Commenting today on Renua’s proposal to introduce a flat 23% tax rate, Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Constituency and member of the European Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Matt Carthy has said that the proposal reveals that Renua have nothing new to offer ordinary Irish families and are intent on filling the PD space of being champions of the wealthy at the expense of a fair and equal society.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Carthy said:
“The simplistic proposal to introduce a flat 23% tax rate shows just how little understanding Renua has about the Irish economy and the issues affecting Irish people.
“All independent analysis clearly demonstrates that the Budgets introduced by the current Government have been regressive and have disproportionately benefitted the most well off in our society.
“The result is that we have witnessed the emergence of the working poor – those who after a week’s work struggle to afford a basic standard of living and attack after attack on the most vulnerable by this Government.
“Now is the time to debate the type of economy and society we want to create – to ensure that any economic recovery is for the benefit of our citizens and not the privileged few.
“The Renua proposal for a flat rate income tax rate would simply benefit the most well off in our society while hammering those who are on low wages. This proposal would further exacerbate the growing issues of inequality or poverty in our society.
“Indeed this proposal is worse than anything the Progressive Democrats would have come up with during their time in office.
“In my view, the proposal outlined by Lucinda Creighton is a crude attempt by the leader of Renua to position the party as the champion of the wealthy at the expense of a fair and equal society.
“We know only too well that Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael would willingly accept Renua as a coalition partner. We also know from the experience of the PD's the disproportionate impact small far-right wing parties can have on government policies.
"People are crying out for a change in this country from failed right wing conservative policies. It is becoming increasingly clear that only a Sinn Féin led Government can provide the credible alternative to the failed politics of the current establishment and the very policies which have devastated our economy and our communities and have resulted in the crisis we are witnessing in such areas as Housing and Health.
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said the health minister needs to return to his post immediately to help reduce cancer waiting list times.
Speaking during a debate on cancer waiting times in the Assembly, Mr McMullan said;
"Cancer affects people right across our community and there can be few who have not had personal or family experience of it.
"As a cancer patient myself I know from personal experience how devastating it is to be told you have cancer, then to face an agonising wait for treatment.
"It is unacceptable that the health minister was not in the Assembly today to respond about cancer waiting times and worse still he is not at his post to do something about it.
"The health minister needs to return his desk immediately and take action to cut waiting times for cancer patients by addressing the lack of consultants working in the health service, delivering increased recruitment and retention of staff and promoting the work of specialist cancer services.
"The people want the health minister back at his desk working to deliver better cancer treatment services for all in our society.”
The growing MRI waiting lists in Mayo General Hospital and other hospitals in the West are putting people lives at risk and must be tackled as a matter of urgency according to Mayo Sinn Féin Candidate Cllr. Rose Conway-Walsh.
Cllr. Conway-Walsh said:
“Vital treatments for public patients are delayed because MRI scanning is not available in a timely manner. In spite of promises to reduce the waiting times the lists have grown and I now know people who have been waiting over 18 months. In January of this year waiting times were anything between four and twelve months in Mayo, Galway and Sligo. Now it is completely out of control and public patients are left to the back of the Queue often in pain and going out of their minds with worry.”
“The question is why should such vital diagnostic scans only be available to those who have money. One would have to ask are the lives of poor people less important than those who can afford to pay? Government’s failure to provide adequate resources to hospitals like Mayo General Hospital to meet the demand would suggest that essential healthcare is based on wealth rather than need. The fact that people who pay can get an MRI Scan within days substantiates this.”
“The truth is the privatization of healthcare vigorously and relentlessly pursued by the Fianna Fail/PD and now Fine Gael and Labour Governments is not a victimless policy. It segregates citizens and creates an apartheid situation and reinforces inequality in our health system.”
“The front line health staff providing these services are truly dedicated, overworked and undervalued. Every day they are left to do the impossible job of dealing with patients begging for diagnostic services and treatment while they don’t have the resources to provide those services. My experience is that they do their very best under unbelievable pressure”.
“Have we learned nothing from Susi Long’s last words “I believe that people should be seen on the basis of how ill they are, of their symptoms, not on how much money they have.” Susi died from bowel cancer after she had to wait seven months for a scan which was too late to save her life. “
“I am calling on the Minister for Health to immediately release the resources available through the private system into the public system to ensure the same access for those without money.”
