The Ulster Unionist Party is now firmly anti-Agreement and should be honest enough to admit it, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd has said.
The Mid-Ulster MLA was speaking after UUP Party Leader Robin Swann told his party conference that they would not support Irish language legislation.
“The UUP have clearly abandoned the Good Friday Agreement in favour of trying to out DUP the DUP,” John O’Dowd commented.
“Such reactionary, pathetic politics does a huge disservice to citizens, including many people from the unionist community, who are genuinely seeking equality and rights which are protected everywhere else on these islands.
“The UUP are now actively standing over the denial of those rights and, in so doing, are attempting to make the prospect of a resolution in the current talks all the more difficult. In their lurch to the right of unionist politics, they have clearly moved away from the principles of the Good Friday Agreement which they claim to support.
“They should drop the pretence and admit they are now an anti-Agreement party.”
John O’Dowd also slammed UUP MLA Doug Beattie after he branded Sinn Féin as ‘scavengers’ for seeking language and LGBT rights.
He commented: “Sinn Féin will make absolutely no apologies for seeking rights and equality. That doesn’t make us scavengers. It is what we have been elected to do, so Doug Beattie should withdraw this offensive remark.”
Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has appealed to the public to give assistance to police with investigations after a women’s body was found in the Ardmore area of Finaghy in Belfast.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:
“I have spoken with residents of Ardmore who were woken by a woman’s screams around 7am.
“There is real shock and distress in the area at the news of this murder.
“I would appeal to anyone who can help bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to book to work closely with the PSNI.”
A refusal to support Féile an Phobail, shows that some within political unionism are still intent on disrespecting the Irish language and culture, Sinn Féin Belfast City Councillor Ciaran Beattie has said.
Councillor Beattie was speaking following a Council decision to reject a proposal to assist with Féile an Phobail’s 30thanniversary event next summer.
“Féile an Phobail made a request to the Council to fund a proportion of the up-front costs of the 30th anniversary events in August 2018.
“There was no risk to the Council as the up-front costs would be recouped from ticket sales and the Féile Committee had even committed to taking out insurance in case ticket sales did not match expectations.
“Despite these assurances, the proposal was rejected after it was opposed by unionist parties.
“Unfortunately, this once again demonstrates the disrespect for Irish culture, language and identity that we have come to expect from elements within political unionism.
“We are one week away from submitting our bid to be the European Capital of Culture, sadly today’s decision would show that there are still those that want us to be a city of some culture but not all culture."
Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has welcomed Ibrahim Halawa’s release from an Egyptian prison. Speaking today MEP Boylan said Mr Halawa had been illegally detained for four years and a further one month after being found not guilty of all offences.
“I am delighted with the news that Ibrahim has been released.
“Ibrahim was illegally detained for more than four years and for a further month after he was cleared of all charges.
“I now look forward to him returning home to his family and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.
“It is important that Ibrahim has the proper supports available to him in order to begin the process of rebuilding his life.”
Yesterday in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Agriculture spokesperson, Martin Kenny TD, raised the issue of the 6,000 farmers awaiting their 2016 GLAS payments. He brought it up with Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle TD.
Deputy Kenny said:
“The 6,000 or more farmers waiting for their GLAS money are waiting for their 2016 payments, and we are now nearly at the end of 2017. I am given to understand that a lot of the reason for this is to do with nutrient management plans which have not yet been submitted or have been delayed in being submitted.
“We also have coming up very soon the issue of the commonage framework plans, which also are supposed to be submitted or people will not get their money. As the Minister of State knows, because he lives in a mountainous part of the world in County Wicklow, a lot of farmers on commonage will have to do up this framework plan and submit it. The plans have to be in by 31 October and yet the portal to submit the plan only opened up on 1 October.
“We understand there is a bit of a row going on between private planners and Teagasc, as there was in regard to the nutrient management plans, because the private planners have to get access to it through Teagasc. There are a lot of problems there, the reason for which is poor foresight, because they were not sorted out in the beginning and worked through.”
Minister Doyle responded that there were no delays, but that some applicants had still to submit outstanding documentation including management plans.
Deputy Kenny said that the minister was blaming farmers again to which the minister said that he was also blaming advisors.
Deputy Kenny said:
“There will always be somebody who is a little late. Everybody does not get every wisp of hay home; that is life but farmers have been waiting for their money for a very lengthy period as the Minister of State will acknowledge.
“What needs to be acknowledged is that there is a problem in the Department in regard to the IT systems it uses. I am not blaming the Minister of State, the Minister or anyone else at present but the problem needs to be acknowledged and a solution needs to be found to deal with it.”
