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The Tories’ disgusting ‘rape clause’ will disproportionately impact women in the north of Ireland due to legal complexities, Michelle Gildernew MP has said.

The policy, which will force women to prove that they were raped if they wish to claim child tax credits for a third child, may criminalise service workers dealing with the vulnerable women in question for not disclosing these traumatic incidents under the Criminal Law Act of 1967.

The Fermanagh South Tyrone MP said:

“The very idea of this policy is a clear indication of the inhumanity and cruelty that has characterised the Tories’ war on welfare, and assault on the poor.

“This approach adopted by the British government specifically targets women, children and those living in poverty.

“It is now clear that this will have a disproportionate impact on women residing in the north.

“If women are forced to disclose a rape to claim child tax credits, service workers from a variety of areas who gain knowledge of the incident may be liable for prosecution if they don’t disclose it to police.

“This is an immoral and entirely unjustified position for someone to be placed in for simply doing their job and aiding the vulnerable.

“This is a dark chapter in the Tories' already damning treatment of society’s most vulnerable. They now have a moral obligation to bring this disgraceful attack on women, and the poor, to an end."

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Sinn Féin TD for Meath West, Peadar Tóibín TD has criticised Fianna Fáil for rejecting the Sinn Féin Wind Turbine Bill last night.

The Bill sought to ensure that community consultation was integral to the development of wind energy and proposed measures including minimum setback distances and optional co-ownership for local residents.

While at national level modest protections such as this safeguarding local communities are being rejected, locally both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors in areas across the state are rejecting the development of any wind turbines at all in their locality.

Deputy Tóibín said:

“Last night, the Sinn Féin Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2016 was brought to the Dáil whose purpose was to protect rural communities and to give them a voice as regards the development of wind farms in their locality.

“The Bill was to put a legal framework for wind farm development by the proposal of setback distance of ten times the height of the turbine, along with provisions to protect against noise and shadow flicker. The Bill also allowed for both optional community ownership and greater consultation.

“The Bill was rejected by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael last night. These modest protections for local communities are being rejected at a national level – while in local councils across the state Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors are actually rejecting proposals for the development of wind turbines at all. This opposition to wind turbines locally is flying in the face of their TDs who argued last night that having minimum setback distances would hamper the development of renewable energy in Ireland.

“We have seen how greatly rural communities have suffered and continue to suffer because of a lack of consultation and legislation in the erection of these turbines. What is especially galling is that Fianna Fáil and the government did not object to a similar bill when it was initially tabled 2014 by Sinn Féin. This Bill was allowed to progress unopposed until it withered in committee.  

“There is a dire need for a firm legal framework for wind farm development to safeguard our rural regions and the two-faced hypocrisy of both Fianna Fáil and the government are making this impossible.” 

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on the Arts, Peadar Tóibín TD, has commended the continued success of Culture Night which has turned into highlight of Ireland’s cultural calendar by allowing hundreds of thousands of Irish people access to cultural events and venues throughout the state. However, Deputy Tóibín has said that the government should consider looking at ways at improving access in a year round fashion to young people.

The Meath West TD said:  

“Culture Night is a terrific initiative and brings towns and cities alive. There is a palpable atmosphere of excitement and exploration on the streets on this night every year and it is a tremendous way of opening up the arts to the wider public.

“Culture Night is now in its 13th year and its success is down to those working in the arts as well as legions of volunteers who give their free time and energy to this night. Hundreds of thousands of people are given insight into a world of culture. The beauty is in the variety of events which are on offer, offering a unique glimpse into the craft and love that underpin the creative field.

 “With over 3,000 events this year, this will be the biggest Culture Night programme to date. These are spread out throughout the state with an array of largely family-friendly events on show. This includes tours of museums, galleries, workshops, exhibitions to dramas, dance, design - you name it.

“However, the government should consider looking at ways at improving access in a year round fashion to young people. For very little cost to the state the government could extend free access to young people a number of times of year.

“Today, I would urge everyone to check out the Culture Night website and see what’s happening in their locality. This is an exciting opportunity to experience the arts in an intimate and unique way – and all free of charge.” 

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Dúirt urlabhraí Shinn Féin ar an nGaeilge, an Teachta Peadar Tóibín go riabh sé riachtanach go dtugfaí maoiniú mar is cuí dos na limistéir pleanála teanga leis na pleananna éagsúla a chur i bhfeidhm.

Cháin an Teachta Tóibín an ráiteas a bhí ag an tAire McHugh a dúirt gur “céim shuntasach chun tosaigh” a bhí i gceist agus na chéad trí plean teanga faofa go hoifigiúil aige aréir agus gan an roinn sásta an t-airgead atá de dhíth ó na heagrais a thabhairt dóibh.

