Mary Lou McDonald TD has highlighted the difficult nature of recent negotiations in the North due to the relentless austerity agenda of the British government, supported by Fine Gael and Labour. However Deputy McDonald praised the additional funding for the Executive which was secured by Sinn Féin in order to minimise the devastating impact of Tory cuts.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy McDonald said:
“These latest negotiations were a direct result of the crisis created by the economic and political policies of the British and Irish governments. And the negotiations have been difficult.
“In economic terms, Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party made common cause with the British Conservative Party in their relentless pursuit of austerity. Like the Irish Government, the Tories have used the cover of recession to cut public services, to cut benefits, and to plan further swingeing cuts to supports for working families.
“The Irish Government through disastrous austerity policies have increased inequality, work poverty, homelessness, the numbers on hospital trollies, and emigration. The British Government is seeking to do likewise in the 6 countries. They are receiving the full support of Fine Gael and Labour.
“So with two governments clearly on the side of austerity and against the rights of victims of the conflict to full disclosure, getting a positive deal was always going to be a challenge. However Sinn Féin stood up for ordinary citizens. We have secured additional monies for the Executive which will help minimise some of the worst excesses of British Government austerity.
“Sinn Féin succeeded in securing £585million over the next four years to support those in need and working families. This is an increase from the Stormont House Agreement that had funds of £560million over six years.
“We have secured in excess of £500million of additional funding to support the unique needs of a society emerging from decades of conflict and division, and an economy that faces the legacy of under-investment and partition.
“Sinn Féin stands for investment in growth and prosperity, for fairness and equality, and for supports and services for those in need. We believe that the continued operation of the political institutions is the best way to build an anti-austerity and Tory cuts campaign, maintain control over our public services, grow the economy, and support those most in need.
“This Agreement will clearly not solve all the issues, but in the face of two unhelpful Governments, it is the best that can be achieved. It has protected the citizens of the North from the full force of Tory cuts and ensured that we currently have working political institutions.”
Speaking after this morning’s private meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs, Sinn Fein members said it was obscene that a report on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is being forced through the Oireachtas that is incomplete and not reflective of all stakeholders’ views.
Deputies Seán Crowe, Peadar Tóibín, Michael Colreavy, and Senator Kathryn Reilly raised the issue after TDs and Senators from Fine Gael, Labour, and Fianna Fail voted down a Sinn Fein motion in the EU Affairs Committee which called for a withdrawal of the incomplete and embarrassing (TTIP) report until a comprehensive political contribution of all relevant Oireachtas Committees is drafted. This follows on from the defeat of a similar motion in Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation Committee.
Senator Reilly said:
“It is astounding that an incomplete report, standing at just ten pages of detail, on one of the biggest trade agreements in the world is being forced through the Oireachtas committees to be submitted to the European institutions. The report verges on the embarrassing when compared to the reports other Parliaments have completed, they are significantly more robust and in depth than ours. This report is not an Oireachtas report- there are glaring holes in terms of the content and serious policy gaps emerge.
“I think it is extremely important that there is a cross committee focus and report on TTIP. Unfortunately it is not the case with this report. This is only a report from three Committees and it seems like the EU Affairs Committee is the only one that has significantly examined TTIP.
“There has been some good work done and constructive meetings held in certain Oireachtas committees on TTIP, I do not deny that. However, this report is incomplete, that is why Sinn Fein submitted a motion to stop the report being sent to the European Parliament until all the relevant committees which TTIP affects have held a series of meetings and engagements on the trade agreement.
Deputy Peadar Tóibín outlined:
“The Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation Committee report is only an analysis of what the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation said when he met us, he may as well have just written a personal letter to European Commission. That is not to undermine the work that has gone into it; it is just that process is totally incomplete.
“Furthermore, the Justice Committee needs to be examining the implications of ISDS, the Foreign Affairs Committee needs to be discuss the effects TTIP may have on developing countries and other trade agreements, and the Public Expenditure Committee need to investigate the impact it can have on public procurement. The Committee on Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources need to examine it.
