Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleor has expressed disappointment after it was confirmed that the RHI scandal will not begin oral hearings until November, a month later than planned.
Commenting on the delay Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:
“The delay is disappointing but it is also understandable given the vast amount of evidence that the inquiry team has already gathered and which must be thoroughly processed and prepared prior to the oral hearings taking place.
“It is important that happens because the need to get to the facts of the RHI scandal is just as prevalent now as it was when I instituted the inquiry.
“If we are to restore public confidence in the institutions of government then any negligence, incompetence, alleged corruption and abuse must be identified and those responsible held to account."
Today Monday 18th September marks the beginning of Irish Sign Language Awareness Week which in tandem with International Week of the Deaf is a week-long celebration of sign languages and deaf communities around the world.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Sinn Fein’s Spokesperson for Disability Rights and Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality said that this is a particularly important week in Ireland as Irish Sign Language has yet to be recognised as an official language.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
“Last October, in my capacity as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, I launched a report fully endorsing the need for the formal recognition of Irish Sign Language (ISL).
"Sinn Féin have long supported the campaign by the Irish Deaf Society and campaigners for official recognition as we recognise the importance of ISL to the Irish Deaf Community, their families and friends.
"Sinn Féin is fully committed to supporting the passage of ISL recognition legislation. It is an incredibly important piece of legislation for the rights and entitlements of citizens who are deaf.
"I will continue to do my utmost to ensure that it is recognised as an official language at the earliest date possible.
“I welcome comments today by the Minister of State for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath T.D., that he expects the ISL Bill to be signed into law in a matter of weeks. I hope that the Minister sticks to his word."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has called for an integrated agricultural administration system on the island of Ireland.
Martina Anderson said:
"Tomorrow I will be attending the National Ploughing Championships, one of the biggest events in the agricultural calendar, in Tullamore.
"It is one of the largest agricultural shows on the island and attracts visitors from north, south east and west.
"Our agriculture industry on this island is recognised internationally for its excellence and the international community does not see borders when it comes to our produce.
"Given the challenges we face with Brexit, particularly in agriculture , it is vital that the agricultural sector starts preparing for Irish unity.
"An integrated agricultural administration system on the island of Ireland would remove trade barriers, obstacles around country of origin labelling, and differing animal health regulations.
"Irish unity makes sense for our agri-food and farming sectors north and south and we need to start preparing for it now."
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael “disagreement” over how to cut taxes a sham fight. He said people on waiting lists for hospital treatment or waiting for an affordable home to be built will be disgusted as the two parties argue over what is the best way to cut taxes.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The sham fight is approaching absurdity as the Budget approaches. For those trying to buy a home or awaiting medical treatment in our health service, a debate over how best to cut taxes is an insult. The two conservative parties don’t and can’t grasp that now is the time to invest and fix our broken country.
“Micheál Martin, with all seriousness, says health and housing are his priorities, while the next moment his party says he will hold Fine Gael to its promise to cut the USC. Fianna Fáil’s think-in shows once again how they cannot be trusted. They portray themselves as the conscience holding back the worst instincts of Fine Gael but today they are arguing for the most reckless, populist move possible in hollowing out the USC.
“The Budget is a choice between investment in a better future or the road to unsustainable tax cuts. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are both on the side of unsustainable tax cuts. Their so-called disagreement only shows them up.
“The Irish people need a Budget that prioritises public services and infrastructure. The two parties of government have shown they won’t deliver that. They have no vision for a successful economy- just for short- term populist measures.”
Any new Executive will be a government of equals and the DUP need to decide if they can live with that, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd has said.
Speaking from Stormont, the Sinn Féin negotiator commented:
“Two weeks ago, Arlene Foster proposed a return to the Executive while negotiations to resolve the outstanding issues, including the Irish Language Act, continued in parallel. That was her big offer, her big gesture to nationalism and she told us all that the Irish language threatened no one.
“Now she has lined up with the Orange Order and the UUP in ruling out an act and her comments about the language were, quite frankly, insulting.
“Well that tells you all you need to know about how meaningful those parallel negotiations would have been.
“We would have been back in the Executive, back in the status quo and back facing all the same issues that prompted Martin McGuinness to resign in the first place.
“Are the DUP just not listening? Because if they think there will be a return to the status quo they are living in a fool’s paradise.
“It is time for the DUP to make up their minds. Do they want to be part of an executive or not? Because if they do then it must be an Executive that represents the needs and defends the interests of all citizens, including Irish speakers. Including the LGBT community. And including bereaved families.
“They can’t be part of institutions created by the Good Friday Agreement while ignoring the principles that underpin that agreement. Any new administration will be a government of equals. Anything else is pointless and doomed to fail.”
