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Speaking today after the European Commission announced that it would not after all re-write or weaken key EU biodiversity protection, Boylan said,

“The Birds and Habitats Directives are crucial pieces of biodiversity legislation which help protect the environment and endangered species. Unfortunately, for the past few years, the European Commission has allowed the sword of Damocles to dangle over them as potential targets for a lighter touch form of regulation.

“Thankfully, due to the continued pressure from environmental organisations, political representatives and the half a million concerned citizens who petitioned the EU executive, the European Commission has now had to row back on this threat and confirm that it will not be trying to tinker with them.

“Whilst such vital nature protection laws should not have been targets in the first place, it is to be welcomed that the European Commission has now recognised their importance too. It is now a question of looking at how we better implement and enforce them to ensure a higher level of protection for nature which is continually under threat.”

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Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell has said that the current pension inequality for women needs to end and that the government must act to resolve the issue.

Deputy Mitchell was speaking on a Sinn Féin Motion in the Dáil on the matter this evening.

She said:

“Sinn Féin brought this motion forward because of this Government’s failure to act on the gross and blatant pension inequality that will see the numbers of people affected grow year on year, and they are predominantly women.

“The horrifying situation is that because of the way averaging works women who had left the workforce to care for children or for elderly relatives are then cynically penalised and receive less of a pension by this Government on retirement. This needs to be reversed.

“Age Action Ireland and the National Women’s Council of Ireland have urged all TD’s to support this Sinn Féin Motion. The Government Parties need to take a generation of women in from the cold. It would be an action well remembered by those currently suffering, and those who will suffer in the future if they fail to act.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD has called on the government to reduce the number of contributions needed to qualify for state pension eligibility from 520 to 260. Speaking in the Dáil during debate on the Sinn Féin motion to restore pre2012 pension rates and bands Deputy Quinlivan said

“Central to all of this is the notion of pension and labour market equality for women.

“In a 2007 report called “Pensions What Women Want” the National Women’s Council repeatedly emphasised the need to engender the Irish pension debate.

“Policy decisions taken in 2012 by Labour Party Minister Joan Burton have meant thousands of women are now actively discriminated against on the basis of their gender.

“Joan Burton’s 2012 policy was both gender and class blind.

“It failed to take into account the fact that for most women childbirth, caring and homemaking take up huge parts of their adult lives requiring them to move in and out of the labour market.

“The 2012 changes to the state’s pension regime resemble something from another era where women’s work inside the home is rendered invisible and of less value then participation in a male dominated labour market.

“The recommendations in the Sinn Féin PMB seek as a first step to address this inequality.

“At the very least such changes would also be beneficial for the many low income groups who experience cumulative labour market disadvantage and a high risk of poverty in old age.

“The report from the Low Pay Commission on the over concentration of women in precarious work - this means low pay, uncertain hours and exploitation, is now before cabinet.

“In the context of the pension’s debate the government need to recognise the link between the structure of the labour market, the social welfare regime and the increasing feminisation of poverty”.

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Speaking today during the debate on the Sinn Féin motion on Pension Equality and Fairness Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Childcare Kathleen Funchion said that

"As a woman, the issue of the shocking gender pension gap in this State leaps out to me. It’s also a critical issue for many women in my constituency who feel they are being discriminated against for caring for either their children or other relatives in need of care.

"On a very basic level, let’s consider the cost of childcare in this state - and how that impacts a woman’s capacity to remain in the workforce.  We live in a society where the cost of childcare can be the cost of a second mortgage. For parents with several children, the cost for most families is completely out of reach. Understandably, a parent, often the woman, leaves her job to become the primary caregiver. Yes, this a preferred choice for many.  For others, it’s not.  Regardless of the preference, these women should not be then penalised via pension payments and contributions once returning to the workforce.

"I acknowledge some effort have been made through a certain amount of credits being allocated. But the reality is many women still have to sign onto the dole upon retirement and have a reduced pension.

"The gender pension gap in this state is 37%, the fifth highest pension gap in the whole of the EU. Only 18% of those receiving the full contributory pension are women. This is shocking.

"Our motion is an effort to correct the Pension reforms made in 2012 which hit women unfairly.

"It’s not bad enough that the gender pay gap is around 14%, but to think the pension gap is knocking on the door of 40% is atrocious.

