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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 MLA Megan Fearon has welcomed a report by Queen’s University and Ulster University on where next for a Bill of Rights in the north.

The party’s Equality spokesperson commented:

“Sinn Féin welcomes the report ‘Where Next for a Bill of Rights’ by Dr Anne Smith Ulster University Professor Colin Harvey Queen’s University Belfast.

“One of the main themes in the report identifies that current situation with Brexit highlights the need for a Bill of Rights to protect citizens. 

“The report rightly identifies the rights and equality crisis in the north and a ‘formalisation failure’ on core concepts such as ‘equal citizenship and the rights and equality elements of the peace processes. 

“The report highlights women’s rights, children’s rights and marriage equality, language rights as rights that do not go far enough and need addressed.  

“The British and Irish Governments have a responsibility, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, to address this outstanding matter of the Agreement.

“Sinn Féin believes that now the time for a renewed debate on a Bill of Rights for the north.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health Pat Buckley TD has condemned excessive waiting times for paediatric speech and language therapy services in Cork. He was responding to a reply from the HSE which stated that 1182 children were waiting more than 4 months for therapy, with 25 of those waiting over a year and 58 children waiting more than 4 months for just an initial assessment.

Deputy Buckley said:

“Children with speech and language difficulties face a number of challenges as they grow older in terms of socialisation and academic involvement. These problems can create considerable hardship for these children, especially if treatment of the issue is delayed. There is a clear link between speech and language difficulties and later mental health issues. It is also predominantly children from disadvantaged backgrounds who have to wait.

“As with all issues relating to children, early intervention is key. The sooner a problem is identified, assessed and treated the better outcomes for that child throughout their life and the less support they will need in the future. This is a basic common sense and efficient approach to health care.

“The reply from the HSE reveals that in Cork alone 753 children are currently awaiting initial assessment and nearly 8% of these have been waiting between 4 and 8 months. This is particularly unacceptable when you consider that once an initial assessment has taken place a child may go untreated for up to 18 months.

“1,182 children in Cork are currently waiting more than 4 months for treatment having already had to wait for assessment, that’s more than half of the waiting list in the county. Nearly half of these children have been waiting more than 8 months and 25 have been waiting in excess of a year.

“Every day is crucial in the treatment of issues like this for children and every day, week, and month that passes without treatment is damaging. The HSE claims 12 months waiting is acceptable, I completely disagree.

“The government must tackle this now. We need increased funding to allow children waiting in excess of 8 months to access private therapy in order to clear lists and funding for the public service which matches demand and allows for appropriate levels of service.” 

Note: Please see the PQ reply from the HSE above

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has published a new homeless policy document which indicates that the true level of homelessness is closer to 13,000 and not 10,000. The policy document details the additional number of adults and children in emergency accommodation who are not included in the Department of Housing’s monthly homeless reports.

The Dublin Mid-West TD said: 

“Every month, the Department of Housing releases figures for the number of adults, families and children in emergency accommodation. The figures for October show 5,999 adults and 3,725 children living in hubs, hostels, hotels and B&B’s.

“The figure of 9,724 just includes those adults and children in Department of Housing funded emergency accommodation.  However, there are adults and children in emergency accommodation funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Justice.

“The Department of Children and Youth affairs, through Tusla, funds emergency and step down accommodation for adults and children made homeless as a result of domestic violence

“We do not yet have the figures for 2017 or 2018. In 2016, 1,562 women and 2,223 children were accommodated.  Information from Tusla indicates that, on any given night, there are 599 beds available in the system and these are usually at capacity.

“The Department of Justice funds the Direct Provision System for people seeking asylum. According to responses to parliamentary questions, there are 620 people still living in direct provision centres, despite having being granted some form of leave to remain.

“For these families, Direct Provision has become a form of emergency accommodation while they search for alternative accommodation.

“The 100+ people staying in emergency and transitional accommodation providers, such as Morning Star and Regina Coeli that are not funded by the State, are not counted.

“The Minister removed 1,606 adults and children from the homeless figures in recent months. This is despite the fact that the majority of these people remain homeless.

“All in all, there are approximately 12,805 people accessing emergency accommodation in this State; far more than the 9,724 currently counted by the government.

