Here is the much celebrated video shown at Sinn Féin's An Chéad Dáil event in the Mansion House Round Room on January 12, 2019. Sinn Féin former Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha wrote and presents this historic and inspiring reflection of the events of 100 years ago.
Speaking after a meeting in Belfast today between the two governments and the local political parties, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald said:
“Sinn Féin is eager to play a part in a credible talks process to restore the political institutions, end the denial of rights and secure the full implementation of the Good Friday and subsequent agreements.
“However, this is not a credible talks process.
“There is no evidence of any change to the DUP positions on these matters; no evidence of a political will to address the issues of rights, integrity in government and financial scandals, which Martin McGuinness outlined in his letter of resignation.
“A year on from the last talks process what we have today is a cynical exercise by the British government to buy more time and distract from the DUP’s RHI scandal ahead of local government elections.
“The British government remain in hock to the DUP as partners in the chaos that is Brexit.
“The two governments must set out how they deliver the rights of Irish speakers, the rights of women and the LGBT community and implement the legacy structures.”
Sinn Féin Junior Finance Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has called on the Government to take responsibility for the deepening fiasco at the National Children’s Hospital, as the main contractor has offered to pull out of the project.
Speaking this afternoon, the Cork North-Central TD said:
“Today’s news that the main contractor, BAM, has offered to pull out of the contract to build the National Children’s Hospital is unsurprising.
“BAM issued this offer after the Taoiseach attempted to shift the blame for a €450 million overspend from his own Government to the main contractor. This was a predictably cynical move by the Taoiseach that no one buys.
“This overspend is a direct result of departmental incompetence from the procurement stage through to a cost escalation that Minister Harris has failed and refused to handle.
“It was the Health Minister who chose to adopt a two-stage procurement process despite knowing it was unprecedented and untested in the State.
“It was the Minister who chose a two-stage approach despite knowing it would place added pressure on the design team which could lead directly to significantly higher costs.
“These are the problems that have come to pass and have directly led to an overspend of €450 million.
“Despite these warnings, the two-stage process was chosen.
“This experiment was chosen, despite its risks, in order to complete the hospital as soon as possible and to offer another ribbon-cutting PR event for Fine Gael.
“It was the Taoiseach as Minister for Health who proceeded with this two-stage approach, and it was Minister Harris who failed to act as the costs continued to rise.
“In the procurement strategy report, one of the benefits of the approach chosen was to allow the State to make a strategic change if the price did not deliver value for money.
“That strategic change required engagement and leadership from the Minister for Health. He provided neither and now we have a €450 million overrun. He should leave the stage.
“The Government should stop blaming the main contractor and acknowledge its own abject failure to deliver this project.
“I call on all of the relevant parties to come before the Public Accounts Committee, end the drip feed of vital information, and find a solution that delivers this project on time and at a value that protects the public interest.”
Carthy to host “Stop the Vultures! Stop the Evictions!” event in Strokestown this Thursday
Midlands Northwest MEP Matt Carthy will host a “Stop the Vultures! Stop the Evictions!” event in the Percy French Hotel in Strokestown this Thursday the 21st of February at 7.30pm.
The Roscommon native has been central to the campaign against the EU directive on non-performing loans and has been a vocal opponent of the recent evictions in the Strokestown area.
Carthy was scathing of the recent evictions describing the behaviour of the private security personnel as “thuggish” when speaking at the Strokestown community rally before Christmas. “We didn’t stand for it then, we don’t stand for it now and we won’t stand for it in the future!” Carthy said ahead of Thursday’s event.
“We must stop the Vultures! It is a blight in our communities across this country. I have been working in the EU to demand the Commission withdraw its proposal on non performing loans, which aims to give free rein to the vultures and amounts to a second bailout for the banks. We have to campaign at the local level too, to demand the Irish government opposes this dangerous Directive in the Council.”
Carthy will be joined on Thursday evening in Strokestown by Sinn Fein colleague Pearse Doherty TD. The event which takes place in The Percy French Hotel will start at 7.30pm. ENDS
Speaking this afternoon on foot of BAM writing to the Taoiseach regarding the national children’s hospital project, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that the Taoiseach and a new Minister for Health need to take finally control of children’s hospital project.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The children’s hospital is long overdue and its speedy completion is paramount. However, the overrun on the hospital is extremely worrying and the State cannot have a blank cheque book for any capital project. There has to be sense and prudence.
“The current Minister for Health has shown himself to be totally incompetent in relation to this project and he needs to removed and distanced from anything to do with the new children’s hospital.
