Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has branded An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as “completely out of touch with the daily realities facing ordinary people”.
Ms McDonald was responding to the Taoiseach’s address at his party’s Ard Fheis tonight.
The Sinn Féin President said:
“The Taoiseach has shown through his empty words and mud-slinging tonight just how completely out of touch he is with the daily realities facing ordinary people.
“Leo Varadkar had nothing to say about the cost of living crisis which is crippling families. He had nothing to say about the low wage economy and precarious work which is causing huge levels of stress and insecurity among working people.
“For all his talk of reducing tax, the Taoiseach will shortly impose a carbon tax on families who are already living hand to mouth. Who are already struggling to make ends meet. Who are at the mercy of endless expense and a health and housing system in constant crisis.
“The fact is that the Fine Gael government is inherently ineffective and unstable. It is lurching from crisis to crisis and has lost control of budgetary spending as was evident in the National Children’s Hospital debacle.
“The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil alliance has done nothing but damage and the empty rhetoric from Leo Varadkar tonight shows that we need a new direction and a government that will start delivering for people."
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA, has welcomed the launch of a Relatives for Justice report into the murder of Peter Gallagher in 1993.
Speaking after the report's launch in Toome today, the South Antrim MLA said:
“I was honoured to speak at the launch of the Relatives for Justice (RFJ) report into the murder of local Sinn Féin member Peter Gallagher in 1993, and have this opportunity to pay tribute to my friend and comrade, who remains fondly remembered and sorely missed by his wife Bernie, their seven children, seventeen grandchildren, large family circle, and wider community of Cargin and Toome.
“I commend RFJ for this very comprehensive report into Peter’s murder. It is especially poignant that it was launched today in the village of Toome, and only a stone’s throw from his family home in Trea Gardens, from where he set out for work, for the last time 26 years ago.
“This compelling report provides a very personal insight into Peter’s life. Importantly, it also details the wider context of his murder by a unionist death squad at his place of work in Belfast early on the morning of 24th March 1993, and raises important questions which remain unanswered by the British state.
"RFJ report that Peter Gallagher's details featured on RUC security montages supplied to unionist paramilitaries. He was a victim of the UDA's Belfast based 'C Company', which was a specific death squad heavily infiltrated with British military agents, and directed by the British army's notorious Force Research Unit.
"They also conclude that Peter was in all probability killed with a Browning pistol imported as part of the consignment of South African weapons organised by British agent Brian Nelson.
“Organised collusion between British state forces and unionist death squads, and state sponsored assassinations defined British state policy in Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s.
“Between 1989 and 1993 fourteen Sinn Féin members, including three councillors, were murdered. Peter was one of those assassinated during that period. Other family members were killed and dozens with connections to Sinn Féin were injured.
"The Gallagher family and RFJ have asked the Police Ombudsman to investigate specific circumstances relevant to Peter's killing, and any relevant RUC association to these circumstances.
“Behind every loss in the conflict, there is a human story: There is a person, a family, loss, and grief.
“Peter Gallagher was a devoted family man who lived to work, and worked to provide for his family. He was a much loved and highly regarded personality in Toome, and he was a deeply committed republican.
“Peter Gallagher's family, and so many others deserve truth and justice.
"It is an indictment of the British state that powerful elements of the British political and military establishment continue to deny these families maximum information disclosure about what happened their loved ones.
“The blocking of legacy justice rights by the British state, and refusal to implement the Stormont House Agreement legacy mechanisms has created a new momentum for truth. Today’s launch of the RFJ report into Peter Gallagher’s murder is the latest example of this unstoppable momentum for truth and justice.”
Carthy to host “Brexit: What’s Next?” Event in Donegal on March 29th
Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy will host a special “Brexit Day” event in Donegal on Friday March 29th.
The event entitled “Brexit: What’s next?” will take place in Dillon’s Hotel, Letterkenny at 8pm.
Ahead of the event Carthy said:
“March 29th is the original Brexit date. So it makes sense that we would hold a public meeting on that date in one of the regions that has most to lose from a bad Brexit deal.
“The fact that there remains huge uncertainty about what will happen is symptomatic of the absolute chaos in the British Parliament and particularly their cavalier attitude to Ireland.
