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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that no deal has been done between the Orange Order and residents in regard to the 12th July parade in Rasharkin.

He said:

“There is some bemusement & much concern in Rasharkin at the reports that a secret deal has been done in regard to the 12th of July demonstration in Rasharkin.

“The Orange Order decided to move the demonstration field away from the Community Centre where the Rasharkin Residents Association has an annual fun day in July. This was a common sense move and it was welcomed. Residents however have been aware of this for many weeks.

“Trying to create the false impression that the Orange Order are engaged in direct and meaningful talks with residents is not only false it undermines the position of the Residents Association who work to outline the true picture of the parades situation in Rasharkin to the Parades Commission each year.

“We want to see a peaceful summer in the village. Residents would want to see some guarantees in regard to the behaviour of parade participants in places such as the Finvoy Road after incidents there at the last demonstration. The Orange Order should talk to residents in advance of the 12th of July parade about all issues of concern."

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Sinn Féin’s Fisheries spokesperson Martin Ferris TD has welcomed the news that the EU has agreed that the practice of discarding millions of tonnes of fish every year is to come to an end within six years.

Deputy Ferris said that the dumping of millions of tonnes of perfectly healthy fish into the sea was a ludicrous practice and should have ended years ago.

He said:

“Sinn Féin has consistently been calling for this practice to come to an end and it should have happened along time ago.

“However, this development is to be welcomed. It was absolutely ludicrous to allow a situation continue where millions of tonnes of perfectly healthy fish were being dumped back into the sea because of EU bureaucracy and at the same time Irish fishermen were coming under more and more pressure from the EU because of low fish stocks.

“It is imperative that the stated six year target is met and preferably it could even be phased out before then. The end of this practice is crucial for the survival of European fish stocks and the Irish fishing fleet.

“Steps must now be taken here to ensure that there is effective policing of this issue, and the illegal practices of non-Irish fleets in Irish waters.”

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Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh called on the Department of Social Protection to revise the rent supplement caps in the Dublin area to adequately address the needs of those who are dependent on social welfare and in very vulnerable housing situations.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said;

“More and more people dependent on social welfare payments are in situations where they cannot get accommodation and are ending up homeless or staying in severely overcrowded situations. This is moving towards the slums of the past.

“I am calling on the Department of Social Protection in part to tackle the illegal top-up of rent supplement which landlords are demanding off tenants now so they can recoup the difference between the maximum rent cap that the Department allows and what they actually want to charge.

“These under the counter payments are growing as less suitable rented accommodation is available, especially in the Dublin area. The demands being made by these landlords are only pushing people further in to poverty and the Department has a responsibility to address this.”

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Following last night’s successful debate on Irish Unity in Crossmaglen Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has called for a border poll on Irish unity to take place within the lifetime of the next Assembly and Oireachtas terms.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Last night’s debate on Irish Unity tells its own story.

“People are up for the debate on Irish Unity, and they are behind Sinn Féin’s call for a border poll.

“Last night’s debate was held as part of the People’s Referendum campaign taking place in Crossmaglen and Creggan to highlight the demand for a border poll.

“Contributions were lively and the success of the event is a credit to the organisers of the People’s Referendum campaign.

“The areas of Crossmaglen and Creggan are living with the reality of the border every day of their lives and they have taken this initiative to highlight the very real demand for a border poll.

“The debate on Irish unity is now intensifying with demand for a border poll taking centre stage.

“Key economic and social issues keep coming up again and again. Two competing economies a small island simply makes no sense. Duplication of services serves no one.

“A border poll should take place in the lifetime of the next Assembly and Oireachtas terms.

“Congratulations to everyone for taking part in the debate and I look forward to many more over the coming weeks and months.”

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Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Communication, Energy and Natural Resources, has said that Minister Pat Rabbitte must make real and substantial changes to Ireland’s oil and gas tax regime.

Responding to the Ministers contribution to a debate on Ireland’s offshore oil and gas in the Dáil, Deputy Colreavy said:

“According to a 2006 report carried out by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources there is approximately 6.5 billion barrels of oil and 20 trillion cubic feet of gas off Ireland’s coast.

“Under the current tax regime the state will receive very little return from these resources if they are extracted in the future.

“While I accept that it is the oil and gas companies who should carry the risk in exploration rather than the exchequer, the fact remains that these are resources that belong to the state.

“The reality is that this oil and gas is not going away and it is better left in the ground than to be given away with very little return to the state.

