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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin senator Rose Conway-Walsh, along with her Sinn Féin MP colleagues Michelle Gildernew and Mickey Brady today attended the unveiling of a portrait of the Sinn Féin abstentionist MP Countess Markievicz in Westminster 100 years after the Enactment of the Representation of the People Act which gave some women in Britain and Ireland a vote in the December general election  

The portrait was presented to Speaker John Bercow in the Palace of Westminster and the portrait will remain on display in Westminster until October as part of the Houses of Parliament’s Vote 100 celebrations. The gifting of the portrait is part of the Vótáil 100 celebrations organised by a cross party committee of female parliamentarians in the Oireachtas.

Speaking after the ceremony the Mayo senator said:

“I am delighted to be here to honour for the first time the amazing achievement of Countess Markievicz in the institution to which she was elected yet refused to take her seat in, honouring her election pledge. Out of 17 women candidates that stood in the 1918 election Countess Markievicz was the only successful one. In winning her seat Countess Markievicz sent a message that even though women only had limited suffrage they would not be by standers to the political process and the process of change.

I was proud to be accompanied by fellow capable female politicians from the Houses of the Oireachtas at the occasion and delighted to see the result of many months of planning for our own Vótáil 100 celebrations in Ireland. Today’s unveiling honours the achievements of a woman who showed that rights which are hard won must be utilised. She showed that gaining the vote was only the first step in achieving political change and progress.

The life of Countess Markievicz embodied the complex relations between our islands. Tonight’s event is recognition of her electoral achievement and of her contribution to the subsequent phase of political struggle to achieve Irish freedom and independence. I want to thank the authorities in the Houses of Parliament for organising this evening’s event which plays its own role in the continuing changing and developing of relationships between our islands.

MP Michelle Gildernew has also welcomed the recognition of the political contribution of Countess Constance Markievicz. She commented,

 

“As the second female Sinn Féin abstentionist MP elected to Westminster, I am delighted to be here today to see Countess Markievicz recognised and celebrated as the first female MP elected to Westminster. Constance Markievicz was a revolutionary, a feminist, a socialist and an abstentionist Irish MP. I am profoundly grateful to carry forward her radical political and social agenda.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for the arts, youth affairs and LGBTQI rights, Senator Fintan Warfield, has welcomed the publication of the review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 which has recommended a number of measures including extending gender recognition rights for trans youth and non-binary persons.

Senator Warfield said:

“I am pleased with the report which is ambitious in its recommendations but absolutely necessary as the law progresses to a place that embraces LGBTQI identities.

“The primary recommendations were also a core tenant of the Gender Recognition (Amendment) Bill 2017 which I tabled in the Seanad and unanimously passed second stage in March last year and I am glad that this legislation formed a framework for the Gender Recognition Review.

“I am also satisfied to see some ancillary recommendations such as extension of gender recognition to Irish citizens born in the north and recognition for intersex persons.

“I commend those who took part in the review group and call on Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty to bring forward legislation in the autumn that encompasses all of the recommendations outlined in the report.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has welcomed the publication of the Local Authority Satisfaction Report 2018 by the National Oversight and Audit Commission. (NOAC)

Deputy Ó Broin said: 

“I welcome the publication of this survey today by NOAC. It provides valuable insight into operation of local councils. The report surveyed residents in ten local authorities across the state including Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, South Dublin, Cork County, Limerick, Galway County, Kildare, Meath and Tipperary. 

“The results are a mixed bag. It is positive that 53% of those who responded to the survey are satisfied with their local council. However, only 27% agree they are getting good value for money. 

“Housing was identified the most common reason for contacting the local authority and again as we have seen across a range of reports from a variety of stakeholders the lack of affordable housing is the primary concern. 

“The report found that just 25% of respondents are satisfied with the affordability of housing in their area.

“It shows that the lack of affordable homes is a problem not just confined to the urban areas of Dublin.

“Overall there are positives and negatives to take from this survey. It is concerning that despite more than half of respondents stating that they are satisfied with their council, only 29% agree that council is transparent and only 37% agree that it is efficient.

“This is tallies with the fact that 26% of those who responded to the survey believe that they can influence decisions affecting their area.

“These poor perceptions of the local councils must be addressed. NOAC would like to see Local Authorities reviewing their customer service and satisfaction levels as a result of this survey. I would agree.

"Most councils are doing great work on a daily basis and this knowledge could and should be shared across very local authority.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the government’s plans for tackling the crisis in housing and homelessness as “woefully inadequate and incapable of providing the homes needed by the tens of thousands on the waiting list”.

