Sinn Féin spokesperson on water Eoin Ó Broin TD has today accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of cooking up a “backroom deal” on water.
The accusation was made in response to a Sunday Business Post report which suggests that a deal has been concluded on the issue of charging for excess use.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Next week the Oireachtas Committee on Water will discuss the contentious issue of charging for so called excess use and the funding of domestic water services.
“While no substantive discussion has taken place on this to date it appears that a back room deal has been cooked up by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
“Today's report in the Sunday Business Post on the work of the committee suggests that an agreement has been reached on the excess charge.
“If this is the case it will represent yet another u-turn on water by Fianna Fáil. Having promised to scrap water charges they look set to allow the charge to remain.
“While they will claim that most people won't have to pay, an excess charge will be the thin edge of the wedge for the return of charges for all in the future.
“Sinn Féin is opposed to the introduction of any water charge. There are better ways to conserve water and fairer ways to fund water services.
“A charge for so called excess water use will cost the taxpayer more than it would raise and will lead to across the board charges in the future.”
Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd has challenged the DUP to tell the public exactly who is involved in the shadowy group which funded its lavish Brexit advertising campaign.
John O'Dowd said:
"Huge questions still remain to be answered over exactly who funded the DUP's exorbitant pro-Brexit advertising campaign.
"We know the DUP received £425,000 from a shadowy group of British business and corporate interests linked to the Tory party but beyond its name the people are still in the dark.
"The public are entitled to know exactly who is involved in this group, where the money came from and whether or not the DUP are still being bankrolled by this mystery organisation.
"It is up to the DUP to make this information known to the public in the interests of transparency and integrity before we go to the polls on Thursday so that voters can make an informed choice."
Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff has condemned an incident where a defibrillator was destroyed during a break-in at a GAA club in Trillick.
Mr McElduff said:
"The destruction of this life-saving defibrillator during a break-in at St Macartan's GAA club in Trillick was despicable.
"Defibrillators literally provide a life-saving service to the local community and this disgraceful vandalism has taken away that service.
"GAA clubs are the backbone of many communities, particularly in rural areas and attacks and vandalism like this are attacks on the community.
"I would encourage anyone with information on this incident to bring it forward to the PSNI."
Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy has condemned an arson attack on an Orange hall in Newry.
Mr Murphy said:
"The attack on Altnaveigh Orange hall was wrong and I condemn it.
"Thankfully no one was injured in this incident.
"Attacks of this nature serve no purpose whatsoever and are not representative of the local area.
"I would call on anyone with information on this incident to bring it forward to the PSNI."
Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill has said the British government must fulfil its obligations on dealing with the legacy of the past.
Speaking to families of victims of the conflict at an event organised by Relatives for Justice, Michelle O'Neill said:
"For Sinn Féin addressing the legacy of the conflict is an issue of rights and equality.
"Families have waited too long for access to truth about the death of their loved ones and this has only added to their hurt and suffering.
"Recent calls by the members of the British establishment, supported by political unionism, to further frustrate families by introducing legislation to put current and former British soldiers above the law is unacceptable.
"Everyone must be equal before the law.
"This is yet another indication of the British government's abject failure to fulfil its obligations in dealing with the legacy of the conflict.
"We need to see a step-change from the British government in its approach to the past and it can start by releasing funds for legacy inquests as proposed by the Lord Chief Justice.
"Sinn Féin is committed to the implementation of the legacy mechanisms agreed in the Stormont House Agreement and we will continue to press the British government to step up to the plate and fulfil its obligations."
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said the Irish government need to stand by the principles of the Good Friday Agreement and act in the best interests of all Irish citizens on Brexit.
Speaking at an anti-Brexit rally in west Belfast today, Pearse Doherty said:
"The British government is seeking to reinforce and entrench partition through its disastrous Brexit agenda.
"It undermines the Good Friday Agreement, which guarantees the right to Irish citizenship for everyone on the island.
"The principles of that Agreement – equality, partnership and respect – have already been undermined by the actions and attitudes of the DUP. We don't want to see it further undermined by Brexit.
"In next week's Assembly election, voters have the opportunity to send the DUP another clear message – to reject allegations of corruption in government, arrogance and disrespect, and their adherence to the disastrous Brexit agenda of the British government.
"Sinn Féin is currently on a diplomatic offensive across the EU, garnering support for our case for designated special status for the north within the EU.
"Just last week our team of TDs in Leinster House moved a motion, which was supported by the Dáil to back the case for the north to have special status within the EU. The Irish government must act on that Dáil vote.
"They will be at the negotiating table and have a duty and a responsibility to act in the national interest of Irish citizens in the north by making the case for designated special status within the EU.”
Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan has commended a recent report by Dr Crystal Fulton of University College Dublin which looked at global trends in the gambling industry and is intended to influence and help shape policy and future legislation.