"Women who have worked their whole lives, or indeed, who are still working deserve fair and appropriate provision for later in life.  Women contribute an enormous amount to the workforce and wider society. It is pitiful that we have to come to this where we feel we have to fight for basic equality on pension rights, often after a lifetime of commitment to employment

"It’s past the time of us all being shocked - and offering words of solidarity with women. If we are truly serious about equal rights, and women’s rights, then other parties should support this motion.

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Let me begin by saying once again that the shooting of Brian Stack was wrong. 

It was a grievous loss for his family and should never have happened.

In the absence of the two governments agreeing to a process to deal with the past I sought to try and assist the family of Brian Stack to gain a degree of acknowledgement and closure.

I did so at their request.

What has happened over the last year points up the challenges of this course of action and the urgent need for a proper legacy process to be established.

For the record I will again set out the sequence of events and my efforts to assist the family of Brian Stack. 

Austin Stack approached me in 2013 seeking acknowledgment for what happened to his father. 

I met Austin Stack a number of times over the course of the following months, mostly on my own.

Austin and Oliver Stack made it clear to me personally and said publicly that they were not looking for people to go to gaol.

They wanted acknowledgement and closure.

There is a note of that initial meeting,

I am releasing that today.

The computer stamp shows that this note was typed into the computer on May 16th seven days after the first meeting with the family.

Austin Stack spoke of his commitment to restorative justice processes.

I told the Stack brothers that I could only help on the basis of confidentiality.

This was the same basis on which I had been able to assist other families.

Both Austin and Oliver agreed to respect the confidential nature of the process we were going to try to put in place.

Without that commitment I could never have pursued the meeting they were seeking which took place later that summer.

The brothers were given a statement by a former IRA leader.

The statement was made available publicly by the family.

The statement acknowledged that the IRA was responsible for their father’s death; that it regretted it took so long to clarify this for them; that the shooting of Brian Stack was not authorised by the IRA leadership; and that the person who gave the instruction was disciplined.

The statement expressed sorrow for the pain and hurt the Stack family suffered.

Following the meeting the family acknowledged that the process, and I quote, “has provided us with some answers that three separate Garda investigations failed to deliver. We would like to thank Deputy Adams for the role he has played in facilitating this outcome.”

Since then the position of Austin Stack has changed.

In 2013 Austin Stack gave me the names of four people whom he believed might have information on the case.

Austin Stack told me that he had been given these names by journalistic and Garda sources.

Austin Stack has denied giving me names. 

Why on earth would I say that I received the names from him if I didn’t?

In February of this year Austin Stack also claimed that he gave names to the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

If Austin Stack was prepared to give names to Mr. Martin, why would he not have given them to me?

I was after all the person he was asking to arrange a meeting.

At Austin Stack’s request I contacted those I could from the names he gave me.

They denied having any information about the killing of Brian Stack.

I told Austin Stack this.

During the election campaign earlier this year the Fianna Fáil leader and others repeated a lot of what was said in 2013.

It was part of his election strategy against Sinn Féin.

However, in addition allegations were made that I was withholding information from the Garda.

It was in this context, and to remove any uncertainty or ambiguity I emailed the Garda Commissioner the names that Austin Stack had given me and which he said had come from Garda and journalistic sources.

I have never at any time described those named as suspects.

I made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that I have no information on the death of Brian Stack.

The email was only sent after I had spoken to three of the four.

There is a live Garda investigation.

I am prepared to cooperate with this.

The position of Micheál Martin, who was a Minister in successive Fianna Fáil government’s during the peace process, and of the Taoiseach on this issue is hypocritical, inconsistent and in fact disappointing. 

I have never sought publicity on this issue.

Any public comments I have made have been in response to others.

Firstly, when Austin Stack publicly asked to meet me, and during the process we established in 2013.

Secondly when Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil sought to exploit this issue as part of their election campaign of 2016.

And today I make this statement in the Dáil following an email that I wrote to the Garda Commissioner being put inappropriately in my opinion into the public realm and then raised here in the Dáil twice by the Fianna Fáil leader.

I say inappropriately because there is a live investigation into the murder of Brian Stack and we in this chamber should be mindful not to say anything which might prejudice this or any future court proceedings.

The Fianna Fáil leader and the Taoiseach seem to be unconcerned about this.