“This is not about figures. It is about the government’s ability to provide the services required to meet the true level of need. The document makes four recommendations that Sinn Féin believe would aid the collation of accurate data.

“This includes an urgent meeting of the data sub group of the Homeless Consultative Committee to agree a methodology for the homeless reports. The Minister should not be removing people from the figures for political reasons.

“Therefore, Sinn Féin believe that responsibility for the publication of the figures should be given to an independent body such as the CSO or the Housing Agency. Going forward, the official monthly reports must clearly set out the number of rough sleepers, women and children in domestic violence accommodation, adults and children with leave to remain but using direct provision as emergency accommodation, and those in non-government funded hostels such as Morning Star.” 

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Speaking on the SEAI report today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Climate Action Brian Stanley TD said that our over reliance on fossil fuels will not change unless a wide and diverse portfolio of renewable energy sources are developed, lowering the State’s 90% reliance on fossil fuels for energy.

The Laois TD said:

“It will only be with the use of a wide variety of renewable energy types being developed that we can displace fossil fuels. Most of these wide sources have been virtually completely neglected by Government policy as we remain almost fully reliant on onshore wind for our renewable energy.

“Offshore wind, biogas, biomass, microgeneration, and solar all need to feed our energy supply. Sinn Féin put forward a proposed electricity generation mix to 2030, which has many sources of renewable energy. Energy types, such as biogas and biomass, are widespread across Europe and will also provide long term jobs and provide an alternative income in the agriculture sector.

“It will also take work across many Departments, taking changes to planning and regulations, and will take vision to outline now the sources of energy we need. The switch away from fossil fuels on this island will create greater security of energy supply, create long term jobs, and improve our environment. This opportunity needs to be grasped.” 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has commented on the publication of the RTB rent index for quarter 3 of 2018 stating that “we urgently need to see a cost rental model rolled out to provide an alternative for those struggling with market rents”.

The average annual rent increase across the state was 7.5%, and up 9.5% in Dublin.

Deputy Ó Broin said: 

“The latest figures published by the RTB show that the average rent across the country is now €1,122, an annual increase of 7.5%.

“In Dublin, the average rent for new tenancies is now €1,620, an annual increase of 9.5%. 

“While the report does state that the rate of increase is slowing, this is of cold comfort to tenants looking for somewhere to live or struggling to hold on to an increasingly expensive tenancy.

“The rent pressure zone legislation is not working. The RTB report indicates that the annual increase growth for new tenancies was 8% compared to 5.4% for existing tenancies.

“So, new tenants are facing rents rises double the 4% cap and sitting tenants are still being hit will illegal rent hikes.

“The rent pressure zone legislation must be urgently reviewed and I am surprised Fianna Fáil did not demand this in its confidence and supply talks.

“Sinn Féin want a three year rent freeze on existing tenancies and any new tenancies should be capped at the RTB’s standardised rent index by county or LEA.

“We would also introduce a temporary refundable rent relief for all renters to help ease affordability pressures. This measure would give one month’s rent back to tenants annually.

“We need to see the urgent rollout of cost rental models across the State to provide an alternative to those struggling to keep pace with market rents.” 

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has tonight introduced legislation to cap the rate at which money lenders can charge interest on loans.

Speaking in the Dáil tonight, Teachta Doherty said;

“The rates are being charged by these companies are despicable, they have no place in the year 2018, and they had no place in 2012 when we first introduced this legislation.

“Regulated money lenders and other moneylenders are charging as much as 187% on loans. The borrowers caught in this trap are our neighbours, family and friends.

“Moneylenders at these rates simply take the money of poorer families and makes them poorer.

“The Government amendment to this Bill, which seeks a delay of twelve months, is not about protecting the vulnerable, it is about protecting the moneylenders.

"This is a straight forward piece of legislation that would help 330,000 people who borrow from moneylenders, or 7% of the entire population of the State. 

“This is the option before us. We have waited long enough and so have the poorest families in the State who are living week to week, month by month in fear of the knock on the door.”

 ENDS//

Note to editors: Please see attached a copy of Deputy Doherty's speech for tonight. Check against delivery.