“Oil and gas exploration is a long term strategy and the Minister should adopt a position that will see a continuing return to the state in the future.

“The technology involved in oil and gas exploration is constantly improving. Along with rising oil prices what may not be viewed as lucrative today may become very valuable in the future.

“I once again call on Minister Rabbitte to pay heed to the Joint Committee Report on Offshore Oil and Gas, a report which received the support of all parties represented at the committee.

“The staggered tax rate of 40% for small finds, 60% for medium finds and 80% for very large finds is a sensible and progressive system.”

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson has condemned the racially motivated attack on a Dublin Bus driver which took place yesterday, Tuesday 14th of May. The attack happened in the Parnell Square area of the city where many buses park while drivers change shift.

Deputy Ellis said:
"While we don't know all of the details of this attack we know enough to believe that it was a racist attack and that it should be condemned utterly. No one should have to fear violence or racism in their workplace.

“Dublin is a diverse and vibrant city enriched by the many people from all over the world who call it home. They are as much a part of Dublin as anyone else and deserve to feel safe.

“I commend those who apprehended the offender and the Gardaí for taking him into custody.

“I personally and my party Sinn Féin wish the victim of this attack a speedy recovery and send out solidarity to him in this difficult time.

“Racism will not be tolerated in Dublin or anywhere else."
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Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams addressing the Taoiseach in the Dáil this morning expressed concern that the hospital reform reports published on Tuesday do not provide the necessary clarity for patients, their families, health professionals and local communities.

He said;

“There is a serious information gap between the proposals in the reports and the detail of what services will be allocated to which hospitals.”

The Sinn Féin leader sought an assurance from the Taoiseach that there would be full consultation with patients and their families, with health professionals and with local communities.

Speaking afterward Teachta Adams said:

“The key to good hospital services is that citizens get the very best services available and that they have confidence that that is the case.

“It is clear at the moment, despite the work of health professionals and health workers, that this is not the case for many people.

“Tuesday’s reports on Hospital Groupings and the Framework for Smaller Hospitals, have been described by Minister Reilly as ‘a fundamental modernisation of our health system organisation in line with best international practice’.

“That’s more or less what Micheál Martin as Minister for Health said ten years ago when he claimed that the Hanley Report would ‘change forever the landscape of the Irish health service.’

“Irish people are rightly sceptical about false dawns and exaggerated claims.

“If there is potential in Tuesday’s proposals there has to be full consultation with hospital users. They need to know how these reports will affect the quality of health service for them and their families.

“Unfortunately this information is not in these reports.

“It is also a fact that most people don’t have confidence in the Health Minister. He entered office promising to restore the emergency service to Roscommon General Hospital and immediately reneged on it.

“The government has therefore very little credibility with the public on the issue of health. Since it came to power it has been cutting funding for the health services, not enhancing them.

“In this respect there is widespread concern at the cuts to the ambulance services, including in my own constituency of Louth, and this has increased with the dreadful case of Middelton toddler Vakaris Martinaitis who died after a fall.

“This morning there were 290 patients on trolleys. Many hospitals have already lost 24 hour A&E. More will do so under this report.

“So if there is potential in these reports then there needs to be a real and meaningful process of consultation with local communities, patients and their families as well as health professionals.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has called for urgent reform of the pension system. The call was made during a Seanad debate on the recently released OECD report on the Irish pension system.

Senator Reilly said:

“The OECD report confirms once again what we have known for a long time. The pension system in this state is in crisis.

“One in ten pensioners live at risk of poverty. If the state pension was removed 88% of pensioners would live in poverty.

“Just half of the current workforce is covered by private and occupational pensions. Many of these schemes, particularly defined benefit schemes, are in deficit. Some are close to collapse.

“Our pension protection system is almost non-existent, as we saw recently in the Waterford Crystal Case. The regulation of the private pension industry is still a major problem.

“The centre piece of government pensions policy continues to be wasteful and unfair tax breaks.

“This system is broken. We urgently need radical pension reform.

“The state pension must be increased to 40% of average industrial earnings and universalised to ensure that no pensioner lives in poverty.

“We need a mandatory public pension system for all workers not in private schemes to ensure that people have a real chance to provide the additional savings needed to give them some measure of comfort in their later years.

“We need an end to the grossly wasteful and unfair pension tax relief system.

