Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has said the Colombian government needs to deal with the critical threat to the peace agreement in the region.
The Newry/Armagh MP was speaking after attending the 'Tipperary Peace Convention' where the 'Tipperary International Peace Award' was presented to former Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón.
Mickey Brady MP said:
"Sinn Féin and others in Ireland and the wider international community, worked and supported the Colombian peace agreement reached in 2016 between the Colombian Government and the FARC.
"Since then serious issues have arisen concerning the implementation of the agreement and in particular the security of the opposition.
"Over 400 people, political, community and human rights activists including 80 members of the FARC, have been killed by right wing paramilitaries. It appears those responsible act with impunity with reports stating that no-one has been arrested, charged or convicted with any of these horrendous killings. The Colombian government appears to be turning a blind eye to these murderous activities.
"There is a responsibility on the international community to ensure these killings are exposed, condemned and halted and those responsible are brought to justice.
"In our experience of the Irish Peace process confidence building measures are essential to maintaining momentum to sustain and build the peace. Part of this is the release of political prisoners not the continued detention or arrest of those central to the agreement.
"The lack of progress, and the continued poor treatment of political prisoners, can cause serious problems to the process itself.
"The Colombian government needs to deal with the critical threat to the peace agreement. They need to adhere to their obligations. Agreements reached need to be implemented and the security of all Colombian citizens, in particular those opposed to the government, needs to be guaranteed."
At least 20 percent of new housing developments should be ringfenced for social housing in order to address the chronic lack of homes here, Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson consultation Carál Ní Chuilín has said.
The North Belfast MLA said the measure should form part of the Developer Contributions policy, which is currently being consulted on as part of Belfast City Council's Local Development Plan.
Commenting after submitting Sinn Fein's response to the consultation Carál Ní Chuilín said:
"In Belfast last year 7,000 households registered with the Housing Executive as homeless.
"Given this chronic level of need it is essential that at least 20% of housing developments are ring-fenced for social housing.
"The Council can ensure this through its policy on Developer Contributions. I urge the Council to adopt this policy and play its part in tackling the city's housing crisis."
Carthy seeks European Parliament support for Western Rail Corridor
Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has confirmed that he believes he will secure support from MEPs for his amendments seeking to insert the Western Rail Corridor to a list of prioritised transport networks in the EU.
The EU’s Connecting Europe Facility is under negotiation for the 2021-2027 funding period. As part of this revision, MEPs have the opportunity to define areas that lie on the “core network” and are eligible for transport funding. In Ireland this core network has historically only included Dublin, Belfast and Cork. Speaking ahead of the crucial vote next week, Carthy said:
“Next week, MEPs in the Transport Committee will be voting on a list of transport networks to be eligible for €42bn. This is a critical opportunity to rectify decades of bias against the western region of Ireland.
“I am seeking support to insert the Western Rail Corridor into the list of priority projects despite the failure of subsequent Irish governments to champion this essential infrastructure.
“My amendments call specifically for a rail network connecting Derry, Sligo & Galway and for the inclusion of the Western Arc along the main North-Sea-Mediterranean Corridor. I am confident that we can secure committee support for these proposals.
“It is ironic that representatives from outside of Ireland can clearly see the damage caused by complete lack of rail infrastructure in the west of Ireland considering that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments have failed to act to deliver these projects.
“In 2016, the Programme for Partnership Government contained a commitment to apply for EU transport funding for the Western Rail Corridor within 6 months. However, the European Commission have confirmed to me that Irish government has not sought a review of Ireland’s core network.
“The failure to advance the Western Rail Corridor is impeding the task of delivering balanced economic development across our regions. It is an essential part of addressing years of neglect of the West.
“Therefore I will continue to press MEPs to support my amendments and I am confident that the Western Rail Corridor will be included as a priority project in the European Parliament report. Following that, it will require Irish government action and investment to bring it to fruition. Sinn Féin will supporting local communities in campaigning for such a commitment.”
The vote will take place in the European Parliament’s Transport Committee on 22 November.
Speaking this evening regarding Brexit, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said:
"Today has been a calamitous day in Westminster.
“The arguments being played out in the Tory party about Brexit are ones which citizens on the island of Ireland will pay a high price for generations, if a suitable deal is not agreed between Britain and the EU27 over the coming weeks.
