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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has warned the announcement of a review of bankers’ remuneration marks the beginning of a process that will lead to a return of obscene bankers’ pay and bonuses. 

Deputy Doherty welcomed the Minister’s’ intention to vote against the proposed bonus scheme at AIB but said that to be consistent - the Minister should vote against the remuneration of Bank of Ireland CEO which breaches the cap.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I fear today’s announcement marks the beginning of a return to the days of runaway salaries and bonuses at the banks.  

"Given the behaviour in recent times of the banks including the ongoing tracker scandal and rip off interest rates that is very worrying. 

"The bonus culture was a deeply toxic one that should not be allowed re-emerge at any bank owned by the State.

"I welcome the Minister’s stated intention to veto the AIB scheme but to be consistent he should vote against the remuneration policy of the Bank of Ireland CEO which breaches the €500,000 pay cap.

"The super-tax on any bankers’ bonus must remain in place. Only the Dáil can remove this and Sinn Féin will not be supporting any proposal to remove it or dilute it.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has today cricitized the practice of allowing Oireachtas members the privilege of buying food and drink in Leinster House on credit, whilst welcoming new measures to ensure that these tabs will at least be cleared by Oireachtas members going forward.

Deputy Munster said:

“Any measure designed to ensure that Oireachtas members pay their debts is of course to be welcomed. I would question the practice of giving TDs and Senators the option of credit in the first place.

“It’s a privilege not afforded to anyone else, and I think it should be scrapped completely.

"A letter was sent to all Oireachtas members this week which outlined a new credit policy for use of the Dáil bars and restaurants.

"The policy requires that TDs and Senators must register before seeking to make purchases on credit, and also provides for a facility where any debts will taken from the salary of the Oireachtas member the month following the end oif the credit period.

"A recent report by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission disclosed that almost €5,500 in unpaid Dáil catering tabs had to be written off, because the politicians involved would not settle their bills.

“You couldn’t make it up. In what other workplace are there two bars, where people can buy drink and food on credit?

“The Dáil is a place of work, and I see no reason for bars on the premises, in particular the Private Members’ Bar from which staff and visitors are prohibited.

“If an ordinary mother can’t go into a restaurant and demand food on credit, I don’t see why Oireachtas members’ are afforded that privilege.

“I welcome the fact that debts will now be paid by TDs and Senators. Before this change in policy, sleveen politicians would bring up groups of constituents and make big men of themselves buying rounds of drinks, and presumably votes, and then never paying for them.

“This was making fools of constituents who went home thinking their local politician had bought them food or drink, when in fact they themselves, as taxpayers, were picking up the tab.

“I have written to the Ceann Comhairle expressing the view that this culture needs to stop. There is no justification for it.

“This privilege afforded to TDs, allowing them Dáil tabs for wining and dining has to stop.”

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Speaking in the Dáil today on plastic pollution Brian Stanley TD Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment said that the plastics problem is growing in this State and we now need effective legislation in place.

The Laois TD continued:

“In Ireland an estimated 983,380 tonnes of packaging waste was generated in 2015. Manufacturers are creating a conveyor belt of waste, with little interest in changing this from Government. 

The waste keeps being produced, with excessive packaging on products. Plastic used in packaging accounts for 40% of Europe’s overall plastics. At the end of this conveyor belt it creates a burden on the ordinary householder.

 “The principles of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ needs to form the foundation of Government policy and we need solutions to be put forward to solve the horrific problems with pollution across this State.

 “Sinn Féin has put forward a bill last year on establishing a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles. The bill contained other provisions in terms of illegal dumping. 

"Considering the problem we are facing it will take effective legislation and action but this Government are simply not out of the blocks.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has welcomed the call by a cross-party group of US Congress members on the British government to implement the Stormont House Agreement’s legacy mechanisms and release funds for coroners’ inquests.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“Mary Lou McDonald and I met with the cross-party group of Congress members Friends of Ireland during a visit to the US last month.

