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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh  Ní Riada has welcomed the announcement of a major new drugs access conference to take place in Dublin next month.

The Ireland South MEP said the Access to Medicines Ireland conference was coming at a time when the issue had never been more topical here.

"It is a shameful black mark against the whole of humanity that in this day and age, with the knowledge and resources we have, we are still seeing people have their access to vital medication restricted," she said.

"The only prerequisite for access to medicine should be need and need alone.  Sinn Féin has long argued for truly national health service in Ireland, free at the point of delivery from Derry to Kerry with treatment based on need alone.  With a little ingenuity such a health service is possible and affordable; indeed the notion is only rubbished by those who can only see what is and not what should be.

"This is an issue that affects all of us but particularly our elderly community many of whom need regular access to various kinds of medication and are already struggling to make difficult financial decisions between the likes of heating or eating. 

"This is not an issue that is coming, it is very much here.  Already treatments for Hepatitis C and Cystic Fibrosis are subject to strict rationing in Ireland.

"I want to commend those behind this conference and urge anyone with any interest or influence in area of access to medicine to attend."

Access to Medicines Ireland - Problems and Solutions will take place on Wednesday, 8th February from 2pm to 5pm in the Global Room, Watts Building, Trinity College Dublin.

Speakers include Ellen ‘t Hoen (International patent expert; co-founder of the Médecins Sans Frontières Access to Medicines movement) Hans Hogerzeil (Professor of Global Health, Groningen University; ex-WHO director of Essential Medicines; Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines) and Diarmaid McDonald (Advocacy Manager, UNITAID and STOPAIDS) and will be followed by a question and answer session with the speaker panel.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams commenting on the decision by Martin McGuinness not to stand in the Assembly election said:

“Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a thabhairt do Martin McGuinness.

“I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Martin McGuinness. He and I first met over 45 years ago behind the barricades in Free Derry and we have been friends and comrades since that time.

“I also want to thank Bernie and the entire McGuinness family for the support they have given to Martin over many years and for allowing him to become the leader, the patriot, the peacemaker and poet that he is.

“We were all shocked when we saw his appearance recently. Thank God he is looking a lot better since then and responding well to the treatment he is receiving. However, he does need to take time out to get better for himself, for his family and for our struggle.

“As we now know he won’t be standing in the Assembly election. That means we have to ensure that the election works for all of the people of the North and that we succeed in building on the progress that has been made since the Good Friday Agreement.

“Martin has said he wants to come back and be part of the process to end partition, build reconciliation, unite our people and achieve Irish unity. So on behalf of Sinn Féin and republicans everywhere I want to send him our best wishes. Give him the space to get better  and increase our efforts so that when he returns the process of change has advanced.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has today announced that he is not seeking reelection to the Assembly. 

Mr McGuinness said; 

"Last year, Gerry Adams and I confirmed that we had a plan in place for transition to a new leadership. For my part, it was my intention to step aside in May this year which would have marked 10 years since I entered government with Ian Paisley as joint leader of the northern Executive.

"Unfortunately, my health and the current crisis have overtaken this timeframe and I am stepping down from my role to make way for a new leader of Sinn Féin in the North.

"Over the last ten years I have worked tirelessly to make power-sharing work. 

"The institutions are now in a deep crisis as a result of recent events and we are facing into an election when the people will have their say.

"After long and careful consideration, I have decided that it is time for a new generation of republicans to lead us into this election and the negotiations that will follow.

"Sinn Féin is a party in constant development, renewal and evolution. 

"Our struggle for freedom and equality stretches back to the United Ireland movement of the 1790s. I am deeply proud of the democratic influences that Ulster Presbyterianism contributed to the Irish republican tradition.

"It remains my own personal and political ambition to break the link with Britain and to unite all who share this island under the common banner of Irish men and women.

"I am deeply proud of the generation of Irish republicans that came before us. A generation that kept the vision of freedom alive through the difficult post-partition era when they faced unrelenting repression and persecution from the Ulster Unionist Party in an apartheid Orange state.

"I have been privileged to be part of the generation that broke that apartheid state apart and to have been part of a Sinn Féin leadership that delivered peace and radical change. There are more republicans today than at any time in my generation. 

"I look across the party north and south and see energy, determination, talent and potential new leaders emerging who, I am confident, will deliver equality, respect and Irish unity.

"My obvious heath issues are being addressed by a superb team of national health service doctors and nurses.

