Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD is in Cuba on an official visit.
In the course of his first day he held a series of meetings, including with Cuban Vice President Salvador Antonio Valdés Mesa, and a range of senior Ministers in the government and leaders in the National Assembly.
The Sinn Féin leader also met with representatives of the Central Committee.
Gerry Adams said:
“Sinn Féin has had fraternal ties with Cuba for many years. There is a close connection between the Irish people and the people of Cuba.
“I last visited Havana 14 years ago and I was keen to return to discuss the dramatic and historic diplomatic and political developments that are occurring in US - Cuban relationships.
“Sinn Féin has long opposed the embargo imposed by the USA for the last five decades. Its economic, cultural and human cost on the people of Cuba has been enormous.
“The interests of Latin America and especially of Cuba and the USA are best served by an end to the embargo and the creation of a new relationship based on mutual respect and equality.
“As we have learned in the Irish peace process, and in our own experience of conflict resolution, the exclusion and demonising of opponents never works and doesn’t solve problems.
“Sinn Féin believes in dialogue as the best means of resolving disputes between individuals, peoples and states. However, for it to be successful it requires vision and leadership and a willingness to take risks for peace and for progress.
“The recent rapprochement in relations between the USA and Cuba opens up the possibility of an end to the embargo. The relaxation of some aspects of it is already assisting the Cuban economy, particularly in respect of tourism. But the embargo must go in its entirety.
“Leadership demands a preparedness to see opportunity where before there was none; and then to have the courage to take the next step and make it happen. It's about seizing the moment.
“It's about refusing to be defined by the past and to be willing to be open to new ideas, new concepts and the possibility of making friends with former enemies.
“Key to the progress we have witnessed thus far has been the leadership demonstrated by President Raul Castro and by President Obama.
“The positive and supportive efforts and encouragement of Pope Francis has also been important.
“I commend President Castro and President Obama. I also commend Cuba's role in facilitating the Colombian peace process.
“These developments are creating a new positive dynamic in the relationships of these neighbours and a beacon of hope and reconciliation in difficult times.”
Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has expressed his condolences to the families of victims of the school shootings at Umpqua Community College in Oregon and wished those injured a full and speedy recovery.
Martin McGuinness said:
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of the horrific killings at Umpqua Community College in the US.
“I was shocked and saddened to hear that so many young people have been shot dead in a deranged attack, in what should have been a place of safety and learning.
“I extend my condolences to all the families of the victims at this awful time of grief and mourning and wish those injured a full and speedy recovery.”
Sinn Féin’s Workers Rights spokesperson David Cullinane has welcomed the signing into law of two new Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) which will benefit 45,000 low paid workers in the cleaning and security sectors.
Senator Cullinane said:
“This is a good day for workers’ rights and especially for low paid workers in the contract cleaning and security sectors.
“The signing into law of two new EROs will protect the pay and working conditions of thousands of vulnerable workers in these sectors.
“The enactment of the new ERO’s is a victory not just for the workers concerned but also for the wider trade union movement and I commend SIPTU for their efforts in securing this deal.
“This was no easy task in the current climate where we have seen the ongoing erosion of workers’ rights and the growth of exploitative and precarious work practices.
“The abolition of the Joint Labour Committees in 2011 left a gaping void in the area of workers’ rights and today’s announcement goes some way to rectifying that situation.
“The task now is to ensure that all workers especially those on low pay and in precarious work have decent work and a decent wage.
“There is an onus on us all going forward is bring an end to the exploitation and intimidation of workers and to ensure that work pays.
“As today has shown, this will only be achieved by the introduction of robust workers right legislation and with the support of strong and radical trade union movement.”
Local Sinn Féin councillor for the Pembroke-South Dock area Chris Andrews has welcomed the news that the Dublin Docklands Development Authority will contribute to the serious remedial works needed to the Longboat Quay apartments.However, he has called on the Minister for the Environment to stump up for the rest of the costs facing the residents.
Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has called on former Finance Minister Simon Hamilton to appear before the Assembly’s Finance Committee’s inquiry into the sale of NAMA’s northern portfolio.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:
"I welcome Simon Hamilton breaking his silence on the issue of the sale of NAMA's northern loan portfolio.
"Hopefully this signals a willingness to help shed light on an important issue of public interest.
"There is a paper trail, which shows clearly that the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was excluded from a number of meetings on the sale of NAMA’s northern portfolio.
"There is also a so-called Memorandum of Understanding, which was sent to the Finance Minister in Dublin, which wasn’t agreed or consented to by Martin McGuinness or brought before the Executive.
"Martin McGuinness appeared before the Finance Committee last week and referenced the conference call to Michael Noonan.
"Martin McGuinness has also agreed to appear before the Public Accounts Committee in Dublin.
"DUP Finance Ministers Simon Hamilton and Sammy Wilson have yet to agree to go in front of the committees to detail their meetings with Irish government ministers or detail any contact with PIMCO or Cerberus.
"We now know that PIMCO’s bid included a £15 million fixers fee, and the Cerberus bid led to £7.5 million being lodged in a bank account in the Isle of Man.
"Simon Hamilton would have more credibility on the issue if he would agree to appear before the Assembly’s Finance Committee's inquiry into the events leading up to the sale as Martin McGuinness has done and as his own party leader has agreed to do.
"There is also a responsibility on the Minister of Finance and Personnel to fully cooperate with the committee inquiry and all documentation relating to the Pimco, Fortress and Cerberus bids and all matters relating to the NAMA sale should be made available to the inquiry.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD requested in the Dáil today that a expression of solidarity be announced on behalf of Ibrahim Halawa, the Firhouse native who has been jailed for two years in an Egyptian jail and is about to face trial this weekend.
Deputy Crowe addressed Tánaiste Joan Burton and appealed for the House to reach out to Ibrahim’s family at this most difficult time.
Deputy Crowe said:
“Ibrahim Halawa is facing a mass trial this Sunday. If convicted he will be sentenced to death and I’m calling on the Government to discuss this hugely important case.
“The conditions he’s staying in in the jail are horrific. He is sleeping on a mat, the food is at times is inedible and there is the obvious safety concerns. Conditions for family visits are also unacceptable - he’s supposed to get an hour – but his family says that sometimes they get four to five minutes.
“He’s an Irish citizen, he comes from Firhouse, and is facing a possible death sentence if found guilty.
"I want the Dail to discuss his case and send solidarity to him and his family, particularly facing into this difficult weekend.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice and Equality Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD has again called on the government to halt Garda station closures and to increase Garda recruitment.
Speaking on the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015, Deputy Mac Lochlainn welcomed its targeting of serial offenders but pointed out that the structural causes that give rise to the problem of burglaries are a result of the direct decisions made by this government, particularly the closure of rural Garda stations.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“It is this government’s austerity agenda that creates the environment in which crime is increasing: a lack of resources available to people is well known to increase cases of theft and burglary. Similarly misguided decisions to close Garda stations in order to make small savings to the exchequer merely increase the opportunity for criminal activity and add to the uncertainty and fear that the citizens in this state are already experiencing under seven years of austerity.
“As always, it is the poor, the isolated and the vulnerable that suffer most under this government and this Bill, while welcome, does not address the root causes of the increase in criminal activity and the negative social consequences of austerity.”
Deputy Mac Lochlainn also called for an increase in Garda numbers back over the safe threshold of 14,000 and keep the numbers there with ongoing recruitment.
Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has expressed deep concern at the latest crime figures in the wake of two brutal attacks in Louth.
According to the latest CSO recorded crime figures published, the number of assaults, thefts and burglaries has risen over the past year.
Gerry Adams said:
“In light of the recent shocking killing of Martin Mulligan near Dundalk and the brutal stabbing of a pharmacy employee in Drogheda, the latest crime figures are very worrying. CSO figures show an increase of assaults of 10.4%, burglaries rising by 8.4%, and theft rising by 1.8%.
