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Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said the fight to protect emergency services at Daisy Hill Hospital must continue.

Speaking after a public meeting the Newry/Armagh MP said:

"At today's meeting myself, Cathal Boylan and Megan Fearon all pointed out the inequality between Daisy Hill and Craigavon.

"Newry is on the main Dublin to Belfast corridor and is very much dependent on the emergency services provided by Daisy Hill.

"Daisy Hill also provides for people living along the border corridor and as such the loss of the emergency services will be detrimental.

“On the back of today's meeting the Trust has announced a regional summit on options to sustain the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill Hospital.

"While I welcome this initiative I hope it has a positive outcome.

"We need to keep the momentum going and continue the fight to protect the services Daisy Hill Hospital."

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Sinn Féin's Elisha McCallion has said the upcoming Westminster election is an opportunity to vote against the Tory Brexit agenda and austerity. 

The Foyle candidate said: 

"In the last Assembly election the people came out and voted for equality, integrity and respect and that vote made a difference. 

"Now as we face into a Westminster election where the Tories and the DUP want to drag us out of the EU against our will, the vote of the people can make a difference once again. 

"Brexit will be a disaster for the economy, for local business, for farmers and the wider agri-food industry, for the health service, for workers’ rights and border communities. 

"Staying in the EU is vital to our future prosperity but it must be a changed EU.   

"There can be no EU frontier across Ireland. Trade tariffs and border controls are unacceptable. 

"Sinn Féin is the only party to put forward a credible alternative to Brexit with our case for designated special status for the north within the EU.

"That case will not be won at Westminster but across Ireland and throughout Europe. 

"What Sinn Féin wins in this election is a win for everyone who wants a new progressive politics which is modern and inclusive." 

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The Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has welcomed a vote in the European Parliament on Thursday which calls for further supports for the family-farm structure in the European Union’s agricultural policies.  

Speaking after the vote on the Report ‘State of Play of Farmland Concentration in the EU: How to facilitate the access to land for farmers’, in Brussels Carthy said:

“Small and medium scale family farms play an active role in the economic fabric of rural areas, by conserving the cultural heritage, maintaining rural life, sustaining social life and making use of natural resources. This is in addition to producing high-quality food. Ensuring a broad distribution of land ownership is crucial maintains all of these factors, which have characterised rural Ireland for centuries. Nowhere is the Family Farm model so essential than within rural Ireland.

“That said, there are worrying trends across Europe at the moment with the overall figures showing 3% of farms controlling 50% of the land. High concentration of ownership is one of the main factors contributing to inequalities we see in CAP payments.

“The Report voted through this week taking stock of farmland concentration offers practical solutions to some problems, as well as cementing the small farm structure as the best way of ensuring responsible relationship with the land and sustainable land management.

“In Ireland over the last few months we have seen many farmers targeted by vulture funds, whose only interest is securing assets at the expense of livelihoods, jobs and entire ways of life. The report today calls on national governments to take measures that avoid speculative land transactions as well as recognising the need to curb the rise in farmland prices and rents. This is an area where our own Government is completely failing.

“In the West of Ireland, massive land grabs have taken place over the last year that see the likes of multinational pension companies buying up large swaths of land to plant forestry. This land may never make their way back into the hands of the local communities, yet the Government has done absolutely nothing about it. It has failed to close loopholes in existing legislation that actually encourage these actions at the expense of local farmers.

“I would urge the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and his colleague Phil Hogan to read what has been adopted in the European Parliament and to come forward with practical solutions at national and EU level that safeguard our rural areas.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has reacted to a new report showing that the types of schemes revealed in the Panama Papers cost the budgets of EU member states up to 237 billion euro per year. The report, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Panama Papers inquiry committee, was presented at a hearing of the committee today in Brussels.

Carthy said: “These findings show the high cost to governments across the EU of permitting these schemes that funnel money offshore. The schemes directly and very significantly reduce the amount of funds available to state authorities for spending on public services.