Gerry Adams said:

“According to a report by Focus Ireland, there were only 118 social housing units built in Louth in 2017. 25 of these were constructed by Louth County Council and 93 by approved housing bodies. At the same time, there were 2,249 households designated as having a housing need. At this rate, it would be almost 20 years before the last of those currently on the Louth list would be housed. Across the state, there are tens of thousands of households on waiting lists that stand immune to an inadequate government housing strategy.

“The cross party special Dáil Committee on Housing and Homelessness recommended that at least 10,000 units needed to be constructed by local authorities and approved housing bodies every year. This year. the government plans to fund just 5,869 real social houses. This is down almost 500 on last year. We also know that only 780 social homes were built by local authorities 2017. At this rate, there is little sign of hope for those on the waiting list in Louth.

“The reality is that the government’s strategy is not working in Louth or across the state. The statistics are stark. Exactly two years ago, when Rebuilding Ireland was launched by the government, there were 6,525 people, including 2,348 children living in emergency accommodation. In May 2018, there were 9,846, including 3,826 children living in emergency accommodation. 

“The government needs to go back to the drawing board. It must prioritise funding for local authorities who have a key role to play in ending the housing crisis.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said the explosion in food banks and similar initiatives across Ireland is a searing indictment of the government's complete lack of interest in the cost of living crisis.

The Ireland South MEP made the comments as she visited the Feed Cork group in the city.

“Firstly I want to commend the people behind the Feed Cork movement,” she said.

“They are an inspirational group of people; generous, civic minded and hard working. They are motivated purely by a desire to help others and the job they are doing is one that has become sadly necessary.

“Having met them I cannot say enough good things about them but the fact that this group needs to exist at all is a searing indictment of the complete lack of interest of this government and previous governments in the cost of living crisis.

“When children are regularly going to school or to bed hungry I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that the state has failed. In Ireland, one in five children live in food poverty.

“This does not happen overnight and it does not happen accidentally. This was allowed to happen by this government and is a legacy of the actions of previous governments.

“They have failed to control the spiraling costs of rent, energy, insurance, transport, education and other essentials. Simultaneously they have not ensured that wages keep up with those costs and they have allowed dubious working contracts and pay practices to go unchecked.

“The consequence of this is that we now have 750,000 people in Ireland living in poverty with more than 100,000 of them in work.

“We have families who must choose between rent or food, working people who go hungry because of extortionate insurance premiums, older people who balance the needs of heating or eating.

“In the western world, in one of the richest nations in Europe, where we are never done hearing about the great mythical recovery, how is this anything other than a complete failure of government?

“Feed Cork has been operational since May last year. Since then they have expanded the programme to include a back-to-school pack for struggling parents in DEIS schools and the food programme has been in such huge demand that it has since been rolled out to other towns and counties including Clare, Tramore, Limerick and Wexford.

“If we don't see radical action, or a change in Government soon, then I fear that rollout will continue right across the country.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane said today that the December backstop is Ireland’s insurance policy in the event of a hard Brexit, and, as a result, is not an optional addendum to the negotiations.

Speaking in response to Taoiseach Varadkar’s comments that there could be a hard border in the event of a hard Brexit, Deputy Cullinane said:

“The people of Ireland are all too aware of the dangers of a hard Brexit.

“This is why the backstop arrangement needs to be put in place.

“Taoiseach Varadkar has been talking about the need to plan for a hard Brexit - as if the backstop is not such a plan.

“Is it the case that an Taoiseach is now thinking of a hard Brexit scenario where there is not only no withdrawal agreement in place, there is no backstop in place either.

“Where does this leave the cast-iron guarantee he supposedly secured last December?

“There has been a worrying shift in tone from the government over the past two months - from the backstop as a red line to one where is simply forms part of the overall agreement.

“We need clarity on this issue from the government as the backstop is our insurance policy in the event of a no deal Brexit.

“The people of Ireland need to know that both the Irish government and the EU will not allow the British government take the backstop off the table.” 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport Imelda Munster TD has called for the National Transport Authority (NTA) to provide local liaison officers to ensure that local representatives and groups have a local point of access to discuss concerns on both MetroLink and BusConnects projects.

Speaking at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Transport Committee, Deputy Munster said that it was imperative that local people had ongoing and open access to an NTA staff member with detailed local knowledge of both projects, given the large-scale changes expected in some areas.

Deputy Munster said:

“My office has been inundated with calls and emails from people who are confused and concerned about the plans. There is a view that there is not enough detail available, and that consultation with the NTA has not been sufficient.

