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


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Speaking in the Dáil following the resignation of Denis Naughten as Minister for Communications this afternoon, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald has called for further clarity on a number of issues.

Teachta McDonald said:

“The revelations of recent days that have resulted in the resignation of Denis Naughten as Minister for Communications represent quite the fiasco and serve to underscore the unhealthy and inappropriate relationships that exist within the insider class in this State.

“There is no doubt that the tender process for the National Broadband Plan is now compromised; the only question is to what degree.

“The Taoiseach has said there will now be a review of the tender process, but the reality is the clock may need to be reset to zero given the scale of contact between the former Minister and the sole remaining bidder.

“The real casualty is the 542,000 households still awaiting broadband.

“We need clarity as to when the review promised by the Taoiseach will be completed and where the process now goes from here.

“I think there also needs to be clarity surrounding the role of Minister of State Pat Breen, whom the Taoiseach said arranged a dinner between Denis Naughten and David McCourt in 2017.

“What this entire debacle illustrates clearly is that nudge and wink politics between the Irish political establishment and very wealthy people is clearly alive and well.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Catherine Nelson has expressed her sympathies to the family and friends of a 22-year-old man killed in a motorcycle accident last night in Portadown. 

Catherine Nelson said:

“There is a deep sense of shock in the local community at the news that a 22-year-old man has died in a tragic motorcycle accident on Dobbin Road. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with this man’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has welcomed news that medical cannabis will be available on prescription for those who have been medically recommended it. 

Praising the determination and courage of Charlotte Caldwell the Sinn Féin MP said: 

“The availability of medicinal cannabis is obviously an issue very close to my heart given my involvement with Billy Caldwell’s case.  

“When Billy’s medication was seized I met Charlotte at the airport and we went the Home Office to challenge this decision. 

“We were initially told that Billy could not have access to his medicine. From that point onwards it was a day-by-day battle to get Billy his medication back. 

“The plight of Billy Caldwell has opened the door for many families who have loved ones suffering due to them being denied access to medicinal cannabis. 

“I welcome today’s developments and I hope it will transform the lives of those who are currently suffering. 

“I also want to commend Charlotte Caldwell for her unswerving commitment to her son, Billy. It has been an honour to work with a mother so determined to confronting all obstacles in the best interests of her child.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster TD has criticised the decision by government to raise the VAT rate from 9% to 13.5% across the tourism sector, as announced in Budget 2019 this week.

Sinn Féin are of the opinion that an increase across the board is too large a burden for smaller businesses in the sector to take.

Deputy Munster said:

“The decrease in VAT was announced as a temporary measure when the industry was on its knees. Thankfully matters have improved, however this does not mean that an across the board increase to 13.5% is appropriate. I am of the opinion that it will be very difficult for smaller businesses and restaurants to absorb such a steep increase.

“Sinn Féin had advocated for an increase for hotels, in particular given the thriving hotel industry in the east of the country, however we must treat like with like, and large hotel chains can hardly be compared to small local businesses. An incremental increase, or a lower increase would have been less of a burden, but the government insisted on the full increase of 4.5%.

“In border areas many businesses are seasonal, and are struggling to run profitable businesses. Brexit is going to have a disproportionate effect on the border region too, which is an additional problem for businesses to contend with.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the government to examine other ways to support these businesses, perhaps through local authority rates or other measures. We will continue to pursue this matter.”

Deputy Munster also called on Fianna Fáil TDs to get off the fence after they abstained on the vote, thus allowing it to pass. Sinn Féin voted against the measure, saying:

“A succession of Fianna Fáil TDs spoke against the increase in the Dáil this week, yet they abstained on the vote, thus ensuring that the measure passed. This is cynical to the extreme. My constituency colleague lamented the inevitability of the measure passing, despite the fact that it was his own party’s abstention that allowed the vote to pass.” 

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Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed the clarity and frankness with which Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI Alan Todd answered his question about the impact on community policing of a ‘Brexit Border’ in Ireland.

