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


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Speaking at the Rally For Remain at Belfast City Hall, Mayor Deirdre Hargey said the hard Brexit agenda being pursued by the DUP and Tories has undoubtedly plunged us all into the greatest period of political uncertainty and constitutional challenge for a generation.

Deirdre Hargey said:

“That is reckless and in direct contravention of the democratically expressed will of the majority of people here.

“In that context, there is an onus on progressive and pragmatic parties to represent the wishes of the majority and to defend the progress that has been made in this society.

“That is why we are here today and I am greatly encouraged to see so many people from so many different walks of life.

“It is also precisely what the leaders of Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and Green Party, have done in the leadership they have shown in defence of the Good Friday Agreement - its primacy in terms of our peace and political process, and the crucial role in plays in maintaining relationships within, and between these islands.

“Our four parties have already signed a joint statement urging the European Union to ensure that any withdrawal agreement protects the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts, including North/South and East/West co-operation.

“They have restated that message directly to Michel Barnier and the British and Irish Governments.

“The progress we have made is underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement – a legally-binding, international treaty registered with the United Nations and overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Ireland, North and South.

“The integrity of that agreement is not up for negotiation. It cannot be held to ransom by the Tory-DUP pact.

“Any withdrawal agreement must not undermine that accord. Equally, it must include legally binding protections for citizens in the North and to prevent any return to a hard border.

“The backstop agreed by both the British Government and the EU27 is the bottom line in order to achieve that and safeguard our political and economic stability now and for the future.

“While we may not agree on everything as regards Brexit, there are central issues on which we do and on which we represent the majority of citizens.

“This includes our shared view that the North cannot withstand exclusion from the single market or customs union.

“The hard Brexit being pursued by the DUP and right-wing Brexiteers within the Tory Party threatens to cause irreparable economic and social damage to our island.

“But as on many things – not least equality and the rights of citizens – the DUP do not speak for the majority on Brexit. They’re on the wrong side of the pubic and the wrong side of history.

“Together we must ensure that they do not succeed on this reckless, damaging and unforgivable agenda.”

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Sinn Fein MEP, Lynn Boylan has called for the release on bail of NGO workers Sean Binder and Sarah Mardini as they await trial in Greece.

Speaking from a solidarity rally held outside the Greek Embassy, the Dublin MEP said:

“The last time I stood here on the steps of the Greek Embassy, I called for solidarity for the Greek people.  It is sad that I am here today three years later asking that the Greek Government show solidarity with humanitarians.

“Sean and Sarah are behind bars because they refused to turn a blind eye to the refugee crisis.  Sarah who was hailed as the hero swimmer in 2015 is now being criminalised for helping other refugees.  

“Sean, who grew up in Ireland and attended Trinity is the son of a Vietnamese Refugee and chose to spend his Summer helping other refugees.  

“The criminalisation of activists and NGOs working with refugees must stop.  I have written to Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney and the Minister for Justice in Greece, Mr Michalis Kalogirou, calling on them to do everything they can to see that Sean and Sarah are released on bail.  They are NGO workers who clearly pose no threat to society.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill said an attempt by a Tory MP to undermine the EU backstop is more evidence of the reckless disregard of Tory Brexiteers for the people of the north.

Michelle O’Neill was speaking as people gathered in Belfast for the ‘Rally to Remain’ in the EU.

Michelle O’Neill said.

“The majority of the people voted to remain in the EU.

“Progressive parties in the north have been working with the EU and the Irish government to protect jobs, our economy, our agreements and rights.

“This week the British Prime Minister Theresa May showed her contempt for the majority of the people of the north when she refused to do a joint meeting with the leaders of the four parties who represent the pro-Remain majority.

“Theresa May’s disdain for the democratic will as a result of her party’s toxic partisan pact with the DUP has only emboldened the hard Brexiteers in their reckless pursuit of Brexit at any price.

“Today’s attempt by Tory MP Steve Baker to undermine the backstop agreed by Theresa May’s government with the EU is another example of the reckless disregard the Brexiteers have for the people of the north.