Sinn Féin’s Oliver McMullan has called on the PSNI to clarify if the guns found in recent searches in Larne have been stolen from the Larne area.
Oliver McMullan said:
"Following reports of thefts of firearms being found I am seeking clarity from the PSNI if they were part of those legally held firearms which were stolen from the Larne area recently.
"Some, if not all of these weapons could have fallen into the hands of the organised crime gangs and loyalist paramilitaries preying on communities and used to carry out further crimes.
“It is necessary that all stolen firearms are recovered.”
Sinn Féin Dublin Bay North TD Denise Mitchell says the solution to the housing crisis is very clear: the Government must build more social and affordable housing.
Speaking following the launch of a pre-Budget submission by the Simon Communities, Deputy Mitchell said:
“House prices are continuing to soar and are increasingly out of reach for ordinary citizens. It is the same when it comes to rents, and despite some positive moves in terms of rent pressure zones, it is far too easy for landlords to use loopholes to evict tenants and jack-up their prices. The Government need to recognise that we cannot rely on the market to fix this crisis. Similarly, proposals by Fianna Fáil for tax breaks for developers show that party is completely out of touch with the reality of the housing crisis.
“The only answer to the housing crisis is for the Government to ensure that local authorities have the resources they need to build social and affordable housing.
“Every day, I have people coming to my constituency office who have been stuck on social housing waiting lists for years. Sky high rents are continuing to drive people into homelessness. We are increasingly seeing the problem of ‘hidden homelessness’ with families moving-in with relatives and sleeping on couches in friend’s houses.
“The Simon Communities made the point today that we are in danger of creating lost generations – second and third generations who know nothing other than homelessness and housing insecurity. That simply cannot be allowed to continue and it is long past time that this Government got their finger out and took decisive action to prevent homelessness. That means providing access to social and affordable housing, and providing support for those in precarious housing situations to ensure they stay in their home and do not face the prospect of homelessness.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has said “Micheál Martin is fooling nobody. Fianna Fáil put Fine Gael back into Government and Fianna Fáil is keeping this failing Fine Gael-led government in power”.
Speaking in response to the speech made by the Fianna Fáil leader at his party’s think-in, Teachta Adams continued;
“Teachta Martin said that ‘people want a change of government’. Given that we are in the midst of unprecedented crises in housing and health, he should now be asked what it will take for Fianna Fáil to want the same.
“How devoid of solutions does this government need to be before Fianna Fáil stops supporting it? This is something Teachta Martin should consider instead of constantly bashing Sinn Féin in his statements and speeches.
“The Fianna Fáil leadership is not genuinely concerned about the impact of the crises in housing and health on ordinary people. If they were, they would have pulled their support, which is essential to keeping this government in power, a long time ago.”
Speaking this afternoon, Sinn Féin’s Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that Micheál Martin’s claims that Fianna Fáil intend on focusing on the health service in the upcoming Dáil term would be more believable if he and his party could actually be trusted to run the health service.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Speaking at his party’s think-in this morning, Deputy Martin outlined that heading into this new Dáil term and ahead of the budget that his party were going to focus on the health service. However, as far as I and many others around the state are concerned, these words are patently hollow given that he cannot be trusted as regards the health service.
“Deputy Martin spent over a decade sitting at the cabinet table in Government, with a number of those years as Minister for Health; he is the quintessential establishment politician. He didn’t have the solutions to fix the problems then, and he doesn’t have them now.
“The health service is not working for the majority of people in the state, including the workers in it; yet, it does work for the establishment. So, does anyone really think that an establishment politician like Deputy Martin can solve the crises that afflict it?
“If past performance is the best indicator of future performance, it is clear that Deputy Martin and Fianna Fail, like Fine Gael, are not equipped to solve the problems in the health service.
“Sinn Féin can address the crises in the health service; we have listed and proposed numerous policies on dealing with the trolley crisis, the waiting list crisis, and how to reform the overall health service. The difference is we can be trusted, we have the strength, vision, and leadership to address the crisis in the health service.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed the news that Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa has been acquitted in Cairo today.
Teachta Adams said;
"I welcome the news that Ibrahim Halawa has been acquitted.
"It is now imperative that the Egyptian government guarantees his safe return to Ireland as soon as possible.
"Ibrahim has spent four years in a jail far from his home and family. His incarceration represents a violation of his basic human rights. His physical and mental health suffered greatly as result of his imprisonment. His treatment by the Egyptian authorities was an affront to human decency."
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has criticized comments from Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan that there would be no value in pursuing disciplinary action regarding the falsification of Breath tests.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
"Central to many of the scandals involving an Garda Síochána of recent years, has been the lack of accountability for wrong doing, including Senior Gardaí.
