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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has welcomed the adoption of a Regulation dividing agricultural tariff concessions post-Brexit. Speaking following the adoption of the Report in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Carthy said:

“Consolation in Brexit terms is rare.  However I am pleased that MEPs have this week endorsed the methodology for dividing tariff rate quotas between Britain and the EU post-Brexit.

“As the lead author the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee opinion on this regulation, I am glad to see this file concluded in a timely manner to prepare the sector for all eventualities of Brexit.

“The EU currently has 87 agricultural quotas at fixed tariffs with countries all over the world. Brexit brought about the danger that EU markets would have to buy large consignments of goods, such as beef or lamb, that otherwise would have gone to British markets, having the potential to flood domestic markets and drive down prices.

“This week’s vote will hopefully ensure that there will be no displacement of products that have the ability to drive down domestic prices.

“In my report on behalf of the Agriculture Committee, I fought to ensure that the renegotiation going on at WTO level on this issue is limited to this division according to strict methodology. It should result in no greater market access nor no more favourable terms of access for third countries. This is to ensure that sensitive agricultural products are protected.

“I am pleased that a Joint Statement has been added to the Annex of the Regulation to ensure this division can be altered to take account of any eventuality, including for instance the North of Ireland remaining in the Single Market. Such a re-division of concessions would have to be carried out in a fully transparent manner, in consultation with the European Parliament.

“I will continue to follow this matter closely as the European Commission approaches global trading partners to divide these concessions in the WTO”.

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Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon once again called on the British government to implement the Stormont House legacy mechanisms.

The party’s victims and legacy spokesperson was speaking after reports that a former British army soldier is to be prosecuted for murder of Aidan McAnespie in 1988.

Linda Dillon said:

"While, I welcome today's news, it is beyond time the British government implemented the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in a human rights compliant manner.

“If we are serious about dealing with legacy then we must ensure that families no longer have to pursue due process in this long drawn out manner.

“The McAnespie family have highlighted the toll the campaign for justice has taken on them.

“It is a disgrace that families are still waiting on truth and justice.

“Sinn Féin will continue to stand with all families in their pursuit of truth and justice for their loved ones.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile, has said that Ireland’s people, Ireland’s economy and Ireland’s peace process all need to be protected and that the Taoiseach needs to stand firm on the backstop.

Niall Ó Donnghaile said:

"With every day that passes - we lurch closer to the possibility of a ‘no-deal’ scenario and the return to the kind of hard border we had in the past.

"Yesterday, prior to the vote in Westminster, the Tánaiste briefed parties on contingency plans in the event of that situation transpiring.

"Those contingency plans focus primarily on East-West matters.

"These are important matters to protect trade and commerce between our islands.

"The Tánaiste said that the legislation required to deal with these matters will not be published until the 22nd February. 

"Sinn Féin will assist in crafting and passing all necessary legislation but the government are coming to this very late in the day.

"We believe that the government needs to revise this schedule and we need to see the legislation much earlier.

"The Taoiseach has had nothing to say on a contingency plan to protect our all island economy, to protect our citizens rights to protect the Good Friday Agreement in the event of a crash Brexit. 

“Ireland’s people, Ireland’s economy and Ireland’s peace process all need to be protected as we go forward now.

“The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and our partners at a European level need to stand firm and not move away from or attempt to dilute the backstop.

“We need to say clearly to the British that if they wish to Brexit then that’s a matter for themselves but any Brexit agreement needs to recognise, understand and protect the people, the economy and the peace process on this island.”

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has called on the Minister for Finance to sit down with nursing unions and strike a deal in order to address the causes of the recruitment and retention crisis and avert strike action.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The recruitment and retention crisis affecting the nursing and midwifery professions and the associated issue of pay is one of the most significant problems affecting the health service, and it has been an ongoing issue for many years now.

“The government cannot pretend that this issue has taken them by surprise, since I walked through the gates of Leinster House one of the issues which I have raised week in week out with the government is the recruitment and retention crisis amongst staff in our health service.

“Last April Sinn Féin introduced a Private Members Motion entitled ‘Nurses' and Midwives' Pay and Recruitment’ which was unanimously passed by the house, however, the government refused to implement its recommendations.