“The current report is based solely on evidence given to only three committees, which exposes the Committee to censure from stakeholders and citizens who are already deeply concerned regarding the secretive nature of the TTIP negotiations and believe that concerns raised are not being dealt with.
Deputy Seán Crowe stated of the report:
“Sinn Féin are not calling for a suppression of the report or the process, far from it. What we want to see is democratic debate by all the relevant Oireachtas committees and the drafting of a comprehensive and agreed to report that adequately reflects the detailed examination members have undertaken in their consideration of the TTIP agreement. This is especially important because TTIP is unprecedented in its scale and depth and an Oireachtas report should outline the positive and negative aspects of TTIP as raised by Oireachtas members of all parties and none.
“The Communications committee actually sent a request to the EU Affairs committee not to forward the report until they had an opportunity to consider the implications of TTIP on the sectors within that committees remit. That request was not acceded to in what can be considered a blatant disregard for democracy and parliamentary oversight.
Deputy Michael Colreavy, a member of that committee noted:
“TTIP has major implications for areas that are of concern to the Transport and Communications Committee; not least in relation to hydraulic fracturing which is a topic that has been dealt with at committee level on many occasions.
“It is essential that the Transport and Communications Committee get an opportunity to engage with any report that examines TTIP. How could we, as elected representatives, have confidence in a report that does not cover even some of the most basic concerns regarding this agreement?
“The Transport and Communications Committee must be given the opportunity to hear from stakeholders, officials, and the Minister on the potential implications of TTIP.”
Welcoming an announcement of the return to normal services at the Mater Emergency Department in North Belfast, local Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said,
"The recent disruption to vital services at the Mater Emergency Department created concern for local people and staff.
"Throughout this period we have been in regular contact with the Belfast Trust at the highest level seeking assurances as to the ongoing situation and the future of Mater Hospital services.
"The news that ambulance services will return to normal from 8am on Thursday, ending the temporary diversion, is most welcome and I would praise all involved in bringing this episode to a conclusion.
"It is my understanding that substantial discussions have been ongoing between the Trust, Unison, staff, the Ambulance service and medical teams in recent days and that agreed protocols have been put in place to avoid a repeat of this situation arising in the future.
"It is also important that the clear need for both the Mater and Royal Emergency Departments has been reiterated by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
"I welcome these developments and this news will come as a relief to everyone working and depending on the Mater Hospital in the local community."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today said the Government have made an utter shambles of the terms of reference for the IBRC Commission of Investigation.
Speaking during Leaders Questions, Deputy Adams told An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny that making a mess of the big issues has become the government’s hallmark.
Deputy Adams said:
“Making a mess of the big issues of Government has become the hallmark of this Fine Gael/Labour Government.
“The first Interim Report from Mr. Justice Brian Cregan makes it clear that the Commission’s terms of reference - prepared on your watch - are an absolute and utter shambles.
“Similar to the calamity that exists in our A&E departments and the utter chaos of 5,000 men, women and children sleeping in emergency accommodation, you have made a mess of the Commission of Investigations terms of reference and dismissed Sinn Féin’s suggestions.
"All because you are against holding the golden circles to account.
“That is why you blocked and stonewalled any effort to bring transparency to the transactions undertaken by IBRC. Billions of taxpayers’ money was written off and found its way into the deep pockets of the elites. The public need and deserve answers.
“It is incumbent on the Taoiseach to now give assurances that the necessary changes to legislation and the IBRC Commission’s terms of reference will be put in place by Christmas, and he must commit to facilitating extended and additional sitting days of the Dáil and Seanad if needs be.”
Addressing the Seanad on the Cavan/Monaghan Implementation Plan for Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People and the accessibility of therapy services and assessments for children in the area, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly read into the record the first hand experiences of parents and children from the area who are waiting over 29 months for access to vital services.
