Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today addressed a commemoration in Ballymurphy to mark the centenary of the death of Tómas Ashe on hunger strike and to remember all of the hunger strikers of the last century.
Commenting on the current negotiations to restore the political institutions Mr. Adams said:
"Sinn Féin is fully committed to the power sharing institutions and we are working to restore them.
However, the lesson of recent years is clear. As Martin McGuinness reminded us the political institutions can only work if they are based on equality, respect and integrity.
Our opponents, including elements in the DUP, the Fianna Fáil leadership and others claim Sinn Féin is no longer interested in the Assembly. They know this is a lie.
The DUP leadership in particular know this. They also know the conditions that are required for sustainable institutions to deliver for all our people on education, health, housing and anti-poverty needs as well as the necessary work of reconciliation.
So in order that there is no doubt – let me make it clear to everyone, including republican grassroots; our leadership is up for doing a deal with the DUP and the other parties, and of moving back into the Executive on that basis.
Let the DUP and the two governments also be in no doubt. No policy can be sustained without the informed consent of citizens.”
Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has described attempts by Downing Street to suppress a damning report on Brexit’s impact on food prices as "wholly unacceptable."
In recent days it has been revealed that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is refusing to publish the findings of a report into Brexit’s impact on the food industry; raising suspicions that the findings are politically damaging for the British Government.
The South Down MP said:
“One of the loudest warnings against Brexit was that the British Government would sleepwalk into a post-Brexit future where insecure, unsafe and increasingly expensive food supplies would become a living reality for families.
“It is clear from the suppression of this information that Brexit means bad news for our local food industry and bad news for local families.
“Ultimately any rise in food prices will also be matched with a rise in inflation rate which will further impact on living standards and the overall health of our economy - a local economy that relies very heavily on the Agri-food sector."
Mr Hazzard concluded:
“If Theresa May knows that Brexit is going to affect food prices, then she must tell the general public and not hide away and pretend there is no problem.”
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has expressed condolences following the death of a young man in Derry.
The Foyle MP said:
"The city woke up this morning to the sad news that a young man lost his life in an incident in the city centre last night.
"My thoughts at this time are with the family and friends of this young man who will no doubt be devastated at this tragic news.
"There is a great sense of shock and sadness in the community following this death.
"I would call on anyone with information on what happened to bring it forward to the PSNI."
Speaking at the Sinn Féin Thomas Ashe commemoration in Glasnevin today, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD criticised the government for its failure to acknowledge the unprecedented scale of homelessness and to commit to the delivery of social and affordable housing in the numbers necessary to tackle the emergency in housing provision.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“Sinn Féin welcomes the erection of a Thomas Ashe commemorative plaque at the Mater Hospital in Dublin where he died a century ago after been force fed in prison whilst on hunger strike for political prisoner status.
“Thomas Ashe was a man of his time, one of a generation that took the fight against oppression and injustice. The heroism of his death, the selflessness of his sacrifice speaks for itself, echoing down the century - defiant, resilient, resolute.
“The legacy of Thomas Ashe challenges us now, in our time. We are challenged not only to remember, but to finish the historic journey, to reach the destiny of freedom for all our people. How would Thomas Ashe regard Ireland now, a century after his death?
“What would Thomas Ashe, an Irish language activist, make of the DUP setting its face against an Acht na Gaeilge in the north.
“Or how angry would he be at the inaction of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil who hand out their tea and sympathy in the Dáil chamber, only to step over the rough sleepers as they leave the gates of Leinster House.
“The scale of homelessness across Ireland is far bleaker than the figures suggest.
“The government’s figures do not include the thousands of women and children in domestic violence refuges on any given day, the families trapped in direct provision having status to stay but are unable to secure alternative accommodation or the unknown numbers of people temporarily sleeping on other people couches or in spare rooms skirting the edges of official homelessness.
“What would the Thomas Ashe of 1917 do today in 2017? He would stand by the people, he would defend them. He would be outraged at children being reared in single rooms in B&Bs just as he was horrified at the tenements of Dublin’s inner city during his own time. Thomas Ashe would build social and affordable homes at the scale necessary to address the national emergency in housing.
