Sinn Féin Councillor Kevin Savage has condemned an arson attack on Solitude Park in the early hours of Tuesday morning. He said:
"I want to first of all commend the local police force who intervened swiftly in the early hours of this morning. It was this swift intervention that significantly limited the damage caused. I want to also thank the Fire Service for their efforts.
"The mindless actions of those involved serve absolutely no purpose. Nothing is to be gained from setting fire to a children's play park."Those behind this attack have little to offer and their actions will be met with anger and disgust from the local community."The climbing frame has suffered considerable damage - in particular the ropes and safety netting.
"I have been in touch with council staff this morning to request that the park is assessed before it is opened to the public."
Sinn Féin Brexit Spokesperson David Cullinane TD said British Brexit Secretary David Davis must do more than deliver sound bites and hollow words when it comes to avoiding a hardening of the border on the Island and protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
Deputy Cullinane was speaking after an unannounced visit by Mr Davis to the border region.
Speaking this evening Mr Cullinane said:
“It is remarkable that it has taken up to now for Mr Davis to visit the North and the border region. Mr Davis must recognise that there can be no agreement on Article 50 negotiations unless the issue of avoiding any hardening of the border in Ireland, protecting the Good Friday Agreement and citizens rights are satisfactorily addressed.
“Mr Davis also needs to know that no physical infrastructure or technological solution will be accepted by the people North and South. The vote of the people of the North must be respected.
“At the very least Mr Davis and his Government must spell out in clear terms how the backstop arrangement agreed last December will be implemented. Sinn Féin for our part will continue to argue for full special status for the North.
“The best way to protect the Good Friday Agreement and citizens rights is for the North to stay in the legal architecture of the EU and in the Customs Union and Single Market.
“The British Government needs to once and for all spell out in clear and legal terms how a hardening of the border can be avoided. The Irish Government must continue to use all and every option to make sure this happens.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has said that Minister Doherty’s changes to JobPath will not facilitate moves to Community Employment and other schemes as participants will still remain under JobPath.
Speaking this morning, Teachta Brady said:
“On reading the headline, Minister Doherty’s JobPath announcement appears to reflect exactly what Sinn Féin called for in our recently published Dáil motion however, the good news ends there.
“The changes will not mean that participants can move from JobPath to Community Employment (CE), Tús or a Rural Social Scheme (RSS) but instead they will be allowed to engage part-time with these schemes and remain with JobPath."This means thatJobPath participants who take up another scheme will be treated in a similar way to those who are engaged with JobPath and have part-time jobs.
“This means that those who engage with CE, Tús or RSS will also have to engage with JobPath and they will have to continue meeting with their JobPath Advisor around their work on these other schemes.
“Unsurprisingly, Fianna Fáil has taken credit for this move by Minister Doherty citing their own Bill which aims to allow JobPath participants to opt out of JobPath in order to take part in CE, Tús or RSS. The changes announced do not allow this.
“Minister Doherty’s announcement will see JobPath continue as normal.
"This announcement will not allow participants to leave JobPath in order to take up another scheme it will simply force people to engage with two schemes at the one time.
"For the Local Employment Service, this announcement means nothing.
“Sinn Féin will pursue our own motion calling for an end to the compulsory nature of JobPath for existing participants affording choice for those who wish to take up available places on other schemes.”
Speaking after Britain’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agreed to provide audio recording for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey said:
“The assessment process for PIP is fundamentally flawed.
“One of the many reasons for this is that medical assessments for PIP aren’t recorded as standard. This lack of transparency has led to mistrust and disputes over what was said at interviews.
“Today DWP has agreed to record interviews as standard.
“Having raised this issue previously with the Department for Communities I have now written to the Permanent Secretary asking him to confirm if audio recording will now be provided for those who choose it.”
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has said today’s ruling by the coroner into the death of pregnant teenager 17-year-old Marian Brown in June 1972 is further indication that the British government should implement the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House.
And the Sinn Féin Victims and Legacy spokesperson called for the release of the funds requested by the Lord Chief Justice to hold outstanding coroners’ inquests.
Linda Dillon said:
"The Brown family are entitled to the truth about the killing of Marian and hopefully today's ruling will help them in their quest for justice.
