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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has expressed his “deep disappointment” at the decision of the High Court today in Dublin which ruled against the family of Louth man Seamus Ludlow who was killed as a result of collusion between unionist paramilitaries and British state forces in the North in 1976.

The family commenced an appeal last January seeking the establishment by the Minister for Justice of the two commissions of investigations recommended by the Barron Report.

Teachta Adams said:

“I want to commend the courage and perseverance of the Ludlow family who have campaigned for over 40 years for the truth about the murder of Seamus in 1976. The family are understandably upset and frustrated by today’s judgement.

“It is widely acknowledged, including by Ms Justice Faherty today, that the family were treated appalling by the state and especially by the failure of An Garda Síochána to follow up on information available to them.

“The family will now discuss the outcome of today’s hearing with their legal team before deciding whether to appeal to judgement.

“However, given that the decision not to establish a Commission of Investigation was taken by a Minister for Justice, it is open to a Minister for Justice to establish such a Commission.”

Louth Sinn Féin Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú was with the family in court today. Speaking after the case concluded, he said: 

“The family of Seamus Ludlow are determined to continue with their campaign to seek the truth about his murder. Sinn Féin will continue to support them.” ENDS

Note:

In January of this year, the family of Seamus Ludlow began a hearing in the High Court in Dublin against the Minister for Justice to implement the Joint Committee of the Oireachtas call for two commissions of investigations into the murder of Seamus Ludlow's outside Dundalk in 1976.

In 2006, the Barron report confirmed that Gardaí knew who killed Seamus Ludlow in 1979 when the RUC confirmed this was carried out by Northern Loyalists, some of which were suspected of being state informers with links to RUC Special Branch. 

The Final Report was critical of the treatment of the Ludlow family, Gardaí conduct, missing documents and possible collusion by the UK state. Arising from these concerns, the Justice Committee found at paragraph 197 of the Final Report that:

...a further inquiry is essential in order to ensure justice is both done and seen to be done. It is also necessary to address the potential damage to the rule of law that would occur if the investigation into the murder of any citizen of the State is not treated in a thorough and professional manner as is the right of every citizen. 

The Justice Committee settled on recommending commissions of investigation as the most appropriate form of this ‘essential’ and ‘necessary’ inquiry, and at paragraphs 202 and 205 recommended the establishment of two commissions of investigation into the conduct of the investigation by the Gardaí and missing Garda documents.

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has welcomed today’s Coroner Court ruling which found the British Army had no justification for shooting dead 25-year-old Joseph Parker at a Christmas dance in Ardoyne in 1971.

Speaking after today’s ruling at Belfast Coroners Court, the North Belfast MLA commented: “The Coroner ruled that Joseph Parker – a young father with an expectant wife – was a totally innocent man killed by the deliberate and reckless actions of the British Army.

“The ruling is a complete vindication for his family who have campaigned for so long to see this day.

“They should not have had to wait almost 50 years for the truth to come out. They, and many other families in a similar position are being re-traumatised by a British Government which is still blocking the implementation of agreed legacy mechanisms and withholding funds for legacy inquests.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has lambasted the British Home Office for their eleventh hour appeal to the recent findings of an initial tribunal held in Belfast, which states clearly that the Good Friday Agreement supersedes the British Nationality Act.

Speaking in Belfast this afternoon Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said;

"The initial tribunal came about after the refusal of the British Home Office to recognise Emma De Souza as an Irish only citizen, resident in the North. This is a right conferred onto her, and all of us born in Ireland, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Emma was applying to the British Home Office for a residency visa for her husband Jake.

"It is a sad reflection, on either the ignorance or the refusal of the British Home Office, to recognise the core legal components of the Agreement, that Emma was forced to endure months of trauma and uncertainty before ultimately having to proceed through the courts to clarify her rights. 

"Today, on the last day available for them to do so, the British Home Office has lodged an appeal to the Tribunal hearing which upheld the legal basis for our rights as Irish citizens under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.  

"Why are they doing this?

"I have raised this case and indeed many others concerning the problems faced by Irish citizens resident in the North, with the Irish government on numerous occasions. As late as yesterday I put it to Minister Simon Coveney that he needed to act in order to defend the rights of all Irish citizens. 

The Good Friday Agreement is abundantly clear. The findings of the initial tribunal hearing are clear. Emma De Souza and all of us who are Irish citizens resident in the North must be given the necessary protections, rights and equality we clearly need in order to guard against the kind of traumatic and unnecessary bureaucracy that has been witnessed with this case.

