Figures released to Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD show that in 2015 and up to the 30th June 2016 over half of the total reimbursement costs made by the HSE under the cross-border healthcare directive were for treatments and services accessed in the North.
Deputy O’Reilly said:
“In the 18 months to 30th June 2016, the HSE reimbursed €659,245.09 for treatments and services in the North under the cross-border healthcare directive. This represented 277 people.
“Sinn Féin believes healthcare must be developed on an all-Ireland basis. We should move from increased cooperation to ultimately full integration of services on the island, maximising the healthcare benefits for all and achieving greater economies of scale. The fact that the majority of reimbursements under the scheme are for treatments being accessed across the border shows a demand for the integration of services and systems.
“Indeed, in the past decade there have been developments in health cooperation between the Assembly and Leinster House, with a number of exciting joint departmental projects being developed. However, the result of the Brexit referendum is deeply worrying for the future of this cooperation and access to services and treatments. While we do not accept that the Government should be reliant on the outsourcing of services and surgeries to other jurisdictions, the reality is that cross-border cooperation and integration of health services on this island should be developed. We would see economies of scale and services would have critical mass to be introduced, developed and enhanced.
“For example, the new children's hospital will have a state of the art cancer centre, which will service children across the whole island. However, this needs a critical mass of population to be effective and expert briefings have pointed out that this is envisaged as operating on an all island basis.
“Brexit poses an enormous threat and further inconvenience to those patients accessing services where long waiting lists exist; orthopaedics and orthodontics being the most common. If the cross-border directive is no longer applicable to the North post-Brexit, this will create an even greater vacuum in the delivery of health services and put more pressures on our over-burdened health service.
“Minister Simon Harris needs to engage with the Minister of Health in the Assembly as a matter of urgency to ensure that current and future cross border projects are maintained and secured for the future. Illness, disease and health know no borders and these figures demonstrate that people are willing to travel for vital services and treatments when they are needed. It is a logical step to integrate services, particularly in those areas where there are deficiencies and demands here.”
Figures released to Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD show that since the cross-border healthcare directive was transposed in Ireland in 2014, 535 people have accessed the scheme up to 30th June 2016, with 371 of those in the first six months of this year alone. Of note, is that orthopaedic and orthodontic treatments are the most common services being sought in other jurisdictions.
Deputy O’Reilly said:
“These figures are symptomatic of a worrying crisis in our health system- lengthening waiting lists and the inability to access treatments and services in a timely fashion. Indeed, the failure to tackle issues around access, capacity, funding and resources in our health service leave people reliant on schemes like the cross-border directive to get access to the health services they need.
"From the announcement of his five point plan to tackle waiting lists, it became clear that Minister Harris intends to utilise the National Treatment Purchase Fund as the solution to this deepening problem. However, outsourcing of the problem is not a long term solution, whether through the NTPF or the cross-border directive, and privatising more healthcare will simply not work.
“While I do welcome the fact that patients are getting access to treatments more quickly through use of the cross-border directive, especially in orthopaedic and orthodontic services where there is a serious and grave deficiency of treatments, as well as lengthening waiting lists, this is no replacement for the resourcing and funding of our own public health services to meet the demand. Indeed, it would appear we are paying for the services anyway so these resources would be better targeted at developing, enhancing and growing the services that are so direly needed here.
“We see currently the Government’s plans to pour more money into private activity to temporarily reduce waiting lists, but they do not sufficiently resource frontline services to meaningfully deal with the causes of the crisis. We believe that their five point plan will fail.
“Previous waiting list initiatives had a localised or short-term effect but failed to challenge the structural inequality. This cannot be allowed to continue. That is why Sinn Féin proposed ‘Comhliosta’ – a new system to deal with hospital waiting lists.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has condemned te vandalism of graves in Belfast City Cemetery.
The West Belfast MP said;
"The vandalism of Jewish graves in Belfast City Cemetery was wrong and I condemn it totally.
