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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Eoin Ó Broin has stated that the people of Clondalkin have been let down by successive governments, that have failed to invest in the services and supports needed to tackle the causes of gun and drug crime.

Speaking this morning during a Dáil debate on gun and drug crime, Deputy Ó Broin challenged his constituency colleague, acting Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, on her party’s slashing of resources for the Gardaí and community-based services.

Ó Broin said:

“Clondalkin is a vibrant and thriving part of our city and as a community we take great pride in who we are and where we live.

“Unfortunately Clondalkin continues to experience a high level of gun and drug related crime.

“ The first Ministerial Task Force report on drugs was published twenty years ago. This report highlighted the link between drugs, crime and socio-economic deprivation. Clondalkin was highlighted as one of the areas most affected.

“Last week the  Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force published a report on the links between drugs, crime, poverty and inequality. It is a damning indictment of twenty years of failure by Fianna Fáil and Fine governments to tackle the causes of gun and drug crime.

“One third of the population in the drugs task force area are at risk of poverty; Unemployment in parts of Bawnogue and North Clondalkin is as high as 45%; In some schools one in three young people leave school with significant literacy and numeracy difficulties; Illegal drug use among 15 to 34 year olds is as high as 46%.

“The Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force Report confirms that tackling gun and drug crime is not just a matter of more and better policing, it is a matter of investing in social and economic regeneration for our most deprived communities.

“Minister Fitzgerald and her colleagues in Government have abandoned the community of Clondalkin. Under her watch, funding for the community and voluntary sector and the Drugs task Force has been cut by up to 45%,  Community Safety Forum funding by 50% and Community Development Programmes by 100%.

“They have underfunded the Gardaí, schools, youth and sporting facilities and abandoned large sections of Clondalkin to long term unemployment, poverty and deprivation.

“The people of Clondalkin need more that than just media condemnations of the rising level of gun and drug related crime. They want to know what the government is going to do to do to tackle the poverty, inequality and deprivation that lies at the root causes of so much drug and gun crime.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy will host a roundtable discussion in Castlebar this Friday, 6th May, to examine how the Common Agricultural Policy can be used to create more jobs in rural Ireland.

The discussion, which will involve representatives from the major farming organisations, academics working in the field of rural development, and the Regional Director of Enterprise Ireland, will take place at the Harlequin Hotel from 10am to 12pm.

Carthy is shadow Rapporteur of the European Parliament Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee report ‘How can the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) improve job creation in rural areas?’

Speaking in advance of the meeting Matt Carthy said:

 “This is an important discussion for anyone interested in promoting indigenous jobs and sustainable  employment in rural Ireland.

“It will also be an opportunity for those who are interested to have a direct input into the amendments will be making to the report which will go before the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee to vote.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin has today launched a Bill that would enshrine the Right to Housing in the Constitution.

Speaking at the launch Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The crisis in our housing system is getting worse by the day. 2000 children will tonight sleep in emergency accommodation. Families are being made homeless every single day. Thousands of others are living in expensive, insecure and at times substandard accommodation.

"Never before has there been a greater need to enshrine the right to affordable, appropriate and safe housing in our Constitution.

“This Bill we are launching today calls on the State to recognise the right of all citizens to adequate, appropriate, secure, safe and affordable housing.

“This is not a novel idea. Eighty-one countries across the world have the right to housing recognised in the Constitutions

“This is something the government could act on without delay and it would provide a basic floor of protection for the increasing numbers of people facing homelessness.”

“A Constitutional right to Housing would not mean the right to a key to a home for all; however what it does do is require the State to make reasonable provision to protect this right in its policy and decision making.

“There is currently no legal right to housing in Irish law and the lack of a substantive right to housing is highlighted by the plight of families facing homelessness”

“Currently, the failure to provide a family with emergency accommodation cannot be challenged by referencing a clear right. A right to housing would essentially give the courts the jurisdiction to review whether that right is being respected.

“The people of this state have already deliberated on this issue. Over 80% of the participants in The Constitutional Convention agreed that such a right should be enshrined in the Constitution. The incoming Government should provide for the holding of a referendum on this issue in its programme for government.”

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, has welcomed the European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgements on plain packaging for tobacco products.

Crowe said that the decision has the potential to have huge positive and far reaching health implications, but he also said that the ISDS mechanism currently being discussed in the TTIP negotiations between the European Union and the USA would potentially negate and undermine decisions like this in the very near future.

Deputy Crowe said:

“We know that 1 in every 2 people who take up cigarettes die from smoking related illnesses and an estimated 5,870 people die from smoking related illnesses in Ireland every year.

