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Speaking today after Minister Denis Naughten launched a joint ESB/Bord na Móna enterprise to develop solar farms in the Midlands, Sinn Féin TD and Climate Change spokesperson Brian Stanley said that the Minister is completely on the back foot when it comes to solar and the diversification of our renewable energy sources.

The Laois TD said:

“We have been very slow in developing this clean and indigenous source of energy of solar power and would be very much behind some of our European counterparts. Currently, we have no state subsidies in place for this renewable energy. Britain, with relatively the same climate as ourselves, is one of the biggest solar industries in the world.

“Only this month, the EPA reported that Ireland will not reach its 2020 obligations when it comes to our renewable energy production and our reduction in emissions. These are binding obligations which, if not met, means that fines will be imposed on the State.

“We need to provide for more diversification in our renewable energy sources. Alongside sources such as solar, we have our almost completely underutilised offshore wind which has a huge potential to aid in powering a significant amount of this States energy needs. This needs to be addressed by a coherent plan from the Government going forward.” 

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Following on from the announcement that the Taoiseach is to travel to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau to discuss the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan today urged the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor to hold a debate on the controversial trade agreement.

Speaking today, the Limerick City TD said:

“Today, I submitted a Parliamentary Question to the Minister seeking a date for a Dáil debate on CETA. This is my second formal request in April alone calling on the Minister to hold a debate, as although this trade deal is almost fully implemented; the Dáil has been refused permission to debate its contents. This is a dramatic departure from normal procedure, and flies in the face of democratic principles.

“It is totally unacceptable that the Taoiseach is to fly to Canada to discuss CETA with other politicians, when Irish elected representatives have been refused a voice, for fear of highlighting the serious flaws in this agreement.

“Many people in Ireland still aren’t aware of the potential consequences of CETA, highlighting the need for a Dáil debate on the matter. It will further distort trade and wealth in favour of larger multinational corporations at the expense of indigenous business. Small and Medium Enterprises right across Europe will be disadvantaged by CETA. Coupled with other EU trade deals coming down the line, CETA will be devastating for Irish agriculture, farming families and rural communities.

“The previous response I received from the Minister on this was disgraceful, highlighting Fine Gael’s disregard for the Republics’ parliamentary institutions, and so I will continue to press for a debate until the concerns of Irish citizens, farmers and businesses are heard in the Dáil.” 

Note: Please see the PQ in question below

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, that in light of the fact that CETA is to be discussed in Canada next week by the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Trudeau, and noting her previous refusal of my request to hold a Dáil debate on this trade deal, will the Minister now confirm a date for the Dáil to have an opportunity to debate the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)?

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described recent figures on IDA jobs created in Louth and the Border Region as “deeply depressing.”

Information provided by the Minister for Jobs in respect of IDA investment raises real concerns about the disparity in such jobs across the state but especially in the Border Region.

Gerry Adams said;

“Border counties fare particularly badly in the provision of IDA supported jobs and with the Brexit already having an adverse impact on the economy, that situation could get worse without proper planning and funding by government.

“Earlier this week my colleague Maurice Quinlivan identified serious gaps in the provision of IDA backed jobs across the state based on responses he received to Parliamentary Questions.

“When analysed and set against the recent census population numbers it emerged that there is one IDA supported job for every 23 citizens in the state. However, this statistic varies significantly depending on where you live. For example, Galway and Cork top the list for most IDA jobs per capita, with one job for every 15 people, followed by Dublin with one job for every 16 people.

“Those living in the six border region counties, including Louth, are between two and five times worse off than areas like Dublin and Cork. The disparity for Monaghan is one job for every 447 people. For Donegal it is one job – 52 people. Cavan is one job – 63 people. Louth is one job for 35 people. Sligo is one job for every 28 people.

“In Dublin, 9,000 new jobs were added in 2016, but in Louth the figure was 453. In Sligo the net gain was 190. In Cavan it was 41. In Leitrim it was 3. In Donegal it was 145. While in Monaghan the number of IDA jobs created in 2016 was seven.

“That means the six acknowledged border counties secured a miserly net gain of 839 IDA supported jobs out of 18,627 IDA backed jobs across the state in 2016.