Moneylenders’ PMB

It is six and a half years since I first brought this Bill before the House. Isn’t it telling that at that time the Fine Gael Minister told me that: this issue must be examined carefully to ensure the solution proposed does not adversely affect the most vulnerable members of society. This will be the Government's main aim in considering the findings of the examination to be carried out by the Central Bank and by the officials of the Department of Finance

What has changed except the name of Fine Gael Minister? They still want time to examine the issue. You have had enough time. We must act. 

Why must we act? Let me give you some examples:

187% being charged by a moneylender called Colm Keegan.

187% being charged by Rossbro moneylender.

187% being charged by a company called Stalwart Investments.

Those rates are despicable, they have no place in the year 2018, and they had no place in 2012.

The government amendment is not about protecting the vulnerable, it is about protecting the moneylenders.

I urge all parties to reject it. The government know well this law does not pass into being tonight if we accept it. There is a process ahead of us in which preparation must be carried out but we cannot delay starting down that road.

I wish to pay tribute to the Social Finance Foundation and the Centre for Co -operative Studies, University College Cork for putting this back on our agenda. Unfortunately for many, as Christmas approaches, this is a very live issue every day.

The report by the UCC academics cuts to the chase as to why we must act:

It said clearly what the economic reality of moneylending is. It facilitates a ‘huge transfer of resources and potential assets from poor communities to the directors and shareholders of loan companies’. 

Research in the US found that low- income house owners are stripped of approximately $9.1 billion a year through the practices of the so-called ‘alternative credit sector’. Research in Britain, found that in three streets with a total of 40 households, Stg£240,000 was being paid each year to high -cost lenders.

Moneylenders at these rates simply takes the money of poorer families and makes them poorer. 

We cannot allow another Christmas to come and go without action.

I fully understand that there must be alternatives. The Credit Union movement serves this country well and is prepared to expand its “It Makes Sense” loan scheme.

It is already expanding. Some figures put on the Dáil record might suggest that the number of Credit Unions offering the loan is going in the right direction. In reality, the number of mergers might mean that on paper the number of Credit Unions offering the scheme has dropped but the reality is that more people than ever can access this scheme.

I urge all Credit Unions to take up the scheme. 

It has been suggested by the Centre for Co -operative Studies and the Credit Union Advisory Council whose job it is to review the Credit Union Act that allowing a 2% cap instead of the current 1% monthly rate would allow some Credit Unions reluctant to take up the alternative source of credit to moneylenders. 

That is not a demand of the Credit Union movement but is certainly worth looking at. I would be happy to consider using this legislation to facilitate such a change if it was deemed helpful. It would be a choice for each Credit Union whether to utilise the extra space as it saw fit.

Section 1 of the Bill inserts into the Consumer Credit Act the phrase:

The amount of APR chargeable on loans issued by licenced moneylenders shall not exceed 36 per cent.”. 36 per cent was chosen as it is three times the level the Credit Union movement can charge.

Section 2 is simply the citation.

It is a straight forward piece of legislation but would help 330,000 people who borrow from moneylenders- 7% of the entire population of the 26 Counties.

In October 2014 the total outstanding consumer loans in Ireland amounted to €153m with moneylenders. That is why we must act.

The borrowers caught in this trap are our neighbours, family and friends. Only this year the Irish League of Credit Union report told us that of the parents in debt come back to scholl time more than a quarter (27%) said they have turned to a moneylender in an effort to cope with the costs. This is up from 20% last year.

For some, this situation is getting worse and worse.

The Central Bank have carried out a consultation and done valuable work looking at regulations including restricting advertising, forcing moneylenders provide more information and warnings and improving the professionalism of the people employed in the sector.

That is all good work but I see this Bill as complimentary to them. The Central Bank idea of adopting the Australian model of a cap based on the level of income misses the whole point- a cap must be applied.

This is the option before us. The government propose a twelve month wait- what they mean is that they have no intention of implementing a cap. 

Six and a half years ago they blocked this Bill. They are trying to block it again, I call on all parties to not let the m get away with it.

Yes, there are things that need to be done as we progress with the Bill so let’s get on with them. I will not be accepting any further delay. We have waited long enough and so have the poorest families sin the State who are living week to week, month by month in fear of the knock on the door.

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has called for urgent action to tackle what she described as ‘disgraceful’ interest rates being charged by licensed moneylenders.

She was speaking on a Sinn Féin Private Members' Bill which seeks to cap the amount of APR chargeable on loans issued by licenced moneylenders at 36 per cent.

Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy Mitchell said:

“As we approach Christmas time, many families across the State are turning to these moneylending companies in order to ensure that their families – and in particular their children – have a special Christmas.

“Unfortunately, the huge interest charged by these organisations only helps drive people further and further into debt.

“I note that one moneylender based in south Dublin was given a moneylenders license by the Central Bank in July which allows it to charge 287.72% APR interest including collection charges.

“That is quite frankly disgusting.”

The Dublin Bay north TD also said research shows that those turning to moneylenders are primarily women from working class backgrounds and also lone parents:

“The reality is that the companies charging these disgraceful interest rates are leeches. They are preying on the most vulnerable in society to line their own pockets.”

Noting that many other EU countries have caps on interest rates that money lenders can charge, Deputy Mitchell added:

“We need to ensure that some controls are placed on these organisations who make profits off of people in desperate situations.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has said a Sinn Féin delegation will meet senior PSNI officers to discuss concerns arising from a four-day security alert in west Belfast. 

The West Belfast MLA said: 

"Earlier this week a four-day security alert at Upper Dunmurry Lane caused significant disruption to the lives of people in west Belfast with road closures, residents being evacuated from their homes and the closure of a local primary school. 

"While the blame for the disruption from this security alert lies first and foremost with those responsible for planting this device and we condemn their actions, there are concerns in the local area around the resulting policing operation. 

"I requested an urgent meeting with senior PSNI officers to discuss the concerns of local residents about this security alert. 

"I will now meet with the PSNI chief inspector for Belfast to raise these concerns directly on behalf of local residents. 

"The vast majority of people in west Belfast are opposed to the activities of whoever planted this device and they should not be punished as a result of their recklessness and lack of regard for the local community."

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Sinn Féin member of the Public Accounts Committee David Cullinane TD, today called on RTÉ to bring clarity to the issue of bogus self-employment within the organisation, adding that the way those on the lower scales are treated is in sharp contrast to the reported salaries and remuneration of its presenters.
 
Deputy Cullinane said:
 
“It appears that there is a two-tier employment structure in RTÉ.
 
“There have been reports of people in bogus self-employment in RTÉ while at the same time we have presenters on hundreds of thousands of euro each year.
 
“RTÉ wrote to the PAC last week in an attempt to clarify the issue, but in reality it only raised more questions than answers.
 
“As I said last week in the committee, here is RTÉ’s review of management practices? Where is the review of HR practices? 
 
“We know that at least 157 people found themselves on self-employed contracts. Even one of the RTÉ presenters who had been speaking to staff said these people were not given a  choice.  
 
“They found themselves on these contracts and not because they wanted them. 
 
“This is not about putting the responsibility back on the 157 individuals. 
 
“The question is why were they put in that position. Was it a management practice by RTÉ? Are HR issues raised here?
 
“I acknowledge the clarity that RTÉ has brought today in relation to the payment of its top presenters, but I will be looking for the same candour when we return to the issue of bogus self-employment.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson, David Cullinane TD today welcomed the passing of the Employment (Miscellaneous) Bill in the Seaned this afternoon, saying that Sinn Féin’s amendments on banded hours strengthened the bill and will have a significant effect on the lives of thousands of workers.
 
Deputy Cullinane said:
 
“I am pleased that Sinn Féin’s amendments to the Miscellaneous bill have been accepted by both the Dáil and the Seanad.
 
“The push to get banded hours into legislation started with Sinn Féin when we first moved a bill in 2014.
 
“I moved a similar bill in 2016 that really put the issue on the agenda.
 
“The current bill has two critical amendments from Sinn Féin in it.
 
“The first is the banded hours scheme, the second is the 12 month look-back period for qualification for the bands.
 
“These will have a significant and positive affect on the working lives of thousands of precarious and low-paid workers.
 
“The next move is to tackle bogus self-employment and the need to have additional hours allocated to workers.
 
“I will be bringing forward legislation in the new year to tackle these issues."

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Sinn Féin have backed calls for a public inquiry in the wake of the serious breaches of adult safeguarding in Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

Sinn Féin spokesperson for carers and well-being, Colm Gildernew said:

"The recent report regarding the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) demonstrated again a failure in care to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“Despite complaints and concerns raised by family members it was only when CCTV of the PICU unit showed what was happening that the Trust took action.