"Visiting cemeteries can bring great comfort to grieving relatives and friends and it it would be very distressing for anyone to have the grave of a loved one desecrated in this way.
"All graves and graveyards should be treated with respect.
"Anyone with information on this incident should bring it forward to the PSNI."
Reacting to reports on the content of the HSE Draft Report on the findings of the Independent Review into services at Áras Attracta in Co. Mayo and chaired by Dr. Kevin McCoy, Sinn Féín spokesperson on Disability Rights and Older People Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed what he describes as the "apparently thorough and professionally honest reflection of the dreadful regime that has been in place at Áras Attracta."
Deputy Ó Caoláin stated;
"While not having had personal sight of the content of the Draft Report I note and welcome the media reports that the review has been forthright in its findings, confirming the already broadly established facts regarding the Áras Attracta care home.
"The key findings of weak governance and low staff morale suggest to me that Dr. McCoy has produced an apparently thorough and professionally honest reflection of the dreadful regime that has been in place at Áras Attracta. It is crucial that the lessons that must be learned from the exposure of the poor standards of care and oversight at this HSE facility are applied to all care settings, whether the residents are older people or people with intellectual disabilities.
“Those who most need our care and support must never again be let down as shown in the disgraceful case of Áras Attracta. I look forward to the publication of the Review Report scheduled for 6th September" concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has described the news that Frankie & Benny's is to close its Coleraine outlet as a blow to the town.
Ms Archibald said:
"News that Frankie & Benny's is to close its outlet in Coleraine is a blow the the town.
"Those employed by the restaurants in Coleraine and elsewhere will rightly be concerned about the closure.
"The loss of these jobs would be a significant blow to the Coleraine area and the local economy.
"Management should ensure that staff are kept informed of developments and opportunities for relocation or redeployment should be offered if possible."
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Disability Rights and Older People Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as "discriminatory and unacceptable" the decision by the Department of Justice and Equality to limit direct engagement opportunities for disability service users and their families in the next phase of public consultation on the new Disability Inclusion Strategy 2016-2020, to venues in Dublin, Cork and Tullamore.
The long serving Sinn Féin Dáil Deputy, who is now Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, is calling on Minister Frances Fitzgerald to intervene with the Equality Division in her Department to extend the venue opportunities to locations in the West, North-West and North-East border counties.
Deputy Ó Caoláin stated;
"That the Department of Justice and Equality in their continuing preparation of a new Disability Inclusion Strategy would limit their direct engagement provision for people with disabilities and their families to venues in Cork, in Dublin and in Tullamore in Co. Offaly is discriminatory and is unacceptable.
"There is no doubt in my mind that many people with disabilities, and those who care for and support them in their lives, will not be able to travel long journeys to access and participate in this consultative process. While they can forward written submissions, I believe many would appreciate the chance to offer their insights, experiences and expectations for the new strategy in person.
"Why the Department with responsibility for Equality would so spectacularly limit the opportunity for direct participation by people with disabilities, and others who would have a contribution to make to the process, beggars belief.
"Why is there not a venue opportunity in the West of Ireland? Why is there not a venue opportunity in the North-West? Why is there not a venue opportunity in the border counties of the North-East?
"I have today written to the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD urging her immediate intervention to ensure a more accessible spread of meeting locations and dates, the three already set all scheduled in the month of October. I would hope that Minister Fitzgerald will accept the validity of my concerns and criticism and will act accordingly and without delay" concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has extended his condolences to the family of Peter Barry, former Tánaiste, Minister, and Ard Mhéara of Cork.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said:
“Peter Barry gave many years of dedicated public service to the people of Cork, at a local and National level; firstly as a TD for Cork South East, later for Cork South Central, and as Tánaiste, Minister, and also Ard Mhéara.
“He was a committed political representative, well regarded by the people of Cork, as well as making a considerable contribution to the Business life of the City.