“The report estimates that the schemes revealed in the Panama Papers cost the budgets of EU member states somewhere between 109 billion euro and 237 billion every year.

“This is money that should be received by governments as revenue and then made available to fund vital public services like hospitals and schools.

“The report looks at just one example of what these funds could be used for if it wasn’t diverted to offshore tax havens – employment. The billions funnelled out of EU member states and into tax havens could be used to support an additional 3.5 million jobs, at a time when we still have 20 million people out of work across the EU.”

Carthy questioned the report’s author’s on whether there could ever be any legitimate reason for the use of shell companies, arguing that even those shell companies created for ‘legal purposes’ were used solely for tax avoidance by individuals, groups and corporations.

“Shell companies are at the heart of the offshore scam. These findings show that we need to take transparency seriously and we need to act urgently to stop money that should be spent on healthcare and education from being diverted into tax havens. We need to put in place public registers of the beneficial owners, or true owners, of companies in each state and ensure that corporations publicly report their earnings and tax paid in each country,” he said.

Today’s hearing followed a two-conference organised by Carthy together with fellow MEPs in the European United Left (GUE/NGL) group in Brussels to mark the one-year anniversary of the publication of the Panama Papers. The conference featured international tax justice activists including Professor Richard Murphy from City University London, representatives from Oxfam and the Tax Justice Network, and political representatives from Ecuador and Bolivia. ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said today that the coroner’s findings at the inquest into the killing of Bernard Watt that British soldiers were not justified in their use of lethal force underlines the need for the money to be released to the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests.

Bernard Watt died after being shot by the British Army in Ardoyne, Belfast, in February 1971.

The Coroner also ruled that Bernard Watt was not holding a bomb when he was shot by British soldiers and that he was not in the IRA.

The North Belfast MLA said:

“I welcome today’s findings.

“Barney Watt’s family have waited for over 45 years for truth and acknowledgement of innocence. Hopefully today’s ruling will bring the family closer to finding the answers they are seeking into the killing of their loved one.

“Today’s case also underlines the need for the money that has been set aside as part of the Fresh Start Agreement to be released to the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests.

“All families should be entitled to truth, acknowledgement and justice.” 

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Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O'Neill said the DUP and the British government should use the break in talks to develop positions, which deliver on outstanding commitments and to allow the speedy restoration of the Executive.

Michelle O'Neill said:

"The calling British general election was a self-serving decision by the Tory party and has effectively sabotaged any prospect of agreement in these talks. 

"But the reality is that the DUP and the British government had not moved to address the issues that led to the current crisis and the collapse of the political institutions. 

"These issues of rights, equality and respect need to be resolved if the Executive is to be reformed.

"I welcome the dialogue that Arlene Foster has opened with the Irish language community and I hope that this leads to a change of approach on this and the other issues.

 "The DUP and the British government can and should utilise the time now available to develop positions which deliver on outstanding commitments and would allow the speedy restoration of the Executive after the election in June.

"Sinn Féin remains committed to the restoration of the institutions but it can only be on the basis of equality, respect and integrity." 

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Sinn Féin's South Antrim MLA & National Chairperson represented the Party at the Workers'' Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony at Stormont earlier today.

Speaking afterwards Mr Kearney said:

"International Workers' Memorial Day highlights the importance of building trade union organisation and campaigning for stricter enforcement of health and safety laws with higher penalties.

"This year's theme emphasised good health and safety for all workers regardless of their background.

"I was pleased to join local trade unionists at this morning's dignified NIC-ICTU organised wreath laying ceremony in the grounds of Stormont at the memorial tree dedicated to David Layland of the GMB Union.

"Today's event is especially important at a time when workers rights and conditions are further threatened in the context of the Tory Brexit agenda.

"I also want to warmly congratulate West Belfast Sinn Féin member and trade unionist Pat Neeson who received an ICTU/HSE Health and Safety Representative Excellence Award afterwards at an event in the Stormont Hotel." 