‘Sinn Féin will work to enshrine the right to healthcare in legislation, and make this a fully enforceable right in Irish Courts. We will work relentlessly to establish a one-tier health system.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has welcomed the multiple expressions of interest as part of the competitive sale process of former British Army site at Ballykelly.
Mr Ó hOisín said,
“I am delighted that Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has confirmed there has been up to seven expressions in interest in the site which are separate from the confirmation that the DARD headquarters is to be sited there.
“This assessment of these proposals will hopefully be completed by the spring which would allow the next phase of transforming the site to begin in 1916.
“At present the TV and film production company will remain on site creating many jobs and I am sure that they will bid to remain full time at Ballykelly.
“I am also pleased that the demolition phase of the site for the DARD Headquarters has now been completed so that the construction on that part of the site can now commence.
“The transformation of the former British army camp at Ballykelly can be the catalyst for the entire North West region so it is important that we maximise the full potential of the site so this announcement is timely.”
Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the OECD’s latest report on international taxation and warned that Minister Michael Noonan should not try to undermine the progress made internationally with measures at home.
Deputy Doherty said:
“There are some positive moves in the latest OECD report that I welcome. Clearly, the right of an Irish government to set our tax rates is not at stake. The real issue is whether Ireland will be part on a transparent international system of multinational taxation or whether we will continue to seek to play with one foot in both camps.
“Minister Noonan has acted only under pressure on issues related to Corporation Tax including by belatedly moving to make companies that were incorporated here but technically stateless for tax purposes resident here as a default. Now as some progress is made internationally, he has given very strong indications that the Budget will be used to introduce a new Research and Development or ‘Knowledge Box’ offering a tax rate as low as 6.5%. These ‘knowledge boxes’ have been used internationally as tax avoidance tools.
“Ireland’s reputation has taken a battering in recent years and while some of this is down to a negative agenda of attacking tax sovereignty there are genuine concerns raised by international organisation and those working with the developing world.
“If the pending EU Commission decision on Apple goes against Minister Noonan, that credibility will be further diminished. Minister Noonan should take a step back and consider whether his so called Knowledge Box is wise given the progressive moves occurring in the international tax environment. A mature corporation tax regime based on a 12.5% rate is now called for, not more schemes and nod and wink deals.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has confirmed that the first group of Syrian refugees to be welcomed into the north will arrive by December.
The Mid-Ulster MLA said 50 to 100 people would arrive under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme and added that the move would not be an isolated gesture.
Martin McGuinness said:
“We not only have a political responsibility but a duty to respond to this crisis positively and extend the hand of friendship to those who are suffering from the worst humanitarian crisis of this century,” he said.
“The scheme will begin with a fairly modest number of 50 to 100 people but more will arrive in the future on a phased basis.
“Beginning with as modest number initially will assist learning and identification/resolution of difficulties.
“It’s important the care we offer extends beyond simply opening the door for these people.
“Therefore we will also be implementing a Refugee Integration Strategy to ensure a smooth transition for the refugees into society.
“This continued level of care and understanding will send a powerful message about our support for refugees.
“It will also highlight the fact that this is a global issue and we all have a duty to act to help our fellow human beings in their hour of greatest need.”
Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has welcomed the launch of a new report calling for improvements in the mental health care system but said it was vital the health minister returned to work.
Speaking following the launch of the report, Ms McLaughlin said;
"It is vitally important those who use mental health services have their voices heard.
"It is estimated 1 in 5 people in the north has a mental health problem and there is evidence that mental health problems are 25% higher here than in England.
"There are key messages in the report about how we need to treat patients as people.
"It also highlights the fragmentation across the system and the poor communication between different elements of the service.
"Services have become very separate from each other and are very much working in silos.
"I also welcome the recommendation for the mental health budget to be ring fenced.
"We need to see the health minister back at his post, making strategic decisions to ensure those with mental health problems get the best care possible."
Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has said it is unacceptable that families have had to face lengthy delays for inquests because of the lack of coroners.
Speaking after a debate on a Sinn Féin motion in the Assembly today, Mr McCartney said;
"It was important a number of relatives of victims of state violence were in the public gallery in the Assembly for today's debate.
"I commend them for the dignity they have shown over many years in the face of continual attempts by the British government to frustrate their search for truth.
"It is unacceptable they have had to wait so long, for some of theme it has been decades, to establish the truth of what happened to their loved ones and worse still they could face further delays now.