“I wish to extend my sympathies and condolences to his daughter Deirdre, and his wider family.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has expressed condolences following the death of a 13 year-old boy in a motorcross accident in Magilligan.
The East Derry MLA said:
"The community is in shock following the tragic death of a 13 year-old boy.
"My thoughts are with his family and friends of this at this difficult and sad time."
Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has said comprehensive reform of the prison service has yet to be completed.
Speaking after the Director General of the Prison Service announced her intention to resign in October, the Sinn Féin justice spokesperson said;
"Sue McAllister has been integral to the implementation of the prison reform programme outlined in the Anne Ower report of 2011.
"Comprehensive reform of the Northern prison system has still to be completed. The management and operation of the local penal system continues to face major challenges.
"It is essential that there is now a smooth transition to the appointment of a new Director General for the prisons' service.
"The Ower Report defined the template to ensure all prisoners and staff within the system are treated with dignity and respect.
"The successful appointee to the position of Director General must be fully committed to the completion of comprehensive prison reform in the North."
Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, has urged Local Authority housing applicants in the South Dublin County Council area to respond to the Housing Needs Assessment form or face losing their place on the housing list.
Crowe believes that this particular year there is a new dimension and added difficulty for some of the people on the housing waiting lists who are not computer literate as they now have to fill out the Council form online.
South Dublin County Council intends to write to each housing applicant on its Social Housing List prior to 21st September 2016 using the current address they have on file for each applicant. The onus is on the applicant to inform the Council if they have changed their address and every year huge numbers are removed for not responding to assessment letter, with many claiming they never got the letter.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“South Dublin County Council is once again commencing its annual Housing Needs Assessment.
“Once again the Council propose to write to each housing applicant on its Social Housing List prior to 21 September 2016 and will use the current address they have on file for each applicant.
“Every year huge numbers of people lose their place on the housing list by not notifying the Council of their change of address. If someone has subsequently moved address the onus is on the applicant to inform them of any changes.
“The very real danger is they may not get the letter about this yearly assessment and subsequently lose their place in the queue or get removed altogether from the housing application list. This, in my experience, happens to applicants every single year.
“I would advise anyone who has moved address to notify the Council as they could have their application for social housing terminated.
“This could also have implications for applicants receiving a rental support, as it may be cut. An applicant has to be on a local authority housing list to continue to receive a rental support.
“This year, each applicant will be asked to complete an online form and provide documentary evidence of any changes in their circumstances and return this information to South Dublin County Council.
“I would urge people to simply do just that.
“Anyone who fails to return the housing needs assessment within the specified time allocated, may see their application for social housing support terminated.
“There is clearly a need for an up-to-date live register for South Dublin County Council to assess its housing needs but I would be extremely concerned that this does not change and turn into a cull of the housing list.
“People need to be given sufficient time to return their forms and extra support needs to be given to applicants who are not computer literate.
“Finally, I would advise everyone who is currently on the housing waiting list, whether they have changed address or not, to contact the Council and clarify that their information is correct prior to the roll out of this process.”
Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Sinn Féin Seanad Spokesperson on Agriculture said “with the ending of milk quotas in March 2015 after 31 years in place, farmers were promised a market of new opportunities with big income opportunities to follow”.
The European Council yesterday voted in Brussels to implement a €500M aid package for farmers in the livestock industry. This will particularly support farmers affected by low milk prices. The Senator from Donegal said that there must be a “swift delivery of this scheme and others for farmers throughout the state”.
Speaking following the vote, Senator Mac Lochlainn said:
“What in fact happened was the collapse of exports to Russia due to the import ban. This led to huge oversupply of milk and dairy products throughout the EU and left farmers producing at a price well below the cost of production.
“I welcome Minister Creed’s commitment to begin implementation of the scheme at national level. Minister Creed has also said advance payments are planned for October and I too welcome this measure which will ease cashflow problems for farmers.