“The Gardaí over the weekend appealed for information to be brought to themselves or the Policing Authority, with one story being reported on a Garda sitting at a desk blowing in to breath tests to make up the figures that had been asked.
"Speaking this morning ahead of the Fianna Fáil away day, Deputy O'Callaghan appeared to state that pursuing this further, would be futile, and that there should not be individual accountability. This follows on from remarks in the Sunday Times where he stated ‘we should move on from the false Breath test scandal'.
"I absolutely reject that - in particular the idea that we can tolerate any longer, the culture of impunity, and of lack of accountability in the force. I believe that where there is evidence of wrong doing then those people need to be held to account.
"That includes Senior Garda Management. The interview given by John O'Keeffe of the GRA on Thursday raised the issue of Rank and File Gardaí being put under duress by their Management to produce false tests.
"That is a very serious assertion, and surely Fianna Fáil would accept that if it is the case that Senior Officers pressurized Gardaí to produce false statistics, then those Senior Officers, for example, need to be held to account, as with any other rank?
“It also ignores the fact that the Gardaí internally have also set in train a process which has allowed them to identify approximately 70,000 suspicious breath tests. Is Deputy O’Callaghan suggesting that they desist from this process now?
“Indeed he appears to be contradicting his colleague, John Curran TD last week, who last week stated ‘Any politician that would attempt to gloss over these findings is doing a serious disservice to the public and the longer term interests of the Gardaí.’
“As Nuala O’Loan has said, this is a serious matter of integrity in policing, and therefore that the new Commissioner, whoever that may be, should not let this issue lie.”
Sinn Féin representatives including Party Leader Gerry Adams TD and Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD will be attending the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore this week.
The party has organised a series of public events on issues of concern to rural Ireland and the farming community. All Sinn Féin events take place at Stall 221, Row 9, Block 2.
Events kick off on Tuesday morning with a discussion on Sinn Féin’s proposals for Irish Unity featuring MEPs Matt Carthy and Martina Anderson, Health spokesperson Louise O' Reilly and Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD.
Gerry Adams will be at the Sinn Féin tent at 2pm in the afternoon.
Tuesday’s events round off with a debate at 4pm entitled 'Demanding Farmers Rights.' This will be chaired by Francie Molloy MP and contributors include Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson Martin Kenny TD, Carol Nolan TD and IFA Deputy President Richard Kennedy.
On Wednesday at 11am the future of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) will be discussed by Matt Carthy MEP, Michelle Gildernew MP and INHFA President Colm O’Donnell. Martin Kenny TD will chair the discussion.
Mary Lou MacDonald TD will be at the Sinn Féin tent at 2pm on Wednesday while at 3pm party spokesperson on Rural Affairs Carol Nolan TD will launch Budget 2018 - Sinn Féin's proposals for the Agriculture Sector.
At 4pm a discussion on Tackling Climate Change, chaired Caoimhe Archibald MLA will feature contributions from Senator Padraig MacLochlainn, Brian Stanley TD and ICSA President Patrick Kent.
Thusrday’s events commence at 11am with a debate as to whether EU trade deals are a threat to Irish farmers. Those involved in the debate include Peadar Toibín TD, Matt Carthy MEP and a representative from the ICMSA.
Pat Buckley TD will give a talk at 3pm about Mental Health in Rural Ireland while events at the Sinn Féin tent conclude with a discussion entitled Brexit - A threat to Irish Agriculture and Sinn Féin’s Response, and featuring Declan McAleer MLA and Martin Kenny TD. This will be chaired by Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
All Sinn Féin representatives in attendance will be available to speak to the media.
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion had expressed sympathy following the death of a woman in a collision on the outskirts of Derry.
The Foyle MP said:
"The news that a 48-year-old woman has keen killed in a road collision on the outskirts of Derry has come as a shock to the local community.
"This death is a tragedy and will bring sadness to all those involved.
"Any death on our roads is one too many.
"I want to express my sympathy to the friends and family of the woman who lost her life at this sad and difficult time.”
Sinn Féin MP Barry McElduff said he is concerned about slippage in the completion date of Strule Shared Education Campus project in Omagh.
Barry McElduff was speaking after he received a letter from the Department of Education saying the completion date had slipped until 2021.
Barry McElduff said:
“I welcome a pledge from the Department of Education to keep the Strule Shared Education Campus project in Omagh moving forward 'at pace'.
“However, any slippage in the completion date is concerning.
“This is indisputably an iconic project which will help to meet the best educational interests of many young people in the Omagh area for generations to come.
“There is strong political and community consensus around the development of six schools on a single site.
“It has been consistently identified as a Programme for Government (PfG) priority with ring-fenced capital funding.