“Subsequently, the Belfast Trust were not fully transparent with families in providing them with information they requested regarding the treatment of their loved ones.

“Unfortunately, Muckamore is not a unique case.

“Notwithstanding the high standard of care being delivered across the health and social care service, instances of failure to protect vulnerable people - such as those in Dunmurry Manor Care Home - is sadly becoming a recurrent theme.

“A public Inquiry is needed to identify the systemic failures that allows them to reoccur."

The Fermanagh South-Tyrone MLA added: “It is clear the Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) report from the Trust did not meaningfully involve the affected patients of Muckamore or their families as it should have.

“A public inquiry must involve patients and their families from the outset, including having input into a Terms of Reference.

“It must be fully transparent, hold all those responsible for failings to account, and be wholly independent of the Trust.

“An inquiry must also be time bound and have access to all available evidence.

“Despite reports with findings and recommendations regarding failures in adult safeguarding, it seems Trusts and health authorities are not learning the lessons needed to prevent these failings happening again."

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Responding to the announcement by the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin this afternoon that he is to renew his party’s confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael for another year, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said “Micheál Martin should stop pretending that he and his party are in opposition”.

Teachta McDonald said:

“The confidence and supply agreement concocted by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil after the last election has not delivered for those on low wages, for those struggling with high rents, for those who cannot afford their own home and for those on hospital trolleys or those facing lengthy hospital waiting lists.

“It is a deal that works only for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and their interests.

“On the one hand, Micheál Martin is happy to criticise the government, week-in, week-out, for its failings, but the reality is that he and his party - through the confidence and supply agreement - are the reason this government remains in office. 

“It is a cynical and self-serving position.

“The honest thing to do would be to admit that Fianna Fáil are an integral part of this government and the Fianna Fáil leader should stop pretending that he and his party are in opposition.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has welcomed and supports today's collaborative Rights Awareness Resource initiative launched at Croke Park by the GAA and the office of the Children’s Ombudsman. 

The party’s Culture, Arts and Sport spokesperson said:

“This is a welcome initiative to raise awareness of children’s rights through Gaelic Games on the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

“The Rights Awareness Collaboration gives coaches, teachers, volunteers and parents an opportunity to hear from children and young people who are involved in Gaelic games about how it positively impacts on their rights. 

“It’s a credit to those who have invested much time to make this project a reality including the GAA, Ladies Football and Camogie Association and the office of the Children’s Ombudsman.

“This resource will benefit many but the most important group that it will benefit is our children and young people through ensuring the rights of the child are promoted everyday within a positive and fun environment.” 

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A Sinn Féin delegation led by Vice-President Michelle O’Neill MLA and policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly MLA has welcomed a positive meeting with the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire this morning.

Commenting after the meeting Michelle O’Neill MLA said:

“This morning we had a constructive and positive meeting with the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire.  

“At the meeting we reaffirmed our support for the work of the Office of the Police Ombudsman as a key oversight body for policing.

“In particular, we received an update on progress on releasing outstanding historic investigative reports, in some cases where families have been waiting decades on information pertaining to the deaths of their loved ones.

“We emphasised to Dr Maguire the importance of publishing these key reports as quickly as possible.

“We also raised the issue of the funding for the work of the Police Ombudsman.  

“With an outstanding caseload of 400 cases it is imperative that the British Government adequately funds the Office of the Police Ombudsman to facilitate them to complete their outstanding historic caseload in advance of the Historic Investigations Unit (HIU) becoming fully operational.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has welcomed confirmation from Warrenpoint Port that it will not be moving ahead with plans to dump dredged material inside Carlingford Lough due to environmental concerns. 

The Port had recently announced plans to investigate the viability of dumping dredged material near the mouth of the lough instead of the more expensive practice of taking it much further out to sea for disposal. 

The South Down MP said:“I welcome today’s confirmation from Warrenpoint Port that they will not be proceeding with proposals to dump dredged material inside the Lough.

“I want to thank Port management for delivering on their promise that the science would dictate future plans; and seeing that these proposals would potentially damage the sensitive ecology and aquaculture in the lough they have taken the responsible decision to not move forward with the proposals.

