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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has extended condolences to the family and friends of a pedestrian believed to be a local woman who was killed in a traffic incident.

Gerry Kelly said:

“The community was shocked to hear of the tragic death which occurred in the Ballysillan Road area of North Belfast.

“This is the second tragedy to occur in North Belfast in just over twelve hours.

“I want to extend my condolences to the family and friends of the woman killed and ask anyone who may have been in the vicinity at the time of the incident to come forward with that information.”

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Speaking after a meeting with the Human Rights Commission today, Sinn Féin Housing

spokesperson Carál Ní Chuilín commented:

“The Human Rights Commission has a critical role to play in protecting and promoting the right to adequate housing.

“Numerous UN reports have expressed concern at housing inequalities and the Human Rights Commission needs to address these as a matter of urgency.

 “Today I highlighted to the Commission a range of ways in which the right to adequate housing is getting worse. This includes the shortage of social housing and the overreliance on the private rented sector where tenant rights are lower.

 “The Commission agreed to raise these issues with the Housing Executive and to monitor progress as part of their annual Human Rights statement.

“It is time for the Commission to step up to the mark.”

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Elisha McCallion MP will today meet with British Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, in Westminster to discuss the British government’s commitment to an Inclusive Growth Deal for Derry city and the north west of Ireland.

The Foyle MP said:

“Today I meet with Karen Bradley to discuss a number of important projects for Derry city and the north west region of Ireland.

“I have previously led a delegation to London to secure a British government financial contribution to Derry’s Inclusive Growth Deal through their ‘City Deal’ funding. 

“However, the time for commitment is now. As they’ve done with Belfast and other cities, today I will call on Karen Bradley and the British government to publicly declare a statement of intent to contribute to Derry’s Inclusive Growth Deal.

“I will also be raising current plans to build a medical school at Magee Campus of Ulster University in Derry. 

“This development has the potential to attract talent from across Ireland and beyond, and marks a significant stage in the overall expansion of the Magee Campus.

“Almost a decade of relentless Tory cuts has had an impact on Derry and the wider region. The British government has a responsibility to undo the damage of their attacks on citizens’ incomes and public services, and meaningfully contribute to our city’s development.”

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Sinn Féin environment spokesperson Cathal Boylan has called for a concerted effort to end the use of plastic straws due to the environmental damage they cause.

The Newry-Armagh MLA said: “Plastic is a pollutant. It ends up in the ocean, entangling and endangering aquatic life. It finds its way into our food chain and water supply, threatening human health. And when it breaks down it releases toxins which contribute to global warming.

“One practical step we can take is to reduce the use of plastic straws. A straw may only be used for 20 minutes but it will last as waste for over 200 years. Most straws end up in landfills or oceans.

“Everyone has a responsibility to protect the environment and there are viable alternatives to plastic such as paper straws.

“Many restaurants and cafes have already replaced plastic straws with more environmentally friendly alternatives and I am calling on all individuals and businesses to de-straw."

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Speaking in response to the publication of the 2017 social housing output report and new targets for 2018 Sinn Féin housing spokesperson has described the figures as “deeply depressing”.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The Department of Housing has published the final social housing output figures for 2017 and new social housing targets for 2018. The figures are deeply depressing.

“They confirm the Governments continued undersupply of real social housing as well as its glacial pace of delivery.

“The Government is actually proposing to deliver less real social housing in 2018 than it did last year. In 2017, local authorities and approved housing bodies built and bought 6,297 homes according to the figures. The target for 2018 is just 5,869.

“They also highlight, once again, the chronic over reliance on subsidised private leased properties to meet social housing need. In 2017 76% of new social housing tenancies were delivered through two, four or ten-year leases through the HAP, RAS and SCHEP programmes. In 2018 the over reliance on the private rentals sector will increase to 78%.

“Minister Murphy will no doubt try to spin these figures as progress. He will claim it represents a dramatic increase in social housing output. This is simply not the case. Social housing delivery is now going in the wrong direction.

“It confirms once again that Fine Gael do not understand the causes of the housing crisis.

“They are pursuing policies that are actually contributing to that crisis. We urgently need a dramatic increase in capital investment in the delivery of real social and affordable housing.

“Without this, the housing crisis will continue to get worse.”

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Speaking after the death of a man in Orient Gardens in North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has appealed for anyone with information to bring it to the PSNI.

Gerry Kelly said: 

“News of this death has shocked the local area.

“While the circumstances of the man's death are unclear at this time, the PSNI have stated that they are treating the death as murder.

“I would appeal to anyone with information which may assist the police to bring it forward.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, has called on the Secretary General of the European Commission, Martin Selmayr, to immediately step down from his post pending a full review of the appointment procedures. 

