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Commenting this evening, as the political crisis in Catalonia continues, Sinn Féin President  Gerry Adams TD said;

“The Taoiseach must outline the approach he took at the meeting of the European Council to the ongoing situation in Catalonia.

“We need to know if the Taoiseach seized the opportunity of this meeting to promote the imperative of dialogue as the means of addressing the problems between Spain and Catalonia. 

“Did he speak directly to Spanish Prime Minister on this matter as he committed to do? Did he impresses upon Mr Rajoy the need for inclusive talks?”

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Reacting to comments from Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary, Sinn Fein Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Brexit Deputy David Cullinane said Fianna Fáil lack credibility on Brexit and cannot be trusted.

Deputy Cullinane accused Fianna Fáil of putting forward technical solutions to the border and ignoring the need for a political solution.

Speaking today Deputy Cullinane said:

"Fianna Fáil lack credibility on Brexit. They see the issue of the border as solely about trade. Their call for an electronic border is naive and clueless.

"Any EU frontier on the island is a retrograde step and must be resisted. What is required is a political and not an electronic solution.

"This is a party who supported Fine Gael in the budget and are allowing its passage through the Dáil. They are criticising and yet propping up Fine Gael at the same time. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.  They simply cannot be trusted.

"Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has followed in the footsteps of his party leader and has chosen to attack Sinn Fein on the North rather than put forward solutions. Sinn Fein is consistent in defending the Good Friday Agreement.

"It is the reason why we argue for a political solution to Brexit and one that keeps the GFA in the EU and it is also at the heart of the current difficulties in the North. Sinn Fein has delivered on all of its commitments in terms of the GFA. The DUP and the British and Irish Governments are in default. The institutions in the North can only be restored if past agreements are delivered in full.

"Fianna Fáil are classic hurlers on the ditch when it comes to the North. They snipe from the sidelines and yet fail to contest elections. Their negative rhetoric and partisan commentary is grill to the mist for those in the North resistant to change.

"Sinn Fein will continue to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts both in Brexit talks and in talks aimed at restoring the institutions in the North."

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The refusal by unionists in Belfast City Council to support the provision of up-front costs for the 30th anniversary celebrations of the west Belfast community festival, Féile an Phobail, is yet another example of discrimination, Sinn Féin Belfast city councillor Ciaran Beattie has said.

Councillor Beattie was speaking following a council decision to reject a proposal to assist with Féile an Phobail’s 30th anniversary event next summer.

Councillor Beattie said:

“Féile an Phobail made a request to the Council to provide a proportion of the up-front costs of the Féile 30 celebrations in August 2018.

"There was no risk to the Council as the up-front costs would be recouped from ticket sales and paid back to the council and the Féile Committee had even committed to taking out insurance in case any events were cancelled.

"This was a very reasonable proposal which would ultimately cost the Council nothing.

"There would have been large numbers of visitors to the city for these events. Many hotel rooms would have been filled and the local economy would have benefited. 

“Despite these assurances, the proposal was rejected after it was opposed by unionist parties.

It is a petty and vindictive decision.

"This comes on the back of unionist attempts only weeks ago to have the annual Saint Patrick's Day concert in the city centre cancelled.

“This is what we have come to expect from many within political unionism.

"This decision will damage what is one of the biggest community festivals in Europe and comes with the council just one week away from submitting our bid to be the European Capital of Culture in 2023. 

"It is clear there are still those that want us to be a city of culture for some but not culture for all.

"This decision should be reversed immediately." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has said the community are in shock after the body of a man was discovered at an address on Townhill Road in Rasharkin. 

The North Antrim MLA said:

“The local community has been left in shock by this news,

"I express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the man and would urge anyone with information to bring it to the PSNI.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Councillor Mairéad O’Donnell has slammed those behind racist attacks in East Belfast.

Cllr O’Donnell was speaking after cars were damaged and set alight on three streets in East Belfast early this morning.

Councillor O’Donnell said:

"I condemn outright those responsible for these despicable and cowardly racist attacks.

“These racist attacks come on the back of UVF intimidation which saw four Catholic families forced to leave their homes in Cantrell Close just a few streets away from this morning’s arson attacks.

“Those responsible for these attacks have shown blatant disregard for the community. The racists need to hear loud and clear that their cowardly actions are unacceptable.

“What we need to see is leadership from political unionism. 

“Political leaders must set the example and desist from language or actions, which offend against the identity of anyone in this society.