“The IDA does huge work in creating new jobs. Over the decades it has proven itself to be an invaluable agency in attracting investment into the state. However, there is a huge imbalance in the distribution of these jobs across the state. The responsibility for this must rest with the government. It must ensure that investment and jobs are evenly distributed throughout the state and especially between large urban centres and rural and border regions.

“Border counties fare particularly badly in this analysis and, with Brexit already having an adverse impact on the economy, that situation could get worse without proper planning and funding by government.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills Carol Nolan TD has said the high non-progression rates in some courses at third level shows the clear neglect of the sector by the Government. Teachta Nolan was commenting on the Study of Progression in Irish Education published by the Higher Education Authority.

Commenting on the publication, the Offaly TD said:

“Those in the lower socio-economic groups, over-represented in the Institute of Technology sector, are most at risk of dropping out of their course as figures show that level 6 and 7 courses have the highest non-progression rates of 26% and 27%.

“This compares with an 11% non-progression rate in the University sector, with those in the farming, professional, employer, and managerial socio-economic groups most likely to proceed with their studies.

“The Institute of Technology sector is most reliant on government funding, which has reduced by over 20% per student since 2008 with a 30% decline in staff-student ratios across third level.

“In addition, the ESRI has shown that cuts to guidance counselling at second level have impacted most heavily on disadvantaged students, who rely on the services for appropriate information of the career pathways available to them.

“The failure to provide basic supports to disadvantaged students will further increase inequality across our society in future years as graduates earn up to 64% more than those without third level education.

“There can be no excuse for this failure to invest in our young people. OECD data shows that Irish graduates produce a return to the exchequer that is higher than the OECD average.

“In our Alternative Budget 2017, we called for increased supports for guidance, the reduction of the staff-student ratio in institutes of technology; increased funding for student assistance and a reduction in fees – measures that would make a real difference and help support young people to complete their education.” 

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Writing in his weekly column for the Belfast Media Group, Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams outlines the background and context of the killing of Garda Officer, Tony Golden; the grievous wounding of Siobhán Phillips, and the suicide of Crevan Mackin in October 2015.

The Sinn Féin leader describes how he received “anonymously to my office in the Dáil a copy of the Statement of Charges relating to the arrest in January of that year of Mackin. The detail contained within the document raised serious and fundamental questions about the role of elements of An Garda Síochána in the circumstances surrounding Mackin’s arrest in January 2015, their relationship with him subsequently, and the multiple shooting in Omeath”.

Gerry Adams immediately contacted the office of the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, and then wrote to both her and An Taoiseach providing them with a copy of the Book of Statements and setting out his concerns. He describes the response of both as “unsatisfactory. I have never received any indication that the government was taking this matter seriously.”

Since October 2015, Gerry Adams has written to the Minister for Justice eight times and to the Taoiseach four times. He also handed over all of the information to the Garda Officer in charge of the investigation. And when it appeared that the government was not taking this matter seriously he made a formal complaint to the Garda Ombudsman.

Writing in his column, Mr. Adams says: 

“Crevan Mackin was an individual with known serious mental health issues. Despite having admitted possession of weapons and explosives he was not charged with these but with– membership – an accusation he consistently denied. All of the available information indicates that some in the Gardaí – in particular the Special Detective Unit - were aware that Mackin was still in possession of other handguns, including two Glock handguns. It was a Glock that Mackin used in the Omeath shooting.”

The Louth TD also raises the treatment by An Garda Síochána of Siobhan Phillips – a victim of serious and repeated physical abuse by her partner. 

“When the family sought to make a complaint at Dundalk station they were refused. Why? What protocols are in place with An Garda Síochána for dealing with victims of domestic violence? Clearly the treatment of Siobhán Phillips is evidence that any protocols that might exist are inadequate. It is worth noting in this regard that only two weeks ago the Garda Commissioner was forced to admit that the Garda’s statistics on murder and domestic violence may be wrong and that it is now re-examining all of its statistics.”