“And we need tighter regulation of private pension funds to limit the levels of risk involved, reign in excessive charges and ensure adequate protection.

“This is a tall order, but now is the time for government to act.”

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Martina Anderson said:

“I was pleased to accept the invitation recently to join the Alzheimer’s Alliance at the European Parliament.  As someone with first-hand knowledge of what it is like to care for a family member – my mother who is sufferer of this debilitating condition - I appreciate the work of the Alliance in bringing a focus to bear on its widespread occurrence.

“As a member of the Committee dealing with Public Health at the EU Parliament I will take every opportunity to highlight the needs of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and the predicament that those caring for them find themselves in. Conditions such as Alzheimer's do not recognise borders therefore there is an onus on Europe to provide leadership in research development. I believe that Regional governments could also do much more. I will be doing all that I can to encourage the EU to do more to help in the search for an appropriate treatment and cure.”

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Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has welcomed the government’s decision not to oppose the Seanad Reform Bill 2013. He has called on the government to follow the logic of this decision, to cancel the referendum, and refer the matter to the Constitutional Convention.

The legislation, which was proposed by Senators Fearghal Quinn and Katherine Zappone, is intended to open up the Seanad to universal franchise and reform its functions.

Speaking today from Leinster House, Senator Cullinane said;

“I welcome the government’s decision to support the Seanad Reform Bill today. It creates an opportunity to further debate and consideration of this issue.

“The government’s entire approach to the future of the Seanad has been opportunistic and ill thought out. Sinn Féin believes that the Seanad as currently constituted is deeply undemocratic and elitist.

“However, simple abolition, without even allowing the opportunity to discuss considering reform is foolhardy.

“We have continually argued that the question of the future of the Seanad needs to be referred to the constitutional convention.

“This should have been done from the outset, but it is not yet too late, and there are two open remit sessions left at the end of the convention which can consider the question. This is the appropriate place to consider whether we need a second chamber, what is the purpose of a second chamber, and what role could a second chamber usefully fulfil.

“It is interesting that the government was concerned by the possibility that a number of its Senators might break the whip on this matter. It is to be regretted that it is on an issue of self-interest, and their own self-preservation, that they were considering it, rather than on cuts to child benefit, the Budget or the Family Home tax or any other issue which affected ordinary people.”

Senator Cullinane also highlighted the fact that the Seanad was currently being left effectively idle, due to a lack of government legislation.

“The leader of the Seanad, Senator Maurice Cummins yesterday indicated that the office of the Attorney General was struggling due to lack of resources.

“Senator Cummins told the Seanad that there had been considerable pressure on the office in recent times and that there has been a knock-on effect in the drafting of legislation. If there is no Bill ready, I cannot bring it before the House.

“If there is a resource issue in the Attorney General’s office then that needs to be resolved. There is no end of areas where there is a need for legislation, including in reforming direct provision, legislating for collective bargaining, and reform of Employment Rights bodies.

“It is unacceptable that the Seanad would be left effectively idle, due to a lack of resources in the Attorney General’s office when there are such significant issues to deal with.”

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Speaking in the Dáil tonight during a private members bill on the fifteenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin TD for Cork East, Sandra McLellan said:

“On this the 15th anniversary of the Agreement there can be little doubt but that Equality legislation, the Equality Commission and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act have in the intervening years done a lot to end the discrimination that was in many respects the driving force behind the origins conflict.

“However, to date, the people of the north of Ireland are still waiting for the much promised Bill of Rights.

“This is particularly worrying when one considers recent figures which show a startling increase in deprivation and child poverty in large urban areas across the north.

“Indeed this is a time, when both the British and Irish governments should be actively defending the agreement, and not blocking or introducing measures that work against both the aspirations and spirit of the GFA.

“The UK government’s plan for welfare reform is a prime example of policy measures that will have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable in the north.

“Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that the Agreement has essentially brought peace to the island of Ireland.”

"However we would call on both the Irish and British governments to fulfil their obligations under the agreement and we urge them not to introduce measures that push people who are already struggling further into poverty.

"Thus while Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act is a crucial building block in ensuring justice and fairness, nonetheless a society that aspires to any notion of equality must have at its very core real and meaningful policies that deliver economic justice to all of its people."
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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking this evening during the party’s PMB on the Good Friday Agreement warned that the British government is “seriously undermining the work of the Executive and of the political institutions”.

