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Speaking on the Revised Estimates for Social Protection for 2016, Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Social Protection, John Brady has expressed surprise that there is no increase in funding for Social Protection given the gravity of inequality and hardship being felt right throughout the country.

The Wicklow TD said:

“The Programme for Government acknowledges that ‘Irish people have worked hard for the economic progress we now have’. The Government continue to pat Irish people on the back for the sacrifices they made and continue to make to achieve this ‘economic success’.

“Yet, it does not take too much looking to see the rewards for those who were forced to make the sacrifices for our ‘economic success’. There are none. In fact, in many cases, they are worse off now than ever before.

“While, the Government can talk about GDP growth and being the fastest growing economy in Europe we are also a country with 1.3 million people experiencing deprivation. According to CSO figures, three quarters of a million people living in poverty, and in research carried out by MANDATE, one in ten people are experiencing food poverty; that’s nearly half a million citizens.

“And the Government response to that is clear in their Summer Economic Statement; the €11.3 billion available is to be wasted on massive tax cuts which benefit the better off while expenditure continues to decline as percentage of GDP.

“That also includes the plans for a rainy day fund. For those that continue to suffer out there, every day is a rainy day. The Government talk about giving tax breaks and taking people out of the USC net, what about taking people out of the poverty net?

“Sinn Féin has produced measures in our alternative budget year on year to tackle the growing inequalities in society and to invest in public services. This is something that has also been called for by a number of voluntary organisations.

“We do not want a utopia; we want a fair and just society where people can live without the major inequalities and struggles they face today.” 

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Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has called for the Irish government to follow the lead of northern Health Minister Michelle O'Neill and lift the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood. 

Seanador Niall Ó Donnghaile said: 

"I am calling on the health minister to attend the Seanad at the earliest possible time to listen to the debate about lifting the ban on lifetime blood donations from MSM (men who have sex with men).

"I think the minister should follow the decision taken by the North's minister and my party colleague Michelle O'Neill who recently lifted the life-time blood ban on MSM.

"The health services, in this country north and south are about helping people and saving lives. Blood donations regularly do both.

"People who wish to donate blood and give the gift of life to others should not only be encouraged to do so but enabled to do so as well.

"The Irish Blood Transfusion Service is appealing for blood donors to come forward.

"The minister should assist those who want to donate blood and act as his northern counterpart did recently."

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Limerick Sinn Féin Maurice Quinlivan TD has called for the state’s arts policy to put the issue of inclusion at its core. Speaking this afternoon during a debate in the Dáil, Deputy Quinlivan said:

“In a society that values expression and creativity, the arts have the potential to enrich lives.

“Irish artists enhance our international reputation through film, literature, music, and theatre and this in turn drives tourism from abroad.

“The arts and cultural institutions have a humanising effect on society and can tap into creativity in communities that have often been forgotten by those in power.

“In my own city of Limerick, we found the arts was one of the best ways of assisting new immigrants to integrate.  

“A progressive state arts policy must have inclusivity at its core. This requires us to actively value the everyday culture of ordinary people and to support a broad range of projects.  

“In 2014, Limerick City of Culture opened up the arts to diverse groups.  

“Venues worked with people from across the city and the Limetree theatre hosted a performance from the residents of Moyross.

“The creative sector is important for the economy but its value must be about more than profit and we should we deprive localities of a vibrant arts scene by concentrating support for the arts in Dublin.   

“The heritage and culture of Ireland belongs to everyone and it is the state’s responsibility to ensure we have an independent, vibrant and inclusive arts sector.” 

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Fine Gael’s plan to narrow the tax base in this state by binning USC for upper income earners will have the effect of shelving regional development according to Sinn Féin spokesperson Peadar Tóibín TD.

Speaking today the Meath West TD said;

“The over concentration of economic activity and population in Dublin is having significant negative effect on both Dublin and the rest of the state. Services and infrastructure in Dublin are under massive pressure. Property capacity both residential and commercial in Dublin is running out and is damagingly expensive. Services such as schools, water and health are becoming harder to access.

“In regional areas the opposite is the case. Depopulation, emigration and poverty stalks the land as opportunities are scarce. Balanced spatial development is good for Dublin and the rest of the state. It is also good for the economy as a whole.

