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Sinn Féin TD for Limerick City Maurice Quinlivan has this morning said the scenes and stories described in an RTÉ report on Limerick Hospital’s A&E, whilst shocking and totally unacceptable, are not surprising.

Speaking from Limerick today, Teachta Quinlivan said;:

“This report into the conditions in the new A&E facility at University Hospital Limerick made for difficult listening on RTÉ radio this morning. Reporter Brian O’Connell spent Friday night in the new €25 million Emergency Department in UHL and described the high level of overcrowding and conveyed stories from some of the patients lying on trollies.

“One of the patients interviewed had arrived into the A&E on Wednesday morning suffering from sepsis. She said she was seen within 10 minutes of arriving, but 55 hours later, she was still lying on a trolley in the A&E as there was no bed.

“Another patient, who was 86 years old, was lying on a trolley, but could not move, as previously he had one leg amputated and there was no hoist to get him in and out of the trolley.

“It is disgraceful that these stories are replicated up and down the country week in, week out and there is no sign of the government getting a handle on this.

“UHL was the most overcrowded hospital in the country for the past two months according to INMO figures, with 640 people in June and 662 patients in July, waiting on trollies.

“The 400 bed hospital is at capacity, and construction on the new planned 96 bed extension has not even begun. This crisis continues to escalate, and immediate action is needed before a serious incident occurs.

“The old Emergency Department should be re-opened with additional staff and beds to accommodate some patients as a temporary measure, until a permanent fix is put in place.

 “The Minister for Health needs to urgently outline how he is going to address this crisis in UHL.” 

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O'Reilly has said the revelations of the extent to which non-specialist doctors are being appointed as consultants raises serious questions for the Minister for Health and the HSE.

Speaking this morning, Deputy O'Reilly said:

"The extent that non-specialist doctors are being appointed as consultants in hospitals across the State is extremely worrying from a patient safety perspective.

"The information which I received in a response to a Parliamentary Question and which is expertly reported on by Susan Mitchell in the Sunday Business Post is a huge public interest story.

"It is not acceptable that patients are put in a situation where they can no longer assume that their consultant has completed specialist training. Being sick is difficult and worrying enough without having the added concern that the person treating you does not have the specialist qualifications.

"The Minister for Health Simon Harris, the HSE, and the hospitals themselves have serious questions to answer over this practice. In addition to compromising patient safety there are also possible medico-legal ramifications.

"This issue is interlinked with the broader problem surrounding the inability of the health service to recruit and retain staff, and both issues need to be addressed simultaneously.

"The solution is not to employ unqualified consultants but to make sure that qualified personnel are employed. Anything less is a compromising of patient safety and is certainly not in the best interests of the wonderful staff we have working in our health service.

"Minister Harris needs to immediately state why he hasn't addressed this problem since I asked him to do so on May 15th. As with all issues in the health service, the buck stops with the Minister for Health.  

"He now needs to deviate from his default position of blaming others and take a hands on role in addressing this problem and ensuring that the practice is discontinued."

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In a letter to the Irish and British governments and leaders of other political parties, Sinn Féin Northern leader Michelle O’Neill has proposed a formal resumption of the Stormont talks on Monday 28th August.

Michelle O’Neill said:

"With limited engagement since the talks concluded on 4th July, I am keen to formally re-engage at the earliest opportunity in order to re-establish an Executive and power sharing institutions on a proper and sustainable footing. 

 "Moreover, I do not believe there is much public appetite, or need, for another drawn-out phase of talks. 

 "In this context, and with an eagerness to resolve outstanding issues, I am also formally proposing that this round of talks be focused and time limited."

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Responding to comments from the British Brexit Secretary David Davis, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane TD said it was obvious that the Tory Government are cynically exploiting the unique circumstances in Ireland in negotiations with the EU.

He said the British Government have no political or legal plan for a Brexit so instead are using Ireland as a bargaining chip for concessions on wider trade and customs agreements.

Speaking today, Deputy Cullinane said:

“The document from the British Government on Wednesday regarding Ireland mentions the ‘unique’ nature of the Irish issues. Mr Barnier said there is no existing precedent for Brexit and for its impact on Ireland.