“The Taoiseach and a new Minister for Health need to finally take control of this situation and immediately call for an emergency meeting with BAM, with the Design Team, and with The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board about this project. There must be a specific focus on cost recovery and how the costs can be lowered and controlled. Savings must be made so the mammoth cost overrun is as miniscule as possible. All options must be kept on the table.
“Furthermore, the PwC report must also assess the letter sent by BAM including an analysis of its offer and contents.
“We are also calling on BAM and the Design Team and The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board to appear before the Health Committee to discuss these matters at the earliest available opportunity.
“I have written to the chair of the Health Committee this afternoon calling for this. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered and I have no confidence in this government to take responsibility for all the mistakes made in relation to this important project.”
New revelations around a controversial DUP fundraising dinner raise more questions about the actions of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Sinn Féin Councillor Patrice Hardy has said.
Cllr. Hardy was commenting on reports that the Audit Office has concluded that the Council breached its own policy by paying £1500 for a table at the dinner hosted by DUP MP Ian Paisley. Currently, the policy limits spending on attending events to £500.
Cllr Hardy said: “When I first raised fears that rate payers’ money may have been used to fund the DUP through the decision to buy a table at this event, these concerns were dismissed by Mid and East Antrim Council.
“I was forced to submit Freedom of Information requests and to ask the Electoral Commission to intervene, simply to try and get answers as to how ratepayers money was being used by the Council.
“Now the latest revelations from the Audit Office raise more questions about the actions of the Council. Local authorities are not permissible donors to political parties but if it is the case that Council officers knowingly breached their own policy in order to pay this money, that is a very serious matter.
“The ratepayers of Mid and East Antrim have a right to know whether the DUP benefitted financially from the council’s money, and if so, what is going to be done about it.”
Cllr. Hardy also criticised plans by the Council to unilaterally introduce a new policy for future events.
She said: “Given the history of this Council, particularly the Paisley dinner, it seems incredible that Council officers are now attempting to bring in a new policy that would not have any spending limit in place.
“To compound matters, they are attempting to do this without seeking the approval of elected members first. That is entirely unacceptable. Elected councillors are the decision makers and I will be strongly opposing any move to subvert that principle.”
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has condemned those responsible for the robbery of a filling station on the outskirts of Omagh.
The West Tyrone MLA said:
“I condemn this reprehensible attack which saw a digger being used to steal the ATM, causing substantial damage to the shop building.
“Glendale shop and filling station on the outskirts of Omagh is a family owned business which provides a vital service for the community.
“This is latest attack of this kind in the community after a similar incident in nearby Killyclogher and others in recent years at Fintona, Carrickmore, Garvaghey and Greencastle.
“I would urge anyone with any information to bring it to the PSNI to help catch those responsible.”
A multi-million distillery and visitor centre project at Ebrington Square is back on schedule after additional investment was secured, Foyle Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has revealed.
Plans for the ‘Quiet Man’ distillery project, were effectively shelved last November when a new distillery tax introduced by the British Chancellor impacted on its viability.
However, the Foyle MP said she was delighted to confirm that it is now back on track.
“This investment is a major part of the wider Ebrington regeneration project and to lose it would have been a disaster,” Elisha McCallion said.
“As soon as it became apparent that it was in difficulty, I along with Conor Heaney who previously worked on the Ebrington redevelopment as a special advisor in the Executive Office, began a series of interventions to explore other options and solutions.
“We met a number of key stakeholders involved in the project and I am delighted to confirm that the project can now proceed as planned after additional investment was secured.
“That is a fantastic result for Ebrington and the city as a whole because this will be an iconic development. It will be a signature investment, expected to create 35 jobs and a state-of-the-art tourist attraction in Ebrington.
“Planning permission has already been secured and the money is now in place so I look forward to the project getting back on track for the scheduled completion date in 2020.”
'Celebrating Care Day is an important way of breaking down stigmas, Sinn Féin's children and young person’s spokesperson, Catherine Kelly MLA has said.
The West Tyrone MLA commented: “On average 16 young people in the north enter care every week. We all have a responsibility to break the stigma around care and being in care and it is for that reason that I am encouraging everyone to celebrate and support Care Day 2019.
"Young people in care face unique challenges, and are recognised as one of the most vulnerable groups in society, particularly around health inequalities, poverty, and inequality of opportunity in education, training and employment.
"Despite these challenges, young people in care have time and time again overcome these obstacles, and Care Day is a day to recognise and celebrate their achievements.