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Sinn Féin deputy Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has issued his support for staff in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services who have balloted for strike due to management decision to cease employer contributions to a staff defined benefit pension scheme. He described the decision to engage in industrial action as a regrettable but unavoidable move due to the cavalier actions of management in ceasing payments.

Deputy Buckley said:

“Strike action in a health service setting is a difficult decision to make and I am sure that the nurses who made this decision did so with the interests of those they care for at the forefront of their minds. These staff members are professional and trained to a very high standard. They deserve respect from their employer and proper terms and conditions which ensure their pension is in place for their future.

“No one can be expected to do their job to the best of their ability when they are worried for their future and their employer is undermining that by reneging on agreements made.

“St Patrick’s Mental Health Services staff defined benefit pension scheme members were told in March their employer would be stopping contributions and would transfer its funds to a defined contribution scheme. This came after neither discussion nor consultation with workers or their unions. Employers cannot be allowed to act in this way.

“Sinn Féin earlier this year published the Pensions (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2017 which would have protected against this move by employers. The Bill would have provided for an appeals mechanism where a pension scheme is being wound up by the trustees of that scheme. Unfortunately, despite the Bill passing a vote in the Dáil, the Government, who opposed the measure, have not allowed it to progress further.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Mental Health Mary Lou McDonald has expressed her support for the launch of the Green Ribbon campaign by SeeChange this evening and encourages everybody to end the stigma around mental health by wearing the Green Ribbon.

Deputy McDonald said;

“I welcome the launch this evening by SeeChange of their annual Green Ribbon campaign.  I will be showing my support for this worthy campaign by wearing the Green Ribbon. I encourage as many people as possible to take this small step to help end the stigma around mental and wear the Green Ribbon during May.  Daily life brings so many stresses and strains that all go to affect the mental health of people.  This campaign encourages us to look out for each other, talk to each other whether it’s a family member or a friend because a problem shared is a problem halved.  

“We need to take care of our mental health.  We need to end the stigma around mental health.  The Green Ribbon campaign will help start conversations and raise awareness about mental health.  Wear a Green Ribbon this May.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan and South Donegal and Agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny today said he regretted that the chairman of the Western Development Commission, Paddy McGuinness had been driven to ask Minister Michael Ring not to reappoint him, such was his frustration at government inaction on rural decline.

Deputy Kenny said:

“There is a lot of lip service paid to addressing rural decline, but precious little action. The litany of damage done with the closure of post offices, garda stations, rural schools, cutbacks in transport, and a failure to provide broadband shows us how little this government and the Fianna Fáil-Green government before it cares about rural areas.

“Next week, my Rural Equality Bill will reach second stage in the Dáil. It aims to tackle discrimination against rural areas and enshrine rural-proofing in legislation. I hope that Fianna Fáil TDs, especially those in the North West, will support this bill and begin to act to undo the damage done to rural areas over the past decade.” 

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Speaking today after Minister Denis Naughten launched a joint ESB/Bord na Móna enterprise to develop solar farms in the Midlands, Sinn Féin TD and Climate Change spokesperson Brian Stanley said that the Minister is completely on the back foot when it comes to solar and the diversification of our renewable energy sources.

The Laois TD said:

“We have been very slow in developing this clean and indigenous source of energy of solar power and would be very much behind some of our European counterparts. Currently, we have no state subsidies in place for this renewable energy. Britain, with relatively the same climate as ourselves, is one of the biggest solar industries in the world.

“Only this month, the EPA reported that Ireland will not reach its 2020 obligations when it comes to our renewable energy production and our reduction in emissions. These are binding obligations which, if not met, means that fines will be imposed on the State.

“We need to provide for more diversification in our renewable energy sources. Alongside sources such as solar, we have our almost completely underutilised offshore wind which has a huge potential to aid in powering a significant amount of this States energy needs. This needs to be addressed by a coherent plan from the Government going forward.” 