MEP Boylan said:
“This 140 page report by Dr Fulton, prepared for the Department of Justice, covers a range of areas, specifically international legislation, gambling industry mergers, services provided to problem gamblers and gambling technology.
“It is a comprehensive and informative piece of work which again raises many issues around problem gambling and the conduct of the gambling industry in the absence of ample regulation and oversight.
“In particular Dr Fulton highlights an issue which I have raised in the past, that a lack of regulation for advertising, in particular online advertising, can present problems for at-risk and problem gamblers.
“Some simple changes that could be made to the advertisement of gambling in Ireland would be the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland implementing a 9:00 pm watershed, as is the case in Britain.
“But we need to go even further than that. In particular we need to offer better protection to young people given that the Institute of Public Health in Ireland estimate that adolescent gambling is two to three times the rate of adults.
“The online industry uses sinister techniques to manipulate its users, making young people particularly vulnerable. Incessant promotions are used if there is a period of inactivity and its users are specifically targeted on other social media platforms.
“The same online gambling industries are happy to put in place restrictions on users when they are being too lucky but are not prepared to implement similar restrictions when problem gambling patterns emerge.
“The issue of problem gambling is not a minute issue, recent studies have shown that Ireland has the third highest rate of gambling losses in the world per capita, and over 50% of those losses is through online gambling.
“Ireland’s Institute of Public Health believes that there could be as many as 40,000 problem gamblers in Ireland, with an additional 400,000 Irish people whose lives are being negatively affected by their friend or family member's addiction.
“As outlined in Dr Fulton’s report, we need to build on existing legislation and bring forward new legislation to help regulate the gambling industry, not in a punitive way, but rather in a way that allows the industry to exist while protecting vulnerable and young people.
“The Gambling Control Bill has been on the statute books since 2013, with no sign of movement.
“There has been complete inertia from the government in relation to this issue while the problem of gambling has accelerated in the same period.
“We need to act immediately by bringing the Gambling Control Bill before the Oireachtas. This will give politicians, experts, civil society, and the industry the chance to engage in dialogue and debate around the best way to shape legislation that will set appropriate standards for operators to adhere to in the public interest.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Michael Noonan’s focus on further tax cuts in a speech to the Tax Institute shows the true agenda of the Fine Gael government and its supporters in Fianna Fáil.
He said a government that is still committed to cutting taxes in the face of our crises in public services simply cannot solve those problems.
“For weeks, we have been hearing about the investment this government claims it is making in the health services and in housing. Yet tonight the mask slipped and the real agenda of this Fine Gael led government was exposed. This is a right-wing government that will further erode our tax base at a time when our public services are in a permanent state of crisis.
“This is a government that has learned nothing from the past. Only this week the EU Commission again attacked the reckless tax cutting agenda of the government and its use of volatile corporation tax receipts to underpin spending.
“The ‘Abolish the USC’ slogan may have been retired but the mentality remains. When Enda Kenny finally stands down his Finance Minister should follow suit. He is intent on throwing away the recovery on tax cuts that are not sustainable and favour the wealthiest in our country.
“Our trolley crisis and our housing and homelessness crisis simply will not be solved by a government that is still promising to cut taxes. All the rhetoric around investment and promises to fix those problems have been shown up as empty words.
“The mask has slipped - there is no social side to this government. They will favour tax cuts for the better off over fixing our public services every time.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the Irish government must act in the best interests of all Irish citizens in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.
Ms Anderson said;
"I took part in a public debate in Armagh today to discuss the impact of the British government's Brexit agenda on the island of Ireland.
"It is clear they are intent on dragging us out of the EU against our will and that is causing serious concern across the community.
"I welcome the comments from Taoiseach Enda Kenny that the EU must make provision for Irish unity during the Brexit negotiations and look forward to seeing action from him to follow that up.
"Just last week Sinn Féin TDs in Leinster House moved a motion, which was backed by the Dáil, to back the case for special status for the north within the EU. The Irish government now needs to act on that Dáil vote.
"The Irish government will be at the negotiating table as one of the 27 EU member states and they have a duty and a responsibility under the Good Friday Agreement to act in the best interest of all Irish citizens.
"Sinn Féin has put forward a case for special designated status for the North within the EU and we are working with others to secure that."
Sinn Féin's Caoimhe Archibald has expressed sympathy to the family and friends of a woman who's body was found in Portstewart today.
The East Derry candidate said:
"This is a tragedy for all involved.
"I express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the woman at this very difficult time."
Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy has said the fact the DUP received £425,000 from a shadowy group of British corporate business interests to fund its Brexit campaign makes a mockery of its manifesto commitment to transparency.
Conor Murphy said:
"There have been consistent calls for the DUP to come clean on donations to the party for their Brexit campaign.