"I would encourage anyone with information to contact the PSNI and I will be asking the PSNI do they believe there is any paramilitary involvement in these attacks.” 

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and South Antrim MLA Declan Kearney is attending a GUE/NGL conference in Lisbon today (Saturday 21 October), which will consider unfolding economic and political developments across the European Union. He will deliver a speech on the theme 'The Challenge of Austerity & Brexit: Towards an Ireland and Europe of Equals.'

On the challenge of austerity Declan Kearney said:

“A new phase of political change has arrived; Brexit is a strategic moment.

“We are asking that the significant influence of the left in Europe and wider international community mobilises to assist us in building opposition to both Brexit and austerity.

“In Ireland, the Southern state is pointed to as the ‘poster child’ for austerity.

“The northern state remains gripped in an austerity crisis caused by the British Conservative government’s reduction of that region's public expenditure settlement.

“Sinn Féin has been the main force of opposition against austerity in Ireland.”

Declan Kearney made the case for Designated Special Status for the north within the EU, but he will say that Europe needs to change.

“The Brexit decision highlights again the contradiction and undemocratic nature of Ireland’s partition. The North of Ireland like Scotland, voted to remain in the EU.

“Against this backdrop, Sinn Féin believes an unprecedented opportunity exists to advance the democratic argument for an end to Ireland’s partition and to persuade for Irish unity both domestically and internationally.

“Sinn Féin believes Ireland’s place is in Europe, but that Europe needs to change.

"We look to comrades on the left and progressive civic opinion in Europe to support the strategic objective of getting Designated Special Status for the north of Ireland.

“Just this week Sinn Féin with the support of GUE-NGL launched crucial legal opinion in Brussels confirming that there is no legal impediment to the introduction of Designated Special Status.

“In the post-Brexit context that is the only way to protect the peace process; Irish national interests; economic opportunity; and to defend workers and social, democratic and human rights.”

The Sinn Féin chairperson also told the conference that time is running out for the DUP and the British government to end their denial of rights in the north.

"At this time, the fourth phase of talks since last March aimed at resolving the current political crisis is underway.

“However, time is running out for the DUP and British government to decide whether they are prepared to end their denial of rights and implement previous agreements, as basic requirements of a deal to establish sustainable and credible government in the north.

“If the political institutions cannot be re-established on the basis of equality, rights and respect then the British and Irish governments must bring forward a comprehensive plan which fully implements the Good Friday and subsequent agreements, and ensure the rights of all citizens are upheld." ENDS/CRÍOCH 

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The Ulster Unionist Party is now firmly anti-Agreement and should be honest enough to admit it, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd has said.

The Mid-Ulster MLA was speaking after UUP Party Leader Robin Swann told his party conference that they would not support Irish language legislation.

“The UUP have clearly abandoned the Good Friday Agreement in favour of trying to out DUP the DUP,” John O’Dowd commented.

“Such reactionary, pathetic politics does a huge disservice to citizens, including many people from the unionist community, who are genuinely seeking equality and rights which are protected everywhere else on these islands.

“The UUP are now actively standing over the denial of those rights and, in so doing, are attempting to make the prospect of a resolution in the current talks all the more difficult. In their lurch to the right of unionist politics, they have clearly moved away from the principles of the Good Friday Agreement which they claim to support.

“They should drop the pretence and admit they are now an anti-Agreement party.”

John O’Dowd also slammed UUP MLA Doug Beattie after he branded Sinn Féin as ‘scavengers’ for seeking language and LGBT rights.

He commented: “Sinn Féin will make absolutely no apologies for seeking rights and equality. That doesn’t make us scavengers. It is what we have been elected to do, so Doug Beattie should withdraw this offensive remark.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has appealed to the public to give assistance to police with investigations after a women’s body was found in the Ardmore area of Finaghy in Belfast.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:

“I have spoken with residents of Ardmore who were woken by a woman’s screams around 7am.

“There is real shock and distress in the area at the news of this murder.

“I would appeal to anyone who can help bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to book to work closely with the PSNI.” 

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A refusal to support Féile an Phobail, shows that some within political unionism are still intent on disrespecting the Irish language and culture, Sinn Féin Belfast City Councillor Ciaran Beattie has said.

Councillor Beattie was speaking following a Council decision to reject a proposal to assist with Féile an Phobail’s 30thanniversary event next summer.

