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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 MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said Sinn Féin remain committed to challenging the housing inequality and discrimination that exists in rural communities today. 

The party’s Housing spokesperson was addressing Mid Ulster Council’s Rural Housing Seminar in Cookstown today. 

Carál Ní Chuilín said: 

“Fifty years after the civil rights movement there is an emerging crisis and a deep-rooted inequality within the housing system that needs to be urgently addressed.

“Most rural families rely on private home ownership, not because they can afford it more than their urban counterparts, average incomes in rural areas are lower, but because there is very little choice.

“But this crisis is not just rural, across society, thousands of people are homeless, in housing stress, facing high levels of overcrowding and waiting an average of two years on the housing list. 

“Mid Ulster alone has around 1000 families in housing stress, yet there are plans to build only 67 homes in total. 

“The Housing Executive must step up and address the growing inequalities that exist in rural housing provision by focusing on prioritising the supply of social and affordable housing to meet growing demand.

“Sinn Féin remain committed to challenging urban and rural inequality through an ambitious programme of new builds to immediately address unequal access and progress the realisation of the right to a home in line with international equality obligations.”

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In response to a statement in respect of Brexit negotiations by the British Prime Minister Theresa May this afternoon, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said the Prime Minister’s comments amount to “nothing but tired rhetoric” and are an exercise in deflection.

Teachta McDonald said:

“Theresa May made a statement today which was billed as a major one in respect of Brexit negotiations. It was, regrettably, no more than an exercise in tired rhetoric.

“Rather than accepting that her so-called ‘Chequers Plan’ fails to resolve fundamental issues, Theresa May has engaged in deflection.  

“Her ‘Chequers Plan’ falls short of what was contained in the December ‘backstop’ agreement, which her government already accepted. She needs to accept that reality.

“Her focus has unfortunately remained on infighting within in her own party and her pact with the DUP, instead of coming to an acceptable negotiating position.

“More than eighteen months into talks and with time running out, she continues to show scant regard for Ireland, for our rights, for our economy and for our Agreements.

“Her comments in respect of the north are particularly disingenuous given her pact with the DUP at Westminster is an active block on a return to power-sharing - through which she denies citizens’ rights that are enjoyed everywhere else on these islands.

“The Irish government and the European Union must remain resolute in the face of British intransigence. They must remain true to their word that without an agreed, legally enforceable ‘backstop’ there will be no Withdrawal Agreement.” 

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Sinn Féin carers spokesperson Colm Gildernew MLA expressed concern that many families are still struggling to secure care packages for their loved ones.

He was commenting after the latest figures from the Department of Health showed a decrease in the total number of residential and nursing care packages being secured.

Colm Gildernew said: "The statistics are another reminder that our social care sector faces great pressures in being able to offer and deliver packages of care in the community. Issues with shortages of staff and high turnover rates can leave a health trust or provider struggling to cope.

"I know it can be often quite difficult to get care packages regardless of what trust area someone finds themselves in. Sinn Féin constituency offices are constantly helping people to secure the best care package they can.

"It is also important to note that not all care packages can be the same. Often they can be complex and challenging but they can be a great source of support for families and carers struggling to cope to look after their loved ones."


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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane TD, said today that Theresa May's speech shows once again that the Conservative Party is in freefall over Brexit.

The Waterford TD said that the Tory'e have "have no ideas, no strategy and no viable alternative options and whatever happens in the next three months, there can be no hardening of the border on the island of Ireland".

Deputy Cullinane said:

"Theresa May was given a hard dose of reality at Salzburg.

"Chequers is a dead duck. It is not workable. Everyone knows it - including, I suspect, Theresa May herself.

"Yet she has put too much political capital into it to let go and move to a viable alternative.

"But regardless of the merits of Chequers or not, one thing is certain: there can be no withdrawal agreement without a backstop for the north.

"This is a red line issue and one that cannot be allowed to become a bargaining chip in the weeks and months ahead.

"The Irish government must continue to hold firm."

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Órlaithí Flynn MLA has welcomed the announcement from the Belfast Trust that they've placed an order for a transvaginal scanner which is anticipated to be fully operational next year.

The West Belfast MLA said:

“Today’s announcement by the Belfast Trust regarding the transvaginal scanner is a welcome step in the development of a Mesh Centre.

