Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has expressed his concern at the “continuing high rise in rents in Louth”.
Teachta Adams said:
“The report published this week by the Residential Tenancies Board and the Economic and Social Research Institute paints a bleak picture of the continuing rise in rents. Louth witnessed the second highest increase in rents across the state year-on-year with a 9.3% increase.
"Between the end of 2017 and the first quarter of this year Louth saw a 2.9% increase in the standardised average rent – the highest increase in the state.
"In the three years since the first quarter in 2015 the standardised average rent in Louth has jumped from €700 to €966 in the first quarter of this year. This means that Louth is the sixth most expensive county in the state for rents, and this despite the fact that Drogheda is in a rent control zone.
"The reality is that under this government average rents have soared to a new record high. Rents are rising while supply remains at an all-time low. The introduction of rent pressure zones was supposed to restrain rents and limit annual increases.
"This lacklustre attempt at cooling the rental market is not working. It is creating a two tier rental sector and struggling renters are caught in the middle. That is what the government, with the support of Fianna Fáil, has delivered.
"The cross party Dáil housing and homeless committee recommended real rent certainty, linking rents to an index such as the Consumer Pay Index. The government rejected this.
"This Fine Gael led government is placing the interests of landlords above those of renters and is failing to introduce the strategies needed to build new social and affordable homes.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the Draft Heads of Bill for the Rainy Day Fund are a recipe for a continuing normalisation of the crises in health and housing.
He said the draft proposal showed how funds available to the State would legally have to be transferred to the Fund each year until 2021 but would be very difficult to get access to.
“The proposals in the Heads of Bill received by the Finance Committee confirm my worst fears that the Rainy Day Fund is a recipe for continuing underinvestment.
"The 10,000 people in emergency accommodation and the 707,000 people on waiting lists do not need a Rainy Day Fund - they need investment now.
"It is difficult to believe that the government and Fianna Fail think moving €500m into a fund for the next three years makes any sense given the challenges facing us.
"The alternative is to deal with the storms that we currently face - a health and housing crisis that is out of control and by investing in our capital infrastructure, which even under the National Development will still be one of the lowest investment rates per GDP in Europe.
"Under the Draft Bill the Minister of the day will be forced to put €500m into the fund each year until 2021 as long as the Medium Term Objective of a balanced budget has been met.
"No matter how much worse the crises facing us gets, no matter how many more people are made homeless or how much longer the waiting lists grow - the Rainy Day Fund comes first under the draft legislation.
"Underinvestment will be hard wired into law. This is about the permanent slimming down of public services.
"The conditions for drawing down the fund are extremely tight but that one of the conditions is to 'prevent potential serious damage to the financial system in the State' and anything other than a future bank bailout.
"This initiative is part of a concerted effort to downplay the social emergencies facing the country.
"It is obscene that legally the Rainy Day Fund comes before health or housing. This fund should be seen for what it is part of an agenda to normalise the health and housing crisis."
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay North, Denise Mitchell, has backed calls by the Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee for a fresh inquest into the deaths of 48 people at the Stardust nightclub in Artane in 1981.
Speaking at the launch of a postcard campaign at Leinster House on Thursday, Deputy Mitchell said:
“The original inquest into the fire was held just a year after the blaze and when very little was known about the events that night.
"Since then much more detail and new evidence has come to light. The Stardust victims and relatives deserve truth
“With the help of Lynn Boylan MEP, Darragh Mackin of KRW Law believes there is enough evidence to warrant a fresh inquest.
"That’s why we are asking members of the public to send one of these postcards or to write to the Attorney General requesting he grant a fresh inquest as soon as possible.
“The families and friends of the 48 people who never came home that night have a right to the full truth about what happened.
"I would urge members of the public to help the campaign in any way they can.”
Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has said more needs to been done to educate people and create greater community awareness of other cultures.
The party’s spokesperson on ethnic minorities was speaking after a Life and Times Survey found that almost 50 percent of people in the north would not accept a Muslim or Traveller as a friend.
The report also found that 25 percent of those surveyed would not accept someone from an ethnic minority as a work colleague and that close to 50 percent believed the north was more prejudiced that five years ago.
“This report must serve as a wake up call,” Michaela Boyle said.
“As a society, we should be challenging prejudice and prejudicial attitudes at every level so that everyone living in the north of Ireland has the right to equality before the law and the right to the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.
“Ethnic minorities and those who choose to make the north their home positively contribute to our society, providing substantial economic and cultural benefits.
