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DUP and Tory Brexiteers need to act to avoid crash-out - Hazzard 

Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said today that Brexiteers in the DUP and Tory party now need to accept reality and avoid a disastrous crash-out Brexit. 

The South Down MP said: 

"An extension or delay, regardless of the length, does not solve Brexit or avoid the possibility of a devastating crash-out. 

"It prolongs the chaos in the British parliament and adds to the uncertainty for the business community, the farming sector and everyone else. 

"The only thing which will avoid a crash-out Brexit which would drive our economy off a cliff edge is the Withdrawal Agreement. 

"The British parliament needs to abandon its delusional belief that there can be any renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop it contains. 

"The Brexiteers in the DUP and Tory party now need to finally realise where this reckless course they are on will lead and take a step back and avoid a disastrous crash-out Brexit." 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe, has expressed his deep concern at the decision of the US President, Donald Trump, to declare that the occupied territory of the Golan Heights is part of Israel in direct contravention of international law. This follows on from the US declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of the Israeli state.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Israel invaded Syria’s Golan Heights in 1967 in an act of aggression that displaced 95 percent of the region’s population, approximately 130,000 people. Israel has illegally occupied the Golan Heights ever since and numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions have condemned Israel’s illegal occupation of that territory.

“This latest move by the Trump administration is another flagrant disregard for international law and it could have majorly disruptive effects on regional stability. I am conscious that there are currently hundreds of Irish troops in the Golan Heights on a UN peacekeeping mission and this declaration threatens their safety.

“The fear now is that the United States could make a similar declaration about the West Bank in Palestine. This would be an attack on Palestinian sovereignty and a two state solution.

“Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights are illegal under international law. This latest move by the Trump administration puts them at direct odds with the rest of the international community. It is short sighted and potentially disastrous for the region at large, which is still trying to recover from the latest botched attempts at US intervention.

“I am calling on the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, to distance Ireland from this US declaration and restate that Ireland recognises that Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights is illegal.” 

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Sinn Féin Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell has said flying the Rainbow flag from Belfast City Hall during Pride is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.

Cllr Campbell was speaking after the party’s motion for the Rainbow flag to be flown during Pride was passed at today’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.

Cllr Campbell said:

“Our LGBTQ+ citizens make a huge positive contribution to the city of Belfast and the passing of this motion is an expression of solidarity from the city council to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Pride is an enormous day for Belfast as it is both a celebration of our LGBTQ+ community and a protest against the denial of rights.

 “The LGBTQ+ community deserves full recognition and implementation of their rights, including the right of marriage equality which is available everywhere else on these islands.”

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Speaking this morning upon the release of a new progress report by Dr Gabriel Scally into the CervicalCheck scandal, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that, while some good work has been done to date to implement the recommendations of the Scally Report, more ambition and a clear plan were needed.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The CervicalCheck scandal and resulting inquiry by Dr Gabriel Scally rocked the health service and our society to its core.

“In the aftermath of that scandal, much political capital was staked in the inquiry into the scandal by Dr Scally and the recommendations which it proposed to make sure this would never happen again.

“It is important that Dr Scally’s progress report highlights that work is ongoing on many of the recommendations which he stated were necessary to move the health service forward from this low point.

“There appears to be an appetite to carry out this work. However, it is also clear that there needs to be greater ambition and a clear plan to pursue the implementation of the recommendations.

“As often is the case, there are a number of important recommendations which are lagging and there does not appear to be an appropriate plan or resources to ensure the implementation and compliance with all of Dr Scally’s recommendations in a timely fashion.

“In many instances, recommendations are being rushed as if this is a race and Dr Scally noted that the Department of Health has few staff for whom implementing the recommendations is their sole job.

“This is just not good enough, the Department of Health is responsible for driving this change and it should be a central plank of their work for 2019.

“It is also disappointing that the HSE appear to be lagging on the core issue of open disclosure with the previous policy, which has been judged to be deeply flawed, remaining in place.

“This is still quite worrying when we also consider the government is nowhere near progressing the Patient Safety Bill, which still has not even been drafted.

“Furthermore, it is equally frustrating that the recommendations on outsourcing, a practice of which there is still significant questions to answer over its role in the CervicalCheck scandal, will not report be addressed until later this year.