“They care nothing for jobs or for rights and are prepared to drive our economy over the cliff.

“The proposed ‘backstop’ is a safety net and insurance policy against the economic threat of Brexit to the island of Ireland.

“This latest attempt to undermine the backstop must be resisted by the EU and the Dublin government.

“EU negotiators and the Dublin Government must ensure the backstop becomes legally enforceable in any Brexit withdrawal agreement.

“We have to avoid economic apartheid on this island and a hard border.” 

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has called for a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on removing the requirement that blasphemy be an offence which is punishable by law, saying that this was “an undue restriction on freedom of speech”.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“This is an outdated piece of the Constitution, which provides an undue restriction on freedom of speech, requiring that blasphemy be an offence which is punishable be law. Freedom of speech is a central tenet of Republicanism, and should be valued by all.

“Modern Ireland is one that is diverse, culturally, spiritually and otherwise, and one that is accepting of all within it, from all faiths and none.

“Sinn Féin has consistently called for this referendum for many years now and we are calling for public support to see blasphemy removed from Bunreacht na hÉireann.

“None of this is to question the rights of any citizen to hold religious beliefs. An inclusive Ireland must protect each person’s right to hold and practice their religious beliefs. However, such beliefs cannot define the laws of the state.

“The successful referenda on Marriage Equality and the repeal of the eighth amendment are part of the necessary process of the separation of church and state. Removing blasphemy from our constitution is the next necessary step on that journey.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney called today on the Irish labour movement to back an Irish unity referendum and campaign for constitutional change.

The South Antrim MLA was addressing an event organized by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on the theme of ‘Post Walker years - where we are now in Belfast and beyond’.

Declan Kearney said:

“A new political discourse has begun about the future of Ireland north and south, and relationships with Britain and Europe.

“The debate on Irish unity and the timing of a unity referendum have now moved centre stage.

“Previous moments of political change have required that labour should wait.

“The current strategic challenge for the Irish labour movement north and south is to engage with this emerging discussion.

“To paraphrase Connolly in his opening contributions to the Connolly/Walker debate; ‘Constitutional change’ then is almost a certainty of the future.’

“The labour movement will only successfully put its mark on the Irish unity debate by asserting the primacy of economic democracy, and a rights-based society in a new Ireland.

“That will require Irish trade unionists to take strategic positions on supporting an Irish unity referendum and then to campaign positively for constitutional change.

“The status quo has failed us all.

“Connolly’s vision of a united Ireland which serves the interests of the many instead of the few will not be wished into existence.

“Labour should not wait again.

“The Irish labour movement should now introduce a progressive labour agenda to the Irish unity debate, and the unfolding discourse on future constitutional and political change.”

Full text of Declan Kearney’s speech to the ICTU event on the theme of ‘Post Walker years - where we are now in Belfast and beyond’.

Labour should not wait again: The labour movement and Irish unity.

Any consideration of William Walker’s legacy needs to be within the historic and contemporary reality that the advancement of socialist and Labour politics has been held back due to the effects of British colonial policy in Ireland.

However limited in his political analysis, Walker was committed to improving the conditions of his fellow workers.

British policy in Ireland and its consequences for Irish society divided Irish workers along communal lines. It has paralysed the labour movement from effectively challenging partition and championing the strategic aim of Irish unity.

Partition is the central fault line at the heart of Irish society and politics.

Sectarianism remains a visceral blight within the north.

Following partition, it was used by the ruling unionist elite to cement the foundation of the state and prevent unity among citizens on issues of common concern.

Labour was indeed told to wait as the resurgent struggle for national independence grew in momentum just over 100 years ago.

The counter revolution post partition represented a strategic setback for labour and working class interests in the new free state.

However, sections of the labour movement were compliant with British policy and the imposition of partition.

That was personified in the political thinking of Walker and others pre partition.

Walker’s ‘Municipal Socialism’ became a euphemism for the self-imposed strategic and political limitations which defined the Trade Union movement in the North.