The Assistant Chief Constable was attending the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality alongside senior Gardaí officers yesterday.

Responding to the Assistant Chief Constable’s comments, Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile said: 

"I welcome the frank and clear comments by the Assistant Chief Constable at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice.  

"His views are shared by many in the community who are worried about the impact on the police of a Brexit border in Ireland and who support the efforts of the police and the community to fully develop the Patten concept of policing with the community. 

"Neither the PSNI or An Garda Síochána should be placed in a situation where they have to police bad political decisions, taken by the British government against the wishes of the people and which result in a Brexit border on this island."

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Speaking during Leaders Questions today, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD accused the government of having a cavalier attitude to GPs because of their refusal to reverse cuts to primary care.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“General Practitioners are the cornerstone of our primary care services. Primary care is the front line of our health service and deals with the bulk of the health needs of the population.

“Not that I need to emphasise the importance of our GPs but, for the avoidance of doubt, last year, according to the Irish College General Practitioners, approximately 25 million patients were seen in Irish General Practices.

“That is an absolutely sensational performance – particularly when you factor in that the care that is delivered is world class health care.

“It is even more sensational when you factor in what this government has done to general practitioners and primary care through savage funding cuts – they cut 38% from General Practice under FEMPI legislation and have refused to reverse this.

“Instead, this government have produced a report yesterday claiming that €100m could be saved in efficiencies in order to completely undermine GPs – this is a very poor start to contract negotiations.

“GPs are operating at and above capacity in a primary care system which is creaking with capacity problems and they have the cheek to throw out reports claiming GPs and practice nurses are inefficient.

“GP practices in my own area in Swords and Balbriggan are closed to new entrants and I do not know how GP practices can become any more ‘efficient’.

“Suggesting that GPs and practice nurses aren’t already working to full capacity is beyond insulting.

“Fine Gael recently restored of TDs salaries, a restoration which we in Sinn Féin opposed, but, they refuse to reverse FEMPI in primary care, they have made no discernible progress in GP contract negotiations, and they have done nothing to increase capacity in primary care.

“General Practice is in crisis and as a matter of urgency we need to see a roadmap for the unwinding of FEMPI cuts to primary care and we need to see a conclusion to the GP contract negotiations that delivers a sustainable future for General Practice.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the DUP are attempting to muddy the waters on the post-Brexit checks and controls by presenting misinformation. 

Martina Anderson said: 

“While in Brussels Arlene Foster and Dianne Dodds talked about the proposed system of post-Brexit checks but their claims simply do not add up. 

“The fact is that what is known as Sanitary and Phytosanitary checks (SPS) are already taking place - they are not new checks. 

“Facilities are already in place in the ports at Belfast as Larne for these checks and under these proposals we would merely see an intensification of the existing checks. 

“The DUP claims also refer only to a tiny minority of large multinational companies and ignore the fact that SMEs - who are among the largest employers in the north - conduct the majority of their business on an all-Ireland basis, just as they ignore the fact that the majority of people in the north voted to reject Brexit. 

"200,000 jobs depend on all-Ireland trade and the DUP to jeopardise these jobs in pursuit of their warped Brexit agenda. 

“Either they are attempting to sow confusion among businesses and producers and muddy the waters or they simply don’t understand the situation. 

“Not only do the DUP not speak for the majority in the north but they are also now trying to skew the discussion with misinformation at a time when businesses and producers are already very concerned. 

“This misinformation must be challenged by the EU and Irish government so that the DUP are not allowed to pull the strings of Theresa May against the best interests of the people of the north.”

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Sinn Féin Transport Spokesperson Imelda Munster TD has queried whether Minister for Transport Shane Ross was present for Budget negotiations, given the paltry increase received by his Department in Budget 2019, which amounts overall to an increase of just €20million.