“There needs to be a clear plan with the necessary ambition and resources so the recommendations of Dr Scally can be implemented with clarity and purpose for the benefit of the health service and patients in the long term.” 

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To mark World Water Day, Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Lynn Boylan has hosted an event in the European Parliament to reflect on the European Citizen's Initiative Right2Water.

Speaking from Dublin, Lynn Boylan MEP said: 

“Nearly 5 years ago, I was appointed as the lead negotiator for the European Parliament’s report in responding to the citizens’ petition. As the term comes to an end and we head into fresh elections, we have reached a sticking point in getting the human right to water enshrined into EU law, as advocated in my report. 

“Meanwhile, water poverty is still a serious issue across Europe and water disconnections are used as a tool to discriminate against ethnic minorities in parts of Eastern Europe. What we have been trying to achieve these past seven years with the Right2Water movement is the establishment of a human right, but seeing that right enshrined at an EU level has met huge resistance from the EU Commission and some Member States, including Ireland.  

“My event on the right to water this week in the Parliament was to reflect on where we have come to, and to strategise on how we can reorganise the progressive wing of the Parliament to reassert the demands of the ECI Right2Water and ensure that the next parliament guarantees this right in EU law. 

“Water is a human right. We cannot have a political compromise on this. Human rights are either upheld or they are disregarded. I will continue to fight for the right to water to be fully recognised at EU and national level and resist the EU's privatisation agenda and disregard for this fundamental right.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoin Ó Broin TD has ‘expressed concern’ at the delay in the publication of proposals for directly elected mayors in Cork, Limerick and Waterford. 

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Today the Government provided the media with a short and very sketchy note on their proposals for directly elected mayors in Cork, Waterford and Limerick.

"The note did not detail the full powers of the mayoral offices. It did not outline the relationship between the new mayors office and the existing councils. Nor did it outline what the full cost to the taxpayer of such an office.

“They did commit to launching the full details of their proposals on April 12th. That is just six weeks out from the proposed plebiscites in Cork, Waterford and Limerick.

"I am very concerned that these proposals are being published at such a late stage and without any consultation with opposition parties.

“Sinn Féin is supportive in principal of the proposal for directly elected mayors if the powers, functions and costs are right.

"However as we wont see the detail until of the Governments' proposals until mid April, and have had no meaningful opportunity to shape the proposals, we have no idea at this stage whether their proposals are positive or negative.

“When the full detail is published we will study it carefully and make our position known then. In the meantime we can only express concern at what appears to be a very rushed and last minute effort to introduce what are very profound reforms of local government.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said the international community must act on a report by the UN Independent Commission of inquiry on protests in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The West Belfast MP said:

“This report by a UN Commission investigating human rights breaches during the 2018 ‘Great March of Return’ in Gaza has found that Israeli authorities ‘unlawfully authorised’ lethal forces resulting in loss of life. 

“The Commission also found that Israeli forces shot and wounded 6,016 protesters with live ammunition. 189 died at the protest site, 183 of these from live fire. 

“This report raises serious concerns about the actions of Israeli security forces and Israeli government policies. 

“While the UN report highlights the actions of the Gaza authorities, encouraging or defending the use of incendiary kites and balloons targeting Southern Israel, the Commission found that the demonstrations were almost entirely civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims. 

“The Irish government should take the lead by sending the Israeli ambassador home and immediately recognising the State of Palestine. 

“Sinn Féin calls on the Human Rights Council to immediately implement the reports recommendations relating to preventing future violations, ensuring accountability and lifting the blockade and closure of Gaza.”

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Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy said today that the PSNI investigation into the deaths of three teenagers at the Greenvale Hotel, Cookstown on St Patricks’ Day must refocus on the events which led to the tragedy.

Francie Molloy was speaking after he and party Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill met with the PSNI.

Francie Molloy said:

“We met with the PSNI this morning to discuss the investigation into the tragic deaths of 17-year-olds Lauren Bullock, and Morgan Barnard and 16-year-old Connor Currie outside the Greenvale Hotel on Sunday night.

“We told police that the heart-broken families of the three teenagers require answers about how their children died.

“We challenged the police on the progress of the investigation to date and we made it clear that the investigation needs to refocus on the awful events of Sunday night.

“That police investigation must be full, thorough and comprehensive.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Orlaithi Flynn has expressed concern after US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), revealed new health concerns around the use of controversial mesh implants.

