Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on the government to bring forward, without delay, the necessary legislation on abortion following the overwhelming decision of the people to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Speaking from Dublin today, Teachta McDonald said;
“The imperative now is to act on the instruction of the people. The result was so overwhelmingly definitive that I’ve no doubt that the government has received that message.
“The imperative comes from the fact the women’s health has to be protected. Pregnancy by its very definition is time sensitive. For every week and every month that we fail to enact the legislative framework, we are putting women in the way of danger.
“It’s vital that we act and we act speedily. We have a history of foot-dragging on this issue because it’s considered to be a sensitive and difficult issue. I acknowledge that it is.
“However, if the referendum is to mean anything for legislators, and for the political system, is that the days of delay are over and the time for action is now. There is an imperative to legislate and I want to see that done as quickly as possible.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said the dire financial warning issued by the Governor of the Bank of England on Brexit this week highlights the need for the north to remain in the customs union and single market.The South Down MP said: “In recent months I have engaged widely with representatives from our local agriculture, construction, business and manufacturing industries in South Down and the extremely worrying effects of Brexit have dominated discussions. “So it comes as no surprise that the Governor of the Bank of England has this week warned that households in Britain are £900 worse off as a result of the Brexit vote. "This dire warning comes before Brexit even happens so we can expect that figure to rise and we know that the north, and border areas in particular, will be even more damaged by Brexit. "This is the cost of Brexit and the cost of the union. "It will be felt across every aspect of society in the north from business, manufacturing, agriculture, education and community development. Mr Hazzard added:"Once again this underscores the need for the north to remain in the customs union and single market and for us to secure special status for the north within the EU.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to publish the April homeless numbers report this week. The Dublin Mid-West TD said that “failure to do so would show that the Minister, not content with manipulating the figures, is now in the business of hiding them”.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Last month, Minister Murphy had almost 600 adults and children living in temporary homeless accommodation removed from his Department’s homeless report. He also threatened to remove 200 more. Despite repeated calls to do so, he refused to provide any detailed explanation of where these families where and why they were removed.
“Information secured from a range of local authorities proved beyond any doubt that the vast majority of these families were living in temporary accommodation arrangements funded through the Council emergency accommodation budget. These were homeless families and should be counted as such.
“The April homeless figures are due out this month. Minister Murphy must publish them this week. Failure to do so would show that the Minister, not content with manipulating the figures, is now in the business of actually hiding them.
“The monthly homeless figures are an important measure of whether Government housing policy is working or not. They must continue to be published monthly and must include all homeless families in Section 10 funded temporary accommodation.
“If the Minister wants to review the methodology underlying the figures, I have no objection to that. However, such a review must address the exclusion from the monthly reports of those people in homeless hostels without government funding, women and children in Tusla funded domestic violence emergency and step down accommodation, and those languishing in Direct Provision as a form of emergency accommodation after getting their leave to remain.”
Órfhlaith Begley MP has welcomed the first official visit of An tUachtarán Michael D Higgins to County Tyrone.
The West Tyrone MP said:
“This was a special day for the people of West Tyrone as we welcomed our President Michael D Higgins on his first official visit to Tyrone.
“An tUachtarán officially opened the Clanabogan Park, a new complex with state of the art training facilities.
“This was an historic day for all involved with the Drumragh Sarsfields club and I congratulate all those who have worked so hard to develop these facilities since 2001.
“They should be immensely proud of the work they have done. The talent from the club is endless which was on display during the President’s visit.
“It was also a pleasure to accompany the President around the Ulster American Folk Park.
“I want to commend all those involved in making the visit such a joyous occasion.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has commended the result of the referendum which, she said, has delivered “a momentous day for all the people of Ireland”.
Speaking from Dublin Castle, Teachta McDonald said:
“This is a momentous day for all the people of Ireland. Ireland is changing. The old certainties being challenged, and a new and better Ireland is emerging.
