Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture, food and the marine Martin Kenny TD has said that the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme was a vital support for farming in the Northwest and it is essential that it be maintained and improved to protect the future of the family farm in the region.
Speaking in Leitrim today, Deputy Kenny said:
“The farm in Ireland is more than an economic unit, it is essential to the social fabric of our society. It is also the unit of production from which high quality Irish agri-food produce emerges.
"Many farmers, however, are working under natural constraints which means that making a living on their land needs more work and effort. This is what the ANC scheme was set up to address.
“It is important that farming is made a more viable enterprise than forestry if rural Ireland is to have a future.
“There is a review of areas of natural constraint coming soon. It has been postponed but not cancelled. Sinn Féin believes that the review should be an opportunity to improve the scheme and ensure that it provides meaningful support to those for whom it was originally designed, the farmers
“Sinn Féin is proposing that the Mountain Type Land designation would remain and that those farming on the hills would receive payments similar to those on the offshore islands.
“We would aim for payments on Mountain Type Lands of €250 on the first 20 hectares, €200 on the next ten and €70 on the final ten hectares to a maximum of 40 hectares. This would mean a maximum payment of €7,700 per holding.
“More severely constrained lowland would still be eligible for payments of €170 on the first 20 hectares, €100 on the next ten and €70 on the next ten, amounting to a maximum of €5,100.
"Meanwhile, less severely constrained lowlands would still be eligible for payments up to €3,400, based on €100 for the first 20 hectares and €70 on the next 20.
“We believe that this would cushion farmers proportionally to the constraints under which they are working and provide support where necessary for the basic unit of Irish farming, the family farm.”
Sinead Ennis, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Culture, Arts and Sport, called for a cross-party approach to press the Department of Education to reverse controversial cuts to the Sports Development Grant.
Speaking following a meeting alongside Barry McElduff MP with the GAA Ulster Council, the South Down MLA urged parties to come together and jointly tackle the cuts affecting over 30,000 children.
Sinead Ennis said:
“The intended cuts to the Sports Development Grant will have a severely damaging impact on sporting projects and the thousands of children who benefit from this funding in their local schools.
“The impact will be felt across our society, and this is an issue which has clearly animated several political parties who have been vocal in their opposition.
“This cut is the most recent symptom of relentless Tory austerity, enabled by the unconditional support from the DUP.
“In recent weeks we have very clear made our opposition to this and other education cuts to senior departmental officials. We will continue to do so and to relate the concerns of organisations in the sport and community sector.
“As a cross-community issue with a real impact on the lives of young athletes and on the health and wellbeing of children, I urge all parties to embrace a unified and common-sense approach by lobbying the Department of the Education to reverse these cuts.
Sinn Féin South Dublin County Councillor Enda Fanning has urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to act now in sending a strong message of support to Ibrahim Halawa by meeting President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and visiting Ibrahim in prison.
Speaking on the eve of the fourth anniversary of Halawa’s detention, Cllr. Fanning said:
“Tomorrow, a constituent of mine from Firhouse, Ibrahim Halawa, will have spent four years of his young life in a foreign prison for no valid reason. In 2013, Ibrahim was arrested aged only 17, along with his sisters, for engaging in their democratic right to protest peacefully. Despite being arrested at the same time and for the same reason, his sisters were released a few months later but Ibrahim has been detained ever since. It should be noted that Amnesty International has deemed Ibrahim to be an innocent prisoner of conscience.
“For four years now, the Irish government has engaged in a softly, softly approach when dealing with the Egyptian government concerning Ibrahim’s incarceration. I believe, after four years, we can now safely say that their approach has failed dismally. Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan constantly reiterated that that was their position and, four years later, they have both moved on while Ibrahim still languishes in a prison cell.
“At this stage, there is no indication that the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has even spoken to President Sisi since coming into office and there is a concern that he and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney will simply continue with the non-interventionist strategy of their predecessors.