“This unacceptable death toll, combined with other cardiovascular and pulmonary medical conditions, means that as a society we need to do everything in our power to discourage new people from getting addicted to tobacco products and to prevent the proliferation and accessibility of these products.  

“Sinn Féin wholeheartedly supported the legislation that would introduce plain packaging on tobacco products when it was being debated in the Dáil and Seanad.

“That legislation was aggressively challenged by the tobacco industry in the Courts.

“I particularly welcome the judgements of the ECJ that were released this week, which uphold that the plain packaging Directive provides a legal basis for Ireland and other countries to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco products.

“The EU and USA are currently in negotiations around a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that could potentially undermine and negate positive decisions like this.

“The so-called ISDS mechanism, which is being negotiated as part of TTIP, would allow massive multinational corporations to circumvent local and national court decisions and to sue Governments in a secretive international court.

“Decisions like these ones taken by the ECJ would be superseded by decisions made in an unaccountable tribunal. This would undermine initiatives like plain packaging on tobacco products and would ultimately undermine the democratic decision making of Governments.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said that the Irish Government can no longer blame the EU for its contradictory policies on boating regulations. Ní Riada had asked the Commission whether any EU laws or regulations were to blame for the refusal by Irish authorities to license small inshore fishing vessels for use as passenger boats during sea-angling events.

Liadh Ní Riada said:

“Sea angling is an important sporting activity, and its potential to attract tourists to underdeveloped coastal zones of Ireland is a significant driver for local economies.

“This activity once depended on the use of small commercial fishing vessels, providing a valuable source of income for inshore fishermen. Since the introduction of passenger boat regulations by the Irish government in June 2002 the use of commercial fishing boats as passenger boats has been effectively banned.

“There are separate safety standards in force for passenger boats and for fishing vessels. Despite the fact that a vessel may meet, or indeed surpass, the safety standard laid down in both sets of regulations, it may not be licensed for both uses simultaneously.

“The response from the European Commission to my question made it very clear that the responsibility for this ban on dual-licensing does not have its origins in any EU law or regulation. At best it is a bureaucratic error that our Government is unwilling to fix, or at worst a Government policy that purposefully seeks to exclude hard-up fishermen from a secondary source of revenue.

“To my mind, this arbitrary and senseless limitation on the use of capital in underdeveloped rural economies is a barrier to rural development and economic diversification. I have been contacted by sea angling clubs and by inshore fishermen alike to raise this issue. I know of clubs that have had to limit the size of international angling competitions because there wasn't enough licensed passenger boats available in the locality, while perfectly seaworthy inshore fishing boats stayed tied to the harbour wall.

“Our coastal economies need support to grow and develop, but this ridiculous and bureaucratic ban is hindering that growth and squandering economic potential. While other European countries cash in on angling tourism, and while the EU invests in blue-growth and diversification in coastal economies, our dysfunctional Government once again thwarts the ability of rural and coastal communities to use their resources to promote economic growth.”

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Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness has sent his condolences to party colleague Mickey Brady MP following the death of his mother at 107 years of age.

Mr McGuinness said;

"It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Sally Brady, mother of my friend and comrade, Mickey Brady.

"I had the honour and privilege of meeting Mrs Brady when she visited Stormont with Mickey and found her a charming and intelligent lady with a great spirit.

"She lived a long and full life which spanned two centuries and witnessed many changes in that time.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Mickey, the wider Brady family circle and their friends at this sad and difficult time.

"Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam."

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Sinn Féin's Caoimhe Archibald has condemned those responsible for stealing Sinn Féin election billboards and posters in the Coleraine area. 

The East Derry candidate said;

"A Sinn Féin billboard for tomorrow's election billboard has been stolen in Coleraine and a number of election posters have been taken down and vandalised.

"Those behind these incidents are clearly trying to attack the democratic process but they will not succeed.

"We have been getting a great response on the doorsteps to the positive and progressive policies of Sinn Féin. 

"Incidents like this will not deter us from representing everyone in the community."

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Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has challenged Irish Water to shed its cloak of secrecy after her Freedom of Information (FOI) request was refused by the public body.

Speaking in Dublin the Sinn Féin MEP said:

“Irish Water recently commissioned and paid for legal advice which was then leaked to the media. That advice, paid for using the public’s money, was little more than a statement for self-survival. No details of the legal opinion were ever provided.

“On hearing about Irish Water’s orchestrated media campaign on its own behalf, I immediately lodged an application under the FOI Act, seeking a copy of the legal advice obtained. I have now been informed that my request has been turned down because Irish Water believes its legal advice is exempt from the FOI Act. I will be appealing this decision.