“The people of the North voted to remain in the EU. Since that vote, we in Sinn Féin have campaigned for that vote to be respected and the unique circumstances of Ireland to be reflected in any Withdrawal Agreement.
“We have stood with the Irish government and parties in the north to secure a deal that safeguards the rights of citizens, our Agreements, our economic interests and one that averts a hard border.
“There is no such thing as a good Brexit.
“What is on the table is an agreement that, if implemented, will merely mitigate against the worst aspects of Brexit.
“It will not stop it. Brexit is still bad for everyone - on this island, in Britain and in the EU.
“It is disappointing that the DUP have sought to take the side of the Tory Brexiteers over the needs of the people of the north
“Over the past day we have been in contact with British Prime Minister, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste as we face onto the next phase of the Brexit process.
“Sinn Féin will continue to advocate in the interests of all our people and our economy with the governments in Dublin and London, and with the EU.”
Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon and Louise O’Reilly TD this evening hosted a delegation of campaign groups and service providers to meet with Minister for Health Simon Harris on All-Ireland access to abortion.
Megan Fearon MLA said:
“This evening myself and my colleague and Sinn Féin health spokesperson in the south, Louise O’Reilly TD, hosted a delegation of campaign groups and service providers to meet with Minister for Health Simon Harris on All-Ireland access to abortion.
“The meeting with the Minister for Health was very constructive for us and for the campaign groups and service providers, which included Alliance for Choice, Royal College Midwives, The Family Planning Association, and Amnesty NI.
“The campaign groups outlined their concerns to Minister Harris and the Minister reiterated his commitment to ensuring access for all women on the island to abortion care.
“Sinn Féin will continue to keep this issue to the fore, north and south.
“We will work hand in hand with campaign groups and service providers to ensure access to quality and safe abortion care for all women on this island."
Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn said social workers play an important role in addressing the needs of those with mental health and learning disabilities.
The party’s spokesperson for Mental Health was speaking after taking part in a Professional Forum event organised by BASW on issues facing Social Workers in addressing mental health and learning disability issues.
Órlaithí Flynn said:
“Social workers play an important role in helping those in need in a holistic way particularly for those with mental health and learning disabilities as often their needs can be social and emotional as well as clinical.
“It was great to hear first-hand from social workers as to what their experiences are and what they see as priority areas.
“As demands on social workers continue to grow they face many challenges in being able to keep the person central to their time and work.
“I took the opportunity to explain the work that Sinn Féin have been doing to address some of the issues raised today including our consultation submission on the Mental Health Service Framework and our policy documents on Women’s health and Disability inclusion.
“It is vital that we are not only visible in supporting the campaign to improve services but we back our words up with evidence and actions.
“Policies matter and this is why we will be looking to develop a mental health policy with the help of all the relevant stakeholders who have a range of experience and perspectives.”
Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has called on the Department of Infrastructure to proceed on the construction on the A5 road.
The West Tyrone MP was commenting after the Department decided not to contest a legal challenge which set out to halt construction.
Órfhlaith Begley said:
“Today’s move by the Department of Infrastructure not to contest the legal challenge against the A5 is sensible and pragmatic.
“I would call on the Department of Infrastructure to proceed on the construction on the A5 as soon as possible.
“Any further delay is frustrating but the priority is that this groundbreaking piece of infrastructure for the wider North West finally gets underway.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for carers Colm Gildernew has accused the Belfast Health Trust of a lack of transparency over its response to allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.
Commenting after a cross-party briefing by the Belfast Health Trust on the situation at the Muckamore Abbey Hospital, the Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA said:
“The response from the Belfast Trust to date has been disappointing and unacceptable. When addressing these serious issues, clarity and communication are important. I stressed this point thoroughly with them today.
"We have been given a promise that the Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) report will be shared with the families in the coming weeks at a time and date that suits the families, who must remain at the centre of this whole process.
“There remains considerable questions as to how the alleged abuses occurred and to the scale and for how long. Until the families see the report and until the findings are made public those questions will remain unanswered.
"Families deserve answers. They have already waited a year for the SAI report to be completed but as yet have not been given copies.
"There are clearly issues with how the SAI process functions, particularly how it involves patients and their families and how it demonstrates learning to those within the system and the wider public.