“Féile an Phobail made a request to the Council to fund a proportion of the up-front costs of the 30th anniversary events in August 2018.

“There was no risk to the Council as the up-front costs would be recouped from ticket sales and the Féile Committee had even committed to taking out insurance in case ticket sales did not match expectations.

“Despite these assurances, the proposal was rejected after it was opposed by unionist parties.

“Unfortunately, this once again demonstrates the disrespect for Irish culture, language and identity that we have come to expect from elements within political unionism.

“We are one week away from submitting our bid to be the European Capital of Culture, sadly today’s decision would show that there are still those that want us to be a city of some culture but not all culture."

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Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has welcomed Ibrahim Halawa’s release from an Egyptian prison.  Speaking today MEP Boylan said Mr Halawa had been illegally detained for four years and a further one month after being found not guilty of all offences.

She said;

“I am delighted with the news that Ibrahim has been released.

“Ibrahim was illegally detained for more than four years and for a further month after he was cleared of all charges.

“I now look forward to him returning home to his family and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

“It is important that Ibrahim has the proper supports available to him in order to begin the process of rebuilding his life.”

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Yesterday in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Agriculture spokesperson, Martin Kenny TD, raised the issue of the 6,000 farmers awaiting their 2016 GLAS payments. He brought it up with Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle TD.

Deputy Kenny said:

“The 6,000 or more farmers waiting for their GLAS money are waiting for their 2016 payments, and we are now nearly at the end of 2017.  I am given to understand that a lot of the reason for this is to do with nutrient management plans which have not yet been submitted or have been delayed in being submitted. 

“We also have coming up very soon the issue of the commonage framework plans, which also are supposed to be submitted or people will not get their money.  As the Minister of State knows, because he lives in a mountainous part of the world in County Wicklow, a lot of farmers on commonage will have to do up this framework plan and submit it.  The plans have to be in by 31 October and yet the portal to submit the plan only opened up on 1 October. 

“We understand there is a bit of a row going on between private planners and Teagasc, as there was in regard to the nutrient management plans, because the private planners have to get access to it through Teagasc.  There are a lot of problems there, the reason for which is poor foresight, because they were not sorted out in the beginning and worked through.”

Minister Doyle responded that there were no delays, but that some applicants had still to submit outstanding documentation including management plans.

Deputy Kenny said that the minister was blaming farmers again to which the minister said that he was also blaming advisors.

Deputy Kenny said:

“There will always be somebody who is a little late.  Everybody does not get every wisp of hay home; that is life but farmers have been waiting for their money for a very lengthy period as the Minister of State will acknowledge. 

“What needs to be acknowledged is that there is a problem in the Department in regard to the IT systems it uses.  I am not blaming the Minister of State, the Minister or anyone else at present but the problem needs to be acknowledged and a solution needs to be found to deal with it.” 

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Sinn Féin Limerick City TD Maurice Quinlivan has welcomed the news that 20 additional beds are to be opened in St. John’s Hospital in Limerick in a measure aimed at addressing the overcrowding problems in the Limerick region.

Speaking today, Teachta Quinlivan said;

“Today, I received confirmation, in a response to my Parliamentary Question, that 20 beds will be re-opened in St. John’s Hospital in Limerick in the coming weeks.

“I welcome this move by the HSE, as it will begin to help the chronic overcrowding that University Hospital Limerick is now experiencing on a daily basis.

“12 of the beds are to open on Monday October 30th and the remaining 8 will open as soon as the required staff are hired and in place, which given the severity of the situation in Limerick hospitals, should be as soon as possible.

“I have been constantly advocating for additional beds and staff for Limerick hospitals to help address the crisis, and I am glad some action is now being taken.

“Having 902 patients on trolleys in UHL in September was totally unacceptable. Today Friday, there are currently 48 people lying on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick, the highest anywhere in the state.

“Although this announcement of 20 extra beds in welcome, it is not even enough to match the current overcrowding levels, let alone the meet the demand winter will put on our hospitals.

“Funding must be put in place to progress the building of the 96 bed block for University Hospital Limerick to ensure patient safety and comfort and to meet the demand of our growing population.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Meath West Peadar Tóibín has castigated the government for the utter chaos that exists in the delivery of LEADER funding to communities in Meath. 

Deputy Tóibín said:

“Not only are we dealing with 18 bureaucratic steps for rural enterprise and community organisations to draw down LEADER funds, but we also see Meath’s draw down for 2017 on the floor compared to other counties. 