“It behoves us all here today to play our part in delivering an Ireland that Thomas Ashe would be proud of. A united, prosperous and just Ireland.”
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that the death of a man in garda custody in Dublin last night is a very serious matter and the inquiry in to it should be given the highest priority.
The Cork South-Central TD said:
“Any death in garda custody is a very serious matter. The integrity of the force and the confidence of the public in their safety must always be to the fore. Therefore, an inquiry into the circumstances of the arrest, conduct of the arresting gardaí, and any force used in the restraint of the individual, as well as other factors must be given the highest priority.
“The full facts of the case will not be known for some time, but any such incidents must be treated with the greatest seriousness.
“I acknowledge that the case has already been forwarded to GSOC and await their findings.”
Chris Hazzard MP's address to the Killough Summer School: 6 into 32 - finding a place for the north in a United Ireland.
Eighty years ago in 1937 James Craig was in his office in Parliament Buildings at Stormont. A Dubliner by the name of George Duggan was a senior civil servant at the time and was with the Unionist leader as he finished up his papers for the night.
Duggan later recalled that Craig was in a particularly sombre mood that evening – and that standing at the window looking south over the Castlereagh Hills he had remarked:
“Duggan, you know that on this island we cannot live always separated from one another. We are too small to be apart, for the border to be there for all time. The change will not be in my time, but it will come nonetheless.”
This week, some 80 years after Craig’s somewhat prophetic pondering, another political leader – Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian Prime Minister and current EU Parliament Brexit Coordinator also felt it necessary to discuss the future of the border in Ireland.
Mr Verhofstadt, following a visit to the border region, addressed the Dáil on Thursday saying that:
“The border meanders for 310 miles through meadows, forests, farmland, it cannot be securely policed… it is an illogical divide, one that at the very least, should remain invisible.”
For me what makes these two contributions so valuable to today’s debate on Irish reunification is the fact that neither example is motivated by any notion of nationalist sentiment; nor is either contributor well known Irish Republicans – indeed quite the opposite.
With this in mind I think there is much to be gained by considering the political – and perhaps most specifically the economic – context to both statements.
By the late 1930s the northern Irish economy was in serious trouble; traditional industries such as linen, and shipbuilding were in decline and with the industrial growth of the Second World War period still a few years away, Craig was obviously worried about the future viability of the Northern state – a state very much still in its infancy.
Verhofstadt’s remarks of course are set against the Brexit catastrophe which is currently enfolding all around us. As a leading European integrationist, Mr Verhofstaft believes passionately that peace amongst European nations is advanced through mutual economic interdependency and the erosion of borders.
The prospect of a new European frontier across the island of Ireland makes no sense to the Belgian MEP – indeed as he said “it is illogical”. He also understands the very real threat that a copper-fastened border in Ireland represents to the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish peace process.
It is in this context: both economically, politically, and indeed socially – that Brexit has reenergised and reshaped the debate about Irish reunification.
No longer is it just ‘ourselves’ in Sinn Féin talking about Irish reunification – Fine Gael are talking about preparing a White Paper; Fianna Fáil too are set to publish their own ideas on ending partition; and here in the North the SDLP called for a post-Brexit unity referendum during the recent Westminster election.
Quite simply Brexit has swept away the old assumptions about the constitutional, political and economic status quo in Ireland.
There is an obligation now on all political leaders, civic society, and the media here to examine new constitutional, political and economic arrangements that better suit all of our needs going forward.
For our part, Sinn Fein believe wholeheartedly in a new, reunified Ireland – but this must be significantly more than merely submerging the 6 into 32 and creating an extension of the southern Irish state as it currently exists.
Rather, it is an opportunity to build anew; to shape a new Irish state in the image – and in the interest – of all of its citizens – in my mind, to finally bring to life the vision at the very heart of the 1916 Proclamation.
For those of us who are persuaders for Irish reunification – this is our task if we are to meet the challenges of building a truly new republic – where the rights of citizens are enshrined in every stitch throughout the fabric of the state.
Where the complaints of the disenfranchised and the downtrodden are no longer ignored, but examined and removed.