The West Belfast MLA was commenting after the FDA warned that some mesh implants may provoke an adverse immune reaction in patients, resulting in chronic fatigue, cognitive impairment and pain.

She said: “The FDA admission follows recent courtroom revelations about the use of certain plastics within the human body. During a recent New Jersey supreme court hearing, memos showed that mesh producers were told over 20 years ago by a leading plastic resin manufacture that their product was not suitable for human implantation.

“These revelations raise serious concerns about the use of mesh, not only to address incontinence and prolapse but also in hernia repairs. The mesh products in question have been sold and used all over the world. I recently met with a group of hernia patients who are experiencing very similar complications to those described by vaginal implant patients. To date the number of hernia patients highlighting adverse reactions is smaller but the symptoms can be just as severe.

“An inadequate regulatory regime has led to real human suffering. It has to stop.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has welcomed recommendations from the Department for Infrastructure that planning permission for the Belfast Transport Hub should be granted.

The West Belfast MP said:

“I welcome news that the Department for Infrastructure that planning permission for the Belfast Transport Hub which will replace the Europa Bus Centre and Great Victoria Street train station complex should be granted.

“This new Transport Hub will be a state-of-the art facility and will provide a significant economic boost to the area.

“It will help improve accessibility and connectivity with other parts of Belfast including hospitals, shops, schools and colleges.” 

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World Down Syndrome Day takes place today March 21st and aims to raise awareness for all of Persons with Down Syndrome around the world, their rights and needs and special place amongst us.

Deputy Ó Caoláin, who is his party’s Spokesperson on Disability Rights, has expressed warmest good wishes to the Down Syndrome Community in Ireland, and worldwide, on this very special day for them and for their families.

The Cavan-Monaghan Deputy stated;

“I believe in marking this very special day. However, it should be about much more than awareness raising.

“I have been engaging with Down Syndrome Ireland over a long number of years concerning additional resources and services for Person’s with Down Syndrome.

“Just a matter of weeks ago Down Syndrome Ireland presented in Leinster House on their ‘Please Don’t Leave Us Behind’ campaign which asks for assurance of full inclusion in our nation’s classrooms for children with Down Syndrome.

“Delivering on this ask would include the allocation of the July Provision and the recognition of the importance of Individual Education Plans for children with Down Syndrome.

“The July Provision is an extended school year based on an extra month’s education during school going years and Individual Education Plans are vital to ensuring a positive learning environment for students with Down Syndrome.

“What more fitting tribute could we provide in marking World Down Syndrome Day than coming good and delivering on the asks of Down Syndrome Ireland’s ‘Please Don’t Leave Us Behind’ campaign.

“I call on Minister Finian Mc Grath and Minister Joe Mc Hugh to identify the necessary resources within their respective Departments and make education fully inclusive for our children with Down Syndrome”, appealed Deputy Ó Caoláin, whose adult brother Dermot has Down Syndrome."

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has attended the trial of the 12 Catalan political and civil leaders in Madrid over the past two days.

Deputy Crowe travelled to Madrid to attend the trial with his party colleague and MEP for Dublin, Lynn Boylan.

The Dublin South-West said:

“We travelled here to show our support and solidarity with the former Ministers, the Members of the Catalan Parliament, and the civil society activists that are on trial.

“These 12 political and civil leaders are in the dock in what has all the trappings of a political trial. It is our belief that their prosecution is politically motivated and they are political prisoners. Facilitating people to vote is not a crime, but preventing them by force should be.

“From the beginning of this process, I called for the nine political prisoners to be released from their pre-trial detention and that the charges against them should be dropped. Some of them have been imprisoned for over a year on pre-trial detention. It is clear that their continued imprisonment and the stress of this ongoing trial are taking its toll.

“Now that they are on trial in the Spanish Supreme Court, we wanted to show our support and solidarity to them in person and to observe the trial.”

“This is a political issue, not a legal one. The Spanish Government needs to enter into meaningful dialogue with the Catalan Government to find a political solution. It needs to stop using the police and the legal system to attack the Catalan independence movement, which is a legitimate political movement.

“This is one of the most pressing political issues in Europe. We cannot ignore this important issue of citizens being prosecuted for pursing purely peaceful and democratic means in determining their future.” 

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Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has again called on the Minister for Health to immediately address the many unanswered questions surrounding the continuing effects of sodium valproate.