As a result, the Irish labour movement, particularly in the north has failed to challenge partition and modern British political policy towards Ireland.

Partition has been an abject failure. 

It was never designed to make the Northern state a political or economic success.

Institutionalised sectarianism in the north ensured that a substantial minority were destined to never be treated as equals.

The civil rights movement fifty years ago exposed the inability of the unionist state to treat the minority as equals.

This belligerent opposition from powerful sections within political unionism against reform of the northern state persists today in the form of DUP hostility towards implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

The refusal of the DUP to embrace a rights based society and equality has culminated in the collapse of the political institutions and associated political crisis for twenty-one months.

Those currently in charge of the DUP have turned away from power-sharing.

The party brand is now indistinguishable from financial scandal and sharp practice in government.

As a party, the DUP is permanently in conflict with all accepted democratic reforms, social modernity, and standards in public office.

The DUP is in denial about how society in Ireland views its sectarian, homophobic and toxic pact with the Tories. 

The overwhelming majority of republicans, nationalists and many others, including sections of civic unionism, have concluded that the DUP has had its chance and cannot now be trusted in government.

They will not be giving the DUP permission to get back into power at risk of allowing it to continue practicing discrimination, intimidation, bigotry or sharp practice.

And neither will Sinn Féin.

The enduring political crisis is accentuated by systemic structural weaknesses in the regional economy.

Pressures on public services are intensifying. 

The block grant has been reduced by 10.2%.

This takes place alongside;

  • Actual net cuts in take home pay for public and private sector workers
  • Welfare cuts and the universal social charge
  • Higher inflation and living costs

108,600 adults in working families live in relative poverty.

Average wages in the north remain lower than 10 years ago.

Precarious working conditions, zero hours’ contracts and the scam of bogus self-employment used by some employers are common practice.

The onset of Brexit will be a catastrophe for the regional and island economies.

It will deepen an existing race to the bottom by further undermining the potential for economic growth, and new investment.

The dawning political and economic reality is that Brexit has changed everything.

It has exposed the negative role that partition continues to play in Irish affairs, and the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the union with Britain.  

The British state has now been pushed into an existential political crisis.

This is now a defining moment for these islands.

A new generation is questioning partition.

A new political discourse has begun about the future of Ireland north and south, and relationships with Britain and Europe.

The debate on Irish unity and the timing of a unity referendum have now moved centre stage.

It’s time for a fundamental paradigm shift in British policy towards Ireland.

The Irish government needs to begin preparing for constitutional, political and economic transition towards Irish Unity.

It should facilitate an open, inclusive national conversation involving all citizens, political parties, social partners and civic society.

That is; a dialogue about our future which addresses all concerns, accommodations and compromises relevant to the negotiation of a new all Ireland, constitutional democracy.

Previous moments of political change have required that labour should wait.

The current strategic challenge for the Irish labour movement north and south is to engage with this emerging discussion.

To paraphrase Connolly in his opening contributions to the Connolly/Walker debate;

‘Constitutional change’ then is almost a certainty of the future.

The labour movement will only successfully put its mark on the Irish unity debate by asserting the primacy of economic democracy, and a rights based society in a new Ireland.

That will require Irish trade unionists to take strategic positions on supporting an Irish unity referendum and then to campaign positively for constitutional change.

The status quo has failed us all.

Connolly’s vision of a united Ireland which serves the interests of the many instead of the few will not be wished into existence.

Labour should not wait again.

The Irish labour movement should now introduce a progressive labour agenda to the Irish unity debate, and the unfolding discourse on future constitutional and political change.

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has said that he is deeply concerned at confirmation this afternoon that The Authentic Food Company has decided to close its Dundalk facility with immediate effect.

Deputy Adams said:

“It is extremely bad news for the 180 staff at The Authentic Food Company that operations are to cease at the Dundalk facility.

“It is also worrying that the company has stated that the Dundalk branch of the company is being placed in administration.

“I first wrote to the company on 21st September, asking them to clarify their future intentions following representations to my office from concerned staff.