“Families of victims of the conflict having been waiting too long for truth and justice on the killing of their loved ones.
“There is a clear need to address the issue of legacy of the past, we need to see the full implementation of the mechanisms agreed at the Stormont House talks.
“The British government must move now to release legacy funding, as agreed in the most recent phase of talks, and bring this injustice to an end.
“The British government and the DUP must end their disgraceful denial of human rights immediately.
“They must implement the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House and release the funds to the Lord Chief Justice immediately to allow these families access to truth and justice.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Peadar Tóibín TD, has said that the government are failing to commemorate key events in Irish history.
This has resulted in major historical events, such as the mass demonstration to oppose conscription in Ireland one hundred years ago today, passing by with virtually no official government recognition.
Deputy Tóibín said:
“I criticised Minister Madigan last month for her inaction in forming a Commemorations Committee at the Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht Oireachtas Committee.
"The Minister said she not know when it would be constituted. Meanwhile dates such as the general strike against conscription have passed by without commemoration.
“The mass movement against conscription in Ireland was the biggest of its kind with hundreds of thousands of people involved.
"A general strike, the first of its kind in either Ireland or Britain resulted in the country shutting down with virtually no rail lines operating.
"This occurred one hundred years ago today and there has been not a peep from the government apart from ‘supporting’ a single talk held by History Ireland in Liberty Hall today.
“This surely deserves greater recognition and remembrance. The result of this campaign was that, despite a conscription bill for Ireland being voted through Westminster, the effect of the organised protest was such as to make it unviable to introduce conscription here.
"As a result countless thousands of lives were saved with no Irish man forced against their will to supplement the British Army.
“This was a remarkable achievement among many others in this historic centenary year. The dates to mark the 1918 Election and the first Dáil are fast approaching .
"It’s vital that the Commemorations Committee is reconstituted immediately. The Minister must ensure that tribute is paid to these historic events which shaped our nation.”
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan MLA has welcomed new research from the Catholic Principals Association (CPA) which adds further weight to the need to end academic selection.
The Foyle MLA said:
“The research demonstrates what many of us have been saying for years which is that academic selection puts young children under stress, anxiety and depression, and can then label them as ‘failures’ when they succumb to these pressures.
“The damage being caused to our young people’s health by having to face such pressures cannot and should not be tolerated in a caring society’.
“For the church and Catholic grammar schools, causing this type of damage to young children seriously calls into question the Catholic ethos that they profess.
“I agree entirely with the demand from the CPA that grammar schools within the Catholic sector should implement the request from the Catholic Bishops to end academic selection.
“It is important that all schools should focus solely on the well-being of children in their care rather than be concerned about their rankings in school league tables.”
The British Government is stalling on its obligations by refusing to convene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to resolve the power-sharing crisis, Sinn Féin President Mary-Lou McDonald has said.
Commenting today Mary Lou McDonald said:
“Last week Michelle O’Neill and Pearse Doherty met with Simon Coveney, to discuss the way forward to re-establish the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.
“After 14 months of negotiations, and after reaching a draft agreement, it is clear the DUP were unable to deal with the issues of language rights, of marriage equality and of implementing the agreement on the past.
“These rights can no longer be denied, and the agreements delayed.
“We have called for the governments to convene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to implement the agreements and secure the rights of all citizens. The Irish Government have called for the same.
“It is clear the British Government is refusing to commit to a meeting. It should be remembered that the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference is an institution of the agreements and the responsibility of both governments. The British Government cannot walk away from this institution or its obligations. The British Government have refused to convene this body, without reason or explanation.
“We will continue to meet with both governments, but they must also convene the BIIC to resolve the outstanding issues and honour the agreements.
“We believe this is the best route to re-establishing the executive in the north, anything else runs the risk of talks to no purpose and without an end.
“The British Government cannot be allowed to stall and frustrate the process. They need to make clear they will agree to convene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference as soon as possible. There can be no further delay, no further uncertainty, the date should be set.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Chris Curran has said local politicians need to get behind a campaign for an indoor sports hall for St Tiernan’s Community School.
Councillor Curran criticised some local politicians who celebrated the granting of €150,000 to local private fee paying school Wesley College for an upgrade of their hockey pitch while St Tiernan’s has been waiting almost four decades for an indoor sports hall.