Speaking in the Seanad, she said:
“Since I last raised this issue, I have been inundated with parents contacting me with their own experiences and stories of the disability services for young people in Cavan and Monaghan. Their experiences tell of despair, concern and in some cases anger with what they feel is a system that is failing their children’s needs.
“An implementation plan that will ensure therapy services for children are more accessible and are available within acceptable timeframes is welcome. But we need to see the roll out of this plan as a matter of priority. Saying there is a plan and advising that there are proposals in place will not alleviate the burdens of assessment and waiting times in the short term. When parents are saying that the lack of interventions and therapies at an early stage, as a result of waiting lists, is causing their children to regress, this then becomes an issue of concern.
“In relation to the specific services that are being restructured and proposed in Cavan/Monaghan, is there a timeframe for same? Also, and for those interested parents and families affected directly by this issue, can you advise how the plan can help their children? Essentially for those children on the waiting list currently, those being put on it, in the middle of a long wait to access assessment or services, how will this plan help them? Will it mean availability and access will be facilitated in the next month, 3 months, 6 months, a year? Or will it only help those in the future?
“In the Minister of State Kathleen Lynch’s last contribution, when I asked when the networks were to be established she advised that this process will take time. I accept that change takes time. Overhauling or implementing a new system cannot happen overnight. But, the demand for services is growing, as evidenced in the surge in referrals. If the Government could provide some idea of a timeframe of how this change is to happen, when or how the network teams are to be built up, when gaps are identified, when posts will be allocated, it would go some way to allaying the concerns of parents who truly feel that their children are being lost in the system.”
Speaking after the debate, Senator Reilly expressed regret that the Minister herself was not present to take the matter and that vital questions were left unanswered:
“For parents and their children in Cavan and Monaghan to find out upon referral to these services that the waiting lists extend over two years to 29 months makes a mockery of the concept of ‘early intervention’. The fact is that because of the serious backlogs, parents whose children need therapies and treatments are often forced to go private at great personal cost. Or in many cases, parents cannot afford this and witness their children regressing. This is completely unacceptable.
“The allocation of 4 additional therapy posts to Cavan and Monaghan is welcome, but the fact is parents want to know how this will alleviate the waiting lists and when their children will be seen- something that went unanswered today.”
Sinn Féin’s Justice spokesperson, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD has highlighted the need for legislation that would allow for accountability and transparency in membership driven organisations such as the IFA.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“We cannot downplay the impact of the wages scandal has had on the farming community – however calls by government ministers for greater transparency in unions and representative bodies are utterly meaningless without supporting legislation.
“We have seen, following other scandals in the charity sector such as CRC and Rehab, that self-regulation is not an option. We believe the government will have to bring in legislation, similar to the Charities Act, to ensure full financial accountability.
“There are farming families who are struggling to stay on the land who are shocked and appalled at the wages senior IFA officials have felt entitled to pay themselves. State-wide the average farmers earnings are €26,000 per annum according to Teagasc. In my home county Donegal, farmers can earn as little as €12,000 per annum.
“Following the charity sector wage scandals, arguments were put forward for the 2009 Charities Act to be implemented with the full accountability of the salaries of senior employees. The Government then dragged its feet on this issue to the degree that Sinn Féin and I introduced a Private Members’ Bill to move this Act on.
“Eventually, aided by the huge public demand for full financial accountability, the Charities Regulatory Authority was established in October of last year, aiming to regulate charities to ensure their effectiveness, accountability and transparency to their donor and beneficiary communities.
“There is no doubt that similar legislation is needed for all civic society organisations. I would urge the government to indulge in less lip-service on the issue and to draft legislation to comprehensively deal with the lack of transparency in this sector.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said public representatives and political parties should work together to resolve conflict following the recent tragic events in Paris and Mali.
Speaking in Strasbourg, Ms Anderson said
"I find it terribly disconcerting that some representatives from my constituency have attempted to use the tragic events in Paris to score points against Sinn Féin.
