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Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle said security alerts causing disruption in Strabane were doing nothing but harm to the town and its people.

Speaking following the discovery of a suspicious object in the Evish Road area, the West Tyrone MLA said; 

"This security alert has brought nothing but disruption and harm to the town of Strabane this morning. 

"People have had to leave their homes and diversions are in place at Springhill Park, Newtownkennedy Street and the Evish Road.

"These alerts do nothing for the image of Strabane. It is a great place to live and a great town to do business in and this is the last thing we need.

"Whoever is behind this alert needs to realise they do not represent the people of Strabane and stop these futile actions immediately."

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has called on people to take part in the public consultation on the draft Programme for Government. 

The Newry and Armagh MLA said; 

"The new Executive met for the first time this week and has today launched a public consultation on the draft Programme for Government. 

“This is a fresh and innovative approach to government.

"The public now have its chance to have their say on the Programme for Government and shape the direction and policies of the Executive. 

"I would encourage as many people as possible to play an active role in the consultation in the time ahead and to make sure their voice is heard to help us continue to deliver for everyone in society."

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Sinn Féin Seanad Leader, Rose Conway-Walsh, has today put down a motion to establish a Seanad committee on political reform which the party intends tabling at the first sitting of the new Seanad.
 
Senator Conway-Walsh said:

"The Seanad is elitist and undemocratic. The recommendations of previous reports have been left to gather dust on the shelf and any changes introduced have been piecemeal.  
 
"The Government’s referendum proposal to abolish the Seanad three years ago was rejected by the people. However, what was accepted by all party's involved on either side of that campaign was that the Seanad cannot be retained in its current form.
 
"Despite the countless promises over decades by the establishment parties to reform the Seanad, they have abjectly failed to deliver anything of substance.  
 
"On twelve separate occasions reports were produced proposing reform, the latest in 2015, yet none were implemented.  
 
"Sinn Féin has today put down a motion seeking to establish a committee on the political reform of the Seanad. If agreed, this committee would be time-limited and their recommendations brought onto the floor of the Seanad for a vote in a number of weeks.

"We want the Seanad to meet swiftly without any further delay and for the political reform of the Seanad to be top of the agenda.

"We are inviting all parties and Independent Senators to support the motion by adding their name and support to it and demonstrate their commitment to real reform.”

Copy of Motion as submitted;
 

“That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders– 

(a)   the sub-Committee on Seanad Political Reform shall be chaired by the Cathaoirleach and include not more than 20 other members of the House, of which membership will be determined on a proportionate basis as per Party and Technical Groups and Independent Senators; and that provision be made for the substitution of members as allowed for under Standing Orders.

(b)   the Cathaoirleach shall announce the names of the members appointed for the information of the Seanad on the first sitting day following their appointment; 

(d) any member or political party may make a submission on Seanad political reform to the sub-Committee which shall review these submissions, including that of the Seanad Reform Working Group established in 2015, and report back to the Seanad within four weeks with a series of recommendations for the approval of the House, including the role of a reformed Seanad within the political process; powers and functions of a reformed Seanad and any legislative change; how the institutions conducts its business, including a review of Standing Orders.

(e) the sub-Committee shall present an interim report on their working arrangements at a full sitting of the Seanad within one week of its establishment and first meeting of the sub-committee, and that it will include initial consideration on appropriate rules regarding the establishment of technical groupings in the Seanad and arrangements for the management of the ordering of Seanad business in the interim period while the sub-Committee is sitting.”

—Rose Conway-Walsh, Paul Gavan, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, Fintan Warfield, Máire Devine, Niall Ó Donnghaile, Padraig MacLochlainn

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called on the Irish Government to oppose the European Commission's proposal for a Permanent Investment Court, saying it breaches the Irish Constitution and requires a referendum.

Speaking in Dublin today prior to hosting a round table briefing on TTIP with trade unions, farmers’ organisations, and other interest groups, Matt Carthy said:

“There is a rising tide of opposition - right across the EU - to TTIP, particularly in light of the recent leaking of documents which highlight the very grave dangers inherent in this deal.

