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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, has urged Local Authority housing applicants in the South Dublin County Council area to respond to the Housing Needs Assessment form or face losing their place on the housing list.

Crowe believes that this particular year there is a new dimension and added difficulty for some of the people on the housing waiting lists who are not computer literate as they now have to fill out the Council form online.

South Dublin County Council intends to write to each housing applicant on its Social Housing List prior to 21st September 2016 using the current address they have on file for each applicant. The onus is on the applicant to inform the Council if they have changed their address and every year huge numbers are removed for not responding to assessment letter, with many claiming they never got the letter.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“South Dublin County Council is once again commencing its annual Housing Needs Assessment.

“Once again the Council propose to write to each housing applicant on its Social Housing List prior to 21 September 2016 and will use the current address they have on file for each applicant.

“Every year huge numbers of people lose their place on the housing list by not notifying the Council of their change of address. If someone has subsequently moved address the onus is on the applicant to inform them of any changes.

“The very real danger is they may not get the letter about this yearly assessment and subsequently lose their place in the queue or get removed altogether from the housing application list. This, in my experience, happens to applicants every single year.

“I would advise anyone who has moved address to notify the Council as they could have their application for social housing terminated.

“This could also have implications for applicants receiving a rental support, as it may be cut. An applicant has to be on a local authority housing list to continue to receive a rental support.

 “This year, each applicant will be asked to complete an online form and provide documentary evidence of any changes in their circumstances and return this information to South Dublin County Council.

“I would urge people to simply do just that.

“Anyone who fails to return the housing needs assessment within the specified time allocated, may see their application for social housing support terminated.

“There is clearly a need for an up-to-date live register for South Dublin County Council to assess its housing needs but  I would be extremely concerned that this does not change and turn into a cull of the housing list.

“People need to be given sufficient time to return their forms and extra support needs to be given to applicants who are not computer literate.

“Finally, I would advise everyone who is currently on the housing waiting list, whether they have changed address or not, to contact the Council and clarify that their information is correct prior to the roll out of this process.”

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Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Sinn Féin Seanad Spokesperson on Agriculture said “with the ending of milk quotas in March 2015 after 31 years in place, farmers were promised a market of new opportunities with big income opportunities to follow”.

The European Council yesterday voted in Brussels to implement a €500M aid package for farmers in the livestock industry. This will particularly support farmers affected by low milk prices. The Senator from Donegal said that there must be a “swift delivery of this scheme and others for farmers throughout the state”.

Speaking following the vote, Senator Mac Lochlainn said:

“What in fact happened was the collapse of exports to Russia due to the import ban. This led to huge oversupply of milk and dairy products throughout the EU and left farmers producing at a price well below the cost of production.

“I welcome Minister Creed’s commitment to begin implementation of the scheme at national level. Minister Creed has also said advance payments are planned for October and I too welcome this measure which will ease cashflow problems for farmers.

“My worry is that we have seen problems with the delivery of the BPS, ANC and Tams scheme already this Autumn. The IFA have called for prompt implementation of this scheme with urgent availability of application forms before the deadline of 20th September.  They have further called for a low cost, short term loan scheme to be set to alleviate the cash flow problems farmers are facing.

“I fully agree with the IFA’s calls and will be engaging with the Department of Agriculture to ensure the swift delivery of this scheme and others for farmers throughout the state.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin North West, Dessie Ellis, said that “Greyhound waste management company is leading Minister Coveney and their customers on a merry dance in relation to their price plans”.

Deputy Ellis highlighted the fact that some customers will have to pay twice in one calendar year for a yearly contract with Greyhound, going against the agreement to postpone proposed bin hikes in June.

Deputy Ellis said:

“In a reply to a Parliamentary Question that I asked last month, the Minister said that Greyhound’s approach is “out of step with the arrangements made by other collectors in the industry”. The Minister also said that he was “informed that a large number of customers have already been in contact with the company to indicate that they wish to retain their current price plan arrangements”.

"While this is true, it denies the reality for the majority of their customers. in terms of fees. The company in question is crediting customer accounts for fees pre-paid for the period after 1 July 2016, while at the same time requesting customers to enter a new annual contract from 1st  August 2016.