"It is disappointing that they are using the catastrophic deaths of the 130 innocent victims for their own political gain.
“Clearly DAESH is engaged in terror and responsible for countless atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and more recently in Paris and Mali. We condemn their actions unreservedly.
"In the north Sinn Féin has played a key role in the development and the delivering of the Peace Process. We view it as one of the most valuable processes in Europe and one that the European Parliament played a role in delivering.
“As a lasting tribute to the victims in Paris – and to all victims of global conflict – world leaders must redouble efforts to resolve conflict and to build peace.
"And as MEPs we should be standing united in our opposition to terror organisations such as DAESH, not acting as political opportunists." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has condemned those behind a bomb alert at a Sinn Féin office in north Belfast.
Mr Kelly said;
"This bomb alert at the Sinn Féin office at Teach Carney on the Antrim Road must be condemned.
"It follows similar alerts at other Sinn Féin offices and threats to the lives of Sinn Féin elected representatives in recent days.
"But we will not be deterred from representing the community we were elected to serve by the actions of a tiny unrepresentative group.
"Those behind these alerts and threats have nothing to offer our society and need to call a halt to these futile actions immediately."
Sinn Féin Councillor Tony McCaul has said that the local community is again the victims of the activities of people who have been rejected time and time again.
Councillor McCaul said,
“The warning of an explosive device being left in the Carnanbane Road Feeney has caused upset to the daily routine of local people.
“This vague warning is similar to the one in Drumsurn a fortnight ago who caused disruption to the local population for four days.
“The people who are carrying out these acts are offering nothing but misery to the very community they claim to represent.
“If they have the interests of the local community at heart then they would listen to it and desist immediately from this type of activity.
“I would appeal for vigilance at this time and that whoever is responsible for leaving the device to give more details so that it can be safely removed before someone is seriously injured or killed.”
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called for the number of work permits being offered to migrant workers in the sector to be doubled to at least 1,000.
Speaking following similar calls made by the Irish Fish Producers' Organisation and the Nasc immigrant support centre, Ní Riada said:
"I would echo the calls made by fishing industry representatives for at least 1,000 work permits to be issued. It is vital that we offer this protection to migrant worker within the Irish fishing industry.
"From what fishermen have been saying, 500 permits will not be sufficient and as the new permit scheme only covers trawlers above 15 metres in length, it ignores the fact that there are migrants workers aboard smaller vessels. As a result, under the new scheme, these fishermen will not be covered.
"No work permits have been issued since 2005, and the International Transport Workers Federation has stated that there has been up to 8,000 migrant workers involved in the industry, many of them undocumented and without training.
A member of the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries, Ní Riada continues,
“I support the recommendation made by Nasc that a sectoral work permit scheme be introduced to ensure that the recruitment of non-EU workers is regulated in future and that they are afforded the same protections as EU workers."
"The fact that it took a year-long investigation by The Guardian to expose the abuse of trafficked workers in the Irish fishing industry, rather than our own government and authorities, who either turned a blind eye or were completely unaware, is a national embarrassment.
“While the Irish government hinders fishermen in trying to make a living through heavy-handed regulation, boarding at sea and inspections, it ignores the plight of exploited workers in the sector. Its clear that for all its regulations and policing, the Irish government has no interest in the well-being of fishermen, regardless of their nationality." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has said that the European Parliament's decision to extend the timeframe of the special committee into tax rulings will be worthless unless there is greater transparency from governments, the commission and Multi-National corporations.
Carthy, a member of the European Parliament's Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee, was speaking after he participated in a debate on the first report of the committee in the Strasbourg plenary on Tuesday.
"In recent months I have been proactively involved in the ongoing EU TAXE Inquiry Committee which has the stated aim of seeking to bring transparency and accountability to both the European and International Taxation system.
"I, like many citizens across Europe, have been dismayed by the serious obstruction of TAXE's work by the EU Commission, corporations and national governments all of which have refused to provide full document access.