Deputy Munster said:

“Transport, Tourism, and Sport was allocated minus €30million, that’s €30million less than previously announced in capital funding under the National Development Plan. A total additional €50million was allocated in current spending. €35million of that funding has been allocated to tourism. While the specific allocations are not clear at present, €6million has been allocated to Sport Ireland. Both tourism and sport are under the remit of Fine Gael junior Minister Brendan Griffin.

“This is very bad news for transport, a fact that was reflected in the Minister’s own Budget speech on Thursday, which hardly made mention of transport at all.

 “This is an embarrassing result for Shane Ross. Not only has he caused serious hardship for small businesses across the entire tourism sector with a VAT increase, but he has failed to secure anything substantial for his portfolio. This is the third year in a row that Fine Gael has taken advantage of Minister Ross’s lack of interest in his portfolio. You would expect him to be wiser to them by now.

“Public transport didn’t get a look in. Shane Ross is currently privatising another 10% of Bus Éireann routes, and appears to see privatisation as an alternative to doing his job and looking after public transport. We all know that this is a false economy as privatisation of public transport companies has proved to be hugely costly in other states that have gone down that road, financially and socially. In our Alternative Budget, we pledged an increase of 25% for public transport subvention, which is an increase of €71million.

“In terms of capital funding, the Minister was awarded a minus sum. This is quite unbelievable. The problems that existed when Shane Ross took office are still there, because he hasn’t addressed them, and capital investment is the only way to sort out transport in this state. He hasn’t allocated anything additional for regional or local roads, which are crumbling, and will prove to be astronomically expensive to fix if he continues to refuse to address it. In our Alternative Budget, Sinn Féin allocated €123million more than the government did for transport capital funding.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan said the Electoral Commission must address serious concerns stemming from the North Antrim recall petition and alleged unlawful DUP fundraising. 

Speaking after meeting the Electoral Commission with party colleague Colm Gildernew, the North Antrim MLA said:

“Today we met with the Electoral Commission to raise serious concerns about the performance of the Electoral Office during the recent North Antrim recall petition.

“The Electoral Office had the option of opening ten signing centres but opted for just three centres which caused great concern and a lack of accessibility for people in North Antrim. 

“The lack of an effective public awareness campaign and the restrictive opening hours of the three signing centres had a significant impact on the outcome of the petition. 

“We also took the opportunity to raise the ongoing Electoral Commission investigation into council funds being used for events hosted by Ian Paisley. If the investigations do find wrongdoing, rate payers must be reimbursed. 

“Sinn Féin will continue to press the Electoral Commission to ensure that these legitimate concerns are addressed.”

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Sinn Féin’s Agriculture spokesman Martin Kenny TD, challenged Minister Michael Creed TD in the Dáil today on the low prices that farmers, specifically beef farmers, receive for their produce.

Deputy Kenny was asking about the new BEEPS scheme for suckler farmers which will mean that farmers must weigh their animals to qualify for payment.

The Sligo-Leitrum TD said:

“Perhaps the Minister will give more detail on how farmers will manage that. It is a problem for farmers in many areas.

"The bigger issue for the suckler and beef sector is the price the farmer gets. That must be dealt with. 

"Currently prices are very low for beef when it goes to the factory and that has a knock-on effect all the way back down to the weanling in the market.

“The Minister spoke about producer organisations being one of the answers to this issue, and perhaps they are.

"However, in the past, most emphasis was placed on reducing the cost to the farmer of producing the product. 

"That emphasis needs to switch towards improving the price for the farmer. I strongly believe we need to get that right. 

“The beef forum in that context has failed Irish farmers in securing an enhanced price.

"While I understand marketing is under way and we are talking about getting into new markets in Kuwait and other countries around the world, farmers are not seeing an increased value for their product when they go to the mart to sell their weanlings in Leitrim or Cavan or when they fatten their animals and bring them to marts in the other end of the country.

"We need to see that happen."

Deputy Kenny added:

“The Minister says that neither he, or the Beef Forum, has a role in price setting, but the exchequer is paying for him and Bord Bía to market Irish beef worldwide, while the farmer struggles and the processors and retailers get the profit.