Sinn Féin Limerick City TD Maurice Quinlivan has welcomed the news that 20 additional beds are to be opened in St. John’s Hospital in Limerick in a measure aimed at addressing the overcrowding problems in the Limerick region.
Speaking today, Teachta Quinlivan said;
“Today, I received confirmation, in a response to my Parliamentary Question, that 20 beds will be re-opened in St. John’s Hospital in Limerick in the coming weeks.
“I welcome this move by the HSE, as it will begin to help the chronic overcrowding that University Hospital Limerick is now experiencing on a daily basis.
“12 of the beds are to open on Monday October 30th and the remaining 8 will open as soon as the required staff are hired and in place, which given the severity of the situation in Limerick hospitals, should be as soon as possible.
“I have been constantly advocating for additional beds and staff for Limerick hospitals to help address the crisis, and I am glad some action is now being taken.
“Having 902 patients on trolleys in UHL in September was totally unacceptable. Today Friday, there are currently 48 people lying on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick, the highest anywhere in the state.
“Although this announcement of 20 extra beds in welcome, it is not even enough to match the current overcrowding levels, let alone the meet the demand winter will put on our hospitals.
“Funding must be put in place to progress the building of the 96 bed block for University Hospital Limerick to ensure patient safety and comfort and to meet the demand of our growing population.”
Sinn Féin TD for Meath West Peadar Tóibín has castigated the government for the utter chaos that exists in the delivery of LEADER funding to communities in Meath.
Deputy Tóibín said:
“Not only are we dealing with 18 bureaucratic steps for rural enterprise and community organisations to draw down LEADER funds, but we also see Meath’s draw down for 2017 on the floor compared to other counties.
“LEADER funding is a critical facility to allow community groups and rural enterprises to achieve the necessary funding to proceed with vital projects. These projects create jobs, increase output, and improve lives of people right through rural County Meath.
“This funding is more critical than ever given the widening economic gap between rural Ireland and Dublin city. The government has serious questions to answer as to why Meath is in the ha’penny place when it comes to this funding.
“Shockingly, just prior to the recent budget, I found out that Fine Gael had raided LEADER funding to the tune of 10 million euros. Fine Gael is leaving rural Ireland behind and this has to change.
“We are calling for no more than our fair share of LEADER funding for the county in 2018 and we are demanding that the government reform the process so that rural energies are not swallowed by bureaucracy, but are directed towards developing rural enterprises.”
Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O'Neill MLA met today with the British government's international trade secretary Liam Fox and made it clear to him that the Tory Brexit agenda will have disastrous consequences for Ireland, north and south.
Speaking after the meeting Michelle O’Neill said:
Michelle O'Neill said:
"We made it clear to him in no uncertain terms that the Tory Brexit agenda would have disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement and for Ireland, north and south, in terms of citizens rights, trade, our economy and the issue of the border.
"In today's meeting we told Liam Fox it is clear that he and his fellow Brexiteers in the Tory cabinet simply regard the north and its people as collateral damage in the Brexit process.
"It is clear the Tories are floundering over Brexit as their approach to these negotiations is being rejected by the EU. In fact the only people now supporting the Tories on Brexit appear to the DUP, regardless of the dire consequences for the people of the north.
"We also reminded him of the unique circumstances of the north of Ireland and reiterated that a unique solution is required. Securing special status for the north within the EU is not only a credible alternative to the reckless Brexit agenda of the Tories, but it is achievable.
"Support is growing for that position across Ireland and across Europe and Sinn Féin will continue to lobby to build further support for special status."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Climate Action Brian Stanley TD has said that the blunt effect of global warming means more extremes in the environment, making destructive weather patterns such as storm Ophelia much more frequent and that dealing with climate change is something that needs a clear strategy by every State and our plan is aspirational in its construct.
Speaking in the Dáil, the Laois TD said:
“In the programme for Government, on the issue of climate action, I quote: ‘We believe that Ireland should be repositioned to give global leadership in this area. It will fall to the new Government and the Oireachtas to agree the first statutory nation low-carbon transition-mitigation plan’. The mitigation plan falls way short. We have international targets that we have to meet by 2020, including a reduction of 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has said that the best case scenario is that we will achieve 4% to 6%. There was an all-day Cabinet session which met to discuss this issue recently. We have seen the events earlier this week throughout the country. We have also seen the effects of global warming. The national mitigation plan falls short. It is an aspirational document. We have highlighted this repeatedly.
“There are no binding sectoral targets. We are facing increased global warming and also fines in the order of €600 million to €700 million per year from the European Union. We need to start putting that money into mitigation and not into fines.”