Where the corrosive boils of sectarianism and division are lanced and a truly, modern, inclusive constitutional republic is built in the image of all of its citizens – whether you come from Ballymena, Ballymun, or Bangladesh.
There can be no doubt that successive Dublin governments have hollowed out the heart of the 1916 Proclamation – they have stripped away the values embedded in the 1919 Democratic Programme.
Partition and the counter-revolution have achieved nothing but a cycle of economic failure, emigration, inequality, and two political states weighted against the rights of citizens – against the interests of Irish men, women and children.
Our island has been torn asunder, our people divided, our fortunes scattered to the winds as we have said goodbye to family and friends as they have left to find a better life, in a better place.
We too, the persuaders of Irish self-determination have much to reflect on if we are to be ultimately successful in the time ahead.
Indeed I would suggest that for all the reasons why nationalist Ireland has had little success in reconciling Unionism to Peadar O’Donnell’s assertion that ‘we are the same people’, the most striking has been a complacency in regards not only the strength of unionist opposition to the nationalist doctrine; but perhaps more significantly, the legitimacy of such an opposing ideological position.
From the time of Home Rule parliamentarians like Parnell, and Republican revolutionaries such as Arthur Griffiths to the post-war anti-partition polemicists Frank Gallagher and Denis Gwynn, unionists have too often been viewed as nothing more than puppets of the British political elite and obstructions to the inevitable march of history.
Unsurprisingly such perspectives have remained ingrained in the national psyche for the best part of a century – indeed such suspicions of ‘perfidious Albion’ were not merely confined to political literature and fireside stories, but actually became enshrined in the very constitution of the new Irish Free State.
Indeed the problem had its roots deep in the foundation of the southern state, the counter revolution and the rise of Eamonn de Valera as the de facto figurehead of Catholic Ireland.
Linking a revivalist nationalist doctrine with a resurgent Catholicism, de Valera increasingly advanced a regenerated Ireland free from British norms and customs, and for nearly two decades he welded Irish nationalism and Catholicism together and went to war on the remaining remnants of British colonialism in the Irish Free State.
As he continued to strip away as many of the old imperial vestiges as he possibly could from his ‘Gaelic Ireland’ - the trajectories of Irish nationalism and Unionism appeared as divergent as ever. Home Rule was Rome Rule; and as the northern state was engulfed in conflict some time later; the polarising trajectories of both ideologies accelerated further apart.
However Nelson’s Pillar has given way to Bertie’s Spike and O’Connell Street is now saturated with fast-food outlets and casino-style emporiums - de Valera’s vision of a romantic Ireland, of comely maidens in their white washed cottages - is dead and gone.
Indeed it’s also fair to say that in recent decades British identity has been growing increasingly comfortable in Ireland – not merely as a result of the peace process, but a reflection of the fact that there are now approximately 150,000 British citizens living in the South – never mind the many more who reside here in the North.
Eighty years after the Viscount Craigavon reflected on the long-term viability of the Northern state; many more also now think the time has perhaps come to consider such change.
There is no doubt that the unprecedented political situation created by Brexit has transformed the debate on Irish unity for many, and perhaps most markedly for those unionists who are now disillusioned with the trajectory of the British Government.
While there has been virtually no constructive engagement by the unionist political parties on the issue, the appeal of being part of a modern, reconciled Ireland at the heart of Europe is one which will prove ever more attractive to growing numbers of the unionist community.
This includes young, educated, outward looking people from a unionist background who seek – on a whole range of social and political issues – to cast off received attitudes; attitudes which for many are the product of incorrigible sectarian segregation and the dominance of a deeply conservative unionist ideology.
Many young unionists wish to live in a progressive and outward looking society, not one limited by ultra-conservative political factions and a trend towards British isolationism.
For those of us who believe in a reunified Ireland – we must now increase our engagement with unionism and seek to persuade that part of our society to support Irish unity.
The potential for progress demands a new approach; an approach that will successfully unlock unionist opposition to a new future by reminding them of the positive contribution they have made to Irish society – throughout this island, for decades – if not centuries.