"That has to change and the minister would want to look to ensuring that the farmer gets a fair price for an excellent product.”

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Commenting on World Mental Health Day Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams TD said:

“Thursday was World Mental Health Day. Mental Health Services have long been undervalued and under resourced by the government. However, I welcome the decision by the government in Budget 2019 to allocate an additional €55 million to mental health services.

"These services provide essential supports for citizens with mental illness and in particular those at risk from suicide.

"I have written to the Minister for Health asking for a break-down on how he intends to spend this money. I want to especially know how much additional funding will go to crisis intervention services, to suicide awareness and prevention training, to Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS) teams and how many additional specialist staff and out of hours cover will be provided in 2019.

"Suicide prevention is especially important. Many families in Louth, and across the island of Ireland, have been affected by suicide and mental health issues.”

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Sinn Féin Communications spokesperson Brian Stanley TD said the Ministers repeated personal meetings with the only bidder left in the National Broadband Plan, shows the Minister, and the Government, are a prisoner of venture capitalist, with rural dwellers and taxpayers the ones to loose most.

Deputy Stanley:

“This Broadband contract, to connect 542,000 households, is for 25 years and subsidised by the state - full ownership is then handed over to a private company.

"The Government has made repeated mistakes in a tender and is now at the mercy of a venture capitalist.

“The Minister is completely tied to a single bidder, and his meetings with him are at the very least a panicked reaction to an utterly desperate situation.

"Government has no Plan B in all of this. For them it is the American venture capitalist or it is nothing.

“There is a huge web of state owned infrastructure across the state that could be used for the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan.

“The most important thing in all this is that there are 542,000 households across the State still waiting for vital modern communications 6 years after it was first announced.

"High-Speed Broadband is needed, not just for jobs across rural Ireland but is also a quality of life issue.

“The current tender process is flawed and compromised, it is open to legal challenge and contains only one bidder where the bidder has all the bargaining power.

"Government mistakes will mean we are no closer to starting the installation of much needed broadband in rural Ireland.”

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Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan today welcomed the news that the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise, and Innovation has endorsed his anti-ticket touting Bill, and their report on the Bill has recommended that it should now proceed to Committee Stage.

Speaking from Leinster House today, Teachta Quinlivan said;

“I am delighted that after detailed scrutiny, the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation has recommended that the Sale of Tickets Bill now proceed to Committee Stage.

“The Committee’s report ‘recommends that ticket touting legislation is introduced immediately to ensure consumers are protected’ and ‘the committee recognises that, if introduced, the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017 would help eliminate the problem of ticket touting in Ireland’.

“This is an unequivocal endorsement of this Bill, which is most welcome, and the ball is now in the court of the government to provide a money message to allow this Bill to proceed.

“I introduced this Bill last year in response to the public’s ongoing frustration at ticket touting, as almost every time tickets for a match or concert go on sale, the media coverage is dominated by frustrated consumers who were unable to buy tickets when they went on sale and were forced to buy tickets at extortionate prices on secondary selling sites.

“As a result of the pressure of an opposition Bill reaching Committee Stage, the government announced they intend to bring forward their own Bill on the issue.

“In my opinion, it would be a better use of all of our time, if the government started working with opposition Bills when they are already in the legislative system, instead of progressing these Bills, scrutinising them, and then starting all over again with a new government headed one, just to have their own name on it.

“Quite frankly it comes across as rather petty, all while consumers continue to get ripped off by ticket touts. This is particularly the case at this time of the year, when tickets go on sale for concerts next year, and many are bought as presents in the run up to Christmas.

“I have no problem whose name is on the Bill, once legislation is brought forward and something is done to stamp out this practice immediately.” 

Note: The Committee’s report can be found at the following link: https://goo.gl/BupMvo

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described this week’s budget as a “missed opportunity by this Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil government to tackle the big issues, like housing and health, disabilities and respite services, and climate change which are impacting on citizens in all parts of this state at this time”.