“It is noteworthy that Irish Water saw fit to leak its legal opinion to the media but now refuse to release the contents of that same legal opinion to me, as an elected public representative. Irish Water cannot continue to whisper out of one side of its mouth, while saying nothing from the other.

“This continues a policy of secrecy at this so-called public body. Details of the numbers of bill payments made are also shrouded in secrecy – particularly since the general election.

“It is time that the new government partnership of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael stepped in and reminded Irish Water that they are a public utility and not a private company.

“In particular, despite Fianna Fáil reneging on its election promise to abolish Irish Water, it must still ensure that the company is not permitted to continue to operate under a cloak of secrecy.”

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Speaking today in the Dáil on the issue of climate change, Sinn Féin TD for Fingal Louise O’Reilly raised the issue of TTIP and the dangers that it represents to efforts to fights climate change and in particular the “investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions for threats and impacts on their policy-making autonomy in this area”, saying that “the level of enthusiasm and zeal for promoting TTIP in this state by some parties exceeds that of other member states”.

Deputy Reilly said:

“This is an issue of pressing importance; the social and economic out-workings of climate change, are as relevant to people as any other. 

“This week TTIP has made headlines and I believe that the public need more leaking of documents such as this so that they can see the shocking realities of the deal that is currently being negotiated at European level. This deal extends well beyond reducing trade tariffs and quotas. It will have a colossal impact on public policy, which have a big impact on climate change. 

“Climate change and the quality of our environment will be a central problem demanding a response from policy-makers this century. So why then, when faced with this issue, is the EU engaged in negotiating a deal that will significantly undermine any progress to address climate change?

“The level of enthusiasm and zeal for promoting TTIP in this state by some parties exceeds that of other member states. This has been shown in the failure of the last Government to draft a comprehensive political contribution of all relevant Oireachtas Committees on TTIP, despite pressure put on them by Sinn Féin TDs and Senators.

“We talk about the importance of our Agri-food sector. We talk about Green Ireland. We market ourselves as one of the best food producers in the world. Let me be clear- this is a reputation hard earned and well deserved. But TTIP will have a significant impact on this in the context of climate change. Significant concerns have been raised with me from the horticultural sector about TTIP such that through this ‘regulatory cooperation’, there will be downward pressure on some forms of agriculture, in favour of industrial methods. What will happen then is that small farmers, such as those involved in organic production for example, will find it increasingly difficult to compete with industrial farming. Is this the way forward we envisage for Green Ireland? 

“With the threat of the legal effects of TTIP looming large on national Governments, how would governments put in place the proper regulations to meet climate targets?  Governments need to look no further than the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions for threats and impacts on their policy-making autonomy in this area.

“There is a huge responsibility on the Irish government to act pro-actively and constructively on the challenges which now face us. Climate Change is an issue that will not be going away. But TTIP can. It needs political will and that must start here. It must start with the new Government.” 

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Speaking in the Dáil today during statements on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, challenged Simon Coveney TD on his role as agriculture minister.

Deputy Ferris said:

“Minister, under your watch, agriculture has slid into a crisis in so many sectors, that I don’t know where to start.

“I am inundated with calls and visits to my constituency offices from farmers in desperation.

“I don’t know if when a new government is formed you will still be in the agricultural and fisheries driving seat, but you are leaving behind a legacy of neglect of the vulnerable sectors, support for the big boys and many farmers born and raised in the proud tradition of agricultural production in Ireland beginning to realise that there is no future for their children or their children’s children in farming.

“I wonder, Minister, if you ever really considered during your time at the head of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, what the role of a progressive minister should be?

“Did you ever consider that your place at the cabinet table is intended to be a representative and supportive role for the man and woman who by their effort and skill produce the clean, green, wholesome produce of Irish farms?” 

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Making a statement to the Dáil today on Agriculture, Sligo Leitrim TD Martin Kenny said that the system of farm inspections must be reformed.

Deputy Kenny said:

“The stress that farmers are under financially is exacerbated by the stress they are under due to inspections. Inspections are run in such a way as to suggest that they are not about improving standards or modifying behaviour for the better, but to intimidate and discourage farmers.

“The inspection should not resemble a police raid. There is no one saying that standards should not be maintained or that anyone should be allowed to lower the high standards of Irish farming, but a more co-operative and constructive regime would benefit everyone but for some reason Minister, your department prefers the heavy hand to the helping hand.

“Now that negotiations for government are near their completion, I would hope that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would recognise the hardship that this imposes on the farming community and that reform of the system will be part of the new programme for government.” 