“The company did not respond to my email nor to correspondence from local Sinn Féin councillors Ruairí Ó Murchú and Anne Campbell who have spoken with workers numerous times.

“These staff have been treated deplorably.  They have been in limbo for the past month with no communication from the company.

“I have contacted Nik Basran, Managing Director, again today and asked that he meet with staff and offer them terms which reflect their commitment over many years.

“I understand that The Authentic Food Company is a profitable business.  It should now offer optimum redundancy terms to its workforce in Dundalk.

“I have also contacted the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys to request her immediate intervention in this matter.” 

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Presidential Election candidate Liadh Ní Riada speaking to a large gathering in Belfast this afternoon was highly critical of the record of the current incumbent Michael D Higgins on defending the interests of Irish citizens in the six counties.

In the course of a wide-ranging address the Sinn Féin candidate said:

“For the almost 100 years since partition the cosy political consensus in Dublin between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour have been happy to acquiesce to the injustice of partition.

“The rights and entitlements of Irish citizens in the north have always been a second or third or fourth consideration if indeed a consideration at all.

“Sadly for many years this black spot when it came to Irish citizens here extended to the Áras.

“That changed first when Mary Robinson in the early days of the Peace Process travelled here to Belfast and met with Gerry Adams and others. Under Mary McAleese the Áras became a warm house for citizens here.

“However in the past seven years this trend has not continued.

“Lip service has been resumed.

“The decision not to attend any of the events to mark the centenary of the Rising here in the north is but one example of this.

“Let me say clearly that the Irish citizens of this part of Ireland deserve more than a Garden Party and platitudes from the Arás.”

Note to editors: The full text of the address can be found below:

Ar an gcéad dul síos teastaíonn uaim mo bhuíochas a ghabháil daoibh bheith liom inniu. Is mór an onóir dom bheith I bhur dteanna chun labhairt libh mar ghearr ar an fís atá agam, an fís atá again mar phoblachtánaigh, d’Éirinn nua, neamhspleách agus forásach. 

Firstly I would like to thank people for coming here this afternoon.

The only Presidential election event to take place in Ireland's second city.

Belfast is a city with a proud legacy to the entire island. 

For many its history is one of rebellion; of struggle; and of unyielding sacrifice.

It’s a city that has long played host to resistance, from United Irishmen Henry Joy McCracken and Wolfe Tone at Cavehill; to the movements of Connolly, Markievicz, and the founding of Na Fianna.

It’s city that has never been afraid to take on the weight of an Empire.

It is also a city that borne a huge loss supporting an Empire. An Empire that once boasted that the sun never set upon.

Tens of thousands of young men left this city for Flanders fields and fought and died alongside tens of thousands of their fellow Irish in a needless and pointless slaughter at the Somme and elsewhere.

The graves of those young men from every corner of our island show no difference for those believing they were fighting for God & Ulster or indeed for Home Rule.

And indeed why would they.

The events of 100 years ago be they in far off foreign fields or on the battled scarred streets of Dublin as brave men and women from our political tradition struck for our freedom still resonate to this day.

They resonate because of the disastrous vista which followed in the years after the events of 1916.

Revolution was met with counter Revolution.

Hope was replaced with division.

The partition of our island - that great historical injustice and British miscalculation that delivered a deeply conservative state in the south and a deeply sectarian statelet in the north.

It has taken generations of people struggling in each part of our island to bring about the sort of changes which have in recent times transformed not just the society we live in but has in my opinion opened up a new space for a genuine discussion about the future. 

A discussion about a New Ireland, A Better Ireland, A United Ireland.

Teastaíonn uaim ceannasaíocht a thabhairt agus comhrá a thosnú lena mbainfidh pobal iomlán na hÉireann, ina mbeidh fáilte roimh gach guth agus dearcadh:

Comhrá iomchuimsitheach, measúil agus leanúnach mar gheall ar aontú ár dtír. 

In the south the recent moves on Marriage Equality and Repeal of the 8th amendment. In the north the advances made in the development of a Peace Process which has removed conflict from the streets and created a new opportunity for an agreed and shared future.