"Just as we saw with the drip feed of information about the DUP's handling of the RHI scandal, the DUP have been brought to the point of disclosing some information.
"However, it is still not clear who is in the group that gave the DUP £425,000, and what the group got in return for this huge donation.
"Instead we have the name of a secretive body, no list of members and donors. This makes a mockery of their manifesto claim of transparency.
"It now appears that the DUP spent at least £370,000 on newspaper advertisements and campaign materials in Britain where they don't stand for election. This raises serious questions about transparency.
"The public is entitled to expect integrity in the political process.
"These are key issues of accountability and transparency and the public have a right to know so they can make up their mind before they go to the polls next week.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today attended a meeting in Dundalk with the Speaker of the German Bundestag Prof. Norbert Lambert which was organised by An Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghaíl.
The meeting was to discuss the impact of Brexit on the Memorandum of Understanding between Newry and mourne and Louth County council.
Gerry Adams said:
The Dáil has now voted in favour of the Sinn Féin position that argues the case for the North to be designated Special Status within the EU - which should now become official Government policy.
Sinn Féin is concerned about the entire island of Ireland and what we need now is a White paper which sets out the Governments political and policy approach to the EU negotiations over the next 2 years relating to the border, free movement, trade, investment, [tax policy i.e Apple (EU v Irish Govt], competitiveness, Agri food, energy, GFA human rights safeguards, EU funding and all other relevant matters.
The island of Ireland and especially the border corridor, will be disproportionately impacted both economically in terms of competitiveness and politically in terms of the GFA constitutional and institutional arrangements and the impact of a land border.
The EU has been a critical partner for peace providing political and financial aid and it is crucial that we maintain this relationship.
Brexit now demands that the Irish Government reshapes future foreign policy both with Britain and the EU itself. The withdrawal of Britain presents an opportunity to now Reform the EU, including the strengthening of the role of smaller Member States within it.
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Jonathan O'Brien has said comments from the Chairperson of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily today reinforce the urgent need for Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan to step aside for the duration of the Charleton Tribunal.
Speaking this afternoon Teachta O'Brien said;
"We have repeatedly called for the Commissioner to stand aside for the duration of the tribunal, and Feehily's comments reinforce the urgent need for that to happen.
"The Policing Authority do not make such comments lightly and there is an onus on the Commissioner, but also the government, to address this immediately."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has expressed concern at news that Ibrahim Halawa has been moved to the prison hospital with fears for his health.
Teachta Adams has called on Enda Kenny to use every diplomatic avenue possible to ensure Ibrahim’s release.
“Reports that Ibrahim has been moved to the prison hospital are very concerning and his family are very worried for his health.
“The Taoiseach needs to use every diplomatic avenue available to him to ensure Ibrahim’s release as early as possible.”
Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane has today launched a comprehensive discussion document on a Technological University of the Southeast.
Deputy Cullinane said that the Southeast needs a University that is focussed on the social and economic needs of the region and one that acts as an engine driving creativity and growth.
Speaking at the launch Deputy Cullinane said:
“The Southeast is the only region in the state without a University. This wrong needs to be put right.
“The Southeast needs a University which is focused on the social and economic needs of the region and its people.
“It is crucial that a Technological University of the Southeast has the ability to borrow, receives baseline funding for R&D, is independent and is fully autonomous. There needs to be a level playing field for Institutes of Technology with existing Universities.
“It is vital that the Minister brings forward amending legislation to underpin Technological Universities. I am recommending a change in sequencing to allow the International Panel of Experts to play a role much earlier.
“There are very real concerns from both institutes that a merger without guarantee of success would be detrimental to the region. There also concerns from Trade Unions that the merger process is more about rationalisation and cutting jobs.
“It is vital that a sustainable funding model is put in place. Waterford Institute of Technology had its core funding cut from €40m in 2008 to €26m in 2016. At present 85% of core funding is for payroll costs. This is unsustainable.
“A Technological University also needs a capital investment plan. There is an obvious need to progress plans to build an engineering block on the grounds of WIT and an extension of laboratory space to increase life sciences based subjects.
“A Technological University will need a Governance centre or Hub. Each campus will need a head of campus accountable to the main Governance centre. It is recommended that the main centre be based in Waterford.
“I am anxious that the promise to deliver a Technological University in Waterford is implemented. It is crucial that the Southeast is operating on a level playing field.
"Today I am engaging with stakeholders across the region and will be holding meetings with the Presidents and Executive bodies of both institutes.”
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe, has called on the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, to strongly protest against the demolition of Palestinian homes and community structures by the Israeli military.
Crowe raised the case of Khan al Almar in the Dáil and how the entire village is under threat of demolition.
Speaking in the Dáil Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“2016 was a record year for the demolition and confiscation of Palestinian dwelling and livelihood structures in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli army.