“Fine Gael have had nearly 8 years to address the nursing recruitment and retention crisis; but, not only have they completely failed in this regard, they have allowed the situation to become worse.

“Indeed, the response by government TDs, government Ministers, and even the Taoiseach to nurses and midwives raising their concerns has been to verbally attacked them, to threatened them, to insulted them.

“Members of the INMO and the PNA have not taken this decision lightly - this is their last resort.

“A strike is the last thing they want to have to undertake, but the nurses and midwives in our health service have been forced to undertake this action due to the ignorance, arrogance, and ineptitude of this government.

“Nurses, midwives, and their unions have continuously sought engagement with the Minister for Finance in order to address the core problems of staff shortages and pay in order to avert this escalation to industrial action and they have put forward sensible and responsible solutions to address this crisis and avert strike action.

“Nurses and midwives not only make a significant contribution to the health service, they make a significant contribution to society and they deserve our support in their demand for a better health service which treats them as essential skilled workers with dignity and value and which pays them appropriately.

“This strike can be averted, but to do that Minister Donohoe must engage with nursing and midwifery unions and strike a deal."

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Speaking today during the debate in the Dáil on a Fianna Fáil motion on the pending nurses strike Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams expressed his support for the Nurses.

The Louth TD also read to the Dáil an email from a woman who outlines her personal experience with midwives.

Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, Independents for Change and the Social democrats have submitted an agreed amendment to the Fianna Fáil motion.

Teachta Adams said:

“Sinn Féin supports the thrust of the Fianna Fáil motion but there are obvious gaps. So, the amendment we have tabled, along with Independents for Change, the Social Democrats and the Labour Party, is about closing these.

"In particular, our amendment tackles the issues of pay and of recruitment and retention. The series of planned strikes by the INMO and Psychiatric Nurses Association are actions of last resort. The pending strikes are a result of bad government policy.

"In the two hospitals in my constituency, Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda and Louth County Hospital in Dundalk, working conditions for nurses have become increasingly difficult.

"Instead of tackling the very real issue of recruitment and retention of staff the government and HSE in 2017 spent thirteen and a half million euro on agency staff between the two Louth Hospitals. This is a short sighted policy that contributes to the crisis in health.

"In December I spoke with the INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha and north east representative David Miskell. They outlined the scale of the crisis in the health service.

"Last November was the worst ever month for overcrowding in our emergency departments. By the end of 2018 almost one hundred and ten thousand admitted patients had been forced to wait in emergency departments. This is the worst figure since records began.

"On Tuesday Dr. Fergal Hickey of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, described our Emergency Departments as “warehouses for admitted in-patients”. Dr. Hickey said the problem is not enough beds.

"More beds, needs more nurses. That means tackling the problem of pay and the related issues of recruitment and retention”.

Addressing the Dáil Gerry Adams read the email sent to him and other Dáil TDs today on the Nurses strike. The woman has asked to remain anonymous.

In her email she writes:

“While part of the dispute is about pay, the working conditions of nurses and midwives need to be addressed immediately. 

I have on a number of occasions needed nursing and midwifery care. 

On one of these occasions, nearly 9 years ago, I was an hour away from giving birth to my stillborn son. 

At this time, the nurses and midwives were again looking for better working & pay conditions from the government and I commented to the midwife that I was sorry about how badly they were being treated by the government. 

The midwives that delivered my stillborn son were amazing. 

The care they gave to myself, my son and my family was full of love, empathy & compassion. 

It saddens and angers me greatly, that 9 years later, the working conditions have gotten worse for the nursing and midwifery staff. 

 I would also like to make you aware that I have a hospital appointment for the 30th January. 

This is for a simple test which will be the final test of 4 tests needed for a diagnosis. 

Not getting this test will delay my treatment. 

Even if my treatment is delayed, I will give my full support to the nurses and midwives on the day. 

I will also be joining the nurses and midwives on the picket line”.

Concluding she says: “Please give your support to the nurses and midwives & improve their lives and working conditions. They deserve every cent.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has welcomed confirmation from the Health Permanent Secretary that he intends to implement the Protect Life 2 Suicide Prevention Strategy.

The party’s Mental Health spokesperson and said:

"This strategy will play a crucial role in helping to ensure there is greater cooperation and coordination of services to help save lives lost to suicide.