“I am encouraging everyone to engage with the ongoing consultation process at BusConnects and the next stages of consultation on the MetroLink project when they commence.

“Further to that, I have asked the NTA to work with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to provide local liaison points of contact to ensure that local concerns can be raised as part of an ongoing, transparent and open process. Communication with communities is key to the success of these projects. We saw the disastrous effect on communities who were excluded from the MetroLink planning process, and I think the NTA should learn from that.

“The NTA are encouraging people to attend public meetings, which is well and good, however not every issue can be addressed at these meetings, and not everyone will be able to attend, especially when some of these meetings are taking place in August when many people are on their holidays.

“I have written to the NTA and TII to encourage them to provide this service to ensure that as many voices as possible are heard.” 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has claimed that Rebuilding Ireland is failing to stimulate the delivery of enough new homes. Despite significant subsidies to the private house building sector, delivery is slow and no affordability dividend is being provided.

Deputy Ó Broin said: 

“Rebuilding Ireland commits to delivering 25,000 new homes per year. According to the CSO only 14,500 new dwellings were built in 2017. 

“Via Rebuilding Ireland the government has introduced a number of incentives to get the private market delivering homes.

“Between the Help to Buy tax break, the €200m Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), Home Building Finance Ireland, the Rebuilding Ireland Home loan the government is offering a slew of tax payer funded incentives with no guarantee of affordability in return. 

“Even all these aforementioned incentives combined with the new fast track planning regime and reduced apartment sizes have not led to an adequate ramping up in delivery, with only 3,500 new dwellings completed so far in 2018.

“Stakeholders from across a wide range of sector have voiced their concerns about the lack of supply of affordable homes in towns and cities. In the two years since Rebuilding Ireland was published, not one genuinely affordable home has been delivered via government backed schemes.

“The government needs to accept that increasing supply in and of itself will not reduce costs. This is evidenced by the fact that despite over 93,000 new units being built in 2006 house prices were approaching peak boom prices.

“We need to see state investment on public land in order to deliver homes that are truly affordable for ordinary workers. Until the government begins to see itself as a provider of public housing, the private market will continue delivering for the few."

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Speaking in response to research into the views of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms in the north by the Federation of Master Builders Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy MLA said:

  

“Last week Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald held a series of meetings with business and industry leaders including Retail NI, the CBI and the Institute of Directors.

 

“They made it clear that Sinn Féin is committed to the re-establishment of the power sharing institutions.

 

“We believe that locally elected ministers are best placed to deliver public services, prioritise our own political agenda and with the politics of Brexit also adding to the uncertainty within the sector protect Irish interests north and south.

 

“Brexit will be bad for the economy on this island, bad for business and investment, bad for farmers, bad for the environment, bad for workers’ and human rights regardless of whatever outcome is reached in the negotiations. 

 

“The only defence against the negative impact of Brexit is for the north to remain in the single market and customs union.

 
"However, the political institutions must be restored on the basis of genuine power sharing and equality and respect for all.

 

"The DUP should end its blockade on the delivery of rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else in these islands, marriage rights, language rights, women's rights and the right to a legacy inquest.

 

“The British government must also end its ‘do-nothing’ approach to restoring the institutions as a result of its toxic pact with the DUP and act with the rigorous impartiality required by the Good Friday Agreement. 

 

"Both the British and Irish governments have a responsibility as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement to ensure citizens in the north have an equivalence of rights and they must use the British and Irish Intergovernmental Conference to map out a way forward.” 

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Sinn Féin Welfare Spokesperson Alex Maskey MLA has strongly criticised the British Government after it rejected a cross-party request for a controversial element of the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for terminally-ill claimants to be amended.

Alex Maskey said: “PIP currently allows for applications to be fast-tracked without an assessment for claimants with a terminal illness who have a life-expectancy of no more than six months. However, the evidence shows that this time period is much too restrictive and should be extended to all those facing a terminal illness.

“Therefore, the five main parties here made a joint request calling on the British Government to scrap the six-month time restriction.

“We have just received the response from the Department for Work and Pensions and it is deeply disappointing that they are standing over the six-month timeframe.

“I believe there can be no justification for this cruel decision as it blatantly ignores the evidence from clinicians and claimants that this rule is adding further trauma to people who are already suffering grievously.

“It is for this reason that the Scottish parliament has already introduced new legislation to rescind the six-month limit and we will continue to lobby for the same to happen here.”

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Sinn Féin MLAs Caoimhe Archibald and Karen Mullan held a discussion with young people in Derry on careers and skills for World Youth Skills Day.