The British identity of many citizens in the North can, and must be accommodated in any reunited Ireland. Undoubtedly this will involve constitutional and political safeguards.
It will require protections for the unique identity of Northern unionists and the British cultural identity of a growing number of people throughout the island of Ireland. It may well require transitional political arrangements, which could mean devolution within an all-Ireland structure.
We should not be afraid to examine any option. A new, united Ireland will be pluralist, inclusive and accommodating to all our people, in all their diversity.
With this in mind it’s important to stress the Orange tradition, is an Irish tradition.
The reality is that the history of the Northern, Protestant, Orange community has influenced the development of Ireland as it is today and it must influence its future.
Kevin Meagher, a former adviser to British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward, put it well at a recent conference on a united Ireland when he said:
“For unionists, this is not a process where Orangemen are expected to become GAA enthusiasts. Remember the 12th in a united Ireland. Wear the sash your father wore. Have a British passport as well as an Irish one. Toast the Queen.”
With this in mind the imperative for unionism to embrace discussion about a new and agreed Ireland has never been stronger.
Let those unionists who are interested in talking to resolve these issues take the mature and necessary approach to overcome these challenges. Let’s talk about building an agreed Ireland together with rights and equality at its core.
All our people, from all backgrounds and traditions, must be involved in the discussion.
Together we can build a future beyond partition, sectarianism and division and a society that serves the interests of all the people who share this island.
So to finish – it is clear that greater numbers of unionists are considering if indeed the time has come for constitutional change as outlined by James Craig; for as Guy Verhofstadt discovered this week; there is no logic to be found in partition.
But for those of us who are persuaders for Irish reunification – we would do well to remember Georg Lichtenberg’s quip that “for even if professors would join men at the head, nature has joined them at the heart!”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has accused Fianna Fáil of rank hypocrisy for opposing Sinn Féin’ Wind Turbine Bill in the Dáil this week.
Matt Carthy said:
“The Wind Turbine Bill brought forward by my colleague Brian Stanley TD aimed to ensure that community consultation was central to the development of wind energy in Ireland.
“It provided for minimum setback distances and optional co-ownership for local residents.
“At local level, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are calling for such measures. In many cases, councillors from these parties reject the development of any wind turbines at all.
“These parties are marked by double standards and rank hypocrisy when it comes this issue and many others affecting rural Ireland.
“Time after time, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs betray the interests of rural Ireland. This is just the latest example.
“We need a proper legal framework for wind farm development which allows for the development of this industry but which also respects the rights of residents in Rural Ireland.
“The Sinn Féin Bill offered a resolution of this contentious issue but the political hypocrisy of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs has stymied that for the time being. That is shameful.”
The Tories’ disgusting ‘rape clause’ will disproportionately impact women in the north of Ireland due to legal complexities, Michelle Gildernew MP has said.
The policy, which will force women to prove that they were raped if they wish to claim child tax credits for a third child, may criminalise service workers dealing with the vulnerable women in question for not disclosing these traumatic incidents under the Criminal Law Act of 1967.
The Fermanagh South Tyrone MP said:
“The very idea of this policy is a clear indication of the inhumanity and cruelty that has characterised the Tories’ war on welfare, and assault on the poor.
“This approach adopted by the British government specifically targets women, children and those living in poverty.
“It is now clear that this will have a disproportionate impact on women residing in the north.
“If women are forced to disclose a rape to claim child tax credits, service workers from a variety of areas who gain knowledge of the incident may be liable for prosecution if they don’t disclose it to police.
“This is an immoral and entirely unjustified position for someone to be placed in for simply doing their job and aiding the vulnerable.
“This is a dark chapter in the Tories' already damning treatment of society’s most vulnerable. They now have a moral obligation to bring this disgraceful attack on women, and the poor, to an end."
Sinn Féin TD for Meath West, Peadar Tóibín TD has criticised Fianna Fáil for rejecting the Sinn Féin Wind Turbine Bill last night.
The Bill sought to ensure that community consultation was integral to the development of wind energy and proposed measures including minimum setback distances and optional co-ownership for local residents.
