The Sinn Féin leadership will travel to London tomorrow, 15th October, to meet with British Prime Minster Theresa May and British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn. These meetings will focus on the Brexit negotiations and the lack of a talks process to establish the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.
The Sinn Féin delegation will be led by Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD and include Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill MLA and Conor Murphy MLA.
Speaking the night before, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said:
“The toxic deal between the DUP and the Tory party has deepened the Brexit crisis and stalled progress in re-establishing the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Brexit is against the democratic will of the people in the north and a disaster for our economy North and South. It risks undermining the Good Friday Agreement, and the progress that we all now take for granted.
“Ireland faces a particular set of challenges with Brexit given our history, our agreements, and our economy. The EU have offered a unique solution for our unique set of circumstances.
“The DUP have set their face against such a deal. This from a party that has blocked access to abortion and marriage equality. Rights that are available in the rest of Ireland and Britain.
“The DUP have aligned themselves with the hard right of the Brexiteers at the cost of imposing a hard Border in Ireland, undermining our agreements and crashing out of the EU without an agreement.
“The DUP do not represent the majority of people in the north on Brexit nor our economic interests and oppose the Good Friday Agreement. They cannot be allowed to set the pace for Brexit or political progress in the North.
“In December, the British Government signed up to an agreement with the EU to protect the Good Friday Agreement, avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, and to put in place a legally enforceable backstop.
“The deal between the DUP and Tory has undermined progress. The British Prime Minister must place the Good Friday Agreements, progress, and unique circumstances of Ireland above any deal with the DUP.”
Commenting on the ongoing series of 'Getting Ireland Brexit Ready' events across the Twenty Six Counties, Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has reiterated his call to Tánaiste Simon Coveney and the Government on the importance of bringing such an event to the North.
Speaking in Belfast today, Senator Ó Donnghaile said:
“The Irish Government have a duty to engage with citizens right across Ireland at this crucial period in the Brexit negotiations.
“The lack of a ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ event in the north is a glaringly obvious omission on the part of the Irish government and a stark failure to recognise the real concern that exists within the community here and their desire to engage positively and proactively with government.
“In recent times, Ministers have been very firm in their public statements that citizens in the North will never again be left behind; the exclusion of an event of this nature in the North, is a very visible example to people of where that statement is not being realised.
“I again offer this suggestion in a spirit of positivity and hopeful of fostering greater engagement across Ireland at a time when that is crucially important and when citizens are crying out for necessary support, interaction and investment from Government.
“Should the Tánaiste’s Department decide to hold such an event in the North, they will then be in a much better position to say that we are truly getting Ireland Brexit Ready."
Speaking on the continued speculation on the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil confidence and supply agreement, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said:
“This government and the confidence and supply arrangement is on its last legs. It has undermined the political process, with Fianna Fáil pretending to be in opposition and Fine Gael operating in government free from any sanctions for the deepening housing and healthcare crises.
“Stability and clarity are required as the Brexit process rolls out. We do not have the time to indulge these parties as they continue to play with the political process. The options are clear and simple; either govern together or allow the people to elect a new and progressive government.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill said that Sinn Féin and other progressive parties will continue to work with the EU to protect jobs, our economy, our manufacturing and agri food industries, the Good Friday Agreement and our rights.
Michelle O’Neill was speaking today at the annual Seán Treacy Commemoration in Kilfeacle, Co Tipperary. The Sinn Féin Vice President said:
“The majority of MLAs elected in the North are opposed to Brexit.
“This is being wilfully ignored by Theresa May and her accomplice Arlene Foster and I have no doubt that one or the other, or both will pay a heavy price politically.
“The DUP are isolationists and on the wrong side of the argument and the democratic will of the people.
"They support a Brexit at the cost of imposing a hard border in Ireland or as Nelson McCausland said, a Brexit at any cost.
“Arlene Foster is prepared to drive our economy over the cliff in pursuit of her narrow agenda with no regard for the future prosperity of the people of the north who will pick up the tab for her reckless Brexit,
“The majority of citizens north and south will not stand for any land border on this island.
“Sinn Féin and other progressive parties will continue to work with the EU to protect jobs, our economy, our manufacturing and agri food industries, the Good Friday Agreement and our rights.
“Together I and the other parties, with the exception of the DUP met EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier last week in Brussels as the majority voice for people in the North of Ireland.
"We intend meeting British Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the coming weeks also.
“Brexit is a threat to our Irish national interests and there is rightly a huge expectation and onus on the Irish Government to defend the national interests of the whole of Ireland.
“Sinn Féin has been constructive in supporting the Government in this regard, because the there is so much at stake in terms of jobs, trade, investment and massive risks that the North will become an economic backwater with disinvestment by major employers and a severe roll back on economic development.
“All of this has opened up a new public discourse about the outcome of Brexit and a healthy debate about our constitutional future.
“The issue of Irish Unity has taken on a new dynamic because of Brexit.
"The Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful democratic pathway to Irish Unity.