“There has been a continuous cutting back of vital resources that the Gardaí require to do their job. I recently called on the Minister for Justice to increase Garda numbers which have fallen over the last five years.
“Recent parliamentary questions to the Minister show that a town as large as Drogheda has only five community Gardaí. There is a direct correlation between these figures and the closure of rural Garda stations and lack of investment in Garda resources.
“Communities right across the country are paying the price for Government policy. The Government must increase investment in Garda personnel and resources to deal with the erosion of public confidence in the Garda's ability to tackle serious crime.”
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has accused the government of a lack of transparency when it comes to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Ireland. Speaking during debate on the motion establishing measures which would allow Ireland take refugees from Italy and Greece, Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:
“The fact is we know nothing about what is planned for these people once they get here. The entire process is cloaked in indifference and bureaucracy, and lacks transparency.
“There has been no engagement with the public or with communities on the ground. Not one of the NGO’s working with refugees, immigrants, and with people in Direct Provision have been consulted by the Department of Justice or by the agencies who work in this area.
“The recent track record of this State in supporting and protecting asylum seekers is shameful. Since 2003, Ireland is the only State in the European Union to opt out of EU Directives laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers.
“For 15 years, the State has placed asylum seekers into the discredited Direct Provision System, condemning them to years in limbo and denying them the right to work. This history of inaction and indifference to the plight of asylum seekers has been the hallmark of this government and previous governments.
“It is alarming that traumatised people fleeing war and destruction may now find themselves and their children in what can only be described as a form of Neo-Direct Provision.
“It’s like déjà vu that on the back of two Reports – one from the Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions and the other from the Working Group established by your government to look into improvements to the protection process, including Direct provision, that we are now looking at the possibility that the system is about to grow and expand as part of this resettlement regime.
“People should be outraged at the news that people, who are already making huge profits from the lucrative Direct Provision business, are about to be awarded contracts to house refugees in hotels such as the Hazel Hotel in Monasterevin, and in premises in Cork and Kerry.
“The government has not provided any additional resources to already stretched schools, hospitals, and publics service providers who will be expected to cater to these people.
“What message does this send to people who have already spent years in Direct Provision and who are desperately hanging on to the tiniest bit of hope in order to survive with some morsel of human dignity and hope.
“The extension of Direct Provision creates a hierarchy, not just of refugees and immigrants, but of desperation and of uncertainty. The bottom line is the growth and extension of Direct Provision is not acceptable.”
Sinn Féin Leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams has described today’s HIQA report on inspections at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda as "shocking" and called for a the serious threat to patient safety to be urgently addressed.
Gerry Adams said:
“This is a worrying report containing numerous instances of non-compliance with national standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital. It is unacceptable that areas of the hospital deemed ‘high risk’ during an unannounced inspection in June 2015 continued to give cause for concern during a follow up inspection in July 2015.
“The most troubling aspect of this report for patients and their families is that HIQA is not satisfied that risks in relation to legionella, the bacteria responsible for Legionnaire’s Disease, are being effectively addressed at the hospital.
“This poses a serious threat to patients with already compromised immune systems and is a persistent issue despite the hospital’s investment in a new water treatment system 18 months ago. This must immediately be addressed and all necessary funding must be made available to rectify this situation.
Commenting on other issues identified in the report, Gerry Adams said:
“It is shocking that this report identifies issues in relation to hand hygiene, ward cleanliness, availability of cleaning equipment, location of wash hand basins and alcohol rub, dust control and preparation of intravenous medicines in unclean environments among other issues.
“The report does state that Our Lady of Lourdes hospital is proactively addressing these myriad issues but progress is undoubtedly being hampered by the fact that bed occupancy is continuously in excess of 100%.
“Simply, it is practically impossible for the hospital to comprehensively address these infection control issues while there is such inadequate bed spacing between patients. HIQA reports that staff, patients and visitors do not have proper access to wash hand basins due to overcrowding of wards.