"But I want to be open and honest with my friends and colleagues in Sinn Féin, with the electorate of Foyle and with the wider community beyond my own constituency. I also want to be fair to my family and to the teams of carers who are doing their best to provide me with the treatment I now require to deal with this very serious medical condition which I am very determined to overcome. 

"Unfortunately, I am not physically able to continue in my current role and have therefore decided to make way for a new leader. 

"This election is the right time for me to move aside so I will not seek re-election to the Assembly.

"I have full confidence in the strong team that we have built in the Assembly to carry forward the work of building institutions that deliver for all our people on the basis of equality, respect and integrity.

"A new leader will lead us into this Assembly election and into the negotiations that will inevitably follow on from that election.

"We need the strongest Sinn Féin team if we are to ensure the progressive change which is now an essential next step forward and our new leader will have my full and undivided support in the weeks and months ahead.

"We are on a journey to unite our people and unite our island.

"As a Sinn Féin activist I will continue to play a full and enthusiastic part in that essential process of building bridges, of dialogue and of reconciliation between our still divided people.

"Despite the current difficulties and challenges, I am confident and optimistic about the future. We have faced more difficult times and found a way forward.

"As a society we have made enormous progress.

"We must continue to move forward. Dialogue is the only option."

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Speaking on the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate  Action and Environment Brian Stanley TD outlined the party’s commitment to a green economic future for Ireland.

Deputy Stanley stated:

“Sinn Féin is committed to building a greener economy and to play our role as a country in moving away from dependence on fossil fuels.

“Fossil fuels are yesterday’s fuels or soon will be. It is the progressive, forward looking thing to do to move beyond a reliance on fossil fuels and instead to look to the future.

“The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund hold over €7bn in assets and cash on behalf of the Irish people to be invested for the Irish people.

“It is Sinn Fein’s view of that the State should invest in a sensible, morally ethical and economically prudent way. That approach means we believe human rights considerations should always be incorporated into investment decision.

“Poor long term planning and decision making based on short term political gains by successive governments have left Ireland trailing on renewable energy provision and left us with an environmentally unsustainable economy. However, the future economic or energy security of Ireland cannot be dependent on fossil fuels.

“Economically fossil fuels represent less and less of a sound investment. It is widely acknowledged among the scientific community that in order to avoid a catastrophic rise in global temperature above 2°C then 80% of all known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. The ISIF currently has more than €100 million invested in the fossil fuel industry. This is public money which is invested against the public interest.

“On a global level 2016 has been recorded as the hottest year since records began whilst, meaning the last 3 years have consecutively broken records as the hottest on record. The effects of global warming have been felt here in Ireland, with extreme weather conditions resulting in extensive flooding that has been a devastating blow to grain farmers in particular.

“There has been a growing trend in recent years on investment funds divesting all or part of their holdings in producers of oil, gas and coal with 689 institutions moving an estimated $400 Billion away from fossil fuels to date.

“Coupled with the divestment from fossil fuels there must be a sustained effort on behalf of the state to invest sensibly in the provision of renewable energy infrastructure as well as research and development of future renewable energy technologies.

“Investment and development in our native renewable resources is necessary to secure Ireland’s energy needs into the future.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said today that the key issue remains to get to the truth of the RHI scandal, and to hold those responsible to account.

Conor Murphy said:

"Sinn Féin has consistently called for the need to get to the truth of the RHI scandal and to hold those responsible to account. 

“Central to this was the independence of any process.

“We had proposed Terms of Reference for an independent judge-led investigation, free from ministerial control, and with the powers to compel witnesses and evidence. This would have required new legislation.

This option is not now possible within the short days before the Assembly closes for the election. 

“The public interest demands that this issue is dealt with particularly in light of the continuing revelations of DUP political interference in the implementation of the RHI scheme. 

“In order to get to the truth of the matter, today Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has announced a public inquiry under the 2005 Act.

“The shortcomings of this Act are well known.

“Therefore to address these shortcomings, once established the minister will leave the inquiry entirely in the hands of the judicial figure.

“The investigation team and judicial figure will have absolute control over the scope and execution of the inquiry and will put the report into the public domain.

“In any new term of the Assembly Sinn Féin will bring forward the legislation we had developed to establish investigations independent of Ministers with powers of compellability.

“The key issue remains to get to the truth of the RHI scandal, and to hold those responsible to account. The public interest must come first.”