"Indeed, the Irish Government have been among those who have refused to provide access to crucial meeting minutes and the European Commission have also withheld an important database containing all harmful tax practices in the EU.
"We should be clear: Ireland's ability to set its corporation or any other tax rate is not in question and any suggestion which would undermine taxation sovereignty will be vigorously resisted by Sinn Féin MEPs. What is in question is the assertion that Tax avoidance by Multi-National Companies in Ireland amounts to about €4 billion in lost tax revenue.
"Multinational companies play an important role in our economy, but that cannot mean that they can be exempt from paying their fair share of tax. Irish SMEs would never get away with not paying the 12.5% corporate tax rate.
"The mentality that has allowed large corporations to avoid paying tax is the same that has forced hundreds of thousands of our young people to emigrate, that has allowed 250,000 to remain unemployed while 85,000 people are on activation schemes such as JobBridge and approximately 110,000 people to be underemployed seeking proper hours and conditions.
"It is the same mentality that allowed the wealth of the 100 richest people in the State to increase by €12 billion while ordinary families struggled.
"Part of the reason for that breakdown in services is the fundamental tax injustice that exists. The Irish Government and key players within the European Union including Jean-Claude Juncker and Jeroen Dijsselbloem have been ideologically opposed to getting these companies to pay their fair share of taxation.
"The Irish Government should be leading the campaign for transparency, not restricting it and Sinn Féin will continue to press this issue".
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has welcomed the passing of the Reintke report in the plenary session of the European Parliament, dealing with EU cohesion policy and marginalised communities.
Speaking after the vote, Ms Anderson said,
"In the European Parliament, I had a responsibility to work on a report on how European Union’s cohesion policy can assist in empowering marginalised communities.
"The term 'marginalised communities' covers a broad range of concepts, such as disadvantaged neighbourhoods, people at risk of poverty, and groups in society that are disadvantaged or discriminated against.
"As the lead negotiator for GUE/NGL on this particular report, I proposed a range of amendments such as the acknowledgement that people in cross-border, rural and isolated areas are often subject to marginalisation due to their geographical situation and should be better taken into consideration by the Cohesion Policy.
"This is particularly evident in Ireland and I have met with many of these communities, most recently the Irish traveller community, who have long suffered social and economic marginalisation.
"Additionally I proposed a focus on the problems of unemployment, housing, education, people suffering from a disability and healthcare faced by marginalised communities and we asked for a promotion to better access.
"In order to overcome disadvantage in marginalised communities, governments need to take responsibility to change the situation by implementing as many supportive measures as possible, rather than prioritising budget cuts over meeting the needs of their most vulnerable in society.
"Sinn Féin has long played a leading role with marginalised communities and these communities need to be actively involved at a grass-roots level, and enabled to participate as full partners in developing and monitoring the programmes that affect them." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Lynn Boylan has pointed out that austerity policies are exacerbating the gender pension gap, in stark opposition to the European Commission and Parliament’s stated intention to reduce this gap.
Speaking tonight from Strasbourg where she addressed the European Parliament during a debate on ‘preventive measures’ to tackle the gender pay gap, Ms Boylan said: “The gender pension gap in the Irish state has increased since the economic crisis began.
“This is no accident but a result of deliberate policies. The result is that many women are denied economic independence, and the dignity that comes with it, in their retirement.
“We know the pension gap results from the cumulative impact over the life-courses of women of a variety of factors including the pay gap and breaks from work for caring responsibilities.
“But we also need to acknowledge when we talk about ‘preventive measures’ in tackling the gender pension gap that austerity policies are exacerbatingrather than reducing this inequality.
“Policies implemented by successive Irish governments since 2008 have worsened the situation for women.
“Women struggle to build up sufficient contributions across both the private and public pension systems as a result of the pay gap, precarious and low-paid work, carrying out unpaid caring, and being excluded from the labour market for long periods over the course of their lives as a result of the prohibitive cost of childcare in this state.