“By crediting customers again on August 1st, Greyhound are not charging extra, but the result of this is that customers will have to pay twice in one calendar year for a yearly contract.

“So in reality, any customer who paid their yearly charge last January now needs to enter another yearly contact in August, and pay now to continue their current plan - which they are compelled to honour until August 2017. More importantly it places a burden on those who can’t afford to pay.

“With no option for instalments or no bin waiver, many people including pensioners who have budgeted and paid their waste charges for the year last January, now have to find another sum of money to stay on their existing plan and cannot shop around for a better price.

“As the Minister said in his answer to me, this approach is out of step with other collectors. I would contend therefore that it is out of step with the spirt of the agreement entered into with the Minister himself.

“What have Greyhound to do to force the Minister to act to stamp out these sharp and customer unfriendly practices? It’s time the Minister called Greyhound to heel and force them to engage properly in the agreement agreed in June. “

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Sinn Féin’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Seán Crowe TD, has expressed concern at Turkey’s recent military actions into Syria.

Turkish warplanes, tanks and Special Forces crossed the border into Syria in the last couple of days to launch attacks, supposedly on an ISIS held Syrian border town. Crowe believes this escalation is a precursor to attacking Kurdish militants in the region.

Deputy Crowe said:

“Daesh or ISIS is a genocidal and sectarian armed force that needs to be removed from any territory it controls. That is widely agreed, but Turkey’s recent invasion and attacks in Syria supposedly under the pretext of battling Daesh is fooling nobody.

“Turkey is clearly more worried about the advance and successes of Kurdish militants and using Daesh as a cover to invade Syria.

“Kurdish militants are undoubtedly the biggest bulwark against the spread of Daesh and have made significant advances in recent months right across Syria and Iraq.

“Earlier this year, the Turkish army tried to prevent the relief of the Kurdish town of Kobane and sat in tanks while Daesh tried to slaughter the civilian population.

“Just this week, a Kurdish wedding party in Turkey was attacked by a Daesh suicide bomber and 54 innocent civilians were killed.

“Yet this week, Turkey uses Daesh as a cover to invade Syria as precursor to ultimately attack Kurdish rebel held positions in northern Syria.

“We don’t know how long Turkey intends to stay in Syria, how far into the territory they intend to proceed, their military plan or political goals, or if they intend to put extremist surrogates in place to hold any land area.

“Whatever the outcome, this Turkish military offensive will undoubtedly add to further conflict and destabilisation in this already volatile region.

“The Turkish army are not seen in any way as liberators. They add and are part of the overall problem, they are certainly not a solution to Daesh, extremism, or the conflict in the region.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills, Teachta Carol Nolan, has called on the government to act to resolve the accommodation crisis facing thousands of students. 

Teachta Nolan said: 

 “A report compiled by the Higher Education Authority in 2015 estimates that there is an unmet demand of about 25,000 student bed spaces, which has a significant impact on the private rental sector. 

 “The latest Daft research highlights the very real difficulties facing students as the average rent under the rent-a- room scheme has risen in all urban centres, the average nationwide rent is at an all-time high of €1,037 per month and there are 20% fewer properties available to rent than this time last year. 

“A recent survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions shows that 67% of students are extremely worried about sourcing student accommodation, while USI research shows that 58% of students have been forced to skip meals while 25.4% have sought help from the Students’ Union, St Vincent de Paul or food banks in order to meet the costs associated with college, including increased rents. 

“There have been a number of proposals put forward to address the student accommodation crisis, including making funding available to third level institutions through the Housing Finance Agency or the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund in order to build student accommodation. 

“Meanwhile, this government has provided little more than soundbites and a weak promise to develop a strategy in 2017 to deal with the issue. 

“Students cannot afford to wait another year for this government to even start to think about addressing the shortfall of student accommodation and urgent action is needed now to prevent this crisis from escalating even further in future years.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth and Meath East, Imelda Munster, has expressed her shock and disappointment at the news this evening that eBay is closing its operations in Louth with an estimated loss of 150 jobs.

It was known that the plant in Dundalk may have to close, but it was understood that the company was actively seeking new premises. It now appears that after a review by eBay of its operations in Ireland, these jobs have been lost and no new location will open.