“I am now calling on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to send a strong message of support to Ibrahim by seeking an immediate meeting with President Sisi to discuss Ibrahim’s situation and to visit Ibrahim while in Egypt. At the very least, the Taoiseach should now be demanding Ibrahim’s release on bail. It is time, four years on, for the Irish government to show that it has a proactive plan of action when it comes to Ibrahim's release and that it will no longer await the completion of what is an extremely dubious mass trial.”
Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson Brian Stanley TD has said that with China, the destination for most of Ireland’s recyclable waste, due to stop taking many types of recycling material by the end of the year the emphasis is placed even further on the glaring need to reduce waste at source.
Deputy Stanley said that action is needed on this instead of pushing the burden onto householders and having large volumes of waste shipped abroad.
The Laois TD said:
“China has notified the World Trade Organisation that it intends to ban taking plastics and unsorted paper by year’s end. With 87% of Europe’s plastic waste going to China, this decision will hit many European states, including Ireland.
“The changes made to household waste charges by government in June this year accounted in no way for waste reduction. We need to put an obligation on producers to reduce packaging instead of passing on the burden to the householder to pay for packaging disposal. We need a different approach.
“In the first instance, we must tackle waste at source and reduce the massive volumes of waste being produced by manufacturers and wholesalers. I introduced a Bill in July on the introduction of a deposit recycling scheme for plastic containers, similar schemes exist across many European countries.
“What is being ignored is the concept of ‘reduce and reuse’. Reduction at source is key as currently people are paying twice. They pay for a product and then pay for the disposal of its packaging. There is a conveyor belt of waste that will not stop unless the producer is forced to reduce the amount of excess packaging in the first instance.”
Speaking on the publication of the British government’s position paper on the north and Brexit, Sinn Féin TD and Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane TD said:
“The British government claim that it wants things to remain as they are as they leave the European Union is a nonsense.
“The approach of the British Government is deeply cynical.
“It is trying to use the special and unique situation of Ireland as a bargaining chip for concessions towards a wider, ‘frictionless’ customs union between Britain and the EU.
“They want any frictionless border system put in place on the island of Ireland to be the template for all of its border controls with the EU.
“This has been dismissed as unrealistic and fantasy.
“The proposals of the British Government are not compatible with the Good Friday Agreement, the needs of the community, or the economic interest of Ireland North and South.
“There is an onus is on the Irish Government as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and a member state of the EU Council to argue the democratically expressed wish of the cross community majority in the North who voted to Remain within the EU with the rest of Ireland.
“The solution for Ireland is simple; respect the vote in the North.
“Sinn Féin believes that the only viable option is for designated special status for the north within the EU.”
Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Megan Fearon MLA, said today that she will be meeting students union representatives to discuss the ‘Stand Together Survey’ into rates of sexual assault among Queen’s students.
Speaking following the launch of the survey on Wednesday, which was conducted by the Student Consent Research Collaboration (SCORE), the Newry Armagh MLA urged the relevant authorities to take action on the students’ findings:
Megan Fearon said:
“My party colleague Caoimhe Archibald and I will be meeting representatives of the students’ union to discuss the results of the ‘Stand Together Survey’ into rates of sexual assault among Queen’s students.
“The results of this survey are a damning indication of the lack of knowledge in our society about sexual consent, and of the rates of sexual assault among students.
“Disproportionate rates of sexual violence against women and members of the LBGTQ community were prevalent themes in particular.
“As the first survey of its kind in the north, this work will be instrumental in providing an evidence base for authorities to take action on the proposed recommendations of the group.
“Public awareness on rates of sexual assault, the role of alcohol in these crimes, and an emphasis on improving consent education are welcome recommendations.
“The ‘Stand Together’ survey results also point to a problem of underreporting of crimes to the PSNI and other authorities. The group’s efforts may encourage silent survivors to come forward and share their experiences, and they should be commended.”
The Tory government’s latest Brexit proposals “are not compatible with the Good Friday Agreement, the economic interests of Ireland north and south or the democratically expressed wishes of the people”, Sinn Féin Northern leader Michelle O’Neill has said.
The Mid-Ulster MLA also branded the papers, published today, as a cynical attempt to use Ireland and our peace agreements as a bargaining chip in a wider EU negotiation.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“The document in common with the approach of the British Government thus far is big on rhetoric but thin on actual commitments.