For my part I will cooperate with An Garda Síochána.

Micheál Martin says, I named four people who I understand to be suspects in the murder of Mr Stack.

Teachta Martin has misled the Dáil.

I never made such a statement.

I have never described those named as suspects.

He says, that I said, I took a note of the meeting between Austin and Oliver Stack and a former IRA leader.

I never said this.

I took no note of that meeting.

He says I took Austin and Oliver Stack to that meeting in a blacked out van.

The Taoiseach even went so far on Tuesday to say I drove the van.

Not true. I travelled with the Stack brothers in my car to a prearranged place on the border and then we were all taken in a van to the meeting in the north.

The Fianna Fáil leader and the Taoiseach should correct the Dáil record on these.

Since Fr. Alex Reid and Fr. Des Wilson, myself and John Hume began our work to develop a peace process successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments, encouraged and facilitated meetings between myself and Martin McGuinness and the IRA leadership. 

Is the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader demanding that we should have named those we met?

Do you think this would have helped the peace process?

I recall one specific occasion when a meeting in St. Luke’s with the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff Jonathon Powell was suspended to allow Martin McGuinness and I to meet the IRA.

On other occasions initiatives involving the Irish and British government, the IRA, the Ulster Unionist Party and Sinn Féin were constructed to advance the process.

Meetings were adjourned to facilitate this.

These conversations helped to secure historic cessations.

Should those involved be named.

None of these would have been possible without talking to the IRA.

Micheál Martin knows this.

Our efforts led in July 2005 to the IRA announcing an end to the armed campaign and to engaging with the International Independent Commission on Decommissioning to put its arms beyond use.

Progress that could only have been secured on the basis of direct contact and confidentially.

Is Micheál Martin demanding that Martin McGuinness and I should name those we were meeting in the IRA leadership and who decided to put their arms beyond use?

Is he demanding that the Decommissioning Body name those IRA members it met?

Are they demanding that Cyril Ramaphosa and Martii Ahtisaari name those in the IRA they engaged with to facilitate the arms beyond use process?

Should we now name all of those in the IRA who supported the peace process and took difficult but courageous decisions?

I and others also assisted the Smithwick Commission.

One of the most difficult legacy issues that we have had to deal with is that of the disappeared.

The governments established the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains at my request and with Fr. Reid’s support.

As a result of our efforts 12 of the 16 victims have been recovered and work continues on seeking information on the remain four.

I haven’t given up on this.

Martin McGuinness and I continue to meet regularly with the Commission.

The Commission also meets with former IRA people.

Should they be named.

Mícheál Martin knows all of this. He was a senior member of the government which established the commission.

Progress was only possible on the basis of confidentially and trust. That is why no IRA people where named during any of these initiatives and why they should not be named today.

It is an essential part of any conflict resolution process.

Sinn Féin has worked consistently to resolve the issues of the past.

As part of our commitment to this I have met many families, like that of Brian Stack, who have lost loved ones.

If the Taoiseach and Micheál Martin are interested in healing the legacy of the past for all families, including the Stacks, the Finucane’s, the families of the Dublin Monaghan bombs and hundreds more, then they could begin by putting in place an International based independent truth recovery process. 

My generation of republican activists who lived through and survived the war have a responsibility to try and bring the families of victims of the war, irrespective of who was responsible, to a better place.

That is what I have tried to do with my engagement in 2013 with the Stack Family.

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Sinn Féin MLA, Conor Murphy said today that the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme was flawed from its inception and what happened in terms of the waste of public money was an unacceptable dereliction of responsibility.

Speaking today the chair of the Economy Committee Mr Murphy said: 

“The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which will cost the public purse over £400m has been flawed from the outset.

“There are huge implications for the civil service and our block grant. Very senior officials had responsibility over the establishment, the monitoring and the implementation of RHI. 

“It beggars belief internal reporting systems were so flawed that key issues were not identified and addressed within the department despite warnings having being raised about the scheme.

“There are also real concerns that there may well have been aggressive exploitation of this scheme for commercial profit and gain.

“The public, the Assembly and the Executive all need to know what happened here. 

“A vast amount of taxpayers’ money will be lost, which should be available to the Executive for front line public services at a time of increasing British Tory cuts. 