“Where any of us hears bigotry and prejudice being spoken we have to challenge it. We cannot dismiss it because challenging someone close to us is too difficult. If we fail to challenge it then we are as guilty as those that verbalise it or act upon it.
“Government also has an active role to play is ensuring that our laws reflect the kind of society that we are seeking to achieve. That we protect those who would be targets for the bigots in our society.
“It is beyond time that Racial Equality Strategy 2014 - 2025 was fully implemented.
“Ethnic minority groups need to be adequately funded in order to educate people and help create community awareness of other cultures.”
Sinn Féin Spokeperson on Justice Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire welcomed the motion which called for a Public Inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell.
Sinn Féin tabled an amendment to the Fianna Fáil motion, which originally called for a Commission of Investigation, to change it to a Public Inquiry, and the amended motion was carried.
Speaking after the Dáil vote this afternoon, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“It is a significant statement that Dáil has made today, and I am very pleased to see this motion pass through the house this afternoon.
“A public enquiry was what the O’Farrell family sought, and I’m delighted to see it accepted, and for the amended motion to have passed.
“It is testament to the hard work of Shane's mother Lucia who has been relentless in forcing this issue in the fight for justice for her deceased son.
“It is important, given that the family have been failed by so many arms of the state, and given the inadequacy of the GSOC report, that the family get answers, and that this take place in public.
“I hope the government will not delay this. The Dáil has now spoken, and we will keep the pressure on to ensure that the family receive the answers they deserve.”
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday June 13th Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams urged the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to look at the positive example of Louth County Council’s approach to vacant homes as a way of addressing homelessness across the state.
Teachta Adams said:
“Minister Murphy’s one year in office has been marked by abject failure in respect this tackling the housing crisis”.
“The Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led governments of recent decades have contributed to the worst housing crisis in decades.
"Some 10,000 citizens are in emergency accommodation, homelessness among pensioners is on the increase, and a total of 3,689 children are homeless. Child homelessness has increased by 7% under Fine Gael-led governments. Almost 150,000 people are on waiting lists, including over 4,000 in Louth.
"On Tuesday the RTB confirmed rents are still increasing and have reached new peaks, including in Louth. Behind these statistics, families struggling to keep a roof over their heads are desperately trying to put together the money to find a home they can afford.
"Thursday marks the anniversary of the Taoiseach's first year in office. He has listed his successes. He did not - he could not - include the provision of homes for citizens. The stresses and strains on tens of thousands of families are enormous. Everyone should have the right to a home. Mar a deirtear i nGaeilge, níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.
"The Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, described this crisis as a shame. It is the Government's shame and also the shame of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, whose one year in office has been marked by abject failure in respect this issue.
"The Government has failed to tackle the housing crisis at any level, failed to produce a review of the Rebuilding Ireland policy, failed to produce a vacant homes strategy and is failing to build the social homes that are urgently required. The number of social houses to be delivered this year will be lower than last year.
"In my constituency, Louth County Council has rightly acquired vacant homes through compulsory purchase orders, on which I commend it.
"The Government promised to bring forward a vacant homes strategy but ten months later there is still not sign of it. There are currently 124 people in emergency accommodation in Louth. Approximately 8% of houses in Louth council areas are vacant. A vacant home strategy, properly resourced and financed, could make a significant contribution towards ending the scourge of homelessness in Dublin, Louth and many other local authority areas”.
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the likelihood of a no deal Brexit is increasing, bringing with it disastrous consequences for the north.
Martina Anderson said:
"There is increasing likelihood that if there is no significant progress at the June EU summit then the possibility of a no deal Brexit increases. What was once the last option is now fast becoming the likely outcome.
"Tory Brexiteers are trying to prepare the public for this by trying to tell people no deal is better than a bad deal but the reality is that it would be disastrous for Ireland.
"The fault for a no deal Brexit would lay squarely with Theresa May and the British government who have had no plan or strategy from the start, displaying total disregard for the people of the north, or economy, and our rights.
"Now the EU are actively planning for a no deal Brexit as a result of the abject failure of the Tories in the negotiations.
"All of this highlights the need for the north to secure special status for the north within the EU. We must remain in the customs union and single market in order to avoid a hard border, protect all-Ireland trade, protect the Good Friday Agreement and to protect our rights.
"We must not be dragged over the cliff edge into oblivion with the Tory Brexiteers and we need the Irish government to be standing up for our rights in June."