While at national level modest protections such as this safeguarding local communities are being rejected, locally both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors in areas across the state are rejecting the development of any wind turbines at all in their locality.
Deputy Tóibín said:
“Last night, the Sinn Féin Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2016 was brought to the Dáil whose purpose was to protect rural communities and to give them a voice as regards the development of wind farms in their locality.
“The Bill was to put a legal framework for wind farm development by the proposal of setback distance of ten times the height of the turbine, along with provisions to protect against noise and shadow flicker. The Bill also allowed for both optional community ownership and greater consultation.
“The Bill was rejected by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael last night. These modest protections for local communities are being rejected at a national level – while in local councils across the state Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors are actually rejecting proposals for the development of wind turbines at all. This opposition to wind turbines locally is flying in the face of their TDs who argued last night that having minimum setback distances would hamper the development of renewable energy in Ireland.
“We have seen how greatly rural communities have suffered and continue to suffer because of a lack of consultation and legislation in the erection of these turbines. What is especially galling is that Fianna Fáil and the government did not object to a similar bill when it was initially tabled 2014 by Sinn Féin. This Bill was allowed to progress unopposed until it withered in committee.
“There is a dire need for a firm legal framework for wind farm development to safeguard our rural regions and the two-faced hypocrisy of both Fianna Fáil and the government are making this impossible.”
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on the Arts, Peadar Tóibín TD, has commended the continued success of Culture Night which has turned into highlight of Ireland’s cultural calendar by allowing hundreds of thousands of Irish people access to cultural events and venues throughout the state. However, Deputy Tóibín has said that the government should consider looking at ways at improving access in a year round fashion to young people.
The Meath West TD said:
“Culture Night is a terrific initiative and brings towns and cities alive. There is a palpable atmosphere of excitement and exploration on the streets on this night every year and it is a tremendous way of opening up the arts to the wider public.
“Culture Night is now in its 13th year and its success is down to those working in the arts as well as legions of volunteers who give their free time and energy to this night. Hundreds of thousands of people are given insight into a world of culture. The beauty is in the variety of events which are on offer, offering a unique glimpse into the craft and love that underpin the creative field.
“With over 3,000 events this year, this will be the biggest Culture Night programme to date. These are spread out throughout the state with an array of largely family-friendly events on show. This includes tours of museums, galleries, workshops, exhibitions to dramas, dance, design - you name it.
“However, the government should consider looking at ways at improving access in a year round fashion to young people. For very little cost to the state the government could extend free access to young people a number of times of year.
“Today, I would urge everyone to check out the Culture Night website and see what’s happening in their locality. This is an exciting opportunity to experience the arts in an intimate and unique way – and all free of charge.”
Dúirt urlabhraí Shinn Féin ar an nGaeilge, an Teachta Peadar Tóibín go riabh sé riachtanach go dtugfaí maoiniú mar is cuí dos na limistéir pleanála teanga leis na pleananna éagsúla a chur i bhfeidhm.
Cháin an Teachta Tóibín an ráiteas a bhí ag an tAire McHugh a dúirt gur “céim shuntasach chun tosaigh” a bhí i gceist agus na chéad trí plean teanga faofa go hoifigiúil aige aréir agus gan an roinn sásta an t-airgead atá de dhíth ó na heagrais a thabhairt dóibh.
Dúirt an Teacht Tóibín:
“Tá a fhios againn uilligh an bhagairt atá ann maidir le inmharthanacht na Gaeilge mar theanga phobail sa Ghaeltacht. Le cúpla bliain anuas bhí sé mar mhanna ag na hAirí le cúram na Gaeltacht orthu go raibh pleanáil teanga ar bun a rachaidh i ngleic le mórfhadhbanna na gceantar maidir le creimeadh teanga. Anois níl an roinn tuillteanach na pleananna teanga seo a mhaoiniú i gceart.
“Le breis is dhá bhliain anuas bhí eagrais agus daoine áitiúla ag treabhadh le chéile le pleananna suntasacha, cuimsitheacha a bheartú leis an Ghaeilge a chaomhnú agus a neartú. Tá costais faoi leith i gceist leis na gníomhartha a bhaint amach. Ach anois tá an roinn a rá leis na limistéar pleanála teanga uilligh nach bhfuil ach €100,000 ar fáil do gach ceantar.