Deputy Munster said:

“I am saddened to hear that not only is eBay pulling out of Dundalk and Louth, but that there will be no alternative location opened in order to save these jobs. This is the worst possible news for the workers and their families. The government needs to intervene to try to find a solution to this.”

Deputy Munster spoke to Mary Mitchell-O'Connor, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation this afternoon, and asked her whether she intended to intervene in the matter.

In conclusion, Deputy Munster said:

“This is a huge loss to Dundalk and to Co. Louth. I hope that the Minister intervenes to protect and keep these existing jobs in Louth.”

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Responding to reports that eBay is set to close its Dundalk base in 2017, Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams said it was dreadful news for the staff of eBay and their families and that he would be making representations to them to consider employing workers from eBay.

Deputy Adams said:

“This is dreadful news for the staff of eBay and their families.  I have spoken to the Minister for Jobs, Mary Mitchell O'Connor today and I encouraged her and her Department to engage with the workers to ensure that they are fairly treated.

“The fact that eBay has decided to cease its Dundalk operations completely is very worrying.   The loss of these jobs will reverberate throughout the local economy.  I understand that Paypal may be expanding their operations in Dundalk and I will be making representations to them to consider employing workers from eBay.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Brian Stanley TD, has indicated his support for an expansion of the services provided by Ireland’s Post office network.

Deputy Stanley spoke after meeting with representatives of An Post and the Communication Workers Union.

“The success of the recent pilot scheme between post offices in Credit Unions demonstrates the scope for bringing additional financial services to our post office network, and there is no reason why this scheme could not be rolled out nationwide.

“We have an opportunity to increase our use of the Post office network. The technology exists to provide a network that is fully computerized and linked to rural Ireland. The post office network is already equipped to do more business.

“Giving post offices the ability to sell insurance, process motor tax, and conduct individual banking services would secure their position in the community.

“It is crucial however that the government does not continue to encourage business away from Post offices by directing people to have welfare payments paid directly into bank accounts.

“Currently the majority of business conducted by An Post is government related and many would struggle to survive without this business. The social cost to small towns and villages of losing a post office needs to be factored in.

“An Post is unique in semi-state companies of having no state support, despite having a reach into every parish.

“Whilst the network is being challenged by modern changes we still have the ability to preserve this service into the future.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said comments made by a former head of the civil service about West Belfast revealed as archive papers are releases will not surprise people in the area.

The West Belfast MP said: 

"The comments made by the then head of the civil service in 1987 about West Belfast will come as no surprise to anyone who lives in the area.

"They are indicative of the attitude of the NIO and British government to West Belfast for decades. 

"West Belfast was subjected to a systematic campaign of state-sponsored violence and murder and was starved of funding and investment for many years in an attempt to keep the community down. 

"Attempts were made to turn West Belfast into a ghetto and to criminalise and demonise its people. 

"Those days are gone and are not coming back. While problems still exist as a result of the legacy of decades of underinvestment, West Belfast has been transformed since power was taken from the hands of unelected and unaccountable civil servants. 

"Sinn Féin have led this transformation and continue to work daily to for the people of West Belfast and to challenge discrimination and injustice." 

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Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the Oireachtas Finance Committee decision to hold a number of meetings throughout September on the motor insurance issue. Deputy Doherty had previously written to the Committee seeking that the insurance issue be dealt with as soon as possible.

He said:

“I am delighted that the Finance Committee will now meet throughout September to discuss this issue. I recently wrote to the Chair calling for this to be prioritised and my suggestion that the Committee take on this work won unanimous Dáil support in June.

“The working group set up by the Department of Finance has very belatedly begun its work on identifying the reason for the cost increases. I believe if we move swiftly, the Committee can complement this work. It is my understanding that the Committee will invite a very wide range of experts and industry actors as well as campaigners into the Committee to hear all sides.

“Each day that passes more and more drivers are landed with excessive quotes of up to two or three times their last premium without any explanation. There are fundamental issues that need to be looked at because the industry’s excuses simply don’t add up. I look forward to putting forward Sinn Féin’s ideas on how to tackle this crisis.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said information he has received from the Department of Finance under Freedom of Information shows that the plans by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to phase out the Universal Social Charge have been slated by Department officials as “regressive”, “base narrowing” and would have “limited benefits” because so many would gain nothing.