"I have written to Minister Coveney encouraging him to meet with the De Souza family in order to hear first hand the human side to this unnecessary case."

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Sinn Féin President and TD for Louth Gerry Adams has called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to clarify whether OLOLH Drogheda will be used as a trauma unit as part of government proposals to centralise trauma care.

Teachta Adams stated:

“The various media reports issued following Minister Harris announcement that the government are proposing to centralise trauma care are a cause for concern. This announcement comes at a time where acute hospitals are at crisis point, and the government have no real meaningful plans to address this.

 “It’s unacceptable that frontline staff and people reliant on hospital services have been left in the dark as to what services may close or be moved. Hospitals in my own constituency like OLOLH Drogheda and the Louth in Dundalk are already carrying the can for bad political decisions.

“Is it really wise to plough ahead with a plan like this without fully assessing capacity or potential impact?

“I have called on The Minister for Health to clarify whether OLOLH is set to be further impacted by these plans. I have also called on him to publish the government report in full and to bring these plans before the Dáil.”

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Chris Hazzard MP has today said that staggering levels of British government arrogance and incompetence is endangering the rights and livelihoods of Irish citizens.

The South Down MP was speaking following a sitting of the British Public Accounts Committee:

"This week at Westminster British Home Office and Border Force officials revealed that, as a result of their Brexit chaos, they have done absolutely nothing on issues relating to the border in Ireland.

“People will be angered, that despite British government platitudes, they have now finally admitted 18 months after the Brexit vote that they haven't even started to address an issue of this magnitude.

"Throughout Europe, this will be seen as a breathtaking level of arrogance and incompetence. Despite their rhetoric, the British government have illustrated they remain tone deaf to the interests of the people of Ireland."

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Sinn Féin group leader at Belfast City Hall, Cllr Jim McVeigh, has slammed a slur directed at Cllr Beattie’s disability by the UUP Councillor Davey Browne at a public meeting in Belfast City hall today.

Speaking today Cllr McVeigh said:

“The vile comments spoken against my colleagues disability by the UUP Cllr, Davey Browne, are disgraceful and should be withdrawn immediately.

“In a Belfast City council meeting today, Cllr Davey Brown referred to Cllr Beattie as ‘a one armed bandit” directed at the fact that Cllr Beattie has only one hand.

“Sinn Féin will be reporting these comments to the Local Government Ombudsman.

“Someone should tell the UUP that this is the 21st century and that such comments are highly inappropriate. This type of abuse can rightly be deemed a hate incident and has no place in our society never-mind being spoken by an elected representative.”

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Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Declan McAleer has welcomed news that pork producers from the North are able to begin exporting to China after the final administration processes were completed.

Declan McAleer said:

"This is great news for the industry and is a clear sign of the global confidence in our agri-food industry, which is world standard.

"The opening of exports to China will create and protect jobs, and inject optimism into the industry, which is facing many challenges, the greatest of which is Brexit.

"This is the culmination of years of hard work by our producers, the Foods Standard Agency and DAERA.

"During my tenure on the DARD committee from 2012 to 2016 this was a key issue, it was also a top priority of the former Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill who visited China on three occasions to promote our pork industry and open trade opportunities." 

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Fingal Louise O’Reilly has welcomed confirmation from the Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin that the reopening of Rush Garda station has been recommended by An Garda Síochána in a report provided to the Department of Justice this week.

 “I very much support the recommendation of An Garda Síochána to reopen Rush Garda station in the report it has provided to the Department of Justice and Equality.

“Rush Garda station is one of six stations nationwide which have been recommended for reopening, with only Stepaside Station confirmed to re-open previously.

“Since 2014, Sinn Féin in Fingal has been campaigning for the re-opening of a Garda Station in Rush, locally through the media, with our petition of signatures, at Council level by Cllr Malachy Quinn as well as lobbying by myself of several  Ministers for Justice & Equality.

“The re-opening of a Garda Station in Rush will facilitate a reversal of years of under investment in An Garda Síochána since the closing of the Garda College in Templemore by the then Fianna Fáil/Green Government in 2011, culminating in the closing of the Garda Station by the Fine Gael/Labour Government in 2012.

“In 2012, prior to the announcement of the Station’s closure, An Garda Síochána stated ‘The important message for the community of Rush is that the policing service already being provided will not be affected or reduced’.

“Due to the lack of investment by successive governments since that time, An Garda Síochána in the DMR North Division has seen 1 in 6 Gardaí retiring or leaving without being replaced, an increasing level of criminality & Anti-Social Behaviour.