“All schools involved have been committed and creative in helping to plan and design the project.
“Once a British Army Garrison and a symbol of division in the county town of Tyrone, the Strule site now offers an alternative vision of unity and great hope for the future.
“I am seeking an imminent meeting with Department of Education officials for a full briefing on the procurement issues, which are said to have caused this delay.
“I will be seeking a renewed commitment on the part of the Department to overcome any further hurdles should they arise.”
Note to Editor
• Target Completion date was 2020 but has slipped to 2021.This was outlined in a letter from the Department of Education to Barry McElduff MP.
Responding this evening to the latest attack on Sinn Féin by Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams TD said;
"It is disgraceful that the Fianna Fáil Leader has again chosen to attack Sinn Féin instead of focusing on a government that is perpetuating unprecedented crises in housing and health.
"But it is not surprising given the Fine Gael government exists because Mr Martin supports it. Micheál Martin also sat at the cabinet table for fourteen years supporting budgets and policies which ultimately led to economic collapse and widespread hardship in this State.
Speaking in response to Teachta Martin ruling out Sinn Féin as a potential coalition partner, Mr Adams added;
"Teachta Martin may not get to decide who is in a position to discuss future government formation. In his arrogance he seems to forget that is prerogative of the people".
Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd said today that DUP leader Arlene Foster knows well that agreements need to be implemented if the Executive is to be restored on a sustainable basis.
John O'Dowd said:
"The DUP leader knows well what is required to restore the Executive on a sustainable basis.
"We need to see the implementation of commitments in the Good Friday and other agreements and an end to the denial of language rights, marriage rights and the right to a coroner's inquest.
"These are rights citizens enjoy everywhere else on these islands.
"Arlene Foster also needs to make her mind up on the Irish Language.
"She has said no one has anything to fear from the Irish Language and then claims that an act would be a humiliation for unionists.
"That's simply preposterous.
"It's well past time to stop talking about restoring the Executive and get on with the task of doing it."
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster has welcomed the news that the contract has been signed to expand and upgrade the Staleen Water Plant in Drogheda.
Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has condemned those who left a device outside a home in the St Gall's Avenue area of West Belfast last night.
Speaking today the West Belfast MLA said:
"The consequences of what could have happened had this device gone off are too horrific to even imagine.
"This morning I have engaged both the PSNI and the local housing association to ensure urgent follow-up action is undertaken. I have sought additional police patrols in and around the area concerned. I have also been speaking to the Chief Executive of Choice Housing and asked they work with residents who have been impacted or may have concerns.
"The people who carried out this attack last night have no place in our community."
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams TD has today said that investment into public services is essential for the upcoming budget if we are to fix the crises faced in housing, health and other areas.
Speaking today, Deputy Adams said:
“As we face into the coming budget, it is clear that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar favours tax cuts over essential public services.
“We also have the Fianna Fáil leadership calling for tax breaks for their old friends the property developers. Fianna Fáil is set to support a budget that will include tax cuts, while 8,000 citizens are in homeless accommodation including 3,000 children.
“Citizens are again facing into a winter of increased trolley waits and crisis in the health care and both of these parties are considering tax cuts with funds that should go to build homes, and end waiting lists.
“The policies of successive Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments have created the homeless and health crisis. The current partnership between the two has deepened and sustained the crisis.
“Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil opposed rent certainty measures and due to Sinn Féin pressures, limited reforms have now been put in place.
“Last year, Fine Gael opposed Pearse Doherty’s proposal to repurpose NAMA to develop social housing. This is now belatedly under consideration.
“This Bill would have changed the remit of NAMA and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to invest in the economy to empower them to contribute more to the development of social housing and affordable housing within the State.
“The crisis in housing requires urgent action. Resources available to the State such as NAMA need to be activated in a strategic manner to create a supply of social and affordable housing.
“Sinn Féin has and will continue to bring forward solutions and an alternative budget."
Speaking today after Sinn Féin submitted its response to the pre-consultation on stroke services, spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan MLA said:
"Today we submitted our response to the pre-consultation on improving stroke services.
"Sinn Féin is committed to transforming stroke services to achieve the best health outcomes for people, in line with Michelle O'Neill's plan for transformation.
"Improving stroke services must mean delivering better outcomes for all those who need stroke care across the north.
"It must be based on meeting fully the needs of stroke sufferers and those susceptible to stroke, and ensure that improved services are accessible in a time critical manner, to the whole community.
"The contributions from the public, whether made verbally at public meetings or through formal written submissions, must be carefully considered by the Department of Health and the HSC.
"Real and effective transformation of stroke services can only be achieved by designing those services in partnership with the people who use and deliver them."