“The Good Friday Agreement safeguards the human rights of citizens in a European context and provides for access to the ECJ. These are fundamental aspects of our political and policing dispensation. The British government proposal sets aside this obligation.
“The proposals on a Customs Union have been dismissed within hours as deluded, untested and unrealistic.
“They fail to deal with the loss of structural funds and CAP and other critical EU funding streams.
"The Good Friday Agreement is based on three interrelated and interdependent strands, which are within the North, North/South and between Ireland and Britain.
"The British government aspiration to continue with North South co-operation is completely at odds with their policy of imposing Brexit in the North.
“They are not compatible with the Good Friday Agreement, the economic interests of Ireland north and south or the democratically expressed wishes of the people to remain in the EU.
"The Tory proposals fail to manage or minimise the impact of Brexit on the north. All of their proposals are contingent on negotiations with the EU. They are prepared to set aside their obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and to use our agreements, economy and rights as a bargaining chip with the EU.
“There is also a very real concern that they are cynically exploiting the unique circumstances here in order to try and force concessions from the EU as evidenced by their assertion that a ‘sufficiently deep agreement’ with the EU could help create a frictionless border in Ireland.
“What they are really saying is; agree to our terms on the customs union if you want to protect the Irish peace process. If that is the case, it is a disgraceful attempt to play politics and exploit the EU’s commitment to our peace process in order to further their own ends.
“The onus is now on the Irish Government as a joint guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and a member state of the EU Council to argue the democratically expressed wish of the cross-community majority in the North who voted to Remain within the EU with the rest of Ireland.
“Sinn Féin believes that the best solution to achieve this objective is through designated special status for the North within the EU.”
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has strongly criticised the Government over the fact that in the middle of a health crisis there are four key acute medical facilities non-operational due to staffing and funding deficits.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“I find it astonishing that in the midst of the ongoing health crisis that there are a number of acute medical facilities closed or non-operational due to staffing and funding deficits.
"The Health Service Executive has revealed to me through a Parliamentary Question response where each of these acute medical facilities is located and why they are closed or non-operational.
“Two of the closed facilities in question relate to maternity services. In Letterkenny a maternity theatre was built in 2000 as part of upgrades at the hospital.
"However, as my colleague Deputy Pearse Doherty has highlighted for a number of years now, the theatre was never commissioned due to staffing and funding deficits, meaning that since its completion 17 years ago, at a huge capital cost to the State, the theatre has never been used because there is neither the funding of the staff to do so.
“A similar situation exists at Cork University Maternity Hospital where the second state of the art genealogical theatre has never been used for gynaecological procedures since the hospital opened in 2006.
"Not only is it a disgrace that there is neither the funding nor staff available to ensure the operation of the theatre, but it also means that the equipment in the theatre could become obsolete without it ever even being used once.
“In the midst of the worst waiting list crisis in the history of the State there are acute medical facilities which could be reducing inpatient and outpatient surgery waiting times but are instead closed because of staffing and funding deficits.
“At the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise an Endoscopy Room lies closed. This is in spite of the fact that there are over 200 people on a waiting list for gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures in that very hospital.
“The final closed key acute medical facility was at Naas General Hospital where the HSE informed me that a state of the art operating theatre had not been commissioned since the hospital opened in 2002 due to staffing and funding deficits.
“The Operating Department at the hospital is of huge significance for Naas and the surrounding area given that the hospital serves the catchment area of Kildare and West-Wicklow with a population of over a quarter of a million people. However, the most concern stemmed from the fact that Naas General Hospital has an outpatient waiting list of 6,538 people.
“The situation regarding all these facilities raises serious questions for both the HSE and the Minister for Health. Minister Harris needs to come forward and make a statement as to why, in the midst of a continuous crisis in our health service affecting maternity services and waiting lists, are four key acute medical facilities closed due to staffing and funding deficits?"