It is a scandal that Irish citizens here in Belfast and across the six north eastern counties of Ireland are denied their right to vote for their President. This could and should have been resolved long before now.

It is simply a question of political will.

Get it done and get it done now well before the next Presidential Election – no ifs, no buts, no maybes.

Fifty years ago, in Belfast people came together in gatherings like this to form the Civil Rights Movement. Facing discrimination, inequality, poverty and locked into a single-party state which did not respect or recognise them.

The response of the Orange State was laid bare for all to see.

But while so much has changed, so much progress made, we have much further still to travel: For women; bodily autonomy. For our LGBT+ community; the right to marriage equality. For victims of conflict; truth and justice. For the rights and recognition of our Gaeilgeoirí.

The blocking of rights by the DUP is an injustice to all.

But it need not be like this.

Teastaíonn uaim an Uachtarántacht a úsaid chun cruth a chuir ar an gcomhrá seo. 

I want to use the Presidency to help shape that conversation.

To use the office not just to help build the bridges that at the time of Mary McAleese’s Presidency was so crucial -  but to build a New Ireland we can all be part off and indeed proud off.

For the almost 100 years since partition the cosy political consensus in Dublin between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour have been happy to acquiesce to the injustice of partition.

The rights and entitlements of Irish citizens in the north have always been a second or third or fourth consideration if indeed a consideration at all.

Sadly for many years this black spot when it came to Irish citizens here extended to the Aras.

That changed first when Mary Robinson in the early days of the Peace Process travelled here to Belfast and met with Gerry Adams and others.

Under Mary McAleese the Aras became a warm house for citizens here. In 1997 the Oireachtas approved as increase in funding to 317,000 to be used to assist Peace Building in the north.

Mary McAleese and her husband used this money wisely.

They supported the Peace Process and Reconciliation.

However in the past seven years this trend has not continued. 

Lip service has been resumed.

The decision not to attend any of the events to mark the centenary of the Rising here in the north is but one example of this.

Let me say clearly the Irish citizens of this part of Ireland deserve more than a garden party and platitudes from the Áras.

And at a time of political crisis with the ongoing Brexit debacle, at a time when people previously wedded to old constitutional norms are starting to explore in a very real way the need to look to an agreed united future on this island rather than pander to the whims of English Tories the leadership from the Aras has been lacking at this most pivotal of moments in our history.

Mar do Uachtarán beidh rudaí difriúl. Déanfaidh mé ionadaíocht ar pobal iomlán na hÉireann agus tabharfaidh mé ceannasaíocht don tír ar fad. 

As your President I can assure you this will be different.

I will take a lead in shaping that New Ireland.

I will be a regular visitor to the North. I will visit every border county and each of the six counties within my first six months as President.

I will meet with our Church and political leaders. I will meet the Loyal Orders and all sections of civil society. I will seek to use the office of the President to guide and to reconcile. To provide space and allow for debate and discussion and ultimately for agreement to prevail. 

The Rights and Entitlements of Irish Citizens in the north will be very much the business of this President.

The right of Irish Citizens to participate in the political life of their Nation will be very much the business of this President.

The advancement of the goal of a New and United Ireland will be very much the business of this President.

I will be a new President for a new Ireland. 

Beidh mé mar Uachtarán nua, d’Éirinn nua.

Bígí liom a cháirde, agus beirimís bua.

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has condemned those responsible for erecting an offensive sign on the M1.

The South Antrim MLA said:

 “It is reprehensible in this day and age that someone would erect such a sign. However, it is not surprising. This racist and homophobic action is a direct consequence of the failure in leadership specifically within the DUP, and political unionism more generally.

“Over the summer the largest, most vibrant, colourful Pride parades took place across Ireland, and thousands of people have also taken to the streets in support of Acht Gaelige.

 “This sent a clear message that the tide is changing.

“The majority of MLAs and people in the north support marriage equality and language rights being extended to the north. They are fed up to the back teeth with this sort of vile bigotry and intolerance.