“A new patient accommodation unit is due to be completed in 2017, which I fear is too far away for those currently residing in Our Lady of Lourdes.”
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has said a British withdrawal from the European Union would have negative implications for Ireland, north and south.
Speaking to MEPs at a GUE/NGL study visit in Carrickmacross, Mr Kearney said”
"A full or even partial British withdrawal would represent a setback for political and economic progress and the process of democratic transformation in the north.
"It would lead to the prospect of reinforced partition with the potential for customs checkpoints, trading tariffs, and adverse knock-on effects for all-island economic activity and cooperation.
"We could see the loss of Common Agriculture & Fisheries Policy payments to those in our agri-economy alongside the loss of EU structural funding which has been central to small, medium enterprise development, community regeneration and government programmes.
"A British exit would negatively affect local business, and the potential for growing the private sector and promoting enterprise and growth. This would undermine the north as a region attractive to foreign investment and as a gateway point for US investors and investment to mainland Europe itself.
"Sinn Féin will oppose any attempts by the British government to withdraw from Europe or make its relationship more conditional."
Sinn Féin MLA Ian Milne has welcomed a £1 million funding announcement for the building of a Seamus Heaney Arts and Literary Centre in Bellaghy.
Mr Milne said;
"I welcome today's announcement from deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín that £980,000 will be spent on the building of a Seamus Heaney Arts and Literary Centre in Bellaghy.
"The late Seamus Heaney is rightly regarded as a literary giant and his work is loved and celebrated around the world.
"Given the fact that much of Seamus Heaney's work is rooted around Bellaghy, it is entirely fitting that this Arts and Literary Centre celebrating his life and work be built here.
"Not only is this a welcome boost for the local area, it will also increase tourism by attracting fans of Seamus Heaney from around the world to county Derry."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has spoken of the catastrophic implications that a British exit from the European Union would have on the island of Ireland.
Speaking yesterday as chair of Brexit & the Repeal of the Human Rights Act as part of the GUE NGL Autumn conference hosted by Sinn Féin in Carrickmacross, Ms Anderson said,
“As well as the dreadful economic, social and political implications of a Brexit on Ireland, the proposed referendum is profoundly undemocratic.
“The referendum, as it is planned, will allow the views of English voters to dictate the future relationship of the North, and therefore Ireland as a whole, with Europe.
“In the current economic climate we should be focused upon building the island economy. The withdrawal of Britain from Europe will split the island economy and fracture border communities.
Ms Anderson continues,
“A BREXIT would reinforce partition, reinforcing the border by an international frontier with passport checkpoints and customs controls, hindering free movement and disrupting the lives of nearly a million people living in the border region.
“A BREXIT would mean no more Single Farm Payment or Rural Development Fund, no Structural Funds and no PEACE Funding, with high human, social and economic costs.
“It is also unlikely that the British would replace the direct funding currently received directly from the EU. EU funding from 2007-13 was worth £2.4 billion to the North.
“Sinn Féin will continue to oppose and campaign against any attempts by the British government to withdraw from Europe or make its relationship more conditional.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has commented on the publication today by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) of their reports following unannounced inspections in Beaumont Hospital, Rotunda Maternity Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
“I welcome these reports from HIQA. The aim of these unannounced inspections was to assess hygiene standards adherence in the hospitals as observed by the inspection team and experienced by patients at any given time. They focused specifically on observation of the day-to-day delivery of services and in particular on environment and equipment cleanliness and compliance with hand hygiene best practice.
“I welcome the fact that there have been improvements in all 3 hospitals with significant progress reported in Beaumont and Rotunda Maternity Hospital. They undoubtedly have to continue their efforts to sustain this improvement and I agree with HIQA’s finding that states that there is potential for other hospitals to learn from the approaches adopted.