Speaking this morning following publication of his column, Gerry Adams said:

“The family of Siobhan Phillips have called for an independent inquiry to examine all of the facts around this case. I support them in this. In light of the attitude of An Garda Síochána when Siobhan Phillips presented to them the evidence of her abuse there is also a need for an urgent review of Garda protocols for dealing with domestic violence, the treatment officers receive and the resources available to them.” ENDS

Note: Please see the full text of Gerry Adams column below

Last week RTE broadcast a special investigative programme about events in Omeath on 11 October 2015 which left a Like everyone else I was shocked when the news broke. Omeath is a quiet, tranquil village on Carlingford Lough. It is a beautiful part of the Cooley Mountains.

In the aftermath of the shootings the news reports appeared to suggest it was an open and shut case. No one else was involved in the incident and the perpetrator, Crevan Mackin, was dead. However, four days after the shooting I received anonymously to my office in the Dáil a copy of the Statement of Charges relating to the arrest in January of that year of Mackin. The detail contained within the document raised serious and fundamental questions about the role of elements of An Garda Síochána in the circumstances surrounding Mackin’s arrest in January 2015, their relationship with him subsequently, and the multiple shooting in Omeath.

I immediately contacted the office of the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, and then wrote to both her and An Taoiseach providing them with a copy of the Book of Statements and setting out my concerns.

The document revealed that Mackin was arrested on 16th January 2015 at his home in Omeath under Section 30 of the Offences against the State Act. The warrant accused him of being a member of the IRA on the 16th January 2015 and in possession of explosives in suspicious circumstances. The Gardaí believed that he had six handguns, as well as explosives, ammunition and timing devices.

During subsequent interrogation in Dundalk Garda station Mackin denied the membership charge but admitted possession of weapons and explosives. According to his family and solicitor he was taken at one point from the station to a house at Edentubber where two hand guns were recovered. Later Mackin was charged with membership but not with the possession of the explosives or weapons.

His family say that Mackin told them later that he did a deal with his Garda interrogators that in return for working for them he would not be charged with the firearms and explosives offences. He told his family that the Gardaí wanted him to go on to the dissident wing in Portlaoise as their informer. However when the dissident prisoners refused to accept him Mackin’s bail conditions were significantly dropped from twenty thousand euro to five to allow for his release.

Both the evidence of the Statement of Charges and the accounts given by his family show that with the knowledge of some in An Garda Síochána, Mackin continued to have access to at least four other handguns.

On Saturday 10 October Crevan Mackin’s partner Siobhán Phillips contacted her father Sean and step mother Norma. She told them that Mackin had savagely beaten her overnight from the Friday evening into the Saturday morning and that he had attacked her with a knife. Sean and Norma brought Siobhán to Dundalk Garda station but the Duty Officer refused to take a statement from her. This was despite the family telling him that Mackin was currently out on bail and had threatened to kill them and all of their immediate family.

The family drove to Daisy Hill hospital in Newry where because of her injuries, the staff contacted the PSNI. They took notes and photos of Siobhán’s injuries. When they left Daisy Hill hospital at 11.30 pm on the Saturday night the family drove toward Carlingford intending to make a complaint at the Garda station there. On route they flagged down a Garda car whose occupants referred them to Garda Tony Golden. It was arranged that he would meet Siobhán at 3pm on the Sunday. The next day Siobhán, and her father Sean, met Garda Golden who took a statement and then offered to bring Siobhán to her home to collect some things. According to Sean shortly after Garda Golden and Siobhán entered the house shots were fired. Garda Golden was killed. Siobhán was shot four times and grievously wounded in the head, and Crevan Mackin then shot himself.

In the 18 months since the Omeath shooting I have written to the Minister for Justice eight times and to the Taoiseach four times. I also handed over all of the information to the Garda Officer in charge of the investigation. And when it appeared that the government was not taking this matter seriously I made a formal complaint to the Garda Ombudsman.

The ramifications of this case are far reaching for An Garda Siochána and for the government, especially in light of the number of Commissions of Investigations and scandals currently surrounding the Gardaí.

