Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has thanked Caitríona Ruane for "her many years of hard work on behalf of Sinn Féin”.
Following Caitríona Ruane's decision not to stand in the Assembly election the Sinn Féin leader said;
"I want to thank Caitríona for her many years of commitment and hard work on behalf of the people of South Down and of the North.
“For 14 years Caitríona was an exemplary MLA. She also carried out her responsibilities as Assembly deputy Speaker and Education Minister with diligence and commitment.
“Sinn Féin will miss her experience and leadership in the next Assembly.
“On behalf of the party I want to wish her and her family well. I'm sure she will continue to contribute to Sinn Féin in the future.”
Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O'Neill has said Sinn Féin will not be renominating for the position of deputy First minister tomorrow and called for an election to allow the people to have their say.
Speaking today Michelle O’Neill said;
“For over ten years Martin McGuinness has worked to ensure that the institutions in the North delivered for all the people. During that time, he has faced threats and disrespect. But he persevered, working with three successive DUP leaders, because it was the right thing to do.
“The actions of the British government over this period in failing to honour their agreements and imposing Tory policy, austerity, and Brexit against the will of the people undermined the political process.
“The Irish government have consigned themselves to the role of onlooker and presented themselves as some sort of impartial referee. That is a fundamental mistake. They are the custodians of the agreements that are being hollowed out on their watch and that has compounded the current crisis.
“Against this background the DUP has failed to live up to their responsibilities to represent all in the community and to promote equality and respect.
“The RHI scandal, and other financial scandals, further eroded confidence in the institutions. The RHI scandal has the potential to cost the public purse £500 million over the next twenty years. Money which must come from our public services. This is not an orange and green issue. The cost of the RHI scandal will be paid for by all the community, unionist and nationalist alike.
“Sinn Féin is very clear we will not tolerate incompetence, malpractice or allegations of a corrupt process in government. We have honoured all our agreements, acted with patience and generosity, and demonstrated respect and equality to all in the community.
“Martin McGuinness moved to resign last Monday, because it was the right thing to do.
“Sinn Féin will not be nominating for the position of deputy First Minister and the agreements mean that the people must now have their say.
“We all, including the other parties and the two governments, have a role to play to rebuild confidence in the political process and institutions that deliver for all our people and operate on the basis of equality and respect.
“Sinn Féin remains committed to dialogue. This will require a step change from the governments and other parties. There can be no return to the status quo at Stormont.
“At this time there is no basis for credible negotiations to reinstate the institutions and we now must move to an election.”
Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said concerns about DUP Minister Paul Givan's community hall grants scheme highlight the need to address DUP arrogance.
Mr Murphy said;
"I have been contacted by applicants to the Community Hall Grants Scheme whose applications were refused and they are now concerned about the process.
"One rejection letter to a GAA club flippantly dismissed the application stating their 'organisation was not eligible to receive support'.
"The list of recipients now in the public domain shows clearly these public funds have been significantly directed at one section of the community.
"This is yet another example of blatant discrimination and the DUP’s contempt for the wider public. It further undermines public confidence in the political institutions.
"People must now be allowed to have their say on the DUP’s arrogance in an election."
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has commended the good work of the Simon Community in supporting those who find themselves homeless.
The East Derry MLA said:
"Last week I met with the Team Leader of Coleraine Simon Community, Anthony McPeake and he described how the 15 bedroom facility in Coleraine is almost permanently at full capacity.
"Last year 18,628 people presented as homeless to the Housing Executive across the north. Most recent statistics for Causeway Coast & Glens council area for 2014/2015 showed 1124 presented as homeless.
"Mr McPeake outlined the difficultly though in determining true levels of homelessness, as there is a hidden statistic in those who are homeless but can usually find a bed with friends or acquaintances, what is known as sofa-surfing.
"There are many reasons why people find themselves homeless and individuals often have other issues such as addiction or mental health issues that require specific support. This can be particularly challenging for the Simon Community support workers and they must be commended for the important service they provide."
Sinn Féin MLA Orlaithí Flynn has slammed those responsible an explosive device in Poleglass and has called on them to get of the backs of the local community.
Speaking today Ms Flynn said:
Those behind leaving this bomb in an area close to sports grounds and a new housing development have no regard whatsoever for the local community and have put those who pass this area in serious danger.
“They have also been responsible for serious disruption to the Poleglass community since this alert started. This is one of the main roads through Poleglass.
