Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has welcomed confirmation from DVA officials that drivers can drivers can have their name printed in Irish on their licence.
The South Belfast MLA said:
“I welcome confirmation from DVA officials that drivers are not required to use deed poll to have their name printed in Irish on their driving licence.
“Irish language speakers are entitled to the same language rights as enjoyed by citizens who live their daily lives through the medium of English.
“There needs to be Irish language rights and legal protections in the north, just as there is elsewhere on these islands.
“As I pointed out recently to British Secretary of State Karen Bradley the British Government has an onerous obligation to promote the Irish language in the North under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Obligations which it is shirking in a range of areas including tax offices, Home Office and the NIO itself.
“Delivery of Acht na Gaeilge is key to securing rights and protections for the Irish language community.”
Sinn Féin equality spokesperson Megan Fearon has said no one should face discrimination in their place of work.
The Newry and Armagh MLA was speaking after the Causeway Coast and Glens Council paid a Limavady woman £25,000, without admission of liability, in settlement of a case she brought alleging sex discrimination.
The only female employee at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council's depot in Limavady said that during her employment she was denied overtime and training offered to male colleagues.
She was also told to clean the toilets because they needed a "woman's touch”.
Megan Fearon said:
“No one should face discrimination in their place of work, everyone regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation or age should be afforded the same opportunities.
“Employers must make sure, that their policies, practices and procedures meet with equality obligations.
“Sinn Féin is committed to reducing discrimination and inequality in the workplace and it is incumbent on public bodies to play a leading role in ending all forms of discrimination.”
Sinn Féin TD and Communications spokesperson Brian Stanley has said that the recent iReach Insights survey on broadband shows that the Government has a great deal of work to do in not just improving internet speeds across the country, but informing people of the future of the broadband plan.
The Laois TD said:
“This survey demonstrates the clear geographical divide in terms of internet connectivity with twice as many people in Connacht and Ulster unhappy with their internet speeds than in Dublin.
“The Government have said that the broadband plan ‘will ensure that all citizens and businesses have access to high speed broadband no matter where they live or work’. However, two thirds of consumers still receive speeds below that promised by the plan.
“The fact that one third of those surveyed did not know anything about the Government’s National Broadband Plan is an indictment of how poorly the Government has pursued and communicated the strategy as a whole.
“The Government must explain in detail how they will resurrect the plan to roll out broadband across the country, given the collapse the tendering process with private sector.
“They must to go back to the drawing board on this one and find an alternative, effective plan on ensuring everybody has access to reliable, high speed internet connectivity across Ireland.”
Sinn Féin Culture Arts and Sport spokesperson Sinéad Ennis MLA has reiterated calls for the Irish Football Association to cancel the international soccer friendly with Israel on Tuesday 11 September.
The South Down MLA said:
“I am reiterating calls for the IFA to reconsider an international friendly planned for Tuesday 11 September with Israel at Windsor Park.
“Over recent months we have seen the slaughter of more than 160 Palestinians - men, women and children - by Israeli forces.
“Since June, there have been significant steps forward in the campaign against Israeli military aggression with Argentina cancelling a planned pre-World Cup friendly and the loss of major sponsorship deals of the Israeli soccer team.
“Sinn Féin continue to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel under which cultural, academic and sporting links fall.
“Therefore, I am once again calling on the IFA to cancel this match and send out a strong signal that the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, breach of international and human rights abuse won’t be tolerated.”
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has said that a car crash in Donegal that has left two people dead is absolutely heartbreaking.
Commenting on the deaths, the Fermanagh South Tyrone MP said,
“I was shocked to hear of this tragic accident in which a man and a woman have died and three others have been injured.
“I want to commend the emergency services for their efforts in the aftermath of this horrible incident.
“I also wish to extend my deepest and heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of the two young people who died as a result of this tragic accident, especially the young child who has been left without a mother. My thoughts are also with those who are injured and remain in a critical condition in hospital.
“The area of the road where this happened is notorious, especially in difficult driving conditions like this weekend. It is a very dangerous corner and as a result two families will never be the same again.