“My worry is that we have seen problems with the delivery of the BPS, ANC and Tams scheme already this Autumn. The IFA have called for prompt implementation of this scheme with urgent availability of application forms before the deadline of 20th September. They have further called for a low cost, short term loan scheme to be set to alleviate the cash flow problems farmers are facing.
“I fully agree with the IFA’s calls and will be engaging with the Department of Agriculture to ensure the swift delivery of this scheme and others for farmers throughout the state.”
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin North West, Dessie Ellis, said that “Greyhound waste management company is leading Minister Coveney and their customers on a merry dance in relation to their price plans”.
Deputy Ellis highlighted the fact that some customers will have to pay twice in one calendar year for a yearly contract with Greyhound, going against the agreement to postpone proposed bin hikes in June.
Deputy Ellis said:
“In a reply to a Parliamentary Question that I asked last month, the Minister said that Greyhound’s approach is “out of step with the arrangements made by other collectors in the industry”. The Minister also said that he was “informed that a large number of customers have already been in contact with the company to indicate that they wish to retain their current price plan arrangements”.
"While this is true, it denies the reality for the majority of their customers. in terms of fees. The company in question is crediting customer accounts for fees pre-paid for the period after 1 July 2016, while at the same time requesting customers to enter a new annual contract from 1st August 2016.
“By crediting customers again on August 1st, Greyhound are not charging extra, but the result of this is that customers will have to pay twice in one calendar year for a yearly contract.
“So in reality, any customer who paid their yearly charge last January now needs to enter another yearly contact in August, and pay now to continue their current plan - which they are compelled to honour until August 2017. More importantly it places a burden on those who can’t afford to pay.
“With no option for instalments or no bin waiver, many people including pensioners who have budgeted and paid their waste charges for the year last January, now have to find another sum of money to stay on their existing plan and cannot shop around for a better price.
“As the Minister said in his answer to me, this approach is out of step with other collectors. I would contend therefore that it is out of step with the spirt of the agreement entered into with the Minister himself.
“What have Greyhound to do to force the Minister to act to stamp out these sharp and customer unfriendly practices? It’s time the Minister called Greyhound to heel and force them to engage properly in the agreement agreed in June. “
Sinn Féin’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Seán Crowe TD, has expressed concern at Turkey’s recent military actions into Syria.
Turkish warplanes, tanks and Special Forces crossed the border into Syria in the last couple of days to launch attacks, supposedly on an ISIS held Syrian border town. Crowe believes this escalation is a precursor to attacking Kurdish militants in the region.
Deputy Crowe said:
“Daesh or ISIS is a genocidal and sectarian armed force that needs to be removed from any territory it controls. That is widely agreed, but Turkey’s recent invasion and attacks in Syria supposedly under the pretext of battling Daesh is fooling nobody.
“Turkey is clearly more worried about the advance and successes of Kurdish militants and using Daesh as a cover to invade Syria.
“Kurdish militants are undoubtedly the biggest bulwark against the spread of Daesh and have made significant advances in recent months right across Syria and Iraq.
“Earlier this year, the Turkish army tried to prevent the relief of the Kurdish town of Kobane and sat in tanks while Daesh tried to slaughter the civilian population.
“Just this week, a Kurdish wedding party in Turkey was attacked by a Daesh suicide bomber and 54 innocent civilians were killed.
“Yet this week, Turkey uses Daesh as a cover to invade Syria as precursor to ultimately attack Kurdish rebel held positions in northern Syria.
“We don’t know how long Turkey intends to stay in Syria, how far into the territory they intend to proceed, their military plan or political goals, or if they intend to put extremist surrogates in place to hold any land area.
“Whatever the outcome, this Turkish military offensive will undoubtedly add to further conflict and destabilisation in this already volatile region.
“The Turkish army are not seen in any way as liberators. They add and are part of the overall problem, they are certainly not a solution to Daesh, extremism, or the conflict in the region.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills, Teachta Carol Nolan, has called on the government to act to resolve the accommodation crisis facing thousands of students.