“Figures from the United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian affairs (UNOCHA) and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) show that 1,089 structures were demolished or confiscated in 2016 leaving some 1,600 Palestinians displaced and affected the livelihoods of a further 7,100 people.
“The figures so far for 2017 tell us we are heading for another record year of demolitions.
“On Sunday it was reported widely in the Israeli press that 42 homes and businesses in the village of Khan Al Ahmar, between the city of Jerusalem and Jericho in the occupied West Bank, were served with demolition orders by the Israeli army.
“These demolitions, once carried out, would in effect destroy the entire village. Such a widespread issuance of demolitions orders at one time - in one village – is not only unprecedented but a clear declaration by the Israeli military that they plan to evacuate the entire community.
“If these demolitions take place they will leave literally hundreds of men, women and children homeless.
“Such actions would also constitute a grave breech of the of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the destruction of personal property by an Occupying Power unless it is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. It also prohibits all forcible transfers of civilian populations by an occupying power.
“I called on Minister Flanagan to make urgent representation to the Israeli government to reverse this demolition orders and to urgently send officials from the Irish Embassy Ramallah to the community as a sign of support. I welcome the clarification that I received in the Dáil that the Irish Ambassador to Palestine will visit Khan al Ahmar in the coming days.
“The continued demolition of Palestinian homes and structures, as well as the continued building of illegal colonial settlements in occupied Palestine is an attack on the two-state solution, and is a deliberate and planned attempt to completely undermine and destroy that possibility.
“I also called on the Minister to act on the Sinn Féin motion which was unanimously passed in the Dáil in December 2014 and I urged him to urgently recognise the State of Palestine.”
"It is important to our society that the Dáil has tonight realised the imperative of removing the mandatory age of retirement and I now look forward to the passage of the Bill through the remaining stages without opposition."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed comments by the Taoiseach in Brussels today saying he wants the final Brexit agreement to allow for Irish reunification in line with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Teachta Adams said:
"I want to welcome the Taoiseach's remarks today in which he said he wants the final Brexit agreement to allow for Irish reunification in line with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
"Sinn Féin have been making the case since the Brexit result became clear.
"Furthermore, it is incumbent on the Taoiseach to press the case for a special designated status for the north within the EU. That is essential to guarantee the protection of all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement."
Speaking during the course of a debate on the Sinn Féin sponsored Employment Equality Bill, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin T.D., Sinn Féin spokesperson for Older People, said that acceptance and support for the Bill, which ultimately aims to end discrimination and give older workers a choice when it comes to their retirement, was a ‘no brainer’.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
“I am sure every Deputy and Senator elected to these houses has been approached by people who have been forced to leave their jobs as soon as they reach the age of 65 or maybe even younger than that. It is wrong that Irish law currently permits employers to impose mandatory retirement ages in their employee’s contracts, in effect, facilitating ageism and creating a set of second-class employment rights for older workers. This should not be allowed happen. The employee should have the right to choose when he or she will retire, not the employer.
“An argument used to support the current legal provision is that if people retire at an earlier age there will be more youth employment. Such statements have been dismissed time and time again. The experience and wealth of knowledge held by an older person at work can be taught to younger workers coming in.
“There is no doubt but that one of the greatest challenges facing us as a country is sustaining the State Pension into the future. By 2046 1.4 million people will be aged over 65, compared to the 530,000 that were recorded in the last census. A staggering increase. As it stands, a worker forced into retirement at the age of 65 is entitled to a Jobseeker’s Benefit of €188 at the maximum rate until he or she turns 66. Financially, it makes sense for an older worker to continue to contribute to the Exchequer instead of receiving payments from it.
“Iarraim ar gach Teachta vóta a chaitheamh ar son an Bille seo. Vote in favour of this Bill and let us ensure that this anomaly is closed once and for all.”
Today in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Agriculture Spokesman, Martin Kenny TD, introduced a piece of legislation aimed at eliminating discrimination against rural areas by public bodies in respect of measures likely to have a significant socio-economic effect.
Deputy Kenny told the Dáil:
“The issue of inequality that exists in this country is really an issue of ensuring people can live in rural Ireland. To have people living in rural Ireland, we have to have infrastructure in rural Ireland and a development of jobs and opportunity.
“Opportunity can only come if a person is on a platform where they can reach that opportunity. It is true to say that everyone has access to education but for many people living in rural areas across the length and breadth of Ireland, they are not in a position to reach the opportunity that may exist.
“If one looks at the map of the road network, it does not go near the north west at all. It is similar with the rail network - it blocks out huge areas of the country.
“If we are going to invest in the regions and ensure there is opportunity for people living in the regions, we have to make sure we do it everywhere. We have to invest in places where there are low populations at present. If we do not do that, there will never be people living in these areas.”