“As the local Sinn Féin TD, I very much welcome this positive news for Rush & its surrounding areas, the re-opening of a Garda Station in Rush will only assist in an added policing presence across all the towns & villages of North Fingal.

“This signifies a victory for the local community in Rush who have supported our campaign for the reopening of the local Garda station & I would like to thank everyone who signed our petitions & drop leaflets in this campaign.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has accused the DUP of contradicting itself by seeking parity with Britain on Brexit arrangements but not on people’s rights.

The Newry-Armagh MP was commenting after DUP Leader Arlene Foster said Brexit cannot be allowed to lead to different arrangements here than in Britain.

“Arlene Foster’s comments expose the contradiction at the heart of DUP policy,” Conor Murphy said.

“They don’t want any divergence when it comes to Brexit but they are quite happy to go a different way when it comes to the rights and entitlements of citizens in the North of Ireland.

“Language rights, marriage equality and the right to proper inquests are all taken for granted in Britain but they are not available here because the DUP is denying them to citizens.

“Like the pro-Brexit camp in general, they are trying to have it both ways but I am confident they will find out in time, that is not a credible position.

“Similarly, their denial of rights is not sustainable given the fact that these rights are now supported by the majority of Assembly parties and wider society.”

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Residents may seek legal action to overturn a decision to approve a huge student accommodation complex on a North Belfast site originally earmarked for social housing, local MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said.

The Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson was commenting after the Planning Appeals Commission overturned an earlier refusal to approve the 10-stoey, 620-bed development in Donegall Street.

 “There is an overwhelming need for social housing in North Belfast and this decision flies in the face of that,” she commented.

“Organisations such as the UN, the Committee for the Administration of Justice  and the Equality Commission have cited the critical lack of social housing and housing inequalities in this area and throughout North Belfast, so local residents are understandibly furious at this decision.

“It beggars belief that the Planning Appeals Commission can approve such a development on a site originally earmarked at least in part for residential use and in spite of the clearly identified need for social housing.

“Residents are determined this will not be the end of the matter and will be exploring all legal avenues available to oppose this decision.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Limerick City Maurice Quinlivan today said that the group of sexual abuse survivors from Creagh Lane National School in Limerick deserve access to a redress scheme for the abuse they suffered at the hands of a teacher employed by the state.

Deputy Quinlivan was speaking having travelled to Brussels with the group of men to highlight their case at a European level, organised by Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada.

Speaking today, the Limerick City TD said:

“I travelled to Brussels this week with a group of extremely brave and courageous men to highlight their case at a European level, and shine a light on the disgraceful way the Irish government continues to treat them.

“These men were sexually abused while they were children in Creagh Lane National School, by a teacher employed by the state, but they cannot access the redress scheme, as it was a day school and not a residential institution.

“The suffering these men experienced while children in national school is difficult to comprehend, and to hear them tell their stories was shocking and heart-breaking.

“The modest and belated redress scheme established by Government in the wake of the Louise O’Keeffe case was designed to be inaccessible and to effectively lock survivors out. Many brave men and women, who did a service to the state in seeing their attackers tried and convicted, are now being fought tooth and nail by the state.

“The Irish state is, in effect, re-traumatising those who have endured the most horrific trauma.

“As an Irish parliamentarian I am embarrassed that these men have been forced to travel to Brussels to bring attention to their case, and gather support for it, and fight for compensation that they should be absolutely entitled to.

“I was also very disappointed that no Fine Gael MEP turned up to hear these men’s stories, after them travelling to Europe to tell of their experience.

“This is not just a case about a handful of individuals; their case cuts to the heart of how we, as a nation, treat those we have wronged.

“Until we have a government with the fortitude to face up to our many wrongs as a nation, Ireland will continue to be judged by the pain of those we have failed.

“The Minister and this government need to immediately revisit their refusal to make compensation available for these men, who have endured a terrible ordeal, and continue to suffer a great injustice.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said it is possible to rescue the joint bid for Derry and Belfast to be named as European Capital of Culture. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"The news that the joint bid by Derry and Strabane District Council and Belfast City Council for European Capital of Culture status was rejected as a result of Brexit was very disappointing after so much hard work by both councils and others. 

"Unfortunately, it provided yet another example of how damaging the Tory Brexit agenda is for all of the people of the north. 

"But it does not mean that the bid is finished; it is still rescuable. 

"If the British government make a declaration to the EU that the north can stay in the customs union and single market then the bid could continue. 