“To rebalance spatially it is necessary for the government to disruptively invest. That means to invest in infrastructure not just to meet future demand but also to create future demand. 

“This can only be done through investment. USC cuts for upper income earners is investment foregone. This is particularly damaging in this state because infrastructural investment is already on the floor. We are at the bottom rung of European investment.

“The Fine Gael decision will potentially lose the exchequer €5.6billion. This figure equates to 70% of all the proposed investment into Transport and Tourism infrastructure for the state for the next five years.

“This is the opportunity cost of Fine Gael’s cut for upper income earners. Yet again its seems for Fine Gael the Regions can wait.”

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Speaking after the Fianna Fáil facilitated the government to vote down Sinn Féin’s Seanad motion to annul the statutory instrument that has led to increased bin charges in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said;

“The simple message that has to go out tonight regardless of the result is that it was possible to repeal the mechanism that allowed private bin companies to fleece ordinary families but Fianna Fáil facilitated the government to defeat our motion.

“There is a clear mechanism – within 21 sitting days of a Statutory Instrument being laid before the House, the Seanad can repeal it.

“Fianna Fáil had an opportunity to give real meaning to their rhetoric by supporting a motion that can get results for those hard working families they so often refer to and claim that they represent.

“We asked for the support of all parties and none – to help get rid of bad legislation, it is no surprise that the 'new politics' has an old look about it.

“If it is bad legislation you get rid of it.

“Suspending the charges for a year gives little comfort to those who feel that they are constantly under pressure – just like the water charges people will continue to resist that which is unjust.

“It is our task now to inform the public of the stance that was taken by those that promised them so much a few months ago.

“We will continue to push the Government and their Fianna Fáil facilitators and oppose those measures that unfairly punish the most vulnerable in society.”

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for the Arts Peadar Tóibín has said that Ireland is neglecting the Arts to the detriment of a central component of Irish identity, saying that “the government has created a Frankenstein department without coherence spanning a diverse range including Ban an Tí’s, ballet, bogs, butterflies, and broadband.”

The Meath West TD said:

“The Arts, our heritage, our language and our culture are central to who we are as a people. They are deeply embedded in the psyche and the fabric of Irish society; in our towns and in our communities across the whole country. They give us a local sense of place and a sense of belonging.

“They are also central to our birth as a state. I can think of no other country that can map its genesis so completely to a revolution which was so immersed in the Arts, Culture, and Heritage.   

“When the government is abroad, it trades on the words of our Nobel Laurates. At home, the government wheels out the sector in order to impress, but there is a deceitful dichotomy in the superficial way that the state deals with the Arts.

“The sector depends on artists who on average earn not much more than social welfare rates.

“It is reasonably estimated that Ministers in this government earn 15 times the average annual salary of artists in this state. Precarious employment in the sector is the rule rather than the exception and in an unfortunate Irish tradition many of our finest artists are forced to leave in order to survive.

“The government has created a Frankenstein department without coherence spanning a diverse range including Ban an Tí’s, ballet, bogs, butterflies, and broadband.

“Governments see the sector as the first stop shop for cuts and budget reductions.  The Arts Council has lost 27% of its budget since 2008.  The Irish Language has lost 51% since 2008. The Heritage Council has lost over 60% of its funding since 2008.

“These are not victimless cuts. They hit at those at local level throughout the state that are the Arts Community. Funding is both a measure of government priority and the key foundation on which this sector operates. The Irish budget for the Arts is a 5th of the average European Budget.

“The necessary spaces in which artists cross pollinate cannot be created without funds. This government is involved in foolish economics. Even you measure the Arts sector with just the greasy till and ignore the intrinsic value of the art itself then you should know that investment in the arts makes economic sense.  

“According to Indecon, for every €1 invested in the Arts at least €3 are returned. Of the annual budget spent on the Arts nearly ¾ are directly returned to the exchequer through income tax, VAT and other taxes and for every €1 the Irish Film Board has invested in a film and television production.

“Every song, poem, film, painting, and play we produce creates a window for the rest of the world to peer through and get to know us as a people. This has enormous value that influences positively every further engagement we have with the rest of the globe. So even by this narrow measure alone the government’s policies are damaging.