“Fortunately no-one has had to be evacuated from their homes but people are sick, sore and tired of being placed in danger by micro groups at war with the local community.
“There is no support for these actions locally and those responsible need to get of the backs of this community.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane has said she will not be putting her name forward for selection for the next Assembly election.
Ms Ruane said;
"It has been an honour and privilege to represent the people of South Down in the Assembly for the last 14 years.
"Over the years I have been involved in assisting the growth and development of the peace process to create a better society for all our citizens.
"During that time I have had the pleasure of serving as Education Minister, abolishing the eleven plus exam, tackling underachievement, improving educational attainment and excellence for all, investing in the Irish medium sector and delivering the largest school building programme in decades.
"I was also proud to promote equality issues in the Assembly at every opportunity; equality for the LGB&T community, for Irish language speakers and for women. As a lifelong feminist I was honoured to have been selected twice by all parties to chair the Assembly's women's caucus.
"I was also privileged to serve as Principal Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.
"I have now decided not to put my name forward for selection for the next Assembly election.
"Sinn Féin has continued to grow in the South Down constituency, as it has across the island, and I have no doubt that local activists will choose a strong team to go before the electorate and they will have my full and enthusiastic support in any upcoming election, in which I will acting as an election agent.
"This will be a hugely important election and it is vital that people have the opportunity to call time on the DUP's arrogance and put respect and equality at the heart of the political institutions.
"I want to thank all of the people of South Down and the party in the area for the support and trust they have shown me over the years and I look forward to the continued growth of Sinn Féin in the area.
"I also want to thank my family; my husband Brian, children Eimear and Deirdre and my grandchild, Sé, for the love and support they have given me over the years."
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has issued a withering criticism of what she describes as EU Commissioner Vella's "incessant need to meddle in Ireland's debate on the future of water services.” While telling Mr Vella to “butt out” she advised the EU Environment Commissioner that he would be "better off focusing his energies on doing his real job."
Ms Boylan was responding to reports in today's media in which Commissioner Vella again signalled his support for a water charging regime.
The poll-topping Dublin MEP said;
"Commissioner Vella’s actions and comments in relation to future of water services in Ireland have, once again, highlighted his complete arrogance and his disdain for the democratic wishes of our citizens. His incessant need to meddle in this debate is symptomatic of all that is wrong with the Europe Union. He needs to butt-out.
“Mr Vella would be better off focusing his energies on doing his real job. He wasn't appointed to continuously interfere in discussions on how Ireland organises its water infrastructure. It is not part of his brief or within his remit.
"He talks about clear disincentives to discourage overuse. The reality is that Irish households are at the lower end of the spectrum of water consumption when compared to their EU counterparts. The installation of meters does not reduce water consumption. Their only positive use is in the detection of leaks, which can be done at district level. International research shows that countries with the highest saturation of water meters are also the highest consumers of water. The installation, maintenance and rolling out of a billing system connected to water meters is not cost effective. In fact, the money that has been spent on meter installation to date would have been far better used in upgrading the system.
“The legal opinion commissioned by my office clearly states that if Ireland is fulfilling the objectives of the water framework directive, which is to conserve and protect water, then we would be in compliance without domestic charges. Sinn Féin has clearly shown in our election manifesto how we would fund the necessary upgrading of the water infrastructure without the need for regressive domestic water charges. The Expert Group's findings also believed that their proposal would be in compliance.
"Commissioner Vella and his water unit have been deliberately trying to muddy the waters on this issue. He says he is willing to engage. However, his office denied briefing journalists and releasing parliamentary question responses to journalists before elected representatives saw them. Then when exposed, he refused to release documents under Freedom of Information until I complained to the EU Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly. His officials then released heavily redacted documents. A second complaint on the redaction is now being investigated by the Ombudsman.
"Commissioner Vella and his water unit claim to be legally neutral when it comes to how EU Member States manage their water supplies, so I would suggest that Commissioner Vella start acting in such a neutral manner. He has no role in Ireland's water regime.
"Commissioner Vella's interventions have been completely focused on confusing matters. I would suggest that he focus on the work that he should be doing, which is his long overdue legal obligation to respond to the EU Citizens Initiative and the EU Parliament report on the human right to water."
Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir has said the people need to able to have their say to put respect, equality and integrity at the heart of the political institutions.
Speaking at a Sinn Fein selection convention in west Belfast, Mr O Muilleoir said;
"The actions of the DUP and their handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme have seriously undermined public confidence in the political institutions.
