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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 MLA Karen Mullan has congratulated the organisers of the 24-hour Relay for Life event to raise awareness of Cancer and raise vital funds for Cancer Research.

The Foyle MLA said: 

“I would like to congratulate the organisers of the 24-hour Legenderry Relay for Life event which is taking place in St Columb’s Park with hundreds of people taking part. 

“This annual event is a result of months of hard work and effort by volunteers and local people to raise money for Cancer Research and to show cancer sufferers that they are not alone. 

“Cancer Research plays a vital role in the fight against cancer and providing support to thousands of people on a daily basis. Sinn Féin has called for increased investment for this service.”

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Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon has described a series of attacks on 1981 Hunger Strike Memorials as despicable and outrageous.

The attacks took place overnight at 1981 Hunger Strike memorials  at Ford’s Cross Silverbridge, Meigh Village and on the Newry A1 Bypass.

The south Armagh MLA said: 

“These outrageous attacks are clearly coordinated. They are a deliberate attempt to insult and antagonise local people who respect and cherish the memory of the 1981 hungers strikers. 

“All memorials should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be targeted in this way. 

“I have no doubt that the Republican community here will rise to the occasion and restore the monuments. 

“The desecration of any memorial or monument to the dead is despicable and these attacks should be roundly condemned by all.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and member of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee welcomes the publication of an independent report into the practice of bogus self employment at RTÉ. Deputy Cullinane had called for such a report when RTE appeared before the PAC and is calling on the Director General Dee Forbes to appear before the PAC again to discuss the reports findings. 

Speaking today Deputy Cullinane said:

“For some time I have been highlighting the practice of bogus self employment at RTÉ. This is a bad practice and is gaining traction across many sectors including the media. 

“Workers are being offered self employment contracts rather than being hired as direct employees. In most cases workers are forced into taking such contracts and as a consequence signing away their rights and entitlements as employees. 

“The Eversheds Sutherland Report highlights significant difficulties and inconsistencies in employment practices at RTÉ. The national broadcaster must take immediate and swift action. 

“I will be calling for the Director General to reappear before the PAC to discuss the reports findings and how the recommendations will be implemented.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin deputy Leader, Michelle O’Neill MLA has criticised Theresa May and the British Government, two years on to the day of the Brexit referendum. Michelle O’Neill said the British Government is on a dangerous collision course with Ireland and the rest of the EU, and has repeated Sinn Féin calls for the North to be designated special status within the EU.

She says, “This day two years ago on 23rd June 2016, 56% of the people in the north of Ireland voted to remain in the EU. They did so because it is in our best interests politically and economically to do so.

“There is massive concern in the north and across Ireland about the economic consequences of Brexit and the negative implications for key sectors of our economy which are becoming clear.

“What is certain is there is no good outcome from Brexit and there is no way to manage or minimise the negative impact of Brexit. 

“The North being forced to leave the EU against the expressed wishes of its people represents a major set-back for the political process in the north, directly challenges the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement and will have huge consequences for protections contained within it. It also fundamentally undermines the principle of consent.

“Sinn Féin believes the only credible approach is for the north to be designated a special status within the EU and for the whole island of Ireland to remain within the EU together.”

She added, “A senior Sinn Féin delegation met with the British Prime Minister earlier this week. We told Theresa May that their reckless Brexit is certain to cause untold social and economic damage to the whole of Ireland, including to those citizens the DUP claim to represent. It is mindless and a gross act of political vandalism.

“We told her we must stay within both the customs union and single market and that there can be no hard border in Ireland.

“This is critical to protecting investment, jobs, trade and the integrity of the peace process.

“The backstop agreed by the British and EU27 in December of last year is our insurance policy and it is the bottom line.

“The onus is on all political leaders to defend our political and economic interests but particularly so on the Irish Government who must stand firm in defending the interests of the entire island of Ireland and the rights of all citizens.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Older People Ian Milne has welcomed the relaunch of the 'Feel Safe' guide for older people concerned about their personal and family security.

Ian Milne commented: “The recent survey carried out by Age Sector Platform among those attending the local Pensioner Parliaments, clearly shows that fear of crime is a major concern. With over 900 attending, 42% said they had a higher fear of crime in the past two years. 

“The fear of crime and actual crime rates is an important distinction to make but it can be equally as devastating for a person who lives a life in fear.

"It is important for everyone to feel safe not only in their home but in their community and when they are out and about. The 'Feel Safe' guide provides a lot of helpful and realistic advice.

"I would encourage everyone to pick up a copy and to read it for themselves and for a family member as it is useful for all ages." ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said two years on from the disastrous Brexit referendum the EU must move to protect the rights of people in the north through special status. 

