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Massive crowd in Dublin for Right2Water rally

Some of the sights and sounds of today's massive Right2Water rally on Dublin's O'Connell Street this afternoon (March 21).  Reports that up to 80,000 people from all across Ireland traveled to attend.

Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has said documents released today by Sinn Féin clearly show the DUP acted in bad faith over the Welfare Reform Bill.


"If the DUP want to strip benefits from children with disabilities, from adults with severe disabilities, the long-term sick; or push children further into poverty, then they need to explain and justify that. Sinn Féin certainly will not accept that approach." - Martin McGuinness 



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Sinn Féin spokesperson on health and children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has welcomed the Taoiseach’s confirmation today that the Children’s Rights referendum will take place on a Saturday.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said his party awaits the publication of the wording of the referendum and hopes it will be in line with the wording agreed by the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children.

Speaking this afternoon Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“I welcome the Taoiseach’s confirmation today that the referendum will take place on a Saturday. Sinn Féin has consistently called for weekend elections and referenda in recognition of the opportunity such a scenario provides for students and people working away from home.

“My party awaits the publication of the wording of the referendum and hopes that it will be in line with the wording agreed by the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children.”

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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said that there is still a window of opportunity for a resolution to the Ulster Covenant parade past St Patrick’s Church and Carrickhill on Saturday 29th September.

Gerry Kelly was speaking after leading a Sinn Féin delegation to meet the Parades Commission this morning.

Gerry Kelly said:

“We had a frank and comprehensive discussion around all issues with the Parades Commission and pressed upon them the need to be consistent and resolute in their determinations.

“There is then a requirement for the PSNI and the PPS to deal with any breeches of determinations or sectarian behaviour.”

“However, a window of opportunity exits to find a resolution to this issue but it takes the Orange Order to enter face-to-face talks with the Carrickhill residents.

“I support Fr Michael Sheehan’s sentiments when he said that he was ‘bewildered’ that the Carrickhill Concerned Residents have been excluded from the conversations.

“Any talks to find a resolution that doesn’t involve those directly affected by the parade has little chance of reaching an accommodation suitable to all.

“Mutual respect dictates that there needs to be face-to-face conversations between the Orange Order and the Carrichill residents.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on the Environment, Community & Local Government Brian Stanley TD, has today claimed that the actions of Clare County Council “are punitive, discriminatory and illegal.”

Speaking in the Dáil during this afternoon’s Question Time, Deputy Stanley demanded that the Minister for Environment Phil Hogan, “reverse the cuts in the Local Government Fund and restore adequate funding for local democracy and the provision of Council services to our citizens and communities.

“It is outrageous for a minister to slash the funding for local government in mid-year, significantly reducing the allocation signalled at the start of the year. It typifies the slash and burn approach of this Government.

“The minister introduced the doomed Household Charge and then followed this by cutting local government funding, forcing local authority officials to demand proof from college grant applicants that their families paid the Household Charge.

“We received legal advice this morning. We are confident that the actions of Clare County Council are not only punitive but are illegal. The grant applicant is not responsible for payment of the household charge therefore cannot be punished for its non-payment. The information sought is an irrelevant consideration. We are confident that the action of Clare County Council’s would be deemed unlawful by the High Court.

“Minister Hogan should stop condoning this bully boy behaviour and instruct local authorities to desist.”

In conclusion Deputy Stanley said, “I have written to the Ceann Comhairle seeking a full debate on the matter tomorrow.”

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that cuts at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda which a senior clinician has described as “appalling” must not go ahead as patients’ lives will be put at risk.

Lead Clinician at the Lourdes, Michael Staunton, in a letter to the HSE says that the cuts to intensive care and operating theatres could lead to “increased morbidity and mortality of critically ill patients”.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“When the HSE announced its ban on overtime and the use of agency staff it was warned that front-line services would be gravely compromised. The letter from Lead Clinician and Consultant Anaesthetist at the Lourdes Hospital, Michael Staunton, confirms this warning.

“The cuts in the Lourdes will mean the closure of 16 in-patient beds, closure of day ward beds at night and at weekends, closure of one operating theatre for 5 to 6 weeks, closure of one Intensive Care Unit bed, reduced opening hours for the Acute Medical Assessment Unit, closure of beds in Louth County Hospital, Dundalk for ‘clinically discharged’ patients from the Lourdes.

“In his letter Mr Staunton makes clear that the cuts will have a very serious effect on the Intensive Care Unit and on operating theatres. In both cases services will be significantly reduced for patients and may have the effect of ‘increased morbidity and mortality of critically ill patients’.