“Regrettably, the Irish Government has failed to stand up for Ireland’s interests and are shamefully behaving as mere PR agents for the EU Commission on this issue.

“TTIP will have severe and far-reaching consequences for Ireland in the areas of food standards, public health, workers’ rights, small business and farming.

“Despite this, public and political understanding here of what is at stake remains incredibly low.

“Negotiations around TTIP are shrouded in in secrecy and a lack of democratic accountability and that’s how the Irish Government likes it.

“The truth is that the TTIP proposal for an ‘Investor Court’ leaves the Irish State open to previously unimagined liabilities.

“It would severely limit the ability of our Government to legislate when it comes to public services.

“This has enormous implications for the Irish Constitution.

“The legal opinion I have received confirms that if the EU Commission continues with this proposal, it would require a referendum in Ireland.

“The Government needs urgently to change its position on this issue.

“The Taoiseach and his Ministers must oppose the proposal for a Permanent Investment Court.

“The Government also needs to accept that if the EU proceeds with this idea, it must be put to the Irish people in a referendum.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Sligo Leitrim, Martin Kenny, who raised allegations of Garda malpractice in the Dáil yesterday, has confirmed that the Garda whistle-blowers who approached him had first engaged with Garda authorities about their concerns in 2009 and again in 2012 and 2014.

Deputy Kenny said:

“Throughout that period of time, while feeling frustrated by the inaction of the authorities, they remained engaged with the appropriate mechanisms.

“The two Gardaí, now retired, received a letter in November 2015, informing them that the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) of complaints to an Garda Síochána, while acknowledging many of their concerns would not be carrying out any further investigation.

“After that, the whistle-blowers again approached me and asked me to raise these matters. This was done yesterday.

“The Garda Representative Association was involved with the whistle-blowers and liaised with them throughout the process of their complaints with the relevant Garda authorities. A serving Garda, who is at present the subject of disciplinary proceedings, was assisted in legal representation by the GRA recently.

“For the GRA now to claim that it is unaware of any of the allegations I made yesterday in the Dáil is bizarre and puzzling in these circumstances.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has welcomed the news that four young people will benefit from the Bobby Sands Gaeltacht Scholarships. 

The West Belfast MLA said; 

"We started this initiative three years ago to help families send their children to learn Irish at summer colleges in the Donegal Gaeltacht. 

"The bursaries were funded through the support of local businesses and, because of increased support, we are delighted to announce that four children will receive scholarships this year.

"The scholarship scheme has gone from strength to strength. This year Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has agreed to present the certificates in Dail Éireann and this illustrates how respected and prestigious the scheme has become.

"Bobby Sands was my friend and comrade and understood the importance of education and the need to encourage our children to learn and to study so they could achieve their potential. 

"It is entirely fitting and appropriate these scholarships are named in his memory."

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has expressed concern at the rising cost of living across the island of Ireland in recent years and the impact it is having on families with children of school going age.

Speaking this week, Ms Ní Riada said,

"Ireland's cost of living has increased at an astounding rate in recent years and a survey from the European Commission in December 2015 found that the cost of living in Ireland is the sixth-highest in Europe.

"Although everyone is affected, families with children of school going age are feeling the pinch, particularly now as school tours and exam fees are prevalent.

"As a mother of 3 school aged girls, I am well aware of the challenges facing families all year round, but now there is an added financial pressure. School tours are a brilliant treat for the children, and usually a mix of education and fun however the stark reality is that there is a large number of families faced with the decision of paying the average €20 per child for the school tour, or putting food on the table.

"The cost of the Leaving Certificate (including Leaving Certificate Applied) is €116, whereas the Junior Certificate is €109, with the average cost of grinds being €30 per hour. For a family with one child sitting the Junior Certificate and one sitting the Leaving that is a foundation cost of €225, before grinds are even taken into consideration, not to mention the cost of daily lunches and school buses etc.