“My party colleague, Caoimhe Archibald MLA and I met with the leading service personnel, including the Lead Clinician, to discuss the services for mesh injured patients. They told us that work was in progress with the PHA to reissue information around the preparations for a regional mesh centre. 

“The hope is that the business case and funding will provide a functioning regional mesh centre at the City Hospital and that confidence can be restored. The proposed, self-accredited mesh centre will assess, scan and treat patients according to their physical and mental health needs.

“We welcome the recognition physical and emotional support is required and that women will have access to trained psychologists who understand the complexity of mesh injury.

“We made it clear that a dedicated service is required and highlighted our concerns around the misinformation and communication to patients.

“Confusion was caused by an announcement in February about the existence of a new mesh centre. The service personnel have acknowledged that this announcement was premature and that the new centre is not yet operational.

“We recognise that service personnel are endeavouring to strengthen trust and confidence with mesh patients.

“Sinn Féin will be meeting with the Health Permanent Secretary in the coming weeks to discuss all of these issues further and ensure women have access to the appropriate care and treatment."

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Dúirt Liadh Ní Riada, iarrthóir Uachtarántachta Shinn Féin go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go dtarlódh díospóireacht teilifíse i nGaeilge mar chuid d'fheachtas toghcháin an Uachtaráin.

Dúirt Liadh Ní Riada:

"Tá sé tábhachtach go ndéanfaí freastal ar phobal na Gaeilge mar ba cheart le linn na feachtais toghcháin seo.

"Creidim gur gá go mbeadh díospóireacht i nGaeilge. Is í ár bpríomh teanga, agus ba chóir don  craoltóir náisiúnta é seo a éascú san toghchán don oifig is airde sa tír.

"Bheadh ​​aon rud níos lú ná sin mar mhasla ar na saoránaigh atá ag maireachtaint trí mheán na Gaeilge, orthu siúd a bhfuil conaí orthu sa Ghaeltacht, agus ar ár dteanga dhúchais.

"Táim ag tnúth le RTÉ nó TG4 a phleananna a fhógairt le haghaidh díospóireacht i nGaeilge idir na iarrthóirí Uachtarántachta ar fad."

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Limerick Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has condemned Fianna Fáil's  Willie O’Dea TD for his opposition to new public housing at Clonmacken, describing his action as “a prime example of Fianna Fáil doublespeak”. 

Speaking today, the Senator Gavan responded:

"Not for the first time, Fianna Fáil Deputy Willie O’Dea has publicly opposed attempts in Limerick to build public housing. There are 10,000 people homeless across this state, including 4,000 children.

"Every week we see more people being made homeless in our city. The crisis is unprecedented yet Fianna Fáil representatives in Limerick consistently oppose new housing. 

"How can Deputy O’Dea justify such a position? 

“Last week Mr O’Dea took to local radio to condemn the councils plan to build 43 social houses near the North Circular Road and subsequently all six Fianna Fáil councillors voted to block the development. That is a disgrace. 

“There is a housing emergency across this state. Fianna Fáil are shouting in the Dáil lambasting Fine Gael regarding their failure to build social housing, and we then have Fianna Fáil’s O’Dea opposing social housing in his own back yard. This is the typical hypocrisy and doublespeak of Fianna Fáil.

“What exactly is Willie O’Dea’s problem with Social Housing? Is it an ideological problem? Is it a class issue? Or is it just another example of Fianna Fáil saying one thing nationally and doing another thing locally."

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Speaking after the Citizens Information board’s annual report found that ‘Irish citizenship’ and ‘Irish passport’ were the most searched terms on their website last year, Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile said: 

“Brexit has created massive uncertainty for citizens, who are resident in both in the north and Britain around their rights and entitlements.

“People are deeply concerned and unsure and need practical support and assistance from government in this regard.

“I have raised the need for a dedicated 'citizenship hub' that could aid citizens who are unsure about their legal rights, protections, entitlements, status and situation as a result of Brexit.

“A dedicated 'citizenship hub' would provide an important support mechanism at a time of much demand and need for engagement from many thousands of Irish citizens. 

“The Irish government must also take a stand in defence of rights, citizenship and the Good Friday Agreement at the negotiations and afterwards.”

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion met Today with NIO officials to discuss securing a City Deal for Derry. 

The Foyle MP said:

“I met today with NIO officials alongside my party colleague Paul Maskey MP to discuss securing City Deals for both Derry and Belfast. 