"We must do more, however, to break down these obstacles and toensure that young people in care no longer suffer disproportionately.
"Sinn Féin truly believe that every child has the right to stability, to feel protected and safe, to feel loved, and to equality of opportunity and we will work to ensure that policy reflects this vision."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD today addressed the ‘All-Ireland Civic Dialogue on Brexit’ at Dublin Castle.
Speaking at the event, Teachta McDonald called for an all-Ireland conversation and forum to plan for a referendum on Irish unity.
The Sinn Féin President said:
“We are six weeks out from Brexit. The British Prime Minister has effectively binned her own agreement and is counting down the clock, demanding a renegotiation in order to appease the DUP and hard-line Brexiteers.
“Ireland did not consent to Brexit. We do not consent to a hard border. We believe that the ‘backstop’ contained within the withdrawal agreement is a vital insurance policy to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and must be upheld. It is the bare minimum that is required.
“However, it is time to look beyond Brexit and beyond partition. If the border cannot be mitigated, it must be removed.
“The demand for Irish unity is growing. Ireland north and south is changing. Now is the time to look the future.
“It is time for an all-Ireland conversation and forum to look to the future. To plan for all possible outcomes. To define a new and united Ireland.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said figures obtained by him thorough the Budget Oversight Committee show that 346 High Income Earners have accumulated €97.8m in tax reliefs that can be carried forward to be offset against future tax liabilities.
Deputy Doherty said that the figures – the latest available, although they date from 2016 – show that reform is needed of the High Earners’ restriction.
The Donegal TD said:
“These figures are very alarming. The High Income Earners’ Restriction means anybody earning over €125,000 is subject to a regime that ultimately, as their earnings rise, restrict them to €80,000 in reliefs or 20% of their adjusted income in reliefs.
“That is a sensible policy given the ability of high income earners to minimise their tax liability, but the fact that they have built up so much ‘excess relief’ means in coming years there is a danger that they will still benefit.
“A restriction must restrict, not just delay, relief for high earners. Without reform, this small number of wealthy people has scope to write off €97.8m between them in the coming years.
“This is similar to the facility of banks to carry forward tax write offs on losses accumulated. It is a cushion for high earners to use up when they choose rather than an absolute cap.
“I will be seeking reform of this restriction to ensure its aim of restricting manipulation and abuse of reliefs by those who earn enough to play the system will be adhered to. €97.8 m of tax relief waiting to be cashed in by the wealthiest is unacceptable.
“Previous data I received showed that the top 10% of earners take home a third of all income, while the top 1% of earners now take home 11% of income.
“Overall, the highest earning 10,000 citizens in the state took home €5.6bn between them. That means that on average 10,000 people took home more than half a million euro each in gross pay.
“We know from a recent Comptroller and Auditor General report that many of the wealthiest in our country pay less tax than the average worker. Yet now we learn that 346 of these top earners have €97.8m of tax reliefs stored up. The Minister must act to clamp down.”
Speaking in advance of a meeting tomorrow between the five parties and the two governments, Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said:
“There is no indication that the DUP or the British government are serious about resolving the outstanding issues and removing the obstacles to power-sharing.
“This is not a serious or credible attempt to restore the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.
“This is about the British government positioning themselves on Brexit and a pretence to extend their legislation (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions Bill) next month.
“Sinn Féin will not be part of a sham process to give credibility to the continued denial of rights.
“We have no interest in talks for the sake of talking. It must be about delivery.
"Sinn Féin will attend tomorrow’s meeting, we will be seeking credible and urgent proposals to resolve the issues at the heart of this impasse.
“If the DUP is not prepared to deal with the outstanding issues then the two governments must set out how they will implement the agreements and secure the rights of citizens including women, the LGBTi Community, Irish Language speakers and victims of conflict.
“Both governments should bring forward proposals to deal with these outstanding issues.”
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has urged the Government to delay its plans to levy a 23 per cent VAT rate on food supplements, saying that the measure should not go ahead until there is permanent clarity on the issue including in relation to what shape future rules on food supplements will take.
The Fingal TD’s comments come amid growing opposition from both consumers and industry to the introduction of a 23pc VAT rate being applied to all food supplements, including vitamins, minerals, fish oils, and probiotics, from the 1st of March 2019.
Calling on the Minister to halt the decision, Deputy O’Reilly said:
“There are genuine concerns from consumers, retailers and manufactures that this introduction of a 23 per cent VAT rate on all food supplement products planned for March 1st will have a significant impact on not just those employed in the sector, but will also place a substantial financial burden on customers.