"As much as the new strategy will help it needs to be adequately funded to help deliver for those individuals and communities in crisis.

"Sinn Féin will be requesting a meeting with the Health Permanent Secretary to ask him to outline the plans for the implementation of the suicide prevention strategy and express our frustration it took so long."

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has written to principals in the Roe Valley and surrounding area in response to a letter sent to parents earlier this week regarding school budget concerns.

The East Derry MLA said:

"Along with my colleague and party spokesperson on education, Karen Mullan MLA, I have met and consistently engaged with the Permanent Secretary of the Education Department, the Education Authority, teaching unions and sectoral bodies over the past two years to highlight concerns around budgets and other issues being brought to our attention by school principals.

"There is no doubt that many schools are suffering as a result of the Tory austerity agenda, now supported by the DUP, which has seen our block grant slashed over the past nine years, resulting in huge cuts to departmental budgets.

"I have written to all of the principals who signed the letter offering to meet and discuss the issues and concerns highlighted.

"My party colleagues and I will continue to oppose Tory austerity and make the case for additional resources for our public services and in particular for education."

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, raised the ongoing hunger strike of Leyla Güven, an imprisoned MP for the pro-Kurdish HDP party in Turkey, in the Dáil.

Leyla Güven has been on hunger strike in a Turkish prison against her unjust detention since 8 November and she is now in a critical condition.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Leyla Güven is a democratically elected MP that was imprisoned by the Turkish regime.

"She faces over 31 years in prison for simply being critical of the Turkish regime, after she rightly condemned the Turkish invasion of Afrin and other human rights abuses on social media.

“She has been on hunger strike since 8th November to protest her unjust detention and the illegal isolation and solitary confinement of the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.

“Leyla Güven is now in a critical condition and international action is needed to save her life. She has been joined by over 160 Kurdish political prisoners who are now on hunger strike in Turkish jails.

“Today I called on the Irish Government to urgently raise Leyla’s case with the Turkish Government and join the international solidarity to save her life.

“Leyla Güven, Abdullah Öcalan, and all Kurdish political prisoners need to be released immediately. The only long term solution to the Kurdish issue is peaceful and democratic dialogue, not isolation and imprisonment.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Rural and Community Affairs Martin Kenny TD has highlighted the neglect being suffered by diabetic patients in the care of Sligo University Hospital.

Deputy Kenny, who represents Sligo, Leitrim, North Roscommon and South Donegal, said today that the diabetic dietician in Sligo University Hospital has been seconded to other duties in different parts of the hospital and, as a result, the diabetic clinic is being neglected.

Deputy Kenny said:

“Not only is the diabetic clinic in a glorified shed at the hospital site, but it is also understaffed to a ludicrous degree.

“There is one patient who has been prescribed the use of an insulin pump. The pump has been at the hospital for the last year and a half, but because there is no one to give him the required training in its use, he has not yet been given it.

“I have raised the issue of the dire accommodation in which diabetic patients are seen in Sligo and this new development is just another chapter in the sorry story of the deterioration of Irish health service under this government and its partners in Fianna Fáil.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called for a European-wide campaign to block the Commission's proposal for a Directive on developing a secondary market for non-performing loans.

Addressing MEPs and ECB President Mario Draghi in the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Carthy said: "The ECB has never protected borrowers in distress. It says that is the job of Member States.

"But the Central Banks in many states, including Ireland, have utterly failed to protect borrowers from repossessions and violent evictions. Our Central Bank warns that a new wave of mass repossessions is coming.

"The fact that the EU institutions are now legislating on how to deal with non-performing loans could be an opportunity to put in place strong protection for borrowers. But we can already see from the Commission and Council’s approach that their only interest is to restore the massive profits of Europe’s banks. The Commission proposal on a secondary market for NPLs will have extreme and appalling consequences on mortgage-holders.

"If the ECB won’t protect ordinary people from the debt vultures; if the national Central Banks won’t; if the Commission and Council won’t, who will?

"This Directive should be scrapped, and it is us in the European Parliament and civil society that must block its progress."

Further details of the EU-wide campaign fr the withdrawal of this Directive will be announced i the coming week.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has said that the Data Protection Commissioner’s report into the Public Services Card (PSC) must be published urgently.