"It has been known for some time that the senior coroner in the North is due to retire this month.
"Measures should have been put in place well before now to ensure a replacement is in post as soon as possible.
"Instead, we could be facing a situation where there will not be a replacement until next Easter.
"The Justice Minister needs to act immediately to make sure relatives and those seeking the truth are not further distressed because inquests are further delayed."
Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has congratulated all those who made Ciclovía Belfast an outstanding success.
Mr Ó Muilleoir said;
“It’s only ten months since the Ciclovía concept was brought to Belfast so to see the dream of a car-free city brought to reality today was a great testament to what can be achieved when we all pull together.
“Thanks goes to Belfast City Council, the PSNI, DRD and Volunteer Now — as well as politicians from all parties — who ensured the smooth running and phenomenal success of what is the first city Ciclovía in these islands.
“It’s my hope that we will not only see Ciclovía embrace different routes across Belfast next year but that we can work towards the model they have in Bogota, Colombia, where Ciclovía was born in 1974, and which involves closing 120km of roads for a period every Sunday."
Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said the British and Irish governments need to live up to their responsibilities during the current negotiations at Stormont.
Mr Murphy said;
"The British government need to accept they have created the current political difficulties with their austerity cuts agenda.
"They cannot evade that responsibility and present themselves as some sort of honest broker between the parties. They are clearly a player in this process.
"The Irish government too has a role to play as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.
"It is now time for both governments to step and work to ensure that the Executive has a workable and sustainable budget.
"The reality is that Tory austerity remains the biggest threat to the political institutions and we need a united voice from all political parties and wider civic society challenging that agenda."
Sinn Féin Waterside Councillor Christopher Jackson has said those responsible for a pipe bomb attack in Lincoln Courts last night will not succeed in dragging society back to the past.
Councillor Jackson said
"This pipe bomb attack in Lincoln Courts should be condemned by everyone in our community.
"There is no rationale or justification for such actions and the sooner those behind this incident realise that the better.
"Those responsible for this pipe bomb are attempting to drag us back to the past but they will not succeed.
"Whoever was behind this attack needs to realise that they do not have the support of the local community and they should stop these pointless actions immediately."
Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan today expressed her frustration at Ibrahim Halawa’s continuing detention in a prison in Egypt.
Once more, Ibrahim’s trial has been postponed; his new trial date is December 15th.
The Sinn Féin MEP said:
“I am dejected to hear the latest news about Ibrahim’s detention coming from Egypt. It is the same old story – yet another adjournment to a later date, December 15th. I am upset for Ibrahim and for his family here as well. It has been one long road of frustration.
“No doubt we will have the government issuing the usual statement with little of comfort to Ibrahim and his family. It is simply not good enough.
“I have said it before, the government must act now. Enda Kenny must lift the phone to his Egyptian counterpart. The time for fudging on this issue is long gone. It is time for some real action and less of the soundbites.
“Ibrahim is a Dublin lad born and bred. Time for the government to acknowledge that now, rather than treating him like some sort of part-time Irishman.
“Lift the phone Enda Kenny and sort this out!”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD this morning spoke at the memorial in Havana to the 1981 republican hunger strikers which he formally unveiled 14 years ago on the 20th anniversary of the hunger strike.
The Sinn Féin leader said:
“The hunger strike became a metaphor for Ireland's long struggle for freedom and independence.
“It was an epic story of unselfishness, courage and generosity versus self-interest, intransigence and imperialism.
“That same spirit is visible here in Cuba and everywhere stronger powers refuse to recognise that people have the right to be who weare.
“The people of Cuba have been vindicated by the change of US policy recently and while that will present many challenges, such challengesare part of revolutionary struggle.“The Sinn Féin leader commended the leadership of President Raul Castro and President Obama and he singled out President Castro's key role in the Colombian peace process.”
Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has noted the launch today by an Taoiseach Enda Kenny, of the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities but has questioned the absence of any mention of funding as well as the unwieldy and unfocused nature of the ‘roadmap’.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:
“This employment strategy for people with disabilities has been a long time coming. However the 600,000 people with disabilities in Ireland, who have suffered disproportionately during the years of this Fine Gael/Labour Government, and who have been left behind in recovery, deserve more than this ‘road map’.
