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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 MEP Martina Anderson has said those who work with adults with learning disabilities are concerned about what will replace the European Social Fund post-Brexit. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"I met today with staff and service users from Mencap in Belfast to discuss their concerns about how Brexit will impact the work they are engaged in. 

"I saw at first hand the excellent work carried out by Mencap and the positive difference it makes to the lives of so many adults with learning disabilities here in the north. 

"At present, the work they do is supported by the European Social Fund but with Britain intent on dragging the north out of the EU against our democratically expressed will, this funding will come to an end post-Brexit. 

"After the current funding finishes the British government has indicated that it will replace it with a Shared Prosperity Fund but organisations like Mencap have not had any clarity around this proposed fund or what it will entail. 

"This is yet another example of how Brexit will hit those most in need in our society in the north and could lead to greater inequality for those with learning disabilities, particularly when it comes to entering employment. 

"All of this highlights the need for rights protections to be built into the backstop so that the rights of vulnerable people can be safeguarded and for special status for the north within the EU so vital work like this can continue to be funded." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon has expressed shock and sadness at the news that a man has died at Slieve Gullion today as a result of extreme weather conditions caused by Storm Ali. 

Megan Fearon said:

“The local community are shocked and saddened at the news that a man was tragically killed and another man injured after a tree fell on them at Slieve Gullion Forest Park today. 

“I want to extend my condolences to the family and friends of this man at this difficult time. The thoughts of our entire community are with them.

“I also want to commend the emergency services for risking dangerous conditions to respond swiftly to this incident to help others. 

“Storm Ali has already caused significant disruption and damage today as it makes its way across the island of Ireland.

“Many trees have fallen, over 250,000 thousand homes across Ireland have been left without power and key roads are closed.

“No one should underestimate the potential threat to life and property from the storm. 

“I want to remind people to stay safe and remain vigilant throughout the day and to only travel if necessary.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has welcomed the publication of the new Economic and Social Research Institute study in to inter-county athletes by the GAA and Gaelic Players Association. 

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

“This report is beneficial for gaining an insight into the pressures currently faced by county players throughout Ireland. 

“It is an honour to represent your county on the highest stage possible but player welfare must also be prioritised.

“We must remember that it is not just a person’s physical health that it is important, a person’s mental health is equally as important. 

“The GAA and Gaelic Players Association must ensure that the right balance is struck between a player’s inter-county career and their downtime outside of the game.  

“Some of the statistics around hours spent per week on inter-county commitment and lack of sleep along with other aspects need to be looked at and improved on. 

“I am calling for the recommendations from this study to be implemented as soon as possible to start improving the conditions for inter-county athletes.”

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Sinn Féin Defence spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Government to introduce measures to address the concerns of the Defence Forces in the upcoming Budget.

Speaking today during Leader’s Questions this afternoon, Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:

“Members of the Defence Forces have been consistently sidelined in public service pay negotiations, are being excluded from trade union membership or affiliation with ICTU, and are legally prevented from public demonstration or protest over terms and conditions.

“Recently, PDFORRA was forced to go to the High Court in order to vindicate the right of defence force members to the provisions of the Working Time Directive.

“They were forced to go to the European Committee on Social Rights to vindicate their right to collective bargaining over working terms and conditions.

“The fact that members of the Defence Forces have had to fight this government tooth and nail here at home and in Europe to have basic working rights recognised is an absolute disgrace.

“What is even more disgraceful is the fact that this Government has still not taken action to implement these decisions.

“We expect the Defence Forces to lose up to 700 members this year – many to the private sector for better pay and working conditions.

“The state now had to outsource a contract for the provision of an air ambulance service costing the state millions, because the Air Corps no longer has the capacity to provide this service and more.

“This is penny wise and pound foolish.

“Sinn Féin has introduced legislation to the Dáil to give effect to the right of members of the Defence Forces to engage in collective bargaining and we are calling on the Government to give effect to this right without delay.

“I am also calling on the Government to explain the delay in the completion of the submission to the Public Service Pay Commission on Defence Force issues.

“This report is due by the end of the year and is unlikely to be completed on time due to this delay.

“The Government must also make a commitment to address issues affecting the Defence Forces in Budget 2019.”