“LEADER funding is a critical facility to allow community groups and rural enterprises to achieve the necessary funding to proceed with vital projects. These projects create jobs, increase output, and improve lives of people right through rural County Meath. 

“This funding is more critical than ever given the widening economic gap between rural Ireland and Dublin city. The government has serious questions to answer as to why Meath is in the ha’penny place when it comes to this funding. 

“Shockingly, just prior to the recent budget, I found out that Fine Gael had raided LEADER funding to the tune of 10 million euros. Fine Gael is leaving rural Ireland behind and this has to change. 

“We are calling for no more than our fair share of LEADER funding for the county in 2018 and we are demanding that the government reform the process so that rural energies are not swallowed by bureaucracy, but are directed towards developing rural enterprises.”

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Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O'Neill MLA met today with the British government's international trade secretary Liam Fox and made it clear to him that the Tory Brexit agenda will have disastrous consequences for Ireland, north and south. 

Speaking after the meeting Michelle O’Neill said:

Michelle O'Neill said: 

"We made it clear to him in no uncertain terms that the Tory Brexit agenda would have disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement and for Ireland, north and south, in terms of citizens rights, trade, our economy and the issue of the border.

"In today's meeting we told Liam Fox it is clear that he and his fellow Brexiteers in the Tory cabinet simply regard the north and its people as collateral damage in the Brexit process. 

"It is clear the Tories are floundering over Brexit as their approach to these negotiations is being rejected by the EU. In fact the only people now supporting the Tories on Brexit appear to the DUP, regardless of the dire consequences for the people of the north.

"We also reminded him of the unique circumstances of the north of Ireland and reiterated that a unique solution is required. Securing special status for the north within the EU is not only a credible alternative to the reckless Brexit agenda of the Tories, but it is achievable. 

"Support is growing for that position across Ireland and across Europe and Sinn Féin will continue to lobby to build further support for special status." 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Business, Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD has this morning said that sporting fans are continuing to get ripped off by ticket touting due to Fine Gael’s refusal to act on the issue.
 
Deputy Quinlivan was speaking after Irish fans were left disappointed when tickets for the Ireland-Denmark World Cup playoff match in the Aviva next month, sold out in minutes but were immediately on secondary re-selling sites for multiples of their face value.
 
Deputy Quinlivan said;

“This morning we again saw Irish consumers getting ripped off due to the lack of regulation in the sale of tickets for sporting and cultural events.

“The upcoming Ireland-Denmark match at the Aviva Stadium is a major match for Ireland’s hopes of reaching the World Cup in Russia next year, and as such, interest is high.

“This interest is again being exploited, resulting in fans getting ripped off, while ticket touts profit from the total absence of regulation.

“Viagogo has tickets on their website priced at €460 per ticket, an enormous mark-up on their face value. It’s a disgrace. Fans that follow the team all year are prevented from going to this crucial match, due to the unregulated disgraceful behaviour of ticket touts.

“I introduced a Bill in March, the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017, which would have stopped this abuse of the entertainment ticketing system in Ireland.

“This piece of legislation would have capped the resale of tickets at 10% above face value, preventing this continued abuse of the market, whilst at the same time ensuring fans can sell on their tickets if they can no longer attend a concert or match.

 “The Bill came before the Dáil in May and Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voted together to kick my Bill down the road for at least 9 months, simply because it was a Sinn Féin Bill.

“I find Deputy Noel Rock’s hypocrisy on the issue bizarre. He voted to delay my Bill and since then he has done absolutely nothing to solve the problem.

"It seems that he is happy to be spokesperson on the issue each time the problem arises, but has no intention of doing anything to solve it.

“This delaying tactic means my Bill will not be move forward until February 2018 at the earliest and, as a result, consumers can expect to continue to get ripped off by ticket touts and unscrupulous secondary selling sites, thanks to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael stalling this legislation."

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Climate Action Brian Stanley TD has said that the blunt effect of global warming means more extremes in the environment, making destructive weather patterns such as storm Ophelia much more frequent and that dealing with climate change is something that needs a clear strategy by every State and our plan is aspirational in its construct.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Laois TD said:

“In the programme for Government, on the issue of climate action, I quote: ‘We believe that Ireland should be repositioned to give global leadership in this area. It will fall to the new Government and the Oireachtas to agree the first statutory nation low-carbon transition-mitigation plan’. The mitigation plan falls way short. We have international targets that we have to meet by 2020, including a reduction of 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has said that the best case scenario is that we will achieve 4% to 6%. There was an all-day Cabinet session which met to discuss this issue recently. We have seen the events earlier this week throughout the country. We have also seen the effects of global warming. The national mitigation plan falls short. It is an aspirational document. We have highlighted this repeatedly.