“Sinn Féin asked the Congress representatives to throw their significant weight behind the campaign by families of victims of the conflict for truth and justice on the killing of their loved ones.

“In particular we highlighted the families’ demand for the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House and the release of the funds requested by the Lord Chief Justice to hold outstanding coroners’ inquests.

“Representatives from the US Congress have now written to the British Ambassador to America calling for the Stormont House mechanisms to be implemented.

“They have expressed concern about a proposal in Westminster for a statute of limitations for British military personnel, which would grant them immunity on top of the impunity they have enjoyed for decades.

“The US Congress representatives have also called for coroners’ inquests to be adequately resourced so that families, some of whom have waited almost half a century, can have an effective investigation into the death of their loved ones in line with European Law. 

“Only this week I wrote to the British Secretary of State calling on her to implement the mechanisms of the Stormont House Agreement and immediately release the legacy inquest funding.

“So I welcome this important initiative by the US representatives and thank them for their continued support for the Irish peace process and the families of the victims. 

"The British government’s transparent stalling tactics are a direct result of their pact with the DUP, who refuse to meet their obligations to victims and survivors. 

"Both the Tories and DUP must end their disgraceful denial of human rights immediately, and implement the Agreement and release the funds to the LCJ. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

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Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD today launched her party's poster campaign for the upcoming referendum. 

She was joined by Sinn Féin's Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill MLA, and Sinn Féin's Deputy Leader in the Dáil, Pearse Doherty TD outside Leinster House.  
Deputy McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin is in this campaign to win it.

"Party activists are already out across the country campaigning, talking to people in their communities and advocating for change.

"Our posters reflect the three key pillars of our campaign – Care, Compassion and Trust.

"We in Sinn Féin trust women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

"It is time that Ireland stops turning its back on women facing heartbreaking decisions and to show compassion.

"The only way to do this is to vote YES and remove the eighth amendment from our constitution."

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Speaking after the Civil Conversations report was lauched at Stormont today, Megan Fearon, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality, said:

“This landmark report, commissioned by my colleague Máirtín Ó Muilleoir when Finance Minister, is the most comprehensive engagement with society here on the issue of gay rights and marriage equality. 

“It is of note that virtually every sector of the community engaged in a fulsome manner with the report authors and it is clear that the vast majority wish to see a positive settlement of this issue.

“I commend the authors of this report and have no doubt it will be seen as an important milestone in the journey towards a fully inclusive, rights-based society.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the vote in the European Parliament on Thursday to proceed with the fifth Anti Money Laundering Directive.

Carthy, a member of the special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (TAX3), said:

"This revision of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive imposes additional reporting and customer due diligence obligations on credit and financial institutions, and on government authorities, including making beneficial ownership registers public.

"Shell companies are at the heart of the rotten offshore system that allows financial crime and tax dodging to thrive in anonymity. So the fact that registers of beneficial ownership – that is, the true flesh-and-blood owners of companies – will have to be made publically available is a very significant step forward in the fight to stamp out shell companies, and the money-laundering, tax evasion and tax avoidance that these structures facilitate.  At certain points during the negotiations between the Parliament, the Commission and Council, it appeared as though this would not be won due to resistance from some Member States, so the fact that it is included in the final agreement is a big win for those who support transparency. 

"This move, when it is implemented, will reduce the extent to which the financial system can be used to disguise illicit financial flows. But at the same time there are troubling problems remaining in the final text, which significantly weakened the Parliament's position adopted last year.

“The top problem is that while beneficial ownership registers of companies must be made public, the beneficial ownership registries for trusts and other similar instruments only have to be provided in limited circumstances where a third party has proven a 'legitimate interest' in gaining access to the information. This is a significant loophole, and our work in examining the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers revelations shows just how commonly trusts are used as a mechanism to conceal suspicious financial flows.