“Given my ministerial experience I do believe that Arlene Foster, who was the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister at the time, should come forward to provide a full account and set the public record straight on this issue.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and TD for Limerick city Maurice Quinlivan has said he is alarmed that homeless people may be forced to move out of emergency accommodation over the Christmas period due to the seasonal closure of hotels. Speaking after raising the issue in the Dáil with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney, Deputy Quinlivan said:

“Agencies involved in the provision of emergency accommodation for homeless families and single people are extremely worried about the provision of services over the Christmas period in the city.

“Their sense of alarm stems from the fact that hotels in city are closing their doors for three to four days over Christmas which means that homeless families will have to move out at a time when there is already insufficient accommodation available.

“This is unprecedented and has never happened before.

“The scarcity of accommodation means that women, young children and vulnerable people will find themselves on the streets and the council will be powerless to assist them.

“Basically there is no room at the inn in the Centenary year of the 1916 Rising.

“Limerick Council confirmed that on the 25th of November, there were 197 individuals resident in emergency homeless accommodation - 57 of these are young children.

“I am calling on Minister Coveney who will be in Limerick on Friday to intervene immediately.

“My understanding is that there is no accommodation available over the holidays on Christmas Eve, Christmas day, St. Stephen’s Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“This is like something out of a Dickens novel and it is not acceptable”.

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Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has said Theresa May's desire for a so-called 'red, white and blue Brexit' is ludicrous. 

Speaking after attending discussion with the British, Welsh and Scottish Governments. 

Mr Hazzard said:

"My party colleague John O'Dowd and I travelled to London today for the latest Joint Ministerial Council meeting which concentrated on Brexit.

"The British Government cannot claim on one hand to want to work with the devolved administrations and then on the other make such ultra Unionist statements as we have heard from Theresa May.

"Not only is it a trite and meaningless phrase, it also shows a total lack of understanding of or thought about the impact of Brexit on the North and the Good Friday Agreement. 

"It is clear Theresa May and her government do not understand the North or how it will be affected by their directionless approach to Brexit. 

"What she cannot ignore, however, is that the majority of people in the North voted to remain in the North and that vote must be respected. 

"Rather than causing further difficulties to an already difficult process the British government, and the Irish government, should work to achieve designated status for the North within the EU." 

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today urged the Taoiseach Enda Kenny to ensure that the government is on time in making its submission o the European Court of Human Rights next Tuesday on the issue of the Hooded Men.

The Sinn Féin leader also called on the Taoiseach to ensure that the men and their legal representatives receive copies of any submission made by the government and he asked that it be published.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“Almost exactly two years ago, and following the discovery of new evidence, the Irish government agreed to take the case of the Hooded men back to the European Court of Human Rights. That was the right decision.

“The 14 men had been tortured over 7 days by British Army and the RUC Special Branch using brutal in-depth interrogation techniques.

“To cover up its actions the British government lied to the Irish government; lied to the lawyers acting for the hooded men; lied to the European Court of Human Rights; and failed to inform the ECHR that this torture had been cleared at the highest political level by the then British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington.

“It also claimed that it had banned the use of the five techniques in 1972. In 1978 it pledged to the European Court and the Council of Europe that it would not use these techniques in the north or elsewhere. But that was a lie also. The techniques were used by the British Army in Iraq. We also know from a US Senate Report on Torture that these techniques were also being used by the CIA on the basis of the British lies to the ECHR.

“The government’s decision therefore to defend the rights of these Irish citizens and to challenge the use of torture by the British was exactly the right decision. The deadline for the Irish government to make its submission to the European Court is December 13th. It is important that the government make its submission.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said the British government can't ignore the Good Friday Agreement in its approach to Brexit.

Speaking from London, Mr Maskey said;

"This hearing in the British Supreme Court is a major political and constitutional challenge to the British government's Brexit agenda.

"I attended the court today while the sections of the hearing relating to the North took place.

"Regardless of the outcome of the case the fact is that the majority of people in the North voted to see their future in the EU and that must be respected.

"It is also our view that the British government's approach is in conflict with the Good Friday and subsequent agreements which state that the constitutional position of the North can only be changed by the agreement and consent of the people of the North." 

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Today in the Dáil Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport Imelda Munster TD welcomed a commitment from Minister for Transport Shane Ross to meet with Minister for Infrastructure in the North, Chris Hazzard MLA.