Dúirt an Teacht Tóibín:

“Tá a fhios againn uilligh an bhagairt atá ann maidir le inmharthanacht na Gaeilge mar theanga phobail sa Ghaeltacht. Le cúpla bliain anuas bhí sé mar mhanna ag na hAirí le cúram na Gaeltacht orthu go raibh pleanáil teanga ar bun a rachaidh i ngleic le mórfhadhbanna na gceantar maidir le creimeadh teanga. Anois níl an roinn tuillteanach na pleananna teanga seo a mhaoiniú i gceart.

“Le breis is dhá bhliain anuas bhí eagrais agus daoine áitiúla ag treabhadh le chéile le pleananna suntasacha, cuimsitheacha a bheartú leis an Ghaeilge a chaomhnú agus a neartú.  Tá costais faoi leith i gceist leis na gníomhartha a bhaint amach. Ach anois tá an roinn a rá leis na limistéar pleanála teanga uilligh nach bhfuil ach €100,000 ar fáil do gach ceantar.

“Is masla é seo don phobal Ghaeltachta. Anois agus na pleananna leagtha amach agus le buiséid faoi leith acu, tugtar le fios nach mbeifear in ann iad a chur i gcrích de bharr easpa airgid. Tá sé do-chreidte go bhfuil an tAire McHugh in ann a rá gan náire gur “céim shuntasach chun tosaigh” é gur faofadh na chéad pleananna seo agus gan an infheistíocht cheart a chur ar fáil dóibh.

“Tá imní orm go dteipfidh ar na pleananna teanga seo de bharr easpa maoiniú agus foirne. Ní bheidh Limistéar Pleanála Teanga Ghaoth Dobhair, Anagaire, Rann na Feirste agus Loch an Iúir in ann ach duine amháin a fhostú in áit triúir de bharr nach bhfuil ach 60% den airgead a bhí de dhíth acu á chur ar fáil dóibh.

“Is léir nach bhfuil an roinn nó an tAire McHugh i ndáiríre faoi athbheochan na Gaeltachta agus na Gaeilge. Táim ag impí ar an Aire McHugh seasamh docht a thógáil ar chás breis maoinithe a aimsiú agus an fód a sheasamh ar son chearta na bpobail Gaeltachta.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD commenting on the speech by the British Prime Minister Theresa May in Italy today said:

“The British Prime Ministers speech failed to provide any of the certainty she spoke of on the main issues confronting the EU and British negotiators. It was nothing but the same old story. It failed to deliver or impress.

“On the three main areas under discussion at this time, there was nothing new. Ms May repeated the same platitudes and language on the Good Friday Agreement and the border that she has used for almost a year. There was no hard proposal or detail. On the issue of EU citizen’s rights, which include all those living in the North, the British PM reiterated her total opposition to any real role for the European Court of Justice. And she did not deal in any meaningful way with the issue of the settlement Bill. 

“On the basis of today’s speech and in the absence of any substantial progress toward a resolution of these three key issues, the Irish government should oppose any move toward the next phase of negotiations on trade at the October EU Summit.

“In defence of the economies of this island, the government should insist on special designated status for the North as a way of keeping the island of Ireland within the Single Market and Customs Union.

“It should also insist, as one way of defending the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement, that the Good Friday Agreement will be included as a Protocol in the withdrawal treaty. This would provide legal protection for the Agreement following Brexit.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said Theresa May's comments on Brexit today are incompatible with protecting the Good Friday Agreement. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"What we heard today in Florence from Theresa May was heavy on aspiration and light on detail. 

"She did not adequately address any of the concerns around Ireland, citizen's rights and the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts. 

"It is clear that Brexit is bad for Ireland. It is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement and nothing Theresa May said today changes that. 

"Theresa May spoke about not accepting physical infrastructure on the border but then followed it up with making it clear they intend to leave the Single Market and Customs Union and drag us out with them. That simply doesn't add up. 

"She also made it clear that the British government would not accept the European Court of Justice which would leave our rights open to attack by the Tories. 

"Our position is clear. We want to see the entire of island of Ireland remaining in the EU, including in the single market and customs union. That means securing special status for the north within the EU."

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Sinn Féin's Paul Maskey MP has said the party's participation in the British Labour party conference this weekend is an opportunity to raise rights issues, austerity and the impact of Brexit with the British left.

Speaking in advance of the conference, Paul Maskey said:

“At the British Labour party conference this weekend, Elisha McCallion MP and I will be engaging on a host of issues affecting the people of Ireland.