“Is masla é seo don phobal Ghaeltachta. Anois agus na pleananna leagtha amach agus le buiséid faoi leith acu, tugtar le fios nach mbeifear in ann iad a chur i gcrích de bharr easpa airgid. Tá sé do-chreidte go bhfuil an tAire McHugh in ann a rá gan náire gur “céim shuntasach chun tosaigh” é gur faofadh na chéad pleananna seo agus gan an infheistíocht cheart a chur ar fáil dóibh.
“Tá imní orm go dteipfidh ar na pleananna teanga seo de bharr easpa maoiniú agus foirne. Ní bheidh Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Ghaoth Dobhair, Anagaire, Rann na Feirste agus Loch an Iúir in ann ach duine amháin a fhostú in áit triúir de bharr nach bhfuil ach 60% den airgead a bhí de dhíth acu á chur ar fáil dóibh.
“Is léir nach bhfuil an roinn nó an tAire McHugh i ndáiríre faoi athbheochan na Gaeltachta agus na Gaeilge. Táim ag impí ar an Aire McHugh seasamh docht a thógáil ar chás breis maoinithe a aimsiú agus an fód a sheasamh ar son chearta na bpobail Gaeltachta.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD commenting on the speech by the British Prime Minister Theresa May in Italy today said:
“The British Prime Ministers speech failed to provide any of the certainty she spoke of on the main issues confronting the EU and British negotiators. It was nothing but the same old story. It failed to deliver or impress.
“On the three main areas under discussion at this time, there was nothing new. Ms May repeated the same platitudes and language on the Good Friday Agreement and the border that she has used for almost a year. There was no hard proposal or detail. On the issue of EU citizen’s rights, which include all those living in the North, the British PM reiterated her total opposition to any real role for the European Court of Justice. And she did not deal in any meaningful way with the issue of the settlement Bill.
“On the basis of today’s speech and in the absence of any substantial progress toward a resolution of these three key issues, the Irish government should oppose any move toward the next phase of negotiations on trade at the October EU Summit.
“In defence of the economies of this island, the government should insist on special designated status for the North as a way of keeping the island of Ireland within the Single Market and Customs Union.
“It should also insist, as one way of defending the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement, that the Good Friday Agreement will be included as a Protocol in the withdrawal treaty. This would provide legal protection for the Agreement following Brexit.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said Theresa May's comments on Brexit today are incompatible with protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
Martina Anderson said:
"What we heard today in Florence from Theresa May was heavy on aspiration and light on detail.
"She did not adequately address any of the concerns around Ireland, citizen's rights and the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.
"It is clear that Brexit is bad for Ireland. It is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement and nothing Theresa May said today changes that.
"Theresa May spoke about not accepting physical infrastructure on the border but then followed it up with making it clear they intend to leave the Single Market and Customs Union and drag us out with them. That simply doesn't add up.
"She also made it clear that the British government would not accept the European Court of Justice which would leave our rights open to attack by the Tories.
"Our position is clear. We want to see the entire of island of Ireland remaining in the EU, including in the single market and customs union. That means securing special status for the north within the EU."
Sinn Féin's Paul Maskey MP has said the party's participation in the British Labour party conference this weekend is an opportunity to raise rights issues, austerity and the impact of Brexit with the British left.
Speaking in advance of the conference, Paul Maskey said:
“At the British Labour party conference this weekend, Elisha McCallion MP and I will be engaging on a host of issues affecting the people of Ireland.
“On Sunday we're hosting our annual Sinn Féin fringe event, this year discussing the impact on the people of Ireland of Brexit, austerity and difficulty created by the right wing Tory-DUP pact. British shadow Secretary of State to the north, Owen Smith, and writer Kevin Meagher will also be in attendance.
“Throughout the week I will also be sharing our thoughts on the Kurdish peace process, and how to fight Brexit in Ireland at the Momentum conference 'The World Transformed'.