“Farmers and other businesses in Donegal and in other areas along the border don’t know what impact Brexit will have other than knowing there is no such thing as a good Brexit.”
Carthy again reiterated that the backstop is the basic minimum acceptable to the people of Ireland.
“The backstop remains the least bad option but even if the withdrawal agreement is adopted it will still leave many challenges for Ireland.
“Therefore this public meeting in Donegal will be an opportunity to provide an update on what’s happening with Brexit at that stage. It will also be a chance to discuss how we can deal with all of the potential scenarios in order to protect our communities, farmers, businesses and workers. We will also discuss the issue of Irish Unity recognising, of course, that Brexit has highlighted the failure of the partition of our country in very stark terms. “I would encourage people from Donegal and neighbouring counties to join the conversation in Dillon’s Hotel in Letterkenny on ‘Brexit Day’ next Friday evening, March 29.”
Carthy calls on government to resist EU Vulture Fund Directive
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called on the Irish government to ensure that domestic legislation designed to subject vulture funds to Central Bank regulation is not trampled on by the proposed new EU Directive on creating a secondary market for non-performing loans. The Midlands North West MEP has been negotiating the package on non-performing loans for the left group in the European Parliament.
Carthy said: “First up, my view is that this proposed Directive needs to be withdrawn. It was proposed on the basis of an impact assessment that took absolutely no regard of the rights of EU citizens such as the right to housing assistance under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
“It will lead to more evictions, more harassment of homeowners by debt collectors, and more housing stress and homelessness. It is grossly unfair because it puts the blame and the punishment for the 2008 crisis on the shoulders of ordinary families and homeowners instead of the financial institutions that caused the crisis.
“In an Irish context, we have made only limited progress to date in terms of regulating vulture funds and protecting consumers and mortgage-holders. Yet even this modest progress made in the Dáil – usually in spite of Fine Gael opposition – will now be under threat by this EU Directive.
“For years Irish campaigners for the rights of mortgage-holders have demanded that the vulture funds themselves, and not only the middlemen – their intermediary debt collectors, referred to as credit servicers – must be directly regulated by the Central Bank. Ireland’s Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2018, which came into effect in January, is a positive step forward in that it allows the Central Bank for the first time to regulate, investigate and sanction the owners of the credit agreements and not just their designated debt collectors.
“This modest but significant step forward in our framework for regulating vulture funds is now under threat by the EU Directive, which aims to impose a regime where the vulture funds themselves are entirely unregulated in the EU and only their ‘credit servicer’ subsidiaries are subject to any rules.
“I welcome the fact that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe confirmed in a letter to me on March 6 that he has communicated to the Council that this is a ‘redline’ issue for Ireland in the Council negotiations on the Directive. The government must be held to this commitment, and all Irish MEPs in the European Parliament must also defend this position.
“The second substantial principle we need to defend is of course my colleague Pearse Doherty’s ‘no consent, no sale’ bill requiring banks to gain the written consent of their customers before selling their mortgage to a vulture fund; if this bill becomes law based on the will of our elected representatives in Dáil, it will be simply overruled by the EU through this Directive.
“I have tabled amendments to the Parliament’s report on the Directive demanding the direct regulation of the vultures; the need for banks to obtain the written consent of their customer before selling their loans on to a third party; a debt buy-back scheme for customers to have the right to purchase their own debt at the same reduced price that their bank would sell the loan to a vulture for; and for a range of additional consumer protection improvements to the Directive.
“But these amendments are not enough. I will also be working with consumer protection groups and housing campaigners in the coming months to call for the total withdrawal of this extremely damaging proposal.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Mayo Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has urged Fine Gael representatives in Mayo to apply pressure to their colleagues in Cabinet to sign off on the pyrite redress scheme, as time is of the essence in order to facilitate necessary repairs.
Senator Conway-Walsh said:
“With the onset of spring and summer, the only opportunity that householders have to arrange for necessary repairs to be carried out is fast approaching. Complex external structural work can only be completed in relatively good weather. I have seen many of the affected houses and I can testify that many of them will not last another winter.