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Following on from the announcement that the Taoiseach is to travel to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau to discuss the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan today urged the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor to hold a debate on the controversial trade agreement.

Speaking today, the Limerick City TD said:

“Today, I submitted a Parliamentary Question to the Minister seeking a date for a Dáil debate on CETA. This is my second formal request in April alone calling on the Minister to hold a debate, as although this trade deal is almost fully implemented; the Dáil has been refused permission to debate its contents. This is a dramatic departure from normal procedure, and flies in the face of democratic principles.

“It is totally unacceptable that the Taoiseach is to fly to Canada to discuss CETA with other politicians, when Irish elected representatives have been refused a voice, for fear of highlighting the serious flaws in this agreement.

“Many people in Ireland still aren’t aware of the potential consequences of CETA, highlighting the need for a Dáil debate on the matter. It will further distort trade and wealth in favour of larger multinational corporations at the expense of indigenous business. Small and Medium Enterprises right across Europe will be disadvantaged by CETA. Coupled with other EU trade deals coming down the line, CETA will be devastating for Irish agriculture, farming families and rural communities.

“The previous response I received from the Minister on this was disgraceful, highlighting Fine Gael’s disregard for the Republics’ parliamentary institutions, and so I will continue to press for a debate until the concerns of Irish citizens, farmers and businesses are heard in the Dáil.” 

Note: Please see the PQ in question below

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, that in light of the fact that CETA is to be discussed in Canada next week by the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Trudeau, and noting her previous refusal of my request to hold a Dáil debate on this trade deal, will the Minister now confirm a date for the Dáil to have an opportunity to debate the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)?

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described recent figures on IDA jobs created in Louth and the Border Region as “deeply depressing.”

Information provided by the Minister for Jobs in respect of IDA investment raises real concerns about the disparity in such jobs across the state but especially in the Border Region.

Gerry Adams said;

“Border counties fare particularly badly in the provision of IDA supported jobs and with the Brexit already having an adverse impact on the economy, that situation could get worse without proper planning and funding by government.

“Earlier this week my colleague Maurice Quinlivan identified serious gaps in the provision of IDA backed jobs across the state based on responses he received to Parliamentary Questions.

“When analysed and set against the recent census population numbers it emerged that there is one IDA supported job for every 23 citizens in the state. However, this statistic varies significantly depending on where you live. For example, Galway and Cork top the list for most IDA jobs per capita, with one job for every 15 people, followed by Dublin with one job for every 16 people.

“Those living in the six border region counties, including Louth, are between two and five times worse off than areas like Dublin and Cork. The disparity for Monaghan is one job for every 447 people. For Donegal it is one job – 52 people. Cavan is one job – 63 people. Louth is one job for 35 people. Sligo is one job for every 28 people.

“In Dublin, 9,000 new jobs were added in 2016, but in Louth the figure was 453. In Sligo the net gain was 190. In Cavan it was 41. In Leitrim it was 3. In Donegal it was 145. While in Monaghan the number of IDA jobs created in 2016 was seven.

“That means the six acknowledged border counties secured a miserly net gain of 839 IDA supported jobs out of 18,627 IDA backed jobs across the state in 2016.

“The IDA does huge work in creating new jobs. Over the decades it has proven itself to be an invaluable agency in attracting investment into the state. However, there is a huge imbalance in the distribution of these jobs across the state. The responsibility for this must rest with the government. It must ensure that investment and jobs are evenly distributed throughout the state and especially between large urban centres and rural and border regions.

“Border counties fare particularly badly in this analysis and, with Brexit already having an adverse impact on the economy, that situation could get worse without proper planning and funding by government.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills Carol Nolan TD has said the high non-progression rates in some courses at third level shows the clear neglect of the sector by the Government. Teachta Nolan was commenting on the Study of Progression in Irish Education published by the Higher Education Authority.