“As MPs we critically engage with progressive movements in Britain, in Europe and around the world. This gives us the opportunity to raise the profile of the issues facing Ireland, north and south.”
Speaking today at a debate hosted by the NBRU in Dunboyne, Co. Meath on the Future of Public Transport, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Transport Imelda Munster TD stressed the need for ambitious vision and strategic investment as we plan for the future of our public transport services across the island.
Deputy Munster said:
“Public transport is the most effective way to reduce traffic congestion, improve local and larger economies, and link communities. It also plays an important role in reducing emissions in the coming years.
“Having a first class public transport system will solve a myriad of transport problems. In order to build such a service, we need increased capital investment and an increase in state subvention. I would like to see the creation of proper transport hubs, high speed rail lines, and a service that links communities and cities north and south of the border.
“I hope that Minister for Transport Shane Ross will put the transport needs of the people first and not the interests of private enterprise. We need an ambitious plan going forward to remedy the damage done during the recession when services were left to crumble. Perhaps the most pressing challenge today is that faced by Iarnród Éireann, which through years of underinvestment and gross neglect, has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that passenger safety may be compromised.”
Deputy Munster also cautioned against the continuation of the apparent privatisation agenda of government and the National Transport Authority.
“Public transport is a public service, and cannot be expected to be always profit making. The service provided is so important in connecting people and communities, and plays an important role linking rural Ireland and urban centres.
“I fear that the 10% of Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus routes already put out to tender is only the beginning of what will be a disastrous privatisation project. We need to keep public transport in public ownership and we need to invest in the service to ensure that it can improve. Currently, there are over 93,000 households, and that is a conservative estimate, who do not have access to public transport, and we know that there are many people who have disabilities and do not have access to transport. We need to invest in these services to ensure that everyone has access to transport and nobody is left behind.”
Responding to the speech from British Prime Minister Theresa May this afternoon, Sinn Féin Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane TD said the speech did not address the problem for Ireland and called on the Irish Government to ensure that the next phase of discussions do not proceed before the issues relating to Ireland are sufficiently addressed.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“Theresa May’s Brexit speech today is high on rhetoric, but short on detail. It does not address the problems for Ireland.
“The British Government needs to realise that there can be no better and brighter future for people in Ireland if the North is taken out of EU and of the Customs Union.
“The British government has published papers on Ireland which have not addressed the key issues of avoiding a border, citizens’ rights, and protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is deeply disappointing that the issues in relation to Ireland have not moved on in any substantial way.
“Instead, they have adopted a head in the sand approach and worse still, cynically used the unique circumstances in Ireland to try to gain advantage on wider issues.
“It is clear that Brexit is bad for Ireland.
“There is no good Brexit for the Irish economy, north and south.
“Brexit is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement.
“If Theresa May and the Tories have their way, the north of Ireland will be taken out of the European Union, the Customs Union, and the Single Market against its will.
“The Good Friday Agreement is an international agreement that is underpinned by the EU status of the north.
“Sinn Féin’s position is clear; the entire island of Ireland must remain within the European Union and the Good Friday Agreement must be protected, in all its parts, by the European Union.
“This can be achieved through special designated status for the north within the European Union.
“This must involve the north staying in the Customs Union and the Single Market, the Good Friday Agreement incorporated as a protocol in the final withdrawal agreement, and the rights of the EU citizens in the north respected and vindicated.
“The Irish government must make it crystal clear that there can be no moving to the next phase of discussions until the issues relating to Ireland are sufficiently resolved.
“Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for the interests of the people of Ireland north and south.”
Responding to yesterday’s safety incident at the Ballinaboy gas terminal, Sinn Féin Senator from Mayo Rose Conway-Walsh has said it is completely unacceptable that, at the very least, residents in the Kilcolman Parish area were not notified of what was happening at the terminal yesterday.
Senator Conway-Walsh said:
“Some people in the community received a text late yesterday evening with scant information. I am furious that people were left in a situation overnight where they did not know whether they should leave their homes or not. People were already aware that Shell had evacuated their own staff earlier in the day, which added to the confusion.