"The lack of transparency in the Belfast Trust's response to what happened in Muckamore Abbey also requires consideration to be given to other ways of getting to the truth and implementing learning to improve safeguarding.
"This is no more than families and patients in Muckamore Abbey deserve and I will continue to engage with the Belfast Trust and other authorities to ensure that the learning is taken forward and that transparency is central to all processes.” CRÍOCH/ENDS
Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has told the Minister with responsibility for insurance Michael D'Arcy that many people, who have been hammered by high insurance premiums in recent years, will find it hard to stomach that insurance companies have refused his request that they inform policy holders when a claim has been made against them.
Addressing the Oireachtas Finance Committee, the Mayo senator said:
"This morning I questioned Minister of State Michael D’Arcy on the progress made over the last two years into the report on rising insurance costs that was agreed by the Committee. The report made over 72 recommendations.
"In terms of implementing these recommendations, the insurance industry has dragged its feet, been too slow in acting or has flatly refused to cooperate at all.
"The issue of insurers informing policy holders of a claim against them is contained in recommendation 8. The Minister wrote to the insurance industry asking them to accept this over a year ago. Nothing has happened since.
"Meanwhile, we see more and more obstacles put in front of claimants and awards being cut. It seems that the only ones to benefit from the renewed focus on insurance costs are the insurance companies themselves.
"Another recommendation was that more precise information be supplied to returning emigrants seeking insurance. Once again the insurance companies had to be chased and hounded to provide accurate information on their websites.
"Minister D’Arcy also told me that the issue of returning emigrants facing difficulties obtaining policies is no longer a problem. I told him that I am still hearing many stories from people who have returned to Ireland and are experiencing delays and are faced with sky high premiums.
"There needs to be more action from Government to face down the insurance industry. They are doing the bare minimum and are looking to do less and less. If legislation is needed, it should be introduced and done without delay. Good intentions and half-reached goals will not see people’s premiums reducing."
Speaking today following the resignation of Peadar Tóibín, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said:
“It is with regret that I have learned of the resignation of Peadar Tóibin from Sinn Féin.
"Peadar was a valued member of the party.
"Sinn Féin is home to a diversity of views; we debate and our members vote on policy at our Ard Fheis.
"All Sinn Féin elected representatives are bound by the decisions of the Ard Fheis.
"The people voted to repeal the eighth Amendment. There is a responsibility on all Sinn Féin TDs to give effect to the people’s vote and to represent Sinn Féin policy.
"Unfortunately Peadar was unable to do this and was suspended from the party and has now taken the decision to resign. I wish Peadar and his family well for the future."
Carthy insists Bolsonaro’s election must be final nail in EU-Mercosur coffin
Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Matt Carthy has insisted the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil must be the final nail in coffin for the EU-Mercosur Trade Deal. Speaking from Strasbourg this week, Carthy stated:
"The far right militarist Jair Bolsonaro has clearly expressed his intention to attack the rights of women, Indigenous people, minorities, LGBTI people and the poor in Brazil. He has already enacted policies doing so. The EU cannot claim to promote universal values of human rights and equality while at the same time making trade deals with such a government. This must be the final nail in the coffin of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement under discussion.
“Since rising to power last month, Bolsonaro has already indicated his desire to pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. His policies on a whole range of issues indicate that he intends to bring production, labour and other social policies far away from the standards expected of partner countries.
“Labour regulations, indigenous rights to land and corporate responsibility mechanisms all lie in the firing line with this swing to the right.
“Brazilian agricultural methods are already among the most intensive in the world. Deforestation for the construction of massive, industrial farms is entirely normal while there are extremely limited regulatory restrictions on the use of pesticides, GMOs, water usage and the use of antibiotics.
“Despite the sense that negotiations on this trade deal are stalled due to the agricultural chapter apparently being suspended, the fact is that talks are continuing behind closed doors with the latest round of negotiations held in October.
“Those who rightly protested the prospect of a 90,000 tonne tariff rate quota for Mercosur beef into Europe earlier this year, should now be calling for a complete halt to these negotiations.
“Bolsonaro’s politics threaten international stability far beyond a collapse in domestic markets. His rhetoric stokes the European shift toward racist and anti-inclusive agendas, and puts in jeopardy the human rights and fundamental freedoms of millions of people.