Sinn Féin representatives Paul Maskey MP, Philip McGuigan MLA and Sinead Ennis MLA met with the Department of Infrastructure to discuss the ongoing delay in building Casement Park and road orders issues.West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said:“We met with the Department of Infrastructure to discuss the ongoing delay of Casement Park. A number of weeks ago we met with Ulster GAA along with Michelle O'Neill to ask for an update and to state our continued support. "Sinn Féin remain committed to the redevelopment of Casement Park. It is a landmark project and will greatly enhance the regeneration of the West Belfast area and will be a first-class stadium for Gaelic games in Ulster."Sinéad Ennis, the party’s culture, arts and sport spokesperson said:“We will be urging the Department to make the correct decision and approve planning which has already been agreed by the Executive and was in the Programme for Government.“The development of Casement Park will have a positive impact in the lives of people in the area providing opportunities for residents and businesses in terms of investment and job creation opportunities for West Belfast.
"It will also enhance Gaelic games throughout Antrim, Ulster and indeed across the island." ENDS/CRÍOCH
Speaking this morning Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that she is shocked but not surprised that the total number of people on waiting lists to be treated, or seen by a doctor, now stands at over 707,000, the highest number ever recorded.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“There has hardly been a month since this government came to office where the total number of people on waiting lists has decreased.
“Indeed, under this current Taoiseach, who is in office one year today, the number of people on waiting lists has increased by over 20,000.
“When he came to office this day last year the Taoiseach said he would be taking a special interest in health – this special interest has amounted to overseeing an increase in waiting lists to record highs of over 707,000.
“Such failure has not just been confined to waiting lists.
"Since Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach; 106,694 people have spent one night or more on a hospital trolley, he has presided over a recruitment and retention crisis within the health service and there has been chronic understaffing of mental health services.
"Also there has been an increase in those over 75 waiting 24 hours for care in EDs, and his government have sanctioned private investigators to spy on hospital consultants.
“If this is the Taoiseach taking a special interest in health, I would be worried to think about the state of affairs if wasn’t."
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has called for an emergency budget allocation for children from his constituency who are in some cases having to wait up to 3 years for Speech and Language supports.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Crowe described the current HSE speech and language support system “as broken”.
Deputy Crowe said;
“I used the opportunity of Promised Legislation today to familiarise the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with the unacceptable situation that children with a speech impairment are facing, in that they are being told they will have to wait possibly up to 3 years for supports.
"The current system is clearly broke and I called for an emergency budget allocation to be awarded to the area to address the long waiting list.
“My office is currently dealing with a number of families of children that need language supports but one particular family who have been waiting since 2015 have now been told that they will have till next year as there are 95 children ahead of their child.
“Education Minister Richard Bruton replied on behalf of the Government saying another 19 speech and language therapists for schools across the State were being recruited in a pilot programme, but this will probably have no impact on the children waiting on a growing list in Tallaght’s Chamber House.
“I have already put questions to the Health Minister Simon Harris but he referred me on to the HSE who say they have asked for additional resources in 2018, but were refused and are now making a fresh application for 2019.
“In the meantime the importance of early intervention for children with special or particular needs continues to be trotted out as waiting times and mounting lists continue to grow.
“This is an appalling way to treat any child with needs and clearly needs an emergency response from the Minister and his Department.
"I intend to continue to raise this issue and will be calling on Minister Harris at the next quarterly review to prioritise resources to the Dublin South West area, to deal with the backlog and current needs for children that have a Speech impairment.”
A Sinn Féin delegation led by MLA Gerry Kelly met the Parades Commission today to object to an application by a newly constituted Orange Lodge to parade through a mixed area of North Belfast.
Speaking after the meeting, Gerry Kelly commented:
“We made the Parades Commission aware that the parade applied for was very contentious as it ran through a mixed residential area and there have already been a significant number of objections from residents.
“There has never been an Orange parade in this area and we have received several calls and emails from residents worried and angered by this development. It is a mixed area and clearly this application would create tensions if approved.
“The erection of unionist flags over recent days in Roscoole Park, Mountcoole Park, Kilcoole Park and Duncoole Park was clearly a precursor to this application and an attempt to mark out territory.
“That is wrong and only serves to intimidate residents and create flashpoints were there hasn't been any before.
"I urge those involved not to go ahead with their planned march out of respect for community relations. The last thing North Belfast needs is another contentious parade."
Joint Declaration on Human Rights and Equality
1. We are strongly committed to the promotion, protection and the vindication of the human rights of everyone. We believe these guarantees should apply to all who reside in NI.