Crevan Mackin was an individual with known serious mental health issues. Despite having admitted possession of weapons and explosives he was not charged with these but with– membership – an accusation he consistently denied. All of the available information indicates that some in the Gardaí – in particular the Special detective Unit - were aware that Mackin was still in possession of other handguns, including two Glock handguns. It was a Glock that Mackin used in the Omeath shooting.

Informers and agents are regularly used by police services to provide information on individuals and organisations. However, it is widely accepted that such informers should not act as agent provocateurs or engage in criminal actions or encourage others to do so. In the North the use by the RUC and British security agencies of informers and agents has long been a major source of controversy. The Crevan Mackin case has turned the spotlight on the Gardaí and how it recruits and runs informers.

Why was Mackin not charged with the more serious offences which he had confessed to? Why was he allowed to retain possession of a significant number of handguns? Were local Gardaí informed that Mackin still had access to weapons? Why were Siobhán Phillips and Garda Golden placed in such a perilous situation? Had Garda Golden no means of checking Mackin’s record before approaching the house? What assurances and protections were given to Mackin by the Special Detective Unit?

There is also the very serious matter of the Garda’s treatment of Siobhán Phillips, a victim of significant violence by her partner. When the family sought to make a complaint at Dundalk station they were refused. Why? What protocols are in place with An Garda Síochána for dealing with victims of domestic violence? Clearly the treatment of Siobhán Phillips is evidence that any protocols that might exist are inadequate. It is worth noting in this regard that only two weeks ago the Garda Commissioner was forced to admit that the Garda’s statistics on murder and domestic violence may be wrong and that it is now re-examining all of its statistics.

The responses of both the Taoiseach and Minister for Justice to my correspondence have been unsatisfactory. I have never received any indication that the government was taking this matter seriously.

Those responsible must be held accountable and, if necessary, they must face a criminal investigation and possibly charges. Last week, just hours before the RTE programme was broadcast Siobhán Phillips, Crevan Mackin’s sister, and I received letters from GSOC. I was told that the Garda Ombudsman now intends to conduct an investigation in the public interest into the information I gave it.

Separately the family of Siobhán Phillips have called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to establish a public inquiry into the incident. This week they will begin proceedings in the High Court in Dublin.

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Responding to the announcement that Dr Peter Boylan has resigned from the Board of the National Maternity Hospital, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD said:

“It is regrettable that Dr Boylan has felt the need to resign from the Board of the NMH.  That will be one less critical voice at the table to speak up for the clinical community and those who are concerned about the influence of religious orders in the running of a hospital for which the state will be investing €300 million for its construction. 

“The Minister for Health Simon Harris has not comprehensively addressed the concerns regarding the governance of the proposed hospital and now there will be one less voice to question his inaction.” 

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Speaking this afternoon, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has reiterated her calls for more to be done around the huge problem of gambling addiction and lack of regulation by calling on the Government to conduct a gambling prevalence study as a matter of urgency so the number of problem gamblers in the country can be properly calculated and the necessary supports resourced and put in place.

MEP Boylan said:

“In their 2010 paper, ‘Developing a population approach to gambling: health issues’, the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) called a for a prevalence study to be carried out in order to ascertain the number of persons addicted to gambling or with problem gambling habits in Ireland.

“Seven years on and to the great shame of this and the previous Government, no such detailed study has been carried out. Instead, to overcome the fact that there is no gambling prevalence data available for Ireland, we have to use international data from other countries to estimate the number of problem and addicted gamblers in the State.

“That there is no prevalence data for a genuine public health issue such as gambling addiction is an absolute disgrace. We would not allow this to be the case with other health issues, yet the government is happy to stand over this state of affairs.

“In estimating the number of problem gamblers many have to rely on using the figure that one per cent of the population experiences gambling problems, which would represent approximately 40,000 individuals in Ireland. However, it is ludicrous to think that in the age of online gambling, prevalence of smart phones, and the marketing campaigns ran by gambling companies, that only one per cent of the population is addicted. Especially given that a recent report showed Ireland to have the 3rd highest gambling losses per capita in the world.

“I have stated on many occasions before my belief that problem gambling is one of the gravest issues facing Irish society. However, without the data from a prevalence study we are fighting that problem in the dark.