“On Sunday we're hosting our annual Sinn Féin fringe event, this year discussing the impact on the people of Ireland of Brexit, austerity and difficulty created by the right wing Tory-DUP pact. British shadow Secretary of State to the north, Owen Smith, and writer Kevin Meagher will also be in attendance.

“Throughout the week I will also be sharing our thoughts on the Kurdish peace process, and how to fight Brexit in Ireland at the Momentum conference 'The World Transformed'.


“As MPs we critically engage with progressive movements in Britain, in Europe and around the world. This gives us the opportunity to raise the profile of the issues facing Ireland, north and south.”

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Speaking today at a debate hosted by the NBRU in Dunboyne, Co. Meath on the Future of Public Transport, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Transport Imelda Munster TD stressed the need for ambitious vision and strategic investment as we plan for the future of our public transport services across the island.  

Deputy Munster said:

“Public transport is the most effective way to reduce traffic congestion, improve local and larger economies, and link communities. It also plays an important role in reducing emissions in the coming years.

“Having a first class public transport system will solve a myriad of transport problems. In order to build such a service, we need increased capital investment and an increase in state subvention. I would like to see the creation of proper transport hubs, high speed rail lines, and a service that links communities and cities north and south of the border.

“I hope that Minister for Transport Shane Ross will put the transport needs of the people first and not the interests of private enterprise. We need an ambitious plan going forward to remedy the damage done during the recession when services were left to crumble. Perhaps the most pressing challenge today is that faced by Iarnród Éireann, which through years of underinvestment and gross neglect, has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that passenger safety may be compromised.”

Deputy Munster also cautioned against the continuation of the apparent privatisation agenda of government and the National Transport Authority.

“Public transport is a public service, and cannot be expected to be always profit making. The service provided is so important in connecting people and communities, and plays an important role linking rural Ireland and urban centres.

“I fear that the 10% of Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus routes already put out to tender is only the beginning of what will be a disastrous privatisation project. We need to keep public transport in public ownership and we need to invest in the service to ensure that it can improve. Currently, there are over 93,000 households, and that is a conservative estimate, who do not have access to public transport, and we know that there are many people who have disabilities and do not have access to transport. We need to invest in these services to ensure that everyone has access to transport and nobody is left behind.” 

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Responding to the speech from British Prime Minister Theresa May this afternoon, Sinn Féin Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane TD said the speech did not address the problem for Ireland and called on the Irish Government to ensure that the next phase of discussions do not proceed before the issues relating to Ireland are sufficiently addressed.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“Theresa May’s Brexit speech today is high on rhetoric, but short on detail.  It does not address the problems for Ireland.

“The British Government needs to realise that there can be no better and brighter future for people in Ireland if the North is taken out of EU and of the Customs Union.

“The British government has published papers on Ireland which have not addressed the key issues of avoiding a border, citizens’ rights, and protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

“It is deeply disappointing that the issues in relation to Ireland have not moved on in any substantial way.

“Instead, they have adopted a head in the sand approach and worse still, cynically used the unique circumstances in Ireland to try to gain advantage on wider issues.

“It is clear that Brexit is bad for Ireland.

“There is no good Brexit for the Irish economy, north and south.

“Brexit is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement.

“If Theresa May and the Tories have their way, the north of Ireland will be taken out of the European Union, the Customs Union, and the Single Market against its will.

“The Good Friday Agreement is an international agreement that is underpinned by the EU status of the north.

“Sinn Féin’s position is clear; the entire island of Ireland must remain within the European Union and the Good Friday Agreement must be protected, in all its parts, by the European Union.

“This can be achieved through special designated status for the north within the European Union.

“This must involve the north staying in the Customs Union and the Single Market, the Good Friday Agreement incorporated as a protocol in the final withdrawal agreement, and the rights of the EU citizens in the north respected and vindicated.

“The Irish government must make it crystal clear that there can be no moving to the next phase of discussions until the issues relating to Ireland are sufficiently resolved.

“Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for the interests of the people of Ireland north and south.” 

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Responding to yesterday’s safety incident at the Ballinaboy gas terminal, Sinn Féin Senator from Mayo Rose Conway-Walsh has said it is completely unacceptable that, at the very least, residents in the Kilcolman Parish area were not notified of what was happening at the terminal yesterday.

Senator Conway-Walsh said:

“Some people in the community received a text late yesterday evening with scant information. I am furious that people were left in a situation overnight where they did not know whether they should leave their homes or not. People were already aware that Shell had evacuated their own staff earlier in the day, which added to the confusion.

“There must be an immediate investigation into these occurrences. Firstly into what caused the incident to happen and secondly as to why local residents were not communicated within a full and timely manner.