Speaking following a European Parliament vote on the matter in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Carthy said:

“The European Commission has serious questions to answer when it comes to the integrity of its appointment procedures.  The recent appointment Martin Selmayr to the top EU civil service post without an open process stinks of political favouritism.

“Throughout his career at the Commission, Martin Selmayr has been fast-tracked through a number of positions and pay-grades.  He has also dipped in and out of political positions, at one stage acting as campaign manager for Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. 

“His elevation to the current position, and the procedures used to get him there, were completely unethical and it is astounding that Mr Juncker refuses to acknowledge this. 

“It has been revealed that Mr Juncker and Mr Selmayr knew the date of the position of Secretary General being vacated two years in advance.  This was information that nobody else had.  Mr Selmayr was appointed to this position during the same meeting as his predecessor announced his retirement.  None of the Commissioners who had to vote on this appointment were informed in advance of this position being vacated and filled in the same day, and nobody else was given a chance to put their name forward for the pose. 

“Mr Juncker has played this process very close to the line. Frankly it is shameful that not a single Commissioner, including Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan, has chosen to publicly disassociate themselves with this farce. 

“Appointments to senior positions should be subject to regular and transparency appointment procedures with no exceptions.  

“It’s only a couple of months since it emerged that former Commission President José Manuel Barroso is engaging in lobbying activities on behalf of Goldman Sachs against a commitment not to do so.  This latest charade shows that Mr Juncker has little ambition to clean up the tarnished image left behind by that mess. 

“As an unelected body, the European Commission should be attempting to hold itself to the highest possible standards of transparency.  If Mr Juncker is not prepared to do that then perhaps he too needs to reconsider his position”.

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Sinn Féin Councillor JJ Magee has condemned those responsible for vandalising and breaking windows two nights in-a-row at Teach Grainne flats in North Belfast.

Cllr Magee said:

"The local community are angry by this disgraceful attack on Teach Grainne flats which saw the first floor window broken again tonight.

“It is important the vandals are not allowed to continue to wreck and break amenities that the ratepayers ending up paying time and time again for.

“Those responsible need to be held to account and brought to justice and I am calling on anyone who has information to take it to the PSNI.” 

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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD today welcomed a commitment by an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that a review of applications to the Magdalene Redress Scheme refused by the Department of Justice will be completed within the next three months.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“In response to questions I raised in the Dáil today, the Taoiseach confirmed that the Government accepts in full the recommendations made by the Ombudsman following the Office’s investigation into the Magdalene Laundry redress scheme.

“It is important to note that the Ombudsman’s investigation was a result of complaints lodged with the Office by women whose applications to the Magdalene Redress Scheme were rejected by the Department of Justice and Equality on deeply unjust grounds.

“Even after the investigation was complete and the recommendations prepared, the first instinct of the Department of Justice and Equality was to push back.  

“In evidence to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in January, the Ombudsman stated that, in his ten years as Ombudsman, he had never reached a point where a Department had, prior to publication of a report, absolutely and categorically refused to engage in the process of accepting and implementing the recommendations made.  

“The Ombudsman’s reflection to the Justice Committee very much echoes the experiences of the excluded women. I welcome the Taoiseach’s commitment that the review of the refused applications will be completed in the next three months and he and his Minister must ensure this deadline is met. 

“I am concerned for the small number of women who await their redress due to a lack of capacity. They and their families are particularly reliant on the Justice Department and the Court Services to progress wardship applications and support in the application process. The Department cannot again be found wanting again.

“It will also be important that the Department of Justice and Equality conduct a review of the Scheme to include a consultation with women who applied to it prior to developing guidance for future schemes as recommended by the Ombudsman.” 

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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has said “the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has failed to explain his actions surrounding INM’s proposed takeover of Celtic Media

Ms McDonald stated that it is the responsibility of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “to ensure Minister Naughten that provides full answers to a raft of unanswered questions.”

She made the comments following a statement on the matter from Minister Naughten in the Dáil and questions from the opposition.

Teachta McDonald said;

“It is deeply alarming that Minister Naughten thinks it is acceptable to communicate sensitive commercial information regarding an acquisition process to somebody representing a party to that acquisition.

“These are actions described by the ODCE as potentially constituting insider information and a possible breach of stock market rules.

“The Minister was given ample Dáil time to explain himself and to answer important questions. He failed to do so.

“Why did he take a phone call from a person acting on behalf of INM and communicate his decision to refer the takeover to the BAI two months before he formally did so? Why was there no record taken of the call and why was no official in his Department briefed or informed of the call?