“There are no binding sectoral targets. We are facing increased global warming and also fines in the order of €600 million to €700 million per year from the European Union. We need to start putting that money into mitigation and not into fines.”

Speaking later, Teachta Stanley said:

“By the end of this week, we will have been hit by two storms, one of which was unprecedented in 50 years. The Minister’s response was to refer to the National Mitigation Plan, which sets out the State position on climate action measures. This document however is aspirational at best, and silent on specific actions.” 

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 Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane today welcomed the EU Council's decision to keep the border and the Good Friday Agreement on the agenda, adding that only a political solution will suffice.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“It is vital to the interests of the people of Ireland that there is no border on the island and that the Good Friday Agreement is protected in all its parts.

“It is clear that the present round of Brexit talks have not delivered on these issues and in that context I welcome the EU Council's decision to continue with round one talks until December. 

“It must be said, however, that a worrying narrative is developing in the South that treats the border issue as simply a trade and customs issue.

“It is not. 

“This is recognised by the EU who put the border into the first round of talks precisely because it cannot be resolved by technical means and an absence of tariffs.

“Designated special status for the North is the only practical solution to the political and economic issues thrown up by Brexit.

“This means that the North stays in the customs union and the single market and that the institutions and cross-border bodies of the Good Friday Agreement remain part of the EU legal framework.” 

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“If we get an appropriate mandate, a decision to go into government will be determined by a special Ard Fheis of the party. It will be a collective decision taken by all.”

In his blog this week, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD writes about Sinn Féin’s approach to what may arise following the next General Election.

The article is available here: http://leargas.blogspot.ie/

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The Department of Infrastructure should immediately engage with the Equality and Human Rights commissions over proposed changes to transport regulations which threaten vital transport services, Sinn Féin MLA Sean Lynch has said.

Speaking following a meeting with senior department officials, the Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA commented: “The Department plans to bring forward proposed changes to minibus regulations despite the fact that a consultation is still ongoing.

“And while we appreciate the timeframe has been brought forward to November 1st due to a legal challenge, it presents difficulties for many service users including teachers, health workers, youth workers and community organisations.

“In our meeting, we recommended that the Department engages with the Equality and Human Rights Commissions to seek alternatives as these changes will have an adverse impact on communities and service users, particularly given that the process has now been expedited.

“The focus must be on the services that will be affected by these changes and we will continue to engage closely with the Department to ensure that vital services are safeguarded."

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has accused Fianna Fáil of turning their backs on older people by denying them access to their State Pension at retirement.

Deputy Brady was speaking after Fianna Fáil opposed a Sinn Féin amendment on restoring the Transitional State Pension. 

Teachta Brady said: 

“Fianna Fáil has raised concerns on numerous occasions at the appalling treatment of 65 year olds who are forced to retire at 65 and are left with no option than to sign onto a Jobseekers payment, unable to access their State Pension.

“Sinn Féin amended the Fianna Fáil Pension Motion to include an acknowledgement of the fact that there are more 65 year olds on Jobseekers payments than any other age category in the State and called on the Government to restore the State Pension Transition until such time as mandatory retirement is abolished.

“This is an issue that Fianna Fáil has raised on the floor of the Dáil yet, when it came to addressing the issue, they chose to turn their backs on these people. 

“The State Pension Transition was abolished by Fine Gael and Labour in 2014. It was paid to people who were contractually obliged to retire at 65 but were unable to access their pension until they reached 66.

“Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget contained proposals to restore the pre-September 2012 pension bands and rates at a cost of €70 million and to restore the State Pension Transition at a cost of €84 million. It was possible for Fianna Fáil to do the same but they chose not to. 

“This is yet another example in a long list of Fianna Fáil saying one thing and doing another. They are masters at it.

“Today, Fianna Fáil has ensured that 65 year olds will not receive their State Pension at retirement, they have enforced the farcical situation of these people being forced onto Jobseekers payments and they have denied these people the pension that they have spent their working lives paying into.”

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