"We  also need to close the loopholes of having 'nominee directors' of companies – where a senior manager can be named in the registry when the true owner is unknown – and dividing up company ownership, which are used to hide the true owners. Owning a single share of a company should constitute beneficial ownership, instead of reaching the 25% ownership threshold in the current agreement, which will be easy to evade.

"There is much more to do on this issue, but today's step forward towards fully public beneficial ownership registers for companies in the EU is a big victory for all those battling corruption, tax fraud, financial secrecy and white-collar crime.

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Mayo Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has said that recent decisions regarding bed closures and withdrawal of medicines has undermined confidence among the public in the models of cost benefit analysis which underpin major HSE decisions.

Speaking at a meeting of the Health Committee, Senator Conway-Walsh said;

"Many decisions made by the HSE regarding bed closures and drug allocation have a huge impact on people’s lives. It is imperative that the process through which the HSE arrives at these decisions is transparent and logical. People need to see what considerations were taken into account in terms of short, medium and long term consequences.

"Regarding  the withdrawal of Versatis pain patches, it is very hard to see how a proper cost benefit analysis would have pointed towards denying so many people access to this medication. Already we are seeing the consequences of this decision in the short-term and long-term.

"The closure of district hospital beds, especially in rural Ireland, has already led to increased pressure on major hospitals such as Galway University Hospital. Add to this the pressure on patients to make long journeys and the decision to close local beds, it does not seem to have been thought through in the long term.

"Therefore I ask the HSE that decisions that have such widespread and long-term impacts be open to scrutiny and transparency."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Education, Kathleen Funchion TD spoke last night in the Dáil about the ad-hoc nature of the current SPHE and RSE, which is failing to fully equip young people with positive and informed outlooks on their sexual health, self-care, body image, relationships, gender identity, contraception, consent and sexuality.

Teachta Funchion said:

“The characteristic spirit clause in the Education Act 1998, which was introduced by Fianna Fáil, means that ethos based schools can leave out certain aspects of a curriculum that they believe does not match the 'characteristic spirit' of a school.

“The same Fianna Fáil who feel that legislation is no place for deciding curriculum, inserted this clause into legislation. It is, effectively, a veto on this curriculum for ethos-based schools and is the biggest obstacle to inclusive and robust RSE.

“I am disappointed that students with disabilities have been left out of this conversation both by the Minister, in his statement regarding the upcoming review and in the proposed bill.

“They, as much as anyone else, deserve to know their rights in asserting and withdrawing consent or how to stay safe from STIs or crisis pregnancies.

“The current curriculum is ad-hoc and lacking formal characteristics, sufficient teaching hours, teacher training and support, and updated curriculum handbooks.

“Teachers need certainty and proper resources to guide their students through their formative years and to feel confident and competent in delivering a robust, informative, open and comprehensive education to their students in these matters.

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Questioning the Minister for Health this morning, Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly TD raised the issue of assaults on staff in the health service and pushed the Minister for Health to agree to investigate the issue and review security precautions in Emergency Departments across the State. 

Teachta O’Reilly said:  

“The situation for the front line staff in the health service has significantly deteriorated over the past number of years. 

"Conditions have worsened, hours have become longer, the environment has become characterised by high stress levels, and a particularly acute aspect is that nursing and midwifery has become an extremely high risk occupation in terms of aggression and physical assault. 

“Between the 1st of January 2011 and the 27nd of July 2016 the number of physical assaults on staff in acute hospitals increased from 673 to 3,462 – of these 65% of the injured parties are recorded as nursing and midwifery staff, not including psychiatric nurses. 

“This equates to an average figure of 34 physical assaults on nurses and midwives in our hospitals every month. 

"When you add in that the profession is 91% female it further reinforces this shocking state of affairs. 

“There needs to be greater levels of security and protection for nurses and others in the health service. 

"Adequate provision of security, especially during night shifts would go some way towards helping reduce the number of assaults against nurses.