“We are already trying to claw back lost ground on this issue, and we cannot continue to be reactionary, we cannot wait until the problem is tearing society apart at the seams before we act, we need to act now.

“As a matter of urgency, we need a comprehensive gambling prevalence survey carried out by Minister for Health Simon Harris so that the Minister of State for Justice and Equality David Stanton can bring forward the Gambling Control Bill which is due to be published this year promptly and with the relevant data.” 

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GAA legend Seán Boylan will chair a major public debate that will take place at 8pm today Thursday April 27th in the Newgrange Hotel, Navan. The debate will see speakers from across the political spectrum including Peadar Tóibín TD for Sinn Féin, John McCallister Independent Unionist, Minister Damien English for Fine Gael, and Shane Cassells TD for Fianna Fáil.

Speaking beforehand, local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín said:

“We are at a once in a generation tipping point. The objective of hundreds of generations of Irish people is within our grasp. This Thursday, Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Unionists will debate Irish Unity. This may well be the first meeting of its kind anywhere in the country.

“This grassroots movement towards unity has been inspired by the significant political changes that are happening in our time. Brexit, the changed political landscape in the North of Ireland, and the growing Scottish Independence Movement have opened up a discussion amongst all sectors of Irish society about how best to protect the Peace Process and grow the emerging All Ireland Economy.

“Similar debates have been held in Universities throughout Ireland where student set about discussing the feasibility of Unity and the significant opportunities, benefits and efficiencies that could be brought about by working together throughout the whole island of Ireland.

“One year ago, no one other than Sinn Féin was talking about Irish Unity. Today, we are no longer alone. Get in on the ground floor and attend the first all party county debate on Irish Unity in Navan tonight.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny for preparing to discuss and promote the controversial Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Free Trade Agreement (CETA) on a visit to Canada next week while the issue hasn't even been discussed in the Dáil.

Matt Carthy said:

“The Taoiseach is visiting Canada next week where he will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss and promote the highly controversial Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).  This deal has raised serious concerns among many citzens, particularly farmers, workers and small & medium indigenous companies.

“Despite these concerns the government have signed off on the provisional application of the deal at EU level disregarding the fact that it must be agreed by all national parliaments including the Dáil.  The Dáil has not yet voted on this deal, amazingly it hasn't even debated it.  In actual fact the only vote in the Oireachtas was a Seanad resolution calling on the government NOT to ratify the deal.

"Many people will therefore find it objectionable that Enda Kenny is willing to discuss and promote this dangerous trade deal with the Canadian Prime Minister but not with fellow TDs in the Dáil, several of whom have expressed deep and well founded concerns about its implications.

“It is my firm belief, based on legal advice I have received, that under the Irish Constitution final ratification of CETA requires a referendum.  This is because of the inclusion within the deal of an Investment Court that would have powers to fine governments for enacting legislation that impact on the profits of corporations.  I suspect that there would be little public appetite for such a scenario.

“The Government has recently denied the Dáil a debate on CETA, a decision which exposed Fine Gael’s complete disregard for the Irish Constitution, the justice system, as well as contempt for the Dáil itself and the people of Ireland.

“As is his style, it appears that Mr Kenny would rather talk to foreign leaders about matters which directly concern Irish citizens than make himself or his Government accountable to the Dáil.  This is unacceptable.”

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In an interview with An Phoblacht this week, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD outlined her vision for the health services and why she wants to be Minister for Health.

Speaking during the course of the interview, Teachta O’Reilly said;

“I want to be Health Minister.  I can see the potential in our health service for change. The only person who can do this is the Minister for Health and that’s a job I would love.

“Fine Gael have plenty of right-wing, privatisation ideology but they are bereft of new ideas.

“The report card for this minister is not good but the report cards for previous ministers – including Micheál Martin, let’s not forget – wasn’t good either.

“How many Health Ministers have we heard from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour down the years telling us that they know what’s wrong with the health service in the South but perpetuate a system that clearly doesn’t work?

“Sinn Féin has the vision to transform the system.