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Deputy Martin Kenny, Sinn Féin TD for Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan and South Donegal raised the matter of the lack of essential infrastructure in the North West with the Taoiseach, again this week in the Dáil.

Deputy Kenny said:

“One of the impediments to bringing jobs to rural Ireland is our lack of infrastructure. I raised this again in the Dáil on Wednesday but to be honest, I was disappointed with the absence of urgency in the Taoiseach’s response.

“I was one of the TDs present before Christmas at an excellent presentation by Chambers of Commerce from eight counties in the region and IBEC in a Dublin hotel.

“They did a great job in laying out the case for upgrade and completion of the N4 and N5 roads along with investment in the North West and pointed out that the constant postponement of upgrade to motorway standard along both routes is hampering economic development in the region.

“They were demanding that the government honours its promises to upgrade the roads and they had representatives from Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Cavan, Westmeath and Longford there.

“The Taoiseach, in response, referred to a €40 billion programme of investment running until 2020 and I intend to support the local Chambers to keep up the pressure on the government to spend some of that in upgrading the N4 and the N5 to motorway status.

“A look at the infrastructure map of Ireland shows the glaring discrimination against our region which has as much to offer in terms of skills, talent and diligence, but lacks the infrastructure to attract industry. With the exception of the M1 and the M3, which stops at Navan, you could draw a line from Dublin to Galway and there is no motorway North of it. This has to end.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has today moved to institute a public inquiry into the RHI scandal. 

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:

“Throughout this week I have been continuing to focus on the RHI crisis.

“As part of that work, I have been taking soundings and advice on the need for a no-hiding-place probe into the RHI scandal.

“It is clear that, with time short until the Assembly dissolves, the only way to serve the public interest is for me as Finance Minister to move to institute a public inquiry immediately. No other type of investigation is now feasible given time pressures.

“I have now instructed officials to take the necessary steps to establish a public enquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 into the RHI scheme.

“I have received legal advice in regard to these matters. I will make a full statement to the Assembly next week.

“This enquiry will be impartial and objective. I will not interfere in its work. It will be tasked to get to the truth of this issue. 

“Under the Enquiries Act, the enquiry report must go to the Finance Minister. I give a commitment that I or any Sinn Féin Minister will release the report in full to the public on receipt. 

“I call on all parties to sign up to unrestricted, unedited publication.

“I am aware that the RHI issue goes beyond financial matters to questions of governance and probity. By getting to the truth of the RHI scandal, this inquiry report will, I believe, address those wider issues, and, therefore, put the public first.”

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David Cullinane TD, Sinn Féin member of the Public Accounts Committee, has said that there is a need for real checks and balances in terms of oversight of the Guardian ad litem service.

Deputy Cullinane said:

‘While it is to be welcomed that the Department of Children and youth Affairs acknowledge the need for professional standards, it is not acceptable that oversight and accountability is side-lined in an effort to attain them.

“In other words, professional standards that cut corners are not professional standards.

“The C&AG found that 65 guardians shared professional fees of €8.2 million in 2015. It was accepted that Tulsa were limited in their ability to monitor the cost of case, or identify and review cases with higher than average costs.

“This shows that there has to be genuine accountability and sanction for service providers, be they private or public.

“We have seen in the past how service providers can end up in a kind of regulatory ‘free-zone’ between state organisations given the task of ensuring the process.

“This cannot be allowed to happen any longer with Guardian ad litem, particularly given the significant payments passed on to a very small number of clients.

“Secretary General Fergal Lynch told the Committee today that legislation is being worked upon that will address these deficiencies, and I look forward to its publication.”

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Addressing a large gathering of the muslim community in Ireland at a function organised by the Irish Muslim Board last night in the Maldron Hotel, Tallaght, Sinn Féin Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said;


“We in Sinn Féin are proud to call you our brothers and sisters. We are proud to have you as fellow citizens in this modern and diverse Ireland and we are proud of the contribution that you make to our Country. I want to congratulate you and all the community leaders who have created this vibrant, embracing and inclusive Irish Muslim community, which is an integral part of our Island’s society.”

Addressing the challenges, Senator Mac Lochlainn said:

“In Ireland, like in so many Western nations, the actions of a tiny minority, the extremists who carry out horrific, indiscriminate actions against civilians throughout the world are used and manipulated by some politicians and groups to spread hate and to try and create an abhorrent wedge between followers of Islam and other religions and cultures.”