“Customers of Gas Networks Ireland were also left in a vulnerable situation. The supply of unscented gas is dangerous by the mere fact that people cannot smell a leak or if an appliance has been left on. This is apart from the inconvenience and disturbance caused to households, businesses and crucial facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes where services are dependent on a reliable source of energy.

“The question remains - who exactly is responsible? Several statutory authorities and agencies were involved in granting permissions and licences to this project. Now when this happens nobody seems to know where the buck stops.

“I have requested that Minister Denis Naughten come before the Seanad on Tuesday afternoon to account for the Government’s role in this debacle.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will host a delegation of students from meánscoileanna across the north to the European Parliament next week. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"Next week I will be brining students from six meánscoileanna across the north to the European Parliament in Brussels to see at first hand the role the Irish language plays in the Parliament as an official language of the EU. 

"The pupils will get the opportunity to visit the European Parliament chamber and see the Irish language translation services, as well as visiting the Parliamentarium, an interactive interpretative centre explaining the history of the EU which for a tour conducted in Irish. 

"The group will also meet my colleague Liadh Ní Riada who will speak to them about the role of the Irish language int he European Parliament and the job opportunities that exist through Irish in the Parliament. 

"They will also learn about the Erasmus study exchange programme to learn about the opportunities of studying across the EU."

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Mickey Brady MP has called on members of the international community to support the right of the Catalan people to hold an independence referendum on 1st October amid mounting Spanish opposition to the vote.

The Newry & Armagh MP said:

“In recent days we have seen a gross infringement on the right of the Catalan people to self-determination.

“In order to shut down the historic people’s referendum, the Spanish authorities have responded with raiding government offices, arresting officials, issuing massive fines, threats of legal action to hundreds of elected representatives, and the withdrawal of credit to the Government of Catalonia.

“More worrying, still, is the encroachment on the free press in Catalonia and the raiding of newspaper offices. This must be condemned outright by human rights advocates everywhere.

“For any resolution to be reached, the Spanish government must end this unjust interference and harassment immediately. Images of Guardia Civil seizing ballot boxes do not reflect well on any democratic state.

“This is coercion, plain and simple. It is also an attempt to subdue the passion for self-determination held by the people of Catalonia. The massive demonstrations organised in response to Spanish interference is evidence of this.

“I call on the international community and citizens in Europe to make their support for Catalan democracy known, and urge the Spanish government to respect the free press, freedom of assembly and the right of Catalan citizens to determine their future.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson Brexit and Workers’ Rights David Cullinane TD said today that the issue of low-hour contracts, not zero-hour contracts, is the one facing workers today and that the government’s proposals are weak and ineffective.

The Waterford TD said:

“The government’s proposal to tackle zero-hour working practices is a white elephant.

“Zero-hours working practices have been severely restricted in the south since 1997. The issue is low-hour and if-and-when contracts.

“They have led to serious issues in terms of employment security and stability for ordinary workers and they should be curtailed through legislation

“This was the main finding of the University of Limerick report into the issue of work contracts in 2015.

“The government's proposals will not do that as they are designed to ‘outlaw’ a practice that is at the margins of contract arrangements, while ignoring the key issue which is precarious work.

“I have produced a bill that will tackle if-and-when contracts.

“The Banded Hours Bill was supported by the Dáil and went through a rigorous process of pre-legislative scrutiny in the Jobs Committee. The Committee produced a report and backed the bill with amendments.

“It is now ready to be amended and I will be asking for leave to refer it back to committee at the earliest opportunity.

“An unregulated labour market is in no-one’s interests. It dehumanises workers, puts huge pressure on the State in social transfers, reduces people’s disposable income and impoverishes households and children.

“There is an onus on the State to regulate the labour market and ensure that workers’ rights, in terms of pay and conditions, are protected in law.

“My Bill strengthens workers’ rights by giving them access to a contract with which they can plan their lives. It will make a positive difference and I look forward to bringing it back to the Dáil for a final vote to make it law.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that securing a referendum on a united Ireland would be a momentous and historic opportunity to build a society that served all Irish citizens.

Carthy, who was speaking last night at a meeting in NUIG on a United Ireland, said:

“Something big is happening in Ireland right now. Brexit has accelerated a debate on Irish Unity that was always inevitable.

“The prospect of the North of Ireland being removed from the European Union against the will of the people there, and a reinforcing of the border in Ireland, has raised many questions about the future.

“Most people understand that it makes no political, economic or social sense to have one part of this island inside the EU and another outside.

“Many are saying that we need to look now at how to create new political structures that will benefit all of our people North and South.