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Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has said he is alarmed that in the five year period from 2011-15 Waterford University Hospital spent almost €20 million on agency staff. Responding to figures he received as a result of a parliamentary question to the Minister for Health, Deputy Cullinane said:

“While I accept that hospitals must be properly staffed, this is a shocking waste of public money.

“In the two year period from 2014 to 2015, €11.5 million was spent at Waterford Hospital on agency staff.

“This is a damming indictment of the government’s shambolic health policy and its indifference to universal public health provision. 

“It also illustrates the ongoing privatisation of the health service and the erosion of working conditions for medical professionals committed to working in the public sector.” 

Note: See response to PQ below

PQ 8374/16 *To ask the Minister for Health the monies spent by University Hospital Waterford on agency staff for the years 2011 to 2015, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [David Cullinane].

The Health Service Executive has been requested to reply directly to you in the context of the above Parliamentary Question, which you submitted to the Minister for Health for response. I have examined the matter and the following outlines the position.

The expenditure totals in respect of University Hospital Waterford for the following years was:-

·         2011       3,214,924.75

·         2012       1,648,498.90

·         2013       3,597,747,50

·         2014       6,289,020,99

·         2015       5,145,766.47

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Eoin Ó Broin has welcomed the publication of a report on the right to housing by the Mercy Law Centre. Speaking after the launch of the report, Deputy Ó Broin also said that Sinn Féin would be shortly launching a Bill that seeks to put the right to housing into the Constitution.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

‘I warmly welcome the report published by the Mercy Law Centre on the right to housing. The report presents a compelling case as to why the incoming Government must enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution.

‘Sinn Féin has drafted a Bill that seeks to put the right to housing into the Constitution and will be launching this in the coming days.

‘The report outlines the domestic, European Union and International legal context in which any such a right would operate. 

‘The report makes clear that enshrining the right to housing in the Constitution, would not mean the right to a key to a home for all. Rather it would put in place a floor of protection and require the state in its laws and policies to reasonably protect that right.

‘The Mercy Law Centre is one of the state’s leading housing rights agencies and has a comprehensive knowledge of both housing law and policy. Their strong advice to the incoming Government should not be ignored.

‘Given that the Constitutional Convention has already deliberated on this matter and agreed by over 80% on such a right, the incoming Government should include in its programme for government the holding of a referendum on this matter.’ ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Eoin Ó Broin has said that the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil agreement on housing ‘is not sufficient to deal with the housing and homeless crisis.’ Deputy Ó Broin has also called on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to provide more detail on the vague proposals announced.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Broin said:

“After nine weeks of talks, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have managed to come up with only six short bullet points on the housing. This is not sufficient to deal with the housing and homeless crisis.

 “What we need is a detailed, workable plan that can be enacted immediately to deal with this crisis.

“They say they will increase the supply of social and affordable housing. The real question is how many units are to be provided, when, at what cost and by whom? People want to know whether these units will be in addition to the targets set out in Alan Kelly’s failed Social Housing Strategy 2020

‘Sinn Féin has set out an alternative local authority and housing association led programme of acquisition and construction significantly larger in scope that that of the outgoing Government. Anything short of this level of investment in public housing will not be sufficient.

‘The specific mention of increasing the supply of Housing Assistance Payment tenancies suggests that the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil agreement is wedded to the same over-reliance on the private sector that has caused so much difficulty for the strategy of the outgoing government.

“Likewise the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agreement says measures will be taken to protect the family? What will these measures be and when will they be implemented?

‘Sinn Féin has proposed legislation to cap mortgage interest rates, strengthen the role of MABS, and end the bank veto in cases where the family home is involved regardless of when the arrears began. There is also a need to revisit the Land and Conveyancing Act 2013. These are the minimum measures required to address the growing number of evictions and repossessions.

‘While proposals to increase rent subsidy levels are positive these must be accompanied by rent certainty linking rent increases to the consumer price index if they are to have the desired effect of providing those in the private rental sector in their homes.

“With families becoming homelessness on a daily basis, housing as a result of spiralling rents and rising home repossessions there is a need for housing and homelessness to be made an immediate priority. On the basis of what Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have agreed to it seems that we are a long way off from the kinds of policy changes required to stem the rising tide of homelessness and increase the supply of social and affordable housing.’ 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has welcomed the European Court of Justice Dismissal of the final legal challenge by International Tobacco Companies, against the plain packaging directive.

Martina Anderson said:

“I welcome this outcome as it sends out the message that we will no longer allow multi-national tobacco conglomerates to play fast and loose with our children’s health.

“As of the 20th May all tobacco products across the EU will have to be produced in plain standardised packaging, taking the glamour factor out of advertising of these products that when used as the manufacturer intend results in the death of 50% of users.