The party's Further and Higher Education Spokesperson, Caoimhe Archibald said: 

 

"World Youth Skills Day on 15th July is an annual United Nations event with a focus on the role of technical and vocational education can play in eradicating youth unemployment and poverty.

"Karen Mullan MLA and myself hosted a discussion with some young people along with speakers from North West Regional College, Enterprise North West and Derry Youth & Community Workshop on the various opportunities available for young people in terms of training and education.

"Technical and professional education plays a key role in skills training and development so it is important young people are aware of all the opportunities available to them.

"Part of our discussion focused on the careers advice young people receive, the need to ensure young people are well-informed on their options and the role of schools in this.  

"There is an important discussion which needs to take place around how education is delivered to meet the needs of young people as well as addressing skills gaps.

"Youth unemployment and educational underachievement are challenges which must be addressed and where there are models of delivery which are effective these should be built upon." 

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion said the DUP must demand the resignation of North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr after a damning report found he had failed to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government and then wrote to the British Prime Minister in 2014 to lobby against supporting a UN resolution on Sri Lanka.

Elisha McCallion said:

“This is an issue of integrity in government and in public office.

“Sinn Féin stood last year in an election on a platform of equality, rights and integrity in government.

“This followed a number of scandals involving the DUP in government, including RHI, Nama, and Red Sky, which had damaged public confidence in the DUP’s behaviour in the political institutions. 

“Since then there have been further allegations linked to the DUP’s Dark Money.

“Therefore there is an onus on the DUP to act decisively when wrongdoing has been exposed as is the case with Ian Paisley Junior. There should be zero tolerance of abuse of public office for personal benefit.

“Ian Paisley Jnr should step down and resign with immediate effect. If he is not prepared to do the right thing then the DUP must demand his resignation. 

“If Ian Paisley or the DUP do not do the right thing then it is entirely legitimate for the electorate of North Antrim to exercise its right to force a by election.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications Brian Stanley TD said that the attitude of Facebook to what it deems acceptable content is appalling, and indicates, yet again, the need for an end to self-regulation in the industry.

Teachta Stanley said:

“The revelation last night was alarming, that violent videos and racist images were being judged acceptable content by Facebook, and allowed on its platform. This clearly demonstrates a need for major changes needed now.

“Social media plays a large part in how people now communicate and receive their news. However, it is afflicted with huge problems in fake news, lack of transparency, and unacceptable content.

“Facebook executives must be questioned before the Oireachtas Communications Committee. The digital age of self–regulation is over and we need to have a legislative structure in place to protect individual citizens from both exploitation and offence, whilst maintaining freedom of speech.” 

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Commenting on news that offices belonging to the Rainbow Project were been broken into, ransacked and burgled, Newry & Armagh MP Mickey Brady said:

“I am deeply disappointed to learn that offices belonging to the Rainbow Project were burgled just over a week before the start of Belfast Pride.

“The Rainbow Project provide an invaluable service to many in the community and will continue to do so.

“Those engaged in these criminal attacks on people’s property need to face the full rigours of the law.

“I would appeal to anyone with information about this burglary to contact the PSNI.” 

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Speaking today, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

“Since the Brexit vote in Britain, the process has been marked by the British government changing positions, stalling, and making and breaking agreements.

“Today, the Cabinet will meet to discuss contingency plans for various Brexit scenarios. That is the right and sensible thing to do.

“It should be remembered that, in December, the Taoiseach made clear that the ‘backstop’ was the contingency plan and that this was a cast iron guarantee.

“Last week, I asked the Taoiseach about the ‘backstop’ as agreed in December. At the time, the Taoiseach equivocated and failed to stand over the backstop as agreed.

“Since then, we have seen further chaos in Britain with emboldened Brexiteers seeking to abandon the December backstop altogether.

“Our citizens, our economy, and our businesses require certainty.

“There have been reports that the EU is preparing to amend the backstop arrangements.  We need clarity on this point.

“The Taoiseach is outlining plans for failure, but has yet to outline his plan for success.

“He needs to make clear, with our EU partners, that they still stand over the backstop as agreed, that will make good on the agreement made in December, and how they intend to bring legal clarity and certainty in advance of the withdrawal agreement.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan is calling on the Belfast Trust to assist a West Belfast man suffering from a severe form of epilepsy who is seeking access to medicinal cannabis.

The West Belfast MLA said: "Today I facilitated a meeting between the Belfast Trust and the family of Patrick McMahon.

"Patrick suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox Gastaut Syndrome which causes multiple seizures on a daily basis.