“If the DUP and others will not end their denial of rights, then the Irish and British governments must act to deliver on citizens’ rights in this state. The denial of parity of esteem to Irish citizens in the north, and equality for the LGBT community should be addressed as a priority at the next meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

“I have reported this sign as a hate crime to the PSNI and called for its immediate removal.”

ENDS/CRIOCH

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Sinn Fein Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has condemned the continued practice of the government misleading the Dáil on budget day in regards to it's mental health allocation.

He was responding to an answer received from a Parliamentary Question that revealed just €35 million of the announced €84 million is actually new money for services.

Deputy Buckley said;

"This is the 3rd time in a row the government have sought on budget day to mislead the Dáil and the people on Mental Health funding.

"There was much fanfare during the Minister for Finances speech when he announced €84 million euro additional funding for 2018. It soon became clear that €29 million of that was actually for already existing pay agreements.

"This left the €55 million which Minister Daly had been saying all of last year was being planned for this budget.

"Now following responses to questions from myself and Gerry Adams TD we know that even this number is not accurate.

"The additional money for 2019 mental health services will be just €35 million. This is because €20 million of the announced €55 million is actually a carry over from funding announced last year.

"Given the rapidly increasing demand on existing mental health services, staff shortages and need for new developments, a major investment of new money was needed for 2019.

"No only has this not happened but the government has sought to make fools of us by playing with the figures."

ENDS

Editor's notes:

Link to PQ: https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2018-10-16a.864

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has sought an urgent meeting with the Health and Social Care Board amid growing concern for GP services in the Dungannon area.

Speaking today the party's Carers spokesperson said:

 "GP services in the Dungannon area are coming under increasing pressures at present with efforts to retain GPs becoming more challenging.

"Added to this, the coming winter will bring additional pressures as it does every year.

"While I accept the Health and Social Care Board is making efforts to address these difficulties I am not convinced these are effective and other approaches to protect GP services in the community moving forward may need to be considered. 

"The Board needs to listen to the concerns being raised by GPs and the communities that rely on them.

"I will be meeting with the board on Tuesday to discuss the sustainability of GP services in the area moving forward and pressing with them the need to deal with the immediate challenges GP services here face."

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Speaking today from Belfast, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that “the imposition of Brexit fundamentally changes the relationship between Ireland and Britain” and that we “cannot allow stability and peace on our island to be destroyed by Brexit”.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“The Peace process has redefined relationships across Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. We now have a generation for whom conflict is history and violence the past.

“We cannot take peace and progress for granted is it something that constantly needs care and nurturing. Our peace process and the Good Friday Agreement must be protected in all its parts. We cannot allow stability and peace on our island to be destroyed by Brexit.

“The imposition of Brexit fundamentally changes the relationship between Ireland and Britain. There cannot be an imposition of a hard border in Ireland. It is not an option for anyone and the people will not tolerate it.

“We have achieved much; we have a resilient and robust peace process. There can be no excuse for a return to conflict under any circumstances or provocation. We have a peaceful and democratic pathway for change.

“It is reckless to risk progress, our agreements, and all that has been achieved over the past decades.

“No leader or politician of integrity would be prepared to play chicken or poker with our future and our peace.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has called on the BBC to end its historic neglect of Gaelic games by extending televised coverage of the GAA, including Club Championship games. 

The party’s Culture, Arts and Sport spokesperson was commenting after launching her online petition ‘BBC, end the historic neglect of GAA coverage’. 

Sinéad Ennis said:

“Today i’m launching an online petition which is calling on the BBC to end their historic neglect of Gaelic games. 

“I have been highlighting this issue for well over a year now and i’m disappointed that there has been no significant progress or investment made by the BBC to extend their coverage of GAA. 

“This issue is gaining traction among GAA fans who are rightly angry and frustrated at the BBC’s lack of coverage of the largest spectator sport in the north.

“The GAA has over a quarter of a million members and simply want parity and equality from the broadcaster that we pay our licence fee to and this must be reflected in their coverage. 

