Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications Brian Stanley TD has welcomed the announcement by An Post to invest in the Post Office Network. Teachta Stanley said that although this is a positive beginning, it must be pursued further so that we have a revitalised post office network providing important services to communities.
Deputy Stanley said:
“The announcement of a €50 million investment modernising the post offices is to be welcomed. With additional services being provided, new locations and opening times, we hope this is the start of revitalising our post office network.
“There is positive news also of no forced closer of any post offices and that there is a commitment on minimum coverage levels for Post Offices.
“To date there has been much time wasted with a series of reports beginning published. There are international examples where the Post Office Network forms a vital part of community life with a multitude of services.
"Post Offices have the potential to provide many different services and be a hub in communities.”
Sinn Féin Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane TD has said today that the EU's utter rejection of British proposals for the North post-Brexit was the only sensible option open to it and that the Irish government must stop fooling itself that the Tories have a plan on the table.
Deputy Cullinane said:
"The EU's rejection of British proposals for a frictionless border is the only sensible thing that has emerged from the latest round of negotiations regarding the North post-Brexit.
"The Tories put their faith in a technological solution if Britain remains outside of the customs union and single market.
"Sinn Féin has always said that such proposals were utterly useless and unworkable.
"Reports today suggest that EU negotiators have dismissed British plans as a 'fantasy island unicorn model' - one that was based on the EU 'turning a blind eye.'
"The fact remains that if the North leaves the customs union and single market, and it no longer remains under the EU legal framework, there will be border checks.
"This is why Sinn Féin has consistently called for the North to have a form of special status within the EU if Britain leaves the customs union and single market.
"This is the only practical solution. There is no technological 'fix' for the issue of the north post-Brexit.
“The rejection of the British Government proposals show once again that the ‘cast iron’ guarantee the Taoiseach claimed to have in the bag was nothing more than a hollow political promise to allow the British move onto phase two of the negotiations.
"There are no guarantees. The negotiations are ongoing. Complacency is not an option.
"The Taoiseach needs to stop cosying up to his ideological brethren in the British Tory party in the hope that they will do him a favour.
"We need special status for the North. That is the only protocol that matters.
"It is time for the Irish government to accept that and start working towards it."
The backstop Brexit measure to prevent a hard border in Ireland must be implemented if the British Government continues to fail to produce credible proposals to do so, Sinn Féin deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.
Michelle O’Neill was commenting after reports that Theresa May’s proposals have been ‘forensically’ dismissed by the EU as unworkable.
She said: “The Brexit negotiations are reaching a crucial stage and there is just a matter of weeks left to find a solution.
“To date, the British Government have failed to produce anything remotely credible that would avoid a hard border in the event of them leaving the Customs Union and the single market.
“If these latest reports are accurate, it would seem that the EU have strongly rejected the plan set out by Theresa May last month as unworkable.
“If the British Government continue to fail to produce credible and workable proposals to avoid a hard border, and persist with leaving the Customs Union, then the backstop becomes the only possible scenario on the table.
“It would allow the north to remain in the customs union and significant elements of the single market and the EU and the Irish government in particular must now ensure that is maintained and upheld and that the British government are not allowed to renege on the commitments it has already entered into."
East Cork Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley and Councillor Danielle Twomey Sinn Féin have welcomed the announcement by Cork County Council under part 8 planning to construct a new slip road at Lakeview Roundabout, Midleton, County Cork at the N25 junction with the R630 Midleton and Ballinacurra.
Deputy Buckley said;
"This is great news for this area, in particular the very fact that it's been very long overdue.
"With the construction of a slip-road to the South-West of the existing roundabout, this will allow traffic from the South R630 to merge with the N25 westbound to Cork City, thus bypassing the existing roundabout.
"This is wonderful news and I'm sure all users of this route will welcome this news. I and my colleague Counicillor Twomey have been very vocal on this issue for a long time.
"Only as recently as December 2017 I raised this directly with the Minister for Transport under Topical Issues and the full transcript is available above for all to see.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Cork County Council and all those involved for this very welcome news.
"I know that this will reduce the very long traffic queues and maybe now the plans for an ambulance base within the area may well progress once these vital works are carried out."
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed the approval of funding for the refurbishment of the North West Regional College's Springtown campus.
The Party's Further and Higher Education Spokesperson said:
"The announcement of £7 million funding for the refurbishment of the North West Regional College's Springtown campus is very positive news for the college and for the wider North West.
"This investment is important in terms of enhancing education and training for skills development and employability to support the development of the knowledge economy and address historical regional economic imbalance.
"The Springtown campus has an important role in industrial training with a history of partnerships with the community, schools and local industry; the investment will support the development of industrial apprenticeships as well as providing a state of the art environment for learning."
Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney has extended condolences to the families of those who died in the Nutts Corner aircraft crash.
Declan Kearney said:
“I am saddened to hear that two lives have been lost in the light aircraft crash at Nutts Corner.
“Whatever the cause of the crash, it is appears that those on board tried their best to land the aircraft safely, and away from populated areas.
“Whilst this succeeded in avoiding wide scale casualties, a safe landing regrettably proved impossible and those on board were tragically killed in the subsequent crash.
“I want to extend my sincere condolences to the families of those killed, and also commend those local people for their quick response and their efforts to assist in such harrowing circumstances.”
Colm Gildernew MLA who is Sinn Féin Carers Spokesperson said that the social care system is in need of transformation after a meeting with Department of Health on the Adult Social Care Report.
"We organised the meeting with the Department of Health to get an update on their response to the Adult Social Care report ‘Power to People’.
“I raised directly with the officials, the need to engage with the sector following the publication of the report. It is important that many of the issues we see and hear from our engagements are addressed. It is important that the long and challenging road on addressing the issues within the social care system are started and worked through with the sector, service users, their families and carers, staff, as well as with the wider public.
“At some stage nearly everyone of us will have some involvement with the social care system, either directly or indirectly. This is why we need to ensure we have a fully informed discussion on the future of health and social care. This requires co-design and co-production going forward to ensure the best partnership working.
“I raised concerns around the impact Brexit will have on social care as well as issues with continuing challenges facing the workforce on a living wage, the back pays for sleepover staff and the need to identify the true cost of care.
“We also took the opportunity to discuss the provision of Learning Disability services within the Western Trust.
“Sinn Féin believes that like our health system, our social care system needs transformation to deliver better outcomes for the service users, their families and their carers.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill MLA and Pearse Doherty TD met with Tánaiste Simon Coveney in Dublin this afternoon to discuss the need for the Irish and British Governments to establish the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in the absence of an Executive.
“This means taking action and through joint stewardship establish the Intergovernmental conference without further delay.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has warned the announcement of a review of bankers’ remuneration marks the beginning of a process that will lead to a return of obscene bankers’ pay and bonuses.
Deputy Doherty welcomed the Minister’s’ intention to vote against the proposed bonus scheme at AIB but said that to be consistent - the Minister should vote against the remuneration of Bank of Ireland CEO which breaches the cap.
Deputy Doherty said:
“I fear today’s announcement marks the beginning of a return to the days of runaway salaries and bonuses at the banks.
"Given the behaviour in recent times of the banks including the ongoing tracker scandal and rip off interest rates that is very worrying.
"The bonus culture was a deeply toxic one that should not be allowed re-emerge at any bank owned by the State.
"I welcome the Minister’s stated intention to veto the AIB scheme but to be consistent he should vote against the remuneration policy of the Bank of Ireland CEO which breaches the €500,000 pay cap.
"The super-tax on any bankers’ bonus must remain in place. Only the Dáil can remove this and Sinn Féin will not be supporting any proposal to remove it or dilute it.”
Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has today cricitized the practice of allowing Oireachtas members the privilege of buying food and drink in Leinster House on credit, whilst welcoming new measures to ensure that these tabs will at least be cleared by Oireachtas members going forward.
Deputy Munster said:
“Any measure designed to ensure that Oireachtas members pay their debts is of course to be welcomed. I would question the practice of giving TDs and Senators the option of credit in the first place.
“It’s a privilege not afforded to anyone else, and I think it should be scrapped completely.
"A letter was sent to all Oireachtas members this week which outlined a new credit policy for use of the Dáil bars and restaurants.
"The policy requires that TDs and Senators must register before seeking to make purchases on credit, and also provides for a facility where any debts will taken from the salary of the Oireachtas member the month following the end oif the credit period.
"A recent report by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission disclosed that almost €5,500 in unpaid Dáil catering tabs had to be written off, because the politicians involved would not settle their bills.
“You couldn’t make it up. In what other workplace are there two bars, where people can buy drink and food on credit?
“The Dáil is a place of work, and I see no reason for bars on the premises, in particular the Private Members’ Bar from which staff and visitors are prohibited.
“If an ordinary mother can’t go into a restaurant and demand food on credit, I don’t see why Oireachtas members’ are afforded that privilege.
“I welcome the fact that debts will now be paid by TDs and Senators. Before this change in policy, sleveen politicians would bring up groups of constituents and make big men of themselves buying rounds of drinks, and presumably votes, and then never paying for them.
“This was making fools of constituents who went home thinking their local politician had bought them food or drink, when in fact they themselves, as taxpayers, were picking up the tab.
“I have written to the Ceann Comhairle expressing the view that this culture needs to stop. There is no justification for it.
“This privilege afforded to TDs, allowing them Dáil tabs for wining and dining has to stop.”