“It is our historic task now to persuade people why it’s in their economic, cultural and political interests to share power not only at Stormont – but on an All-Ireland basis together.”
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has described the confidence and supply arrangement as a "political con job" which has led to uncertainty, instability and a deepening crisis.
Commenting on the announcement of the closure of Newry Foodbank, Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said,
“I am am extremely concerned that the Newry Foodbank can no longer continue providing food to those who need it in our community.
“Foodbanks and the poverty behind them should not exist.
“However poverty and hunger do continue, compounded by relentless Tory austerity and welfare cuts. Even working a full time job doesn’t guarantee that people can afford basic necessities such as food.
“This is especially worrying at this time of the year coming into the winter, people need food security.
Sinn Féin Councillor Danny Baker has welcomed the seizure of drugs following police searches in West Belfast.
Cllr. Baker said:
“Police have confirmed to me that a significant quantity of Class A drugs has been seized following searches in the Mount Eagles area last night.
“I welcome the news of this seizure and ’m relieved that these drugs have been taken off the streets and won't present a threat to anyone in this community.
“Anyone with information on illegal drugs should bring that forward to the police and help make this a safer community for all.”
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has called on the Department of Health to release the findings of the Gardiner Report in order to progress the planned new medical school at Magee.
The Foyle MP said:
“It’s my understanding that the Gardiner Report which looks at the future needs of medical provision and doctors here in the north has been completed.
“The findings of this report are key to moving forward the establishment of a graduate entry medical school and putting Magee University on the map as a centre of excellence.
“This is a key element to unlocking the city’s unique circumstances and reaching its full potential as set out in the Strategic Growth Plan, produced by and for the people of the north west.
“Expansion of the university has been a priority for Sinn Féin in order to transform the north west region and begin to address decades of inequality and under-investment.
“The Department of Health must now release the findings of the Gardiner report to allow the medical school project to move forward.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications Brian Stanley TD has said that, given the events of this week, the ongoing issues with the tendering process the National Broadband Plan render it shambolic; the big players leaving the tender, only one bidder remaining, and Government allowing itself be completely squeezed between international venture capitalists, all leaving us no closer to a start date.
The Laois TD said:
“There has been many problems with the broadband tender, and now further questions have emerged over its viability with Ministers meeting the only bidder and meeting when there was other bidders left in the process. This now potentially makes the process legally compromised.
“After seven years in power, Fine Gael have still not given a date when broadband roll out will begin. With the model Government have chosen, the Irish taxpayer will be bank rolling this project for 25 years and will then hand it over ownership to a venture capitalist at the end of this term. We must also question the capability of the remaining bidder to fulfil the project.
“However, we have the situation that Government have created where they are completely reliant on only one bidder with no Plan B if it all fails.
“I have contended that this model is the wrong model. Our proposition is that the significant and extensive state infrastructure criss-crossing the State could be the backbone of rural broadband. We have ESB infrastructure leading to every home in the State, we have the State owned network of the ‘MAN’s’ to regional towns, and the broadband infrastructure that supplies this, and we also have the state purchasing all of the telecoms company, Enet this week. Combined, this forms huge state infrastructure.”
Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly said lowering the voting age to 16 across Ireland would ensure the rights of young people stay firmly on the political agenda.
Speaking after the Wales’ National Parliament has voted to give 16 and 17 year-olds the vote in Welsh Parliamentary Elections, the party’s spokesperson for children and young people said:
"Wales’ have followed the example set by Scotland in lowering the voting age to 16, and now Ireland must too. A key way to empower young people to help them shape a more positive future is to lower the voting age to 16.
"Only by widening the political franchise can we guarantee that the rights of young people stay firmly on the political agenda.
"The case has already been made to lower the vote with the 2014 Independence Referendum in Scotland where 75 percent of 16 and 17 year-olds voted.
"Sixteen and 17 year-olds will also live with the disastrous consequences of Brexit yet if they'd been allowed to vote, all polls suggest they could have changed the outcome.
"During this crucial period for the future of Ireland and the European Union, we need young people to have a voice in deciding our future role in a post-Brexit EU.
"Today's young people are the leaders of the future. It is vital that all political parties engage directly with them to hear their opinions."
Naughten Resignation Proof that Broadband Process is “rotten to the core” – Matt Carthy MEP
Speaking following the resignation of Dennis Naughten Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West said:
“It appears clear that we have yet to see the full scale of the mismanagement issues related to the National Broadband Plan. The entire process has been rotten to the core.
“This debacle has it’s roots in the Fianna Fáil decision to privatise Telecom Eireann (latterly Eircom). Rural communities were always going to be left behind when the profits of multinationals prioritised public service provision.
“In recent days alone, the Minister for Finance poured further doubt onto the delivery of any infrastructure by attributing a measly €87 million to the scheme. The cost of the NBP is widely accepted to be in the region of €1bn!
“The resignation of the Minister will be of little consolation for those 540,000 homes and businesses waiting to be connected to 21st century technology.
“The coming period will be vital if there is any integrity at all to be restored to the National Broadband process.