“Sinn Féin believes that the ‘unique’ situation deserves a bespoke solution. The most sensible and logical solution is special status for the North within the EU.

“It is becoming obvious by the day that the British Government are effectively seeking to use Ireland as a hostage in their negotiations with EU.

“That cannot and should not be tolerated by the Irish Government or the EU.

“The mess that is Brexit was brought about by a divided Tory Party. Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for all citizens in Ireland and will work to ensure the best possible outcome.” 

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Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson has condemned a sectarian gun attack on a house in the Waterside area of Derry.

Councillor Jackson  said: 

"This attack during which shots were fired at a house in Rossdowney Drive is wrong and must be condemned. 

"Thankfully no one was injured in this incident but it must have been a frightening experience for those in the area at the time. 

"There is no place for guns on the streets of our city and those behind these attacks need to end their war with the community."

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has paid tribute to international aid workers on World Humanitarian Day. 

Martina Anderson said:

"Every year on World Humanitarian Day, we shine a spotlight on the millions of civilians around the world whose lives have been caught up in conflict. 

"On this day I want to pay particular tribute to the brave health and aid workers for their efforts in conflict zones around the world. 

"Often these aid workers are targeted or obstructed as they work to help people in need. 

"I also want to commend the the government employees, members of civil society and representatives of international organisations and agencies who risk their lives to provide humanitarian aid and protection. 

"Those who carry out vital and lifesaving humanitarian work should not be targets; they are humanitarian heroes."

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Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan is demanding increased Garda presence in Kennedy Park and robust action to tackle criminality in the Kennedy Park area. Huge concern exists in the area following this second shooting in just over a month.

The Limerick City TD said:

“Following the shooting in July, when a man was shot in the stomach in the area, people were genuinely concerned that worse would happen. I knocked on every door in the area recently and many people there expressed their huge concerns that not enough was being done to tackle the issue locally. They feared for their family and their safety if sufficient action wasn’t taken.

“The Kennedy Park area has always been a great place to live and has a great community spirit. It has a large older and retired population that needs to be reassured and protected. The recent shootings have genuinely frightened many these people.

“It is clear that a multi-agency approach is needed, that both a robust Garda and Council response is necessary. The Gardaí must provide adequate resources and Limerick Council must prioritise the area for CCTV cameras.

 “Recently, I called to most homes in the area and spoke with residents. There is huge concern that these recent shootings might herald something new and that innocent people might get caught up in any escalation. 

“I would urge Senior Gardaí to listen to the resident’s concerns and provide the necessary level of patrols without delay to deal with both the recent shooting and the ongoing sporadic anti-social behaviour that occurs which is caused by youths many of whom are from outside the area.

“Action needs to be done as a matter of urgency to tackle these gangsters who seem to have easy access to guns. Local residents need to feel safe and reassured in their own community. It is high time that Garda numbers were restored to a workable level both in Limerick and nationally and this criminality is tackled.” 

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Speaking this afternoon, Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has said that it is disgraceful that some families have to consider moving north in order to access a vital drug to treat muscular dystrophy for their children.

Senator Conway-Walsh was speaking after she met the family of Lewis Harte Walsh at the weekend along with Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams TD and Michelle O’Neill MLA

She said:

“Translarna is a drug for their children who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The drug is available in the north of Ireland as well as in 22 European countries. 

“The case of 5 year old Lewis Harte Walsh, a sufferer of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, highlights the human impact of a failure to approach this on an all-island basis. My colleague Michelle O’Neill, during her time as Health Minister in the Executive, ensured that sufferers of muscular dystrophy in the north had access to Translarna.

“Indeed, for over two years now many families of children with Duchenne’s have exhausted themselves campaigning for this drug to be approved. However, recently the HSE informed families of children who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy that Translarna will not be approved for reimbursement under its drugs schemes.

“The situation is now incredibly difficult for the parents of these children who have been forced into making the choice of staying in their homes without access to the drug, or of uprooting to a different jurisdiction where the drug is available.

“I know myself that some of the families affected are looking at making preparations to move to live in the north of Ireland in order to be eligible to receive the drug for their children.