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Declan Kearney MLA, has welcomed the unanimous support of the Basque Regional Parliament for a motion calling for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

The motion, which supports the Agreement, the protection of rights and no hardening of the border as a result of Brexit, was carried unanimously in the Basque Parliament this week.

Mr Kearney said:

"I strongly welcome the passage of this motion which was brought to the Basque Regional Parliament by EH Bildu, with the support of PNV, and was passed with the unanimous support of all other parties.

"This initiative demonstrates in a practical way the support and solidarity for the delivery and protection of rights in the north of Ireland. It is highly significant that all political parties represented in the Basque parliament gave their support.

"This development brings added impetus to Sinn Féin's strategy of engagement with political parties across Europe to highlight the denial of rights in the north of Ireland, and the threat to the Good Friday Agreement, both as a result of Brexit and the failure of the British and Irish governments to adhere to their responsibilities as guarantors of that Agreement.

"This is a defining period in Irish history.

"We now have the potential to shape the future and to build a new, agreed united Ireland for the benefit of all our people.

"Now, more than ever, the support of the international community is needed to ensure that these unprecedented opportunities are seized and their potential is realised.

"Sinn Féin will continue to highlight all of these issues on a European and international stage, and encourage others to follow the example of the Basque parliament.”

Full text of EH Bildu motion:

September 16 2018. Basque  Parliament 

MOTION adopted by unanimity at the Commission of European Affairs and External Action, in relation to the guarantee of compliance of the Good Friday Agreement 

Rationale:

The Irish peace process has been an inspiration to countries across the world emerging from conflict.

This 20th of April we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. 

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 promised equality, and end to discrimination, and paved the way for the achievement of constitutional change through peaceful means.

Brexit poses a serious threat to the Good Friday Agreement and the further advancement of the Irish peace process.

These are the reasons why we present this motion.

MOTION

  1. This House calls on the Irish and British Governments, as co guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, to defend the vision of that Agreement; to ensure full implementation of the GFA as an internationally binding treaty in order to bring about the establishment of the political institutions on a sustainable and credible bases.

2.  We exhort the EU to guarantee its full compliance. 

3. The Basque Parliament supports the Declaration of the European Parliament where it is stated that "with a view to the North of Ireland, the United Kingdom must respect its commitment to ensure that there is no hardening of the border on the island of Ireland, either by means of detailed proposals they should present in the negotiations on the framework of future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, in the form of concrete solutions for the north of Ireland "as for example the establishment of a special status for the north in the framework of Ireland”, "or through regulatory adaptation continues under the aegis of the European Union”

4.- The Basque Parliament urges that in the negotiations on the exit of United Kingdom of the European Union take into account, beyond the conditions in economic matters and trade, the protection of rights of community members and extra-community with residence in British territory and the EU.

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Sinn Féin deputy spokesperson for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform Jonathan O’Brien TD has called on Fine Gael to provide details of this year’s health spending before Budget 2019.

Speaking today, the Cork North-Central TD said:

“It was reported by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in its Mid-Year Expenditure Report that the Department of Health had spent €600 million more by the end of June compared to the same period last year. This amount is more than the total increase allocated to the department for 2018.

“These figures confirm reports that the Department could record a deficit of as much as €800 million this year.

“It is currently unclear whether these costs have been to meet the demand felt in our hospitals and whether they will affect the funds available in the upcoming budget.

“Despite asking the Minister for Finance for this information in the Dáil in July, his Department continues to obfuscate and hide the true financial position of the Department of Health.

“Sinn Féin has consistently called on the Government to adequately fund our health services, and concern around an €800 million ‘black hole’ in the Health budget is only further evidence of its chronic underfunding.

“The Minister must provide details of the financial position of the Health budget and the effects this will have on Budget 2019, particularly his Government’s ability to deliver on Sláintecare.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the Government’s underfunding of our health services together with their plans to misallocate €500 million to a Rainy Day Fund will make the delivery of Sláintecare impossible.

“I will be bringing these questions before the Budgetary Oversight Committee today and in the interests of transparency am asking that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform provide the details of Health’s financial position.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has urged people to show extra care on the roads.

Speaking on European Day Without A Road Death Martina Anderson said:

“Today marks European Day Without A Road Death (Project Edward) and I would urge everyone;  motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and others to to take extra care and be mindful of other road users.

"Sadly, across Ireland too many families know the pain and suffering of losing a loved on the roads.