Teachta Adams cautioned that the “Executive’s ability to demonstrate that peace can deliver real economic change is being damaged by the British government’s significant cuts” to social welfare, the block grant and the investment package announced at St. Andrew’s seven years ago.

The Sinn Féin leader described the Good Friday Agreement as “a defining moment in recent Irish history” which for the first time since partition “brought peace, stability and hope, and the opportunity for a better future for the people of this island”.

He said: “Once the political institutions were stabilised and the hard issues of policing and weapons dealt with the government here took its eye off the issue. The British Tory/Lib Dem government has also not honoured commitments as it should have.

“Consequently, there are a number of outstanding issues arising from the Good Friday Agreement, including a Bill of Rights for the north; an all-island Charter of Rights; the establishment of the North-South Consultative Forum; and the introduction of an Acht na Gaeilge (Irish language Act).

“The British Government has also failed to act on its Weston Park commitment to hold an independent inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. At the same time the securocrats continue to abuse human rights, most clearly in the continued detention of Marian Price and Martin Corey.

"Both governments have also failed to address the need for a victim centred truth and reconciliation process.

“But the greatest threat to the Agreement at this time comes from the British government.

“The decisions taken by Mr Cameron and his colleagues are seriously undermining the Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions.”

Gerry Adams pointed out that “all of the parties agreed to a significant peace dividend and investment of £18 billion at St Andrews. One of the first actions of the current British government was to renege on this commitment.

“The next action of the British government was to cut the block grant by £4 billion.

“The British Government has also refused to devolve powers on corporation tax.

"Now the Tory/Lib Dem government, in pursuit of austerity, is seeking to impose £1 billion of welfare cuts that will take millions out of the local economy and hurt disadvantaged and vulnerable families.

“This is unacceptable and Martin McGuinness recently told the British Prime Minister this very directly.

“The British government is seriously undermining the work of the Executive and of the political institutions.

“The Executive has achieved much, including £8 billion of investment and the creation of thousands of jobs through inward investment. Today Allstate announced that it will create 650 jobs in the north. That’s good work by the Executive.

“But the Executive’s ability to demonstrate that peace can deliver real economic change is being seriously damaged by the British government’s significant cuts. It must be challenged on this.

“The Irish government is a co-equal guarantor with the British government in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.

“The government needs to urgently intervene and challenge this foolish and short-sighted approach by the British government.

“It needs a strategy to keep London to its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and to remove the threat to the Executive and institutions created by its cuts agenda.”

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD called on the British government to release Marian Price and Martin Corey and he urged the Irish government to raise these cases directly with the British.

Teachta Adams said: “Marian Price has been in detention for 2 years and should be released immediately.

“She is a seriously-ill woman who has spent the majority of her time in detention in isolation.  She is being held without charge or trial or due process.

“Marian’s condition has also deteriorated in the last week. She has serious problems with her immune system and is at heightened risk of infection.  Consequently, she has been moved back to the City Hospital.

“The Irish government should seek her release. I understand the parole board is due to make a decision on her case shortly. Marian Price, like Martin Corey should be released.”

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening during topical issues, Sinn Fein TD for Cork East Sandra McLellan said:  “The death of young Vakaris Martinaltis is almost beyond belief.

“As a mother it must be absolutely shocking to find that your child has fallen out of a window and that he is seriously injured. The initial shock must then be magnified many times over by the realisation that no ambulance is available to take your child to hospital.

“The unreliable nature of the emergency services in my constituency of Cork East is now having profound consequences for children and adults who have serious injuries or illness.

“The situation has reached a crisis point and simply put, lives are now at risk as a result.

“In March of this year Minister Reilly gave an undertaking that response times would improve as a result of more effective rostering and improved training.  However the recent incidents prove that this is simply not the case.

“The people of Midleton are entitled to better. They deserve to know that if they or their children have an accident or become ill that an ambulance is available to take them to hospital.

“Not just in Cork East but right across the country people are entitled to an emergency service that is both reliable and dependable.

“I call on the Minister to conduct as a matter of urgency a review of how the reconfiguration of the ambulance and emergency services actually works for people and communities. The evidence to date would suggest that there are serious problems with the service and that people are suffering and /or dying as a result.”
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Sinn Féin MLA for North Antim and party spokesperson on Finance, Daithí McKay has stated that the Finance Ministers refusal to investigate Sinn Féin Proposals surrounding the harmonisation of fuel duty across the island of Ireland will cost local people money.