Commenting on the publication, the Offaly TD said:

“Those in the lower socio-economic groups, over-represented in the Institute of Technology sector, are most at risk of dropping out of their course as figures show that level 6 and 7 courses have the highest non-progression rates of 26% and 27%.

“This compares with an 11% non-progression rate in the University sector, with those in the farming, professional, employer, and managerial socio-economic groups most likely to proceed with their studies.

“The Institute of Technology sector is most reliant on government funding, which has reduced by over 20% per student since 2008 with a 30% decline in staff-student ratios across third level.

“In addition, the ESRI has shown that cuts to guidance counselling at second level have impacted most heavily on disadvantaged students, who rely on the services for appropriate information of the career pathways available to them.

“The failure to provide basic supports to disadvantaged students will further increase inequality across our society in future years as graduates earn up to 64% more than those without third level education.

“There can be no excuse for this failure to invest in our young people. OECD data shows that Irish graduates produce a return to the exchequer that is higher than the OECD average.

“In our Alternative Budget 2017, we called for increased supports for guidance, the reduction of the staff-student ratio in institutes of technology; increased funding for student assistance and a reduction in fees – measures that would make a real difference and help support young people to complete their education.” 

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Writing in his weekly column for the Belfast Media Group, Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams outlines the background and context of the killing of Garda Officer, Tony Golden; the grievous wounding of Siobhán Phillips, and the suicide of Crevan Mackin in October 2015.

The Sinn Féin leader describes how he received “anonymously to my office in the Dáil a copy of the Statement of Charges relating to the arrest in January of that year of Mackin. The detail contained within the document raised serious and fundamental questions about the role of elements of An Garda Síochána in the circumstances surrounding Mackin’s arrest in January 2015, their relationship with him subsequently, and the multiple shooting in Omeath”.

Gerry Adams immediately contacted the office of the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, and then wrote to both her and An Taoiseach providing them with a copy of the Book of Statements and setting out his concerns. He describes the response of both as “unsatisfactory. I have never received any indication that the government was taking this matter seriously.”

Since October 2015, Gerry Adams has written to the Minister for Justice eight times and to the Taoiseach four times. He also handed over all of the information to the Garda Officer in charge of the investigation. And when it appeared that the government was not taking this matter seriously he made a formal complaint to the Garda Ombudsman.

Writing in his column, Mr. Adams says: 

“Crevan Mackin was an individual with known serious mental health issues. Despite having admitted possession of weapons and explosives he was not charged with these but with– membership – an accusation he consistently denied. All of the available information indicates that some in the Gardaí – in particular the Special Detective Unit - were aware that Mackin was still in possession of other handguns, including two Glock handguns. It was a Glock that Mackin used in the Omeath shooting.”

The Louth TD also raises the treatment by An Garda Síochána of Siobhan Phillips – a victim of serious and repeated physical abuse by her partner. 

“When the family sought to make a complaint at Dundalk station they were refused. Why? What protocols are in place with An Garda Síochána for dealing with victims of domestic violence? Clearly the treatment of Siobhán Phillips is evidence that any protocols that might exist are inadequate. It is worth noting in this regard that only two weeks ago the Garda Commissioner was forced to admit that the Garda’s statistics on murder and domestic violence may be wrong and that it is now re-examining all of its statistics.”

Speaking this morning following publication of his column, Gerry Adams said:

“The family of Siobhan Phillips have called for an independent inquiry to examine all of the facts around this case. I support them in this. In light of the attitude of An Garda Síochána when Siobhan Phillips presented to them the evidence of her abuse there is also a need for an urgent review of Garda protocols for dealing with domestic violence, the treatment officers receive and the resources available to them.” ENDS

Note: Please see the full text of Gerry Adams column below

Last week RTE broadcast a special investigative programme about events in Omeath on 11 October 2015 which left a Like everyone else I was shocked when the news broke. Omeath is a quiet, tranquil village on Carlingford Lough. It is a beautiful part of the Cooley Mountains.