“There must be an immediate investigation into these occurrences. Firstly into what caused the incident to happen and secondly as to why local residents were not communicated within a full and timely manner.
“Customers of Gas Networks Ireland were also left in a vulnerable situation. The supply of unscented gas is dangerous by the mere fact that people cannot smell a leak or if an appliance has been left on. This is apart from the inconvenience and disturbance caused to households, businesses and crucial facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes where services are dependent on a reliable source of energy.
“The question remains - who exactly is responsible? Several statutory authorities and agencies were involved in granting permissions and licences to this project. Now when this happens nobody seems to know where the buck stops.
“I have requested that Minister Denis Naughten come before the Seanad on Tuesday afternoon to account for the Government’s role in this debacle.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will host a delegation of students from meánscoileanna across the north to the European Parliament next week.
Martina Anderson said:
"Next week I will be brining students from six meánscoileanna across the north to the European Parliament in Brussels to see at first hand the role the Irish language plays in the Parliament as an official language of the EU.
"The pupils will get the opportunity to visit the European Parliament chamber and see the Irish language translation services, as well as visiting the Parliamentarium, an interactive interpretative centre explaining the history of the EU which for a tour conducted in Irish.
"The group will also meet my colleague Liadh Ní Riada who will speak to them about the role of the Irish language int he European Parliament and the job opportunities that exist through Irish in the Parliament.
"They will also learn about the Erasmus study exchange programme to learn about the opportunities of studying across the EU."
Mickey Brady MP has called on members of the international community to support the right of the Catalan people to hold an independence referendum on 1st October amid mounting Spanish opposition to the vote.
The Newry & Armagh MP said:
“In recent days we have seen a gross infringement on the right of the Catalan people to self-determination.
“In order to shut down the historic people’s referendum, the Spanish authorities have responded with raiding government offices, arresting officials, issuing massive fines, threats of legal action to hundreds of elected representatives, and the withdrawal of credit to the Government of Catalonia.
“More worrying, still, is the encroachment on the free press in Catalonia and the raiding of newspaper offices. This must be condemned outright by human rights advocates everywhere.
“For any resolution to be reached, the Spanish government must end this unjust interference and harassment immediately. Images of Guardia Civil seizing ballot boxes do not reflect well on any democratic state.
“This is coercion, plain and simple. It is also an attempt to subdue the passion for self-determination held by the people of Catalonia. The massive demonstrations organised in response to Spanish interference is evidence of this.
“I call on the international community and citizens in Europe to make their support for Catalan democracy known, and urge the Spanish government to respect the free press, freedom of assembly and the right of Catalan citizens to determine their future.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson Brexit and Workers’ Rights David Cullinane TD said today that the issue of low-hour contracts, not zero-hour contracts, is the one facing workers today and that the government’s proposals are weak and ineffective.
The Waterford TD said:
“The government’s proposal to tackle zero-hour working practices is a white elephant.
“Zero-hours working practices have been severely restricted in the south since 1997. The issue is low-hour and if-and-when contracts.
“They have led to serious issues in terms of employment security and stability for ordinary workers and they should be curtailed through legislation
“This was the main finding of the University of Limerick report into the issue of work contracts in 2015.
“The government's proposals will not do that as they are designed to ‘outlaw’ a practice that is at the margins of contract arrangements, while ignoring the key issue which is precarious work.
“I have produced a bill that will tackle if-and-when contracts.
“The Banded Hours Bill was supported by the Dáil and went through a rigorous process of pre-legislative scrutiny in the Jobs Committee. The Committee produced a report and backed the bill with amendments.
“It is now ready to be amended and I will be asking for leave to refer it back to committee at the earliest opportunity.
“An unregulated labour market is in no-one’s interests. It dehumanises workers, puts huge pressure on the State in social transfers, reduces people’s disposable income and impoverishes households and children.
“There is an onus on the State to regulate the labour market and ensure that workers’ rights, in terms of pay and conditions, are protected in law.
“My Bill strengthens workers’ rights by giving them access to a contract with which they can plan their lives. It will make a positive difference and I look forward to bringing it back to the Dáil for a final vote to make it law.”