“However, these measures alone are short sighted. They disregard the intrinsic value and contribution of the Arts, Heritage and Culture sectors to society.  They feed our souls, stimulate our minds and lift our spirits, something vitally important in these tough times.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy this week met with representatives of the Irish Farmers Association in the European Parliament in Brussles.

On Monday evening, the IFA representatives attended an event to promote European Agri-produce.  They were promoting the benefits of a sustainable EU livestock sector for rural areas, for a healthy diet and for growth and jobs.  Irish beef was, of course, top of the menu.

On Tuesday MEPs met with the IFA representatives to discuss a number of pieces of legislation going through the European Parliament related to animal health (Animal Health Law, Veterinary Medicines Regulation and the Official Controls Regulation).  All of these pieces of legislation are at different stages of the legislative process and have the potential to have a large impact on farmers. They will affect trading practices (both internally and externally of the EU), prescription processes for when animals become ill and controls at various other stages of the lifetime of the animal.

As presently Irish Regulation on these matters is quite far apart from other EU countries, the final outcome in negotiations on these files could mean big changes in the operations of Irish farmers.

Matt Carthy assured the visitors that he will, as a member of the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, work to ensure that the final outcome of these Regulations does not over-burden farmers with additional charges or unnecessary bureaucracy while maintaining the objective of protecting Animal Health.

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Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd has welcomed news that Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is making NAMA papers available to the Finance Committee.

The party’s Finance spokesperson said:

“I welcome the fact the Minister has delivered on his pledge to provide the Committee with all information held by his department.

 “This demonstrates the Minister's commitment to transparency and to getting at the truth of the NAMA scandal.

“It is now incumbent on the Irish government to play its part and set up a Commission of Investigation.” Ends/Críoch

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Peadar Tóibín TD and Sinn Feín spokesperson on Irish Language and the Gaeltacht says that the government’s school patronage system is actively stopping the development of Irish–medium schools.

Speaking today Teachta Tóibín said:

“The current system, and criteria used by the government, of selecting school patrons, is loaded against the development of the Irish–medium school sector.

“There are 270 Irish-medium primary schools and 3,035 English–medium schools in the state. According to the latest statistics, 25% of parents in this state would like their children to be educated through Irish. As it stands, the current system only satisfies 4.7% of this demand. This system is a zero-sum game for Irish language speakers, who, being a minority, are always going to be disadvantaged under the current patronage system.

“This competition between Irish and English-medium schools is prejudiced against Irish.

“Sinn Féin believes that education through the medium of Irish should be given priority, in the first instance. This doesn’t mitigate against the provision of secular schools like Educate Together, which could function through Irish too.

“Currently, Irish–medium schools offer secular, multi-denominational, and religious education. There are many solutions to this problem like co-location or widening the school catchment area to facilitate various school patronage models.

“It is disappointing that the Fóras Pátrúnachta’s application to open an Irish-medium school in north Dublin was rejected recently, despite 733 students from the area and surrounding areas registering their interest, in a multidenominational Irish–medium school, something that is otherwise unavailable in in north Dublin.

“Irish–medium schools should be given a derogation on the basis that they cannot numerically compete with English–medium schools, in a specific catchment area.

“Sinn Féin is working on a Bill that would give priority to Irish-medium education in the future.

“We are hoping that the other political parties will support this Bill.”

Tá an rialtas ag cur bac ar fhorbairt na nGaelscolaíochta sa Tír seo – Peadar Tóibín

Deir Peadar Tóibín, TD agus Urlabhraí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta Shinn Féin, go bhfuil córas pátrúnachta scoileanna an rialtais ag cur bac go gníomhach ar fhorbairt phátrúnachta Gaelscoileanna.

Ag labhairt dó inniu, deir sé:

“Tá an córas agus na rialacháin a bhaineann leis faoi láthair ag dul go trom in aghaidh fhorbairt earnáil na gaelscolaíochta.

“ Tá 270 bunscoil Gaeilge agus 3,035 bunscoil lán–Bhéarla sa stát. De réir na staitisticí is déanaí tá 25% de thuismitheoirí na tíre ag éileamh oideachas tí mheán na Gaeilge. Ní shásaíonn an córas mar atá, ach 4.7% den éileamh úd.