"But disastrous as the RHI scandal has been the current political crisis goes way beyond that.
"The British government has failed to live up to its responsibilities under the Good Friday and subsequent agreements. It has refused to honour commitments on a Bill of Rights, an Irish Language Act, and on dealing with the legacy of the past. And the Irish government have acted as a bystander and allowed this to happen.
"This has given cover to the DUP to act in an arrogant manner towards the political institutions and agreements and to the electorate.
"So a new Assembly election is more than a referendum on RHI, or the other scandals involving the DUP, including NAMA and Red Sky.
"Their contempt for the Irish language and Irish identity, for equality for the LGBT community, ethnic minorities and women is unacceptable.
"That is why there can be no return to the status quo at Stormont.
"Sinn Féin wants to see political institutions, which are underpinned by equality, respect and the principles of power sharing.
"We need to see an election where the people have their say, draw a line under the DUP arrogance for the electorate and get political institutions and good governance based on equality which deliver for all citizens.
"Let's seize this opportunity in the interests of those from right across the community, who want to see integrity, respect and equality as the bedrock of our society.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has expressed his deep regret at the news of the death of Dermot Gallagher.
Gerry Adams TD said:
“Ba mhaith liom mo chombhrón a thabhairt do chlann Gallagher.
“Dermot Gallagher was a proud Leitrim man who gave a lifetime of service to the Irish state as a civil servant. I first met him when he was Irish Ambassador to the USA in the 1990’s.
“Later Dermot held the post of second secretary general with responsibility for British-Irish relations, including Irish government policy in respect of the North and for the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement. For much of the decade after 2000 he was Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“I met Dermot many times during those years and worked closely with him in our efforts to advance the peace process and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
“I want to extend to his wife Maeve and children Fiona, Aoife and Ronan and to his family and wide circle of friends, my sincerest condolences on his death.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”
Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has said the list of recipients of DUP Minister Paul Givan's community hall grants scheme appears to show that funding has been significantly directed to one side of the community.
“There was mounting concern about why Paul Givan’s community hall grants scheme had soared from half a million pounds to almost two millions pounds.
“I have seen the list of recipients and clearly these public funds have been significantly directed at one section of the community.
“This is a shameful abuse of public money and this minister’s contempt for the public knows no bounds.
“It’s also clear that the minister delayed the timing of his announcement because of the outrage from the public caused by his withdrawal of just £50k from the Liofa bursaries scheme on the eve of Christmas.
“Public money should be used responsibly to address need rather than attempt to buy support in the wake of the RHI scandal.
“This looks like yet another example of blatant discrimination and the DUP’s contempt for the wider public.
Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has called on Economy Minister Simon Hamilton for full disclosure of the names of participants in the botched RHI scheme.
Mr Murphy said:
"Sinn Féin wants to get to the truth around the RHI scandal in order to restore public confidence in the political institutions.
"The failure of the Department of the Economy to release the names of the beneficiaries of the botched RHI scheme further damages the political institutions.
“The public wants to know were there any conflicts of interest through business, family or political connections in the RHI scheme.
“In particular people want to know more about the spike of applications to the scheme in 2015.
"There should be no further delay. The DUP Economy Minister has the ability to disclose the names and in the public interest he should do so immediately.”
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has called on threats against a member of the family of a man and woman viciously attacked in their Turf Lodge home this week to be immediately lifted.
The West Belfast MLA said:
"It beggars belief that threats have been issued against a family member of a couple who were shot several times in their own home in Turf Lodge earlier this week.
“It is despicable that this man and woman were shot in their own home in the first place. They have done absolutely nothing wrong unlike the armed gang who shot them.
“It piles insult on top of injury for those responsible to issue threats against a relative of the victims.
“Those responsible have nothing to offer this community and I call on them to lift the threat immediately and get off the back of the people of Turf Lodge.”
Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has said a new approach is needed to address all housing matters.
The West Belfast MLA said:
"We must focus on equality for all sections of our community and the distribution of resources to areas of highest housing need.
"We need a commitment to increase the numbers of social houses being built to deal with high waiting lists.
"We also need a selection scheme to ensure people are not trapped in homelessness such as over crowding and hostels.
"Support is required for home owners who because of their financial circumstances see the fabric of their home deteriorate and young people who find themselves squeezed out of social housing into the arms of an unregulated private rented sector.