“Really the time has come to sort this road and try and ensure that there are no more accidents or fatalities on it.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has said the results of a Newstalk poll which shows the cost of childcare has increased by an average of 5.5% across the State should be a wake-up call for the Government ahead of the Budget.
Speaking on Monday, Deputy Mitchell said:
“We can see from this survey that many parents are paying the equivalent of a second mortgage when it comes to childcare fees. Decades of Government underinvestment in early years services have led us to this situation and this should be a wake-up call to the Government that this needs to be reversed.
“Not only are parents struggling to cover the costs of childcare, increased administration, wages and rent, many providers are finding it increasingly difficult to break even. Meanwhile, childcare workers’ wages are still well below the Living Wage, and that is unacceptable.
“A knock-on effect is that we are seeing many parents choosing not to return to work after having a child because the cost of childcare is prohibitive, and so we are actually losing skilled workers from the labour force.
“Sinn Féin has showed at each Budget, and we will again this year, how childcare costs can be brought down through investment in early years services. This means that we need to see an increase in the Universal Childcare Subsidy to help offset high costs to parents, we need to see an increase Capitation Grants to support providers in delivering quality childcare, and finally we need to see real progress towards a sector-wide pay agreement to ensure that the every childcare worker receives, at the very minimum, the Living Wage.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Education Kathleen Funchion TD has encouraged the government to consider Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget proposal of an at least €500 cut in the Student Contribution Charge.
Speaking as she launched the first of Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget 2019 proposals, the Carlow-Kilkenny TD said:
“CAO application figures fell from 80,568 in 2017 to 77,171 in 2018, despite very little change in the number of students sitting their Leaving Cert. This is a significant drop of 4.2% and, with recent reports estimating the annual cost of college to be in the region of €12,800, one cannot help wonder if students are simply not applying to college because they know they cannot afford it.
“Ireland, as of a 2017 European Commission report, has the 2nd highest fees in the European Union. There are 11 other EU countries whose students pay no fees whatsoever. It is possible to provide free third-level education for all students.
“Diversity of college students is vital to the economy. Having people from different cultures, financial situations, and upbringings strengthens the education and life skills students receive from the third level education. Accessible third level education not only benefits students, it benefits both the economy and society as a whole.
“In this Budget, Sinn Féin propose the government should consider an increase to core funding for higher education, increased funding to the Student Grant Scheme and the reduction of at least €500 to the Student Contribution Charge. Sinn Féin would ultimately see this Charge completely abolished.
“Sinn Féin believes in education for everyone not just those who can afford it. Sinn Féin believes in equality across social and economic classes. Sinn Féin believes education is the key to breaking cycles of disadvantage and poverty. We believe education should be free.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has condemned an overnight arson attack on Sinn Féin’s Connolly House office in West Belfast.
The West Belfast MP said:
"Last night's disgraceful arson attack on our Connolly House office must be condemned by all.
"This was an attack on the democratic process.
"Clearly the people behind this are intent on trying to disrupt the services we provide to all the public.
"We have not yet been able to assess the extent of the damage but Sinn Féin will continue to provide a first-class service to the people of West Belfast whom we are proud to represent.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said that controversial proposals to refurbish St John’s Point Lighthouse would diminish the unique heritage of the area.
Speaking following a community protest at the lighthouse, the South Down MP said:
“For 150 years the iconic sweeping beam from St John’s Point Lighthouse has been a fundamental part of life for those of us who live and work in East Down.
“The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) current proposals to alter this beam as a result of their planned refurbishments of the lighthouse are unacceptable and are therefore opposed by both heritage campaigners and the local community.
“We have unfortunately seen CIL’s modernisation policy diminish the unique character of Irish lighthouses in recent years as a trail of destruction has been left in their wake.
“Recent problems at Tory Island, Mew Island and Fastnet are a timely reminder as to why we must not tamper with the special heritage at St John’s.
“The message remains the same - leave our light alone!”
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has welcomed the launch of the 2018 Foyle Pride Festival.
The Foyle MLA said:
“This year marks the 25th Foyle Pride Festival and I would like to pay tribute to the organisers and volunteers who, year on year, make the festival a success.