“Events like Project Edward are designed to raise awareness of road safety and prevent further tragedies on our roads.

"Hopefully through this and other initiatives we can reduce the number of deaths on our roads as every death is one too many."

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Sinn Féin MLA Phillip McGuigan has hit out at the Electoral Office’s ‘bizarre’ handling of the Ian Paisley Recall petition after the Chief Electoral Officer asked him to delete a social media post relating to the petition.

“I was contacted today by the Chief Electoral Officer warning me that the police could be asked to investigate a social media video I posted urging people to exercise their democratic right to sign the recall petition to remove Ian Paisley from office over his role in the Sri Lanka scandal.

“Given that the request was made, I complied but I still find it bizarre that the Electoral Office is focusing on social media posts when their handling of the entire petition process has been so poor.

“We all know the reasons why Ian Paisley was suspended from Westminster and the DUP.

“I find it incredible I am being warned about police investigations when I do not believe there was anything in the post that predicted the outcome of the petition. If that is the case, are the bookmakers taking bets or the political pundits offering opinions also going to receive similar calls?

“It’s regretful that the Electoral Office did not pay as much attention to ensuring the people of North Antrim were afforded their democratic rights because they clearly did not do enough to facilitate people who wished to sign the petition.

“They had the option of opening as many as ten locations where people could sign the petition, yet they inexplicably opted to go for just three.

“The lack of an effective public awareness campaign and the restrictive opening hours of the signing centres were also major problems.

“Nevertheless, the issues raised by this scandal are not going away and neither are the questions for the DUP leadership.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis said a collective approach is required to bring an end to the geo-blocking of major sports matches for viewers in the north. 

The party’s Culture, Arts & Sports spokesperson and Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile will meet officials from the Football Association of Ireland tomorrow. 

Sinéad Ennis said:

“In recent months we have been raising our grave concerns at the continued geo-blocking of sports games for northern viewers. 

“We have constantly highlighted the frustration felt by sports fans throughout the north who are blocked from watching major sports events online. 

“Irish soccer games are also blocked for viewers in the north adding to recent anger among soccer fans at the blocking of the World Cup. 

“The Irish soccer team is supported by citizens right across the island of Ireland and supporters in Newry should have equal access to watching games like people a few miles away in Dundalk. 

“There is an onus on the FAI, other sporting organisations, broadcasters and satellite providers to ensure there is equality of access to future games and to bring an end to the digital partition of Ireland. 

“Myself and Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile we will be meeting with the FAI Chief Executive on Thursday as part of continued lobbying to achieve a fair deal for sports fans in the north.”

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Sinn Féin’s Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has today said that his party supports the cross party motion on housing that will be debated during Private Members Business in the Dáil on October 3rd at 12.30pm. 

The debate will coincide with the ICTU led 'Raise the Roof: Homes for All' rally" which will take place outside the Dáil on October 3rd at 12.30pm.  

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Today we launched a cross party Dáil motion on the housing and homelessness crisis signed by Sinn Féin, Labour, People Before Profit, Solidarity, The Social Democrats, The Green Party, Independents for Change and Independent members of the Oireachtas.

“The Dáil debate will take place after the rally outside Leinster House which has been called by ICTU and is supported by the Union of Students in Ireland, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the National Housing & Homeless Coalition and Fr Peter Mc Verry.

“It is also supported by Focus Ireland, Simon Communities of Ireland and a range of other advocacy and campaign groups.

“The PMB makes four specific demands.

“It calls on the government to immediately declare the housing and homeless crisis an emergency.

“It also calls on the government to dramatically increase the supply of social and affordable housing by increasing capital spending on housing to €2.3bn in budget 2019.

“It also calls for emergency legislation to be introduced to reduce the flow of adults and children into homelessness by making it illegal for landlords, banks and investment funds to evict tenants and homeowners in mortgage distress into homelessness.

“It also calls on the government to provide real security of tenure and to introduce measures to reduce the coast of rent.

“The government must also commit to holding a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution.

“I am calling on all opposition TDs including Fianna Fáil, who want budget 2019 to be a housing Budget. Failure to do so shows that such calls from the party are insincere.”