"I would encourage people to join local residents associations and we need housing providers to champion real partnerships with communities to better the quality of life of their tenants." ENDS/CRÍOCH
“It is blatantly obvious that there has been a strategy of creating this financial crisis at Expressway by the deliberate saturating of routes with the granting of licences to private operators.
“There could not have been any other outcome when private operators were issued licences and invited and encouraged to come in and cream off the most profitable inter city routes, leaving the least profitable routes for the public network.
“At Leaders Questions in the Dáil, I have previously called on both the Minister for Transport and the government to commit to engaging with all the stakeholders including the Department of Transport, the NTA, Bus Eireann and the unions to find a resolution to this crisis. The aim must be to ensure that together we find a way to protect, preserve and enhance our public transport network.
“Unfortunately, they refused to include the unions as the workers representatives and as key stakeholders in seeking a resolution. It is clear that they took the decision, behind closed doors, to target the workers who did not create the crisis.
“The automatic go-to response of excluding workers representatives is not the correct approach to take and it will only serve to heighten industrial unrest.”
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has joined with thousands of protesters at a rally in Waterford this afternoon to demand the provision of 24/7 cardiac care for the people of the South East.
Deputy Cullinane, who was accompanied by Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada, said;
"The Southeast is the only region without full 24/7 emergency PPCI cover. As of yet no guarantees exist to right this wrong. It is a matter of equality and patient outcomes. This situation affects approximately 500,000 throughout Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary and Kilkenny. The campaign is completely right in its demand for the same level of cardiac care services for University Waterford as other regional hospitals.
"Patients in the Southeast who suffer a heart attack after 5pm or at weekends will still have to travel to Cork or Dublin. This is a totally unacceptable state of affairs.
"While I gave yesterday's announcement a cautious welcome, a mobile Cath Lab is not what we are looking for but is better than nothing. However, the details of what has been agreed have not been released. I have written to the Minister for Health asking for a full briefing on what is being proposed.
"The fact that the government failed to give any assurance or plans to right this wrong is further evidence that the coalition has a fundamental lack of understanding about the depth of the crisis facing the health services in the South East and throughout the state
“Since 2009, we have seen a serious lack of spend and investment at University Hospital Waterford. While demand is on the increase, capacity has been in sharp decline. The dire situation regarding cardiac services is reflective of that reality.
“What is happening in Waterford and the South East is not happening in isolation. Our public health services are being starved of resources. When we talk about capacity, we are talking about people.
"In September of this year, I drafted and published a document outlining the investment needs at University Hospital Waterford. I would again ask the Minister for Health to examine the issues raised in that document and to realise that the future of healthcare in Ireland has to be built on investment in the public system rather than on cuts, privatisation and outsourcing."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has extended his deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of Detective Steven McDonald who died in New York this week.
The Sinn Féin leader said:
“Ba mhaith liom mo chombhrón a thabhairt do chlann McDonald. It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Steven McDonald.
“Steven was an NYPD detective who in 1986 was shot by a 15 year old youth and suffered such severe injuries that he was paralysed from the neck down - a quadriplegic .
“Despite his horrific injuries he never lost hope and some years ago he forgave the man who shot him. Steven was determined to overcome adversity and to transform his personal tragedy into a message of peace and forgiveness. He worked for the rest of his life to bring that message to places of conflict in America, the Middle East and Ireland.
“I first met him in 1994 when along with his friend Fr. Mychal Judge – who was killed in the September 11 attack on New York’s Twin Towers – he attended events organised by Friends of Sinn Féin.
“Steven embraced the Irish Peace Process and established his Reconciliation Project when he visited Omagh in 1998 with Fr Mychal Judge. He was a consistent and active supporter of the peace process, following with interest the ups and downs over the last two decades. He visited Ireland, and particularly the north many times.
“I last saw and talked to Steven at a ceremony commemorating O'Donovan Rossa in Calvary Cemetery , New York in 2015. He was excited about the upcoming events for 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
“Steven McDonald was an inspirational figure – an extraordinary human being who was a champion of reconciliation. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to know him.
“He rose above what happened to him and lived a life of meaning and achievement.
“My deepest sympathy to Steven's wife Patti Ann, his son Conor and father David, brothers and sisters and to his big group of devoted friends.”
Sinn Féin is to host a major public debate on Irish unity in Dublin’s Mansion House on 21st January - the anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the First Dáil.