“Sinn Féin are proud to support Foyle Pride - it’s a wonderful platform for raising awareness and campaigning on issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
“The year’s jam packed programme is fun, inclusive and there is something for the whole family.
“Huge steps forward towards full equality have been made in recent years but fifty years after the civil rights campaign, there is still more to be done, including the extension of marriage equality across the island of Ireland.
“Remember, pride and first and foremost a protest. The people of Derry should come out and send a loud and colourful message that Derry stands against inequality and discrimination.
“I would encourage people to show their support and solidarity by attending Pride events, including the annual parade on Saturday 25 August.”
Mitchel McLaughlin has said that Ireland is on the verge of another seismic shift towards a ‘new, agreed and united Ireland’.
The former Sinn Féin Chairperson also criticised the ongoing denial of citizens rights by the DUP and British Government.
He was delivering the keynote address at a reenactment of the first Civil Rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon today.
Mitchel McLaughlin commented:
“Fifty years ago, likeminded people from all communities – outraged by the routine injustice and sectarianism of the six county state - came together to form the Civil Rights movement.
“Inspired by the bravery and determination of the black civil rights movement in the USA, they took to the streets and marched for rights and against inequality.
“The Orange state is now gone and we now have a peaceful and democratic way forward.
“This is a very different place than it was in 1968 and I am convinced that we are now on the verge of another seismic shift towards a new, agreed and united Ireland that will provide a prosperous and shared future for all our citizens.
“However, my deep concern is that there are still people who want to deny rights and equality to their fellow citizens today.
"People in the north still face attacks on their electoral and civil rights, alongside the continued denial of rights to LGBTQ couples, women, Irish language speakers, and bereaved families seeking a coroner’s inquest.
“Today, we are experiencing an unacceptable blockade on rights, imposed by the DUP and facilitated by the British government.
“Rights are also under threat by a right-wing Tory Brexit and there are unwelcome echoes of gerrymandering and the hollowing out of democracy by the recent Boundary Commission proposals.
“The denial of rights, equality and respect is as wrong today as it was fifty years ago.”
Full text of Mitchel McLaughlin’s speech to the re-enactment of the first Civil Rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon - 18 August 2018
Fifty years ago, likeminded people from all communities – outraged by the routine injustice and sectarianism of the 6 county state - came together to form the Civil Rights movement.
Inspired by the bravery and determination of the black civil rights movement in the USA, they took to the streets and marched for rights and against inequality, and the very first march took place from Coalisland to Dungannon.
It can be tempting to think that this was an historical event - something to be commemorated and remembered but not really all that relevant in the here and now.
But that would be a mistake.
Because it is still very much part of who we are and where we have come from. It is still relevant and still resonates today.
The most blatant excesses of State violence, discrimination and sectarianism may have now been eradicated, but the conditions which compelled the Civil Rights campaign are all around us.
In very tangible ways, we are still dealing with the legacy of discriminatory policies that were deployed by the Unionist government and which the Civil Rights movement emerged to fight.
The deliberate discrimination in Employment, Housing and Infrastructure of communities perceived to be Nationalist for example has taken generations to repair and remains an unfinished work in progress to this day.
And of course, the State’s violent response to the very moderate, just and reasonable demands of Civil Rights campaign sparked a conflict which lasted for decades and which we have now thankfully put behind us.
Peaceful marchers, from all walks of life and all communities, who were demanding an end to the discriminatory and sectarian practices that underpinned the northern state – were ruthlessly and viciously beaten at Duke Street, Burntollet, Magilligan Strand and many other places.
Loyalist mobs, supported and encouraged by the RUC and the sectarian B Specials unleashed a pogrom against catholic communities that saw whole street burnt to the ground.
Determined to crush any and all opposition – no matter how peaceful and reasonable – the forces of the State reinforced by the British Army beat, interned and murdered campaigners who were seeking nothing more seditious than equal votes and equal rights.
But in 1968, for the first time, such scenes were beamed into homes across Ireland and the world via television. What many here knew was the reality of life for northern nationalists was laid bare internationally for all to see.