“I’m calling on Gaels across Ulster to sign the petition and join the campaign to ensure the BBC begin to show fair play for Ulster Gaels.”

Sign the petition here: https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/bbc-end-the-historic-neglect-of-gaelic-games

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for carers and well-being Colm Gildernew MLA has raised serious concerns over the ongoing shortage of EpiPens which is expected to last several months.

EpiPens are an emergency injection that can be administered by people, or their families, who have taken a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylactic shock.

The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA said: “The shortage of EpiPens, including Junior EpiPens, is deeply concerning for those with severe allergies who need them, as well as their families.

"While I welcome the provision of guidance to GPs and parents from the Department of Health in relation to the shortage, there is still a lack of public awareness on this issue. More must be done to ensure everyone that needs to know about the EpiPen shortage is fully aware of what it means for them.

"What is most distressing is this shortage is set to continue for a number of months with little detail as to what has caused it and why it will persist.

"The reality is that in many situations access to EpiPens is the difference between life and death.

"I have requested an urgent meeting with the Department of Health to insist that more needs to be done to ensure all parents and families are fully informed about the shortage of EpiPens and supported to manage the risks this brings to the well-being of those with severe allergies."  

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Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has said the confirmation of a new health hub in Belfast city centre will help to address health inequalities and support the homeless. 

The party’s health spokesperson was commenting after the Department of Health confirmed that it will provide £225,000 to support this service. 

Pat Sheehan said: 

“This centre is a welcome step in addressing health inequalities through mental health counselling, nursing and podiatry treatment. 

“I want to commend the Department of Health for this investment, we now need to see a location for the centre identified as soon as possible.”

Housing spokesperson Carál Ní Chuilín MLA added: 

“Sadly over recent years we have seen rising levels of homelessness around Belfast city centre and across the north. 

“This includes some of the most vulnerable people in our society who face many challenges often with little support. 

“The news that a dedicated health hub is set to open in the city centre is a positive initiative to outreach to people with help and support.”

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Sinn Féin MLAs  Declan Kearney and Mártin Ó Muilleoir today met with the General Secretary of the Scottish TUC Grahame Smith, his Welsh counterpart Martin Mansfield, and the Assistant Secretary of the ICTU, Owen Reidy. 

During this discussion the Sinn Féin representatives outlined the party’s position on Citizens Rights and Brexit.

Following the meeting Declan Kearney stated:

“During our meeting with the Trade Union representatives we provided them with a very detailed assessment of the current political situation here.

“We outlined the ongoing denial of rights and denial of democracy as a result of the DUP/Tory alliance.

“We also had a very lengthy discussion about the catastrophic impact that Brexit will have on the regional economy, the island economy and the direct threat which it poses to the Good Friday Agreement.

"We were assured of the support from both the Welsh TUC and the Scottish TUC for the delivery of rights here in the North, rights which are taken for granted in other parts of these islands, and in relation to the defence and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

“For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to directly engage with the labour movement and next week I will be meeting with the General Secretary of ICTU in Dublin.

“Our party will continue to engage with the wider Labour Movement to ensure that awareness is increased and heightened in relation to the political crisis here in the North, the dangers that arise from Brexit and to build the type of political alliances which are necessary to create the circumstances which allow for the re-establishment of the political institutions here in the North on the basis of rights, integrity and accountability.”

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Sinn Féin’s Children and Young People spokesperson Catherine Kelly MLA has encouraged more people to consider becoming adoptive parents, as this week marks Adoption Awareness Week. She said:

“As of 31 March 2018, 3109 children were in care in the north of Ireland, the highest number since the introduction of the Children (NI) Order 1995. Almost 700 of them are under the age of five.

 “Although the needs and circumstances of each child are unique, safe family settings are a major way of supporting and helping children.

“Children in care tend to have lived through difficult experiences and thus they can express their feelings through behaviours, which can be challenging. However, these children deserve to be loved and grow up in a family where they can be nurtured and encouraged to develop.