In the correspondence provided to Deputy Doherty, a range of alternative revenue sources are outlined including a 600% increase in property tax, a 5% increase in both income tax bands, increasing Corporation Tax to 19.5%, and a 5% VAT rate on children shoes and other previously 0% rated items.

Speaking today, Deputy Doherty said;

“This is the information that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were not telling us about during the recent general election which was fought on this issue. Department of Finance official briefings from February show very clearly that the move to abolish or phase out USC would be regressive, narrow the tax base and disproportionately favour the better off. An example is given of how  a minimum wage earner would gain €316, while a high earner with an income of €150,000 would gain over €9,500.

“Sinn Féin argued strongly that the USC could not be phased out completely as it would leave a massive €4 billion gap in public finances. Today, we learn that the Department presented to the Minister several options to replace this income. These include a 600% increase in Local Property Tax, increasing Corporation Tax to 19.5%, and a 5% VAT rate on children shoes and other previously 0% rated items and a 5% income tax increase to both rates. In each case these options were only part of the proposal. 

“Sinn Fein argue that those on the lowest incomes should be protected from USC while investment is needed to fix our health and housing crises. The scale of investment that will not be made because of a commitment to carry out what the Department of Finance has called ‘regressive’ and favouring the better off is now clear from the shocking options that were presented.

“The correspondence provided to me by the Department of Finance proves Sinn Féin’s case. It is simply not realistic that the USC could be phased out completely without major tax increases or a complete neglect of investment.

“Finance Minister Michael Noonan must face up to that fact now as we enter the most crucial phase of budget planning. This budget should be about investment in public services such as health, housing and education while protecting the lowest earners in society from the USC. Any party now proposing the phasing out or abolition of the USC must explain whether it will neglect public services or let the public know which one of the hugely hurtful tax options it will implement to replace the lost revenue.

“Minister Noonan should also outline why this information was not included in the brief he published after the government was appointed.” ENDS

Note: Please see attached the FOI document in question

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has welcomed a historic peace accord between FARC and the Colombian government. 

Mr Murphy, who previously travelled to Colombia to assist the peace process, said; 

"The peace accord between FARC and the Colombian government is a welcome step forward in the Colombian peace process. 

"It is a further historic step in the process to end the most long-running conflict in the world. 

"This follows two years of peace talks in Havana, which Sinn Féin supported and participated in. I and other Sinn Féin representatives have travelled to Colombia and Cuba to meet with both sides and share our experiences of building peace.

"It is encouraging that both sides have agreed to work together to tackle the major political and economic issues facing the Colombian people and to deliver justice for all victims of the conflict. 

"Sinn Féin will continue to support the Colombian peace process as it moves forward."

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has condemned attempts by Spanish courts to prevent Basque political leader Arnaldo Otegi from standing in upcoming elections. 

Mr Maskey said; 

"Arnaldo Otegi is an internationally respected leader of the Basque people and has been instrumental in developing the Basque peace strategy and process. 

"Attempts to obstruct and prevent the Basque people from having the opportunity to elect Arnaldo in the Basque Autonomous Parliament Election on September 25 are undemocratic and unjust.

"In order to promote and build on the courageous steps taken by the Basque independence movement, and in particular by Arnaldo Otegi, this decision must be condemned by the International community and should be immediately overturned. 

"Spanish Government policies of censorship, marginalisation and isolation are wrong. They are counter productive and will not work

"Instead of trying to deny Arnaldo Otegi the right to seek a mandate from the Basque people the Spanish Government needs should instead promote and support a process of dialogue to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Basque Country."

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Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has warmly welcomed the announcement that the Colombia Government and the FARC have agreed a final peace agreement, calling it historic and a genuine opportunity for a lasting peace.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

 “I want to warmly welcome this historic announcement that a final peace agreement has been reached.

“I want to commend the extremely hard work that the Colombian Government and FARC negotiators have put in over the past four and a half years of talks. I also want to commend the Cuban and Norwegian Governments for helping to facilitate and support the talks process.

“This agreement has the potentially to end the 52 year conflict and it gives Colombians the chance to live in peace after decades of devastating war.

“No one is in any doubt that huge difficulties and challenges lay ahead. All sides to the agreement prepare need to take risks to ensure a fair and equitable peace process is established and that this process is nurtured and built on.