During questions in the Dáil this afternoon, Deputy Brady asked Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty to release the report into the Public Services Card (PSC) which has already been shared with her.

Teachta Brady said:

“There was widespread concern following the rejection of a Freedom of Information request seeking the Data Protection Commissioner’s report into the PSC to be published. This request was made by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties following a lengthy investigation by the Data Commissioner which began in October 2017.

“In response to my question, Minister Doherty stated that her Department are responding to concerns raised by the Data Commissioner relating to their report. 

“The Minister made it clear that it is the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner who has requested that the Minister does not discuss the report until correspondence between both parties concludes. Once this happens, the Minister has said that the report will be published. I will be holding her to this commitment.

“There has been far too much secrecy and ambiguity around the PSC since its introduction. This is despite the fact that around €60 million euro of taxpayers’ money has been spent on its roll-out.

“The way in which the PSC was rolled out by Government led to vulnerable people having their social welfare payments stopped and this then forced people to apply for a PSC out of fear of losing their payment. Also, questions on the legal basis for the card need to be answered.” 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to radically overhaul the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme as figures show that of 1,317 loans approved in Q3 of 2018, only 155 have been drawn down, a dismal 11.8%.

The Dublin Mid-West TD also expressed concern that out of 2,583 applications deemed to formally meet the criteria, only half of these were approved.  This shows a worrying gap in the number of people a loan product like this targeted to help in terms of accessing affordable housing.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“In response to a parliamentary question posed to the Minister for Housing, the data showed that of the 1,317 Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans approved by the 31 local authorities across the State by the end of Q3 of 2018, only 155 have actually been drawn down, a dismal 11.8%.

“If you look at the high demand areas across the four Dublin local authorities, Galway, and Cork, the ratio of approvals to draw downs is worrying.

“In Dublin City Council, 189 loans were approved but only 28 had been drawn down by the end of Q3 of 2018.

“In Fingal, 185 have been approved, but only 28 have been drawn down during the same timeframe.

“In South Dublin, 92 loans have been approved with only nine drawn down and in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, the figures are 38 approved with one drawn down.

“Cork County has 104 loan approvals, but only nine drawn down and Galway City has 26 approved, but one drawn down.

“In fact, in five local authority areas, zero loans have been drawn down despite approvals for loans been granted in every one.

“Out of the 155 loans drawn down, the average amount is €186,591 with a total of €28.9m drawn down in the 3rd quarter of 2018.

“The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan clearly is not working as intended. In high demand areas where the loan amount available to borrow is higher, the average amount is €207,000.

“According to figures from the Daft.ie quarterly house price report, the average house price in Dublin is €379,922. 

“There is no point in offering a product to tackle affordability if the loan on offer comes nowhere near to covering the cost of purchasing a home.

“At this stage, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is a tokenistic gesture that has done very little to provide affordable homes for people.

“This is what Sinn Féin cautioned against when the scheme was launched. We need to do more to bring down the cost of homes, making them truly affordable, instead of expecting low to middle income earners to compete in an inflated housing market.” 

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Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has said that the appropriate response to Brexit chaos in Westminster is immediate action by the Irish Government to hold firm on the backstop guarantee and to complete and communicate strong contingency plans for all outcomes.
 
Speaking today the Mayo senator said:
  
“Sinn Féin pressed hard in negotiations for a backstop that would avoid a hard border on the island. We achieved this through consistent engagement and pressure in Brussels, Dublin and elsewhere. 

"I hope the backstop never needs to be invoked. Nor do I want to see a no deal scenario. However, the reality is that chaos in Westminster means any number of things could happen.

"Brexit does not just affect businesses now, it affects whole communities and families. It is now up to the Irish Government to come up with, and implement contingency plans to protect citizens and businesses across the island.
 
"I am concerned that the Government is over relying on the EU producing a plan which will not take into account the unique circumstances in Ireland.

"Our agri-food sector is particularly vulnerable. In the absence of any firm commitment by the Irish Government Sinn Féin are calling for an agri-food fund to be set up under the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund to address currency issues.

"State Aid rules need to be eased to directly help exporters. Transport routes from major ports and airports need to be upgraded.
 
"All this will not happen on its own. We need to see the heads of bills of the Government’s proposed legislation.