"We also need to explore options with the Irish government to see if they can take this bid forward under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the bodies it established. 

"I have also written to the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsis, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the bid. 

"All of this shows the absolute necessity to secure special status for the north within the EU."

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Sinn Féin TD for East Cork, Pat Buckley has slammed the HSE this week as it emerged that vital respite services in Fermoy Community Hospital are facing cuts.

Deputy Buckley said;

"This is another debacle that shows the incompetence of the HSE when it comes to management or rather the lack thereof.

"Questions need to be asked of the HSE’s failure to fill a position following a vacancy in a medical officers position to which the management have been aware of sine this past summer.

"The issues raised recently in this weeks Prime Time Investigates programme have once again highlighted these very concerns.

"Fermoy Community Hospital is one such hospital where HSE bad practice is having a detrimental effect on patients where beds have been laying idle due to staffing crisis and vital respite services have been cut. 

"At present 14 short stay beds have been effected which consists of 9 respite beds and 5 acute beds.

"It’s shocking to think that services users in Fermoy’s Community Hospital in East Cork will now be offered alternative arrangements in North Cork. 

"This will put so much extra strain on family members who will now possibly have to drive miles and miles out of their way just to visit family members and this is not acceptable.

"On Wednesday 22nd of November, I had a brief meeting with the Minister for Health and  questioned Minister Harris if he was aware that closures of some kind were effecting Fermoy Community Hospital.

"Minister Harris' first reaction was that he was not aware of anything in regards to Fermoy Community Hospital. However, he did assure me the he would look into it.

"In the meantime I have submitted a number of Parliamentary Questions regarding the very serious situation in Fermoy.

"These scenarios are not exclusive to East Cork and at the most recent meeting of the Future Of Mental Healthcare I vigorously questioned the HSE about the management of funding where almost a billion euro has been invested in the services, but very little accountability and transparency seems to exist.

"I am still is awaiting communication from the HSE’s Communications department to seek more clarity and see if this very serious issue can be resolved as soon as possible."

ENDS//

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Sinn Féin Further and Higher Education spokesperson Caoimhe Archibald has said universities should be sustainably resourced.

The East Derry MLA was speaking after reports that universities here face ‘critical’ funding cuts from the Department of the Economy over the next two years.

Caoimhe Archibald said:

"Since the Tories came into power we have seen over a billion pounds cut from the North's block grant and students and young people are paying the price for this.

"These cuts to public services are set to continue supported by the DUP.

"Any cuts to universities is a threat to our highly educated workforce and the future opportunities of our young people.

"Sinn Féin will continue to fight for proper resources for universities.” 

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According to the Department of Housing’s own data, the social housing construction projects currently in the pipeline will only meet the housing need of 11% of the 99,555 households on the waiting list.

Commenting on the figures, Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD said:

“It is clear from the data contained in the Department of Housing’s Social Housing Construction Projects Status Report for Q2 2017 that the social housing construction projects currently in the pipeline will only meet the need of 11% of the current housing waiting list.

“The projects detailed in the report include local authority and approved housing body builds. Most of the figures do not make for happy reading.

“For example, in my own constituency, South Dublin County Council only has 566 units in the pipeline to meet a current social housing need of 8,181, just 6.9%.

“Some counties fare marginally better, Monaghan has a social housing list of 477 households and has 179 housing units in the pipeline. Limerick, Louth, Sligo, and Kilkenny all look set to meet the needs of just over 20% of their respective housing lists.

“At the other end of the scale in Dublin City and Cork County where the housing list is 19,782 and 6,948 respectively, only 9% of social housing need will be met by the projects in the pipeline.  In Kildare, only 3.9% of need will be met.

“What is clear from these figures is something we and others have been saying for a while. This government’s social housing construction targets are nowhere near ambitious enough and will barely make a dent in the current housing waiting list figures.

“We need at a minimum 10,000 social housing units per year.  The government must scale up their targets and provide additional funding to local authorities in order to get more projects in the pipeline.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Culture, Peadar Tóibin TD has highlighted the difficulties that exist in working in the cultural sector regarding bullying and harassment and has urged Minister Humphreys to withhold grant funding for organisations that consistently break the law in this regard.  

Deputy Tóibín, who is chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht which met today on this issue said:

“There are laws, there are regulatory bodies, yet there are significant difficulties with bullying and harassment. This has a serious effect on the mental health of workers and their ability to earning a living, put a roof over their head and feed their kids.

"A number of people have felt that they had no choice but to go to the media to resolve their issues. We owe an enormous debt to the individuals. To do so can be in some cases be career-ending.