The event will feature Kevin Meagher, former special adviser to Britain’s Secretary of State for the North Shaun Woodward; Alex Kane, columnist, commentator and former Communications Director for the Ulster Unionist Party; Brian Feeney, commentator and columnist with the Irish News; Cat Boyd, co-founder of RISE – Scotland's Left Alliance and a prominent figure during the Scottish independence referendum; Noel Whelan, political analyst and Irish Times columnist; Suzanne McKay, author and journalist, and others.
The meeting will also be addressed by Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams, Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD, the North’s Health Minister Michelle O’Neill and Matt Carthy MEP.
Announcing details of the conference today, Matt Carthy said:
"The prospect of the North of Ireland being removed from the EU against the will of its people and a reinforcing of the border, has brought the issue of united Ireland back onto the political agenda.
“A referendum on a united Ireland, is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.
“Sinn Féin believes that there is now an urgent need for an inclusive, constructive debate on the future, including how a united Ireland might be brought about and what it might look like.
“To this end, Sinn Féin recently published a discussion document which aims to stimulate debate and to make the case for Irish unity. We have called on other parties who claim to support Irish unity to do the same.
“We have asked that people to give our ideas careful consideration, and for a real debate on Irish re-unification to begin.
“As part of this process Sinn Féin has organised a conference to take place on 21st January in the Mansion House, Dublin at the venue and on the anniversary of the inaugural sitting of the first Dáil Eireann.
“We have a very interesting lineup of speakers and I expect a major attendance from members of the public.
“Last year’s commemorations of the centenary of the 1916 Rising have led to huge awakening of public interest in the Irish revolutionary period and in what type of Ireland we wish to create for the future.
“It is important that this is constructively built upon. That is what this conference aims to do.
"It will be the first in a series of similar meetings around the country and I would encourage people to engage in what is a crucial discussion by attending and participating.”
Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South Liadh Ní Riada has held a sit down meeting with Gianni Pittella, a favourite for position of the president of the European Parliament.
Speaking from Cork this morning, Ms. Ní Riada said;
“I think it was a significant gesture by Mr. Pittella to reach out to me and the Sinn Féin delegation to address our concerns in relation to the current direction the EU is taking.
“Mr. Pittella is one of the favourites to win the Presidency and I took the opportunity to raise several issues of concern for us. On Brexit, Mr. Pittella agreed to work with us to ensure the best possible outcome for the people of Ireland.”
Ms. Ní Riada continued by saying that the meeting expanded to other issues, such as austerity policies, fisheries and the Irish language derogation;
“I communicated to Mr. Pittella that Europe was at a crossroads and he agreed. I raised the fact that the establishment in Europe are wedded to the failing politics of austerity and that the Social Democrat group in the European Parliament, of which Mr. Pittella is President, are involved in promoting the same. I believe austerity policies have played a role in the rise of the far right in Europe and the time for change is now.
“Mr. Pittella gave concrete assurances that the existing coalition between the Social Democrats and the right wing European People’s Party is over. If true, this is a welcome development as these two groups have conspired to limit the influence of other political groups in the past. Furthermore, I was glad to hear Gianni Pittella talk about the need for cooperation between his group and our Left group on social issues including workers’ rights, gender and LGBT equality and the refugee crisis.”
Liadh Ní Riada concluded,
“The Presidency of the European Parliament is a considerably influential position. Once elected, Sinn Féin will engage constructively with whoever the new President is in order to ensure Irish concerns are heard by the leadership of the European Union."
Sinn Féin MLA Caomihe Archibald has welcomed the announcement of an hourly train service between Derry and Belfast by the Infrastructure Minister.
The East Derry MLA said:
“I welcome the news that my party colleague the Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has announced an hourly service between Derry and Belfast.
“Many people from across the North West work and travel to Belfast on a daily basis and this service will improve their travel options.
“I hope it also encourages greater use of public transport and more visitors to the North West.
“I further welcome news he has asked officials to undertake a feasibility study into the introduction of an express bus service between Derry and Belfast.”
Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Seeley has welcomed news that core grant funding for voluntary and community sector is to continue.
The party’s health spokesperson said:
“I welcome news that my party colleague, Health Minister Michelle O’Neill does not intend to further reduce the level of core grant funding provided under the existing scheme to the voluntary and community sector.
“This move will help support voluntary and community sector organisations.
“As many voluntary and community sector organisations work closely with users of health and social care services and can advocate on their behalf this will assist the Minister with the delivery of her vision for health and social care in the north.”