“Last year I held up a photo in the Seanad showing the damage that one stormy night can do to a house that was already showing the signs of pyrite related defects. Many houses around Co Mayo are in this precarious state. The homeowners need certainty. They need a date. They need to plan and prepare.
“The situation seems even more ridiculous when Minister Eoghan Murphy recently told my party leader that the only thing that was holding up the redress scheme was the need to ‘finalise the details’. I have seen the houses, Government Minsters have seen the houses – hurry up!
“I am therefore calling on all Mayo representatives, particularly those who are in cabinet or who regularly tell us that they have the ear of the Government, to act now on the homeowners behalf. I certainly don’t want to be highlighting more cases of houses, where the redress scheme has come too late.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said today that Brexiteers in the DUP and Tory party now need to accept reality and avoid a disastrous crash-out Brexit.
The South Down MP said:
"An extension or delay, regardless of the length, does not solve Brexit or avoid the possibility of a devastating crash-out.
"It prolongs the chaos in the British parliament and adds to the uncertainty for the business community, the farming sector and everyone else.
"The only thing which will avoid a crash-out Brexit which would drive our economy off a cliff edge is the Withdrawal Agreement.
"The British parliament needs to abandon its delusional belief that there can be any renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop it contains.
"The Brexiteers in the DUP and Tory party now need to finally realise where this reckless course they are on will lead and take a step back and avoid a disastrous crash-out Brexit."
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe, has expressed his deep concern at the decision of the US President, Donald Trump, to declare that the occupied territory of the Golan Heights is part of Israel in direct contravention of international law. This follows on from the US declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of the Israeli state.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“Israel invaded Syria’s Golan Heights in 1967 in an act of aggression that displaced 95 percent of the region’s population, approximately 130,000 people. Israel has illegally occupied the Golan Heights ever since and numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions have condemned Israel’s illegal occupation of that territory.
“This latest move by the Trump administration is another flagrant disregard for international law and it could have majorly disruptive effects on regional stability. I am conscious that there are currently hundreds of Irish troops in the Golan Heights on a UN peacekeeping mission and this declaration threatens their safety.
“The fear now is that the United States could make a similar declaration about the West Bank in Palestine. This would be an attack on Palestinian sovereignty and a two state solution.
“Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights are illegal under international law. This latest move by the Trump administration puts them at direct odds with the rest of the international community. It is short sighted and potentially disastrous for the region at large, which is still trying to recover from the latest botched attempts at US intervention.
“I am calling on the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, to distance Ireland from this US declaration and restate that Ireland recognises that Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights is illegal.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell has said flying the Rainbow flag from Belfast City Hall during Pride is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.
Cllr Campbell was speaking after the party’s motion for the Rainbow flag to be flown during Pride was passed at today’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.
Cllr Campbell said:
“Our LGBTQ+ citizens make a huge positive contribution to the city of Belfast and the passing of this motion is an expression of solidarity from the city council to the LGBTQ+ community.
“Pride is an enormous day for Belfast as it is both a celebration of our LGBTQ+ community and a protest against the denial of rights.
“The LGBTQ+ community deserves full recognition and implementation of their rights, including the right of marriage equality which is available everywhere else on these islands.”
Speaking this morning upon the release of a new progress report by Dr Gabriel Scally into the CervicalCheck scandal, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that, while some good work has been done to date to implement the recommendations of the Scally Report, more ambition and a clear plan were needed.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The CervicalCheck scandal and resulting inquiry by Dr Gabriel Scally rocked the health service and our society to its core.
“In the aftermath of that scandal, much political capital was staked in the inquiry into the scandal by Dr Scally and the recommendations which it proposed to make sure this would never happen again.
“It is important that Dr Scally’s progress report highlights that work is ongoing on many of the recommendations which he stated were necessary to move the health service forward from this low point.
“There appears to be an appetite to carry out this work. However, it is also clear that there needs to be greater ambition and a clear plan to pursue the implementation of the recommendations.
“As often is the case, there are a number of important recommendations which are lagging and there does not appear to be an appropriate plan or resources to ensure the implementation and compliance with all of Dr Scally’s recommendations in a timely fashion.