“However, I am extremely concerned to learn that a number of high risks were identified in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (OLOL), Drogheda. Despite some improvements, which staff at OLOL deserve great credit for, there are serious concerns and serious risks in relation to maintenance, hand hygiene practice, hand hygiene facilities and ward infrastructure. One explanation that is given for the non-resolution of maintenance is the high bed occupancy rate and it goes without saying that poor hygiene is essentially linked with overcrowding and staff shortages. OLOL and all hospitals in the RCSI Group need to be supported to ensure better address of all of these serious issues.”
Speaking today following a meeting with parents whose children cannot access school places as they are not baptised, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien called on the Minister for Education and Skills to move immediately to repeal the legislation that allows this to take place.
The Cork North Central TD said;
“I met with parents today whose children are being excluded from their local schools on the basis of not having a baptismal cert and it is shameful that this is going on in 2015.
“Children should not have to embark on a two hour commute across cities to get to Junior Infants because the state legally allows the religious patrons to discriminate against them for being the wrong religion or for having no religion.
“Sinn Féin is committed to repealing the legislation that allows this discrimination to continue, including Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act.
“It isn’t a big ask that children be allowed attend their local school.
“The Minister has a responsibility to do this and if the Government have the political will they could use forthcoming admissions legislation as a way of doing so. Sinn Féin will table amendments to this affect, but this is the Minister’s responsibility.
“I have requested a debate with the Minister on the issue and I am hopeful that this will be selected. People should not be forced to contemplate having children christened purely to get them in to school. This discrimination must end.”
Sinn Féin Junior Minister Jennifer McCann has said it is vital we have an age friendly society, which meets the needs of older people.
Speaking at the launch of the Commissioner for Older People's report on the International Day of Older Persons, Ms McCann said;
"We have an increasingly ageing population with more and more people living longer.
"It is important we have an age friendly society where older people are valued and supported to live actively and to their full potential.
"Older people make a huge contribution to society, both in terms of their life experience and as role models for younger generations.
"For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to ensure the rights and entitlements of older people are recognised and their dignity is respected."
Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has called on the government to let the public know if it is planning to apply to the Commission to opt out of growing GM crops.
Boylan, a member of the European Parliament's Environment committee said:
“The 3rd of October is the deadline for the Irish government to apply to opt out of growing GM crops.
“Scotland and the North have both recently applied to opt out, so I ask, what is the Irish government waiting for?
“The list of countries opting out of growing these crops is growing and includes; Greece, Latvia, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Slovenia and Lithuania. Hungary, with Luxembourg and Wales are expected to formally apply before the deadline too.
“The majority of Irish citizens do not want GM crops grown in this country and the long-term impacts are still unknown.
“Ireland’s food sector contributes hugely to our economy and its excellent reputation for high-quality food produce which must be protected.
“It’s time for the government to announce its intentions, time for prevarication is over.”
Sinn Féin MLA and Assembly Finance Committee chair Daithí McKay has said NAMA's refusal to come before the committee's inquiry is deeply frustrating.
Speaking after attending a meeting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, Mr McKay said:
"The co-operation between representatives of the Assembly's Finance Committee and the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee to date has been valuable in shedding light on the events leading up to the sale of NAMA's northern loan portfolio.
"Despite the huge public interest in this issue, the efforts of the committee have been frustrated by some key witnesses.
"The continued reluctance of NAMA to appear before the Committee is regrettable and deeply frustrating.
"NAMA and others cannot continue to use the excuse of the ongoing criminal investigation as a reason for not coming before the committee.
"Invitations to oral hearings have been issued to the First Minister, former Finance Ministers, former Permanent Secretaries, former Special Advisers and members of the Advisory Committee.
"The committee is expecting that all of these witnesses will willingly make themselves available.
"It would be useful to see increased cooperation between the PAC in the Dáil and the Assembly's Finance Committee as we continue to explore this important public interest issue."
Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh took the Tánaiste to task during Leaders’ Question today on the failure of the government to protect tenants and homeowners from fire hazards due to a failure to adequately legislate for fire-safety regulation, allowing developers to build without appropriate checks.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Yesterday my party colleague raised with the Taoiseach the appalling prospect that up to 600 who were living in Longboat Quay will be forced out of their homes today unless they come up with €4million by today.