Martina Anderson 

"Tomorrow will mark two years since Britain took the disastrous decision to leave the EU. The majority of people in the north, of course, voted to remain but since then the Tories have ignored that democratic position and are intent on dragging us out with them. 

"In the last two years we have had nothing but chaos and division from the British government. Theresa May's cabinet is a battlefield and they have brought little to the ongoing Brexit negotiations. 

"Instead we have had two years of putting Ireland at risk economically, politically and socially. 

"It is time to say enough is enough. We need to move away from the reckless Tory Brexiteers and their allies through a special arrangement for the north of Ireland. 

"The EU must ensure the protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts and protect the rights of people in the north of Ireland. The Irish government too must stand firm and ensure we are not dragged over the Brexit cliff by the Tories. 

"Brexit is Britain's problem and the people of the north must not become its casualties." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has welcomed the Taoiseach’s reiteration at the British Irish Council summit that there can be no backsliding from the Backstop on the part of the British Government.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: 

“Whatever about the implications of Brexit for the people of Britain, it’s essential that the people of the North, who voted firmly to remain at the heart of Europe, continue to enjoy, access and exercise the full rights, benefits and opportunities of the European Union post-Brexit. 

"That means the British Goverment, despite the DUP’s demands for a Brexit at any cost, must swiftly bring forward, as Michel Barnier has said, ‘specific proposals' for the north. 

"However, additionally we also need to move the discussion towards the provision of a Solidarity/Relief Fund from the EU to mitigate the negative impact of the British exit from the EU on the North and border region, in particular, but indeed across the entire island.

"Britain's decision to leave the EU must not be allowed to set back 50 years the north's connectivity with the Continent and the EU.”

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Writing for An Phoblacht today Sinn Féin Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA said the party’s new policy on anti-sectarianism ‘One Community’ will be launched by Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald on Monday 25th June in the Houben Centre, Crumlin Road Belfast at 11am.

And the South Antrim MLA said anti-sectarianism should be at the heart of our political and civic institutions. 

Declan Kearney said: 

“Sinn Féin is absolutely committed to bringing about a rights-based and integrated shared society in Ireland.

“We believe anti-sectarianism should be at the heart of our political and civic institutions. 

“Sinn Féin's policy on anti-sectarianism ‘One Community’ will be launched on June 25th at 11am in the Houben Centre in North Belfast by party President Mary Lou McDonald.

“The location is both symbolic and apposite. This part of Belfast in particular has been deeply scarred with division and violence as a result of sectarianism. 

"Yet there is pioneering work being done to reconcile differences, heal old wounds and build the foundations for a united and shared society in the future.

“ ‘One Community’ sets out a comprehensive series of proposals to tackle sectarianism and sectarian segregation.

“Importantly it calls for a legal definition of sectarianism as hate crime and with powers of enforcement.

"Anti-sectarianism should be common ground, regardless of constitutional differences.

“It is the key to dispelling suspicion and fear, and facilitating reconciliation. It is the key to a united, shared future.

“Those who suffer from segregation, division, inequality and discrimination have nothing to fear from a united, shared community.

“Those who profit from and exercise political dominance based upon sectarianism have everything to fear.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

Editor’s note

Read Declan Kearney’s full blog at http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/27405

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Speaking after joining the Dunmurry Care Home families at a protest outside the RQIA, Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew said the report by the Commissioner for Older People must act as a ‘catalyst for change’. 

The party’s spokesperson for Carers said:

“Sinn Féin joined the protest at RQIA this morning in support of the families of Dunmurry Manor following the scathing report by the Commissioner for Older People into the horrendous care failings at Dunmurry Manor over a period of time. 

“It is clear that in the Dunmurry case, the whole system failed people. There is an onus on the RQIA, the Health Trusts and Runwood to recognise their failure at Dunmurry. 

“Those responsible for adult safeguarding must acknowledge the findings of the report, examine the recommendations and work together along with the families to implement the report as a catalyst for change, ensuring that the horrors of Dunmurry are never repeated.”

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Sinn Féin’s Maurice Quinlivan TD has criticised the lack of government action on ticket touting and said it was highly irresponsible for the government to allow 545,000 tickets to be made available with absolutely no regulation.

Speaking today the Limerick City TD said;

“On Monday 545,000 tickets will be made available for the Pope’s visit in August. Organisers believe this will be the largest-ever ticketed event in the world, but despite this Ireland still has no laws in place that govern the resale of tickets.

“Although tickets for the Pope’s visit are free, due to the expected demand from at home and abroad, it is likely that ticket touts will take advantage of the absence of regulation and try and resell some tickets at huge prices.