“It was a constructive and positive meeting and we both emphasised the needs for both bids to be progressed in parallel so that both can come to fruition and deliver the maximum benefit for people in both cities. 

“Securing a City Deal is key to growing the economy of Derry and the wider north west region as part of the strategic growth plan. 

“I will continue to engage with the NIO and next week I will be travelling to London to meet British government officials as part of Our efforts to secure a City Deal for Derry.” 

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Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael today opposed the Sinn Féin Bill to recognise the Moore St Site as a National Monument.

According to An Teachta Peadar Tóibín who tabled the bill;

“The only reason that Fine Fáil and Fine Gael could oppose this bill is that they would accept commercial development on the site that is contrary to its status of a National Monument.

"This is particular galling as both parties stated support the Moore St Campaign’s objective of Moore St being a National Monument.

"They state that they support the objectives of the Ministerial Moore St Forum and it’s report. They wax lyrical about the men and women who sacrificed so much.

"They stated they opposed the High Court decision to recognise it as a National Monument solely due to potential planning ramifications for other sites elsewhere. However when the opportunity arises to vote according to their many words, they refuse.  

"For the last 20 years Moore St has been ground zero of a legal battle between Celtic Tiger developers and those who seek to create a fitting tribute to the men and women of 1916.

"The area has been left derelict and sterilise by years of inaction of successive governments. It is shocking that a site so close to the main street in our capital, where a small number of men and women who took on the might of the largest empire ever, is left derelict.

"That in over 100 years FF and FG government nothing has been done. The saddest thing is, it does not have to be like this. The Moore St area is ideally located to become the centre of the new vibrant historical, cultural and trading quarter. Moore St is a unique opportunity.

"Commercial interests could successfully operate side by side with strengthened and rejuvenated street traders.

"The relevant buildings and street-scapes could shed the grime of dereliction and be restored to their former character. And the story of the humanity of the Rising could be woven through all these aspects. But instead the political establishment say one thing and do another."

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has said while investment in sports coverage is welcome, the BBC is continuing to ignore the GAA which is the largest spectator sport on the island of Ireland. 

The party’s Culture, Arts and Sport spokesperson said:

“I welcome the BBC’s investment in coverage of local sporting fixtures through their partnership with the Irish Football Association. 

“However, it’s abundantly clear that the BBC have once again ignored the largest spectator sport on the island of Ireland by failing to include any further investment for coverage of GAA championship games including GAA club games which regularly attract some of the biggest attendances in the north. 

“There is anger among GAA fans and licence payers at what appears to be institutional bias within the BBC against Gaelic games.  

“Over a quarter of a million people attend GAA matches in the north over the season with countless more wanting to watch or listen to the GAA coverage whether on the TV, radio or online.

“Sporting organisations and broadcasters have a responsibility to ensure there is equality of access to sporting coverage and this absolutely includes the 250,000 Gaels in the north. 

“My colleague Chris Hazzard will be writing to the Director General of the BBC and I will be meeting with the BBC on Monday to raise our opposition to their decades of neglect towards televising and mainstreaming gaelic games.”

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Sinn Féin’s motion in support of the Post Office network and criticial of the government passed in the Dáil today. 

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams who spoke in the Dáil debate on Tuesday evening said:

“The decision by the government to cull 159 Post Offices from the current network is a direct attack on rural Ireland. It is also in contravention of its own stated commitment in the Programme for Government to provide additional services for Post Offices, including government services i.e. motor tax renewal.

"The erosion of the Post Office network, in addition to the closure of Garda stations, rural schools and transport systems is having a hugely damaging impact on rural communities.

"The loss of more Post Offices, on top of those closed by Fianna Fáil, means that a vital social hub for local people, especially older citizens, will reinforce the sense of isolation many of them feel. This increases mental health issues, heightens loneliness and the risk of suicide.

"There are additional services which could, and should be delivered via post offices as outlined in the 2016 Kerr report. These include; extended financial services; government services; maintaining the electoral register; and issuing motor taxes. All this will keep jobs and services in rural areas.

"The reality is that while in government both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have subverted the Post Office system and undermined the provision of services to rural Ireland.

"What the Post Office network needs from this government is a coherent, properly resourced strategy with firm proposals that will secure the future of Post Offices and of the thousands who are employed by it.