In the aftermath of the shootings the news reports appeared to suggest it was an open and shut case. No one else was involved in the incident and the perpetrator, Crevan Mackin, was dead. However, four days after the shooting I received anonymously to my office in the Dáil a copy of the Statement of Charges relating to the arrest in January of that year of Mackin. The detail contained within the document raised serious and fundamental questions about the role of elements of An Garda Síochána in the circumstances surrounding Mackin’s arrest in January 2015, their relationship with him subsequently, and the multiple shooting in Omeath.

I immediately contacted the office of the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, and then wrote to both her and An Taoiseach providing them with a copy of the Book of Statements and setting out my concerns.

The document revealed that Mackin was arrested on 16th January 2015 at his home in Omeath under Section 30 of the Offences against the State Act. The warrant accused him of being a member of the IRA on the 16th January 2015 and in possession of explosives in suspicious circumstances. The Gardaí believed that he had six handguns, as well as explosives, ammunition and timing devices.

During subsequent interrogation in Dundalk Garda station Mackin denied the membership charge but admitted possession of weapons and explosives. According to his family and solicitor he was taken at one point from the station to a house at Edentubber where two hand guns were recovered. Later Mackin was charged with membership but not with the possession of the explosives or weapons.

His family say that Mackin told them later that he did a deal with his Garda interrogators that in return for working for them he would not be charged with the firearms and explosives offences. He told his family that the Gardaí wanted him to go on to the dissident wing in Portlaoise as their informer. However when the dissident prisoners refused to accept him Mackin’s bail conditions were significantly dropped from twenty thousand euro to five to allow for his release.

Both the evidence of the Statement of Charges and the accounts given by his family show that with the knowledge of some in An Garda Síochána, Mackin continued to have access to at least four other handguns.

On Saturday 10 October Crevan Mackin’s partner Siobhán Phillips contacted her father Sean and step mother Norma. She told them that Mackin had savagely beaten her overnight from the Friday evening into the Saturday morning and that he had attacked her with a knife. Sean and Norma brought Siobhán to Dundalk Garda station but the Duty Officer refused to take a statement from her. This was despite the family telling him that Mackin was currently out on bail and had threatened to kill them and all of their immediate family.

The family drove to Daisy Hill hospital in Newry where because of her injuries, the staff contacted the PSNI. They took notes and photos of Siobhán’s injuries. When they left Daisy Hill hospital at 11.30 pm on the Saturday night the family drove toward Carlingford intending to make a complaint at the Garda station there. On route they flagged down a Garda car whose occupants referred them to Garda Tony Golden. It was arranged that he would meet Siobhán at 3pm on the Sunday. The next day Siobhán, and her father Sean, met Garda Golden who took a statement and then offered to bring Siobhán to her home to collect some things. According to Sean shortly after Garda Golden and Siobhán entered the house shots were fired. Garda Golden was killed. Siobhán was shot four times and grievously wounded in the head, and Crevan Mackin then shot himself.

In the 18 months since the Omeath shooting I have written to the Minister for Justice eight times and to the Taoiseach four times. I also handed over all of the information to the Garda Officer in charge of the investigation. And when it appeared that the government was not taking this matter seriously I made a formal complaint to the Garda Ombudsman.

The ramifications of this case are far reaching for An Garda Siochána and for the government, especially in light of the number of Commissions of Investigations and scandals currently surrounding the Gardaí.

Crevan Mackin was an individual with known serious mental health issues. Despite having admitted possession of weapons and explosives he was not charged with these but with– membership – an accusation he consistently denied. All of the available information indicates that some in the Gardaí – in particular the Special detective Unit - were aware that Mackin was still in possession of other handguns, including two Glock handguns. It was a Glock that Mackin used in the Omeath shooting.

Informers and agents are regularly used by police services to provide information on individuals and organisations. However, it is widely accepted that such informers should not act as agent provocateurs or engage in criminal actions or encourage others to do so. In the North the use by the RUC and British security agencies of informers and agents has long been a major source of controversy. The Crevan Mackin case has turned the spotlight on the Gardaí and how it recruits and runs informers.