“It is a day when those who had be silenced demanded to be heard. A day when we decisively broke from the past
“A day when the people said, ‘This is our time, this is our Ireland’.
“I want to thank all those who campaigned, and in particular the women who spoke publicly about private tragedies in order to make this country a better place for all.
“My thoughts today are with all those who have suffered and those who have died, as a result of an amendment that should never have been in the constitution. My solidarity goes out to them and their families.
“I wish to acknowledge those who voted No. It is important that we recognise the diverse views that we as a society hold on these important issues.
“I hope that the vote today is a further step in building a better Ireland for women.
“There is a responsibility on all of us as legislators have to our job and legislate. The government cannot delay and must act to bring forward draft legislation as a matter of urgency to give effect to the overwhelming vote of the people today.
“So, let’s go from here. Let’s work together to ensure that this is the first step in creating a better, fairer, and more caring Ireland.”
Speaking at the close of polls for the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said:
“I want to thank all those Sinn Féin members who campaigned for a Yes vote across the state. I also want to thank and congratulate the Together4Yes group on a magnificent campaign.
“This campaign was marked by the woman who came forward to share their personal stories of dealing with tragic circumstances.
“The campaign created a space for Ireland, North and South, to look at the experiences of women and I believe that we are all better for that. The voices of these women have been heard and can no longer be silenced by guilt or neglected by government.
“Ireland is changing and this is evident in the vibrant Yes campaign headed up by women and young people. I want to thank every one who voted and campaigned for Yes.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said a hard border will be inevitable unless the north remains in both the customs union and single market.
Martina Anderson said:
"The Tory government have said they want to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland but to date all of their proposals would bring that about.
"The comments from Labour shadow secretary of state Tony Lloyd this morning that the British Labour party also want to see the north leave the customs union and the single market but avoid a hard border is disappointing and equally unworkable.
"The fact is that unless the north remains in both the customs union and single market then a hard border on the island of Ireland will be inevitable and no amount of rhetoric and fine words will change that.
"The way to avoid a hard border is set out in the backstop option already agreed by the British government which would allow the north to stay in the customs union and significant elements of the single market.
"I want to see that maintained and built upon to allow for full access to the single market.
"There is also a proposal to ensure there would be no barrier to east-west trade or border in the Irish Sea.
"Theresa May and her cabinet need to stop merely talking about commitments and actually start delivering on them."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Energy, the Environment and Climate Change Cathal Boylan MLA has expressed his disappointment at today’s announcement by McDonald’s to reject a proposal asking the firm to report on its use of plastic straws.
The Newry and Armagh MLA had recently supported an online campaign pressing McDonald’s to end its use of plastic straws due to the impact on our environment and wildlife
Cathal Boylan said: “The company responded by saying the report was unnecessary and that it had already has set a goal for 2025 which will see all of its guest packaging including straws come from renewable, recycled or certified sources.
“It was a missed opportunity for McDonald’s to lead the way but said he would continue to encourage companies to take action to reduce unnecessary plastic waste that damages our society.”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has condemned the Spanish government for its grave violations of freedom of expression under the guise of national security following a conference on the topic in the European Parliament in Brussels this week.
Carthy said: “This week the Spanish authorities have issued a European and international arrest warrant for the Mallorcan rapper Valtonyc who has apparently left the state after being sentenced to more than three years in prison on terror charges – for his song lyrics.
“Valtonyc is one of many artists, musicians and social media users who have been accused of terrorism charges in the Spanish state in recent years, part of a trend that has significantly worsened since the introduction in 2015 of the so-called gag law (Law on the Protection of Public Security).
“Article 578 of the Spanish Penal Code, broadened under the gag law, allows fines, civil service bans, and jail terms of three years for ‘glorifying terrorism’ and ‘humiliating the victims of terrorism’ - purely in response to acts of political expression such as posting a Tweet online.