"In the Programme for Government agreed by Fine Gael and Labour in 2011 there was a firm promise to ‘ensure that the network of post offices around the country is maintained and that communities have access to adequate postal services locally.’ It didn’t happen.

"The Programme for Government in 2016 was even more specific in its support for the Post Office Network and it promised that the government would act swiftly on the recommendations of the Post Office Business Development Group.

"Very clearly this hasn’t happened. Sinn Féin’s successful motion now puts the government on notice to revise its closure proposals for the Post Office network.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has accused British Prime Minister Theresa May of "playing a game of chicken with Irish interests".

Teachta McDonald was speaking after this week’s EU Summit meeting in Salzburg.

The Dublin Central TD said;

“Once again the British Government turned up to an EU Summit meeting with no workable solutions to their Brexit problem and no care for Irish Interests, our rights, our agreements and our economy. 

“Theresa May is engaged in a dangerous game of brinkmanship.  This week’s summit has been marked by bad faith from the British Government and disregard for deadlines.

 “With less than six months to go to the Brexit deadline, the Irish Government and the EU must remain resolute in the face of British arrogance.

“The EU must remain true to their word that without the agreed legally enforceable backstop there will be no withdrawal agreement. 

"Britain will not be allowed to walk away from their obligations or fudge the issue of Ireland.

"The people of the North voted to remain and we cannot allow a situation develop which sees them dragged out of the EU, out of the Customs Union and out of the Single Market against their wishes."

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Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has called on the Football Association of Ireland to pull out of the upcoming U21 Euro Qualifier which is set to take place in Israel on Thursday 11 October. 

Speaking after meeting with the Chief Executive of the FAI along with Sinéad Ennis MLA at Leinster House today, Niall Ó Donnghaile said:

“Today I met with the FAI and asked them to reconsider the planned Under 21 Euro Qualifier which is set to take place in Israel on Thursday 11 October. 

“Israel is an apartheid state which is involved in the slaughter of Palestinian civilians, flagrant human rights abuses while showing complete disregard for international law. 

“Palestinian footballers and facilities have been deliberately targeted by Israeli military and the national team blocked from partaking in international fixtures due to disgraceful restrictions placed on them by the Israelis. 

“Sinn Féin support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign which involves the economic, cultural and sporting boycott of the Israeli state.

“UEFA have a responsibility not to put countries in the position of facing Israel in competitive fixtures by expelling them from their competitions while Israel continues its onslaught against the Palestinian people.” 

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Sinn Féin’s Deputy Leader in the Dáil, Pearse Doherty TD, has called upon the Health Minister to make good on his promises that no child would be waiting more than four months for spinal surgery, and for him to meet with the father of a child with scoliosis.
 
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Teachta Doherty said:
 
“Yesterday, RTÉ aired a piece that can only be described as shocking relating to the provision of assessments of need for children with a disability.
 
“Figures released by the HSE show that up to 3,850 children across the State - with a disability or a suspected disability - are overdue a needs assessment.
 
“Under the Disability Act 2005, any child suspected of having a disability is eligible to apply for a needs assessment to identify their health requirements.
 
“Such an assessment is legally required to be completed within six months of the date of application. Nearly 4,000 children are being denied that right. They are being failed by the health service.
 
“The parents of children in this situation are at their wits end. They are desperate to find out why their children exhibit symptoms and for a diagnoses so their children can access services. They are not the only children being failed by the health service Tánaiste.
 
“Others are being treated disgracefully as well. Sophia McGuinness, who is twelve years old, and has scoliosis and cerebral palsy, has been waiting for surgery for almost a year and a half.
 
“Sophia is one of more than fifty children who don’t feature on scoliosis waiting lists because they have had their surgery suspended.
 
“Children like Sophia are living in agony. Their parents are exhausted from battling the system. They are worn-out fighting for their children to access vital treatment.
 
“Last year Minister Harris offered apologies and made promises. He made a statement saying no child would be waiting more than four months for spinal surgery by the end of 2017.
 
“The government must do right by Sophia and the other 188 children who are waiting for spinal surgery and he must agree to meet with Sophia’s father to hear what it is like first hand for parents and children living in pain. He also must do right by the 3,850 patients who are waiting for a needs assessment.”

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The DUP has effectively endorsed a gross lack of integrity in public office by accepting Ian Paisley back into the party with only a minor sanction, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

The Sinn Féin Vice President was commenting after the DUP announced it had concluded its investigation into the North Antrim MP.