Sodium Valproate medication is used to treat epilepsy as well as bi-polar disorders, however the European Medicines Agency has restricted its use in women due to increased risk of disabilities in children exposed to the drug in the womb.
Speaking ahead of a major conference in Dublin on the use of sodium valproate and its consequences, the Mayo Senator said:

“The Minister for Health recently told me at an Oireachtas Health committee that as soon as the HSE lead valproate response project team has finished its work, he will consider an inquiry into the use of sodium valproate in Ireland.

"This report must be completed as a matter of urgency. The need for an inquiry is clear.

"There are many reasons why such an inquiry is needed. Of primary concern is the fact that there are families in Ireland where two, three or more children were born with disabilities due to their mothers being prescribed sodium valproate.

"We also need the truth regarding the use of the drug in Ireland when many other EU countries had restricted its use.

"How long has his Department known about the risks associated with the use of valproate in pregnancy? What actions were taken by the State to minimise these risks, in particular prior to 2014 when the European Medicines Agency implemented its first review of risk reduction measures?

"I want to commend OACS (Organisation for Anti-Convulsant Syndrome) and its ongoing work and persistence in both supporting the families, and their endeavors to establish the facts around valproate.

"Minister Harris should meet them as soon as possible. Tomorrow’s conference is another opportunity to put on record the scientific view of experts regarding use of the drug and accompanying warnings and information.

"I hope that this will give a renewed impetus to the efforts to establish the truth and provide adequately for those families living with the legacy of the use of this drug."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan has said fresh allegations of sexual abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital are deeply concerning.

The West Belfast MLA said: "The recent allegation that has come to light concerning sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult in Muckamore Abbey Hospital is deeply worrying for residents and families.

"Claims that the Northern Trust did not fully or properly investigate the accusation or make the PSNI aware of it is also a serious concern.

"This once again raises serious worries around adult safeguarding processes in Muckamore and in the health trusts.

"I have requested a meeting with the Northern Trust to seek a full explanation of their response to these allegations.

"This is just the most recent revelation with regard to alleged abuse in Muckamore Abbey Hospital and yet another example of why a public inquiry into the hospital is needed to get a full understanding of what happened there."

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Today, a public hearing took place in the European Parliament on  the role of petrochemical giant, ExxonMobil, in promoting climate denialism. ExxonMobil refused to show up at the hearing, and MEPs are deciding how to punish the multinational for its immoral lobbying. 

Speaking from Brussels, Lynn Boylan MEP said:

“The extent to which the fossil fuel industry influences our energy and climate change laws is beyond belief.

"The evidence provided today by the researchers and scientists at the hearing shows how fossil fuel giants are literally drafting our laws on climate and have, for decades, been confusing the climate science in order to protect their own industry.

"It goes to show that we need critical engagement with our current approach to climate action, which has failed to date, hardly surprising given the vested interests we are up against. 

“Big Oil is the new Big Tobacco. The fossil fuel industry’s tactics have been extremely effective across the world for decades, funding climate denialism and perpetuating climate inaction.

"Over the course of time, they have morphed their approach from flat out climate denialism into a more nuanced climate delaying approach, by accepting the climate science but funding ineffective policy solutions. 

“I addressed the hearing today to call for support in stripping Exxon and their allies of their access badges to the European Institutions.

"This should be done immediately as a first step in kicking the fossil fuel industry completely out of the decision making process.

"Much more needs to be done to guarantee that this poisonous industry is out of here for good.

“We know that the fossil fuel industry was behind the design of our current approach to climate change, putting millions of dollars into endorsing flawed market solutions such as carbon pricing and carbon markets.

"It is also clear why gas is vigorously promoted by the EU and the Irish government as the new transition fuel - a proposal by the fossil fuel industry itself.

"The power and influence of the fossil fuel industry is why we are pursuing failed policy solutions for climate and avoiding the hard action, such as setting 2030 as a phase out for fossil fuels.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Carers and Well-Being Colm Gildernew has called on the Department of Health to meet with the families of those mistreated in Dunmurry Manor Care Home.

The Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA said:  "Recent statements from the CPEA - the company tasked by the Department of Health to carry out a review of care in Dunmurry Manor - have seriously called into question the independence of the process.

"This has caused deep shock and concern to families of residents found by the Commissioner for Older People's report to have been mistreated in Dunmurry Manor Care Home.