“There are a lot of myths around who can and can’t adopt children. However you can adopt if you’re over the age of 21, whether you’re single or in a couple, and regardless of your sexual orientation, religion or ethnic background.

“Foster and adoptive parents are a major asset to our society, and really are some of the unsung heroes. I would encourage more parents to consider adopting, and becoming a hero.” 

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has accused Theresa May of showing ‘contempt for democracy’ by refusing a joint meeting with the leaders of the North’s leading anti-Brexit parties.

Michelle O’Neill was commenting after revealing that the British Prime Minister has turned down a request for talks with the leaders of Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and Green Party.

She said: “Our four parties represent the pro-Remain majority in the North. We are due to have a meeting with Leo Varadkar together in the coming period. We have met Michel Barnier together but today Theresa May has refused our request for a joint meeting.

“This is just the latest example of the contempt for democracy being shown by Theresa May’s government.

“In order to preserve her toxic alliance with the DUP, she is trampling over the rights of citizens by acquiescing to that party’s refusal to share power on the basis of equality.

“And by refusing to meet their representatives, Theresa May is also ignoring the democratic will of the majority in the north who voted to reject Brexit.

“This British Government is clearly incapable of acting responsibly or with any semblance of impartiality while it remains wedded to the DUP.

“Theresa May is showing nothing but disdain for the people of the north, for the Good Friday Agreement, for our economy and rights and for the peace process.

“It is an appalling failure of her responsibilities as a co-equal guarantor of our peace and political process and there is an onus on the Irish Government and EU27 to defend our best interests during this critical stage of the Brexit negotiations.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has written to the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in relation to a suspected BSE case on a dairy farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The party’s agriculture spokesperson said:

“I have written to the Head Vet of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) asking for all available information about this very serious development.

“I am pleased that he is in regular contact with his counterpart in Scotland and that he will continue to monitor the situation as the ongoing investigation into the cause of this case continues.

“My party colleague Martin Kenny TD has also made representation to the Chief Veterinary Officer of DAFM asking the same questions and to ensure that we have an all island protection plan.

“I welcome that the Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed that the finding in Scotland will not impact on the north’s Negligible Risk Status.

“I have spoken directly to the DAERA Permanent Secretary as well who gave me the same assurances.

“Ireland has robust measures and controls in place ensure that the beef is quality product and safe to eat. 

“I have also asked the Department to make any advice they have available to farmers, so they can take whatever steps necessary.”  

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Sinn Féin Louth TD and former Party Leader Gerry Adams has extended his deepest sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Paddy Duffy and to the Fianna Fáil party.

Gerry Adams said:

“Paddy Duffy was part of the Fianna Fáil delegation that was authorised by Charlie Haughey to meet with Sinn Féin on two occasions in 1988.

“Later, he worked closely with Bertie Ahern during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and in the following years.

“I met Paddy on many occasions. He was a very likeable man. I am sure that among his many friends none more so than Bertie Ahern will grieve at his passing.

“I want to extend by deepest condolences and sympathies to Paddy’s family and many friends and to the Fianna Fáil party.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.” 

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Speaking in his constituency today, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture Martin Kenny TD said that reports of a farm being on lock down due to the discovery of BSE in Scotland are very worrying and that co-operation between veterinary and agricultural authorities North and South must act to prevent a spread to this island.

Deputy Kenny said:

“I have written to the Chief Veterinary Officer at the Department of Agriculture to urge him to co-operate fully with our Northern counterparts to ensure that this island is protected from BSE.

“There is extensive import of livestock from Scotland into the North and in the past we have managed to implement the strictest controls to prevent the spread of disease to this island.

“Sinn Féin has also contacted the Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs in the North to see what measures are being taken there.

 “The North previously achieved Negligible Risk Status and it is vital that this status is protected. The island of Ireland has very robust mechanisms to prevent and monitor BSE and other risks to animal health and to ensure that the food chain remains uncontaminated.

“I hope to hear from the CVO today that he has contacted his Northern counterpart to put a plan in place while we await further information about this worrying development.” 

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