Why was Mackin not charged with the more serious offences which he had confessed to? Why was he allowed to retain possession of a significant number of handguns? Were local Gardaí informed that Mackin still had access to weapons? Why were Siobhán Phillips and Garda Golden placed in such a perilous situation? Had Garda Golden no means of checking Mackin’s record before approaching the house? What assurances and protections were given to Mackin by the Special Detective Unit?

There is also the very serious matter of the Garda’s treatment of Siobhán Phillips, a victim of significant violence by her partner. When the family sought to make a complaint at Dundalk station they were refused. Why? What protocols are in place with An Garda Síochána for dealing with victims of domestic violence? Clearly the treatment of Siobhán Phillips is evidence that any protocols that might exist are inadequate. It is worth noting in this regard that only two weeks ago the Garda Commissioner was forced to admit that the Garda’s statistics on murder and domestic violence may be wrong and that it is now re-examining all of its statistics.

The responses of both the Taoiseach and Minister for Justice to my correspondence have been unsatisfactory. I have never received any indication that the government was taking this matter seriously.

Those responsible must be held accountable and, if necessary, they must face a criminal investigation and possibly charges. Last week, just hours before the RTE programme was broadcast Siobhán Phillips, Crevan Mackin’s sister, and I received letters from GSOC. I was told that the Garda Ombudsman now intends to conduct an investigation in the public interest into the information I gave it.

Separately the family of Siobhán Phillips have called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to establish a public inquiry into the incident. This week they will begin proceedings in the High Court in Dublin.

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Responding to the announcement that Dr Peter Boylan has resigned from the Board of the National Maternity Hospital, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD said:

“It is regrettable that Dr Boylan has felt the need to resign from the Board of the NMH.  That will be one less critical voice at the table to speak up for the clinical community and those who are concerned about the influence of religious orders in the running of a hospital for which the state will be investing €300 million for its construction. 

“The Minister for Health Simon Harris has not comprehensively addressed the concerns regarding the governance of the proposed hospital and now there will be one less voice to question his inaction.” 

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Speaking this afternoon, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has reiterated her calls for more to be done around the huge problem of gambling addiction and lack of regulation by calling on the Government to conduct a gambling prevalence study as a matter of urgency so the number of problem gamblers in the country can be properly calculated and the necessary supports resourced and put in place.

MEP Boylan said:

“In their 2010 paper, ‘Developing a population approach to gambling: health issues’, the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) called a for a prevalence study to be carried out in order to ascertain the number of persons addicted to gambling or with problem gambling habits in Ireland.

“Seven years on and to the great shame of this and the previous Government, no such detailed study has been carried out. Instead, to overcome the fact that there is no gambling prevalence data available for Ireland, we have to use international data from other countries to estimate the number of problem and addicted gamblers in the State.

“That there is no prevalence data for a genuine public health issue such as gambling addiction is an absolute disgrace. We would not allow this to be the case with other health issues, yet the government is happy to stand over this state of affairs.

“In estimating the number of problem gamblers many have to rely on using the figure that one per cent of the population experiences gambling problems, which would represent approximately 40,000 individuals in Ireland. However, it is ludicrous to think that in the age of online gambling, prevalence of smart phones, and the marketing campaigns ran by gambling companies, that only one per cent of the population is addicted. Especially given that a recent report showed Ireland to have the 3rd highest gambling losses per capita in the world.

“I have stated on many occasions before my belief that problem gambling is one of the gravest issues facing Irish society. However, without the data from a prevalence study we are fighting that problem in the dark.

“We are already trying to claw back lost ground on this issue, and we cannot continue to be reactionary, we cannot wait until the problem is tearing society apart at the seams before we act, we need to act now.