2. We firmly believe in the centrality of equality to the shared society we are working together to create.
3. We share a profound concern that “Brexit” will result in further regression on equality and rights.
4. We welcome the guarantee in the EU-UK Joint Report from December (paragraph 53) “that no diminution of rights is caused by its departure from the EU”, and wish to see this fully reflected in the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol, and related developments.
5. In the context of the current negotiations we therefore reaffirm our common position that:
a. there must be no diminution of rights, safeguards and equality, including as set out in the Good Friday Agreement 1998 and subsequent agreements;
b. there must be an explicit guarantee relating to the European Convention on Human Rights;
c. the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights must be included in the Protocol and retained in UK law or at least as it applies to Northern Ireland;
d. “dedicated mechanisms” must lead to effective enforcement therefore the Protocol must include direct access to the courts by any person with a sufficient interest relating to any alleged breach of relevant guarantees, and there must be recognition of the jurisprudence and jurisdiction of the CJEU;
Annex 1 to the Protocol must include relevant provisions of EU law on social and economic rights, democratic rights, non-discrimination (nationality, sex, race, gender, age, disability, religion, and sexual orientation), and any required measures not explicitly addressed elsewhere in the Protocol.
We call on the EU27 and the UK to amend Article 1 of the draft Protocol to reflect our Declaration.
7. We demand that the current Westminster Government commits to the long-term future of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights
8. We urge all political parties and both governments to intensify their efforts to ensure that outstanding rights and equality matters (including the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland) are advanced as a matter of urgency.
Agreed and co-signed by;
Michelle O’Neill MLA, Assembly Leader and Vice-President of Sinn Féin
Colum Eastwood MLA, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party
Naomi Long MLA, Leader of the Alliance party for Northern Ireland
Steven Agnew MLA, Leader of the Green Party NI
A damning report which exposed the mistreatment of some of the most vulnerable in our society at Dunmurry Manor care home must act as a catalyst for change, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Pat Sheehan has said.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“This is a damning report which highlights a complete and fundamental lack of leadership from management in Dunmurry Manor and at every level within Runwood Homes-the company that runs Dunmurry.
“The report found examples of inhumane and degrading treatment concerning vulnerable residents.
"There are numerous examples of serious weight loss due to neglect and in one case, a resident lost 10 stone in their last five months in Dunmurry.
“The report also found that in many instances residents were not receiving their prescribed medicines-in some cases for up to three weeks.
"Cases of physical and sexual abuse that vulnerable older people had to endure were also exposed by this damning report.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Carers Colm Gildernew added:
“Todays report is particularly significant as it is the first time the Commissioner for Older People (COPNI) has used his powers of investigation.
"I commend the determination of the families in pursuing the truth in relation to the failure of care experience by their loved ones in Dunmurry Manor.
“It's evident the statutory agencies did not adequately address this failure of care.
“The ability of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and relevant authorities to address these serious issues need to be considered as a matter of urgency.
“The Commissioner’s report needs to be a catalyst for change.
“The Department of Health, RQIA and all relevant authorities need to provide a full and considered response to the Commissioner's report and demonstrate the changes that will ensure that the horrors of Dunmurry are never repeated.”
The representatives of ten communications suppliers were before an Oireachtas Committee this week and highlighted a plethora of problems in this so called regulated market.
On top of this, the disarray in the roll out of the National Broadband Plan all points to a market in chaos said Brian Stanley TD Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications.
Brian Stanley TD said:
“At the Oireachtas Committee meeting this week we were told that the regulator ComReg is ‘paralysed’ because of fear of legal action.
“The regulator does not have enough staff or powers in the first instance and the lack of regulation of the wholesale market is clear and resulting in expensive connection costs compared to other States.
“The cost to connect to Eir’s infrastructure for suppliers is more than double that of Britain, and four times that of Spain. It is one of the highest wholesale broadband connection prices in Europe.
“The Communications market has been completely privatised. Competition is much flaunted as benefiting the householder but clearly this is not working with only one bidder left in the tender for the National Broadband Plan to connect 540,000 homes.
“The market is so beset with problems, that suppliers are actually asking the state to now get involved and regulate the market more. But government continue to step back and take no interest in creating an effective modern communications network.
“Greater State involvement is vitally needed in this industry so that householders get a quality service at a reasonable price.
“We need to properly regulate the market, as is done in gas and electricity supply.
“Alongside this we need greater state involvement in the National Broadband Plan, using what State infrastructure is already in place and not to farm this out to private industry which has not, overall, serviced the people well in telecommunications in this State since the privatisation of the market.”