“Retailers will have a twelve month grace period to sell off remaining stock before the new plain packaging rules will take full effect.

“The Directive is intended to make the packages less attractive especially to young people who are specifically targeted by the tobacco producers.

“I take great pleasure from the fact that I was the lead MEP (Shadow Rapporteur) ensuring the Tobacco Directive resulted in the new regulations passing through the EU Parliament.“I believe that not only will this Directive see a major reduction in the use of tobacco products but will help relieve the pressure on health budgets through the reduction of smoking related illnesses in all member states- preventing an estimated 700,000 premature deaths.”

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Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly has said Sinn Féin supports the Lord Chief Justice's proposals to make money available to fund legacy inquests and investigations.

Mr Kelly said; 
"Sinn Féin held a meeting with the Lord Chief Justice at which he outlined his proposals for funding legacy inquests. 
"We told him that we fully endorsed his proposals.

"That is Sinn Féin's position and we want to see the funds released."

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Sinn Féin candidate Catherine Seeley has said an attack on cars belonging to the family of the party’s National Irish language officer Johnny McGibbon will not deter Sinn Féin in Upper Bann.

 Ms Seeley said,

 “Those who resort to skulking around in the middle of the night attacking the property of those who present a democratic coherent strategy of bringing about change are devoid of political thinking.

  “The attack on two cars belonging to the family of Johnny McGibbon should be condemned by all those who support the democratic process.

 “This attack on personal property belonging to a long-time Sinn Féin activist is a step up on the recent attacks on Sinn Féin billboards and posters.

 “Johnny McGibbon has worked tirelessly for his community including the promotion of the Irish language as Sinn Féin’s National officer.

 “I would appeal to anyone with information to bring it forward to the PSNI so that the culprits can be caught.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin candidate Grace McDermott has described the attack on the Orange hall at Strawletterdallon, near Newtown as ‘purely sectarian.’ 

 Ms. McDermott said,

 “The attack on Strawletterdallon Orange Hall must be condemned outright as it was purely sectarian. I am deeply disappointed that this hall is being subject to continuous attacks over the past few months and years and those who are carrying out the attacks need to be stopped.

 “If the objective was to cause community division I am confident that this objective will fail. These attacks do not reflect the wishes of communities in any part of Tyrone. 

 "These attacks are no different than attacks on GAA halls, churches and other cultural and community facilities and must be rejected by everyone.  ENDS

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Speaking at Leinster House this morning, Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald TD has described the Agreement for government between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil published yesterday evening, as a “blueprint for continued chaos in the health service”.

Teachta McDonald said:

“The Agreement reached between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to maintain the status-quo and return Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, somehow the result of weeks of negotiations, is strong on soundbites but light on substance, no more so than in the area of healthcare.

“The Agreement does nothing more than enshrine a commitment to maintaining the chaos both parties have inflicted on health over their terms in office and the continuation of an unequal, two-tier, underfunded, crisis-ridden health service. 

“The document commits to ‘maintaining a humane approach for discretionary medical card provision’. The current approach is a far cry from humane, and Fianna Fáil candidates committed to introducing automatic medical cards for children in receipt of Domiciliary Care Allowance. They should now clarify exactly what they mean by the continuation of a ‘humane’ approach. 

“A five year HSE service plan is a welcome initiative which Sinn Féin have called for, but the reality is that a 2:1 split between public spending and tax cuts for the wealthy means there won’t be adequate funding available to implement any such plan over the course of five years.

“The commitment in the Agreement to providing €15 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund to tackle waiting lists is also woefully inadequate to tackle the crisis of 500,000 citizens waiting for treatment at this time. 

“The reality is that both parties have no will to adequately address the problems in health, are both firmly committed to a two-tier health service to the detriment of patients and their joint Agreement for government is nothing more than a blueprint for continued chaos in the health service.”

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Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has said Irish Medium Education continues to go from strength to strength. 

Speaking after newly released figures showed continued growth in the IME sector, Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said; 

"The new figures from the Education Authority released by Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta show the continued growth of the Irish Medium Education Sector. 

"It is fantastic news that a record number of pupils - 700 - will start their primary education through Irish in September which will bring the number of children in IME to almost 6,000. 

"And almost 1,000 pupils are attending meánscoileanna across the North, almost double the number from just a decade ago. 

"This is a clear indication of the growth and continued popularity of Irish Medium Education among both pupils and parents. 

"I congratulate the staff, pupils and parents involved in IME across the North, as well as Comhairle na Gaelscoláiochta for the continued success of the sector."

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