“We must protect our industry, our farmers, our workers, and our students for whom Brexit is a potential catastrophe.

“Brexit has created an entirely new dynamic for the building of a new and agreed United Ireland.

“We should all be working together with the common objective of convincing the greatest possible number of people across Ireland that Unity is in their best interest.  

“And let us convince those who think otherwise that they have nevertheless nothing to fear from the outcome of a referendum.

“Brexit, as well as demographic and political changes in the North, have demonstrated that we urgently need an inclusive, constructive debate on our future. This must include constitutional options and what a United Ireland might look like.”

Carthy says that as Britain jettisoned its previous relationship with Europe, and becomes increasingly insular and isolated, the appeal of being part of a new and outward-looking Ireland would prove ever more attractive to young people from a unionist background.

“A new, united Ireland will be pluralist, inclusive, and accommodating to all our people in all their diversity. Let’s remember that the Orange tradition is an Irish tradition.

“Unionists and nationalists, North and South, cannot continue to seek to live separately. Our futures are bound together. Economy and society across the island of Ireland are intertwined. The prospect of Brexit has merely served to highlight that reality.

“Back-to-back development and wasteful duplication serves nobody, in either jurisdiction. It is unarguable that a United Ireland will act as a spur for economic growth, job creation and a society across the whole island where all our citizens can prosper.

“Securing a referendum on Irish unity would be a momentous and historic opportunity for all the people of Ireland, allowing us to vote for the kind of government and society we wish to see.

“We now have a unique opportunity to build a future beyond Partition, sectarianism and division. It is a historic opportunity to build a society that serves the interests of all the people who share this island. It’s an opportunity to deliver a United Ireland.  Let’s seize it.” 

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has responded to Leo Varadkar’s speech at IBEC’s annual dinner last night describing the Taoiseach’s vision for Ireland as “Thatcherism with a fresh coat of paint”.

Teachta Adams said;

“There is nothing new in the Taoiseach Varadkar’s IBEC speech. It is aimed at a section of the electorate which Fine Gael hopes to woo. In reality, Leo’s vision is Irish Thatcherism with a fresh coat of paint. In Taoiseach Varadkar’s ‘Mé Féin Ireland’, if you fall behind you are on your own.

“When Leo Varadkar talks about a ‘culture of aspiration’ or a ‘culture of dependency’ or ‘victimhood’, he is really saying that he is a Taoiseach for the well-off in society.

“Citizens caught at the sharp end of the crises in housing and health have aspirations. They also have personal ambitions. The society shaped by the establishment parties in this state means that the odds are always tilted against them. These people are not only the homeless or the poor, older citizens or folks denied proper health care. They include the majority of people whose lives are consumed with the effort to rear their families.

“The best way to improve the lives of those struggling to get by is to invest in public services. Introducing tax cuts means that the Taoiseach is choosing not to deal with the crises in health and housing. He is firmly setting this state on a path whereby the necessities of having a roof over your head and access to timely healthcare or education and childcare are reserved as privileges rather than rights.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has wished the Derry GAA ladies team well ahead of Sunday's all-Ireland final. 

The Foyle MP said: 

"I want to wish the Derry GAA ladies team all the best as they prepare for Sunday's All-Ireland ladies final against Fermanagh in Croke Park. 

"Reaching an All-Ireland final is a fantastic achievement and is the culmination of months of training and effort on the part of the team, the coaching staff and the entire panel. 

"The fact that we have another Derry team in an All-Ireland final in Croke Park following the appearance of the Derry minor team in last week's minor final shows the strength of Gaelic Games in this city and county. 

"Hopefully the ladies will have better luck on Sunday and bring home the Junior Championship trophy back to Derry. 

"I'm sure the city and county will be behind captain Cáit Class and all the ladies and I wish them all the best on Sunday." 

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster TD has reacted angrily to recent HSE correspondence to haemochromatosis patients attending the venesection clinic in Louth advising that from 1st September 2017 that a charge of €80 a visit would be brought into effect with a maximum charge of €800 annually.

Deputy Munster said:

“Whilst medical card holders are exempt from this levy, it puts an unfair burden on people who have been diagnosed with this condition. The financial means of these patients are not taken into account, though they may be just over the limit required for access to a medical card.

“Haemochromatosis is a life-long chronic illness and patients need regular venesections (the taking of blood) to keep their iron levels in check and to remain healthy.

“This charge of up to €800 a year could well prevent people from attending the venesection clinic which in turn will lead to patients potentially suffering from cirrhosis of the liver due to the build-up of iron, and other serious health problems.