"Recently I raised the issue of the rising cost of motor insurance with the European Commission, which again is a contributing factor to the pressures felt by families and all sections of society, alike.

"This is something the Irish Government; in particular the new Minister for Education and Skills, must tackle as a matter of priority." ENDS

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Speaking following the publication of a statement by the Policing Authority after their meeting with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O'Brien called for full compliance with the Authority's requests as a matter of urgency.

The Cork North Central TD said; 

“Sinn Féin welcomes the statement from the Policing Authority this evening. This statement reinforces the view that we took previously that there are serious management failures within An Garda Síochána and that the culture problem within the service must be addressed. 

“We share the concerns that the Policing Authority has with the impact this is having on Gardaí who are doing their best, particularly at a time when there is such low morale within the organisation. 

“We note the authority requested the publication of the new Protected Disclosure policy, as well as the request for an external independent culture audit to be carried out. 

“Such an audit is long overdue and the closed ranks policy of the Gardaí is no longer sustainable. 

“Further to this, we are urging the Minister for Justice to ensure the Garda Commissioner supplies the formal response to the report of Justice O'Higgins as requested by the authority. 

“It is clear from the Policing Authority statement requesting a formal response that the two statements issued by the Garda Commissioner following the report's publication were insufficient. 

“The Garda Commissioner should comply with these requests in advance of the proposed June meetings, so that the authority have an opportunity to discuss them comprehensively. 

“There is an obligation now on Minister Frances Fitzgerald to ensure full compliance with the requests.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has welcomed the increase in qualifications among school leavers. 

Mr McElduff, the chair of the Assembly's education committee, said; 

"The figures published today show the significant increase in the number of school leavers achieving at least five GCSEs at grades A*- C.

"It is particularly welcome that attainment rose among pupils in receipt of free school meals. This is a direct result of Sinn Féin ministers investing in education and tackling disadvantage. 

"These increases are welcome and shows just what successive Sinn Féin education ministers delivered in terms of improving education attainment and our education system generally.

"I hope that this record of increasing attainment will continue under the new minister."

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has said Sinn Féin is committed to the promotion and development of the Irish language. 

Mr Kearney said; 

"Sinn Féin is committed to the promotion and development of the Irish language. 

“The Irish language belongs to all of our people.

"The growth of the Irish Medium Education sector has been one of the biggest success stories in recent years under successive Sinn Féin education ministers.

"We now have more than 6,000 children and young people being educated through Irish, including at two meánscoileanna across the North. 

"We will continue to campaign for an Irish Language Act to protect the rights of the Irish language community.”

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Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard visited Lurgan today to check progress on a £6million road improvement scheme at Millennium Way.

The investment will include 430 metres of new road from Malcolm Road to Gilford Road in Lurgan. It will also include an upgrade of the junction between Millennium Way and Malcolm Road to a signalised crossroads and also of the existing roundabout at the junction of the Banbridge Road and Gilford Road.

Minister Hazzard said: “£6million is a significant investment that will benefit the local community in Lurgan. This new road will relieve congestion along the A3, helping to reduce journey times and improve journey time reliability along this strategic route. It will also reduce traffic flows in the local residential areas. 

“The scheme will also accommodate cyclists and pedestrians and will provide an alternative route for traffic, reducing demands on some of the heavily trafficked links and surrounding junctions within Lurgan town centre.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has welcomed the news that from today there will be a blanket ban on so called 'legal highs'.

Ms Boyle said:

“I very much welcome this enforcement. This is something I had put pressure on the health and justice ministers on in the last mandate.

“There is no doubt about the misery ‘legal highs’ have caused across all communities. They have led to deaths and caused untold harm to so many, particularly young people.

“Sinn Féin has consistently called for an all-Ireland approach to deal with so-called legal highs." CRÍOCH/ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will meet with representatives of the farming and agriculture industry next month to discuss the importance of EU membership to the sector. 