Teachta Nolan said:
“A report compiled by the Higher Education Authority in 2015 estimates that there is an unmet demand of about 25,000 student bed spaces, which has a significant impact on the private rental sector.
“The latest Daft research highlights the very real difficulties facing students as the average rent under the rent-a- room scheme has risen in all urban centres, the average nationwide rent is at an all-time high of €1,037 per month and there are 20% fewer properties available to rent than this time last year.
“A recent survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions shows that 67% of students are extremely worried about sourcing student accommodation, while USI research shows that 58% of students have been forced to skip meals while 25.4% have sought help from the Students’ Union, St Vincent de Paul or food banks in order to meet the costs associated with college, including increased rents.
“There have been a number of proposals put forward to address the student accommodation crisis, including making funding available to third level institutions through the Housing Finance Agency or the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund in order to build student accommodation.
“Meanwhile, this government has provided little more than soundbites and a weak promise to develop a strategy in 2017 to deal with the issue.
“Students cannot afford to wait another year for this government to even start to think about addressing the shortfall of student accommodation and urgent action is needed now to prevent this crisis from escalating even further in future years.”
Sinn Féin TD for Louth and Meath East, Imelda Munster, has expressed her shock and disappointment at the news this evening that eBay is closing its operations in Louth with an estimated loss of 150 jobs.
It was known that the plant in Dundalk may have to close, but it was understood that the company was actively seeking new premises. It now appears that after a review by eBay of its operations in Ireland, these jobs have been lost and no new location will open.
Deputy Munster said:
“I am saddened to hear that not only is eBay pulling out of Dundalk and Louth, but that there will be no alternative location opened in order to save these jobs. This is the worst possible news for the workers and their families. The government needs to intervene to try to find a solution to this.”
Deputy Munster spoke to Mary Mitchell-O'Connor, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation this afternoon, and asked her whether she intended to intervene in the matter.
In conclusion, Deputy Munster said:
“This is a huge loss to Dundalk and to Co. Louth. I hope that the Minister intervenes to protect and keep these existing jobs in Louth.”
Responding to reports that eBay is set to close its Dundalk base in 2017, Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams said it was dreadful news for the staff of eBay and their families and that he would be making representations to them to consider employing workers from eBay.
Deputy Adams said:
“This is dreadful news for the staff of eBay and their families. I have spoken to the Minister for Jobs, Mary Mitchell O'Connor today and I encouraged her and her Department to engage with the workers to ensure that they are fairly treated.
“The fact that eBay has decided to cease its Dundalk operations completely is very worrying. The loss of these jobs will reverberate throughout the local economy. I understand that Paypal may be expanding their operations in Dundalk and I will be making representations to them to consider employing workers from eBay.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Brian Stanley TD, has indicated his support for an expansion of the services provided by Ireland’s Post office network.
Deputy Stanley spoke after meeting with representatives of An Post and the Communication Workers Union.
“The success of the recent pilot scheme between post offices in Credit Unions demonstrates the scope for bringing additional financial services to our post office network, and there is no reason why this scheme could not be rolled out nationwide.
“We have an opportunity to increase our use of the Post office network. The technology exists to provide a network that is fully computerized and linked to rural Ireland. The post office network is already equipped to do more business.
“Giving post offices the ability to sell insurance, process motor tax, and conduct individual banking services would secure their position in the community.
“It is crucial however that the government does not continue to encourage business away from Post offices by directing people to have welfare payments paid directly into bank accounts.
“Currently the majority of business conducted by An Post is government related and many would struggle to survive without this business. The social cost to small towns and villages of losing a post office needs to be factored in.
“An Post is unique in semi-state companies of having no state support, despite having a reach into every parish.
“Whilst the network is being challenged by modern changes we still have the ability to preserve this service into the future.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said comments made by a former head of the civil service about West Belfast revealed as archive papers are releases will not surprise people in the area.