Speaking later, Teachta Stanley said:
“By the end of this week, we will have been hit by two storms, one of which was unprecedented in 50 years. The Minister’s response was to refer to the National Mitigation Plan, which sets out the State position on climate action measures. This document however is aspirational at best, and silent on specific actions.”
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane today welcomed the EU Council's decision to keep the border and the Good Friday Agreement on the agenda, adding that only a political solution will suffice.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“It is vital to the interests of the people of Ireland that there is no border on the island and that the Good Friday Agreement is protected in all its parts.
“It is clear that the present round of Brexit talks have not delivered on these issues and in that context I welcome the EU Council's decision to continue with round one talks until December.
“It must be said, however, that a worrying narrative is developing in the South that treats the border issue as simply a trade and customs issue.
“It is not.
“This is recognised by the EU who put the border into the first round of talks precisely because it cannot be resolved by technical means and an absence of tariffs.
“Designated special status for the North is the only practical solution to the political and economic issues thrown up by Brexit.
“This means that the North stays in the customs union and the single market and that the institutions and cross-border bodies of the Good Friday Agreement remain part of the EU legal framework.”
“If we get an appropriate mandate, a decision to go into government will be determined by a special Ard Fheis of the party. It will be a collective decision taken by all.”
In his blog this week, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD writes about Sinn Féin’s approach to what may arise following the next General Election.
The article is available here: http://leargas.blogspot.ie/
The Department of Infrastructure should immediately engage with the Equality and Human Rights commissions over proposed changes to transport regulations which threaten vital transport services, Sinn Féin MLA Sean Lynch has said.
Speaking following a meeting with senior department officials, the Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA commented: “The Department plans to bring forward proposed changes to minibus regulations despite the fact that a consultation is still ongoing.
“And while we appreciate the timeframe has been brought forward to November 1st due to a legal challenge, it presents difficulties for many service users including teachers, health workers, youth workers and community organisations.
“In our meeting, we recommended that the Department engages with the Equality and Human Rights Commissions to seek alternatives as these changes will have an adverse impact on communities and service users, particularly given that the process has now been expedited.
“The focus must be on the services that will be affected by these changes and we will continue to engage closely with the Department to ensure that vital services are safeguarded."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has accused Fianna Fáil of turning their backs on older people by denying them access to their State Pension at retirement.
Deputy Brady was speaking after Fianna Fáil opposed a Sinn Féin amendment on restoring the Transitional State Pension.
Teachta Brady said:
“Fianna Fáil has raised concerns on numerous occasions at the appalling treatment of 65 year olds who are forced to retire at 65 and are left with no option than to sign onto a Jobseekers payment, unable to access their State Pension.
“Sinn Féin amended the Fianna Fáil Pension Motion to include an acknowledgement of the fact that there are more 65 year olds on Jobseekers payments than any other age category in the State and called on the Government to restore the State Pension Transition until such time as mandatory retirement is abolished.
“This is an issue that Fianna Fáil has raised on the floor of the Dáil yet, when it came to addressing the issue, they chose to turn their backs on these people.
“The State Pension Transition was abolished by Fine Gael and Labour in 2014. It was paid to people who were contractually obliged to retire at 65 but were unable to access their pension until they reached 66.
“Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget contained proposals to restore the pre-September 2012 pension bands and rates at a cost of €70 million and to restore the State Pension Transition at a cost of €84 million. It was possible for Fianna Fáil to do the same but they chose not to.
“This is yet another example in a long list of Fianna Fáil saying one thing and doing another. They are masters at it.
“Today, Fianna Fáil has ensured that 65 year olds will not receive their State Pension at retirement, they have enforced the farcical situation of these people being forced onto Jobseekers payments and they have denied these people the pension that they have spent their working lives paying into.”
Deputy Damien English: It is only a few weeks away. It is best to let that continue and see what comes out of it. We can debate the matter further at a later date. Again, I apologise. The Minister was caught up in the Dáil and could not be here to take the debate. The Senator must understand that a process is in place and it is best to let that continue its work for now.
Speaking after the shocking news of the death of a young man in Drogheda today, Louth TD Imelda Munster has called on the government to take decisive action on the homelessness crisis.
Deputy Munster said;
“I was shocked and saddened to hear that a young man lost his life on the streets of Drogheda today. This follows news of another homeless man who lost his life this morning in Dublin.
"It is dreadfully sad news for the family and friends of both men, and those who knew them. Our thoughts are with them at this time.
“The homelessness crisis across the State is continuing to escalate, and the sad fact is that for as long as the government fails to deal with the homelessness and housing crisis, tragic events like this are inevitable."