ENDS//

Note to editor:

Please see text of motion below

Cross Party Housing Private Members Motion – Final (19.9.18)

This Dáil notes that:

• Access to secure and genuinely affordable housing is increasingly out of reach for many people
• From the locked out generation of students and young workers or unemployed people to older workers facing into retirement, high cost insecure accommodation is a reality for too many people
• The failure of government to provide an adequate supply of good quality public housing in sustainable communities lies at the heart of the housing crisis
• The most graphic symptom of this crisis is the growing number of children living in emergency accommodation
• A new approach to housing is required to meet the housing needs of all those locked out of the private market including young people, those on modest incomes, those on low pensions, those on Council waiting lists,  travellers, people with disabilities, older people and students
• Important proposals to address the Housing Crisis have been put forward by a wide variety of groups including the National Housing and Homeless Coalition and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

This Dáil calls on Government to:

• Declare the housing and homeless crisis an emergency
• Dramatically increase the supply of social and affordable (including cost rental) housing by increasing capital spending on housing to €2.3bn in budget 2019; increase Part V requirements to 20% in standard developments & 30% in Strategic Development Zones; prioritise the delivery of public housing on public land; and aggressively target the return of vacant houses to active use
• Reduce the flow of adults and children into homelessness with emergency legislation to make it illegal for landlords, banks and investment funds to evict tenants and homeowners in mortgage distress into homelessness; provide real security of tenure and real rent certainty by linking rent reviews to an index such as the CPI and introducing measures to reduced the cost of rent; introduce a target for ending long term homelessness and the need to sleep rough
• Hold a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution

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Sinn Féin TD for Sligo, Leitrim, North Roscommon and South Donegal Martin Kenny has described reports that the new psychiatric unit for Sligo is to be deferred as “completely unacceptable and only signals further neglect of the people of the North-West”.

Deputy Kenny said;

“The news that this Psychiatric Unit is going to be deferred is completely outrageous and unacceptable to citizens in the North West.  We have had numerous announcements that this unit is going to be built by this government.  It has been talked about for over twenty years.

“I believe that the tender process has being carried out and that successful contractor is keen to get started.  This cannot happen because of the Minister for Health and the Minister for Finance’s incompetence in balancing the capital budget for health.

“This government are excellent at spinning these great news stories and making announcements of capital investments it’s a pity they aren’t as good at following through and implementing these projects.

“The Ministers must clarify when the construction of the Psychiatric Unit will commence?  Is the contractor still on board as the original tender was in 2017? Can we get clarification that it will not go back to tender again which could cause further delay and cost.

“Up to now, I estimate that up to €1 million has been spent on this project with years of HSE meetings, with surveyor Architects and consultants including and even ground works done on the site.

“The North West region continues to be the only area in the country not to have a Psychiatric Unit on same campus as general hospital services.

“We need this Psychiatric Unit in Sligo to help improve mental health service for the people of the North West.” 

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Sinn Fein Communications spokesperson Brian Stanley TD has said that successive governments have allowed the postal network to limp along and have ignored the services needed for rural Ireland.

Deputy Stanley was speaking as Sinn Féin put forward a Private Members Motion before the Dáil this evening, which aims to prevent the closure of 159 rural post offices
 
The Laois TD said:

“Fine Gael and Fianna Fail view the Post Office Network, as a burden. From 2000–2001 under Fianna Fáil 732 post offices closed their doors.

"Now Fine Gael want to close 159 more. There have been Garda station closures under this government also, and 542,000 households are still waiting on high speed broadband all across Ireland.
 
“Post office masters and mistresses are entitled to retire. But this does not mean the post office itself retires.
 
“We need to address the criteria used by An Post defining a settlement. It does not take into account the true population in rural areas.

"We have a dispersed population. We have one of the most rural populations in Europe. The distance of 15 kilometres to nearest post office will be high cost in taxi fare for a pensioner collecting a weekly pension.
 
“Co-location is another important issue. This is not being considered seriously. There are many places where a post office can be easily combined with a shop or garage, giving an additional income and most importantly additional services to communities.
 
“We need additional services in our post offices, such as government services like motor tax renewal. Being the state service in the community will benefit the community and contribute to the community.
 
I am asking that Government not to add more empty shops to the streets across rural Ireland. Retain this service. Sinn Féin are calling for a revitalised and energised network, with new services, and community banking across the State and where it is all at the heart of the community.”