"This will ensure that the measures can be properly examined and debated and would also give some measure of assurance to those most at risk that there are clear actions being undertaken.

"The impact of a hard Brexit is not just economic. The constitutional issue comes to the fore and a referendum on Irish unity has to be undertaken to allow people to decide on their own future."

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Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has condemned vandalism at a war memorial in Coagh, Co.Tyrone. 

The Mid Ulster MLA said: 

"This incident where the war memorial in Coagh was damaged was wrong and I condemn it. 

"There is no place for attacks like in our society. 

"Monuments and memorials are important places in communities and should be respected. 

"I would encourage anyone with information on this incident to contact the PSNI." 

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Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has said that the ongoing chaos in Westminster requires an all-Ireland contingency plan to be put in place in order to protect our economy and the Good Friday Agreement.  He said that it was telling that an overwhelming majority of British MPs last night voted against the expressed wishes of the vast majority of the people from the north.

Carthy said:

“Sinn Féin have played a constructive role in helping shape the withdrawal agreement that includes the pivotal backstop.  There can be no dilution of that provision, it represents the least worst option for our country.

“It was positive to hear EU leaders reaffirming their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and the backstop in the European Parliament debate on Brexit this morning.  The Irish government must remain resolute on this point.  In contrast to the European Parliament, it was telling that last night the vast majority of British MPs voted against the expressed wishes of the people in the north of Ireland.

“That Westminster vote now makes a no-deal scenario a live prospect.  That requires an adequate contingency strategy to be put in place immediately.  This strategy must be an all-Ireland one and it must include the option of a poll on Irish Unity.  Irish political leaders who dismiss or ignore this option are being as reckless as those Brexiteers who refused to consider the implications for the north of Ireland in their own manoeuvrings.

“Contingency planning must also include provision for emergency EU funding for vulnerable sectors and regions.  Sinn Féin have argued, since the Brexit referendum result, for the establishment of such a fund and have called on the Irish government and EU commission to facilitate this.  While the government has belatedly began speaking of such a fund there has yet to be a formal proposition to the EU.  This needs to happen immediately”.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Business, Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD today said that the government’s failure to invest in the apprenticeship system in Ireland is adding to the growing skills shortage and that more needs to be done to help get the 37,300 young people who remain unemployed into the workforce.

Deputy Quinlivan was responding to figures he received which show the government have again missed their own apprenticeship targets for 2018.

Speaking today, the Limerick City TD said;

“For a third year in a row, the government have missed their own targets for expanding the apprenticeship system in Ireland.

“Figures I have received today from the Minister for Education show that last year, just 590 people took part in newly developed apprenticeship courses, not the 1,500 promised, while the government also failed to hit their own target of introducing 10 new programmes as set out in the Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeships.

“To miss the target for the number of registrations on new courses by 60% is totally unacceptable and shows a complete lack of effort and priority in this area.

“This failure to invest in the apprenticeship system is having a major impact on the growing skills shortage across a wide range of industries, with the National Skills Bulletin 2018 identifying 30 occupations where there are an insufficient number of people available to take up vacant positions. These included key roles in science, engineering, ICT, accounting, construction and hospitality.

“The apprenticeship system is underutilised in Ireland and it offers the government an opportunity to both reduce the number of people who remain on the live register and also tackle the growing skills shortage across a number of industries.

“Despite the positive progress made in reducing the number of people unemployed over the past few years, the reality is that 127,100 people across Ireland remain out of work.

“Of these, 37,300 are people aged between 15 and 24, which is actually an increase on the same period last year.

“The government should ensure these people are given the support required to access apprenticeship programmes, which can offer a unique avenue to earn, learn, gain valuable work experience, and work towards an internationally recognised qualification and a rewarding career.

“The government need to refocus their efforts on expanding the apprenticeship system to ensure Ireland has the educated and skilled workers needed for growing industries and to give people who remain unemployed a new path to re-enter the workforce.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald, speaking after British politicians rejected the Brexit deal, said that Ireland’s people, Ireland’s economy and Ireland’s peace process all need to be protected and that the Taoiseach needs to stand firm on the backstop.

Teachta McDonald earlier attended a briefing on the contingency plans from Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

She said;

“The contingency plans place a heavy emphasis on East-West relations and arrangements but the situation regarding Ireland remains unchanged.