“In many instances, recommendations are being rushed as if this is a race and Dr Scally noted that the Department of Health has few staff for whom implementing the recommendations is their sole job.
“This is just not good enough, the Department of Health is responsible for driving this change and it should be a central plank of their work for 2019.
“It is also disappointing that the HSE appear to be lagging on the core issue of open disclosure with the previous policy, which has been judged to be deeply flawed, remaining in place.
“This is still quite worrying when we also consider the government is nowhere near progressing the Patient Safety Bill, which still has not even been drafted.
“Furthermore, it is equally frustrating that the recommendations on outsourcing, a practice of which there is still significant questions to answer over its role in the CervicalCheck scandal, will not report be addressed until later this year.
“There needs to be a clear plan with the necessary ambition and resources so the recommendations of Dr Scally can be implemented with clarity and purpose for the benefit of the health service and patients in the long term.”
To mark World Water Day, Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Lynn Boylan has hosted an event in the European Parliament to reflect on the European Citizen's Initiative Right2Water.
Speaking from Dublin, Lynn Boylan MEP said:
“Nearly 5 years ago, I was appointed as the lead negotiator for the European Parliament’s report in responding to the citizens’ petition. As the term comes to an end and we head into fresh elections, we have reached a sticking point in getting the human right to water enshrined into EU law, as advocated in my report.
“Meanwhile, water poverty is still a serious issue across Europe and water disconnections are used as a tool to discriminate against ethnic minorities in parts of Eastern Europe. What we have been trying to achieve these past seven years with the Right2Water movement is the establishment of a human right, but seeing that right enshrined at an EU level has met huge resistance from the EU Commission and some Member States, including Ireland.
“My event on the right to water this week in the Parliament was to reflect on where we have come to, and to strategise on how we can reorganise the progressive wing of the Parliament to reassert the demands of the ECI Right2Water and ensure that the next parliament guarantees this right in EU law.
“Water is a human right. We cannot have a political compromise on this. Human rights are either upheld or they are disregarded. I will continue to fight for the right to water to be fully recognised at EU and national level and resist the EU's privatisation agenda and disregard for this fundamental right.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said the international community must act on a report by the UN Independent Commission of inquiry on protests in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The West Belfast MP said:
“This report by a UN Commission investigating human rights breaches during the 2018 ‘Great March of Return’ in Gaza has found that Israeli authorities ‘unlawfully authorised’ lethal forces resulting in loss of life.
“The Commission also found that Israeli forces shot and wounded 6,016 protesters with live ammunition. 189 died at the protest site, 183 of these from live fire.
“This report raises serious concerns about the actions of Israeli security forces and Israeli government policies.
“While the UN report highlights the actions of the Gaza authorities, encouraging or defending the use of incendiary kites and balloons targeting Southern Israel, the Commission found that the demonstrations were almost entirely civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims.
“The Irish government should take the lead by sending the Israeli ambassador home and immediately recognising the State of Palestine.
“Sinn Féin calls on the Human Rights Council to immediately implement the reports recommendations relating to preventing future violations, ensuring accountability and lifting the blockade and closure of Gaza.”
Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy said today that the PSNI investigation into the deaths of three teenagers at the Greenvale Hotel, Cookstown on St Patricks’ Day must refocus on the events which led to the tragedy.
Francie Molloy was speaking after he and party Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill met with the PSNI.
Francie Molloy said:
“We met with the PSNI this morning to discuss the investigation into the tragic deaths of 17-year-olds Lauren Bullock, and Morgan Barnard and 16-year-old Connor Currie outside the Greenvale Hotel on Sunday night.
“We told police that the heart-broken families of the three teenagers require answers about how their children died.
“We challenged the police on the progress of the investigation to date and we made it clear that the investigation needs to refocus on the awful events of Sunday night.
“That police investigation must be full, thorough and comprehensive.”
Sinn Féin MLA Orlaithi Flynn has expressed concern after US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), revealed new health concerns around the use of controversial mesh implants.
The West Belfast MLA was commenting after the FDA warned that some mesh implants may provoke an adverse immune reaction in patients, resulting in chronic fatigue, cognitive impairment and pain.