Deputy Munster:

“This is an important development in light of the challenges that Brexit will present on all parts of this Island. Their exist has brought about a number of serious cross border issues that need a united approach, including infrastructure, the possibility of a hard border and problems posed if access is constricted.  It’ll create problems for all sectors of the transport industry, ports, airports, road and rail throughout the island if these matters are not addressed, north and south.

“We also need reassurance that a hard border will never return to this country. It’s hugely important that government Ministers are working to ensure that the people of Ireland’s voices are heard in negotiations between Britain and Europe. Cross-border Ministerial cooperation is a huge part of this process.“

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Sinn Féín MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed the proposed redevelopment of Belfast’s Greater Clarendon (Sailortown) area but said that the current needs of the community should to be considered.

The North Belfast MLA said:

“I welcome the proposed redevelopment of Sailortown, the area is of great historical importance to the city. 

“However, over the last number of decades the area has been neglected, which has resulted in a decline in employment and business development.

“The masterplan will help reinvigorate the area by capitalising on other major developments in neighbouring areas such as the new Ulster University campus and improving key routes. 

“However, we should be mindful of the community who currently reside there, they need to be central to any plans.

“At the moment, there is a demand for social housing yet the masterplan does not include figures for the volume of social housing in the same manner it does for student housing.

“This community needs to be considered. Their needs should be prioritised in order to support and maintain the local established community.” 

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Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Munster asked Minister Ross if he is willing to facilitate talks between his department, Bus Éireann, the NTA and unions. Deputy Munster also expressed grave concerns about the potential  privatisation of the  Expressway service, a commercial subsidiary of Bus Éireann, given media reports regarding its future this morning.

Minister Ross insisted that media reports about the potential slashing of services were incorrect, though he did not rule out that this method of cost-cutting was being considered. He also said that privatisation of the service was not discussed at yesterday’s cabinet meeting."

Deputy Munster:

“Public transport is in a state of crisis. We have had Luas workers and Dublin bus workers on strike, the very troubling rail review of the NTA  and now this latest catastrophe in Bus Éireann.

“Public transport is the most effective way to reduce traffic congestion, link rural communities, improve local as well as larger economies and it also has a part to play in protecting the environment. By its very nature it is not always going to produce a profit. Its importance transgresses profit.

“I have concerns that you are planning to eventually privatise parts of the public transport network, and the Expressway service is looking particularly vulnerable at present.  We also need to consider the needs of workers in all this. What we need is for subvention levels to increase to reverse 8 years of under investment, and ensure that we provide a first class public transport service.

“Minister Ross did not give a commitment to support my suggestion of engagement with all stakeholders to find a  resolution and save our public transport network. He needs to do this if he is in any way sincere about protecting, preserving and enhancing our public transport system”.

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has announced that Órlaithí Flynn has been selected for co-option as an MLA for West Belfast. 

The Sinn Féin chief whip said:

"Following consultation with Sinn Féin activists in West Belfast, the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle has approved the selection of Órlaithí Flynn for co-option as the new MLA for the constituency.

“Órlaithí has worked as a political advisor for Alex Maskey, Rosie McCorley and Sue Ramsey and I have no doubt she will be an excellent representative for the people of Colin and West Belfast.

"I wish her well and look forward to working alongside her in the Assembly.”

Speaking after her official sign in Órlaithí Flynn said:

"I am honoured and privileged to be co-opted as an MLA for West Belfast and look forward to working alongside my party colleagues.

"I would like to pay tribute to Jennifer McCann who has been and continues to be an inspiration to me and to many others.”

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Speaking this afternoon on the Sinn Féin sponsored PMB on Pension Equality and Fairness, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Disability Rights and Older People Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD focused on the need for the Government to reinstate the State Pension (Transition) so that workers can once again have the option of retiring when they reach 65 years of age with the support of a pension.

Deputy Ó Caoláin made reference to instances that have been brought to his attention where people were being forced to retire at the age of 65 despite their willingness to continue to work and with little regard being paid to the financial obligations of the individuals who simply cannot afford to be unemployed and with no pension entitlement. 

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“It is wrong that Irish law currently permits employers to impose mandatory retirement ages in their employee’s contracts, in effect, facilitating ageism and creating a set of second-class employment rights for older workers. This should not be allowed happen.