“The Colombian Government needs to bring to an end the continued brutal and violent actions of right wing paramilitary groups. In the 30 days between 21 February and 18 March 2016 30 political and community activists were murdered by these paramilitaries.

“Peace cannot grow in a climate of fear and repression. The Colombia Government needs to ensure that the democratic process is up to all political groups without fear of attack or assassination. The issue of land distribution and the millions of internally displaced by this conflict will be a huge and immediate challenge.

“I hope that formal negotiations between the Colombian Government and the ELN can also reach a successful conclusion, and that the Colombian people can begin the arduous task of building a lasting and inclusive peace in their country.” 

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Sinn Féin Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell has condemned those behind the disruption caused by a security alert at Atlantic Avenue in North Belfast.

Cllr Campbell said:

"This attack was wrong and must be utterly condemned.

"It has brought nothing but disruption to the local community with several homes being evacuated.

"Incidents like this serve no purpose other than bringing disruption to the community and they need to stop immediately.

"I would call on anyone with information to bring it forward to the Police."

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Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has condemned the decision of the Israeli authorities to deny him entry to Gaza. 

Speaking from Palestine, Mr Sheehan said; 

"The decision by the Israeli authorities to deny me entry to Gaza is unacceptable and I condemn it. 

"I am here to show Sinn Féin's solidarity with the Palestinian people and to promote efforts to reach a peaceful solution in the region. 

"The people of Gaza have suffered enormously as a result of the Israeli blockade and the continuing military onslaught, the most recent just days ago. 

"There is a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel is attempting to hide that from the international community but they will not succeed. 

"The international community have a responsibility to support the people of Palestine and to challenge the Israelis to stop the persecution of Gaza." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has called on businesses, universities and other organizations who avail of EU funding to ensure that they make their concerns over Brexit heard.

The East Derry MLA was speaking after a day of engagements in the area with MEP Martina Anderson:

“There is a lot of concern among the business community, for the universities and the many others who avail of EU funding, and of course for farmers, as to the impact of the EU referendum result and the uncertainty that has resulted.

“It is very important that all of these stakeholders make their opinions and concerns known to their representatives in all forums, be that unions, chambers of commerce or elected representatives.

“The people of the North voted to remain and that vote must be recognised and respected.” 

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Reacting to the publication of the terms of reference for the inquiry into the Olympics tickets controversy Sinn Féin’s spokesperson Imelda Munster has criticised Minister Ross for not establishing a statutory inquiry with powers to compel witnesses and evidence.

Teachta Munster said;

“Sinn Féin had argues strongly that a non-statutory inquiry would be toothless and may never get to the full truth of the matter.

“However, Minister Ross met with Fianna Fáil yesterday and it seems an agreement was made that the inquiry could make a recommendation if it chose to do so that a statutory inquiry be held.

“That’s nothing more than a half measure and I’m sure if Shane Ross was still in opposition he would be very critical of this move.

“What we have here is a scandal of international proportions and the minister’s response has been to establish a toothless inquiry.  That’s not good enough in Sinn Féin’s view.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has announced that Philip McGuigan has been selected for co-option as an MLA for North Antrim. 

The Sinn Féin chief whip said; 

"Following consultation with Sinn Féin activists in North Antrim, the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle has approved the selection of Philip McGuigan for co-option as the new MLA for the constituency. 

"Philip is an excellent public representative and has served as a councillor in the area since 2001 and was an MLA for North Antrim from 2003 to 2007. 

"I have no doubt that with Philip's return to the Assembly he will continue to provide first class representation to the people of North Antrim. 

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

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has urged young people receiving GCSE to “follow your heart and passion” when it comes to fulfilling their educational or career path.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s GCSE results announcement the Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson and Chair of Assembly Education Committee said:

“I want to wish everyone awaiting results every success.

“There is a lot of pressure on young people now a-days and I would tell them follow your heart, follow your passion.

“I anticipate once again this year there will be further improvements in literacy and numeracy, given the success of the Signature Project, which was introduced by my colleague, the then Education Minister John O’Dowd and the wider Executive.

“There is a strong argument to be made to reintroduce this scheme in the future.

“I would also like to take this opportunity congratulate the role the parents and teachers play in educating our young people.”

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