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Young People Denise Mitchell has congratulated those who received their Leaving Cert results today and wished them the best for their future
The Dublin Bay North TD said:
“I would like to wish all the students who got their results the very best today. A lot of hard work went into the preparation of these exams over the past few years by students and teachers alike, and I hope that students feel accomplished and proud.
“I would like to say that while these are undoubtedly very important exams, they are not the be all and end all. This is a very stressful time and students must be given every possible support to ensure that they evaluate their results and their options as best they can.
“I am sure that this year’s Leaving Cert students have done themselves and their schools proud and I wish them all the very best for their futures.”
Sinn Féin TD and Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that the news that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan applied for the role of a Director of Europol raises serious questions not only for her, but also for government
Government representatives have refused to state whether or not they were aware of the application.
The Cork South-Central TD said:
“The Garda commissioner has told us time and again that she is fully committed to the considerable programme of reforms required by an Garda Síochána.
“The Government for their part have told us time and again that they believe the Commissioner is capable and enjoys their full confidence, in spite of controversy after controversy under her watch and the fact that the Dáil as a whole does not have confidence in her.
“However, it is difficult to reconcile the stated commitment of Commissioner O’Sullivan with an application for such a position. The necessary reforms in an Garda Síochána require significant application and dedication; if Commissioner O’Sullivan has her eye on plum jobs abroad, can it really be credible to say she has the commitment required? Such an application was totally inappropriate, in my view, for the most Senior Garda in the country at this time.
“It is the view of Sinn Fein, and has been for some time, that the current Commissioner is not the right person to lead the gardaí. Her handling of issues relating to whistleblowers and lack of transparency relating to the Templemore accounts, among other controversies underline that.
“However, in this instance, it is she herself who has undermined her own position and credibility. It is not credible to say she has the commitment and drive to oversee historic reforms, while seeking promotion to positions outside the state, perhaps with government support.
“There is also a need for the government to come clear on the matter. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has failed to confirm or deny whether he was aware of this application, and whether government was supporting it.
“This raises serious questions regarding the Government’s conduct in this affair. The Government, in spite of numerous controversies, has stood squarely behind the commissioner and stated their confidence in her.
“If Government was aware that she was applying for such a position, and was supporting her, that position is no longer tenable. It would mean the Government was complicit in simply trying to pack Nóirín O’Sullivan off to Europe, like some many other public officials involved in controversy before her. They want rid of this problem without losing political face; if they were aware and supported the bid, they have taken the public and the Dáil for fools and all their statements of support and confidence are meaningless.
“Minister Flanagan needs to state clearly what he and his Government knew and whether they supported this application as a matter of urgency.”
Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson and North Belfast MLA Caral Ni Chuilin has strongly criticised a decision by some members of the Planning Committee of Belfast City Council to create a retail only development of for the Hillview site in North Belfast.
Speaking following the vote on Tuesday night, Carál Ní Chuilín said:
“The proposal passed by Belfast City Council for the Hillview site on the Crumlin Road fails to address the varied and complex needs of this deprived North Belfast community.
“I and others in Sinn Féin have worked alongside local residents, other parties, housing campaigners and local traders to publicly voice our objections to this plan for a retail-only development at the 17-acre Hillview site.
“In our view this was a prime opportunity for a mixed development in an area where available land is at an absolute premium.
“In advance of tonight’s disastrous decision, Sinn Féin wrote to the Housing Executive requesting that they use their vesting powers to bring the site into public usage. It should be used to tackle the needs of local people including social homes on the site.
“This is an area ranking high on deprivation indices and public bodies have a duty to invest in communities and not leave development of a site like this to the private sector alone.
“We don’t need car show rooms and fast food outlets at Hillview, we need accessible amenities, community facilities and decent social housing for citizens in North Belfast.
“A decent home is a human right, and tonight this right was denied to hundreds of families on the housing waiting list. Sinn Féin will be engaging with residents to determine what steps can now be taken to fight this decision.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said farmers and food producers are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of direction from the Tories on Brexit.
Martina Anderson said:
"I met today with representatives of the Ulster Farmers Union and members of the NI Food and Drink Association to discuss the impact of Brexit.