“When Sinn Féin raised this issue during the Finance Bill the Minister agreed to examine it in the context of the Tax Strategy Papers later this year.
“We know too that the Revenue Commissioners are sitting on an expert report one the issue.
“Yet, we have the increase going ahead in March - this is not joined up thinking.
“We have one part of the State looking at the issue later in the year and another part refusing to say what its own report tells us and yet this major change will affect many thousands of users of supplements and workers in that industry is being ploughed away with it.
“The Minister is pushing ahead with this decision despite the fact that we have not been given any clarity on what shape future rules will take in this area, nor has the Revenue Commissioners expert report yet been published.
“I and my party are therefore calling for the introduction of this 23 per cent VAT rate to be deferred until we have full clarity on future VAT treatment in this area and until we fully understand the full impact of these changes.”
Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has said the British Home Office must clarify the nature of their proposed review into possible Good Friday Agreement violations.
Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said:
“Currently Emma de Souza, is embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with the British Home Office.
“They refuse to recognise her as an Irish only citizen, resident in the north and have also refused to recognise the core legal components of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Emma and her husband Jake, whom she was applying for a residency visa for, have had almost a year of uncertainty and have had to proceed through the courts to clarify Emma's rights.
“The British Home Office must acknowledge the birth right provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and allow Emma to assert her full rights as an Irish and EU citizen.
“They must clarify the nature of their proposed review into possible Good Friday Agreement violations.
"As joint-guarantors of all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement including its nationality clause, the Irish and British governments need to defend it.”
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has welcomed confirmation of funding for flights from City of Derry Airport to London Stanstead.
The Foyle MP said:
“News from the British government’s transport secretary that funding will released for the continuation of flights between City of Derry Airport and London Stanstead is welcome news for the city.
“This funding, in partnership with the Department for the Economy, will allow passengers from Derry and the north west to continue to access this link to London.
“This air link to London adds to the connectivity of the north west, alongside other key infrastructural projects.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe to reject a planned EU Directive which would empower vulture funds and encourage banks to sell to vultures.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Today, I raised with Minister Donohoe a dangerous proposal from the EU Commission to replicate some of the worst aspects of the Irish experience of vultures across Europe. Not only would this proposal limit Ireland’s ability to change its pro-vulture policy of Fine Gael but it would enshrine this policy on an EU level.
“The proposal really is the EU at its worst. It is simply all about the needs of capital and to hell with the ordinary people. The Dáil has supported my No Consent, No Sale Bill. That is an approach which is about consumer protection, not bank protection.
“In Brussels-speak, the proposal is to establish a ‘secondary market for loan sales’. In normal speak, this means making it easier and even attractive for banks to sell on mortgage and other loans.
“As MEP Matt Carthy has said, this amounts to a second bailout for the banks. It is the wrong policy and is a policy that will only benefit the banks.
“There is also the question of sovereignty. This Directive is about throwing blanket pro-vulture rules across Europe. The Minister may be comfortable with that scenario, but it is not one I accept. The Irish government must stand up and reject this proposal or at the very least seek a radical revision to protect homeowners and others.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has appealed to Dáil colleagues in Louth to back Sinn Féin’s no confidence motion next week on the Health Minister Simon Harris.
The Louth TD made his appeal to Fergus O’Dowd, Declan Breathnach, and Peter Fitzpatrick.
Teachta Adams said:
“The Health Service has been in a state of permanent crisis for years. Minister Harris has failed to effectively tackle the trolley waits. The number of patients waiting on appointments, and others waiting on treatments, including surgery, is lengthening, including in Louth.
“In this constituency, there is an absence of health services, particularly mental health supports, the Louth County Hospital has been stripped back of services, there has been no progress on the promised Primary Care Centre and nurses were recently forced to strike in support of their rights. And the shame of the cervical cancer fiasco which led to deaths was on Minister Harris’s watch.
“The scandal of the National Children’s Hospital is the latest evidence of Minister Harris’s failures to do his job properly. We now know that the Board responsible for the oversight of the construction of the Children’s Hospital identified rising costs at least seven times throughout 2017 and 2018. On each occasion figures were presented and examined.
“A hospital which was tendered to cost €636 million is now at real risk of coming in over two billion euro.
“The Minister’s claim that he needed to wait until November last year before bringing this information to his Cabinet colleagues is not credible.
“However, we now know that by 6th June 2018 the hospital was over-budget by €95 million. Two months later at the beginning of August, it was €180 million over-budget.