“Is ag snámh in aghaidh easa atá lucht labhartha na Gaeilge arís. Is mionlach iad a chuirtear faoi mhíbhuntáiste ag córas pátrúnachta na Roinne Oideachais.

“An iomaíocht atá i gceist idir scoileanna Gaeilge nó Béarla tá sé claonta in aghaidh na   Gaeilge.   

“Creideann Sinn Féin gur cheart tosaíocht a thabhairt d’Oideachas trí Ghaeilge, ar an gcéad dul síos. Ní chuireann sé seo bac ar scoileanna ar nós Educate Together bheith ar fáil mar scoileanna nua, ach is féidir leo fheidhmiú trí Ghaeilge freisin.

“Tá rogha de scoileanna ar fáil faoi láthair a fheidhmíonn trí Ghaeilge, idir scoileanna, ilchreidmheacha, tuatha, is araile, agus go leor réitigh ar an bhfadhb ar nós comhláithriú, nó an scoilcheantar a leathnú níos mó chun freastal ar an dá éileamh.

“Is díomách an scéal é gur diúltóidh  don Fhórás Pátrúnachta gaelscoil ilchreidmheach a bhunú i dTuaisceart Bhaile Átha Cliath, cé gur cláraíodh  733 mic léinn ón gceantar is ó na ceantair mórthimpeall air d’oideachas, ilchreidmheach tí Ghaeilge, rud nach bhfuil ar fáil in aon scoil eile i dTuaisceart na Cathrach.

“Ba cheart maolú a thabhairt do ghaelscoileanna ar an mbunús nach bhféadfaidís dul san iomaíocht go huimhriúil le scoileanna lán-Bhéarla.

“ Tá Sinn Féin ag obair ar Bhille chun tosaíocht reachtúil a thabhairt don Ghaeloideachas amach anseo.

“Bheimis ag súil go dtacódh na páirtithe eile leis an mBille.”

 

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Today in the Dáil, Deputy Martin Kenny raised the issue of school transport and the nearest school rule during questions on the order of business, highlighting the fact that cuts to rural school transport may negatively impact rural schools.   

Deputy Kenny stated:

“On page 47 of the programme for government, there is a commitment to ensure that there are no small school closures and this context I want to raise the issue of cuts to rural school transport which will have an impact on small schools.

“This goes back to 2010 when a review of value for money brought in new rules and charges for school bus transport, which has moved huge numbers of children into the concessionary category, or denied them a bus ticket completely.  

“All of these rules need to be re-examined, especially the nearest school rule which means children have to attend the nearest school in order to qualify for school transport.  This is very negative for many rural schools and indeed for families in towns where the nearest school may be full and are not accepting students and therefore they are not eligible for bus transport to the next nearest school.  

“Will the government please review these rules and allow some common sense flexibility into the system to deliver a proper and adequate service?”  

Replying on behave of the government, Minister Frances Fitzgerald said, “the issues raised regarding the school transport scheme is under review at present.”

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Sinn Féin’s Dessie Ellis TD reiterated his call for the government to call a housing emergency as new figures from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive reveal that 913 families — 1,218 adults and 1,847 children — are homeless in Dublin.

Deputy Ellis said:

“I have called on the government this May to declare an emergency as the situation we have now at this moment is a combination of conditions that are fast overwhelming a good portion of the population. We need solutions now.

“913 families are homeless in Dublin and the situation is not much better across the state with over 2000 children and nearly 4000 adults homeless.

“The government needs to declare a housing emergency and immediately start funding local authorities so they can acquire more vacant homes for much needed social housing. Those in private rented accommodation are struggling with increasing rents.

“The government needs to introduce rent certainty and give these people some breathing space. Also to give these 913 families a chance, a change in rent supplement needs to be made.  That is why we must look beyond the private sector and towards Government and council intervention to provide the long term solution to this crisis.

“We need to build more social houses which in itself will bring down rental prices. Access to affordable, good quality housing is a right not a privilege.”

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Galway West - South Mayo Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has said that the Government needs to do more to protect the Irish fishing industry.