“No parent should be forced to make this decision, it is patently clear that this should not have to happen. If 22 European countries can make the drug available, then it behoves the Irish Government to do all they can to ensure that it is available in this state as well.

“However, it is also incumbent on pharmaceutical companies to ensure that the drug is priced acceptably. For too long now, across the globe, some large pharmaceutical companies have used difficulties presented by people’s illnesses as leverage to charge astronomical prices for life-saving and life-changing medicines. Not only is it immoral, but it is also a damning indictment of how the commodification of health care has meant that care has become more about money than about helping the most vulnerable.  

“Both the HSE and pharmaceutical companies need to put the patient at the centre of the decision making procedure and immediately review the process to make Translarna available in this state.

“Children like Lewis are dependent on this drug being made available within months to prevent them being wheelchair bound for the rest of their lives. It's crucial that the right decision is made now.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion met with the Chief Executive of the Housing Executive today to raise concerns around cuts to the Supporting People programme.

She attended the meeting with party colleagues, Karen Mullan MLA and Councillor Colly Kelly.

The Foyle MP said:

“Today, I met with Clark Bailie, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive and outlined our concern regarding the five percent cut to the Supporting People programme budget.

“I highlighted the adverse effect that this cut is having on local groups on providing much needed support for the most vulnerable people in our society.

“I stressed the cut to the Supporting People programme would have serious implications for people's well-being and will create more pressure on public finances in the long-term.

“The meeting was positive and the Chief Executive informed us that he is seeking additional funding for Supporting People programmes and he is hopeful that he can secure this funding.

“Supporting People helps vulnerable people to live independently, including those who are disabled, elderly, and victims of domestic violence. It is vital that this service is protected.”

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Sinn Féin Welfare spokesperson Alex Maskey has slammed SDLP 'hypocrisy' over the Tory Government's Universal Credit plans.

The West Belfast MLA commented:

“The SDLP helped to deliver welfare changes not block them.

“Margaret Ritchie introduced the first Welfare Reform Act in the north and her party colleague Alex Attwood introduced the highly criticised work capability assessment under a private company.

“It is not surprising that the SDLP is again trying to exploit genuine concerns about the roll out of Universal Credit to score cheap political points.

"Universal Credit is being imposed by the Tory Government, no-one else and for the SDLP to pretend otherwise is spurious and hypocritical. 

"The SDLP promised to block welfare reform at Westminster. They failed.

“The SDLP supported the £500 million welfare mitigation package secured by Sinn Féin then voted against it. 

"Let's be clear. Had it been left to the SDLP, the full extent of Tory welfare cuts would have been implemented here without any mitigation package to protect the most vulnerable."

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Commenting after the appearance of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) and Sport Ireland at today’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Sport Imelda Munster TD has expressed concern that a former Minister for Sport allegedly told representatives of the Irish Sports Council, which is now called Sport Ireland, ‘to have no rows’ with the OCI.

Mr Kieran Mulvey, Chairperson of Sport Ireland, also said today that Pat Hickey, the former OCI President, had had spats with, and had publicly humiliated, former Ministers and former Taoisigh, which led the Sports Council to “tread around the OCI with delicate feet”.

Mr Mulvey was answering questions on the Moran report into the Rio ticketing scandal. When questioned about the poor governance structures at the OCI Mr Mulvey disclosed that, as governing body, Sport Ireland is tasked with overseeing both the areas of governance and performance at the OCI. Mr Mulvey said that because Sport Ireland treaded carefully around the OCI, they focused on the performance side of their brief, essentially ignoring their governance role.

Deputy Munster said:

“This is further evidence of the toxic culture at the OCI, and the dysfunctional relationship between the OCI, its governing body Sport Ireland, and the Department of Sport.

“It is fair to say that the government was unwilling to tackle poor governance at the OCI. Today, we learned that the Sports Council were advised to treat the OCI with kid gloves. This contributed to the culture we now know existed at the OCI where the President, Mr Hickey, had free reign to run the organisation as he pleased, without a shred of outside oversight from the governing body.” 

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Carál Ní Chuilín met with the senior civil servants today to raise concerns around social housing, welfare cuts, and cuts to the Supporting People Programme in deprived areas.