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Speaking after being selected for co-option to replace Colly Kelly as a councillor for the Moor Ward on Derry City and Strabane District Council, Sharon Duddy said:

“I am very proud and humbled that the local cumainn have endorsed me for co-option to represent Sinn Féin on Derry City and Strabane District Council.

“As a long time activist I know the challenges that lie ahead in being an elected representative but I am up the challenge.

“I want to thank Colly for the great work he did locally and for the many years of work he has put in as a Sinn Féin councillor in this area.

"Momentum has been building behind Sinn Féin's platform of equality, rights and Irish unity and I will do all in my power to advance that programme.

“I look forward to representing the people of the Moor Ward over the coming weeks and months.”

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Sinn Féin’s Communications spokesperson Brian Stanley TD, has said that broadband tender currently hangs by a thread, after questions to the Minister today revealed the final tender for the National Broadband Plan was received today, but a major part of the consortium has withdrawn.
 
Deputy Stanley TD said:
 
“The Granhan McCourt Consortium was the sole entity in place to rollout the broadband plan. The consortium consisted of SSE which withdrew in July.

“Now the Minister said today the final tender has been received, but another major component of the consortium, John Laing plc, has withdrawn.
 
“As a major financial backer to the project is no longer in the consortium, we have to ask what is the ability of this entity to deliver this project, which will cost a €1 billion or more, to connect 542,000 households across the state.
 
“The tender for the National Broadband Plan has been chaotic.
 
“All the major players in the market, such as Siro and Eir, had last year left the process.
 
“Major backers of the sole surviving consortium have withdrawn. We are no closer today to knowing when the rollout will begin, or even if the National Broadband Plan can survive through the tender and this Government have no Plan B to deliver Broadband to 542,000 households.”

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Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed the publication of the Commission on Future of Policing Document and has thanked Kathleen O’Toole and the Commission for their work. 

He also stated that he would be seeking further clarification on a number of areas, in which the Party has reservations; in particular, the removal of certain powers from the Policing Authority and being given to the Commissioner, and the new Garda Board. 

Deputy Ó Laoghaire said:

“This is a very significant, detailed document, which we will examine carefully.

“Sinn Féin is focused on policing reform that puts the controversies of recent years behind us and delivers a policing service rather than a policing force, and which is properly accountable to and representative of the community it serves.

“Many of the recommendations are, on first reading, positive and address many of the points raised by Sinn Féin in our submission.

“It is positive to see, as we would have wished, a strong emphasis on Community Gardaí, on the role of Gardaí in working with other agencies ensuring that people do not come to harm, as well as the emphasis on strong powers for the new ombudsman’s office, IOPO.

“The emphasis on Human Rights, on tackling cybercrime, and on quality training for Gardaí, as well as an access programme are welcome also.

“Much of the details of the report however, will have to be studied further, and we will be engaging with the Commission, and with the Minister to seek clarification on some of these proposals.

“However there are areas in which we will be seeking clarification, and in which we have some reservations. Specifically, in relation to the responsibilities being removed from the remit of the independent and external Policing Authority, which is to be replaced, and being concentrated in the new statutory Garda Board and the Garda Commissioner. 

“Such powers include power of Senior Appointments. This is contrary to our submission in which we sought more power for the independent Policing Authority, including in relation to appointments. 

“We will also be seeking further clarification and detail in relation to the proposal for a Strategic Threat Analysis Coordinator, including the need for accountability and oversight in the area of Security & Intelligence.  

“We look forward to engaging further with the Commission, and through the Oireachtas, to discuss this further.”

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on the Taoiseach to recognise the State of Palestine. 

She made her call in advance of a visit by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to Ireland this weekend.

Teachta McDonald said:

“This weekend the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will make a historic first visit to Ireland on his way to a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“I want to warmly welcome the President’s visit and I hope that it will be a very productive one.

“I understand that President Abbas will meet with the Tánaiste on Saturday evening to discuss a number of issues; not least the ongoing illegal blockade of Gaza and the State’s recognition of the State of Palestine - which is now long, long overdue.

“A Sinn Féin motion to that effect was passed by the Dáil in 2014. The Seanad did likewise.

“There is also a commitment contained in the Programme for Government, yet the government continues to drag its heels. 

“Now is the time for us to afford official recognition to the State of Palestine, which is the agreed position of the Oireachtas, and is a necessary position in international terms”.

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Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has said today’s announcement by the Migration Advisory Committee reaffirms the need for special status for the north within the EU. 