“The local community will be pleased to see that Port management have put the protection of Carlingford Lough’s marine environment ahead of profit margins and will look forward to again engaging constructively with the Port in finding an alternative model for addressing the increased silting of the harbour and its impact upon the competitiveness of Warrenpoint Port.” 

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The Tory leadership challenge is just the latest battle in an internal civil war that brought the chaos of Brexit in the first place, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.


The Sinn Féin Vice President commented: “Brexit was conceived because of the Tory civil war. Brexit it is a disaster because of the Tory civil war and the leadership challenge is the latest battle in that same civil war.

“Regardless of who leads the British Government, they will always prioritise British interests first.

“For us, it is about working with the Dublin Government and the EU27, to prioritise Irish interests. We cannot allow Ireland or Irish interests to become collateral damage of infighting within a Tory party that cares nothing for our economy or our citizens.

“Mary Lou-McDonald and I will be meeting Simon Coveney today and that will be our message to the Irish Government. We must protect the Good Friday Agreement and protect the Backstop as our only insurance policy against a hard border in Ireland and the economic catastrophe that would bring.

“The Tory Party can decide who they want to lead them but they cannot be allowed to dictate any renegotiation or dilution of the Backstop.”

ENDS/CRIOCH

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the government to “urgently provide the greater bed capacity in our hospitals that is needed if we are to avoid a major crisis in our Emergency Departments over the winter months”.

The Louth TD criticised the Government’s Winter Plan for additional resources as “inadequate, and too little too late.”

The Louth TD said:

“Last month witnessed the worst overcrowding in our emergency departments since records began. Almost 10,000 admitted patients had to wait on chairs and trolleys for beds. Before the year has ended, over one hundred thousand patients have already been forced to wait long hours in emergency departments awaiting beds. This is the first time that that number has been reached.

“The reality is that the primary cause of delays in patients being admitted to a hospital bed is lack of capacity within the health system. There are not enough beds and insufficient staff, caused primarily by low pay levels in Irish nursing and midwifery. According to the HSE census, as of September 2018, the health service has 227 fewer staff nurses than December 2017

“Last week, I was among a group of Oireachtas members who were briefed by representatives and frontline healthcare workers from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), and SIPTU.

“The health workers painted a bleak picture of the daily crisis they are forced to manage as a result of under resourcing. They pointed out that long waiting times and overcrowding impacts on the quality of care for patients’ outcomes and on mortality. As their response to this crisis the Irish Medical Organisation has produced a six point plan for ending this crisis.

“Among a range of recommendations, the IMO has called for:

·        An increase in the number of acute hospital beds

·        An urgent assessment of the number of acute inpatient psychiatric beds

·        A detailed ten year investment plan

·        Invest in the roll out of a national system of electronic health records

·        Improvement in the discharge of patients

·        Increase the number of consultant posts in all specialities.

·        Provide General Practice with direct and timely access to diagnostics

“There was also unanimity at the briefing that all closed beds need to be immediately reopened and that we have to significantly increase capacity as a matter of urgency in order to cope with changing demographics.

“The frontline staff have returned again and again to the problem of recruitment and retention and the failure of the government to deal with this key issue.

“January and February are traditionally the worst months for trolley numbers. The Government’s Winter Plan which was belatedly published last week will be insufficient to tackle the winter crisis. As usual, the government left it to the last minute before publishing its proposals. They are inadequate and too little, too late to effectively address the trolley crisis. The plan does not increase bed capacity to a level needed to meet expected demand nor does it deal with the critical issue of recruitment and retention of staff.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards asking her to investigate allegations against DUP MP Ian Paisley journey concerning a lavish holiday in the Maldives. 

The North Antrim MLA said ;

"Serious questions are raised by the latest allegations against DUP MP Ian Paisley concerning a lavish holiday to the Maldives, who paid for it and any possible connections to the government of the Maldives. 

"The public is entitled to know who paid for this holiday and why Ian Paisley had not registered the trip with the authorities at Westminster. 

"Questions also arise about Ian Paisley's relationship with the government of the Maldives, which had been criticised by the UN over allegations of human rights abuses. 

"All of this comes on the heels of Ian Paisley's suspension from the British House of Commons following his failure to declare lavish family holidays in Sri Lanka. 