“We must all stand up to and against these politicians and groups. We must also stand firm against the extremists who carry out these murderous acts, especially when they claim that they do it in the name of Islam, when in fact, we know that Islam is a religion of peace.”

“The right to equality, democracy, self-determination, and human rights is the bedrock of our Republican beliefs and we stand over that belief whether it is Africa, Asia or Europe.”

Dealing with Brexit and the pursuit of a United Ireland, he continued:

“Ireland, today stands at a crossroads. The Country is still geographically and politically divided. The ideals of our 1916 proclamation have not been realised. Brexit however, seen as a negative by the vast majority actually creates an opportunity for all the people of Ireland.”

“The better Ireland that we all strive for can be delivered by the opportunity that Brexit has provided. It is incomprehensible to even suggest that we could have a small Island where one part of it remains inside the European Union and another part remains outside it.”

“This however, is the precise reality of what the British Government is attempting to do. It is wrong. It is against the interests of all the citizens of Ireland. The surest way of creating a better Ireland is through a United Ireland.”

“Brexit further attempts to copper fasten partition and the line taken by the British Tory party is detrimental to all of the people living in Ireland.”

“We will enter the negotiations after the election with a proactive attitude and demands to make Ireland a better, fairer, and more equal place.”

“The United Ireland I talk about will be the Better Ireland we are seeking out tonight through this debate. It will be a chance to take the good parts of both States and transfer them between each other but more importantly, it will be a chance to fix the bad parts. It will be an opportunity to allow the political, economic, social and cultural potential of our island to prosper. We need the Irish Muslim community to help us build this new State. We want you to help shape its architecture.” “So friends, we have a job of work to do. We need to do it together. We need every community to help us build a new Republic for all.” 


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Speaking this morning in the European Parliament on the European Pillar of Social Rights, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has called for the European Union to draft an EPSR that delivers in a manner that will combat poverty, income inequality and other serious social injustices.

Dublin MEP Boylan said:

“If the EPSR is to be successful and deliver on its stated aims, then it has to represent what the citizens of Europe need and want.

“It is my hope that through the contributions made by the European Parliament, social partners, and civil society that the EPSR can be aligned so as to guarantee social rights in the manner that citizens deserve, and in a manner that will combat poverty, income inequality and other serious social injustices.

“It is time the EU works to ensure that social policy is not considered a burden to economic growth, but rather the two are considered to be symbiotic. I hope that the EPSR will achieve this.

“The EPSR provides a great chance for the EU to move in a new direction, to prove it has the capability to change post in how the union works post-Brexit.

“Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the European Union does not let European citizens down and that it seizes the opportunity which the EPSR presents.

“However, if the EU proves incapable of change and it continues in a business as usual manner, then European citizens will suffer further and the EU will be the recruiter in chief for euro scepticism.” 

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Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the issue of the HSE report into failing of the bowel screening programme in Wexford General Hospital today at Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil. Deputy McDonald said that cancer screening programmes such as BowelScreen were invaluable and that it is vital that they enjoy public confidence.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“This morning, a report into colonoscopy screening services at Wexford General Hospital has been published by the HSE. The recall of patients was instigated on foot of two cases of cancer being detected in October 2014 in patients who had recently undergone a colonoscopy, but were not diagnosed.

“The report finds that a recall of 615 patients has found 13 ‘possible missed cancers’. Of the 13 cases identified, it has been discovered that one man died before the recall took place.

“We can only send our sympathies to his family and loved ones this afternoon, and to all of those affected by the incident.

“Cancer screening programmes like this are invaluable. They can and have saved lives, but they must enjoy public confidence. There is always the possibility of human error in medical diagnosis, but this goes way beyond that.

“Misdiagnosis on this scale reveals a systemic and institutionalised problem concerning bowel screening in a hospital serving much of the south-east.

“What we need now are assurances that this cannot and will not happen again. We all want, and need, citizens to have confidence in cancer screening programmes.

“It is not good enough to produce a damning report. God knows we’ve had enough of them at this stage in relation to the health service. What we need to know is who is accountable.  Where does the buck stop?” 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on water Eoin Ó Broin has sharply criticised Commissioner Vella for his continuing political interference in the water charges debate in Ireland. Deputy Ó Broin was commenting on a letter the Commissioner sent to Minister Coveney, in which Commissioner Vella appears to advocate a high cost water charging regime.