Speaking today Mr McKay said:

“Sinn Féin have placed proposals in front of the Minister for  Finance calling for  a proper assessment to be carried out into the economic impact of the harmonisation of fuel duty across the island of Ireland as a mechanism to deliver real and tangible savings.

“The proposals could deliver extra revenue which would be accrued through the reduction in losses in trade to southern counties. It would also in the long term help stabilise local economies along the border corridor  allowing for greater sustainability in economic growth.

“This would help offset any potential loss which the lowering of the northern level of fuel duty would present to the British Exchequer. Despite this the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has indicated that he has no interest in making any movement to investigate these possible savings  or indeed open a negotiation with the British treasury.

“He has clearly set his face against three areas of taxation that could make a real and immediate difference to the local economy, generate revenue and aid local people. His refusal to do so will cost local people money.

“He and his party are tied to an ideological and dogmatic position which, instead of delivering for local people, will automatically oppose anything that contains either a cross border solution to building the economy or indeed challenges the British exchequer.

“Sinn Fein are the only party that are bringing forward proposals would see a reduction in the cost of fuel to consumers, households and SME's. Other parties must now take these issues more seriously."

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Waterford Senator David Cullinane has given a guarded welcome to the publication of the Higgins Report, saying it represents some positive development, but that concerns remain about long term future of Waterford Regional Hospital.

Senator Cullinane was speaking from Leinster House today, where he noted that while some concerns remained, people power had been successful in safeguarding services.

“I believe that the report been published by the cabinet today, which was long overdue, can be given a guarded welcome.

“The report effectively recommends the breakup of the existing South East Hospital network, aligning Wexford and Kilkenny Hospitals with various Dublin Hospitals and Waterford Regional Hospital with Cork University Hospital.

“However, we have obtained a commitment to make Waterford a university teaching hospital, a commitment to 24/7 cardiology services and retention of tertiary services.

“Since I broke this news several months ago, there has been a large focus nationally on the future of the Regional Hospital.

“I believe that a combination of people power from campaigners and the work of politicians in government and opposition has made a considerable difference to the outcome.

“We haven’t got the best possible solution, but government has been forced through pressure to see difficulties with the breakup and mitigate against them.

“Our core concern throughout was the protection of tertiary services at the hospital, and in particular, cardiology, trauma care and cancer care.”

“I very much welcome the commitment to retain these, as well as the designation of the hospital as a teaching hospital, and the commitment to ensure 24/7 cardiology services.

“However, real concerns exist in relation to the breakup of the region, and what this will mean for patient care.

“We need to secure and lockdown clinical pathways from Wexford and Kilkenny hospitals to WRH. Any leak of patients to hospitals in Dublin could undermine services WRH and it would have a negative effect on patient care and safety.

“We have some concerns relating to the autonomy of the Hospital, and specifically the movement of control and management, from Waterford to Cork, and that needs to be guarded against.

“This report comes in the context of a health system which is greatly struggling, and a government health policy which is falling apart. Hospitals across state, and in particular regional hospitals are struggling with the same two-tier, inequitable health system that we had under Fianna Fáil with the same widespread health inequalities, the same excessive GP fees for people who do not fall below the very low medical card income qualification threshold, hospital waiting lists increasing, numerous beds lost and considerable loss of services, and staff.

“Any reform of the Health system has to be put in that context.

“The key priority for Waterford is the need to maintain services – the government’s words have to be backed up by actions.

“While we welcome the report, we remain concerned around long term viability of services at the hospital and we will be seeking further guarantees in the days ahead.”
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Sinn Féin MLA Sean Lynch who is also the vice chair of the Regional Development Committee has labelled the stopping of road and street works for the G8 summit completely excessive.

Speaking today Mr Lynch said:

“The request by Road Service to stop road and street works for 11 days over the G8 summit is completely excessive.

“Such a request will delay current projects, require a rescheduling across the board and provisions would have to be made as to any possible loss of earnings to contractors and their employees.

“I can understand how perhaps areas around the International Airport and the venue for the G8 may be effected but to place a six county wide moratorium on road works cannot be justified.

 “The Minster for Regional Development mustreview this decision and allow road works to continue in the vast majority of areas.”

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Giving his initial reaction to the Framework for Smaller Hospitals and the report on the establishment of Hospital Groups, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD: “These reports provide more questions than answers. Communities will look to them in vain for any definite information about the fate of their hospitals. Meanwhile this Government continues to impose cuts which hit services to patients in every hospital.