“Why did the Minister mislead the Dáil in December when he told the house that he had not arrived at any decision on how to proceed? This was clearly untrue as he told Mr Eoin Ó Neachtain quite the opposite approximately three weeks prior?

“It is breath-taking that Minister seems unable to grasp that he is in breach of his statutory duties?

“The Minister’s answers in the Dáil today had more holes than a sieve. It is now the responsibility of the Taoiseach to ensure that the Minister is not allowed to shrug his shoulders and dodge his responsibility to provide these answers.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said it is now long past time for the British government to get real in the Brexit negotiations and bring forward credible solutions to avoid a hard border in Ireland. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"Today's comments by President of the European Council Donald Tusk that there will be no Brexit deal and no transition period unless the British government come up with a solution to the border problem need to be heard loud and clear by Theresa May.

"So far the British government have been attempting to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the border issue and the huge difficulties that placing an EU frontier on the island of Ireland would create. 

"But we have been making our voices heard in Europe and the EU is well aware of the concerns around the border and it is long past time the British government got real to those concerns. 

"It is now up to the British government to bring forward credible and workable proposals to avoid a hard border, something they have singularly failed to do to date.

"There is an option on the table with the backstop which would avoid a hard border.  It would allow the north to remain in the customs union and significant elements of the single market and the EU and the Irish government in particular must now ensure that is maintained and upheld and that the British government are not allowed to renege on the commitments it has entered into."

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Sinn Féin's Dessie Ellis TD, has expressed his concern at the impact the proposal to requisition the lands and grounds of CLG Na Fianna and Home Farm football club will have both on the clubs and the local community.

The Dublin North West  TD said;

“Sinn Féin has always supported the Metro North project connecting Swords, the city centre and Sandyford via Dublin Airport.

"I acknowledge the environmental benefits Metro North will have for Dublin and the employment benefits the project will bring both during the construction phase and after its completion helping to create new jobs and businesses along those areas served by Metro North.

"However I am greatly concerned at the proposal that the grounds and lands associated with Na Fianna GAA club and Home Farm football club on Mobhi Road, will act as a staging post for the underground boring machinery and other works associated with this project.  

"This is totally unacceptable and is a non-viable proposal. If the National Transport Authority goes ahead and implements this proposal, it will have the potential of causing untold and irrecoverable damage to both these clubs.

"It will also impact greatly on residents, the community and on three local schools, Scoil Chaitríona, Scoil Mobhí and Whitehall college.

"I have put forward a viable alternative to this proposal which will have the least impact on local communities and the surrounding areas.

"I have proposed to the Minister for Transport that instead of using the grounds and land of CLG Na Fianna and Home Farm football club that the virgin lands north of Ballymun is a more reasonable proposal for the storing of this heavy boring equipment and where works could be commenced from.

"I have asked that the Minister give consideration to this proposal and I will be making a submission to the National Transport Authority that they should accept this as a more viable option in place of the existing proposal.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Transport Imelda Munster TD has today lambasted Minister for Transport Shane Ross TD after he disclosed at a meeting of the Oireachtas Transport Committee that the spending deficit in road maintenance has increased by 50% since he took office.

Deputy Munster said:

“When Minister Ross took office, there was a deficit in spending on the maintenance of local and regional roads to the tune of €3 billion.

“This was due to a decade of neglect when the previous Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments chose to bail out banks, rather than invest in services and infrastructure.

“However, the government is blue in the face trying to convince us that the economy is in recovery.

“If the economy is booming, why is the deficit at €4.5 billion after two years of this government being in power? That is an increase of 50%.

“Fianna Fáil also have to take responsibility for supporting successive budgets that have led to the crumbling of infrastructure right across the state.

“It is clear that Minister Ross is out of his depth. He has known about this issue for two years and has done precious little to address it.

“The longer he ignores this issue, the more costly it will be, both in terms of spending in order to bring roads up to a steady state condition and in terms of road safety.” 

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Sinn Féin Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald TD has told Minister for Transport Shane Ross that Metro North cannot proceed through the grounds of Na Fianna GAA Club.
 
Ms McDonald also urged the Minister to ensure “that social and community concerns, including the impact on local sports clubs and schools, be given precedence in the consultation process”.
 
The Sinn Féin Leader said;
 
“Metro North is a vitally important piece of transport infrastructure and it is important that work begins on its construction as soon as possible.
 
“However, the current proposed route would see Na Fianna GAA Club and its 3,000 members shifted off their grounds for up to seven years.  

"That cannot be allowed to happen. An alternative route must be developed.
 