The West Belfast MP said:
"The comments made by the then head of the civil service in 1987 about West Belfast will come as no surprise to anyone who lives in the area.
"They are indicative of the attitude of the NIO and British government to West Belfast for decades.
"West Belfast was subjected to a systematic campaign of state-sponsored violence and murder and was starved of funding and investment for many years in an attempt to keep the community down.
"Attempts were made to turn West Belfast into a ghetto and to criminalise and demonise its people.
"Those days are gone and are not coming back. While problems still exist as a result of the legacy of decades of underinvestment, West Belfast has been transformed since power was taken from the hands of unelected and unaccountable civil servants.
"Sinn Féin have led this transformation and continue to work daily to for the people of West Belfast and to challenge discrimination and injustice."
Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the Oireachtas Finance Committee decision to hold a number of meetings throughout September on the motor insurance issue. Deputy Doherty had previously written to the Committee seeking that the insurance issue be dealt with as soon as possible.
“I am delighted that the Finance Committee will now meet throughout September to discuss this issue. I recently wrote to the Chair calling for this to be prioritised and my suggestion that the Committee take on this work won unanimous Dáil support in June.
“The working group set up by the Department of Finance has very belatedly begun its work on identifying the reason for the cost increases. I believe if we move swiftly, the Committee can complement this work. It is my understanding that the Committee will invite a very wide range of experts and industry actors as well as campaigners into the Committee to hear all sides.
“Each day that passes more and more drivers are landed with excessive quotes of up to two or three times their last premium without any explanation. There are fundamental issues that need to be looked at because the industry’s excuses simply don’t add up. I look forward to putting forward Sinn Féin’s ideas on how to tackle this crisis.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said information he has received from the Department of Finance under Freedom of Information shows that the plans by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to phase out the Universal Social Charge have been slated by Department officials as “regressive”, “base narrowing” and would have “limited benefits” because so many would gain nothing.
In the correspondence provided to Deputy Doherty, a range of alternative revenue sources are outlined including a 600% increase in property tax, a 5% increase in both income tax bands, increasing Corporation Tax to 19.5%, and a 5% VAT rate on children shoes and other previously 0% rated items.
Speaking today, Deputy Doherty said;
“This is the information that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were not telling us about during the recent general election which was fought on this issue. Department of Finance official briefings from February show very clearly that the move to abolish or phase out USC would be regressive, narrow the tax base and disproportionately favour the better off. An example is given of how a minimum wage earner would gain €316, while a high earner with an income of €150,000 would gain over €9,500.
“Sinn Féin argued strongly that the USC could not be phased out completely as it would leave a massive €4 billion gap in public finances. Today, we learn that the Department presented to the Minister several options to replace this income. These include a 600% increase in Local Property Tax, increasing Corporation Tax to 19.5%, and a 5% VAT rate on children shoes and other previously 0% rated items and a 5% income tax increase to both rates. In each case these options were only part of the proposal.
“Sinn Fein argue that those on the lowest incomes should be protected from USC while investment is needed to fix our health and housing crises. The scale of investment that will not be made because of a commitment to carry out what the Department of Finance has called ‘regressive’ and favouring the better off is now clear from the shocking options that were presented.
“The correspondence provided to me by the Department of Finance proves Sinn Féin’s case. It is simply not realistic that the USC could be phased out completely without major tax increases or a complete neglect of investment.
“Finance Minister Michael Noonan must face up to that fact now as we enter the most crucial phase of budget planning. This budget should be about investment in public services such as health, housing and education while protecting the lowest earners in society from the USC. Any party now proposing the phasing out or abolition of the USC must explain whether it will neglect public services or let the public know which one of the hugely hurtful tax options it will implement to replace the lost revenue.
“Minister Noonan should also outline why this information was not included in the brief he published after the government was appointed.” ENDS
Note: Please see attached the FOI document in question