But the state had no intention of reforming. As far as the Stormont regime was concerned this was a unionist state for a unionist people and would remain so and they would crack as many skulls as need be to reinforce that point.
On the streets of my home city the parachute regiment gave the British governments answer to peaceful protests when they murdered 14 of my fellow citizens. For the nationalist people there would be no turning back.
It is important to be clear that the Civil Rights Movement was not some sort of republican plot as unionists would like to believe. Of course, republicans were involved at all levels as they were entitled to be.
But it was never a republican conspiracy. It was an instinctive and largely spontaneous response to decades of unionist misrule, abuse and sectarianism.
Thankfully, the Orange state is now gone and we now have a peaceful and democratic way forward. But we still have inequality, the denial of rights, bigotry and disrespect towards whole sections of our society.
And let me say clearly and loudly here - the denial of rights, equality and respect is as wrong today as it was fifty years ago.
The changes since 1968 are remarkable and the smashing of the Unionist monolithic Government and their dominance of Policing and the judiciary are all testimony to the courage and strategic vision of those stood up to be counted. The RUC, the B-Specials and their successor, the UDR, are gone never to return.
We have made massive progress in terms of Civil Rights. This is a very different place than it was in 1968 and I am convinced that we are now on the verge of another seismic shift towards a new, agreed and united Ireland that will provide a prosperous and shared future for all our citizens.
But my deep concern when I look back at that period in our history is that there are still in this society those who still want to deny rights and equality to their fellow citizens.
Citizens today in the north still face attacks on their electoral and civil rights, alongside the continued denial of rights to LGBTQ couples, women, Irish language speakers, and bereaved families seeking a coroner’s inquest.
Today, we are experiencing an unacceptable blockade on rights, imposed by the DUP and facilitated by the British government.
Whether it is language rights, marriage equality, women’s health, or the rights of victims this discrimination is simply untenable in 2018.
Rights are also under threat by a right-wing Tory Brexit and there are unwelcome echoes of gerrymandering and the hollowing out of democracy by the recent Boundary Commission proposals.
So, there are still big challenges ahead, but as in 1968, we will continue to stand up in defence of civil rights for all citizens.
And when I look around this crowd today, just like five decades ago, I have absolutely no doubt that ‘We Shall Overcome’.
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has expressed her and her colleagues deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the a man hit by a car on the Foreglen Road in the early hours of this morning.
The East Derry MLA said:
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the man.
“This was a terrible tragedy and I would appeal to anyone with information that could assist the PSNI to bring forward.”
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has expressed her sympathies following the death this morning of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Ms McDonald said;
“Mr Annan was a skilled and dedicated international diplomat. He always did his very best through some extremely difficult periods in World affairs including the ongoing challenge of climate change.
“He became the first black African to lead the United Nations and he later won the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian efforts.
“Mr Annan was an important figure in the history of the United Nations as he pushed for reform and he worked so that more powerful nations would accept responsibility for their actions and the common challenges facing humanity.
“Mr Annan was a self described eternal optimist and a genuine believer in the potential of the international community to rise above our differences. He will be sadly missed.
“On behalf of Sinn Féin, I want to express my sincere condolences to Mr Annan’s wife Nane, his three children and to his extended family and friends.”
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has said a call from Fianna Fáil Deputy Leader Dara Calleary for his party to support one more budget from this government shows that that party has prioritised its own self preservation over the interests of the state.
Teachta Cullinane said Fine Gael has proved itself incapable of dealing with the health and housing crises and only an election and change of government can offer hope who are struggling as a result of these crises.
Responding to Dara Calleary’s interview in today’s Irish Times Teachta Cullinane said;
“Fianna Fáil’s Deputy Leader has today signalled the approach his party will take into the review of the supply and confidence agreement which underpins this Fine Gael government.
“It is clear that Fianna Fáil has put self preservation above the interests of the state.
“They know they do not have the numbers to win an election and enter government as a lead party and are therefore prepared to allow the current administration to govern until 2020.
“Meanwhile we have one million people on the hospital waiting list and the housing and homeless crisis spiralling out of control.