“Na Fianna is not only a GAA facility, it is used widely by local schools and the community for Irish dancing, by the Choral Society, by the Bridge Club to name but a few.
 
“The current proposals do not make sense.  There is no option for the club to move to a different area, as GAA clubs are founded and based in local communities.
 
“Na Fianna will be in next Leinster House next Wednesday to address the Transport Committee to put forward their case.
 
“They are not looking for a row - they are looking for a resolution and that resolution is to retain this community facility.
 
“So Minister, what other locations were considered? On what basis were others deemed unsuitable that left the only place suitable was a main community facility of Na Fianna was selected? 

"And will an alternative route be considered?”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has requested a meeting with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone to discuss the lack of data available on the number of adults and children that spent time in Tusla funded domestic violence refuge and step down accommodation in 2017.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The Department of Children and Youth affairs, through Tusla, fund emergency and step down accommodation for adults and children made homeless as a result of domestic violence.

“The most recent figures available provided by Tusla in response to a parliamentary question show that in 2016 1,562 adults and 2,223 children were accommodated in emergency refuge or emergency non-refuge accommodation. There are no 2017 figures available yet.

“The average length of stay in emergency accommodation varied in 2016. According to the PQ response: ‘Of the 1,604 admissions reported for 2016, 766 were for between 1 and 7 days; 263 were for between 8 days and 14 days; 266 were for between 15 days and 6 weeks, and the remaining 309 stayed for more than 6 weeks.’

“The delay in providing the data for 2017 is concerning. So, is the fact that despite numerous requests from Sinn Féin the Department of Housing’s monthly homeless figures do not include women and children in Tusla funded emergency accommodation. 

“The housing needs of victims of domestic violence are going unaccounted for in the states’ official homeless stats. This is unacceptable, especially given the concerns the Women’s Aid Impact Report raised around the impact of the current housing crisis

“I have written to Minister Zappone requesting a meeting to discuss our concerns around this issue and around the lack of up to date data from Tusla.” 

Note: Please see PQ response below

To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of adults and children that spent time in Tusla funded domestic violence refuge and step down accommodation in 2017 and the first quarter of 2018; and the average length of time these families spent in emergency accommodation.

REPLY

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the provision of care and protection to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. In discharging its statutory responsibility, Tusla supports 20 emergency refuge and support services in providing services for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Twenty four community-based domestic violence support services and 16 rape crisis centres also receive financial support from Tusla. Funding for these services was increased by €1.7m in 2018, to a total of €23.8m.

Tusla funds 155 family units, comprising 147 emergency refuge family units and 8 emergency non-refuge family units. The remit of these services is to provide safe emergency accommodation on a short-term basis.

Tusla does not have access to live data on refuge use. However, information provided by funded domestic violence services indicates that refuges consistently operate at full or near full-capacity. Any vacancies are generally attributed to the turnover between the discharge and admission of clients.

Tusla-funded services provide data to Tusla retrospectively on an annual basis. The data provided below refers to the use of services in 2016. 2017 data will be made available later in the year.

In 2016, a total of 1,520 women were accommodated in emergency refuge accommodation and an additional 42 women were accommodated in emergency non-refuge accommodation. In total 1,562 women were accommodated.

In 2016, a total of 2,223 children were accommodated in emergency refuge or emergency non-refuge accommodation. 

Some service users are admitted to emergency refuges on more than one occasion over the course of a year, and as a result, the number of individual admissions is greater than the number of women admitted. In 2016, services reported on 1,604 separate admissions to emergency or emergency non-refuge accommodation. 

Services report on the “length of stay” of individuals in their care by selecting from a number of categories representing different lengths of stay.  Of the 1,604 admissions reported for 2016, 766 were for between 1 and 7 days; 263 were for between 8 days and 14 days; 266 were for between 15 days and 6 weeks, and the remaining 309 stayed for more than 6 weeks.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit, David Cullinane TD, said today that the concerns of the Irish fishing industry regarding Brexit must be addressed.  

He called on the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to make an unequivocal statement to clarify the issue.

Deputy Cullinane said:

"Sinn Féin echoes the call of the  Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation that  fisheries negotiations are not separated from the final trade agreement between Britain and the EU;  and that the status quo post-Brexit in retaining access to British waters remains, as well as the quota share. 

"The Irish fishing industry must have its Hague preferences protected and guaranteed during the brexit transition period.

"I call on the Taoiseach and Táinaiste to make such a public statement."

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Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill said today that we are now at a crucial stage of the Brexit negotiations.

The party’s Deputy Leader was speaking after this morning’s Agenda NI Brexit debate in Belfast and which was attended by delegates from over Ireland.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“We are now at a crunch time in the Brexit negotiations. 