"It is clear that famers and those in agriculture are concerned about Brexit and the lack on any sense of a plan coming from the Tories on what will happen to the industry afterwards.
"This uncertainty, particularly around the future of the Customs Union, is worrying many farmers and food and drink producers.
"And the information coming from the Tories is doing little to allay those fears.
"The best way to protect our agriculture and food and drink production sectors is to retain our membership of the Customs Union through securing designated special status for the north within the EU."
Sinn Féin deputy spokesperson on Mental Health Pat Buckley TD, speaking as students prepare to receive their Leaving Certificate results this week, called on parents to be mindful of the stress that students will feel and the enormous pressure that some will believe they are under to have done well.
Deputy Buckley said;
“Teenage life today is already a difficult and demanding thing to navigate. We must ensure that we offer our young loved ones the support they need this week as they receive results.
“Parents and family should seek to limit the stress of people receiving results, look out for their mental health, and avoid actions which might add to the pressure or strain upon them.
“I hope that many, if not most, will feel accomplished in the results they achieve; the Leaving Certificate will be the most difficult experience of many young people’s lives up to that point. To those of you who unfortunately do not feel so, look to those around you for help and support.”
Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has welcomed the beginning of a scheme to inspect boiler sites involved in the RHI scheme, but insisted much more will be required to restore public confidence in the political institutions here.
Commenting as the inspections got underway today, the South Belfast MLA said:
“These inspections are only one aspect of restoring public confidence following the disastrous RHI scheme and it is disappointing that not all the sites are to be inspected.
“Nevertheless, it is welcome that this work is underway and it can hopefully begin the process of reducing the potential cost to the public purse.
“However, the crisis in public confidence which was sparked by the RHI scandal will take much more to repair. There needs to be full accountability for the failings that led to this scheme being put in place and integrity and respect in government to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”
Bhí an Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile i láthair ag Caisleán Hillsborough ar maidin mar ar bhronn an grúpa feachtasíochta, an Dream Dearg, litir ar an Rúnaí Stáit James Brokenshire.
Dúirt Ó Donnghaile go bhfuiltear ag teip go fóill ar James Brokenshire agus ar rialtas na Breataine maidir le hAcht Gaeilge.
"Thug Rialtas na Breataine coimitmint i gComhaontú Chill Rìmhinn, níos mó ná 10 mbliana ó shin, thug siad coimitmint go reachtófar Acht Gaeilge. Táthar ag teip orthu an comhaontú sin a chomhlíonadh ó shin i leith.
"Ba cheart Acht Gaeilge a bheith ann, acht a sheasfaidh leis féin agus Acht atá fiúntach. Tá sé in am cearta teanga a reachtú agus dearcadh cothrom agus cuimsitheach a chothú ar son Gaeilge.
"Gabhaim mo chomhghairdeas agus mo bhuíochas le pobal na Gaeilge maidir leis an fheachtasaíocht. Is cinnte go leanfaidh sí ar aghaidh."
Sinn Féin TD and Justice spokesperson Donnchadh ó Laoghaire today published the Aftercare Entitlement Bill 2017
The Cork South-Central TD said:
“In late 2015, the then Minister for Children James Reilly brought the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 before the houses.
“It was widely regarded as a poor piece of legislation, with some serious deficiencies. This Bill was to provide for an entitlement of a child to have an Aftercare Plan drafted while in care, yet did not provide any entitlement to the implementation of the plan upon leaving care.
“Sinn Féin has drafted the Aftercare Entitlement Bill 2017 in an attempt to address many of the pitfalls in the 2015 Act. This Bill would create, for the first time, a statutory entitlement to Aftercare and all the supports this involves.
“Some of these measures include designated a named person on behalf of Túsla to oversee the implementation of the aftercare plan, an entitlement to supported accommodation for care leavers immediately after leaving a care setting and install a system of review and reengagement with the care leaver on a routine basis. We also propose extending the age of entitlement to 27.
“We hope this will lead to an entitlement of Aftercare being a statutory requirement on the states behalf, allowing for young people leaving care being supported in a way that gives them an opportunity to transition and adapt to a new way of life in a steady and progressive manner.