Michelle O’Neill commented: 

“After six weeks of silence the DUP announced today that its investigation into Ian Paisley had concluded and his suspension from the DUP had been lifted.

“No further details have been provided despite the very serious nature of the scandal that Ian Paisley has been engulfed in over his links to the Sri Lankan regime.

“Ian Paisley received lavish holidays from the Sri Lankan regime and then lobbied to prevent the UN investigating war crimes against the Tamil people by that same regime.

“He displayed a gross lack of integrity in public office through these actions. Despite this, there was no hint of an apology from the DUP to either the people of North Antrim or the Tamil population.

“Instead, he has been welcomed back into the DUP fold.

“That represents another failure on behalf of the DUP and is an effective endorsement of his actions.

“The DUP is very fond of pontificating to others but when it came to dealing with its own wrongdoing, it failed to take the appropriate action, which would have been to sack Ian Paisley.”

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has welcomed confirmation that work on the Drumahoe to Dungiven section of the A6 road upgrade will officially begin next Wednesday.

The Foyle MP said: 

"News that the A6 dualling scheme between Drumahoe and Dungiven is set to begin next week is a positive step forward for the city. 

"Work is already well underway on other sections of the A6 and when completed, this road upgrade will reduce journey times between Derry and Belfast which is vital for growing our economy and increasing connectivity.

"It will also make it much easier for visitors and tourists to travel to the city. 

"This has been made possible because of the work to take this vital infrastructure project forward carried out by Chris Hazzard as Infrastructure Minister. 

"This, along with other key infrastructure projects such as the A5 and the transport hub at the old Waterside train station, will all enhance this city and district for locals and others."

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Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has questioned the commitment of Fianna Fáil to saving rural post offices after their own motion on the issue was poorly attended by their own senators.

Speaking after a motion on post office closures in the Seanad, the Mayo Senator said:

“There was only one speaker from Fianna Fáil on behalf of the motion and only three Fianna Fáil senators turned up to the vote. There is no use in attending mass rallies calling for the protection of rural post offices if those same politicians are not going to use every avenue available in the Oireachtas to achieve this.

“I was strongly critical of Fianna Fáil’s attempts to explain away the 732 post office closures that happened when they were in government. These closures took place at a time when the rural population was increasing and when rural Ireland needed more services rolled out. Post office closures were wrong then and they are wrong now.

“I called on the government to listen to and work with those communities attempting to keep their local post office. There are many examples around Mayo where local communities have shown imagination and commitment to make their local post office viable. Blanket closures such as happened recently mean that this initiative is ruled out for years to come.” 

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Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has called for the rights of children with suspected disabilities to be respected and for the Government to fulfil its obligations under the 2005 Disability Act.

Senator Conway-Walsh said:

“Today, I called on the Government to end the scandal of parents of children who are waiting months for assessment of need to be carried out. Each child is entitled under law to an assessment within 6 months. When this does not happen their rights are being denied.

“Many parents have become exasperated with the long waits and uncertainty and have to make huge sacrifices to fund these assessments privately.

“Without the initial assessment, parents are left in the dark in terms of a full diagnosis and accessing further care and treatment. I am calling for these children’s rights to be respected and for the Government to act immediately to ensure this backlog is cleared.

“While we all welcome legislation underpinning the rights of those with disabilities, there must be equal determination to ensure that the provisions are implemented. People must feel that their rights are real and that they have protection.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed the a rise in the number of students from outside the EU beginning undergraduate degrees in the north this year. 

The party’s Further & Higher Education spokesperson was commenting on figures released by UCAS which outlined a 16 percent rise in international enrolments.

Caoimhe Archibald said:

“I welcome the figures released by UCAS show a 16 percent rise in the numbers of international students from outside the EU enrolling to courses in the north. 

“International students make positive social, cultural and financial contribution to our society and our ability to attract them is important with the continued uncertainties attached to Brexit. 

“The figures also show a rise in the number of EU students beginning courses here. This reinforces the need to secure protections for the north within the EU through special status.  

"Brexit will limit the opportunities of young people, hampering their ability to study, work and live across Europe and could lead to the imposition of international fees for studying across the EU.

"We need to hear students, and all other groups in society making their voices heard in the coming weeks and months.”

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