The party’s Ethnic Minorities spokesperson said:

“Since the 2016 EU referendum, we have learned that some individuals now feel unwelcome with many reconsidering their future here due to increasing hostility. This is unacceptable.

“EU citizens living and working in the north have made valuable contributions to our economy and society including those who have come from other countries and made their homes here.

“Freedom of movement within the European Union has allowed citizens to live, study and work unhindered across member states with many sectors relying on citizens from other countries. 

“Many sectors in the north, particularly the agriculture and agri-food sectors are concerned about the availability of EU workers post Brexit. 

“These sectors are particularly vulnerable to Brexit and this reinforces the need for the north to have a bespoke relationship with the EU through special status post Brexit.” 

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Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil this afternoon, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has called for the introduction of a temporary tax relief for renters, alongside a three year emergency rent freeze. 

In respect of tackling the housing and homelessness crisis, she said “We desperately need a change of direction and a change of policy. That means taking bold and urgent action".

Teachta McDonald said:

“This summer has seen the housing and homelessness crisis go from disaster to calamity.

“The most recent homelessness figures show the number of homeless individuals now stands at nearly ten thousand people and the number of families accessing emergency accommodation stands at 1,778 - that’s 349 more families than the same month last year. 

“Scandalously, the number of homeless children has increased again - there are now 3,867 children sleeping in emergency accommodation. 

“Service providers are reduced to referring families to Garda stations due to the lack of emergency accommodation and in the course of the summer we witnessed the horrific site of a family of seven sleeping in Tallaght Garda station.

“Rental costs have spiralled out of control, house prices continue to be above affordable levels and tens of thousands of homes lie vacant across the State. 

“Naturally, people have responded and some have come out to protest the government’s failures.

“The response? Overreaction to the peaceful occupation of a building in my own constituency that had been empty for three years. A private security firm arrived in unmarked cars, escorted by Gardaí, to evict a handful of peaceful protesters - an absolutely disproportionate response.

“Contrast that with the government’s response to the housing crisis - a response that is underwhelming, under resourced and inadequate. 

"The government’s flagship housing policy - Rebuilding Ireland - has been in place now for two years and yet the crisis deepens. 

“Instead of getting to grips with the emergency, the government has attacked local authorities and opposition parties and failed to see their own failures. Spin over substance and a refusal to accept their policies are failing - that is the hallmark of the government’s approach. 

“We desperately need a change of direction and a change of policy. That means taking bold and urgent action.

“Sinn Féin has proposed the introduction of a temporary tax relief for renters, alongside a three year emergency rent freeze. Existing tenancies would have their rents frozen at their current levels and new tenancies would be pegged to the RTB’s average rent index.

“That would be a proper response to the crisis and I would urge the Taoiseach to introduce this.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the government should withdraw its appeal against the EU Commission State Aid ruling in the Apple case.

He was speaking as the Minister for Finance confirmed that €14.3bn has been lodged into an escrow account following the ruling.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I welcome that the €14.3bn has now been paid over. This is long overdue and required an explicit warning from the Commission to get on with it.

"The Minister speaks about 'alleged' State Aid. As things stand the monies are the result of illegal State Aid monies and represent taxes due to the Irish people from Apple.

"Apple is free to appeal and is doing so but the time has come for Ireland to remove its appeal.

"Millions of the Irish people’s money has been spent by the State appealing this case and millions more will be spent unless the State withdraws its appeal.

"Ireland’s reputation has been badly bruised because of this government’s policies. It is time for a new start and to rebuild that reputation.

"Withdrawing the Apple appeal is a good place to start.”

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Speaking after reports that universities and further education colleges in the north suffered 16 serious cyber-attacks in 2017/’18 Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said:

“The findings by Jisc (the organisation which provides digital infrastructure and services to universities and colleges) that there has been an increase in the number of cyber-attacks on universities and further education colleges in the north in the past year is very concerning.

“I have written to universities and further education colleges across the north to query the level of protection in place.

“I have asked what contingencies they have in place in the event that such cyber-attacks are successful in creating disruption.”

The party’s further and higher education spokesperson added:

“The internet has transformed how we connect with each other, how we share information, and how much of our behaviour is recorded; as such it is necessary to have high levels of privacy and safety online.

”It is particularly important that institutions holding sensitive data have protections in place."

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