Speaking today Councillor Curran said;
“It is astonishing that a private, fee-paying school could receive this amount of taxpayers’ money while the local community school, just a matter of yards away from Wesley College has not been able to secure funding for an indoor sports hall for nearly forty years.
“It is an indictment on the record of local politicians in this area for four decades.
“The Sports Capital Grant, under which the €150,000 was awarded to Wesley College, is administered by the Sports Department under our own locally elected TD, Minister Shane Ross who said publicly that he was delighted to confirm this grant but has yet to comment on the issue of the sports hall for St Tiernan’s.
“We even had the spectacle of local Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond publicly claiming credit for helping to secure the Wesley College grant but again no mention of St Tiernan’s. This simply beggars belief and is highly inappropriate in my view.
“It shows the political priorities of these politicians. Wesley College already has a huge range of top class sporting facilities which it brags about on its website. Meanwhile the kids across the park in St Tiernan’s are changing in the toilets or in the classroom and will not be able to do PE as a leaving cert subject due to lack of facilities.
“It is hard to think of a more stark example of the two Ireland’s we live in today, one for the haves and another for the have nots.
“I have written to the Principal at St Tiernan’s to seek a meeting with him as I represent many of the parents of the children attending the school. I will be making clear to him my political commitment to a sports hall for the school and to campaign for such.
“This has gone on for way too long. All local politicians must get behind that campaign.”
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has spoken of the importance of protecting the work of artists and their incomes.
The Ireland South MEP, who sits on the EU Culture and Education Committee, made the comments on World Book and Copyright Day.
“The 23rd of April is recognised by UNESCO as World Book and Copyright Day. This is a day when we should celebrate authors and other artists that do so much to contribute to our society,” she said.
“With new technologies there are now more ways to access pieces of literature and music so that the general public may enjoy them. This is of course a good thing, but it could also leave artists vulnerable to exploitation.
“The music industry, for instance, has changed enormously over the last decade and legislators are still playing catch up.
“User Uploaded Content (UCC) services such as Youtube are now the main source of music consumption; 82% of YouTube’s European users use the service to access music and UUC platforms have over 1 billion music users globally.
“This is great for getting your music and your name out there, but its not that great if you wish to be compensated for your work.
“As we celebrate World Book and Copyright Day, we must be mindful of ensuring we foster an environment in which the artists of today and tomorrow can flourish.
“The wealth of homegrown talent we have in Ireland is enormous and it is important that we not only support and nurture that industry but also share it with the world.”
Sinn Féin junior Finance Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has said that the upcoming talks between the Government and public service unions this Friday on public-sector pay increases must end pay inequality currently experienced.
The Cork-North Central TD also said that the time to do this is now, and that pay equality must be a priority for the Government in the next budget.
Teachta O’Brien said;
“Successive Fine Gael Governments have overseen pay cuts and pay inequality across Ireland for years now. The move to meet with trade unions this upcoming Friday to discuss pay increases is one to be cautiously welcomed.
“Some 58,000 new entrants to the public sector have been negatively affected by the cross-board cut to their pay scale imposed upon them in 2011.
“This is an issue that must be rectified as soon as possible. It cannot be dragged out over years and eventually kicked into touch.
"Sinn Féin opposed the lower pay scales when they were imposed by the Government and have vigorously held successive Governments to account on this issue since. The issue of equal pay for equal work must be a priority for Minister Donohoe come the next budget.
"There is now an opportunity to resolve this injustice through dialogue, and I hope that Minister Donohoe heeds this notice and makes this a priority for budget 2019."
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson, Karen Mullan MLA has congratulated a number of schools who have been recognised for their exceptional pastoral care at the Derrytrasna Pastoral Care award ceremony hosted by the Department of Education and the Public Health Agency.
The schools who received this year's award are: Stanhope Street Nursery School Belfast, St Mary’s Primary School Killyleagh, St Paul’s Primary School Enniskillen, Belfast Boys Model School and Tor Bank Special School.
Karen Mullan said:
“Growing up can be challenging for young people, the role of our schools and teachers in providing help, support and guidance to the challenges of life is an integral part of the school experience.
“It is important that we acknowledge and celebrate the fantastic work done by those schools that go the extra mile for our children and provide a level of care and support that is over and above what is expected of them.