“The Irish Government must immediately withdraw their support for the negotiating mandate and demand that the Mercosur trade negotiations are brought to an immediate end.”
Speaking after meeting the Taoiseach and Tanáiste in Dublin this morning along with leaders of the SDLP, the Alliance and the Green parties Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill said:
“The leaders of the four parties at today’s meeting represent the views and the interests of the majority of people in the north who voted to remain in the EU.
"The DUP do not speak for the people of the north on Brexit and in fact appear intent on driving our economy over the cliff.
“The meeting with the Taoiseach and the Tanáiste was positive.
“The four parties have worked together to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts, to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland and to protect our economy, all-Ireland trade and jobs and the future for our children.
“It is Sinn Féin’s clear view that there can be no unilateral withdrawal from the backstop.
“We are broadly positive about what has been achieved but we are still working through the detail of the deal and we sought assurances from the Taoiseach on elements of the agreement including the issue of citizens’ rights.
“Regardless of what happens at Westminster Sinn Féin will continue to work for the protection of the Good Friday Agreement, for citizens’ rights, and to ensure the implementation of the British government’s commitment to the backstop.”
Sinn Féin education spokesperson Karen Mullan MLA has urged stakeholders to participate in and make submissions to the Education Authority’s consultation on youth funding.
The Foyle MLA said:
“The EA is considering proposals to change the way youth organisations apply for and receive funding.
'In any consultation process it is vital that the views of those most likely to be impacted are heard and listened to. With this in mind I am urging as many youth groups as possible to take part in this consultation process and make submissions.
“There are a number of regional workshops taking place over the course of the consultation period, details of which can be found on the EA website.
“Sinn Féin will be making a submission of our own and welcomes the opportunity to engage with youth groups throughout the consultation period which will run until February 5th, 2019.”
Sinn Féin will be tabling amendments to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences Bill) to tackle the use of victim blaming strategies in the courts.
The Bill is due to come before the Justice Committee in the coming weeks.
Speaking today, Justice Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD said;
"The story that emerged from the recent court case in Cork, was appalling, indefensible and another example of victim blaming.
“It was shocking to read reports of this recent case, where rape was complained of by a 17 year old, that the defence lawyers attempted to point to her thong as proof of her consent. To many watching on, this seems like an implication of blame on the part of the victim, when nothing could be further from the truth.
“It is clear proof that there are not adequate protections for victims of rape, when they appear before the Courts. The deeply traumatic and difficult experience of many complainants is a huge contributor to the fact that Rape is so under reported. We need to radically change that experience.
“We will be seeking amendments to the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill to tackle this phenomenon, and to make it much harder for the Defence to introduce clothing as evidence in this way.
“Under section 3 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981 provides that the trial judge shall give leave to adduce evidence of, or cross examine a witness on, the complainant’s sexual experience ‘if, and only if, he is satisfied that it would be unfair to the accused person to refuse to allow the evidence to be adduced or the question to be asked'. The presumption generally being that sexual history is not relevant and therefore not admissible.
“Under section 34 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 a complainant is entitled to separate legal representation when an application is made to admit evidence of his or her sexual experience.
"The effect of referencing past sexual history, and of pointing to the clothing worn by the complainant, are essentially the same, they ascribe blame to the victim, and a form of attacking their character or implying fault.
"Therefore we will be seeking to extent those sections, of the 81 and the 01 Act, to the clothing worn by the Complainant. We need to bring an end to victim shaming in the courts and this would be a step in that direction."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the rights of the people of the north must not be sacrificed to the Tory Brexit agenda.
Martina Anderson said:
"I met today with the European Union Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, in Strasbourg today to discuss the impact of Brexit on rights in the north.
"In particular, we discussed the fact that she has previously turned down a complaint from human rights organisations in the north about how the issue of rights and the Good Friday Agreement has been handled in the Brexit negotiations.
"I have met with the human rights organisations involved and they were very concerns at that decision and I am pleased that today Emily O'Reilly signalled that she would be open to reviewing that decision.
"I also raised my concerns about the impact of Brexit on the rights of people in the north and reiterated the need for those rights to be protected.
"We cannot allow our rights to be sacrificed to the Tory Brexit agenda and we need to see the Irish government standing up and acting to ensure rights are protected in line with its public commitments."