“Ireland’s people, Ireland’s economy and Ireland’s peace process all need to be protected as we go forward now.

“The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and our partners at a European level need to stand firm and not move away from or attempt to dilute the backstop.

“We need to say clearly to the British that if they wish to Brexit then that’s a matter for themselves but any Brexit agreement needs to recognise, understand and protect the people, the economy and the peace process on this island.”

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Sinn Féin Agricultural spokesperson Martin Kenny TD has described the news that Turkey has suspended live exports of cattle as "a further setback for Irish beef farmers."

Deputy Kenny said;

"Live exports is a very important part of the Irish beef sector and it will be a huge loss to farmers bringing cattle to market.  

"There will be a noticeable loss of buyers for the export market around rings in markets up and down the country. 

"I have previously called on the Minister to develop more export markets to ensure there is some competition for Irish meat factory cartel.

"I will be raising this again with the Minister as action needs to be taken to ensure Irish beef farmers are protected especially with Brexit coming down the tracks."

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Sinn Féin Dáil Deputy Leader Pearse Doherty has told the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that he must engage with Union representatives of Nurses & Midwives who are set to engage in strike action. The Donegal TD was speaking to Taoiseach Varadkar at Leaders’ Questions earlier today.

In just over a fortnight’s time, members of the INMO are due to commence industrial action, with a series of 24-hour stoppages planned over the coming weeks.

Teachta Doherty said;

“Strike action is the last thing that nurses and midwives - or any medical professional for that matter - wants to have to undertake Taoiseach, but our nurses and midwives have been forced to undertake such action as a result of the ignorance, arrogance, and ineptitude of you and your government.

“Nurses, midwives and their Unions have continuously sought proper engagement with the Minister for Health, as well as the Minister for Finance, to address the problem of staff shortages, as well pay issues, to avert industrial action but their concerns have been routinely ignored.

“It is staff in our hospitals who have acted in a responsible and mature manner. You however, have decided to disengage.

“Nurses and midwives deserve our full support in their demand for a better health service that treats them as essential, skilled workers with dignity and value.

"For years now, nurses and midwives and their Unions have offered up realistic proposals to try and address it.

“In April last year, the Dáil also passed a Sinn Féin motion calling for the introduction of recruitment and retention measures based on realistic proposals which prioritise pay.

“Will you now concede that you have failed to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis Taoiseach? Will you accept that pay is an issue that needs to be addressed?

“Will you now commit to a proper engagement with Unions so that our nurses and midwives get what they deserve - a fair deal?”

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Sinn Fein Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has called for the government to prioritise the delivery of a new bill on Mental Health Bill to address outstanding patients rights issues.

Teachta Buckley was responding to the release of the government Spring Legislative Programme which includes the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill to implement the recommendations of the Expert Review Group published in late 2014. The Bill has previously been listed in Legislative programmes as far back as Autumn 2017 with little progress.

Deputy Buckley said;

“I am glad to see that the government still lists its intent to address the Expert Group’s recommendations in their Mental Health (Amendment) Bill. Unfortunately it is hard to put much faith in this listing due to the fact that the Bill in question has been at roughly the same stage since Autumn 2017 when it was first mentioned.

“The Bill was first listed by the government in Autumn 2017 with the status of ‘Work is progressing’ which was changed to ‘Draft heads in preparation’ in 2018 and is listed under the same vague status now in the new Spring 2019 Legislative programme.

“Much of the work has not yet been done or even started it would seem at this stage. This is particularly disappointing when you consider that the government has not published a single piece of major legislation on Mental Health since its establishment nearly three years ago.

“Expert Group have themselves done a lot of work in their comprehensive report into the flaws of the existing legislation and the needed reform. An evolving understanding of these issues has also been aided by the work of groups like Mental Health Reform which published its own analysis of the review in 2015 and has worked along with a range of stakeholders and campaigners to continue to highlight the need for new legislation.

“The government must now take from this work and draft quickly the legislation that has been plainly needed for a number of years. Of course it is essential that the legislation is done right but so far years of foot dragging have done nothing to improve the situation.

“I also call on the government to re-establish the Committee on the Future of Mental Health to aid in this developing work and to ensure that reform is timely and to the highest standard.”

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