Calling for a Seanad debate on Fisheries today he says:

'The Irish fishing industry has suffered gross injustices for many years. 

'Films such as 'Atlantic' are highlighting how unfairly Irish fishermen are being treated. 

'The distribution of quotas, the level of bureaucracy and legislation involved and the over zealousness of the policing of our some of the vessels in our seas are all driving Irish fishermen out of the industry.

'I have asked for a full debate in the Seanad on the future of the Irish fishing industry to discuss the prevalence of super trawlers in our waters, the recommendations around maintaining sustainable rural and coastal communities made by the previous Oireachtas Joint committee and how we can support and develop our indigenous fishing fleet.

'Sinn Féin is working with our MEP Liadh Ní Riada to address these issues at a European level, but we need the government here to step up to the mark at home as well.’

Caithfidh an Rialtas Iascairí a chosaint - Ó Clochartaigh

Caithfidh an Rialtas níos mó a dhéanamh ar son tionscal na h-iascaireachta in Éirinn dar le Seanadóir Ghaillimh Thiar - Maigh Eo Theas, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

Agus é ag lorg díospóireacht sa Seanad ar an ábhar, deir sé inniu:

'Tá éagóracha móra déanta ar thionscal na h-iascaireachta le blianta fada. 

'Tá scannáin ar nós 'Atlantic' ag tarraingt aird ar chomh mhí-chothrom is atáthar ag caitheamh le h-iascairí na hÉireann. 

'Tá comhroinnt na gcuótaí, an leibhéal maorlathais agus reachtaíochta atá i gceist agus an fhuadar atá faoina h-údaráis póilíneachta i mbun maoirseachta ar chuid de na báid i bhfarraigí na hÉireann ag brú iascairí amach as an tionscal. 

'Tá díospóireacht iomlán iarrtha agam sa Seanad ar thodhchaí thionscal na h-iascaireachta in Éirinn chun labhairt faoi líon na h-ollthrálaeirí atá inár gcuid uiscí, na moltaí a rinne comhchoiste Oireachtais roimhe seo maidir le h-inmharthanacht na bpobail tuaithe & cois cósta agus cén chaoi gur féidir linn fás agus forás a chur ar chabhlach iascaireachta na hÉireann. 

'Tá Sinn Féin ag obair lenár bhFeisire Eorpach Liadh Ní Riada chun aghaidh a thabhairt ar na ceisteanna seo ag leibhéal na hEorpa, ach caithfidh Rialtas na hÉireann i bhfad níos mó a dhéanamh ina thaobh chomh maith.’

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Dúirt an Seandaóir Niall Ó Donnghaile inniu go bhfuil sé de dhualgas ag rialtas na hÉireann agus ag rialtas na Breataine a gcoimitmintí a chomhlíonadh chun cearta Gaeilgeoirí ó thuaidh a chosaint.

Arsa Niall Ó Donnghaile: 

“Deich mbliana ó shin shínigh rialtais na hÉireann agus na Breataine Conradh Chill Rímhinn. D’aontaigh siad go dtacóidís le reachtaíocht chun cearta Gaeilgeoirí a chosaint.

“Deich mbliana ar aghaidh agus tá pobal na Gaeilge ó thuaidh ag fanacht go fóill.

“Cuireadh ceist ar ionadaí de chuid rialtas na Breataine faoi dtaobh de seo ag cruinniú de choiste na Náisiún Aontaithe ar na mallaibh. Ach dhiúltaigh an t-ionadaí freagairt.

“Ní mór do rialtas na Breataine beart a dhéanamh de réir briathair agus a choimitmintí a chomhlíonadh do phobal na Gaeilge.

“Tá ról le himirt fosta ag Rialtas na hÉireann mar chomhshínitheoir de Chonradh Chill Rímhinn chun cinntiú go gcosnófar cearta Gaeilgeoirí.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform David Cullinane has said today that the Summer Economic Statement does not reflect the realities facing the exchequer regarding public pay and pensions nor the pressures facing households and businesses regarding housing, health and infrastructure.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“Minister Donohoe took the decision to leave out of the Summer Economic Statement the pay pressures he knows are coming down the line.