“Fine Gael/Labour has made it clear that tax cuts over investment are their priority. Tax cuts for those who don’t need them. Where is the investment detailed in this strategy to implement the much needed supports and training required? We have yet to see where the money to implement this new strategy will come from. This sector has been savagely cut over the course of this Government’s term in office.
“This ‘Comprehensive’ Strategy is not comprehensive at all. It’s a damp squib that has left people with disabilities even more disillusioned today than they were yesterday. No one Department is taking responsibility for its implementation. This is a cross-departmental plan that is unwieldy and unnecessarily complex.
“It took ten years to develop this plan and it looks like it is another long-fingering exercise with no urgent implementation of any projects. In the meantime this Government closed the very successful Disability Activation (DACT) schemes before an evaluation of their effectiveness was published.
“We in Sinn Féin published our detailed, costed proposals for immediate actions from the Department of Social Protection in May 2015. In contrast the time frames set out to deliver this new strategy are sluggish at best.
“This was just another electioneering showcase event, in Farmleigh House with Enda Kenny, at the helm, Joan Burton, Kathleen Lynch and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin bringing up the rear, and Fergus Finlay thrown in for good measure.
“Just weeks before a possible election people with disabilities are left with the sinking feeling that Fine Gael /Labour have let them down again.
“Show me the money Enda and prove me wrong. The 600,000 disabled people of Ireland deserve better that this.”
Dublin South West representative Seán Crowe TD has welcomed the news from Volkswagen Ireland that they are proposing to recall 80,000 vehicles to supposedly remove the software that hides the true extent of
emissions. The cars and vans are reported to be emitting up to 40 times the levels of NOx permitted – a dangerous cause and contributor to respiratory illness.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“I want to welcome the news that Volkswagen Ireland have agreed to recall up 80,000 vehicles.
“The company have said that customers will be contacted about what it called its ‘action plan to correct the emissions characteristics of certain diesel vehicles’.
“We know from already published data that their cars and vans are reportedly emitting up to 40 times the levels of NOx permitted – a dangerous cause and contributor of respiratory illness.
“Aside from the obvious health implications for motorists and the general public this scandal has not gone away and will undoubtedly impact on the Volkswagen brand name.
“Volkswagen’s recall will involve 34,387 Volkswagen passenger cars, 16,485 Audi cars, 4,365 SEAT cars, and 16,004 Skoda cars, 8,107 commercial vehicles sold under the Volkswagen brand. The company also
said an additional 30,000 imported second hand cars may also be called in.
“The general public are still waiting for a formal announcement from Volkswagen Group Ireland about their level of knowledge regarding the software in vehicles sold in Ireland. I welcome the recall of vehicles and am calling on the company to come clean with accurate and up to date information regarding how the emissions fixing software was allowed develop and spread throughout their worldwide companies.”
Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said the permanent secretary of the health department will come before the Assembly's health committee next week to discuss the current crisis in the health service.
Ms McLaughlin, the chair of the Assembly's health committee, said;
"There is a clear crisis in our health system and the public are entitled to answers on what is being done about it.
"I have been in contact with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, who is effectively running the department in the absence of a health minister.
"I asked him to come before the health committee next week to discuss the current crisis in the health service and he has agreed to attend.
"This will allow members of the committee an opportunity to ask questions about what is being done to address the crisis.
"However, the permanent secretary is no substitute for a minister in post making decisions to tackle the current difficulties.
"People want to see the heath minister back at his post working to improve the health service for everyone."
There is absolute chaos over the unexplained delays in farmers receiving the Disadvantaged Area Payment or what is now known as the Area Natural Constraint Payments (ANC) according to Sinn Féin Candidate Rose Conway-Walsh. While some farmers were paid out many were not. No explanation is given to these farmers as to why they have not received their payments. There is obviously not enough staff in the Department to answer phones or deal with the high volume of telephone calls. This must be rectified immediately.
Speaking at the Irish Natura Hill Farmers Association meeting in Westport this week Cllr. Conway-Walsh said:
“I have been inundated with calls from farmers who have not received their A.N. C. Payments which began last week. This year has seen the lowest % of farmers paid for this scheme by the due date.
The Minister and his colleagues have stated they are taking measures to alleviate the burden on farmers in this bad year. One of the actions is to pay out 75% of Single Payment in October. However if a farmers file is not clear for payment of A.N.C. he will not be clear for Basic Payment.