“The implications of Brexit will be catastrophic for all our people, for our economy and for our rights.

“It’s also hard to know where the impact of a Tory/DUP Brexit will be felt worse. 

“Will it be on the economy which is forecast to forgo at least 12% of GDP growth? 

“Will it be on our health service which can’t recruit the overseas workers it needs?

“Will it be on our politics as a result of a hardening of the border? 

“Brexit is not an Orange or Green issue, a majority of the people of the north voted to remain in the EU and all those who understand the impact of Brexit must stand on a common platform.

“Sinn Féin will continue stand with all sectors and progressives as we all need to make our voices heard.

“We will continue to work in the Dáil and with the EU 27 to make the case for designated special status for the north and for the democratic wishes of the people to be respected.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has announced that her proposal for an official EU fisheries mission to Cork was successfully approved by the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee this afternoon.

The Ireland South MEP, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, has been campaigning for an official visit by the Committee to Cork for some time now.

"I am delighted that this mission has finally been granted approval and will go ahead in September," she said.

"It is hugely important that we get across to the European Parliament just how poorly served Irish fishermen have been by the Irish Government and by the EU and the best way to do that is to get them to meet face to face.

"Therefor a key part of this visit will be a European delegation to meet with local fishermen, local authorities, researchers, coastal communities, cooperatives, SMEs and other stakeholders.

“With reform of the Common Fisheries Policy now inevitable this is the best opportunity to propose and implement positive changes and the key people who must be consulted on those reforms are the people who live and work in fishing families and coastal communities. 

“What needs to happen now is for the Eurocrats in Brussels to engage with ordinary Irish fishermen on the ground. Historically there has been a serious lack of engagement by Irish and European authorities and I want this mission to be a turning point in that relationship.

“This delegation will not just benefit Cork but all of Ireland and will involve meetings with a variety of stakeholders, specifically fishermen across Munster, with Castletownbere being one of a number of key locations.

“We are now just awaiting final approval from the Bureau of the European Parliament for this mission. Considering Fine Gael have a seat in the Bureau I would urge them to put party politics aside and support this visit.  It is far too important an opportunity to be squandered over having a dig at the opposition.

"There are numerous issues that need to be raised with the EU Fisheries Committee, there are special considerations that need to be made for Ireland post-Brexit, there is a long, long legacy of government and EU mistreatment of Irish fishermen and I want this delegation to be the starting point for the reform of those relationships, of the CFP and of the way our coastal communities are treated." 

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In a joint statement after today’s meeting at Oakwood Special School, Sinn Féin MLAs Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Alex Maskey said:

"The meeting this morning was a further setback in the discussion for the future provision of special educational needs children.

"This meeting was an opportunity for the Education Authority to meaningful engage in a dialogue with parents.

"However, the failure of the Chief Executive and the Director of Children and Young People Services to attend the meeting, after commitments were made to Sinn Féin in a meeting as recently as Monday, has most regrettably resulted in a real breakdown of trust between parents, school and the Education Authority.

"To date, the Education Authority has failed to properly carry forward this process in an open and transparent manner without a predetermined outcome 

"The Education Authority as a matter of urgency needs to demonstrate its ability to meaningfully engage and build trust with parents, pupils and schools in order to take forward future provision for Special Educational Needs in the best interests of children." 

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster has urged all parties to support the Extreme Weather (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018 that her party will be moving in the Dáil tomorrow.

The Bill will provide for the safety of employees during a status red weather warning, as well as impose penalties on those who put lives of the emergency services in danger through reckless behaviour during an extreme weather warning.

Deputy Munster said;

"This important piece of legislation will enhance public safety and ensure the safety of rescue service personnel during a status red weather warning. It seeks to give An Garda Síochána enhanced powers to pursue such behaviour.

"The Bill ensures that employees are not penalised for staying away from their place of work during a Status Red severe weather warning.

"This Bill has the potential to save lives. We are welcome to talk to all parties that may have reservations about this legislation to see it move forward through the Houses to see it become law.

“Three people tragically lost their lives as a direct result of Storm Ophelia.

“As legislators we must now take measures to protect workers, guide employers and strengthen the powers of emergency services in the case of future warnings.

“I believe that this legislation will help prevent tragedies during future extreme weather events, and so I ask that this legislation be supported.

"The government needs to act like a government.

"It is only in areas that people's lives are put in danger that the government won't intervene.

"The government has acknowledged that businesses should close during a status red alert, yet they are not willing to legislate in order to provide clarity for businesses and their employees. This makes no sense."

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