“In March, Amnesty International produced a scathing report of the Spanish authorities’ attacks on freedom of expression, saying the vaguely worded law had resulted in the ‘silencing of free speech and the crushing of artistic expression’. Their report found that 70 people have been convicted under this law in the last two years.
“The Spanish government has lost the plot. Sending musicians to jail for their song lyrics is the act of a dictatorship, not the act of a democracy in the heart of Europe.
"The European Commission needs to take Spain to task for this serious breach of fundamental rights – rights the European Union is supposed to be based on, which are enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty and which are legally binding on Member States.
“I have written to the European Commission to question its silence on Spanish repression of political expression, and to ask what action it intends to take in response to the serious breach of freedom of expression that is unfolding in the Spanish state.” ENDS
Foyle Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion and East Derry MLA Caoimhe Archibald are to meet the head of the Agriculture Department next week to stress the need for the Ballykelly decentralisation to continue as planned.
Commenting after reports that targets for staff relocations could be missed, Caoimhe Archibald said:
“As Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill made the ground-breaking decision to decentralise her entire department to the North West. The plan, including the relocation of 600 staff to the new headquarters, was agreed by the Executive.
“The initial target was for 320 positions to be based there by the end of 2021 with another 270 staff relocated before 2029.
“It remains the Sinn Féin position that the department should be decentralised in line with the original policy. Myself and Elisha McCallion MP are meeting departmental Permanent Secretary next week and will stress the importance of this as a major initiative in tackling the regional disparities that still exist in our economy.”
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has this evening made a final appeal for a Yes vote in tomorrow's referendum on repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
Speaking from Dublin, Ms McDonald said;
“The Eighth Amendment has caused so much suffering and pain for Irish women.
“Thousands of women who face a serious threat to their health in continuing with a pregnancy, women who become pregnant as a result of rape, women who receive a devastating diagnosis of a Fatal Foetal Anomaly are so cruelly failed by this state because of the Eighth Amendment.
“It is time to show real compassion for women. To help women in these crisis situations, to ensure that they can access the care they need in their own country, to allow doctors to do their jobs, we must vote yes.
“This referendum is not about opposing or approving abortion. Irish women in crisis already have abortions. They are simply exiled to Britain and to other places or they take abortion pills, often alone and afraid, without medical supervision.
“I believe that the Irish people have had their fill of all that.
“The Eighth Amendment is a relic of an Ireland past, an Ireland of thirty five years ago. It is the greatest barrier to good, modern, and safe public policy in this area.
“It is time to trust women. We are the people best placed to make decisions about our pregnancies. Women, not constitutional amendments, are the very best defenders of the rights of children.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to correct this wrong against women.
“To ensure that no other Irish woman has their tragic experience referred to by a letter of the alphabet, to ensure that there are no more Savitas, no more unnecessary suffering, to ensure a better future for our daughters, granddaughters, and all Irish women, please vote yes tomorrow.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD today met with the Executive of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) at their Arbour Hill Headquarters. IUNVA are a registered charity which provides advice and support to former Irish soldiers who served in the UN. Ms McDonald visited the museum which is on site and spoke to the members about their experiences abroad and their current work.
Teachta McDonald, who was accompanied by Dublin City Cllr Janice Boylan, said:
“I was delighted to meet with Chairman Jim Casey and the IUNVA Executive at their HQ which is located in the very heart of my constituency to hear about the work being provided and undertaken by their members.
“We had a wide-ranging engagement, some of which focused on the need for greater support schemes for former soldiers. Their members were involved in long-term peacekeeping missions across the world including Cyprus, India, Angola, and Lebanon during extremely troubled times and I thanked them for their years of service. It’s important that we ensure that our veterans receive the necessary government help and support that they require.”