“Organisers are trying to limit this problem by making tickets non-transferable, but when Ed Sheeran tried this at his recent concerts in Ireland, it resulted in some genuine fans being refused admission having bought tickets at inflated prices without knowing they would be cancelled.

“Unfortunately I can see the very same thing happening here, and with the international aspect to this event, tourists will be particularly affected.

“Organisers have also said anybody attempting to sell the free tickets should be reported to Gardaí, but regrettably this will make little difference as these people will be breaking no laws.

“I brought forward a Bill in March 2017, the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017, that would cap the resale of tickets at 10% of face value, and where the face value was zero, like in this case, my bill would cap the price that could be asked at reasonable postage costs.

“Unfortunately like every other opposition Bill it remains in limbo, waiting for a money message from the Taoiseach, and the government has done nothing themselves to sort this problem.

“Dublin was chosen three years ago to host the World Meeting of Families, so the government has had ample time to prepare legislation to address this particular deficit. Frankly it’s highly irresponsible to leave this area unregulated, especially when such a major world event is taking place here.

“Unfortunately due to this inaction, people will undoubtedly buy tickets at inflated prices only to be refused entry on the day, ruining the occasion for some.

“It’s a real shame nothing has been done in this area, because this problem is completely avoidable.

“Clearly it’s too late to introduce any legislation to protect consumers for this event, but Ireland has given a commitment to UEFA to introduce anti-ticket touting measures for the EURO 2020 games to take place here, so the government need to act on this now.”

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Kenny TD, has called for leeway to be given to farmers so that they may cut their traditional hay meadow a few days early, in order to take advantage of next week’s good weather.


Deputy Kenny said:

“I have been contacted by numerous farmers who are fearful if they cut hay or silage next week, while the weather is good they will be penalised for not complying with the traditional hay meadow measure under the GLAS scheme.

“We are all aware of the recent fodder crisis and that farmers have endured one of the toughest winter and springs for many years.

"The farming community cannot go through another crisis next year or many of them will go under.

“It is imperative that enough fodder is gathered to prevent this, as we are already hearing of issue around grain production which could see shortages and high prices for grain next winter.

“I have written to Minister Creed asking him to grant farmers leeway under the traditional hay meadow measure in order that they may have the opportunity to harvest the best quality crop of hay or silage during prime weather for hay making. 

“The Minister should give farmers peace of mind and ensure that they will not face penalties for cutting meadows a few days early.

“It is not every year that we get the type of weather that is required to make hay, especially in the North West, and as the saying goes ‘we should make hay while the sun shines’.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has called for the introduction of the drug Orkambi as treatment for Cystic Fibrosis sufferers in the north of Ireland.

Speaking after attending a protest at Belfast City Hall, Colm Gildernew said: 

“As an all-Ireland party, we believe Cystic Fibrosis sufferers in the north should be able to access the best treatment which is available to citizens in the south.

“Sinn Féin actively supported the successful campaign to make Orkambi available in the south.

“As part of that support, then Minister for Health Michelle O'Neill lobbied her counterpart in Dublin to explore an all-Ireland approach to making Orkambi available island-wide.

“Disappointingly, we didn't receive a response, however we have consistently supported Cystic Fibrosis patients and families thoughout Ireland and we will continue to do so.

“We call on Vertex Pharmaceuticals and the British Government to reach agreement, so that eligible patients can access Orkambi and receive the best available treatment to tackle Cystic Fibrosis.” 

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams is urging the people of North Louth and the border region to support next Thursday’s anti-Brexit protest in Dundalk.

The protest will take place in Dundalk square at 3pm on Thursday 28 June.

Teachta Adams said:

“Next Thursday the EU leaders will hold a critical summit which will be dominated by Brexit. Tension over Brexit has increased in recent days with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accusing the British government of trying to stall progress in the Brexit negotiations and Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator warning that 'serious divergences' remain on how to resolve the threat of a hard border and hard Brexit.

"Last December the Irish people were told that the so-called backstop arrangement was a guarantee that there would be no hard border and that the interests of citizens in the north, the majority of whom voted against Brexit, would be protected.

"We were also told that this agreement would be enshrined in a legal text in March and that the British had to produce firm proposals for the June summit. The Irish government said it wanted “sufficient progress” at next week’s summit.

"None of this has happened. Instead the British government has stalled and prevaricated and failed to produce realistic proposals. 

"This is not acceptable. It is also dangerous. The backstop agreement must be written into any withdrawal treaty. The Irish government should be demanding real progress at next week’s summit. The EU must put Ireland – all of Ireland – first and insist that the British present their proposals on time.