“The Framework for Smaller Hospitals claims that there has been a consultation process regarding the services to be provided in smaller hospitals. The experience of communities across this State is that there has been little or no consultation and this Government, like its predecessor, has paid little heed to the needs and wishes of the users of our hospital services.

“Health Minister James Reilly himself entered office with the promise to restore emergency service to Roscommon General Hospital still on his lips and immediately reneged on it, leading to the first ‘man overboard’ for this Government.

“Communities in Monaghan, Navan, Dundalk, Ennis, Nenagh and elsewhere have heard glowing promises about the services that will be provided in place of services taken from those hospitals. In most cases these were not fulfilled. We now have more such promises. While the framework for the services in the different levels of hospitals offers some scope for development, the question is – at what hospital sites and what will be delivered? This Government is cutting funding for health and cutting services, not enhancing them.

“The grouping of hospitals is stated to be in preparation for the establishment of Hospital Trusts. This is based on the fundamentally flawed Fine Gael model of healthcare through competing private insurers. There will be real concerns at a number of hospital sites and within whole communities on this new configuration.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, joined his party colleagues Martin Ferris TD and Michael Colreavy TD, to meet survivors of residential abuse who were protesting outside the Dáil at the lack of provision available in the Residential Statutory Fund.

Deputy O’Brien said: “The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill, 2012, was passed in Leinster House last July, despite the serious concerns put forward by Sinn Féin and others that the legislation was less than adequate to meet the needs of survivors.

“When this legislation was being debated we sought to widen the eligibility of the Fund so that any survivor of a residential care home could apply for support.

“We also submitted amendments that would have led to the establishment of separate redress Boards for the women of the Magdalene Laundries and former residents of Bethany Home; the right of survivors to avail of a once-off cash payment and a date for when the Religious Congregations would have to pay the outstanding money they owe towards the fund.

“The government’s subsequent rejection of the Sinn Féin amendments has resulted in a fund that is fundamentally flawed and unable to meet the needs of survivors where less than 15,000 people will qualify for assistance.

“Sinn Féin fully supports the efforts of the Munster Survivors Support Services who understandably see the State as failing people who suffered appalling abuse when resident in residential care homes.

"The people I met today are understandably angry and frustrated at government’s refusal to take on board their concerns.”
Caption for attached photo: Sinn Féin TD’s Jonathan O’Brien, Martin Ferris and Michael Colreavy are pictured with Ollie Burke and members of the Munster Survivors Support Services LTD at their protest today outside Leinster House.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora, Seán Crowe TD, has welcomed the decision of several major clothing brands to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Crowe raised the issue of fire and building safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories in the Dáil last week, in light of the two recent tragic incidents in Bangladeshi garment factories, which claimed the lives of over 1,100 workers.

Deputy Crowe said:

“I welcome the decision of Primark, H&M, Marks and Spencer’s, Tesco, and Inditex, which is the corporate owner of the Zara chain, and others to support and sign the Accord in Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh when it is published today. I am calling on all clothing brands with operations in Bangladesh to support this accord and sign it today.

“The accord, which was initiated by international unions and NGOs, is a binding program of fire safety reforms based on independent inspections, worker-led health and safety committees and union access to factories.

“The signatories also commit to underwrite improvements in dangerous factories and properly confront fire safety and structural problems, and the accord also importantly grants workers the right to refuse dangerous work or work in unsafe conditions.

“The Rana Plaza building collapse on April 24, which claimed over 1,100 lives, and the separate factory fire which killed 8 workers last Thursday, appalled people the world over.

“While it is important the Bangladeshi Government’s instigates reforms to improve the working conditions and rights of workers in the country, there also needs to be action from the private sector, but self-regulation wasn’t working.

“When I spoke on the issue in the Dáil last week, I drew a comparison with the Stardust tragedy in Dublin. This tragic event showed that self-regulation doesn’t work and that there is a critical need for strong regulation and a pro-active safety regime, to improve the fire and safety of buildings.

“In the Irish Government’s new development policy paper for Irish Aid they gave a strong commitment to ensure they would work toward the fulfilment of human rights, including promoting decent work, around the world. It also contained a commitment to work with Irish companies to help promote good development and human rights practice.

“The government must stick to this important commitment. Decent work and workers’ rights are a key element in improving people’s health, reducing inequality, and instigating development and building a fairer society.”

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