“The government reduced pension entitlements for new employees in the public service in 2009, and specific sectors dominated by women - teaching and nursing - have been targeted by other measures reducing their salaries and pensions.
“Ireland already has the lowest level of social expenditure on old age pensioners among all EU member states, and this state also has one of the lowest overall social spending levels in the EU.
“The gap between the effective retirement age of women, at 63 and a half, and the official retirement age (66) is set to increase significantly over the coming years. While Fianna Fáil in government raised the retirement age, neither the former nor current government have put forward a single proposal that will address the rising gap between the effective and statutory pension ages.”
Ms Boylan continued: “The cost of childcare has the disgraceful effect of entirely excluding some women from participating in the productive economy and forcing others into precarious, low-paid jobs.
“Brutal cuts to the One Parent Family Payment will drive more women and children into long-term poverty.
"All of these cuts to women's income will of course increase the gender pension gap.
"I'm happy to see this issue on the agenda of the European institutions, and it should be on the Irish government's agenda too.
“There are many steps we can take to tackle the gender pension gap - but first we must acknowledge the disastrous impact of austerity policies on women, and immediately reverse them." ENDS
Galway West - South Mayo based Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has today hit out at the Government as the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation voted overwhelmingly in support of industrial action.
The Senator said:
“The crisis in our hospitals is a direct result of underfunding from government and our frontline workers have unfortunately been left with little option but to engage in industrial action.
“Nurses are performing heroics on a daily basis under increasing pressure as the government continually fails to deal with the overcrowding crisis.
“This October was the worst on record with 7,971 admitted patients cared for on trolleys in hospitals around the state and the first ten months of this year, with almost 80,000 patients treated on trolleys is the worst since trolley watch began.
“This is the latest in the ongoing saga of mismanagement of our public health system, which has lurched from one crisis to another under Ministers Reilly and Varadkar.
“In University Hospital Galway, there were 469 patients treated on hospital trolleys during the month of October, while the latest figures show that the outpatient waiting list for the Hospital stands at a staggering 34,870 patients.
“Minister Varadkar must now engage constructively with the INMO if we are to avert a strike in Emergency Departments in the run up to Christmas.
“The ultimate solution to this crisis is increased investment and a reversal of the cuts imposed by Fianna Fáil, Labour and Fine Gael.
“Sinn Féin has consistently called for increased investment in our public services and, if in Government, we would recruit an additional 2,500 nurses over five years with additional recruitment envisaged during a second term."
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has expressed serious concerns about the manner in which a sexual abuse survivor has been treated by the Department of Justice. Referring to the case of a Galway woman who recently learned that her abuser had been released from custody and is now under house arrest, Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:
“This is a very disturbing case. The woman in question was never notified by the Department, the Gardaí, or the Prison Service that the man sentenced to five years in prison for abusing her in March of this year is now under house arrest.
“Rather, it was in the media that the woman first learned of her attacker’s new arrangement. It has since come to light that the man in question never spent a day in prison.
“This case raises a number of serious questions that merit answers from the Minister. For example, there are clearly issues around the management of the perpetrators sentence and the fact that he has not served a day in prison.
“Why was there apparent leaking of information to the press about the case by someone in the Prison Service and /or the Gardaí?
“I am calling on Minister Fitzgerald to inquire into these issues and to issue a formal explanation to the House and the victim. In light of this appalling case, I am also urging her to bring the Criminal Justice Victims of Crime Bill 2015 before the House without further delay.”
West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA, Declan McAleer has welcomed Agriculture, Minister, Michelle O’Neill’s commitment to tackling rural unemployment by providing £270,000 to support the Step-up to Sustainable Employment (SUSE) programme.
Declan McAleer said:
“This financial support is the latest example of Minister O’Neill delivering for rural communities.
“Without proper support structures it is extremely difficult for rural dwellers to access further education and job training schemes.“This £270,000 will provide a lifeline to many rural residents seeking to re-enter education, training and upskilling programmes.”
Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said there is an urgent need for strategic planning to meet the needs of an ageing population.