"The objective is clear. The north must remain within the Customs Union and the Single Market and the rights of citizens contained in the Good Friday Agreement must be protected. Next week’s EU summit must deliver significant progress. The onus for this falls on the Irish government. It cannot allow the current reckless negotiation process to continue.

"I would appeal to everyone concerned about the dangers posed by Brexit to join Thursday’s protest in Dundalk."

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Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson Karen Mullan MLA has encouraged parents to apply for education support allowances for uniforms, meals and transport.

The call comes after the Foyle MLA and party colleague Sean Lynch MLA met with the Education Authority (EA) to discuss the operation of these key supports.

Karen Mullan commented: “The meeting was very positive and staff updated us on what measures they have put in place to ensure a more streamlined process this year for parents.  This is ongoing work and we welcome that the Education Authority are striving to improve the services and support they provide to parents.

“Online applications are open for uniform grants, free school meals and transport and I would encourage all parents to apply early on the Education Authority Website to ensure you have the support in place for September.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on Fianna Fáil to outline what they mean when they say Budget 2019 must be a housing budget.

The Dublin Mid West TD called on Fianna Fáil to outline “what they believe would be an adequate spend on social and affordable housing in Budget 2019”. He said Fianna Fáil has accused the government of lacking ambition and vision in terms of housing but has also failed miserably to offer up any alternative.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Fianna Fáil have said Budget 2019 must be a housing budget. Yet they have also said that they broadly agree with the government’s spending outlined in the summer economic statement. These two statements are not compatible.

“Fine Gael’s Summer Economic Statement commits an additional €800m on public spending or 2019 above existing commitments and demographics. This spend will be divvied up between €300m in tax cuts with the remaining €500m to be divided up across all other government spending commitments.

“Despite knowing that the government is only committing to spending an additional €500m on public services Fianna Fáil still think that this is enough to pay for substantially more social and affordable houses and tackle the crisis in healthcare and education.

“Would Fianna Fáil be happy to stand over an additional spend of €100m on housing for 2019? This would only deliver 500 additional homes. An additional €200m would only deliver 1,000 extra homes. Is this what really constitutes a so called housing budget for Fianna Fáil?

“Delivering a sufficient supply of social and affordable housing would require government to at least double their capital spend on housing in 2019 from the €1.3bn already committed to at least €2.6bn.

“The Fianna Fáil Housing spokesperson has stated that the party will put forward an alternative to the current government policy. I look forward to seeing how Fianna Fáil will do the sums on this and stand over the delivery of a truly housing focused budget.”

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In advance of the upcoming meeting of European Environment Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, Sinn Féin MEP, Lynn Boylan has written to the Minister of the Environment, Denis Naughten and Minister Eoghan Murphy insisting that they defend the human right to water and to ensure that it will be enshrined in EU legislation.

Speaking ahead of the European Council Meeting, Ms Boylan stated: 

“The European Citizen's Initiative, an instrument introduced to address the democratic deficit in the European Union looks set to fail at the first hurdle.

"The first successful initiative was the Right2Water, it collected almost double the required amount of signatures with over 1.8 million people across Europe demanding that the right to water be enshrined in EU law. 

"The Commission responded by proposing a reform of the Drinking Water Directive.  In article 13 of this reform proposal they include references to access to water and calls on Member States to ensure that accessibility. 

“However the EU Council is already geared up to attack this Article and make the Directive purely about water quality.

"Some Member States do not want obligations on access to water as it would prevent disconnections of low income households in Member States that have water charges, in other Member States it is being opposed for discriminatory reasons such as preventing Roma communities from accessing water. 

"It is vital that our representative at the Council stands up for the human right to water and ensures that Article 13 is not torn apart as it is already weak enough as it stands.

“As lead negotiator on this file and the Rapporteur for the European Parliament's response to the citizen's initiative, I have amended this proposal heavily, to reinforce the human right to water. 

"It will be appalling if Minister Naughten, who represents Ireland at the Council meeting, chooses to allow this article to be weakened or worse still dented altogether. 

The Sinn Féin Dublin MEP added :

“I have submitted 82 amendments to this proposal, and I have made legal arguments as to why the Objectives of this directive must now reflect the right to water and not just the quality. 

"It is my opinion that the right to water should be enshrined in all policy areas concerning water and that water is recognised as a public good and not a commodity, an opinion shared by citizens and water movements from across the Member States."

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Sinn Féin member of the PAC David Cullinane TD, has today written to the clerk of the Public Accounts Committee requesting that the Project Eagle dossier is made an item for discussion at its next meeting, given the serious issues it raises regarding NAMA, IBRC, Anglo Irish Bank and the sale of Project Eagle.