Gerry Adams in his weekly column with the Andersonstown News and on his blog has written this week about Friday's referendum to remove the eighth amendment. www.leargas.blogspot.com
Friday citizens in the south will have an opportunity to remove the eighth amendment. That is citizens will, if they wish to, remove this amendment from the Irish constitution or leave it in. This amendment was originally proposed by Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Charlie Haughey in 1982. The referendum on this was subsequently held under a Fine Gael/Labour coalition government in September 1983.
The Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in 1982 took the decision to oppose this amendment. This was four years before Sinn Féin ended our abstentionist policy to the Oireachtas. So, the Ard Fheis decided not to campaign against the amendment, though individual party members, especially women activists, did. In the decades since then Sinn Féin has constantly revised party policy on the role and rights of women in Irish society.
35 years after the 1983 referendum the people of the south now have the opportunity to vote again on this issue and to right a wrong done at that time. The question we are being asked to decide on is whether a woman has the right to a public health service that allows her and her doctor to take decisions on her health if she has a crisis pregnancy. Or are women inferior, are they suspect, are they not to be trusted, are they to be criminalised, and should there be a constitutional bar that puts women’s lives at risk?
Like everyone else I have been on a learning curve on this issue. I grew up in the fifties and sixties and I am from a family of 13. I have 5 sisters. My mother had 13 pregnancies. 10 of us survived. Three little brothers died either directly after they were born or were still-born. It was a household of its time. I was reared in a largely Catholic culture with all the strengths and shortcomings of that experience. Taught by the Christian Brothers I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. So I have a good sense of the matriarchal nature of Irish society, as opposed to the patriarchal nature of the state. The two states on this island are very patriarchal and very conservative.
In those days – if he had a job - the man brought home the wages and the mother usually did all of the rest – managing the household finances, cooking, cleaning, running the household, looking after the children, everything you could conceivably think of. Women were the home managers. The pawn shop was an essential part of this. We were poor. But so was everyone we knew. We were also homeless, living with my father’s mother or in a slum tenement. For much of those years we relied in my Granny’s on an outside toilet. There was a single water tap in the yard. Because of our family’s politics we had a slightly different attitude to the Catholic Church, on account of the hierarchy’s shameful attitude to the national question, and the way uncles of mine had been excommunicated.
As I became an adult I was also influenced by people like Fr. Des Wilson, who was very radical and progressive. My views were also influenced by the discriminatory manner in which women were and still are treated by the state, by the Catholic Church, by sections of the media, in business, and so on. The older I get the more I resent the undemocratic nature of the Catholic Church and its deeply unacceptable attitude to women.
I have come round to a position that it doesn’t really matter what position I, as an individual may have on abortion. This referendum isn’t about whether you are pro-abortion or anti-abortion. What you must be is pro-woman. And you have to set aside whatever position you may have yourself because we need to trust women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families and we need to enable health professionals to do their jobs.
I have listened to the testimony of women who had fatal foetal abnormalities, to the stories of women and their partners who had to go to England for an abortion, and to our own Ard Fheis discussing this issue for almost 30 years.
I have many women in my life. Colette, our granddaughters. Their mother. My sisters, sisters-in-law, nieces, grand nieces, many women friends and comrades.
Any of them – though I hope it never happens –might find themselves in a crisis pregnancy. The only way to help women who are seeking a termination because they are pregnant as a result of rape, or who have received a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, is to vote YES on Friday.
I also have this abiding notion that if men could get pregnant this would not be an issue.
When I learned about symphysiotomy - when I learned about the Magdalene’s – when I heard about the horror of the Mother-and-Baby-Homes, about the Tuam babies, and how women were shamefully and disgracefully treated, then I have become more and more convinced that this is an issue of equality and an issue of rights. Whatever decision a woman takes that it is for her to take and the doctor and medical staff must be protected.
This is an issue for everyone. It is unthinkable that if the No vote wins that women could be saddled with the status quo for the next 30 years or so.