Ó Broin said:

“In the letter to Minister Coveney Commissioner Vella makes three controversial recommendations. These include a cost recovery mechanism, a charge for excessive or wasteful use of water and that the metering programme should continue in order to facilitate this. This opinion offered by Commissioner Vella can only be described as political meddling at a time when a cross party committee is debating the future of the domestic water charges.”

“The Commissioner’s assertion that the recovery of costs must meet the serious needs for maintenance and investment clearly means a dramatic increase in water charges. Irish Water has already committed to investing €5.5 billion up to 2021 and has said that a total of ten billion capital investment is required to bring water and sanitation in line with EU standards. The logic of the Commissioner’s comments clearly means that any water charging regime would have to make a greater contribution to the funding of the water systems which would mean a higher water charge than has been the case to date.

“Commissioner Vella’s assertion that the charge for excessive or wasteful water use should be dissuasive is code for punitive. Nowhere in his correspondence to the Minster does the Commissioner refer to the needs of families or households that may have additional water requirements  due to family size or medical reasons.  This is a clear attempt by the Commissioner to ensure that if an excess waste water charge is introduced the charge itself would be excessive.

“As for the question of metering, Irish Water has already re-profiled the excess water meter funding and it will be used to upgrade the water infrastructure. Sinn Féin called for this in our Alternative Budget for 2017 and we welcome moves by Irish Water to do this. Commissioner Vella has no right under the water framework directive to try to dictate this level of detail as to how a member state manages its domestic water supply.

"The EU Commissioner and his staff in earlier correspondence to MEPS on the issue of domestic water charges said that they couldn’t comment until they had received Ireland’s second river basin management plan and had time to assess its implementation. This plan is currently being drafted and is due for submission to the Commission in 2018. Sinn Féin firmly believes you can meet the environmental requirements of the water framework directive without the introduction of domestic water charges and we will be making a submission to the Department as to how you would achieve this under the Second River Basin Management Plan. “

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has attacked the European council for their lack of leadership during this critical time in our history.

The Ireland South MEP was speaking as she addressed the European Council on their Conclusions of the Council and Commission at December meeting

“We are at a critical juncture in Europe and indeed the world.

“The huge implications from Brexit, not only for our economy but culture in general, will potentially be devastating and with the imminent presidency of Trump there is no doubt that he will be forging a new field of uncertainty."

During her speech Ms Ní Riada made specific reference to Youth Unemployment

“Now more than ever we have a responsibility to look after our people and in particular our young people. Unfortunately this is not the case when it comes to youth employment. The Parliament has let our youth down, failing to provide them with any certainty of a stable, let alone positive future. This house is giving more of a priority to military expansion than addressing the real needs of the people."

Ms Ní Riada criticised proposals for a repeat of the ESFI (The European Strategic Investment Fund) also known as the Juncker plan; an investment package of 350 billion.

“The Parliament is also talking about additional investment in the ESFI. The first tranche of it didn´t work as was imagined and now we´re talking about repeating the same mistakes again. The facts clearly outline that SMEs, cooperatives and the social economy are not benefiting from it. Accommodating the private sector seems to be the order of the day and those who have no resources have fallen off the cliff.

"Lack of leadership, lack of understanding, lack of political will and lack of ambition.  When will the council and commission recognise the huge challenges we face and deal with them in a realistic and meaningful manner? The council and commission need to wake up and address the issues facing Ireland and Europe."

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the numbers of victims of the tracker mortgage scandal now stands at over 3,000 at AIB alone, up from the previously stated figure of 2,600.

Deputy Doherty said:

“AIB have confirmed to the Oireachtas Finance Committee that they have now counted 3,003 cases of people being moved off tracker mortgage rates, with over 700 yet to receive a letter of redress from the bank. Previously, it had admitted that there were 2,600 cases at the bank. This latest news sharpens the need for the Central Bank to impose a strict deadline on the ongoing industry wide examination.

“Many victims have been in contact with me to express their ongoing frustration at the lack of progress in their cases. It is clear we are now looking at a major banking scandal affecting up to 15,000 families.

“I will be bringing this issue to the Dáil next week looking for support from all sides for a call to support the victims.” 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport, Imelda Munster TD, has strongly condemned Bus Éireann’s ultimatum to workers, saying that it was not them who created this crisis, and has called the ultimatum “deliberate, targeted, provocative and demeaning”.