“As a matter of urgency, we need a comprehensive gambling prevalence survey carried out by Minister for Health Simon Harris so that the Minister of State for Justice and Equality David Stanton can bring forward the Gambling Control Bill which is due to be published this year promptly and with the relevant data.” 

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GAA legend Seán Boylan will chair a major public debate that will take place at 8pm today Thursday April 27th in the Newgrange Hotel, Navan. The debate will see speakers from across the political spectrum including Peadar Tóibín TD for Sinn Féin, John McCallister Independent Unionist, Minister Damien English for Fine Gael, and Shane Cassells TD for Fianna Fáil.

Speaking beforehand, local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín said:

“We are at a once in a generation tipping point. The objective of hundreds of generations of Irish people is within our grasp. This Thursday, Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Unionists will debate Irish Unity. This may well be the first meeting of its kind anywhere in the country.

“This grassroots movement towards unity has been inspired by the significant political changes that are happening in our time. Brexit, the changed political landscape in the North of Ireland, and the growing Scottish Independence Movement have opened up a discussion amongst all sectors of Irish society about how best to protect the Peace Process and grow the emerging All Ireland Economy.

“Similar debates have been held in Universities throughout Ireland where student set about discussing the feasibility of Unity and the significant opportunities, benefits and efficiencies that could be brought about by working together throughout the whole island of Ireland.

“One year ago, no one other than Sinn Féin was talking about Irish Unity. Today, we are no longer alone. Get in on the ground floor and attend the first all party county debate on Irish Unity in Navan tonight.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny for preparing to discuss and promote the controversial Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Free Trade Agreement (CETA) on a visit to Canada next week while the issue hasn't even been discussed in the Dáil.

Matt Carthy said:

“The Taoiseach is visiting Canada next week where he will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss and promote the highly controversial Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).  This deal has raised serious concerns among many citzens, particularly farmers, workers and small & medium indigenous companies.

“Despite these concerns the government have signed off on the provisional application of the deal at EU level disregarding the fact that it must be agreed by all national parliaments including the Dáil.  The Dáil has not yet voted on this deal, amazingly it hasn't even debated it.  In actual fact the only vote in the Oireachtas was a Seanad resolution calling on the government NOT to ratify the deal.

"Many people will therefore find it objectionable that Enda Kenny is willing to discuss and promote this dangerous trade deal with the Canadian Prime Minister but not with fellow TDs in the Dáil, several of whom have expressed deep and well founded concerns about its implications.

“It is my firm belief, based on legal advice I have received, that under the Irish Constitution final ratification of CETA requires a referendum.  This is because of the inclusion within the deal of an Investment Court that would have powers to fine governments for enacting legislation that impact on the profits of corporations.  I suspect that there would be little public appetite for such a scenario.

“The Government has recently denied the Dáil a debate on CETA, a decision which exposed Fine Gael’s complete disregard for the Irish Constitution, the justice system, as well as contempt for the Dáil itself and the people of Ireland.

“As is his style, it appears that Mr Kenny would rather talk to foreign leaders about matters which directly concern Irish citizens than make himself or his Government accountable to the Dáil.  This is unacceptable.”

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In an interview with An Phoblacht this week, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD outlined her vision for the health services and why she wants to be Minister for Health.

Speaking during the course of the interview, Teachta O’Reilly said;

“I want to be Health Minister.  I can see the potential in our health service for change. The only person who can do this is the Minister for Health and that’s a job I would love.

“Fine Gael have plenty of right-wing, privatisation ideology but they are bereft of new ideas.

“The report card for this minister is not good but the report cards for previous ministers – including Micheál Martin, let’s not forget – wasn’t good either.

“How many Health Ministers have we heard from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour down the years telling us that they know what’s wrong with the health service in the South but perpetuate a system that clearly doesn’t work?

“Sinn Féin has the vision to transform the system.

“Healthcare is a jig-saw with many pieces that need to fit together but you’ve got to have the vision, the will and the wherewithal to make that happen otherwise patients and staff will suffer.” ENDS

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