The delay in payments seem to relate to small over claims arising on farmers’ maps. In the past the Department system could overide these small over claims and payments would issue. However due to a change in the Department System this year the over claims, however small, have to be processed and letters issued to farmers before files can be cleared.
The other main issue is the ongoing monthly calculation of stock levels which is 0.3 livestock units for 7 consecutive months over the 12 month period or 0.15 livestock units for 12 months. Farmers will not get paid out until they have reached the required length of time.
Also where a commonage is concerned it takes just 1 farmer to over claim on his share to hold up his fellow shareholders.
Cllr Michael Holmes proposed at the meeting in Westport that it should be mandatory for the Department to send out a written communication to all farmers not approved for payment at the same time as those who have been passed for payment. I completely agreed with this proposal as the least that can be done is keep these farmers in the picture as to when they are going to get paid.
The Minister needs to step in and sort out this technical issue and allow payments to flow and it is mostly affecting farmers along Western seaboard. Farmers and Department staff are at their wits end with jammed phone lines and no money.”
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has said the launch of the Civil Society Network in Belfast is a clear indication that people want to see politics and the regional economy working.
Speaking after attending the launch, Mr Kearney said;
"The future of the political institutions and the political process itself are in serious jeopardy. Positive interventions are now urgently required to help in establishing political and economic stability.
"The talks process needs positive reinforcement from wider civic society across Ireland, as well as the significant influence of the European Parliament, Irish America and the US administration. There is a clear role for civic society to play.
"Stakeholders from civic society were central to securing the Good Friday Agreement. However, in recent years that role has been marginalised within the peace and political processes. That needs to change.
"Civic society has a democratic right and political responsibility to speak out and assert its vision for the future at this time.
"The present status quo is not sustainable. The message from the Civil Society Network is that people want to become re-engaged in helping to design and drive forward a new road map for the new future.
"The reality is that for progress to be made positive leadership is required from all sections of society.
"The political process needs to be re-energised with new ideas and greater democratic participation.
"The Civic Forum should be reestablished and a Bill of Rights implemented to assist in taking all of that forward."
Sinn Féin MLA Rosie McCorley has called for the implementation of an Irish Language Act in the North after 95% of people supported it in a recent survey.
Ms McCorley said,
“The Irish Language Act, Acht na Gaeilge was agreed at the St Andrew’s talks but has yet to be implemented.
“In a recent survey carried out by the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín 95% of people who responded signalled their support for the act.
“The rights of Irish language speakers need to be enshrined in legislation.
“This in no way threatens anyone or forces the language upon those who prefer not to use it.
“The Irish language belongs to all the people of Ireland.
“If all parties and the British and Irish governments are serious about democracy and fulfilling commitments made in the Agreements then they must move now to implement Acht na Gaeilge.”
Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has called on Simon Hamilton and the DUP to listen to the growing concern of the public and health agencies and return to his desk as health minister.
Speaking today the chair of the Health Committee said:
“The general public and an ever-growing number of senior health professionals are calling on the former Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, to return to his desk.
“It is becoming abundantly more clear that he needs to do this as a matter of urgency. A minister turning up for work 30 minutes a week doesn’t cut it in the real world, is failing patients and is sticking two fingers up to the electorate.
“The Nuffield Trust, the Royal College of Nurses, Unison, GPs and countless members of the public have now called on the minister to return to work. It is time Simon Hamilton and his party listened.
“While the DUP continues to posture, waiting lists grow, vital health legislation may fall and recommendations sitting on the minister’s desk are not being addressed.
“Nobody will see any return to work as a climb down, health issues are too serious for point scoring.
“What we all need is a full-time health minister at the helm to address the current crisis in the system. In the absence of this our health service will continue to creak under ever-growing pressures being made worse by ongoing Tory cuts to Executive budgets.”
Items on Simon Hamilton’s desk in his absence include:
· Recommendations on waiting time targets and enforcements
· A business case for investment in Children’s Heart Services
· The response to the Commissioning review (how services are bought in ie addiction services) described as one of the biggest flaws in our health system.
· Response to the Older Persons Commissioner on minimum standard of care in Care Homes
· Recommendations on 1% pay increase for Health Workers
Legislation that is in danger of falling this Assembly term as it is not being moved includes:
· Regulation of Social Workers
· The Miscellaneous Bill which could allow for an amendment aimed at addressing smoking in cars with children