“There is no doubt that this state of affairs contributes to problems in recruiting and retaining staff in the health service and this is borne out in the numbers. 

"The 2016 turnover rate recorded in the Health Sector Staff Turnover Estimate for Staff Nurses and Midwives was 7.9% and there is also an ongoing crisis in recruitment and retention.

 “Therefore, I am glad that the Minister has agreed to my call for this situation to be investigated and has committed to me that he will engage with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the HSE to ensure that there are security staff in all Emergency Departments and to provide a report on the issue."

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams addressed Global Steering Committee of the trans-national UNI Global Union in Monasterboice, County Louth, on Wednesday evening.UNI Global Union was holding its two-day international conference.

 Representatives from over a dozen countries participated in the conference which was looking at health care issues and the approach of the Union, which represents 20 million workers in over 150 counties worldwide, to issues like Brexit.

Teachta Adams was asked to speak to the conference on the issue of Brexit, as well as the recent 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.Teachta Adams called on the Irish government, in the remaining months of the negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal treaty, to lead the demand for the North to remain within the customs union and the single market and within the EU legal framework.

Deputy Adams said:

“This is the best way of protecting workers rights across this island. It is also the only way to avoid a hard border, with its dire economic consequences, on the island of Ireland.”

Speaking on Brexit Gerry Adams said;

“The British referendum result in 2016 on Brexit is probably the most serious political and economic crisis to face this island in many decades. No part of the island of Ireland, and in particular border regions like County Louth, will be immune from the economic and political consequences of Brexit.

"Workers will also be especially vulnerable as a consequence of Brexit. Many important elements of existing workers’ rights, such as pay and working time, are regulated by EU social law. Brexit is a threat to this.

"There is little doubt that the Tories in London, supported by their allies in the DUP, will use Brexit to whittle away at hard-fought workers’ rights. They will seek to undermine the rights of trade unions – including the right to join a trade union, to strike, and to organise collectively.

In terms of workers’ rights, the Tories and Brexiteers are keen to see:

The erosion of legislation protecting agency workers.

The expansion of zero-hour and if-and-when contracts.

The removal of key elements of anti-discrimination law.

Deregulation of work safety standards in the name of ‘efficiency'.

Attacks on laws relating to migrant workers and immigration – which feeds into xenophobia.

Attacks on the welfare state and the social wage.

"These issues are not confined to the north and to Britain. The conservative right in this state will also use Brexit to attack workers’ rights and standards. We are already facing a rise in if-and-when contracts, in agency workers, and the watering-down of pension and other entitlements.

"Fine Gael’s moves against the welfare state in the South - making it more difficult for workers to avail of unemployment payments, along with the outsourcing of the social protection system to private, for-profit, operators - will increase under Brexit.

"They will claim that this is necessary because of the 'threat' caused by Brexit to the economy. In other words, what 'austerity' was in the last ten years, 'Brexit' will be for the next ten. This needs to be challenged and resisted.

"Sinn Féin believes that this can be accomplished most effectively through a coming together of progressive forces in the north and south – political parties, trade unions, and civil society groups.

"Only such progressive partnerships can genuinely resist the onslaught from the political right on the lives of ordinary people.

“In the Brexit referendum the people of the North voted to remain in the EU. In the aftermath of the referendum Sinn Féin called for the North to be given a special status within the EU.

That position is supported by the Oireachtas, the majority of MLAs in the Assembly and the European Parliament.

"In the remaining months of the negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal treaty the Irish government must lead the demand for the North to remain within the customs union and the single market and within the EU legal framework.

"This is the best way of protecting workers rights across this island. It is also the only way to avoid a hard border, with its dire economic consequences, on the island of Ireland.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the Irish government needs to protect EU rights for people in the north post-Brexit. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"To date, much of the focus on Brexit has been on the issue of the border and the impact on trade with very little attention given to the huge impact Brexit will have on our rights. 