“Given that this is a life-long chronic illness, it needs to be designated under the Long-Term Illness scheme. The health system doesn’t take into account a person’s ability to pay. The income thresholds for qualifying for a medical card are relatively low, and for people who sit just above that limit, this is an unfair and exorbitant charge.

“I have written to the Minister asking him to include haemochromatosis on the Long-Term Illness scheme so that people who require this ongoing treatment are not deterred from accessing it due to financial hardship. I hope that the Minister realises that this is an equality of access issue, and that the current situation is not fair for patients who are struggling to pay for this necessary treatment.” 

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Speaking at a Brexit Business Breakfast event in Belfast this morning Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald told attendees that the Good Friday Agreement must be attached as a Protocol to any withdrawal agreement between the EU and Britain and that the north must remain within the Customs Union and the Single Market.  

The Dublin Central TD said:

“Britain’s referendum on exiting the European Union was born of deeply cynical and self-interested politics, and the absence of a cohesive Tory negotiation strategy post Brexit tells its own story.

“Both the British and Irish governments are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, an agreement that must be protected in all its parts. The GFA must be incorporated as a Protocol to any withdrawal agreement between Britain and the EU. This will not only protect the human rights provisions of the agreement for citizens, it would ensure that all Assembly legislation is in line with EU laws and regulations.

“The people of the North voted against Brexit and must not be dragged out of the EU against their democratic will. The Irish government has a particular responsibility to defend that vote and to act in the best interests of all people on this island.

“Designated special status for the north to remain in the EU will ensure that Ireland is treated as one single entity in the EU. It must also mean no land border and that the north remains in the Customs Union and the Single Market, even in the event that the Tories are unable to secure such an agreement for Britain.

“Brexit and a united Ireland are now fundamentally intertwined. Those who argue an opposing view have their heads in the sand. The die has been cast and none of us have the right to shirk the challenging debates ahead. Brexit has reenergised and reshaped the debate and we have a real opportunity now to deliver unity, prosperity and fair play for all on this island.” CRIOCH

Brexit and the Economics of a United Ireland

Mary Lou McDonald TD, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader

INTRODUCTION

Later this morning Theresa May will make a speech in Florence and if the reports are correct she will announce a twenty billion euro divorce in exchange for a deal that allows Britain remain in the single market and customs union.

What this deal will look like is anyone’s guess – but if May does seek such a deal it is further evidence that Britain is beginning to wake up to the import of the EU to the British economy, and the shocking flaws in her governments drive for a hard Brexit.

The notion that Britain could cut and run was always a pig in a poke.

Britain’s referendum on exiting the European Union was born of deeply cynical and self-interested politics, and the absence of a cohesive Tory negotiation strategy post Brexit tells its own story.

It is clear that the future of the north was not even a gleam in David Cameron’s eye when he ploughed ahead with the Brexit referendum. This in itself is an astonishing reality.

Brexit is most serious social, economic and political threat to the island of Ireland for a generation.

BREXIT, THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT AND SPECIAL DESIGNATED STATUS

Both the British and Irish governments are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, an agreement that secures the rights of citizens across this island. Yet Europe’s role in the GFA seems not to have crossed the Tory leaderships mind. In the context of the current political crisis, it would seem that the GFA seldom crosses their mind at all.

Whatever your political hue or none there is a collective a view that the GFA is sacrosanct – and that is why the agreement itself must play a central role is the designated special status for the north within the EU.

It must be protected in all its parts, and we are proposing that the GFA be incorporated as a protocol to the withdrawal agreement between Britain and the EU. Importantly this would not only protect the human rights provisions of the agreement for citizens, it would ensure that all Assembly legislation is in line with EU laws and regulations.

The people of the North voted against Brexit. The people of the north must not be dragged out of the European Union against the democratic will of the people. 

The Irish government has a responsibility to defend that vote and to act in the best interests of all the people of Ireland.

The Taoiseach has a responsibility to defend the Good Friday Agreement and to ensure that EU citizens living in the North continue to have their EU rights protected after Brexit.

Designated Special Status for the north to remain in the EU will ensure that Ireland is treated as one single entity in the EU.  This is better for us all.

Support for Designated Special Status for the north to remain in the EU is gaining momentum.

Designated special status must also mean no land border and that the north remains in the customs union and the single market – even in the event that The Tories are unable to secure such an agreement for Britain.

A land border does not just raise the prospect of all the challenges presented by the reinstating of customs checks or tariffs. As people in this room understand the cost of administrating a customs border will ultimately be passed on to businesses. This is simply unacceptable.

Roughly forty per cent of the north’s exports go to Britain. Whilst it is up to Theresa May to spell out how Britain see the customs union working for Britain post Brexit we do know that we cannot have tariff free trade between the north and south, and the opposite between the north and Britain. Special status means what it says on the tin.