“I put this to him in Committee this morning and his response – that no government shows its cards before a pay negotiation – is weak to say the least, given that the government has said it will remove USC and has allocated €1 billion a year to a ‘rainy-day fund’ from 2019 onwards.  I would suggest that is not just showing your cards but dropping the full deck.

“It is obvious what the government is doing here. They are consciously ignoring expenditure pressures they know have to be dealt with after 2018 in order to paint a rosy picture for their tax cuts for high earners and continued privatisation agenda.

“This is not responsible governance. It is not prudent politics.

“Minister Donohoe and the Fine Gael/Independent government are committed to pursuing a political agenda that does not have the support of the majority of citizens.

“It has the support of the majority of the Dáil, though, thanks to Fianna Fail of course.

“The other key issue that the Minister fails to address in the Summer Statement is capital investment.

“We have had eight years of austerity. The country is at a level of under-investment that is not normal, that is not sustainable. In fact, Ireland’s level of public capital investment is one of the lowest in the EU and there is nothing in the Summer Statement that will change that.

“This is not an abstract economic statistic.

“We see the lack of public investment every day in terms of homelessness, in terms of hospital trolleys, in terms of creaking infrastructure and non-existent broadband in significant parts of rural Ireland.

“This is not a recovery, simply the new normal for the so-called new politics of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. We need a genuine new politics and real change now.” 

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Child poverty and the hardship caused to individuals and families by poverty and social exclusion is not a new phenomenon according to Mayo-based Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh

Speaking in the Seanad last week, Senator Conway-Walsh said:

“In 2010, under the Fianna Fáil-led Government, over 200,000 children lived in households experiencing poverty. In fact, the number of children at risk of poverty rose by more than 35,000 in the three years 2007 - 2010. So the tic-tacking of ‘ye are worse than we were’ that goes on between the current and past.

“One of the major disservices done by Fianna Fáil in 2008 was the axing of the Combat Poverty Agency. This was the only agency whose specific purpose was to report on poverty in Ireland but because the Government did not want to hear what it was saying, they shut it down.

“Child poverty cannot be addressed in isolation, but must be considered within the wider issues of poverty. All households must be lifted out of poverty by Government policies and joined up, short, medium and long-term thinking. So we are not just talking about properly paid employment. We are talking about the ‘working poor’ who are weighed down by ever increasing charges and reduced wages.

“Of course, poverty is not just about income, it is about having equal access to public health services, education and other essential services. Creating equal opportunities for children has to be an integral government policy implemented in cross-departmental systemic manner. So, regardless of the family make up, the children must be able to participate fully in the education system, their communities and wider society.

“The cuts to the lone parent’s payment, ever increasing school going costs and transport, medical and childcare costs are just some of the elements that push families into poverty.

“We have failed as a nation to address poverty and exclusion. Even when this country was awash with money, we gave to the rich and robbed the poor. The protection of the golden circle was more important than keeping community development projects, homework clubs or projects addressing social exclusion and addiction open.

“We are now paying the price for the failure of successive governments to invest in families and invest in communities. Many young people who have since turned to crime could have been directed on a different pathway with the right interventions.

“A rising tide does not lift all boats. This is just a blanket excuse to give tax breaks and write offs to the wealthy. We need targeted comprehensive interventions to tackle the injustice of poverty in all its forms. In this centenary year of the Rising, it would be a fitting tribute.” 

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dáil this afternoon, has said the Government must act on the findings of the annual report published on Monday by the Mental Health Commission.

Teachta Adams said: 

“There isn’t a single family across the island that hasn’t been affected by the challenges of mental health issues. It is accepted that one in seven adults will experience mental health challenges in any given year, and the real figures for suicide across the island are as high as 1,000 people annually.

“The Mental Health Commission has undertaken a strategic review as part of developing a new strategic plan for 2016-2018, which it published on Monday.

“The Commission’s report illustrates how much remains to be done, including the need for independent monitoring of the State’s mental health strategy ‘Vision for Change’, which has been in place since 2006. That should happen urgently.

“There are also huge issues surrounding funding, or the lack of it. The current level of funding for mental health is still less than the 8.24% target, based on 2005 figures envisaged in ‘A Vision for Change’.