She said: “The FDA admission follows recent courtroom revelations about the use of certain plastics within the human body. During a recent New Jersey supreme court hearing, memos showed that mesh producers were told over 20 years ago by a leading plastic resin manufacture that their product was not suitable for human implantation.
“These revelations raise serious concerns about the use of mesh, not only to address incontinence and prolapse but also in hernia repairs. The mesh products in question have been sold and used all over the world. I recently met with a group of hernia patients who are experiencing very similar complications to those described by vaginal implant patients. To date the number of hernia patients highlighting adverse reactions is smaller but the symptoms can be just as severe.
“An inadequate regulatory regime has led to real human suffering. It has to stop.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has welcomed recommendations from the Department for Infrastructure that planning permission for the Belfast Transport Hub should be granted.
The West Belfast MP said:
“I welcome news that the Department for Infrastructure that planning permission for the Belfast Transport Hub which will replace the Europa Bus Centre and Great Victoria Street train station complex should be granted.
“This new Transport Hub will be a state-of-the art facility and will provide a significant economic boost to the area.
“It will help improve accessibility and connectivity with other parts of Belfast including hospitals, shops, schools and colleges.”
World Down Syndrome Day takes place today March 21st and aims to raise awareness for all of Persons with Down Syndrome around the world, their rights and needs and special place amongst us.
Deputy Ó Caoláin, who is his party’s Spokesperson on Disability Rights, has expressed warmest good wishes to the Down Syndrome Community in Ireland, and worldwide, on this very special day for them and for their families.
The Cavan-Monaghan Deputy stated;
“I believe in marking this very special day. However, it should be about much more than awareness raising.
“I have been engaging with Down Syndrome Ireland over a long number of years concerning additional resources and services for Person’s with Down Syndrome.
“Just a matter of weeks ago Down Syndrome Ireland presented in Leinster House on their ‘Please Don’t Leave Us Behind’ campaign which asks for assurance of full inclusion in our nation’s classrooms for children with Down Syndrome.
“Delivering on this ask would include the allocation of the July Provision and the recognition of the importance of Individual Education Plans for children with Down Syndrome.
“The July Provision is an extended school year based on an extra month’s education during school going years and Individual Education Plans are vital to ensuring a positive learning environment for students with Down Syndrome.
“What more fitting tribute could we provide in marking World Down Syndrome Day than coming good and delivering on the asks of Down Syndrome Ireland’s ‘Please Don’t Leave Us Behind’ campaign.
“I call on Minister Finian Mc Grath and Minister Joe Mc Hugh to identify the necessary resources within their respective Departments and make education fully inclusive for our children with Down Syndrome”, appealed Deputy Ó Caoláin, whose adult brother Dermot has Down Syndrome."
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has attended the trial of the 12 Catalan political and civil leaders in Madrid over the past two days.
Deputy Crowe travelled to Madrid to attend the trial with his party colleague and MEP for Dublin, Lynn Boylan.
The Dublin South-West said:
“We travelled here to show our support and solidarity with the former Ministers, the Members of the Catalan Parliament, and the civil society activists that are on trial.
“These 12 political and civil leaders are in the dock in what has all the trappings of a political trial. It is our belief that their prosecution is politically motivated and they are political prisoners. Facilitating people to vote is not a crime, but preventing them by force should be.
“From the beginning of this process, I called for the nine political prisoners to be released from their pre-trial detention and that the charges against them should be dropped. Some of them have been imprisoned for over a year on pre-trial detention. It is clear that their continued imprisonment and the stress of this ongoing trial are taking its toll.
“Now that they are on trial in the Spanish Supreme Court, we wanted to show our support and solidarity to them in person and to observe the trial.”
“This is a political issue, not a legal one. The Spanish Government needs to enter into meaningful dialogue with the Catalan Government to find a political solution. It needs to stop using the police and the legal system to attack the Catalan independence movement, which is a legitimate political movement.
“This is one of the most pressing political issues in Europe. We cannot ignore this important issue of citizens being prosecuted for pursing purely peaceful and democratic means in determining their future.”