Yet in the medium to long-term, even if special status is achieved, economic success will still be significantly stifled and the island’s potential – particularly the norths – will not be unleashed. Border counties will continue to suffer from the volatility that comes with fluctuating currencies’, a lack of inward investment and infrastructural deficits. 

That is why in my view Brexit and a united Ireland are now fundamentally intertwined. Those who argue an opposing view have their heads in the sand. The die has been cast and none of us have the right to shirk the challenging debates ahead.

Brexit has reenergised and reshaped the debate about a united Ireland.

Sinn Féin is seeking the support of all parties in the Oireachtas for a committee on Irish Unity.

We will also be bringing forward a White Paper on Irish Unity.

And we want to see a referendum on unity in the next five years.

We believe that this is achievable and winnable.

We also believe that this should be government policy.

UNLEASHING THE POTENTIAL OF A UNITED IRELAND

For our part we want to progress a debate that delivers for all peoples living on this island. Be it taxation, investment in infrastructure or the delivery of public services – we want a New Ireland that delivers unity, prosperity and fair play.

In 2015 Professor Huebner of Vancouver University produced a detailed modelling  document that projected the total combined Irish economy would in a short number of years be greater than the two separate economies, north and south, by approximately €35billion over a number year.

Let’s not forget Ireland the island is already integrated both economically and politically.

A recent InterTradeIreland and the ESRI report demonstrated our current trading relationships:

All-Ireland trade in goods was valued at €2.7 billion in 2016;

South to north trade was €1.65 billion

North to south trade was €1.05 billion

1,993 different categories of products are traded south to north;

2,269 different categories of products are traded north to south.

As a result of the GFA and the progress of the peace process a large number of bodies and organisations already work successfully on an all-island basis. Be it InterTradeIreland’s work SMEs, Tourism Ireland, the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann or the north south Ministerial Council – working to the benefit of all on this island is part and parcel of everyday life.

However where significant challenges remain is for business, industry and the farming sectors. Different tax, legal and currency regimes operating across Ireland creates unnecessary administrative costs and burdens for businesses hindering growth and the broader potential for the island.

Imagine what we could achieve with a single all-Ireland jobs and investment agency combing the current efforts of the IDA, InvestNI and InterTradeIreland? How attractive would a united Ireland package be for multi-nationals looking to establish new bases or grow existing investments in an English speaking base with full and unfettered access to the single market?

As Professor Huebner noted in his report - Attracting FDI is not only about implementing globally competitive tax rates but also, and in many ways more importantly, about restructuring an entire policy framework to attract and feed high value-added enterprises.

FDI can also play an important role in developing supply chain linkages for micro and small domestic enterprises, increasing knowledge transfer and productivity. 

Harmonising tax and legal structures for micro, small and medium size businesses – the life blood of both economies – and removing the unpredictability of  currency fluctuations would enable these businesses expand their client base.

The farming sector has also been stymied with issues such as two jurisdiction tagging systems and the diverging of animal health regulations. Post Brexit a new and united Ireland will become even more important for farmers and the agri-food sector.

CONCLUSION

The Good Friday Agreement and the peace process itself provide the island with a mechanism to achieve Irish unity. Our cross border relationships are already in place, an acknowledgement in itself of our shared future.

Irish unity opens up big questions, beyond what we will discuss here today. Families like enterprise and educators will have practical questions regarding the nuts and bolts of what unification will look like.

We know Irish unity is possible. We know we are in reality already part way there. We have only to look to the successful reunification of Germany to see that will the political will and of course support of the people our ambition for Ireland can be realised.

It is for the Irish government to accept that the best protection for the island of Ireland in any post Brexit arrangement is for the north to be designated Special Status within the EU.

We are stronger together than we can ever be apart.

For its part the Irish government must also be ambitious for Ireland in the face of Brexit in its demands of the European Union by:

Making a strong case for Designated Special Status for the North to ensure all of Ireland remains within the EU;

securing an exception to EU state aid rules;

leveraging of the structural funds to buffer the impact of Brexit north and south benefitting not only regional development but science and research also;

ensure the EU’s strategic infrastructure plans do not exclude the all island economy;

broaden the scope of the globalisation fund to support workers affected by Brexit and

the creation of a new Brexit solidarity fund  for investment and diversification programmes in sector and regions likely to be severely impacted by Brexit.

In tandem we have called on the Irish government to develop a real plan for Irish unity, and we are not alone in this demand.

Just last month a report by Joint-Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement recommended that the Irish government pro-actively plan and prepare for the reunification of Ireland.