"As a result of these seizures Patrick has sustained a number of serious injuries in falls including broken bones, lacerations and burns.

"Patrick's doctor believes he could benefit from a cannabis based medicine called Epidiolex, which is available via a compassionate access programme. However, Patrick is facing difficulties in accessing it.

"At today's meeting I expressed the urgency of Patrick's situation to the Belfast Trust and sought further clarification on what can be done to ensure he receives necessary treatment.

"I will continue to support Patrick and the McMahon family in their efforts to secure the care he needs."

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called for the regulation of receivers to be put in place. 

The Donegal TD said it was frustrating that years after he first raised the issue it is still being kicked around working groups and draft reports and has called for it to be put on the political agenda in the Dáil’s Autumn session. 

Teachta Doherty said: 

“The lack of regulation of receivers is an issue that is raised with me on an ongoing basis. Small businesses, tenants and homeowners all find themselves dealing with receivers in difficult circumstances.

"Unlike liquidators and examiners there is practically no regulation of this group of people.

"I have had contact with many businesses , tenants and others unhappy with how the receivers appointed have acted.

"The allegations range from feeling intimidated by hired agents of the receivers, problems related to the taxation arrangements under receivership and accusations that the receivers are undermining the potential survival of businesses and simply acting in effect as liquidators. 

"In January 2016 the then Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald wrote to me after I raised the lack of regulation in the Dáil to say that the Company Law Review Group was looking at the issue.

"Now two and a half years later the new Minister has informed me that a Working Group on Receivers is discussing the issue and hope to present a report soon. 

"To date, NAMA inform me, it has paid out €129m to receivers. Over this period the banks have employed receivers thousands of times- all without regulation.

"This issue must be tackled urgently. Receivers must be brought fully under the regulatory system so that homeowners, businesses and tenants can exercise their rights.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the leaked details of the Central Bank’s Report on the culture in Irish banking contain some positive points, but that the Irish people don’t need a report from the Central Bank to tell them that the banks have failed to put the interests of customers first and that the suggestions have already been publicly made by the Central Bank.

The Donegal TD added the report only strengthens the need for the government to actively support his Central Bank (Amendment) Bill which would impose penalties on bankers who lie to the Central Bank.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The details about the report contain some positive elements but these suggestions are already known to government because they formed the basis of the Central Bank’s submission to the Law Reform Commission on this issue. Central to this submission was the call for individuals to be held accountable for their actions. This is something I have long called for and have legislation awaiting a money message from government to progress. They should now release this message and allow the Bill to progress and pass. The Bill would impose jail time on bankers who lie to the Central Bank.

“I have consistently called for measures to bring individual accountability to the banking sector. Before the Dáil recess I again called on the government to bring forward a suite of measures such as setting up a dedicated unit within an existing criminal agency for investigation and prosecution to deal with white-collar crime and holding individuals responsible for actions by the bank under their watch even after they retire. These recommendations must be progressed on the back of this report.

“I believe for the thousands of families caught up in the tracker mortgages or in dispute with the banks over arrears or other issues the report’s finding that the banks have failed to put the consumer first will hardly be news. The cultural problems go deeper than any report can solve.  The tracker issue itself was a symptom of the poisonous culture but so too was the reaction and the still ongoing efforts of the banks to minimise the numbers affected and to adopt a combative approach to some groups of impacted families.

“I await the full report with interest but more importantly I await concrete legislative proposals that make individual accountability central in Irish law. This will challenge the government to overcome its ‘banks first’ policy and for once to adopt a ‘consumer first’ attitude.” 

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Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson has condemned those behind a security alert in the Irish Street area of Derry. 

Cllr. Jackson said:

"The security alert in Bann Drive has caused significant disruption to local residents this morning with many homes being evacuated and the street closed. 

"Those responsible for this disruption have shown complete disregard for the people of the Waterside. 

"Attacks such as this must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

"There can be no justification for this type of activity and I would appeal to anyone with information to contact the police."

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has expressed condolences following the death of a 16-year old boy and a man in his 60s in a boating tragedy in Donegal.

The Foyle MP said:

“The city is shocked and saddened to learn that a 16-year-old boy from Derry has died along with a man in his 60s in this tragedy at Malin.

“This is terrible news for any family to receive and my thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

“It must also have been a traumatic experience for those holidaymakers who saw the boat get into difficulty and raised the alarm.

“I want to commend the action of the lifeboat crews involved in the rescue effort and hope those injured can make a full recovery.

“Our sympathies and condolences go to those bereaved by this tragedy and I’m sure the communities in both Derry and Donegal will support them in the time ahead.” 

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