“The Lourdes is the main acute hospital in the North East region covering Counties Louth, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and also accepting many patients from North Dublin. For these cuts to proceed would be to put the lives and health of people in this region at risk. I will be raising this in tonight’s Dáil debate on the motion of no confidence in Health Minister James Reilly and demand that the cuts should not proceed.” ENDS

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has announced that, following a public consultation, she has decided to retain the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) structure.

The AWB sets minimum rates of pay and conditions for workers in the agriculture and horticulture sectors, including a large proportion of migrant workers.

Making her announcement, the Minister said: “In November last year I launched a public consultation on a Review of the Agricultural Wages Board structure and following its conclusion I gave careful consideration to the responses received. I believe the decision I have now reached is in the best interests of agricultural workers here.

“As I have said previously, I firmly believe that the AWB structure is a valuable forum for wage negotiations and importantly is used as a benchmark for the wider agri-food industry.

“The AWB guarantees fair pay and conditions for agricultural workers. It will now continue to protect the rights of low paid agricultural workers, including migrant workers, here by ensuring enforceable employment conditions which I believe can only have a positive impact on the sustainability of the rural economy. "

In conclusion she added: “As we try to grow the economic potential of the agri-food sector in these difficult times, it is essential that workers in this industry are both protected and have the skills, not only to help the sector flourish but to encourage others to consider a career within it.”

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After a number of meetings with the SDLP in the past number of days we have agreed a motion to put to the Assembly next week seeking to censure the DSD Minister Nelson McCausland following his repeated failure to condemn the illegal activity conducted by loyalist bands outside St. Patrick’s Church.

 Speaking today Assembly Group leader Raymond McCartney said:

“Every right thinking person who watched the sectarian scenes played out outside St. Patrick church both on the Twelfth and again on the last Saturday could not have come to any other conclusion that the determinations issued by the Parades Commission had been deliberately breached with the intent of causing offence to the community and parishioners of St. Patrick’s.

“In the aftermath rather than stand on the side of the law and the Parades Commission the DSD Minister Nelson McCausland repeatedly failed to condemn the sectarian behaviour of the bands and their supporters.

“His behaviour as well as being an abdication of political leadership was a breach of his Ministerial Code. It is right that the Assembly should debate this matter and we have agreed a text of a motion with the SDLP which will allow that to happen.”

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Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien TD said he is “appalled and shocked” at the decision of Clare County Council to seek proof from college grant applicants that they or their families had paid the Household Charge.

The Cork North Central TD criticised Education Minister Ruairí Quinn for describing the actions of the Clare council as “reasonable” and for suggesting other councils might introduce similar measures.

Deputy O’Brien continued: “The decision by Clare County Council to vet third level applicants is likely to breach of the rights of applicants to be independently assessed for a grant. It is yet another attempt at coercing hard pressed families into paying a grossly unfair charge that many have withheld on a point of principle.

“Increasing numbers of third level students from low and middle income families already face significant barriers when attempting to accessing higher education and for Clare County Council to make processing grants conditional on paying the Household Charge is quite simply shocking.

“With today’s recommencement of the sitting of the Dáil, Sinn Féin will be challenging Minister Quinn and his government colleague Environment Minister Phil Hogan on this matter, which is yet another example of the bully boy tactics that has characterised their efforts to enforce this indiscriminate tax.”

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has praised the role that the Food Business Incubation Centre, at Loughry Campus, is playing to support the local agri-food sector.

The Centre, which aims to support new and existing food processing businesses to commercialise and grow new ideas, continues to grow from strength to strength.

Speaking after a tour of the centre in which the Minister met with a number of the tenants, she said: “The fact that this Centre’s eight specialised units are now 100% occupied reflects the continued interest and positivity within the food sector.

“The Centre provides companies with a self contained individual unit comprising intake, production and despatch areas, chill and ambient storage and segregated changing rooms. It has, over the years, become a vital resource to many small business starting off in the agri-food sector and also for those who wish to explore the potential of new products to take to market.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Francie Molloy has called on the Environment Minister to speed up the planning process as the delay is holding back the creation of much-needed jobs.

The Mid-Ulster MLA said:

“The planning process is far too long drawn out and it is stifling the creation of new jobs in the Mid Ulster area.

“One new factory in Mid-Ulster which is now two years with the Planning Office could immediately create 70 new jobs but the planning process is holding it back

“This factory would be built on a brown-field site and the demand for new factory space in the area in not reflected in the planning process.

“These delays, the fact that it takes two years for a planning application to be decided upon while people are suffering from a lack of employment opportunities are unacceptable.

“I call on the Environment Minister Alex Attwood to come forward and explain the lengthy delay in cases like this and to do something to rectify it.”

Videos

Massive crowd in Dublin for Right2Water rally


Photos

Sinn Féin Dublin South West