“Only an election and a change of government can offer any hope to those struggling under this government and the crisis in our public services but Fianna Fáil has abandoned these people because it is petrified of an election at this time.
“Dara Calleary says Fine Gael needs to be honest about its failings but Fianna Fáil need to take ownership of those failures. They have kept Fine Gael in office. Fianna Fáil are Fine Gael’s partners and they must accept their share of the blame for the government’s failings.
“Fianna Fáil now intends to keep Fine Gael in government until 2020 while continuing the pretence of being an opposition party. That is not honest politics.”
Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said she received an ‘unsatisfactory response’ from Housing Executive officials on what happened with a property at Ballysillan Avenue in North Belfast.
The North Belfast MLA said:
“I wrote to the Housing Executive seeking full clarity on exactly what had happened with the vacated property at Ballysillan Avenue.
“Today I received a response from Housing Executive officials which was totally unsatisfactory and provided no clarity on how these properties became vacant and how one of the vacant properties has already been allocated.
“I will be submitting a Freedom of Information request in order to get to the bottom of what exactly happened at this property, how information that it would be vacated became available and on the allocation process.”
It will be the people of North Antrim who decide whether or not Ian Paisley resigns as their MP and not the man himself, Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has said.
The North Antrim MLA was speaking after Ian Paisley today told the BBC he did not believe he had done anything that warranted his resignation.
“Unfortunately for Ian Paisley, it won’t be him that makes that decision, it will be the people of North Antrim by signing the recall petition,” Philip McGuigan said.
“And I am sure they many of them will have a different opinion on recent events when they consider that their MP has been subject to the most severe sanction handed down by Westminster in 70 years.
“At the heart of this scandal isn’t the fact that Ian Paisley received lavish holidays from the Sri Lankan government. As wrong as that was, the real scandal is the fact that he lobbied to prevent the UN investigating the mass murder of Tamil civilians by that same government. That is what he should be apologising for and that is what he should be held to account for in the current Recall Petition.
“Ian paisley may not feel any of that is a resigning matter but I have no doubt that many people, both here and internationally would see it very differently.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has welcomed the completion of super-fast broadband in the Atticall area of South Down.
Sinéad Ennis said:
“I am delighted that BT have completed the upgrade of the broadband network in the Atticall area.
“Atticall is an extremely rural part of the Mournes so the fact that super-fast broadband will be available in around 90 premises will be a huge boost for local homes and businesses in places such as Tievedoo, Tullamona, St Patrick's Terrace, Atticall Road, Ballymageough Road, Livings Road, Bog road and Tullyframe Road.
Councillor Sean Doran added:
“When Sinead Ennis and I were canvassing in the Mournes broadband was the major issue which people were concerned about especially for children doing homework and studying and also businesses.
“Chris Hazzard, Sinead and myself have worked tirelessly to bring this to fruition and welcome that BT have listened to our concerns.
“Residents should be soon receiving letters to notify them of this system and a list off communication providers is available and people can check if and what they can get at www.nibroadband.com.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said addressing skills provision is key to unlocking the potential of the economy in the north.
Commenting on a report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research on the Skills System in the north, the Party's Further and Higher Education Spokesperson said:
"The IPPR report has identified some of the keys challenges facing the north in terms of skills.
"It highlighted that the economy here is very strongly weighted towards SMEs, and that both qualifications levels and career progression levels are lower in the north than the average for England, Scotland and Wales.
"Therefore interventions are necessary to ensure skills provision is addressed.
"The report outlined some skills programmes currently in place such 'Assured Skills', 'InnovateUs' and the knowledge transfer programme 'Connected' are approaches aimed at developing skills which can be built upon.
"There needs to be increased availability of apprenticeships including for those aged over 25, as well as apprenticeships in more diverse sectors.
"Addressing the training needs of those at mid-career stage including retraining and upskilling must become a higher priority into the future to meet changing labour market demands.
"Automation, global uncertainty and Brexit are all challenges which mean a particular focus on upskilling our workforce must be a priority.
"Ensuring high quality training and skills provision will be key to unlocking the economic potential of the north."