Speaking in the Dáil today on plastic pollution Brian Stanley TD Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment said that the plastics problem is growing in this State and we now need effective legislation in place.
The Laois TD continued:
“In Ireland an estimated 983,380 tonnes of packaging waste was generated in 2015. Manufacturers are creating a conveyor belt of waste, with little interest in changing this from Government.
The waste keeps being produced, with excessive packaging on products. Plastic used in packaging accounts for 40% of Europe’s overall plastics. At the end of this conveyor belt it creates a burden on the ordinary householder.
“The principles of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ needs to form the foundation of Government policy and we need solutions to be put forward to solve the horrific problems with pollution across this State.
“Sinn Féin has put forward a bill last year on establishing a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles. The bill contained other provisions in terms of illegal dumping.
"Considering the problem we are facing it will take effective legislation and action but this Government are simply not out of the blocks.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has welcomed the call by a cross-party group of US Congress members on the British government to implement the Stormont House Agreement’s legacy mechanisms and release funds for coroners’ inquests.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“Mary Lou McDonald and I met with the cross-party group of Congress members Friends of Ireland during a visit to the US last month.
“Sinn Féin asked the Congress representatives to throw their significant weight behind the campaign by families of victims of the conflict for truth and justice on the killing of their loved ones.
“In particular we highlighted the families’ demand for the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House and the release of the funds requested by the Lord Chief Justice to hold outstanding coroners’ inquests.
“Representatives from the US Congress have now written to the British Ambassador to America calling for the Stormont House mechanisms to be implemented.
“They have expressed concern about a proposal in Westminster for a statute of limitations for British military personnel, which would grant them immunity on top of the impunity they have enjoyed for decades.
“The US Congress representatives have also called for coroners’ inquests to be adequately resourced so that families, some of whom have waited almost half a century, can have an effective investigation into the death of their loved ones in line with European Law.
“Only this week I wrote to the British Secretary of State calling on her to implement the mechanisms of the Stormont House Agreement and immediately release the legacy inquest funding.
“So I welcome this important initiative by the US representatives and thank them for their continued support for the Irish peace process and the families of the victims.
"The British government’s transparent stalling tactics are a direct result of their pact with the DUP, who refuse to meet their obligations to victims and survivors.
"Both the Tories and DUP must end their disgraceful denial of human rights immediately, and implement the Agreement and release the funds to the LCJ. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Speaking after the Civil Conversations report was lauched at Stormont today, Megan Fearon, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality, said:
“This landmark report, commissioned by my colleague Máirtín Ó Muilleoir when Finance Minister, is the most comprehensive engagement with society here on the issue of gay rights and marriage equality.
“It is of note that virtually every sector of the community engaged in a fulsome manner with the report authors and it is clear that the vast majority wish to see a positive settlement of this issue.
“I commend the authors of this report and have no doubt it will be seen as an important milestone in the journey towards a fully inclusive, rights-based society.”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the vote in the European Parliament on Thursday to proceed with the fifth Anti Money Laundering Directive.
Carthy, a member of the special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (TAX3), said:
"This revision of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive imposes additional reporting and customer due diligence obligations on credit and financial institutions, and on government authorities, including making beneficial ownership registers public.
"Shell companies are at the heart of the rotten offshore system that allows financial crime and tax dodging to thrive in anonymity. So the fact that registers of beneficial ownership – that is, the true flesh-and-blood owners of companies – will have to be made publically available is a very significant step forward in the fight to stamp out shell companies, and the money-laundering, tax evasion and tax avoidance that these structures facilitate. At certain points during the negotiations between the Parliament, the Commission and Council, it appeared as though this would not be won due to resistance from some Member States, so the fact that it is included in the final agreement is a big win for those who support transparency.
"This move, when it is implemented, will reduce the extent to which the financial system can be used to disguise illicit financial flows. But at the same time there are troubling problems remaining in the final text, which significantly weakened the Parliament's position adopted last year.
“The top problem is that while beneficial ownership registers of companies must be made public, the beneficial ownership registries for trusts and other similar instruments only have to be provided in limited circumstances where a third party has proven a 'legitimate interest' in gaining access to the information. This is a significant loophole, and our work in examining the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers revelations shows just how commonly trusts are used as a mechanism to conceal suspicious financial flows.
"We also need to close the loopholes of having 'nominee directors' of companies – where a senior manager can be named in the registry when the true owner is unknown – and dividing up company ownership, which are used to hide the true owners. Owning a single share of a company should constitute beneficial ownership, instead of reaching the 25% ownership threshold in the current agreement, which will be easy to evade.
"There is much more to do on this issue, but today's step forward towards fully public beneficial ownership registers for companies in the EU is a big victory for all those battling corruption, tax fraud, financial secrecy and white-collar crime.