“As it happens I am still waiting for a comprehensive answer from both the European Commission and the European Investment Bank as to why Cube Infrastructure Managers were chosen to disburse a multimillion euro broadband fund at EU level while they were bidding for a takeover of Enet at national level.
“It is highly dubious in fact, that Cube were chosen through no proper procedures of public procurement and are now involved in a legal case with Granahan McCourt over the sale of these shares.
“The primary lesson from this entire mess it is that the only way to adequately deliver universal essential public services, which is what broadband has now become, is through state-run schemes apart from private investors who will always prioritise their own profits. If the government are not willing to learn this lesson they should allow the people the opportunity to pass judgement on their failed philosophy”.
Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has called on the business community in the north to make their voices heard and raise their concerns about Brexit to the British government and their Brexiteer allies.
The South Belfast MLA said:
"There is no doubt that Brexit will have a hugely negative impact on the economy in the north of Ireland.
"Business owners I have met from across the north have expressed real fear for the future over the Tory Brexit agenda and, in particular, the impact being dragged out of the Customs Union and Single Market could have.
"Now we have business representative bodies raising concerns about one particular aspect of Brexit, the availability of migrant labour, but we need to hear all the concerns of the business community.
"The clock is ticking and the business community need to make their voices heard loud and clear and tell the Tories, and their Brexiteer allies in the DUP that the agenda they are pursuing is against the interests of business and trade in the north."
Speaking after meeting An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin today, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said the Irish government must protect the interests of citizens in the north.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“The British government have no plan to restore the political institutions in the north and have refused point blank to deal with the outstanding issues of rights and equality.
“These issues are at the heart of the political impasse of the last 21 months, but they have adopted a ‘do-nothing’ approach.
“On top of this, they are actively pursing a reckless Brexit strategy that will damage the interests of people across Ireland while failing to face down the DUP.
“Theresa May has allowed her toxic pact with the DUP to hold to ransom the rights, entitlements and livelihoods of Irish citizens in a desperate plea to cling to power.
“Today I told An Taoiseach that as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement he must work to end the denial of rights and restore an Executive based on integrity and equal treatment.
“I reiterated to him that the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference needs to meet again and create a road map to ensure the delivery of rights.
“Leo Varadkar must keep to his word that citizens in the north will no longer be left behind by ensuring that Ireland does not become collateral damage In the Tory party’s Brexit civil war.
“As the Brexit negotiations reach a critical stage, the Irish government must stand up for citizens in the north to protect rights, economy and our hard won peace.”
Sinn Féin Vice-President Michelle O’Neill has said the DUP is putting thousands of jobs and the local economy at risk in pursuit of a Brexit which owes more to its narrow vision of the union even if that means the north being an economic and rights backwater.
Speaking after DUP Leader Arlene Foster left Brussels after a three day visit, Michelle O’Neill said:
“The DUP does not speak for the majority of the people of the north on Brexit.
“Sinn Féin and other progressive parties are working with the EU to protect jobs, our economy, our manufacturing and agri food industries, the Good Friday Agreement and our rights.
“Membership of the Customs Union and the Single Market can give the north continued unfettered access to the EU market of around 500 million people and the British market of 67 million.
“For local manufacturers, agri food producers and our exporters this is the best of both worlds.
“It would provide the north with a unique proposition that could transform it from the worst performing economy in these islands to an economic powerhouse.
“The DUP is ignoring this, and the thousands of jobs that depend on the all-Ireland economy and cross-border trade in pursuit of their hard Brexit agenda. This owes more to their narrow vision of the union even if that means the north being an economic and rights backwater.
“Our task now is to ensure that Ireland doesn’t become collateral damage in a reckless Tory/DUP Brexit.
“There is an onus on the Irish government and the EU to ensure the commitments made by the British government to a legally binding backstop are met as the negotiations reach a critical point.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Catherine Nelson has expressed her sympathies to the family and friends of a 22-year-old man killed in a motorcycle accident last night in Portadown.
Catherine Nelson said:
“There is a deep sense of shock in the local community at the news that a 22-year-old man has died in a tragic motorcycle accident on Dobbin Road.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with this man’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.”
Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has welcomed news that medical cannabis will be available on prescription for those who have been medically recommended it.
Praising the determination and courage of Charlotte Caldwell the Sinn Féin MP said:
“The availability of medicinal cannabis is obviously an issue very close to my heart given my involvement with Billy Caldwell’s case.
“When Billy’s medication was seized I met Charlotte at the airport and we went the Home Office to challenge this decision.
“We were initially told that Billy could not have access to his medicine. From that point onwards it was a day-by-day battle to get Billy his medication back.
“The plight of Billy Caldwell has opened the door for many families who have loved ones suffering due to them being denied access to medicinal cannabis.
“I welcome today’s developments and I hope it will transform the lives of those who are currently suffering.
“I also want to commend Charlotte Caldwell for her unswerving commitment to her son, Billy. It has been an honour to work with a mother so determined to confronting all obstacles in the best interests of her child.”