Deputy Cullinane said:

"Last week the PAC received a dossier on Project Eagle - the controversial sale of NAMA's northern portfolio.

"It was handed over to the Committee members yesterday evening.

"It contains transcripts of recordings with Anglo Irish Bank officials, as well as others related to the sale of Project Eagle.

"To the best of my knowledge, these recordings are not already in the public domain.

"This is a significant development and the PAC needs to decide what it intends to do with this evidence.

"The details of those transcripts are extremely worrying from a public interest perspective.

"The sale of Project Eagle is an issue that the PAC covered in detail.

"It wrote a report on the sale and the Committee needs to discuss this new information in light of that report.

"I will be calling on the Committee to bring the author of the statements in the dossier before the PAC to discuss them in the context of the PAC report into Project Eagle, and to let the committee hear first-hand the recordings.

"In the week that David Drumm was sentenced to six years in prison for bank fraud, it is clear that Anglo Irish Bank and the IBRC remain live issues in Irish public life."

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Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan will travel to Palestine this weekend to address the Policy and Conflict Resolution Studies Centre annual conference in the Arab American University in Ramallah.

The theme of the conference is 'Where do we go from here: Palestine between the Local, Regional and the Global’ and will be addressed by Mr Nickolay E. Mladenov, the UN special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace process alongside senior Palestinian and international figures. 

Pat Sheehan said:

“I look forward to travelling to Ramallah to address the PCRSC conference and sharing our experiences of the Irish peace process with our friends in Palestine. 

“Sinn Féin have a long standing policy of international solidarity with the Palestinian people. Just last weekend, Dr Afif Safieh, Deputy Commissioner of International Relations Fatah, addressed the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Belfast. 

“This event provides an opportunity to build further relationships with Palestinian representatives, civic society and organisations to find more ways to show our support in highlighting the oppression of the Palestinian people and expose ongoing Israeli aggression.

“I will be using the conference to reiterate our call for the Irish government to immediately expel the Israeli ambassador and recognise the State of Palestine as agreed by the Dáil in 2014. There can be no more delay.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the EU need to make it clear to the Tories that the Brexit backstop must be maintained. 

Speaking today after attending the joint sitting of the Oireachtas addressed by President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, Martina Anderson said: 

"I welcome EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker's speech to the joint sitting of the Oireachtas today and the commitment that Ireland comes first for the EU. 

"I, along with my Sinn Féin MP colleagues sat with our TDs and Senators and listened as Jean Claude Juncker made it clear that the EU is supporting Ireland in the Brexit negotiations. 

"This is the message that must now be given loud and clear to Theresa May and the Tories at the upcoming EU summit. 

"The EU needs to make it clear to the Tories that there can be no backsliding on the backstop and that it must be protected at the EU summit. There must also be no backsliding from the Irish government on the guarantees it has given to protect the rights of the people of the north. 

"It was important that Jean Claude Juncker heard that message today and it must now be communicated to the Tories at next week's Council meeting.

"It is clear that the EU is preparing for all scenarios, including a no deal Brexit that would drive Britain over a cliff.  The Irish government must also be prepared to ensure the entire island of Ireland is protected and not dragged over with them."

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Sinn Féin Senator and spokesperson on North-South integration Niall Ó Donnghaile has reiterated his call on the government to open a dedicated passport facility in the North.

The Senator made his remarks following a response from the Department of Foreign Affairs which states that almost fifty thousand passport applications came from the Six Counties between January 1st and May 31st of this year.

Speaking in Dublin today Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said;

“I have today written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, calling on him to acknowledge the need and work towards the opening of this much needed facility. During his recent visit to Belfast I raised this issue directly with An Taoiseach and he indicated an openness to look at the need.

"The clear and continuous rise in passport applications from the North warrants a review of how the government delivers their passport services speedily, efficiently and effectively, all across Ireland’s thirty two counties.

"The latest detail, which I have obtained through Parliamentary Questions, shows that 2018 is set to see yet another increase in applications from the North.

"The rise in the Six Counties is not happening in isolation, as revealed at today’s Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, in just one day last month more than ten thousand passport applications were received by the Irish Passport Office; this led to the Department of Foreign Affairs secretary general admitting at today’s meeting that staff are struggling with “unprecedented demand” and have shown “immense grace under pressure”. I agree with this assertion and commend our staff, but we must see the burden eased and the necessary investment made.

"The way to do resolve these unprecedented challenges is to improve service infrastructure throughout the country, to ease the burden on staff through strategic investment and to meet the demonstrable need that’s out there and to open this much needed and sensible resource in the North of Ireland.” 

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