Ms McLaughlin said;
"The announcement that seven homes are to close will no doubt cause shock and anxiety for the residents involved, their families and the staff at the homes.
"I have been in contact with a number of families whose loved ones are currently residents of these care homes and they are obviously concerned.
"I would call on the company to keep residents and their families, as well as staff, up to date with the latest developments in the coming days and weeks.
"This highlights the need for strategic planning in the health service to deal with our ageing population in a manner which meets their needs and ensures adequate levels of care are in place."
Sinn Féin Workers’ Rights spokesperson David Cullinane has accused the government of pushing nurses and other medical staff to the brink. Speaking on foot of today’s announcement by the INMO that emergency department nurses will take strike action on 15 December, Senator Cullinane said:
“I have repeatedly called for the Minister to come into the Seanad for a debate on the crisis in in the public health system.
“Today’s announcement of industrial action by nurses is not surprising as A&E departments across the country are struggling to cope. We need to be very clear that responsibility for this state of affairs lies squarely with the Minister and the government, and not with nurses or their unions.
“Our public health system is characterised by a lack of capacity, and a chronic lack of resources. The government could have taken steps to rectify this situation in Budget 2016, but it chose not to.
“Instead, it spent money on reducing taxes that should and could have been used to alleviate pressure in A&E Departments and across the public health service in general. The Minister and the government continue to put lives at risk with their total disregard for the country’s public health system and the people who work in it.”
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Defence, Seán Crowe TD, has welcomed the announcement that the Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, has agreed to meet the Action Lariam for Irish Soldiers Group.
Minister Coveney has confirmed that he will meet the group, who are campaigning against the use of the anti-malarial drug, after Deputy Crowe raised the request with the Minister during Parliamentary Questions (PQs) in the Dáil.
Deputy Crowe said:
“On 11 November I attended a vigil in Merrion Square in support of serving and former Defence Forces members who claim to have been negatively affected after taking Lariam.
“The moving vigil was organised by the Action Lariam for Irish Soldiers Group and they requested a meeting with Minister Coveney.
“I raised their request in a PQ with Minister Coveney in the Dáil and was happy to hear today that he will meet the group.
“This group have been campaigning for years on this issue. They feel completely wronged and let down, and they complain that they are getting no help or support from the Government or the Department of Defence. They talk of hitting a wall of silence when it comes to their concerns on Lariam.
“I hope this proposed meeting will lead to a radical and more positive change of procedures in the Defence Forces and that it will assist those members of the Action Lariam for Irish Soldiers Group who urgently need their full support.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has this afternoon said that INMO members have been forced into taking industrial action because of the Government’s woeful management of the health service.
Speaking during Leaders Questions, he told An Taoiseach Enda Kenny that nurses are in support of all frontline staff and in defence of patient care.
Deputy Adams said:
“Today’s announcement of strike action by nurses in hospital A&E departments follows a series of recent shocking cases, including at Tallaght hospital where a man in his 90s with Parkinson’s spent 29 hours on a trolley.
“This situation is a direct result of the Government's continued refusal to deal with the A&E overcrowding chaos.
“In 2013, James Reilly said ‘We will never again see 569 people on trolleys on a single day while this Government is in office’.
“However, the situation has gotten even worse for citizens’ under Minister Varadkar, with increased numbers on trolleys, delayed discharges, a lack of home care packages, and a lack of nursing home beds.
“Meanwhile, our frontline healthcare workers perform heroics on a daily basis.
“In the first 10 months of this year almost 80,000 admitted patients were on trolleys - the highest ever figure for the first 10 months of any year since Trolley Watch began.
“Today there are 339 citizens on trolleys.
“In October 2015, for the 15th month in a row, we saw an increase in the levels of overcrowding in Emergency Departments.
“The Government have - for ideological reasons - under-invested in our public health system. Overcrowding in A&E’s is a direct result of this policy and today’s announcement of strike action by nurses is an entirely understandable response.”