“An argument used to support the current legal provision is that if people retire at an earlier age there will be more youth employment.  Such statements have been dismissed time and time again. 

“From a financial perspective, it is not in the countries interest to allow employers to impose this mandatory retirement age. A worker forced into retirement at the age of 65 is entitled to a Jobseeker’s Benefit of €188 at the maximum rate until he or she turns 66. Financially, it makes sense for an older worker to continue to contribute to the Exchequer instead of receiving payments from it. 

“By 2046, 1.4 million people will be aged over 65, compared to the 530,000 that were recorded in the last census; a staggering increase. However, we should see this, improved health and longevity, as an opportunity as well as a challenge, with older people contributing to our society.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Heritage, Peadar Tóibín TD, has said that it is not too late for Minister Heather Humphreys to intervene to save the Pearse surrender letter, which will be put up for auction at 6pm today.

An Teachta Tóibín has said that Minister Humphreys should purchase the letter on behalf of the state immediately. Failing that, the Deputy said that all options to save the letter must be explored, highlighting that the Minister’s department are responsible for the issuing of a license for the export of documents of cultural importance, and that it is in their power to refuse the granting of such a license, if the letter is sold to an overseas bidder.  

Deputy Tóibín said:

“I cannot overstate the importance of this letter of surrender by Pádraig Mac Piarais at the end of Easter Week, 1916. However its value has been continually overlooked by establishment politicians in this state. The Fianna Fáil government refused to buy it in 2005, for the price of €50,000. Fine Gael are refusing to purchase it now.

“Admittedly, while the reserve price beginning at €1 million is high, this is a document that is worth keeping in the state for safekeeping and public display. It is within the Minister’s power to grant an export license for the document; it is also within her power to refuse such a license and keep the document in the country and under the protection of the state. However, this is a complicated process, and potentially more costly than the outright purchase of the letter.

“However, all options must be considered. There is a large sum of money, thought to be in the millions, leftover from the commemoration fund. It would seem fitting for this to be spent on Pearse’s surrender letter.

“Contrast the cost of the letter with the legal fees incurred by the government in their bid to allow for the demolition of Moore Street, which is said to be in the region of €2 million; or worse still, contrast the cost of the letter with the cost of appealing the subsequent High Court judgment protecting Moore Street, which will likely run into multiple millions.

“Minister Humphreys has failed utterly to uphold her ministerial duty to ‘conserve and manage Ireland’s unique heritage for the benefit of present and future generations’. If she doesn’t act now, the letter could end up overseas in private hands.  It is utterly shameful that a letter of such national significance, power and poignancy would be reduced to a mere collectors object.” 

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Sinn Féin Dublin North-West TD Dessie Ellis raised the need for a primary health care centre in Finglas with the Government in the Dáil yesterday, saying that there ‘new sites in the North Finglas area which would ideally suit a project as important as this’.

Deputy Ellis said:

“I expressed the importance of having one in the Finglas north area. This was identified rightly as an area of high priority with considerable need for the benefits brought by a Primary Care Health Centre. Not only do we need the built infrastructure in Finglas for a new primary care centre but that any new centre must have the requisite staff and services needed to deal with population growth and growth in demand for services.

“It makes sense that the Government and the HSE put services, staff and equipment in our new primary care centres to ensure delivery of care as close to the person as possible, with minimal waiting times. Now there’s a possibly of new sites in the North Finglas area which would be more than suitable and would ideally suit a project as important as this.

“That is why I asked the Government to give a firm commitment that money and resources are committed to this case. The Government did not commit fully but said that Finglas remains a priority for a primary health centre. I will continue to keep the Government and the HSE under pressure until this is achieved.” 

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Media reports from yesterday suggested that the Government were considering scrapping the pay by weight waste charges. This morning the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten confirmed that the  pay-by-weight system is not going to be scrapped, but is being delayed and the new system will be introduced by the middle of next year.

Sinn Féin Deputy Dessie Ellis said:

“It is disappointing that the Government are continuing with the existing system as it allows the bin companies to lead the Government by the nose on this issue, some companies played sharp practise with the new system, and increased charges and some customers have to pay twice in one calendar year for a yearly contract. How will a deferment help or support all those who are under severe financial pressure to keep their bins. By not taking the hard choices the Minister is leaving hard working families to the mercy of these companies.