Bus Éireann management has proposed targeted measures, which Deputy Munster says will result in a reduction of over 25% in average pay, and has proposed the introduction of privatisation and outsourcing of work whereby additional drivers will be provided through the use of part time drivers, a pool of casual drivers and contractors at the discretion of management.  The same savage measures are targeted at maintenance and clerical workers.

In relation to the granting of too many licences to private operators on some routes which has resulted in over-saturation, Deputy Munster accused the NTA of contradicting its own objectives and  directly contributing to the loss-making by not adhering to their own objectives.

Deputy Munster:

“The NTA states in its objectives that it will consider the demand or potential demand on routes in light of the needs of the public transport passenger and the services already being provided by the existing bus passenger services.”

“The proof is there in the Dublin to Cork route where saturation has seen seat capacity grow by 128%, Dublin to Limerick, similar at 111%, Waterford and other routes.”

Deputy Munster added that this was not the fault of the workers.

“This was government policy created through the NTA and implemented by Bus Éireann management which caused the financial crisis and loss-making”.

“Where is the punishment and where are the pay cuts for top heavy management salaries due to mismanagement and poor decision-making?”

Deputy Munster reiterated her call for all stakeholders, including the unions, to be involved in the future planning, protection and preservation of Expressway services.

“I have repeatedly made this call, and it was continuously rejected by both the government and the Minister for Transport. All stakeholders need to sit around the table, to plan for the future, to examine the structures and look at the routes that are now unprofitable due to over-saturation, to look at management costs, and also to look at the Department of Social Protection travel cost contribution which only covers 41% of the average fare and journey. This too has widely contributed to loss-making.”

“Bus Éireann management’s proposal is so provocative and so insulting to workers one would have to ask the question: are they trying to manipulate a case for the dismantling of Expressway by trying to narrow the crisis down to industrial relations?” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has today hit out at the Chief Executive of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, Jim O’Sullivan, who tried to justify the use of the private sector in dealing with waiting lists by criticising the sustainability of the public hospitals. She said that the public hospitals could only come up with sustainable solutions if they were adequately funded, which has not happened to date.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“Today, the Chief Executive of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, Jim O’Sullivan, was quoted as saying that ‘if public hospitals came up with solutions that are sustainable, we would not be ideologically opposed to that option’.

“It is incredible that the private sector is considered by this Government the most sustainable way of reducing waiting lists, when it is the legacy of underinvestment in the public sector that has led to chronic waiting lists and the resurgence of the NTPF.

“He is also quoted as noting that the private sector is the most ‘efficient and clinically effective way of having patients seen quickly’, yet there is no regard to the fact that while it is the vehicle to get rid of the immediate backlog, using elective capacity within the private system on an ongoing basis will not build up the public hospital system to deliver that care.

“The use of the private sector may be beneficial if someone has been waiting for a very long time but it does nothing to solve the long waits within the system. We have seen it in previous cyclical periods where waiting lists grow and the pressures are then alleviated by the NTPF. 

“We in Sinn Féin are diametrically opposed to over reliance on the NTPF to reduce waiting lists. The solution to this crisis in public health care is investment in the public system. The real solution to the crisis lies in recruitment and retention of staff, the reopening of beds, and ongoing dialogue with frontline staff and unions.

“It is clear that the school of thought that the private sector is the solution to this deepening problem has re-emerged, however, outsourcing of the problem is not a long term solution and privatising more healthcare will simply not work. We see in many cases that privatisation is justified on the basis that it takes pressure off the public health system. 

“As the Government continuously build up and fund private health care, they are systematically undermining the public system. But if you want to take the pressure off the public health system, invest in it. This is the critical issue that Mr O’Sullivan seems to have forgotten and it is only through investment and an integrated waiting lists system, as proposed by Sinn Féin, that we will make the public service sustainable.” 

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD today raised the issue of the National Maternity Strategy and the provision of detailed 20 week routine scans for pregnant women, saying that the absence of national guidance for the provision of this created a catch 22 situation and that universal availability must be a priority.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“Between October and December 2016, the HSE changed a PQ response to me on the availability of these scans in Irish hospitals – ‘provided routinely/offered to all patients’ was replaced with ‘available to patients’.

“The change in HSE response would indicate that they are not routinely offered or are provided. It would indicate that they are there and can theoretically be accessed, but what is the procedure to do so? Indeed, consistent in the HSE responses was that there is no national guidance in the provision of routine detailed scans at 20 weeks. This is unacceptable.