“These are the latest innocent victims of reckless and unscrupulous property developers who in their drive for profit have and are playing Russian Roulette with the lives of families by building substandard, unsafe housing in the property frenzy in particular during the “boom” years.
“The residents of Longboat Quay are now having to pay and suffer because of lack of planning regulations and enforcement. They were exploited by Fianna Fáil developers like Bernard McNamara and others in the past. These are the same people who collapsed regeneration programmes across the city.
“You are facilitating that Tánaiste by not bringing in proper legislation Why have you not acted on the systematic failure by government, by local authorities, to follow up on reports that some of the complexes in this city and this country that are too dangerous to live in?
“Minister I don’t think you have manage to persuade anybody that the matter will be resolved because you have just kicked it down to touch until such time as Dublin City Council have full charge of the docklands. Why not take initiative yourself? We do not want to repeat the long drawn saga that was Priory Hall or many others.
“Minister do you agree that there is a need for legislation to ensure that surveyors, architects and in particular planners can be held to account for their failures? Will you commit to a comprehensive audit of entire new build in the Docklands area since 1990s and then extended to the rest of the city and country? Can you ensure that in the future every single building in this country will comply fully with fire regulations?”
Sinn Féin’s Seanad Education Spokesperson, Kathryn Reilly, this morning reiterated calls for the Minister for Education to provide funding to the Holy Family School in Cootehill for new accommodation. Senator Reilly called on the government to use the newly announced capital plan to provide the funding.
Senator Reilly said:
“The Holy Family School in Cootehill is still in limbo with respect to funding for the provision of new school accommodation. Indeed, since I came into the Seanad and this issue was raised with me, we have been getting the same reply and there seems to be no commitment to have financial provision made for this project.
“I have raised this issue here in the House this year alone through Commencement Matters on 11th and 25th June 2015. I wrote a letter to Minister on 2nd July 2015 and got a response on 8th July 2015.
“The stock answer from the Department is that priority is afforded to where ‘population growth has been identified’ and that there is a ‘demographic challenge facing the education system’.
“The Holy Family School in Cootehill caters for pupils with severe and profound learning disabilities, moderate and multiple learning disabilities and for pupils with autism. This September the student population has increased again. If you look at the growth in school figures over the last number of years, the figure keeps rising and in terms of the new school and planning the school has had to change the goalposts repeatedly to cater for the demand for places they experience every year.
“I want to ask what needs to happen so that the project can get funding? What is your definition of demographic need or population growth? Parents don’t have the luxury of being able to pick and choose where to send their children. The catchment area for this school is beyond a parish or town or even one single county. It serves a number of counties and parents have to send their children here to receive the high standards of education the teachers and staff there provide.
“This is a particular demographic with a real and pressing need. The growth in demand for places every year is real. You need to consider the need for wheelchairs for example and other specialised equipment that are in use in this school. The current space is being used to max capacity and it is unfair for the children to have to be taught in that environment. The teachers, staff and parents are doing their best but it is now time for the Department to intervene in a real way.
“The Government this week announced €3.8 billion in capital funding for education.
“Speaking on the Budget in the Seanad yesterday the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said of health, education and social protection that ‘our commitment to our citizens in these areas requires that we consider these trends into the future and plan accordingly’. He later spoke of ‘our prioritisation of special educational needs’.
“The Government now needs to put its money where its mouth is and use the capital funding to provide the new accommodation for this school and these students. The need is there, the trend is there and according to the government, prioritisation is there. So respectfully I ask that once and for all the funding be put there."
Responding to the Minister's comments in the chamber, Senator Reilly said:
“The Minister has acknowledged that enrolments have increased by 24% over the past five years. The demographic growth is there. The goalposts keep changing because of increasing year on year demand, which has led to the request to increase the brief to provide for an additional 5 permanent classrooms. There can be no further delay on providing funding and the recently announced capital plan should be used, despite the school not having been included on the five year construction plan in 2012."