledges in the past.  Self-regulation does not work.  What we really need to address the urgency of the situation with plastic pollution are binding rules and targets for industry.

“Ireland is looking to introduce its own measures to tackle some plastics and I sincerely hope that Minister Denis Naughten takes a more robust approach to industry than the EU Commission has.  Ireland is the top plastic waste producer in Europe and now that China has announced it will no longer take that plastic for recycling. We need strong measures and we need them fast.” 

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD today called on the Government to reverse the discriminatory 2012 changes to the state pension that has disproportionally impacted on women with some losing up to €30 a week in their payment. 

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, the Dublin Central TD said:

“People who are being discriminated against when it comes to the state pension are today protesting outside the Dáil again to demand full restoration of their pension entitlement. Some are losing out on nearly €30 a week as a result of changes introduced in 2012.

“This discrimination disproportionately affects women who exited the workforce to raise children and look after families, and who then returned to employment later in life to qualify for the maximum payment. These changes hurt some men too.

“The Fine Gael-led Government of the day made these changes in the full knowledge of the weekly cut to payments and that the change would disproportionately impact women.

“Sinn Féin has been calling on Government to sort this out. In December 2016, we brought forward a Dáil motion to address this injustice that was rejected by Fine Gael Fianna Fáil. Our Budget for 2018 demonstrated to Government how the funding could be provided to rectify and correct this discrimination. We have also raised the matter in the Dáil and Seanad numerous times over the last 5 years.  

“Government is now considering some partial restoration. The Minister for Social Protection has acknowledged that these citizens have been wronged and whilst she has vowed to fix it she has expressed the view that something magical will have to happen to find the money.

“This is the Government who infamously conjured up €5 million to fund the Taoiseach’s vanity project in the form of the Strategic Communications Unit, and could find financial space to introduce tax cuts that disproportionately benefited higher earners.

“Sinn Féin’s 2018 Budget proposals demonstrated how the €70 million necessary to correct this injustice. Government’s job now is to provide a solution to right this wrong.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has strongly criticised the excuses of Government Departments for facing Irish citizens returnming from abroad.

Speaking following yet more false statements surrounding renewal of drivers’ licences Carthy said:

“The same Irish Government that is responsible for the mass emigration of thousands of young people from our shores is now actively blocking the same young people from coming home.

“Not only are they failing to plan for the return of citizens, but it is evident from responses I am receiving from the Departments that Government policy is to actually deter people from coming home.

“The latest issue that has come to the surface are the new rules requiring citizens to present themselves in person when they wish to renew their Irish Driver Licences.

“Up until recently procedures allowed citizens to post their licences home. But now the Department claims EU Regulations require a rule change. This is just not true.

“Not only does Directive 2006/126/EC on drivers’ licences not even deal with renewal procedures, but other countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands - to name just two - allow citizens abroad to conduct these procedures through embassies and by post.

“There are simply no arguments to justify a system where citizens abroad can renew their passports but not their drivers’ licences online.

“If other Member States can make arrangements for citizens abroad, then it is grossly unfair that our own Government would make the situation more difficult for citizens abroad who may wish to return.

“To blame the situation on EU legislation and say that they are unable to take action is merely shirking responsibility.

“It is deplorable that emigration is till being forced upon young people by a failure of Government.

“Recent statistics from the Western Development Commission show that there has been a 41% decline in the number of people employed in agriculture in the last 20 years in the West of Ireland.

“Much of this is due to the massive amount of young people who left the region and the barriers that continue to be there for young farmers wishing to return.

“Farmers, nurses and others face real, legislative barriers and disadvantages when they seek to come home.

“The Government must stop hiding behind non-existent EU legislation and start planning for returning citizens. I will be writing to the European Commission and the Minister to ensure that the legal situation on the renewal of drivers licences is clarified."

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Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has called for information following the death of a man in Newry last night.

Mickey Brady said:

"I am shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death of a young man in Newry last night.

"My thoughts and condolences are with the family in a profoundly difficult period, and I call on anyone with any information to come forward to the PSNI."

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Sinn Fein leader in the north Michelle O’Neill has told the new British Secretary of State Karen Bradley that there must be a change of approach from her government if talks are to succeed in establishing an Executive which delivers for all. 

Sinn Féin will enter a short intensive talks process to test the willingness of the British government and the DUP to address the issues at the core of this crisis – an Irish Language Act, marriage equality and legacy inquest funding.

Michelle O’Neill was speaking after talking to Tanáiste Simon Coveney and British Secretary of State Karen Bradley at Stormont today.

“I spoke with the Tanáiste Simon Coveney and met Karen Bradley this morning and confirmed that Sinn Féin will enter this talks process on a short and intensive basis.

“We are determined to find a resolution that sees the institutions restored and delivering rights for all citizens.

“Credible, sustainable institutions can only be based on equality, respect and genuine partnership government.

“These talks will be a test of whether the British government and the DUP are finally willing to endorse these basic principles.

“Both governments have a responsibility for rights and equality under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I welcome the Taoiseach’s recent statement as a concrete commitment to this.

“I told Karen Bradley that the British government is not a neutral and impartial player and there must be a change of approach on her part. 

“For too long, the British Government has acquiesced in the denial of rights that are available everywhere else on these islands.

“The party delegation, which included Conor Murphy MLA and Gerry Kelly MLA, also raised the issue of leaked proposals on boundary changes which point to gross gerrymandering of constituencies in favour of the DUP.

“Manipulation of the democratic process is totally unacceptable.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD, Gerry Adams, has welcomed the news that the Pharmaceutical group Almac is to invest €34 million in its Dundalk site.

Gerry Adams said:

“Brexit has forced Almac which is headquartered in Craigavon, to move some of its operations to this side of the border to ensure its continued expansion and ability to access the EU marketplace.

"Almac is a growing company and is involved in a significant global expansion. The decision to expand its operation in Dundalk with the construction of a new laboratory, packaging facility for drugs and a 79,000 sq ft EU Distribution Centre, for clinical trial supply, is a significant boost for the north Louth region and for jobs.”

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