Ms Anderson said; 

"There has been much discussion across society about the impact of the EU referendum, particularly among the farming and agriculture community. 

"As part of Sinn Féin's campaign for a vote to remain in the EU, I will meet with representatives of the industry next month in a debate in CAFRE, Greenmount Agricultural College, organised by Agricultural Producers Association and Farmers for Action. 

"There is no doubt there is a democratic deficit at the heart of the EU and it is in need of reform but Sinn Féin believes that can only be achieved from within. 

"Our farming and agricultural industry has benefited hugely from Europe and it simply does not make sense to place that in jeopardy so Sinn Féin will be campaigning vigorously to remain in the EU."

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has urged people unable to vote in person against Brexit from the European Union to apply for a postal or proxy vote before June 3rd.

Sinn Féin is urging the electorate to vote to remain in the EU in the referendum being held on June 23rd.

Martina Anderson said:

“If you are unable to make it to the polling station on 23rd June you can apply to vote by post or nominate someone to vote for you by proxy.

“People entitled to a postal or proxy vote are those housebound due to illness; a student away at University or those working away from home during weekdays.

“Applications to secure a postal/proxy vote in this election close on Friday 3rd June at 5pm. 

“So I would urge everyone who requires such a vote to secure it now.”

Electoral Registration, Photo ID and postal/proxy application forms can be downloaded from the Electoral Office Website: www.electoralofficeni.gov.uk

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Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that the new Finance committee must continue with the NAMA Inquiry which he proposed during the term of the last Assembly.

Mr McKay said; 
"Sinn Féin has led on the issue of the NAMA Project Eagle sale North and South and that work must continue.
"I have no doubt that the new Finance Minister will release all relevant files and documentation to the Committee. However the most important thing is that we hear from the remaining key witnesses that have yet to come before the Inquiry.

"The Committee needs to get to the bottom of this important issue and the Inquiry should remain open until it does."

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Speaking in reaction to the news that the Ulster Bank is to sell €100,000,000 in agricultural loans, Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny TD said that the bank’s reassurances were no comfort.

The Sligo Leitrim TD said:

“The bank telling us that the loans do not belong to ‘typical customers’ is no comfort. They are the loans of people who have gone into arrears with their loans and have been in arrears for some time. This, unfortunately, is becoming very typical across Ireland.

“What is worrying is the process by which a significant portion of agricultural land is on international markets and going out of the hands of Irish farmers for a knock-down price.

“This amounts to selling off Ireland, the very soil that is her makeup, and has disastrous consequences for this country.

“The government has a responsibility to step in and stop this happening. Our Finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD has been in contact with the Ulster Bank to ask them to give first option to the farmers who have the loans.

“The response was that they were not in the business of writing off loans, but the serious consequences of large swathes of land falling into the hands of vulture funds merits intervention by government.

“The land of Ireland is not for sale and this activity must be stopped.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has raised the ‘Bluebox’ broadband blackout with the new Minister for the Economy this week as many homes throughout West Tyrone are still without service.

Speaking this week Ms Boyle said:

“My constituency office has been inundated with calls from constituents who are affected by the blackout. It is a very serious situation with the huge number of people affected.

“People in areas such as Aghyaran & Plumbridge are poorly served by the traditional Broadband providers and many have had to look at alternative means of getting sufficient coverage for their homes and business. This has seen a large demand for satellite provision provided through Bluebox.

“Apparently thousands of homes have been affected by the Bluebox outage. Each affected home has to be visited and remotely switched back on. Our fear is that there are only a few engineers employed to do this so it could take months to resolve.

“The lack of Broadband coverage in rural areas across West Tyrone is a major problem and was one of the main issue raised with me on the doors during the recent election campaign. It isn’t acceptable that in 2016 homes and businesses in my constituency have little or no broadband or mobile coverage. This is something I have asked the newly appointed Economy minister to focus on and prioritise in the new mandate.