“Healthcare is a jig-saw with many pieces that need to fit together but you’ve got to have the vision, the will and the wherewithal to make that happen otherwise patients and staff will suffer.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Waterford and spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform David Cullinane has today launched the party’s framework for a new pay agreement for the public sector, saying that “a strong, properly-funded and resourced public sector is crucial to the economic and social progress of the nation”. 

Deputy Cullinane said:

“The next public pay agreement must address the two core issues of equal pay for equal work and a clear pathway to pay restoration.

“Sinn Féin knows that without progressively addressing the primary grievances of public sector workers, currently driving industrial unrest, any new agreement will be as fatally flawed as Lansdowne Road. 

“Our approach to a new agreement would be framed by the following elements:

·         Equal pay for equal work for post-2011 entrants, beginning with the restoration of certain allowances for nurses, non-consultant doctors, teachers and gardaí

·         Fair and timely unwinding of FEMPI cuts with emphasis on pay restoration for those under €65,000

·         Pay increases for low to middle income workers

·         Right to access to industrial relations machinery for gardaí and defence forces

·         Investment in public services

·         Reduction in agency work and replacement with permanent public sector contracts

“A strong, properly-funded and resourced public sector is crucial to the economic and social progress of the nation. 

“An integral step in achieving this goal is to ensure that those working in the sector enjoy equitable pay, conditions, and certainty. 

“This would help to guarantee the sustainability of effective and responsible public services, which the Irish people both need and deserve.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin has accused Minister Simon Coveney of abdicating his responsibility to provide social and affordable housing by outsourcing 800 publicly owned sites to private developers. 

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Offering publicly owned land to the private market to develop in order to boost housing supply will result in less social and affordable homes being provided. The Ministers approach will ultimately cost the taxpayer more down the line. Why is the Minister so reluctant to adequately fund the councils to develop these sites themselves?

“Minister Coveney should provide funding to Councils to fully develop their own mixed tenure estates. Allowing Councils to develop mixed tenure estates will create sustainable communities and will see better value for money for the taxpayer.

“Yet again, the Minister has indicated his preference to depend on the private sector to provide solutions to the housing crisis. This is the same private sector which is in part to blame for the housing and homeless crisis. When will the Minister accept that the Councils are best placed to meet the housing needs of those left behind by the market, if adequate funding was in place? 

“Sinn Féin wants mixed tenure estates with social, affordable rental and affordable sale, delivered by the council and fully funded by the State. We have pressed Minister Coveney on this a number of times however it is now abundantly clear that the Minister is opposed to funding this approach.

“In the absence of any other viable options being on the table, Sinn Féin has not opposed the joint venture model despite our view that it is a poor second best option. Our Councillors have fought hard and succeeded to increase the level of social and affordable housing to be provided Ina number of schemes. 

“Sinn Féin won’t stand in the way of any housing development that delivers social and affordable homes for families. However, we firmly believe that Council-led mixed tenure estates would deliver more social and affordable housing, more secure and sustainable communities and at a lower cost to the taxpayer. The Minister should provide funding for such developments in the 800 sites he announced today.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan says the Irish Government’s decision to reverse its position and press ahead with a ban on plastic microbeads is a victory for slow learners. The Dublin MEP had been sharply critical of the Government and of Minister Denis Naughten in September last, when they tried to hide behind the EU treaty as an excuse for not supporting a prohibition on the environmentally damaging product.

Ms Boylan said:

“Microbeads are very small plastic beads, commonly found in cosmetic and personal care products such as facial scrubs or toothpastes, which have been found in large quantities in the marine environment and are being ingested by wildlife.

“In November, when the Government tried to sidestep this issue by claiming the EU would not permit unilateral action by a Member State, I reminded them that the European Commission had already assured the British Government as recently as August that it could proceed to introduce a ban on microbeads. The Commission explicitly stated that ‘a ban on certain substances on environmental grounds could also be compatible with the internal market’.

“I am delighted therefore, to see that sense has prevailed, albeit following a wave of bad publicity, and that Minister Naughten has finally found the courage to follow the lead of the French and British Governments by banning microbeads now, rather than wait for an EU-wide directive.” 