Teachta Adams said:

“Louth has an estimated 20,000 citizens with a disability. Respite care for those living with a disability is a priority which this government has failed to address in the past and which it fails to mention in Budget 2019.

“The small number of respite beds in Louth cannot meet the high demand for people with disabilities. It is not acceptable that respite services are ignored by the government in its budget. Citizens with disabilities and their carers have rights and the responsibility of the government must be to support those rights and to resource them.

“In March of this year, this state ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was a long overdue decision but it has not been matched by government investment to assist those with disabilities.

“Budget 2019 fails to meet the needs of citizens with disabilities in health, in education, and in housing. Only an additional four million euro has been provided for housing adaption work.

“Sinn Féin called for a cross-Departmental and whole of government rights based and social approach to persons with disabilities. What we have got from this government is more of the same and that is not good enough.”

On the issue of housing Gerry Adams said:

“The claim by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that this is a housing budget does not stand up to scrutiny. Housing and homelessness is in crisis.  It required a priority response and significant additional resources by the government. Instead the proposals in the budget fail to tackle the huge social and affordable housing need which clearly exists in Louth and across this state.

“When you cut through all of the hype, only a miserable €120m additional has been allocated for capital investment in housing.

“This means that less than 500 new social homes, in addition to what was already committed, will be provided bring the total for 2019 to less than 8,000 homes. This is far short of what is needed.

“In a Budget that provides more money for landlords, the government is predictably pushing the responsibility for housing onto the private rental market. Almost 20,000 subsidised private rental tenancies will be used to meet social housing need. This is a short term strategy which provides no security for tenants and leaves them vulnerable to homelessness.”

Finally, commenting on the failure to seriously address the issue of climate change Teachta Adams said:

“The United Nations report on global warming has warned that the governments of the world have 12 years in which to avert a major climate catastrophe. The report warns that failure to act will see extreme weather conditions worsen, increase the risks to citizens, impact on the food supply, and will damage the world’s economy.

“To tackle this significant problem, humanity has to reduce carbon emission and adopt renewable energy sources. The reality is that this government has failed on both counts and Budget 2019 is another missed opportunity.

“As a result, this state will not only miss its international obligations on carbon emissions but it will face fines of hundreds of millions of euro.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has endorsed concerns outlined by the business community in a letter to Theresa May about her government’s migration policy.

Sinn Fein’s Brexit Spokesperson said: “EU workers are vital to our small economy. They bring skills we don’t have and fill labour shortages at all skill levels.

“Talent gravitates towards modern, diverse and inclusive societies. But the Brexit vote has already signalled that foreign workers are not welcome. That ‘chill factor’ together with the fall in the pound triggered by the Brexit vote has already led to a 26% reduction in EEA workers.

“This problem will only get worse under the British government’s post-Brexit plans for a hostile immigration policy.

“The business community has asked for a solution to this problem. Special Status within the EU is a best of both worlds solution to the Brexit calamity - as Michel Barnier indicated yesterday. It would allow the north to continue to enjoy all of the advantages of EU membership including full access to EU workers. 

"Sadly the DUP, to suit their narrow political interests, are working to prevent a solution beneficial to business and the wider community.”


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Sinn Féin TD and member of the Public Accounts Committee David Cullinane, has called on the Department of Education and Bord Na nGon to appear before the PAC to explain the sale of land at Harold's Cross in light of new information.
Deputy Cullinane said:

"The news that the estate agent Savills valued the land of the former greyhound stadium at Harold's Cross at between €6 to €12 million, puts a new and worrying light on the fact that the Department of Education paid €21 million in order to build schools on it.

"The price paid just happened to match the €21.3 million debts accumulated by the Irish Greyhound Board.

"I raised concerns at the time that the sale price could be perceived as a bailout. The news of the valuations done by Savills certainly doesn't assuage those fears.