“In the middle of August, the Board told the HSE and shortly after the Department of Health, that the hospital was over-budget by €191 million. They were also told that the contractor was looking an additional €200 million. The Minister was told this at the end of August.
“The National Children’s Hospital is the biggest capital project in the history of the state and it has become the biggest construction scandal.
“The Minister has run out of excuses. This is an extraordinary failure of leadership. It is an extraordinary failure of oversight and accountability. Minister Harris chose not to tell his colleagues about the escalating costs of a project at a critical moment in the budget process. It is a failure of such magnitude that the only honourable decision the Minister can take is to resign. If he refuses the Taoiseach should sack him.
“It is also claimed that Fianna Fáil was deceived. Does its Louth TD believe that that is acceptable behaviour from its partner in government?
“I would appeal to Teachtaí Breathnach, Fitzpatrick, and O’Dowd to support the motion of no confidence.”
Sinn Féin deputy spokesperson for Public Expenditure Jonathan O’Brien TD has criticised Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe for obfuscating over the responsibility of a senior civil servant within his department in the National Children’s Hospital spending scandal.
Speaking today, the Cork North-Central TD said:
“I first drew attention to the presence of a senior civil servant from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the Development Board of the National Children’s Hospital on 31 January at the Public Accounts Committee.
“I noted that not only was he the Chief Procurement Officer in the Office of Government Procurement, but he was a member of the Development Board, Finance and Procurement Subcommittees; intimately involved in the procurement process and cost escalation.
“His presence, and the responsibility of the Minister of Health as the Minister in charge of the project, failed to result in the Minister for Finance being informed of the overrun.
“The Comptroller and Auditor General today confirmed that, despite the words of the Finance Minister and the Taoiseach, this senior civil servant was indeed subject to a circular that required civil servants to report matters of grave concern to the relevant Minister.
“In his own words, ‘the re-iteration of that circular would apply’.
“A number of possibilities arise; either the Chief Procurement Officer raised no issues to the board of the ensuing cost escalation crisis, he did raise issues but was satisfied with the response, or he was unsatisfied with the response but failed to raise it to the Minister.
“The Minister must respond to this and revise his contradictory and incorrect assertions on the matter in the past week.
“This debacle has been punctuated by misinformation, mismanagement, and delay since it emerged to the general public. It is time for the Government to get real with the facts, rather than adopting its tired policy of spin.”
Carthy opposes EU move to remove tax powers from member states
Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands North West Matt Carthy has spoken out against the EU Commission proposal to end the process of tax proposals being adopted by unanimous voting in the EU Council and move towards 'qualified majority voting' on certain tax matters instead.
Speaking during a debate on fair taxation in the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week, Carthy said: "I approach the question of taxation as a strong supporter of both global tax justice and of tax sovereignty for national parliaments.
"I fully support Member States cooperating to set EU-wide rules for tackling cross-border corporate tax avoidance and I have pressed the Irish government to stop facilitating industrial-scale tax avoidance by some of the wealthiest companies in the world.
"But tax justice is not the same as tax harmonisation.
"I am resolutely opposed to the proposals made by the Commission to end unanimous decision-making in the Council on taxation. Let’s be clear what that means – it means that tax policies can be forced on a country against the wishes of the democratically elected government of that state.
"Millions of EU citizens, especially those in the less powerful states, are opposed to shifting towards qualified majority voting on issues such as tax. To do so would further remove economic decision-making powers from ordinary people.
"Such a move would further alienate the people of the EU from EU institutions, when what we need to do is build consensus for tackling tax avoidance together." ENDS
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called the 44% underspend in traveller accommodation budget during 2018 ‘unacceptable’ and has called on Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy explain ‘why he is allowing this repeated underspend to occur on his watch’.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The 2018 social housing delivery figures released yesterday indicated that 107 homes were provided under the Traveller Accommodation Programme at a cost of €6.8m.
“This is simply not good enough when you consider that the Traveller Accommodation Budget for 2018 was €12m. This represents an underspend of 44%.
“There was a similar underspend in 2017. Only €4.8m was spent out of a total allocation of €8.7m. The failure to deliver good quality traveller specific accommodation is unfortunately how we end up with tragedies like Carrickmines.
“While Sinn Féin welcomes the establishment of the working group that is reviewing the traveller accommodation programmes, Minister Murphy must explain why he is allowing this repeated underspend to occur on his watch and must take action now to ensure there is not a similar underspend in 2019.
“He must engage with the local authorities that are failing to invest in traveller accommodation and must intervene directly where they refuse to adequately fund traveller accommodation.”