Speaking following a meeting with Senior Officials in the Department of Communities, Ní Chuilín pushed for urgent action on a range of issues, particularly in light of Belfast City Council’s decision to grant land earmarked for social housing to private developers.

Carál Ní Chuilín said:

“Today I met with senior civil servants to raise a number of issues relating to housing and social investment programs.

“I stressed that cuts to the Supporting People Programme would have a damaging impact on housing security for vulnerable people.

“ On Tuesday evening the Planning Committee in Belfast City Council took a decision to grant public land, in an area in dire need of social housing, to private developers.

“In this context, and against the backdrop of relentless Tory austerity, I also urged the authorities to prioritise vesting land in the years ahead to ensure that spiralling housing shortages are curbed.

“There is a pattern clearly emerging where citizens find it increasingly hard to make ends meet. Decisions like the one taken by the City Council’s Planning Committee do little to build public confidence that housing shortages, cuts to welfare and support, and a drought of community investment are being addressed. 

“The purpose of this meeting today was to make the realities of life for citizens in deprived area known to the relevant authorities, and I urge them to take immediate action.”

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Sinn Féin President and TD for Louth Gerry Adams has expressed concern at the recent Simon Community report which shows significant difficulties faced by people trying to access housing supports through the HAP scheme in the Dundalk area.

The Simon Community ‘Locked Out report VIII’ showed significant gaps between HAP rent limits and the actual market rental prices in Dundalk.

Teachta Adams said:

“The Simon Community tracked the number of available properties to rent within HAP limits in eleven areas including Dundalk.

“Only 34 properties were found to be available, which rings true to ongoing difficulties faced by constituents in the area battling to find homes .This is all within a rental market that has seen average increases of 18% in Louth.

“We also see a worrying trend impacting hugely on single persons. An average rent in Dundalk for a one bed property was found to be 13% higher than the HAP limits for single persons, and no available properties were found.

“It is time for this government to take an honest look at their failing housing strategy.

“This report and its findings raise an important question around the viability of HAP as a primary vehicle to deliver social housing.” 

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has his extended his sympathy and solidarity to the victims of the terror attack in Barcelona yesterday.

Deputy Adams said:

“I want to extend my sincerest and heartfelt sympathy and solidarity to the families and friends of those killed, and the survivors, of the despicable act of brutality witnessed in Barcelona yesterday.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all of them at this time.” 

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Sinn Féin Anti-Poverty and Welfare Spokesperson, Alex Maskey MLA, has noted the findings of the annual ‘Northern Ireland Households Below Average Income’ report, which this year points to a reduction in child poverty.

The report, which also indicates a rise in average income, highlights a reduction in absolute and relative poverty across several social groups including children, working age adults and pensioners.

Alex Maskey said:

“While the report notes a reduction in poverty in our society, the serious and stubborn levels of deprivation in the north are unacceptable.

“Long term trends point to an increasing likelihood that children are at a higher risk of poverty than the rest of society. Lone parents and pensioners continue to suffer, too, with long-term poverty.

“The significant mitigations in welfare cuts secured by Sinn Féin have been cited as a possible reason in the reduction in poverty, which is not matched by poverty figures in Britain.

“For too long this part of Ireland has suffered from lack of investment, savage welfare cuts, and economic under-development.

“Sinn Fein will continue to work with all departments to tackle poverty and disadvantage, however without an end to Tory cuts and devolution of the necessary fiscal powers it will not be possible to maintain the downward trend in poverty figures. 

“It should be increasingly clear to all that budget cuts, austerity, and stubborn levels of poverty are the price of the Union."

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the Tory Brexit agenda is an attack on the human rights of the people of the north. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"I met this week with the Equality Commission, Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Consortium to discuss the impact of Brexit on human rights. 

"It is clear that Brexit will impact all aspects of life here but particularly issues around human rights and equality. It will have wide ranging implications for many of the basic rights that we take for granted. 

"There is no doubt that the Tory Brexit agenda is an attack on our human rights. 

"The fact that the proposals published this week by the British government on dealing with Brexit and the north is totally silent on the human rights, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights, and continued access the courts over breaches to human rights legislation is very concerning. 