“I will continue to raise this issue regarding Bluebox service until we get a speedy resolution.”

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David Cullinane, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, has severely criticised Minister Donohoe for his comments during the Sinn Féin Bill on Irish Water.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“The Dáil debate on Sinn Fein’s bill shone a light on the Minister’s political instincts and intentions. He said that the suspension of water charges will mean that “tax revenues will have to be re-directed from elsewhere”.  His party has stood over a narrowing of the tax base with tax cuts for the wealthy, for high earners and for corporations. Yet, despite this fact, the Minister decided to blame ordinary people struggling to get though the week for the subsequent crisis in funding for essential social services.

“Is this the type of right-wing logic we will get from Paschal Donohoe during his tenure as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform?

“Will he continue to blame the majority of working people for the crisis in funding brought about by his government’s slash and burn approach to health, education, justice and local government – an approach they have undertaken so that the richest people in this State can walk away from paying their fair share?

“We already know that the Irish tax avoidance lobby has the ear of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour, and it is clear from the Minister’s tirade last night that this is not going to change one iota under his watch.

“Only last week the Minister’s colleague, Michael Noonan, issued a statement saying that his government will not be looking for any deal on the bank recapitalisation debt. The repayments on that debt is money that is diverted from essential services and capital investment. On this the Minister is strangely silent, but on water charges he shouts from the rooftops.

“Minister Donohoe has embraced the political philosophy of his predecessor in Dublin Central, Bertie Ahern: portray yourself as a man of the people, but don’t forget to fleece the people.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has urged people in west Belfast to take part in a consultation being held tomorrow in the Andersonstown Leisure Centre on the proposed new GAA stadium at Casement Park.

Paul Maskey said:

“Sinn Féin is committed to the development of a world-class stadium for the GAA at Casement Park and the largest investment ever by the Executive into Gaelic Games. 

“The new state-of-the-art stadium has the potential to be a powerful economic driver for West Belfast, and the GAA has a proven record in delivering sporting and cultural activities which contribute to the local economy.

“The GAA is holding a consultation with the local community tomorrow at the Andersonstown Leisure Centre between 1.00pm to 8.00pm.

“I am confident the consultation will show strong support for the Casement development.

“This is a great opportunity for local people, businesses, sporting and community organisations to engage with the GAA so this project can move ahead.”

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Speaking this evening on Sinn Féin’s motion regarding the abolishment of Irish Water, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD expressed dismay at Fianna Fáil’s ambiguity and apparent willingness to completely disregard promises they had made before the election.

The Cork South-Central TD said:

“Fianna Fáil carried out an Olympic U turn ahead of the election, moving from being the authors of Water Charges, to being opposed. They are now after turning on their heel yet again, and falling behind the Government.

"This is likely a sign of things to come

"Fianna Fáil signed up to a confidence and supply agreement. We have been critical of that deal, and how it is an effort to hoodwink the electorate, but in any event this is not a confidence vote.  Fianna Fáil are perfectly at liberty to vote how they wish on this motion.

“If they are truly opposed to Water Charges, if they want rid of it, they should vote for it.

“We heard that this motion has no legal effect. Can I take it then that Fianna Fáil will not in future use Private Members Business to debate a motion? To give voice to the will of the Dáil on important issues. Why should the Dáil not express its wishes to get rid of Water Charges and Irish Water?

“The Irish people had their say. We committed to ensuring that on the first opportunity, our first PMB, we would ask the Dáil to have a vote on this matter.”

Speaking following his contribution, Deputy Ó Laoghaire added:

“Many people in Cork South Central voted for Micheál Martin and Michael McGrath because they believed that they would get rid of Water Charges. We tabled a simple motion, demanding that, and Fianna Fáil, have fallen behind the Government to defeat it.

“I think many people in Cork would be astonished to hear that, given the commitments made during the election, and I believe they deserve an explanation from their TDs.” 

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