“According to the report, there is a serious deficiency in the development and provision of recovery orientated mental health services. This concept of aiding a person’s recovery, rather than simply managing their illness is a crucial aspect of mental healthcare.

“The Commission also expresses concern about the admission of children to adult services. In 2015, a total of 95 children were admitted to adult units. This is totally shocking and unacceptable.

“The Government has also yet to bring in draft legislation to bring about the changes envisaged in the review of the Mental Health Act 2001, which was published in December 2014.

“The Government must act on the findings of this report without delay”. 

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Sinn Féin MLA and National Chairperson Declan Kearney has urged people to vote Remain in tomorrow's EU referendum. 

Speaking on the final day of campaigning, Mr Kearney said; 

"It is very clear that a Brexit will be bad for the economy on the island, bad for farmers, bad for the environment, bad for workers and communities, bad for young people, and bad for Irish unity. 

"Our people in the North of Ireland should not allow the most reactionary elements of the British Tory party to set our political agenda or Ireland's economic future and to drag us out of Europe. 

"Brexit has the potential to entrench partition. We are committed to ending partition and don't want to see the return of border checkpoints between north and south. 

"We have been very critical of the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU but the only way to change that is from within. We want to change the EU and build a progressive, prosperous and social Europe, which respects sovereignty. 

"Sinn Féin is calling on everyone to Put Ireland First and vote Remain in tomorrow's referendum."

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Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has said the British and Irish governments have a responsibility to fulfil their commitments to protect the rights of Irish speakers in the North. 

Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said; 

"Ten years ago in the St Andrew's Agreement the British and Irish governments signed up to support the introduction of legislation to protect the rights of Irish language speakers. 

"A decade later and the Irish language community in the north is still waiting. 

"When questioned about this at a recent meeting of a United Nations committee a representative of the British government refused to answer. That is unacceptable. 

"The British government needs to step up to the plate and fulfil its commitment to the Irish language community. 

"The Irish government too has a role to play as a joint signatory to the St Andrew's Agreement to ensure the rights of Irish speakers are protected."

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Commenting today as legal opinion from three constitutional lawyers was published in respect to a proposed amendment of the Equal Status Act to prohibit schools from refusing access to children on the basis of religion, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Deputy Carol Nolan has said that Sinn Féin will seek to amend upcoming admissions legislation to prohibit discrimination in terms of access to education.

Deputy Nolan said:

“While I appreciate, for the majority of schools, the issue of religious discrimination in terms of access does not arise, nevertheless it is an issue in some areas of the country, particularly where schools are over subscribed.

“The reality for parents of minority faiths and none faced with this situation, is that they are unable to access their local school and many feel pressure to baptise their child in order to access their right to education.

“This situation is unacceptable and has no place in modern Ireland.

“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Ireland ‘amend the existing legislative framework to eliminate discrimination in school admission, including the Equal Status Act’.

“I am aware that issues also arise in terms of children with special educational needs, who can often be refused access to their local schools and it is my understanding that this issue will be addressed quite firmly in the forthcoming admissions legislation.

“Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that the issue of children with special educational needs will be addressed but we will not stand over a situation whereby children are treated as second class citizens in terms of access to education.

“I welcome the legal opinion published today, which adds clarity to the debate on this issue. In the last Dáil term, Sinn Féin published legislation that sought to address this issue.

“Sinn Féin will seek to amend the forthcoming legislation on school admissions to provide for a repeal of the Equal Status Act 2000.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said that he is surprised and disappointed that the Minister for responsibility for Flood Defence Seán Canney TD has not yet met with the insurance industry. The admission was made during an exchange at the Finance Committee today.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I am surprised and disappointed that Minister Seán Canney has not seen fit to pick up the phone and call the insurance industry given the ongoing failure of the industry to insure households in vulnerable areas.

“I am equally dismayed that the minister confirmed that not a single major flood scheme was commenced last year out of a target of seven. This year the target is only six even less than were targeted to start last year. The minister puts the blame on regulation and even the EU but all these factors were in place when the department set its targets.

“This is a bad start for Minister Canney and I will be demanding that flood insurance is taken as an actual priority by the Minister for Flood Defence. A zero per cent delivery rate on major flood schemes is a disaster and can’t be dismissed as being down to regulations or any other excuses.”

ENDS

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