“The period directly after care formally ends can be a difficult time, and a time of much change. It is at this time that the care leaver is most at risk and we must put in place the necessary supports for the benefit of future education, employment, and overall quality of life.
“I am glad to have the support of EPIC and the Irish Aftercare Network in this regard. We will be seeking cross-party support to ensure as much of this Bill as possible is implemented.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane TD said today that the British proposals for a bespoke customs union after March 2019 show that Tory party has not quite grasped the reality of the situation that Britain finds itself in.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“The paper released today shows that the Conservative party has at least finally acknowledged that a full and complete break from the customs union and the single market is not possible by March 2019.
“Britain has neither the physical infrastructure nor legal framework in place.
“The proposals today, however, have an air of unreality to them.
“The whole purpose of any interim agreement is to allow breathing space to work out a post-Brexit trade deal as it is simply not possible to so that before March 2019.
“Those constraints apply equally to the drafting of a bespoke customs deal as proposed by the British government today.
“Furthermore, the proposal to extend article 50 requires the agreement of all 27 states, including the Irish government.
“The Irish government should stand up for the national interest and should only agree to an extension that is in our interests, that is, the economy, trade, the rights of citizens, and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement, in all of its aspects.
“The British government's policy of Brexit is bad for our economy, trade and agreements.
“The best solution is for the whole island of Ireland to Remain within the EU; the single market, customs union, and common travel area together. This can be achieved through designated special status for the North within the EU, avoiding any economic border, and retaining the free movement of people, goods, and services.”
An Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile was at Hillsborough Castle today in support of Irish language campaigning group An Dream Dearg who handed in a letter to British Secretary of State James Brokenshire demanding an Acht Gaeilge.
Niall Ó Donnghaile said that James Brokenshire and the British government have failed to honour its commitment to an Irish Language Act.
Niall Ó Donnghaile said:
“The British government gave a commitment in the St Andrew’s Agreement, more than ten years ago to bring forward an Irish Language Act.
“They have failed to honour that obligation.
“We need a standalone Irish Language Act which is fit for purpose.
“It’s time for legislation, which protects the rights of Irish language speakers.
“I commend the Irish language community for their campaign which will continue until we see an end to the denial of rights enjoyed by citizens right across these islands.”
Sinn Féin TD for Fingal Louise O’Reilly has today welcomed the NSAI publication of the revised standards for homes impacted by pyrite. Speaking today, Teachta O’Reilly said:
“While we welcome any measure which seeks to improve the possibility of home owners with pyrite affected homes being able to sell their property, the fact remains that, even if the government adopt these standards, it will not help most of the families with pyrite affected homes.
“Home owners in North County Dublin with pyrite need more support from the government. In particular, there needs to be help for those who need to carry out survey work and for those who are living in blocks with pyrite damage.
“It makes sense for these homes to be remediated en masse, but there is, at present, no provision for this. Likewise, there is no financial support for those families who carry out tests but whose homes are not sufficiently damaged to warrant inclusion in the remediation scheme.
“Owners of homes with pyrite in North County Dublin have seen recently that, while pyrite has had a huge impact on their lives and the lives of their families, the developer responsible for building some of the houses impacted is set to build more houses on their doorstep. It is unfair that, while they are still dealing with the impact of pyrite, those responsible are apparently back in business.”
Sinn Féin councillor Patricia Logue has condemned attacks on members of the public and the PSNI in the Bogside area of Derry near a bonfire last night.
Councillor Logue said:
"These attacks on members of the public and the PSNI were wrong and must be condemned.
"The local community does not want these attacks and those responsible have nothing to offer.
"This is one of the many incidents of anti-social behaviour associated with this bonfire which is being built on a banking overlooking the Bogside.
"We know all too well what happens at these type of bonfires and we are opposed to the burning of flags and posters on bonfires and associated hate crimes whether they are in Nailor's Row or Sandy Row.
"There is a positive alternative to this bonfire through the Gasyard Féile and I would encourage the local community and the wider city to get behind this positive community event."