The report also notes the role the EU would play in assisting that plan in the event of the people of the North voting for it in a unity border poll by calling on the EU to allow the people of the north to be admitted automatically to the EU without the necessity of an application process.

EU leaders have committed to protect Ireland’s interests and have guaranteed that the north could rejoin the EU as part of a united Ireland.

The debate on what Irish unity will look like is happening across the island, and the EU. This morning is an opportunity for us to not only deal with Brexit but to share our collective vision for a united, prosperous and equal Ireland.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD is in Tralee, County Kerry this evening for the launch of a new book entitled: ‘IRELAND’S HUNGER FOR JUSTICE.

The book tells the story of the hunger strikes undertaken by republicans in the last century beginning with Thomas Ashe in September 1917 and ending with the ten republican hunger strikers in 1981. The book was written by the Tomás Ághas Centenary Memorial Committee.

Speaking about the current political situation in the North Gerry Adams reiterated Sinn Féin’s commitment to the restoration of the political institutions.

He said:

“Negotiations to try and restore the political institutions in the North are taking place between the local parties and the Irish and British governments.

"Sinn Féin is fully committed to the power sharing institutions and we are working diligently to restore them.

"However, the lesson of recent years is clear; the political institutions can only work if they are based on equality, respect and integrity.”

The Sinn Féin leader also expressed his confidence that Irish Unity is achievable and winnable and he urged republicans, as part of the strategy to win Irish unity, to engage with unionism and seek their support.

He said:

“Brexit has reenergised and reshaped the debate about a United Ireland. There are many more people talking positively about a United Ireland than at any time in recent years.

"It is increasingly acknowledged as the outcome most capable of producing lasting peace, political stability and economic prosperity. Of course, it is essential that those of us who want a United Ireland articulate that view clearly, positively and in the context of the Good Friday Agreement.

"If we are serious about a United Ireland then we have to agree strategies that promote it. We have to present convincing and cogent arguments in favour of it.

"And we have to engage with unionism and seek to persuade that part of our society to support Irish unity.

"The potential for progress demands a new approach aimed at unlocking unionist opposition to a new future by reminding them of the positive contribution they have made to society on this island.

"Late last year Sinn Fein produced a discussion paper on Irish Unity. Others have produced detailed economic papers on the benefits of unity.

"This year also saw the Irish government commit to holding a referendum on voting rights for Presidential elections for citizens in the North and within the Irish diaspora.

"The European Union has also said that following Brexit, and in the event of Irish reunification, the North would automatically become a member of the EU.

"Several months ago, just before the Dáil recess, I wrote to the leaders of the political parties in the Oireachtas about establishing an all-party Oireachtas Committee on Irish unity. Sinn Féin will also be bringing forward a White Paper on Irish Unity. And we want to see a referendum on unity in the next five years.

"We believe that Irish Unity is achievable and winnable. But it is not inevitable. It has to be worked for. It has to be planned for. There are no short cuts. It is a huge challenge for those of us who want to go beyond the rhetoric of a United Ireland to the actual achievement of that objective.

"A United Ireland, free and prosperous would be the best monument we could build to Thomas Ashe, Terence MacSwiney, Frank Stagg, Bobby Sands and all their compatriots who hungered for justice.” 

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Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney attended the UNISON Northern Health Branch engagement with political parties in the Dunsilly Hotel today, and later the NHSCT savings plan consultation meeting in Mossley Mill.

Speaking afterwards Mr Kearney said;

"UNISON's meeting this morning for political parties set out in stark terms the implications of the cut backs tabled for discussion at the Northern Trust consultation later in the day.

"The reduction in health and social care services across the Northern Trust area totalling £13 million will be catastrophic. This decision is the consequence of unremitting net cuts by the Tories to the North's overall Block Grant, with resultant massive pressures on frontline health and social care provision.

"The attempt by NHSCT representatives to sugar coat the severity of these cutbacks during the consultation meeting was totally unconvincing. There is now clearly a threat to the future of Whiteabbey Hospital with the closure of rehabilitation services; for staffing levels at Antrim and Mid Ulster hospitals; and the very real prospect of lost and less bed provision in our local hospitals this winter.

"These proposals are indefensible. They represent a strategy to run down hospital services, community care and domiciliary care packages by stealth, and should be rejected.

"In that spirit, I urged UNISON's Northern Health Branch to co-ordinate a cross party delegation along with union representatives to seek urgent meetings with the Chief Executive and Chair of the NHSCT, and the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health to present a joint case for reversal of this plan immediately.

"Sinn Féin will continue to work with UNISON, other stakeholders and the wider community to oppose cuts, and secure reform of, and investment in local health and social care services" 

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