"It is not clear that the CPEA will be able to come to its own conclusions without the influence of the department.

"A recent statement from the CPEA strongly suggests that the department ultimately has the final decision on the review process.

"I have requested that the Permanent Secretary of the Health Department urgently meet with the Dunmurry Manor families to address the serious concerns they have with regard to the independence of the review.

"I have also requested an urgent meeting with CPEA to seek assurances from them that they will seek to fulfill their role in the review properly and to be open and transparent with the public."

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has launched a policy document today aimed at achieving greater energy efficiency in Housing.

Speaking at the launch Deputy Ó Broin said:

“We know we are well behind on our climate change targets and according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland the residential sector accounts for a quarter of the energy used in this state.

“The Department of Housing should be taking every step necessary to ensure the housing sector pulls its weight in terms of climate action.

“As it stands according to a recent report by the SEAI, homes in this state emit almost 60% more CO2 than the average EU home.

“This is coupled with this state having the 4th highest electricity prices in the EU and approximately 400,000 households suffering from fuel poverty.

“This document raises concerns about the monitoring of the implementation of the Near Zero Energy buildings directive, the accessibility of the SEAI grant funding and the lack of incentives for landlords to ensure that their rental properties have a high BER rating.

“Sinn Féin list seven recommendations as to how we can do better to encourage the retrofitting of existing social, private rented and private homes and what can be done to monitor the implementation of the NZEB directive.

“First and foremost, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government must produce a plan with clear deadlines for the energy retrofitting of all residential buildings. This plan must have clear funding commitments and ambitious targets.

“A review of the SEAI grant scheme should be conducted with a view to making it easier to access and expanding the range of measures included in scheme.

“The Residential Tenancies Board should be provided with the funding to launch an information campaign to advise landlords as to what grants and supports are available for energy retrofitting.

“The scale of the climate action task before us is enormous. We have a small window to act and every government department should be doing its bit.”

Energy efficiency in Housing

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has expressed her condolences tonight to the family of Laura Brennan who lost her fight against cervical cancer today.

The Sinn Féin leader paid tribute to the powerful and enduring legacy left behind by Laura.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the death today from cervical cancer of Laura Brennan.

“I extend my condolences to her family at this most difficult of times.

“It is a tragedy that her young life was cut so short by cervical cancer.

“We remember her for her tireless efforts in advocating for the use of the HPV vaccine.

“Her message was to the point, the HPV vaccine saves lives.

“Laura has left behind a powerful and enduring legacy, with a major increase in the uptake of the vaccine since she began her campaigning, and the lives that has helped to save.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has pressed the Belfast Trust on the need to progress the opening of the long overdue Belfast crisis de-escalation centre.

The West Belfast MLA said:

“I welcome confirmation from the Belfast Trust that the Belfast crisis de-escalation centre will be fully operational before the end of March. 

“Sinn Féin have long been campaigning for the crisis de-escalation centres in Derry and Belfast.

“It has taken considerable effort by all agencies and organisations involved to bring the project this far especially following delays and the potential risks to the transformational funding. 

“If we can avoid long waits in emergency departments for those in emotional crisis we can help to ensure their needs are met by a caring and responsive service.

“We pressed the Belfast Trust on the need to ensure that those accessing mental health and addiction services do not find themselves facing lengthy waiting lists. 

“The crisis de-escalation centre will play a role in helping to keep some of the most vulnerable safe but it needs community and statutory services that can provide the right treatment quickly.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that the British Government knows it must accept the agreed Withdrawal Agreement and backstop and that they must stop trying to play chicken with the EU on the verge of a crash out Brexit.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Once again, we have the British Prime Minister acting with total disregard to the interests of Ireland, North and South.

“She continues to play chicken with the EU institutions and runs the risk of a crash out Brexit to appease the Brexiteers and the British parliament.

“There is an agreement in place. The Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish backstop cannot and should not be changed.

“The British Government and parliament are still deluding themselves that the Withdrawal Agreement can be changed.

“It is past time for the British Government and the British parliament to accept that the only alternative to a crash out Brexit is the agreement as negotiated. To delay or extend will not change that simple truth.

“We are nine days away from a crash out Brexit. The British parliament and government knows what is required; accept the Withdrawal Agreement and Backstop and get on with the process of legislation.” 

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