"Brexit will remove and undermine many of the rights we currently take for granted and it will also erode the rights secured under he Good Friday Agreement. 

"It will attack our right to access healthcare, the right to study abroad, the basic fundamental democratic right to able to directly elect a representative and many others. 

"The Irish government has a responsibility to protect, not just the Good Friday Agreement rights, but also the rights of Irish citizens living in the north in line with its pledge that Irish citizens here will never again be left behind by an Irish government. 

"We now need to see the Irish government committing to ensuring there will be no reduction of rights for people in the north as a result of Brexit in the ongoing negotiations. 

"The Irish government needs to ensure that in the Brexit withdrawal agreement all EU rights and opportunities associated with residency in an EU member state are protected and guaranteed for Irish citizens in the north." 

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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has extended condolences to the family and friends of a pedestrian believed to be a local woman who was killed in a traffic incident.

Gerry Kelly said:

“The community was shocked to hear of the tragic death which occurred in the Ballysillan Road area of North Belfast.

“This is the second tragedy to occur in North Belfast in just over twelve hours.

“I want to extend my condolences to the family and friends of the woman killed and ask anyone who may have been in the vicinity at the time of the incident to come forward with that information.”

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Speaking after a meeting with the Human Rights Commission today, Sinn Féin Housing

spokesperson Carál Ní Chuilín commented:

“The Human Rights Commission has a critical role to play in protecting and promoting the right to adequate housing.

“Numerous UN reports have expressed concern at housing inequalities and the Human Rights Commission needs to address these as a matter of urgency.

 “Today I highlighted to the Commission a range of ways in which the right to adequate housing is getting worse. This includes the shortage of social housing and the overreliance on the private rented sector where tenant rights are lower.

 “The Commission agreed to raise these issues with the Housing Executive and to monitor progress as part of their annual Human Rights statement.

“It is time for the Commission to step up to the mark.”

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Elisha McCallion MP will today meet with British Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, in Westminster to discuss the British government’s commitment to an Inclusive Growth Deal for Derry city and the north west of Ireland.

The Foyle MP said:

“Today I meet with Karen Bradley to discuss a number of important projects for Derry city and the north west region of Ireland.

“I have previously led a delegation to London to secure a British government financial contribution to Derry’s Inclusive Growth Deal through their ‘City Deal’ funding. 

“However, the time for commitment is now. As they’ve done with Belfast and other cities, today I will call on Karen Bradley and the British government to publicly declare a statement of intent to contribute to Derry’s Inclusive Growth Deal.

“I will also be raising current plans to build a medical school at Magee Campus of Ulster University in Derry. 

“This development has the potential to attract talent from across Ireland and beyond, and marks a significant stage in the overall expansion of the Magee Campus.

“Almost a decade of relentless Tory cuts has had an impact on Derry and the wider region. The British government has a responsibility to undo the damage of their attacks on citizens’ incomes and public services, and meaningfully contribute to our city’s development.”

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Sinn Féin environment spokesperson Cathal Boylan has called for a concerted effort to end the use of plastic straws due to the environmental damage they cause.

The Newry-Armagh MLA said: “Plastic is a pollutant. It ends up in the ocean, entangling and endangering aquatic life. It finds its way into our food chain and water supply, threatening human health. And when it breaks down it releases toxins which contribute to global warming.

“One practical step we can take is to reduce the use of plastic straws. A straw may only be used for 20 minutes but it will last as waste for over 200 years. Most straws end up in landfills or oceans.

“Everyone has a responsibility to protect the environment and there are viable alternatives to plastic such as paper straws.

“Many restaurants and cafes have already replaced plastic straws with more environmentally friendly alternatives and I am calling on all individuals and businesses to de-straw."

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Speaking in response to the publication of the 2017 social housing output report and new targets for 2018 Sinn Féin housing spokesperson has described the figures as “deeply depressing”.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The Department of Housing has published the final social housing output figures for 2017 and new social housing targets for 2018. The figures are deeply depressing.