“The Programme for Government commits to implementing the national maternity strategy, of which the second strategic priority is the access to safe, high quality, nationally consistent woman-centred maternity care. The reality, however, is a postcode lottery and inconsistencies in the services available. 

“Upon repeatedly querying the Minister and the HSE on the availability of detailed 20 week routine scans for pregnant women, the HSE have confirmed that only 6 of the 19 maternity units in the state have this facility available. And even then, these scans are not routinely provided or offered.

“It is clear from the HSE response that referral for anomaly scans is only made when requested by the medical team based on clinical judgement. This goes against the national maternity strategy priority to have nationally consistent, woman centred care. Women are not being offered this scan or being advised of its availability and only some women will have access to it.

“We have a catch-22 situation in maternity care and the provision of these scans- women need this scan to see if there are any issues or problems with their pregnancies, but they can’t get the scan unless a medical issue has been identified. We have seen harrowing cases where the failure to have this scan has resulted in tragedy and women and their partners being unable to prepare adequately for the birth, most recently in Kerry.

“If the Minister and the Government are serious about the implementation of the National Maternity Strategy, national guidance on the provision of routine detailed scans at 20 weeks must be drawn up as a matter of priority and universal availability of 20 week scans must be a priority. I am calling on the Minister to make a statement on this and to make this a priority for 2017.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has written to the newly elected President of the European Parliament.

The Ireland South MEP called on Italy's Antonio Tajani to meet with her and a Sinn Féin delegation to discuss a number of European issues that will have a particular impact on Ireland.

"I have written to Mr Tajani requesting a meeting to discuss a number of pressing Irish matters, not least of which will be the hugely detrimental effect Brexit will have on Ireland." she said.

"I will be making it clear to him that the people of the north did not vote for Brexit but will be the worst affected by it. I will be making the case for special status for the north that will protect the democratically expressed wishes of the people there and protect all of Ireland from the hugely damaging effects of a hard border, an outcome that is looking more and more likely every time Theresa May speaks on the issue.

"I feel it is crucial that he is also made aware of the struggling fishing industry in Ireland.  There are a huge number of issues there that must be addressed by Europe as a matter of urgency including the unnecessary complexities of the CFP, the lack of regulation on environment and industry destroying super trawlers and issues of shared waters with Britain that will arise as the Brexit negotiations take place."

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Martin Kenny TD, Sinn Féin spokesman on agriculture, has reacted to the announcement by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that a case of Atypical BSE has been identified in a cow in Galway.

Deputy Kenny said:

“The animal concerned was 18 years old and it tested positive at the knackery.

"The Department has said that there is no risk to public health as comprehensive public health controls are in place.  I believe that there is no need to be concerned that this case will create an outbreak.

“In these cases, the animal carcass will not enter the food chain but will be incinerated. The Department also announced that the disclosure of this case “does not have any impact of Ireland’s current OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) BSE ‘controlled risk’ status or trade status.

“This is a case of Atypical BSE which, unlike the Classical BSE which was what we saw in the 1980s, is thought to happen spontaneously.

“There were three cases of Atypical BSE in Ireland from 2003 to 2015, compared to 145 cases of classical BSE. As BSE does not transfer horizontally from animal to animal, there is no risk to other animals from this case.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said the DUP economy minister Simon Hamilton has bowed down to public pressure on publishing the names of the beneficiaries of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

However, he said that postponing publication until January 25th smacks of a DUP effort to frustrate proper scrutiny of the list of RHI beneficiaries.

Mr Murphy said:

“Sinn Féin has called for the names of the beneficiaries of the RHI scheme to be published immediately by the DUP economy minister.

“In the light of ongoing revelations around the DUP’s handling of the RHI scheme the public want to know are there any conflicts of interest as a result of family, business or political connections.

“Simon Hamilton has at long last bowed to public pressure and committed to releasing the names of beneficiaries.

“However, he has put back publication of the list to 25th January in what looks like an effort to avoid proper scrutiny.

“The public demands full transparency and accountability around the RHI scheme, which has been associated with allegations of corruption. An independent investigation is the best way to achieve this. 

“The DUP have acted with arrogance and contempt for the public throughout the RHI debacle.

“The people now have an opportunity to have their say on the DUP’s RHI fiasco and their arrogance and disrespect for whole sections of our community.”

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