“I would like to congratulate all the schools, particularly the Principals, teachers and staff who have received this year’s Derrytrasna Award, they have demonstrated their commitment to exceptional pastoral care and providing support to their pupils’ individual needs.”
Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile will host ‘The Hooded Men’ at the Oireachtas on Tuesday 24th April.
Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said:
“The Hooded Men are a group of former internees who were tortured for seven days by British state forces in August 1971.
“The surviving victims of this injustice will be joined by their legal representatives and campaigning human rights organisations, at a dedicated briefing for Oireachtas members and staff.
“This will be an important opportunity to brief and update members of both Houses on the campaign.
“The Hooded Men are some of many citizens still seeking truth and justice over 40 years after their ordeal.
“The British government and its agencies must release all information it holds about the torture, human rights abuses and state killings it carried out during the course of the conflict.”
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has repeated her party’s call for the immediate release of imprisoned Derry man, Tony Taylor.
Speaking after meeting with the British Secretary of State in Westminster, the Foyle MP said:
“It is now over two years from Tony Taylor’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment. I made it clear, once again to the British Secretary of State that Tony’s continued detention is wrong and is a violation of his human rights.
“Sinn Féin has consistently stated that if evidence exists to show that Tony Taylor is a risk to the public, it should be put before him and his legal team in an open court so that this can be challenged.
“Over the course of the past two years, the British government has failed to produce any evidence which could in any way justify his continued detention.
“I also took the opportunity to remind Karen Bradley of the considerable strain placed on his wife, family and parents by his continued detention. I have asked her to strongly consider the letter sent to her by Tony’s wife Lorraine and to re-visit his case a matter of urgency.
“Sinn Féin will continue to raise this matter with the British Secretary of State and will do so again until Tony Taylor is released.”
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has welcomed the statement from ETA in which the group apologised for the hurt caused to victims of its armed actions.
Teachta McDonald said;
“Today's statement from ETA is an important contribution to peace and reconciliation.
“I urge the Spanish and French governments to demonstrate generosity in their response. Both governments must do everything in their power to help build a fair, comprehensive, and irreversible peace in the Basque Country and to deal with the issue of political prisoners.
“The Irish government must appeal to the Spanish and French governments to respond positively to this statement and offer its support in assisting the development of a successful peace process.”
The SDLP are ignoring the wishes of residents in order to dance to the Orange Order’s tune in their new-found opposition to the naming of Raymond McCreesh Park, Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has said.
The Newry-Armagh MP commented: “Over recent days and weeks, we have seen increasingly vitriolic statements from a number of SDLP representatives calling for the Raymond McCreesh Park to be renamed.
“In so doing, they are ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of people from the Ballybot area believe that the name should remain unchanged.
“They are also ignoring the fact that, when the park was renamed in 2001, the Council was dominated by unionists and the SDLP. Despite this, the name change went ahead in line with the wishes of residents and Council procedure.
“There was no controversy and no objections were raised until 2008 when the Newry District Loyal Orange Lodge, which is not located in the vicinity of the park, made a complaint.
“It is unfortunate that the SDLP have now ditched their own position in order to dance to the Orange Order’s tune with their new-found opposition to the naming of the park.
“It is also a huge disservice to the local residents whose wishes the SDLP are blatantly ignoring in order to try and curry favour with unionism and the Orange Order.
“I have been contacted by many residents in the area who have expressed their anger at the position being adopted by the unionists and the SDLP and have indicated their determination to oppose any attempt to deny them their democratic wishes.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Carál Ní Chuilín has expressed alarm at new figures which show that renting privately is becoming more expensive.
Responding to the figures contained in the Homelet Rental Index, the North Belfast MLA said:
“Average rent in the private sector has risen by 2.4% here compared to an increase of 0.9% in Britain. In Mid Ulster the average increase is a steep 5%.
“This increase is not being driven by a rise in prosperity. It is being driven by the failure to build sufficient social housing, which is forcing more and more people into the private market.
"These figures have been released just days after research by the Nevin Economic Research Institute linked higher rents in the private sector with poverty.
“Lengthy waiting lists for social housing and higher private rents is the price ordinary families pay for the failure to build sufficient social houses to meet need.”