“There are 4,132 households on the housing list in Co. Louth, many of whom are waiting up to ten years to be housed. There are approximately 38 people accessing Simon services in Dundalk and Homeless Aid services in Drogheda. There are an estimated 15 people sleeping rough in Drogheda.
"There are currently over 53 acres of council-owned land banks in Louth, including in Drogheda, that are lying barren of any housing purely because the government will not fund the roll out of a proper social housing building programme.
“Nobody should have to sleep rough. Everyone should have a home. Those who find themselves in circumstances where they are sleeping outside are vulnerable to illness, malnutrition, violence, drugs and alcohol.
"The nights are getting noticeably colder in the past few days and the real winter hasn’t even set in yet.
“What is the Minister for Housing doing to ensure that nobody else dies on our streets? These deaths are preventable, but it seems that the political will is not there.
"Minister Murphy needs to ensure that there are sufficient beds for people who are homeless, whether they are families or single people.
"He also needs to ensure that these services can cater to the complex needs of those experiencing homelessness to ensure that people are not driven out onto the streets by inappropriate accommodation.”
Responding to the news that the Spanish government will move to suspend Catalonia’s political autonomy on Saturday, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said;
“Prime Minister Rajoy’s decision is aggressive and will serve only to deepen the crisis. The international community, particularly the European Union, must defend Catalonia’s right to political autonomy.
"It is through inclusive dialogue and inclusive international mediation that a way forward will be found.
“Yesterday, I called on the Taoiseach and the Irish government to take a leading role in this imperative.
“The Spanish government must pull back from this disastrous decision."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Heritage, Peadar Tóibín TD has welcomed a government Bill which will reduce the release time of state records from 30 to 20 years. However, Deputy Tóibín has aired his misgivings over new powers given to the Minister regarding which documents will meet the criteria for early release, as well as the added burden the Bill will have on Departments already struggling to meet the 30 year deadline.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Tóibín said
“I welcome the move to reduce their release from 30 to 20 years. While I have a few misgivings, this is a progressive action which will see the eventual alignment of the release of Irish state papers with those of Britain.
“Currently, the difference between the two countries is problematic, particularly when Anglo-Irish relations are involved. With the earlier release of the British state papers, we are only getting one side of the story. Naturally, Sinn Féin is supportive of a speeded up release of documents from the Irish government to offer a fuller and more balanced account of events.
“Could the Minister elaborate on who deems a record to be ‘relevant’? There seems to be a lot of additional power given to the Minister in this Bill as to determine what is of significant historical or public interest. Can this ever be ascertained in an objective manner? I would fear that political motives could obscure the truth in this regard – that items of huge historical importance could be simply locked away in order to spare blushes or worse.
“I am also hugely concerned that capacity issues could be of a huge hindrance to the effective implementation of the bills objectives. Currently, many Departments are struggling to meet even the 30 year release deadline. Without additional resources, the execution of this Bill will be impossible.
“Remember that under Fine Gael, we saw devastating cuts to the Arts and Heritage Budget. There was no additional provision given to resourcing of the National Archives last year. In this year’s budget, increases in to the National Archives budget was not mentioned in the Ministers’ press statements of measures given increased funding.
“We support the passing of legislation to make these archives open, but we entreat the government to provide the necessary funding for people to access them. An archive can only function as an archive if what is stored therein can be accessed easily. If these files can’t be easily obtained due to lack of resources, then this is the worst type of gesture politics.”
Following evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee today by the Chair of HIQA, Mr Brian McEnery, Sinn Féin deputy leader and member of the Public Accounts Committee Mary Lou McDonald TD has described his position within the authority as untenable.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“Despite the restrictions imposed on the committees questioning of HIQA’s Chairperson at today’s meeting of the PAC, Mr Brian McEnery's evidence was truly shocking.
“Mr McEnery confirmed that he did attend a meeting of nursing home operators at the request of Nursing Homes Ireland in October 2015, and that the minutes of this meeting held by the PAC are authentic.
“He also confirmed to the committee that the ratcheting up of additional charges for residents and their families was discussed, as was the boycotting of the Fair Deal scheme, and collective actions such as refusals to admit new residents discharged from hospital.
“The very fact that the Chair of HIQA attended a meeting where such matters were discussed renders his position absolutely untenable. Mr McEnery has to go.
“Nursing Homes Ireland refused to attend today’s meeting and, in light of the evidence presented to the Public Accounts Committee, I urge the organisation’s CEO, Mr Tadgh Daly. to reassess this decision. It is incumbent on him to assist the Committee in our work.”