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Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Workers Rights David Cullinane TD has said figures published by the CSO on the minimum wage show that the economy is being built on low pay and precarious employment.

Deputy Cullinane was responding to new figures from the Central Statistics Office which show that 10.1% of employees surveyed earned the National Minimum Wage or less last year.

Speaking today Deputy Cullinane said:

"It is obvious that this Government is content to build an economy on low pay, if and when contracts and precarious work. This is unacceptable and unsustainable. Low pay is often subsidised by the state and is part of the race to the bottom.

"The Low Pay Commission is too narrow in its focus. It does not address low pay in all its facets and is fixated on the minimum wage. It is worrying that one in ten workers are on the minimum wage or less. The low pay commission should become the Living Wage commission.

"The Living Wage is based on two thirds of the median wage. It is the minimum a worker needs to earn to provide for themselves and their families. Far too many workers are trapped in low paid jobs with uncertain hours and poor terms and conditions of employment. Women make up the majority of the ranks of the low paid.

"In 2015 I published a comprehensive report on behalf of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on low pay and the living wage. It was signed off on by all parties but its recommendations have not been implemented.

"We need a strategy to tackle low pay, if and when contracts and precarious work. It needs to be underpinned by a commitment to decent work and decent pay. We must incrementally move towards a living wage.

"Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have voted against all legislation introduced by Sinn Fein to enhance the rights of workers. They failed to support our bill on low hour contracts. Only a Government involving Sinn Fein will truly address low pay and exploitation in the workplace." 

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Sinn Fein Jobs spokesperson Maurice Quinlivan TD has said the cut in the corporation tax rate in the US, announced by President Donald Trump today, is a major threat to Irish jobs in US multinational companies.

President Donald Trump today announced his intention to dramatically cut corporation tax from 35% to 15% to encourage US multinationals to move operations back to the United States.

Speaking from his constituency office in Limerick, Teachta Quinlivan said;

“US multinational jobs have been a cornerstone of FDI investment in Ireland over the years and represent a significant proportion of all FDI employment in the state. In fact over 150,000 people are directly employed in over 700 US firms in Ireland accounting for over 74% of all IDA supported employment. This figure does not include the thousands of indirect jobs supported by these companies.

“Today’s announcement aimed at attracting US companies currently located abroad, back to the States, should not come as a surprise, as President Trump outlined his intentions throughout his campaign and since his election.

“During his campaign he said he wanted to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%, and he proposed a one-time 10% repatriation tax to entice companies to bring their overseas cash back home.

“In his first press conference as President he singled out the pharmaceutical industry as a key area he intends to tackle in his presidency, saying, ‘We have to get our drug industry coming back. Our drug industry has been disastrous. They're leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but they don't make them here.’

“The pharmaceutical industry In Ireland accounts for just over half of the value of all Ireland's goods exports - some €64 billion and employ over 24,500 people here.

“Today’s confirmation that he plans to proceed with his campaign promise closes the gap on Ireland’s competitive corporation tax significantly. Although it is unlikely that this tax reform will be implemented without radical budgetary reform, which could take time, Ireland should still be prepared for whatever action the US administration takes.

“The government must ensure that multinationals located here are encouraged to stay and provided with the resources and support they need in continuing to employ thousands of Irish people.

“We need to ensure that we diversify the origins of Foreign Direct Investment we attract to Ireland, to ensure we are not exposed to any significant changes in circumstances in these corporations’ home countries. The IDA must be provided with the adequate resources to increase FDI investment from emerging economies.

"Minister Mitchell O'Connor needs to acknowledge this challenge from the US and outline a plan to ensure Ireland remains an attractive place for US and other multinational companies to locate."

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Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has said that any reduction in services at Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital will have a detrimental impact on his constituents and on healthcare provision in Louth.

Gerry Adams said;

"The Southern Health and Social Care Trust have stated that the temporary overnight closure of the Emergency Department at Daisy Hill Hospital is being considered due to staffing issues.

"People living in the Newry, South Armagh and Down areas are naturally concerned that if this happens it will be the thin end of the wedge for further closures and diminishment of services at Daisy Hill, which may result in the eventual closure of the hospital.