“There are startling figures in the Equity report on the experience of workers in the sector. Nearly 60% of workers state that they have been bullied. Over 70% of these people did not report the bullying and over 60% stated that they did not report the bullying for fear it would jeopardise future work opportunities.

“There is a need for clear procedures. There is a need for unions, workers, the department and stakeholders to come together.

“Direct employment needs to be incentivised as opposed to the precarious employment that exists now. Black listing legislations needs to be enacted to protect those who make a stand. The Minister needs to withhold grant funding for organisations that consistently break the law.”

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The British Government’s refusal to backdate new laws on political donations is aimed at covering-up so-called Brexit ‘dark money’ that was paid to the DUP, Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has said.

The Newry-Armagh MP was speaking after the British Government today introduced an order to lift the ban on naming political donors here, but did not backdate it.

“The British Government is only now bringing forward this Order after it was severely criticised by the Electoral Commission,” Conor Murphy commented.

“However, they are still refusing to make it retrospective and that is the crucial point because it means there will be no transparency around the vast sums that were paid to the DUP during the Brexit referendum.

“Thanks mainly to the work of investigative journalists, we know that the DUP received £425,000 but they and the pro-Brexit campaign are still refusing to provide full details about the shadowy group of British corporate business interests who paid the money.

“Today’s announcement will do nothing to shine any light on this ‘dark money’ because the law will only apply to donations from July of this year forward.

“If the DUP and the British Government were serious about transparency in government then they would support the retrospective publication from January 2014 of all donations over the reportable threshold. That is the position adopted by Sinn Féin and all the Executive parties except the DUP.

“However, rather than compelling them to come clean, the British Government have today confirmed their intention to assist the ongoing cover-up of the DUP’s dark money.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Climate Action and the Environment Brian Stanley TD has praised the work of emergency services but said prevention measures also need investment.

Speaking today, the Laois TD said:

“There needs to be a greater concentration on maintenance of the Owenass and Barrow rivers. The Barrow Drainage Board was abolished three years ago they also maintained at the time the Owenass which runs through the town.  Locals have told me that trees and other debris were floating in parts of the Owenass yesterday.

“There has been years of false promises from successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments on the new drainage scheme and this is long overdue. Some residents received a letter as far back as 2007 from TD’s saying that €12 million had been approved for new drainage and sewage schemes.

“While this may not have prevented all the current damage, these measures would alleviate much of the flooding. I am now calling on action on both of these fronts.

“Today I saw the great work of the emergency services, including Laois Civil Defence and Laois County Council and I want to commend them for their efforts. There are many elderly residents in particular that have been affected and need all help available.

“I will continue to pursue these issues until action is taken.

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan has welcomed confirmation that financial assistance will be provided to schools to support children from Syrian refugee families.

“Under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (SVPRS), £4,500 was to be provided towards each Syrian child's education costs for one year.

“However, the Department of Education revealed back in September that no such money had been received in over a year.

“I raised this issue with the British Hone Office and I am delighted that the Education Authority has now confirmed that an allocation of funds has been received. It is expected that this schools will receive a payment within the next week.

“It is only right that schools should receive the funding which was promised to ensure they assist children who have endured so much hardship and upheaval to thrive within our local education system.

“However, they should not have had to wait so long and I will continue to lobby and engage with the British Home Office to ensure all promised resources are made available.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald today called on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Ombudsman Report following his investigation into the administration of the Magdalen Restorative Justice Scheme.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Following a comprehensive investigation into the administration of the Magdalen Restorative Justice Scheme the Ombudsman today published a very damning report into the Schemes failures.

“What the investigation exposes beggar’s belief. The Department of Justice and Equality administered the scheme in a manner that deliberately sought to exclude women from the redress they were entitled to.

“Women who were effectively imprisoned on a single site, working side by side with those deemed eligible for redress were refused their entitlements, on the basis of the Departments incorrect administrative interpretation of the eligibility criteria relating to the 12 institutions covered by the Scheme.

“For decades the state refused to even acknowledge the brutalisation of the Magdalen women and their children. When redress came it was limited. Yet still the Government’s instinct has been to limit its liability.

“As the Ombudsman has stated in his report the Magdalen Restorative Justice Scheme was supposed to contribute to healing and reconciliation but for some the failures of the Department of Justice and Equality have reinforced feelings of marginalisation and hurt. 

“Government must not only consider the recommendations of the Ombudsman’s report, they must act on them.”

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