“The procrastination and the confusion caused by this messing about can now only be solved by removing the profit hungry companies from the equation and put waste management back into the hands of the Local Authorities.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, speaking in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, has urged the Taoiseach to pursue all options to ensure access to the Orkambi drug for cystic fibrosis patients and to give a commitment to patients who are candidates for the drug that they will receive it while negotiations with the manufacturer are ongoing.

Teachta Adams said:

“Ireland has the highest number of people suffering from cystic fibrosis in the world and the largest proportion of families with more than one child suffering from the condition.

“According to ‘Cystic Fibrosis Ireland’, it affects around 1,200 adults and children in the State and citizens here suffer with some of the most severe strains of the disease. There are also 455 citizens with cystic fibrosis in the north.

“Oireachtas members have heard in the past two weeks two emotive and heart-breaking presentations from citizens living with cystic fibrosis and their family members. We have heard from parents who have buried their children, and patients who manage gruelling daily medical regimes and who endure recurrent hospitalisation. 

“Many of them are valiantly battling for the opportunity to access the potentially life changing drug, Orkambi. Only forty citizens have been able to secure Orkambi on a trial basis.

“I have asked the Minister for Health Simon Harris numerous questions about where the negotiations on Orkambi and other drugs are, but we are none the wiser. The families have requested six times to meet with the Minister and I would ask the Taoiseach to ask him to meet them as a priority.  

“Some of the families were told recently by Vertex that the company was open to a risk-sharing model of payment among other payment schemes so I would urge the Taoiseach to confirm if all options have been pursued with Vertex.  

“I understand that the Minister for Health is in Lisbon today, and I agree that a collaborative approach could lead to significant reductions in prices and I would commend that approach.  

“While the Minister for Health in the north, Michelle O'Neill, has no direct responsibility in the matter, she has indicated a willingness to work with the Minister here to assist in the process. I would urge the Taoiseach to commit to formally approach counterparts in the Assembly and other EU member states as part of a collaborative discussion to secure access to Orkambi.”

He added:

“There is a real urgency about the provision of this drug and would ask the Taoiseach to consider a proposition of giving a commitment to the families who are candidates for the drug that they will receive it while negotiations are ongoing, even on a trial basis.” 

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has raised the issue of ShannonDoc and the provision of out of hours services with Minister of State Finian McGrath in the Dáil. Deputy O’Reilly has been working closely with Noeleen Moran on this and, further to a number of public meetings locally, the Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson questioned the Minister on actions being taken by him and his Department, and called on him to meet these communities, as part of the HSE consultation process on the new GP contract.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“The people of Clare have been very active recently in holding public meetings on this issue and I believe that the problems they are experiencing are eye opening and bear an important lesson in the provision of primary care services nationally. I think it would be important for you and your officials to engage directly with them, and ShannonDoc, to navigate a mutually beneficial response to the situation in which they find themselves.

“Communities in Clare are rightly concerned and they are looking to you Minister, and to the HSE, to ensure that GPs meet their obligations to their patients. Indeed, they are looking to you to resolve issues around out of hours cover and to expedite the GP contract negotiations which would attract GPs to work in rural Ireland.

“This is not a funding issue Minister. ShannonDoc funds have not been cut despite the service to the public being reduced.   But out of hours rostering and the availability of GPs in these hours is of issue. The fact is Minister that when people cannot access these services out of hours, they are more likely to head directly for the hospitals.  

“When it comes to out of hours services, it is necessary to have the service for when it is needed. ShannonDoc provides a really vital urgent out of hours GP service that the people of Clare cannot be without.  This scaling back of the ShannonDoc service will only result in more people joining the queue's in the already overstretched A&Es.

“Ennis Hospital was downgraded and its A&E runs only a 12 hour service.  Galway University Hospital operated the full capacity protocol 181 times up to November and Limerick was 283. These are the hospitals that these cuts are pushing people to. This isn’t developing primary care. It is burdening the acute system.

“The Minister must intervene and engage with ShannonDoc to find a resolution to this issue as a matter of urgency. I would ask you and your team Minister to meet these communities, as part of the HSE consultation process on the new GP contract as it is the best example of how communities are being affected by cutbacks to services and the need for state intervention in some form through the contract negotiations.” 

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