"The Tories talk about being committed to the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts but appear to have ignored their human rights obligations under the agreement.  

"The entirety of the Good Friday Agreement, including the human rights it safeguards, must be protected in the Brexit negotiations. 

"The best way to protect our rights is for the north to secure designated special status within the EU." 

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Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O'Neill has condemned the Barcelona attack as a ‘horrific attack on men, women and children’.

Expressing sympathy and solidarity with the families of those killed and injured, Michelle O'Neill said: 

"The horrific attack in Barcelona was an appalling and indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children.

“The scale of the devastation caused is heart-breaking.

“It is sickening to think that people deliberately set out to kill and maim people who were simply out enjoying a summer evening in one of the world’s most beautiful and welcoming cities. 

"My thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who have lost loved ones and those who were injured, as well as the emergency services who attended the scene.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Sport Imelda Munster TD has today questioned Minister for Sport Shane Ross on his management of the aftermath of the Rio Olympics ticketing scandal. Speaking at a sitting of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Munster expressed disbelief at the behaviour of Minister Ross in the wake of the scandal uncovered in Rio.

Teachta Munster said:

“Were alarm bells not ringing when Pat Hickey immediately made it clear that he was not interested in addressing these issues when Minister Ross initially met with him in Rio?

"Mr Hickey also refused to have an independent person involved with the Olympic Council of Ireland’s inquiry into the matter. What made Minister Ross think that Mr Hickey and other relevant parties would cooperate with a non-statutory inquiry?

“Despite these red flags, Minister Ross steam-rolled ahead with the non-statutory inquiry, telling us that most relevant parties were happy to take part. This, and the entire affair, shows extreme political naivety on the part of the Minister. An inquiry without powers to compel witnesses to attend was never going to be sufficient, and Mr Justice Moran’s report shows that.

“Minister Ross claimed that saving time and money were the reasons for holding a non-statutory inquiry. This inquiry took almost a year to complete, and it has cost a significant amount of public money, without delivering anything concrete, due to the lack of cooperation it received. 

“We are essentially in the same place we were a year ago. Mr Justice Moran’s report as it stands is only a basis for further investigation into these matters.

“Minister Ross appears to be satisfied that Mr Justice Moran’s report sees the completion of the process investigating this matter. The Transport Committee will consider what options are open to us, as this report clearly provides the basis for further investigation."

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has urged young people receiving A Level results to “follow your passion” when it comes to fulfilling their educational or career path.

Speaking following the release of A Level results on Thursday, the Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson said:

“I want to wish everyone receiving a result every success.

“These days young people face a lot of pressure when choosing a path for the future. The advice I would give those receiving results today is to follow your passion.

“Exam results steadily improve year on year, and credit must be paid to three successive Sinn Féin Education Ministers for their work in developing our education system.

“The fact that this has been achieved in a context of relentless Tory austerity and cuts to school budgets speaks also to the efforts of teachers and public sector staff.

“Our society prospers through the work of our teachers, carers and parents, and today is a day to celebrate their role in educating and supporting young people in what can be a challenging time in their lives.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said she is bitterly disappointed at a judgement in Belfast High Court today but said the fight to achieve marriage equality will go on.

The North Belfast MLA was speaking outside the High Court after Justice O’Hara dismissed two legal challenges to the law denying equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. 

She attended today’s hearing with party colleagues Chris Hazzard MP and Elisha McCallion MP.

 Carál Ní Chuilín said:  

“We are obviously disappointed by this decision and we know that the couples involved in this case are looking at grounds for appeal.

“I want to pay tribute to them and offer our continuing best wishes.

“However, people should not have to resort to the courts in order to access rights, which are available across western Europe.

“Equal marriage should have been enacted in the north a long time ago.  

“But it has been consistently denied because of the actions of the DUP in particular - in defiance of wider public opinion and a majority in the Assembly.

“The ongoing denial of rights by the DUP, with the support of the British government, which are enjoyed by citizens rights across these islands is unacceptable.

“This is an issue which is at the heart of the current political crisis.

“The fight for marriage equality will go on. 

“We need to see the implementation of agreements and an end to discrimination if we are to have sustainable political institutions.”

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