And what is the status quo? It is legal for a woman to go and have an abortion elsewhere but it’s not legal to have one in the 26 counties. So we have opted out. We export this issue. An English solution for an Irish problem. It means if you have the money, or can find the money, to travel to what is a strange place, generally on your own, then you can have an abortion. That’s not right. If a woman has the right to travel to terminate a crisis pregnancy, she should have the same right in her own place
I know friends who have carried full term in the knowledge that the child would not live and that’s their right. And I know others who have had terminations because they couldn’t face the trauma. I think in both cases we have to respect the decision of those affected.
It’s also ridiculous and dangerous and illegal for a woman to take pills bought on the internet with no medical supervision. She is risking her health and a fourteen-year prison sentence. Society is forcing her into a very lonely, desperate place. This is not acceptable. I recently heard an interview given by a woman who was in a crisis pregnancy. She lived in a one-bedroom flat with her mother, and didn’t want her mother to know she was pregnant. She took a pill on her way home on the bus and became very ill. No one should be put in that position.
So, on Friday May 25th I am appealing for people to vote YES. I am especially asking men to trust women and to go out and vote YES for their wives, their partners, their sisters, their daughters, their nieces, their granddaughters, their friends.
The Sinn Fein MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has been appointed shadow rapporteur by the European Parliament to examine the long awaited proposal from the Commission which purports to deal with unfair trading practices in the agricultural sector.
Speaking this week Carthy explained that his priority would be to strengthen the commission proposal so that it will outlaw the practices of retailers and processors which result in farmers being often forced to sell their products at below production-cost prices.
“Commissioner Phil Hogan recently acknowledged to me in a European Parliament debate that his proposed legislation could have been stronger but he argued that it was better to start with a weaker position in the hope that it would be strengthened in negotiations with the council and parliament. This appears to be a bizarre approach to take considering these proposals have been promised for several years and this process may be the only opportunity to protect farmers from oppressive business relationships for a generation.
“The weakness in the commission’s draft can be seen in the muted response from the large retail representatives. If the proposals genuinely signalled a shift in favour of farmers the retail lobby would be responding in force. Instead it is clear that they do not yet feel threatened by the proposal. That leaves a challenge for the European Parliament to amend the legislation to really address the imbalances in the food market.
“While I welcome the introduction of many price observatories in the agriculture sector it must be complimented by mandatory price reporting. We also need to see new generation contracts where risks are shared rather than resting entirely with the farmer.
“One of the most striking absences from the Commission’s proposals is any attempt to tackle below cost of production buying. It now seems to be considered a revolutionary concept to suggest that farmers should receive a price above the cost of production for their goods.
“The proposal also allows a number of unfavourable practices to remain if set out in the contract. These allow buyers to drive the farmer’s profit margin close to zero or even less.
“My objective during the parliamentary process will be to find agreement to introduce measures that ensure that these terms do not eat up the tiny profit margins farmers can hope to receive. Because, the truth is that should the legislation remain unchanged we will not see the type of change required and farmers will continue to be the poor relation in their dealings with retailers and processors”.
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill today welcomed the call by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to convene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference and she said we are a crunch time in the negotiations on EU exit.
Michelle O’Neill was speaking after attending a lecture delivered by Jeremy Corbyn at Queen’s University Belfast today.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“I welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s call to convene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
“Sinn Féin has been calling for the conference to be convened so that the two governments, working together, can take decisions to resolve the issues and pave the way for the restoration of power-sharing.
“And unlike the British Conservative party, who have slipped in and out of here without speaking to people and engaging with political leaders on Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn came here today to hear first hand about the disastrous implications of Brexit for border communities in particular.
“Sinn Féin wants the Labour Party to move further.
“We are at a crunch time in the negotiations on Brexit.
“The people of the north voted to remain in the European Union and that democratic decision needs to be respected.