"In Louth we have witnessed a similar chain of events which has resulted in the closure of the Emergency Department and a host of other services at the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk.

"The corollary of this is a massive increase in demand placed on Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where sufficient extra capacity was not introduced. This is now manifest in increased waiting times for in patient and outpatient treatment, huge numbers of people on trollies, long waits for emergency treatment, stress for patients and staff and staff shortages. 

"There are a significant number of people from Louth and across all of the border counties who, through the EU funded Cooperation and Working Together (CAWT) project, access treatment at Daisy Hill Hospital.

"Arrangements are in place for cross border ENT, Urology and Vascular treatment as well as Kidney Dialysis and of course the Emergency Department.  This is all in jeopardy in the event of service reduction in Daisy Hill and this will place even more of a strain on Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

"I have written to the Health Minister Simon Harris to alert him to this situation and I have also written to the Chairperson of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Roberta Brownlee, to urge a swift resolution to this matter and the full retention of services at Daisy Hill Hospital."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has called for the immediate release of Irishman Ibrahim Halawa from prison in Egypt.

Speaking after it was announced that Ibrahim’s trial has been postponed again until May 9th, Deputy Adams said:

“Ibrahim Halawa must be freed immediately.

“This is the twenty-third time that his trial has been postponed.  On May 9th, Ibrahim will have spent 1360 days in prison – that is 1360 days stolen from this young man’s life.

“His physical and mental health is deteriorating by the day,  as confirmed by an Independent Irish Doctor who visited Ibrahim in February.

“The Irish government, and particularly the Taoiseach and Minister Charlie Flanagan, must demand his immediate release from prison. The government must also seek support for his release internationally from the governments of other states.

“The Egyptian authorities have not produced a shred of evidence against Ibrahim. He could be released tomorrow either by way of President Decree or through a youth amnesty.

“His continued detention is a violation of his basic human rights and an affront to human decency.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn says that everyone has a role to play in breaking the stigma on suicide and mental health.

The West Belfast MLA was speaking after being named as the Chair of the All Party Group on Suicide Prevention.

Órlaithí Flynn said:

“Suicide and mental health know no boundaries of class or political allegiance. 

“As a community, we need to work together and learn from each other and support each other in the work that lies ahead. 

“The challenges are considerable but we have the talent and energy in the community to make a huge difference.

“We need a joined up mental health strategy and we need proper resourcing, fresh thinking and political will to make the change.

“Behind all the statistics are real people, and families who are still hurting and lives left shattered. 

"We all have a role to play in challenging and breaking the stigma associated with suicide and mental health.” 

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Sinn Féin MEPs have marked the late Martin McGuinness' month's mind at the European Parliament in Brussels. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"It has been a month since we lost our friend, comrade and iconic republican leader Martin McGuinness. 

"Just as people across Ireland mourned his immense loss, so too did people throughout Europe and across the world. 

"Tonight at the European Parliament in Brussels the Sinn Féin MEP team, together with friends and supporters from right across Europe gathered to pay tribute to Martin while his Month's Mind mass was being celebrated at home. 

"Martin was a regular visitor to the European Parliament and valued the continuing support from Europe for the peace process and our campaign to secure designated special status for the north within the EU. 

"It was important that we remembered Martin here tonight as we send our condolences to Bernie and all the family."

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has called on Health Minister Simon Harris to meet with the full board of the National Maternity Hospital.

Speaking today Teachta O’Reilly said there is a lack of leadership from the minister and that he needs to step in to ensure that the new National Maternity Hospital is built as quickly as possible.

She said;

“The board of the National Maternity Hospital is meeting this evening to discuss the latest controversy surrounding the re-locating of the hospital to the St Vincent’s site.

“There has been a distinct lack of leadership from Minister Harris on this issue and it is my view that he should meet with the full board at the earliest opportunity.

“This hospital is desperately needed and the minister must do all in his power to ensure that it is delivered on time.

“That must include giving assurances that there will be no religious interference in the running or governance of the hospital.

“The best way to do that is to ensure that the Sisters of Charity are not given ownership of the new hospital.”

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