"I have now written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathyrn Stone, to ask her to investigate these allegations. 

"Support for human rights abusing regimes will come as no surprise but the electorate of North Antrim are entitled to answers to the serious questions raised by these allegations."

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has expressed his serious concern that social housing construction is so far behind schedule for 2018.

Figures show that only 35% of the Department of Housing’s new build targets for 2018 were reached at the end of Q3 of 2018.

 Deputy Ó Broin said:

 “At the Oireachtas Housing Committee this morning I questioned the Minister on the Rebuilding Ireland social housing output report for Q3 of 2018.

 “It is extremely worrying that the new build delivery of social homes is so far behind schedule for 2018.

"As the table below indicates (editors notes) the government target for new builds for 2018 is 4,969, with only 1,764 of these homes delivered by the end of Q3 in 2018, just 35%.

 “The other streams of delivery are a mixed bag. I welcome the number of increased acquisitions.

"However the Department of Housing must stop including voids in the quarterly output report as they are not new additions to the social housing stock. The Department included 605 voids in its output figures today.

 “Out of the target of 2,000 leased properties only 476 were delivered by Q3 of 2018. The Minister said today he wants to 'tweak' the leasing scheme.

"I would caution against offering any increased incentives to developers to participate in what is the privatisation of the delivery of social homes.

 “The Minister should readjust these targets towards the build and acquisition of new homes.

 “The truly concerning take away from the meeting this morning is that the ratio of real social houses vs subsidised private rental/leased properties delivered as of Q3 2018 is pretty depressing.

 “24% of the new homes delivered are real social houses, owned by councils or approved housing bodies, while 76% of the housing solutions delivered are subsidised private rental sector 'social' homes.

 “The Rebuilding Ireland targets remain too unambitious and the plan is clearly not delivering.

"The Minister must go back to drawing board and adjust the plan so it will at least aim to meet the true level of housing need out there.”

ENDS//

Editors' Note:

EÓB Table

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PTSB securitisation deal to become the norm with EU debt proposal – Carthy

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that the Permanent TSB deal to sell thousands of mortgages in a securitisation deal will become the norm under a new proposal from the EU. The Commission’s proposal for an EU Directive on developing a secondary market for non-performing loans 

Speaking from Strasbourg, Carthy said: “PTSB’s move to offload thousands of mortgages in a securitisation deal is an indication of what is to come if the EU Directive on credit purchasers, credit servicers and the recovery of collateral proceeds.

“The PTSB deal is an absolute disgrace. The PTSB split mortgages are classified as non-performing due to incompetence by the bank in designing the contracts, not through any fault of the borrowers. What we have here is a majority publicly-owned bank, that was rescued in a bailout, selling out thousands of its customers to debt vultures – including more than 4,000 customers who engaged with the bank in restructuring agreements. 

“We can already see how opaque the securitisation market is through this deal. PTSB refuses to inform Irish elected representatives of the owners of the purchasing fund, though Pimco is thought to be the buyer. Company records show that the securitisation vehicle, Glenbeigh Securities 2018-1 DAC, is administered by Wilmington Trust SP Services, which specialises in providing secretive Delaware-based trust services. The director of this shell company, Alan Geraghty, also finds the time to hold the directorship of 269 other companies.

“This proposed EU Directive is designed to promote the use of vulture funds and securitisation vehicles in order to move this bad debt off the banks’ balance sheets and into the opaque and unregulated shadow banking sector. 

“For several years, we have witnessed the ECB and Commission peddling securitisation as the  solution to all of the EU’s economic woes. Moving hundreds of billions of euros of bad debt into the shadow banking sector through the securitisation of non-performing loans is incredibly misguided, and will cause major new risks to financial stability. Mortgage-backed securities in particular played the key role in the 2007-2008 crisis.

“This proposal from the Commission is extremely concerning. It will empower banks to seize there customers’ collateral through an out-of-court recovery mechanism, and will result in borrowers, including mortgage-holders, being pursued more aggressively by vulture funds and debt collectors.

“The Commission has clearly not taken consumer protection issues or fundamental rights into consideration when conducting its impact assessment. The proposed Directive should be withdrawn, and I will be organising a campaign for its withdrawal together with allies across the EU in the coming months.” ENDS

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