“Our economy can’t withstand being outside the Customs Union and the Single Market and we need to see our special circumstances recognised, with no hardening of the border, citizens’ rights respected and the Good Friday Agreement protected in all its parts.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Transport Imelda Munster TD has today criticised Minister for Transport Shane Ross for his failure to address the serious capacity issues on the M50 motorway, and has asked him to come clean on whether he intends to introduce multi-point tolling in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles using the road.
Deputy Munster said:
“At a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Transport Committee, the CEO of Transport Infrastructure Ireland put forward multi-point tolling as a remedy to this issue.
“No other option was proposed. The CEO also stated that this is a political decision for government.
“I am asking Minister Ross to clarify whether he intends to introduce this measure.
“The M50 is at capacity. Motorists are spends hours every day stuck in traffic.
“This is primarily due to poor planning, underinvestment, and lack of joined up thinking from successive governments.
“Is this the Minister’s automatic go-to response? Is he going to penalise motorists, yet again, because he has no plan to reduce vehicles on the M50?
“It is not the fault of motorists that the government has not invested or planned for sustainable transport or adequate infrastructure to deal with the level of traffic on the roads.
“I have written to Minister Ross seeking clarity on this matter, and I intend to raise it with him next week in the Dáil.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has today said that “Homeowners living in Celtic tiger properties with latent defects deserve a redress scheme to assist cover the costs of remedial work”.
Deputy Ó Broin has called on the Minister for Housing to “initiative a short public consultation with all stakeholders on how best to proceed”.
The call was made in advance of a Dáil debate on a cross party Oireachtas Housing Committee report which called for the introduction of a series of measures to tackle the legacy of latent defects.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The Oireachtas Housing Committee published the Safe as Houses report in January which recommended that a redress scheme to assist home owners with latent defects should be established.
“The Committee unanimously agreed that homeowners living in Celtic tiger properties with latent defects deserve a redress scheme to assist cover the costs of remedial work.
“Today I am calling on the Minister for Housing to initiative a short public three month consultation with all stakeholders on how best to proceed.
"The consultation should engage with homeowners, their representative organisations, the construction industry sand those with direct experience of similar schemes previously established by Government.
“The creation of such a scheme is complex and a number of issues must be teased out including establishing responsibility, determining eligibility and crucially who pays for the works.
“In Sinn Féin’s view those responsible for the defects should bear the cost. However where companies are no longer trading there must be some process in place, funded in part or wholly by industry to offset the cost to homeowners.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers' Rights David Cullinane TD has said that the Government must commit to pay equalisation by 2020.
Speaking in the Dáil today, deputy Cullinane said;
"My colleague Jonathan O'Brien cannot be here today unfortunately, but on his behalf I wish to express the view that unequal pay for equal work is unacceptable in any progressive society, be it within the public or private sector.
"The current inequality within our public sector is increasingly unjustifiable in a time of sustained economic growth.
"Sinn Féin opposed the lower pay scales when they were imposed by the Government and have held successive Governments to account on this issue since. Today over 60,000 of our public sectors workers draw less pay than their colleagues for equal work.
"This includes over 20 percent of workers in our education sector, and a quarter of the workforce in our health services. Today, 10,000 of our nurses receive less pay for equal work while fighting on the front line of a creaking and mismanaged health system.
"This reality is no longer tenable and road map to equal pay is clear.
"It is our position that pay equalisation can and should be achieved in its entirety within the period of the current Public Service Stability Agreement, with post-January 2011 entrants attaining equal pay with their colleagues, for equal work, by the close of 2020.
"However, there is a longer journey to travel. The report sought to examine the inequality of pay scales, but failed to consider the abolition of allowances that followed, which contributed to a further pay gap between those who started before 2011 and those who were unfortunate enough to start after.
"This report, while examining one element of the cuts, failed to acknowledge or examine the losses endured by those Section 39 workers who have suffered without any moves to pay restoration.
"While the issue of pay inequality can and should be redressed now, it must be one part of a broader envelope of redress for all workers that have suffered since the age of austerity began."