"The Department of Education and the Greyhound Board need to appear before the Committee to explain just what went on here.

"The Greyhound Board also needs to explain why it refused to give the valuations to the PAC when requested, given that the information was subject to freedom of information legislation.

"We need to get to the bottom of this." 

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East Derry Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed confirmation that Causeway Coast and Glens Council will seek reimbursement of ratepayers' money if the Electoral Commission concludes that a controversial dinner hosted by DUP MP Ian Paisley was a party fundraiser.

Caoimhe Archibald commented: “The Electoral Commission is currently investigating a payment of £1,500 which Causeway Coast and Glens Council paid for a table at an event hosted by Ian Paisley. A decision by Mid and East Antrim Council officials to purchase a table at the same dinner is also under investigation.

“Local authorities are barred from making political donations and my party has consistently called for these payments to be investigated and the funds reimbursed.

“I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council following a recent council meeting where the dinner was described as a ‘prestigious fundraiser’ for the DUP.

“Ratepayers’ money should not be used to fund any political party and I welcome the Chief Executive’s confirmation that they will be seeking reimbursement if the Electoral Commission concludes that the money was indeed received by the DUP.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson for Mental Health Órlaithí Flynn has reiterated support for street triage services and improved healthcare within PSNI custody suites.

Speaking following a meeting with the PSNI, the West Belfast MLA commented:

"Today is world mental health day and it is important as elected representatives we ensure that all our public services can meet the needs of those with poor mental health.

“There is a growing demand on all our public services not just health. We know that increasing numbers of people who find themselves in custody suites have complex healthcare needs. These can vary from mental ill health, substance misuse and physical disabilities. 

“A recent report titled ‘Custody health needs assessment’ identified a need to provide a fuller range of services for those who find themselves in custody. There needs to be a greater level of integration of services and capacity for PSNI staff to respond to areas like mental health, suicide and self-harm.

 “I also raised the issue of the Street Triage pilot running in the South Eastern Trust, which covers parts of Belfast. The service will focus on provision of out of hours’ support, particularly at weekends, and include the community and voluntary sector, community psychiatric nursing, paramedics and the PSNI.

“Ensuring that those in need have access to appropriate services will be essential to improving better health outcomes.

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Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has expressed disappointment that Ireland will press ahead with tomorrow’s U21 Euro Qualifier in Israel. 

Niall Ó Donnghaile said:

“Tomorrow, Ireland will play an Under 21 qualifier in Israel. This is disappointing given the continued war crimes inflicted on the Palestinian people by the Israeli state. 

“The people of Ireland have a long and proud history of standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people against apartheid and the seemingly endless massacres carried out by the Israeli army. 

“Palestinian footballers and facilities have been deliberately targeted by Israeli military and the national team blocked from partaking in international fixtures due to disgraceful restrictions placed on them by the Israelis. 

“Despite all of this, Israeli football teams continue to ignore international law by playing on settlements which are placed on land stolen from Palestine. Ireland should stand against this.

“Apartheid has no place in sport and UEFA have a responsibility not to put countries, associations and players in the unfair and unjust position of having to face Israel in competitive fixtures by expelling them from their competitions.”

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Sinn Féin Vice-President Michelle O’Neill has said the DUP/Tory pact is contrary to the interests of citizens in the north of Ireland and will end in tears. 

The party’s deputy leader was speaking after DUP leader Arlene Foster refused to rule out voting against the British government’s budget. 

Michelle O’Neill said:

“The DUP/Tory pact was never about the interests of our economy, the rights of our citizens or our peace and political process. 

“Sinn Féin has always said that this arrangement will end in tears. 

“Our task now is to ensure that Ireland doesn’t become collateral damage in the Tory party civil war or in the divisions that are now emerging between the DUP and Theresa May’s government. 

“The DUP do not speak for the majority of people in the north in terms of Brexit and there is an onus on the Irish government and EU27 to recognise that as the negotiations reach a critical point.”

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