“They confirm the Governments continued undersupply of real social housing as well as its glacial pace of delivery.

“The Government is actually proposing to deliver less real social housing in 2018 than it did last year. In 2017, local authorities and approved housing bodies built and bought 6,297 homes according to the figures. The target for 2018 is just 5,869.

“They also highlight, once again, the chronic over reliance on subsidised private leased properties to meet social housing need. In 2017 76% of new social housing tenancies were delivered through two, four or ten-year leases through the HAP, RAS and SCHEP programmes. In 2018 the over reliance on the private rentals sector will increase to 78%.

“Minister Murphy will no doubt try to spin these figures as progress. He will claim it represents a dramatic increase in social housing output. This is simply not the case. Social housing delivery is now going in the wrong direction.

“It confirms once again that Fine Gael do not understand the causes of the housing crisis.

“They are pursuing policies that are actually contributing to that crisis. We urgently need a dramatic increase in capital investment in the delivery of real social and affordable housing.

“Without this, the housing crisis will continue to get worse.”

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Speaking after the death of a man in Orient Gardens in North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has appealed for anyone with information to bring it to the PSNI.

Gerry Kelly said: 

“News of this death has shocked the local area.

“While the circumstances of the man's death are unclear at this time, the PSNI have stated that they are treating the death as murder.

“I would appeal to anyone with information which may assist the police to bring it forward.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, has called on the Secretary General of the European Commission, Martin Selmayr, to immediately step down from his post pending a full review of the appointment procedures. 

Speaking following a European Parliament vote on the matter in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Carthy said:

“The European Commission has serious questions to answer when it comes to the integrity of its appointment procedures.  The recent appointment Martin Selmayr to the top EU civil service post without an open process stinks of political favouritism.

“Throughout his career at the Commission, Martin Selmayr has been fast-tracked through a number of positions and pay-grades.  He has also dipped in and out of political positions, at one stage acting as campaign manager for Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. 

“His elevation to the current position, and the procedures used to get him there, were completely unethical and it is astounding that Mr Juncker refuses to acknowledge this. 

“It has been revealed that Mr Juncker and Mr Selmayr knew the date of the position of Secretary General being vacated two years in advance.  This was information that nobody else had.  Mr Selmayr was appointed to this position during the same meeting as his predecessor announced his retirement.  None of the Commissioners who had to vote on this appointment were informed in advance of this position being vacated and filled in the same day, and nobody else was given a chance to put their name forward for the pose. 

“Mr Juncker has played this process very close to the line. Frankly it is shameful that not a single Commissioner, including Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan, has chosen to publicly disassociate themselves with this farce. 

“Appointments to senior positions should be subject to regular and transparency appointment procedures with no exceptions.  

“It’s only a couple of months since it emerged that former Commission President José Manuel Barroso is engaging in lobbying activities on behalf of Goldman Sachs against a commitment not to do so.  This latest charade shows that Mr Juncker has little ambition to clean up the tarnished image left behind by that mess. 

“As an unelected body, the European Commission should be attempting to hold itself to the highest possible standards of transparency.  If Mr Juncker is not prepared to do that then perhaps he too needs to reconsider his position”.

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Sinn Féin Councillor JJ Magee has condemned those responsible for vandalising and breaking windows two nights in-a-row at Teach Grainne flats in North Belfast.

Cllr Magee said:

"The local community are angry by this disgraceful attack on Teach Grainne flats which saw the first floor window broken again tonight.

“It is important the vandals are not allowed to continue to wreck and break amenities that the ratepayers ending up paying time and time again for.

“Those responsible need to be held to account and brought to justice and I am calling on anyone who has information to take it to the PSNI.” 

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Gerry Adams TD speaking at Sinn Féin's event “From Civil Rights to the Good Friday Agreement and beyond” to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

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