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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said leaked TTIP negotiation texts will further raise public fears about the far-reaching US-EU trade deal.

The Midlands/North West MEP added that the leaks also highlight the extreme secrecy and lack of democracy surrounding TTIP negotiations.

He said any new Irish Government should stand up for Irish workers, farmers and consumers by making clear its opposition to the secret nature of TTIP negotiations.

Matt Carthy said:

“The leak of TTIP negotiation texts will further raise public fears about this far reaching trade agreement.

“The texts reveal US demands on the EU to break promises on environmental protection.

“US proposals include an obligation on the EU to inform American companies, in advance, of planned regulations, and to allow them the an input into framing EU regulations.

“Under these proposals, US companies could influence the content of EU laws at various points in the regulatory process.

“The leaks also highlight the extreme secrecy and lack of democratic input in TTIP negotiations.

“TTIP will have severe negative consequences for food standards, public health, workers’ rights, small business and farming in Ireland.

“Despite this, public and political understanding of what is actually at stake is incredibly low.

“Most of the information we have about TTIP comes from leaked documents with the remainder emanating from various PR exercises of the Commission and a compliant Irish Government.

“The more that is revealed about this deal the greater the opposition is becoming in Ireland and across the EU.

“Any new Irish Government must stand up for Irish workers, farmers and consumers by making clear its opposition to the secret nature of TTIP negotiations.”

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Speaking today at Connolly House in Belfast in relation to the film 'Django Unchained' and his comments on twitter of the connection between African America struggle for justice and equality and Irish Nationalists Gerry Adams said,

"Django Unchained is a powerful film which highlights the injustices suffered by African Americans through its main character Django.

"In my tweets I described him as a ‘Ballymurphy n……‘ and ‘an uppity Fenian.’

"I have acknowledged that the use of the n-word was inappropriate.

"That is why I deleted the tweet.

"I apologise for any offence caused.

"I stand over the context and main point of my tweet about the Django which were the parallels between people in struggle. 

"Like African Americans Irish nationalists were denied basic rights.

"The penal laws, Cromwell’s regime, and partition are evidence of that.

"In our own time, like African Americans nationalists in the north, including those from Ballymurphy and west Belfast, were denied the right to vote; the right to work; the right to a home; and were subject to draconian laws.

"This changed because we stood up for ourselves. We need to continue to do that.

"The civil rights movement here, of which I was a founding member, was inspired and based its approach on the civil rights campaign in the USA.

"I have long been inspired by Harriet Tubman; Frederick Douglas; Rosa Parks; Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who stood up for themselves and for justice."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD commenting tonight on tweets he posted earlier in respect of the film Django said:

“My tweets about the film Django have triggered a lot of interest. Anyone who has seen the film, as I did last evening, and who is familiar with the plight of nationalists in the north until recently, would know that my tweets about the film and the use of the N-word were ironic and not intended to cause any offence whatsoever.

“Attempts to suggest that I am a racist are without credibility. I am opposed to racism and have been all my life.

“The fact is that nationalists in the north, including those from Ballymurphy, were treated in much the same way as African Americans until we stood up for ourselves.

“If anyone is genuinely offended by my use of the N-word they misunderstand or misrepresent the context in which it was used. For this reason I deleted the tweets.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has expressed his “deep sadness at the death of Fr Daniel J Berrigan” who has died aged 94.

Gerry Adams said:

“Fr Berrigan came to public notice during the Vietnam War protests in the United States.  He was arrested and imprisoned for burning draft cards. As a believer in non-violent protest he frequently found himself in confrontation with the US authorities and was arrested many times.

“Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip were committed pacifists. They spoke out against poverty and racism and militarism. They were strong opponents of nuclear weapons.

“In 1980 the Berrigan brothers visited the north and met relatives of those being held in the H-Blocks and Armagh Women’s Prison who were at that time on the blanket protest. 

“The authorities refused the brothers entry to the prisons to visit the political prisoners.

“I want to extend my sincere condolences to Fr Berrigan’s family and to the Jesuit order of which he was a member.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

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Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy has called on SDLP leader Colum Eastwood to come out from under the bed and withdraw the empty promises made in his party's election manifesto.

Mr Murphy said; 

"The SDLP's election manifesto is a piece of fiction based on uncosted, unrealistic and hollow policies. 

"Sinn Féin's manifesto on the other hand is costed and our commitments are deliverable. 

"If Colum Eastwood still stands by his party's manifesto then he should come out publicly and say so instead of hiding behind others. 

"I am challenging him to give the electorate the answers they need. 

"Colum Eastwood needs to get out from under the bed and stand by his manifesto or withdraw it."

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Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan has said that it should be a top priority of any future government to ensure that every citizen and business, regardless of location, would have access to high speed broadband by 2020.

The Offaly deputy said that it was unacceptable for the ongoing Government to talk about delays at this point when the people of rural Ireland had waited long enough for access to quality, high-speed internet access, which would open up communities and business opportunities.

Deputy Nolan said:

“Under the Fine Gael/ Labour Government, local communities have been disempowered. Infrastructure has deteriorated as a result of severe cuts to regional and local budgets; affecting roads, broadband delivery and, most noticeably in recent times, flood protection.

“Sinn Féin wants to make rural Ireland a sustainable place to live and work, where the quality of life is matched by the quality of public services; a place where young educated graduates have the opportunity to stay and build their future and a place that welcomes back emigrants, including those forced to leave over recent years.

“We will use the budget room available over the next five years to invest heavily in capital projects, to deliver tens of thousands of jobs and to fill infrastructural needs in water, housing, schools, health, broadband and transport. Our current spending will also create jobs in frontline services and act as a stimulus for job creation in the private sector.

“We will create a digital hub in Galway City through the provision of sufficient broadband levels and IDA/government incentives. This hub will become an economic driver in the West and could contribute to rebalancing economic regional development.

“It is imperative that we open up rural Ireland to the benefits that something as simple as quality, high-speed internet access can provide. While it may not be a panacea for the neglect of successive governments, it will at least give our communities and local businesses a fighting chance.”

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Sinn Fein North Belfast Assembly Candidate Gerry Kelly has described those who removed Sinn Féin election posters on Cavehill and Oldpark Roads as anti-democratic.

Mr Kelly said:

"The removal or interference with election posters is an attack on the democratic process. Political parties should be allowed to go about legitimate campaigning without intimidation or attack. It is significant that those responsible fear the rise of Sinn Féin as only our posters were removed.

"Those who did this obviously feel it will have some sort of negative impact on our campaign. 

"I can assure them Sinn Féin has faced this type of anti-democratic attack at every election that I can remember and it has not prevented the continued growth of our party. 

"The theft of our posters will have no effect on our campaign other than to make us more determined." 

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Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chiilin has condemned the shooting of a young man in
the Henry Street area of north Belfast.

Ms NI Chuilin said;

"This shooting of a 19 year old man was wrong and I totally condemn it.

"There is no place for this type of behaviour in our society.

"Those responsible do not represent the views of the community in North
Belfast.

"I would call on anyone with information on this incident to bring it
forward to the PSNI."

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the introduction of lower EU roaming charges for phone users but said that the charges could and should have been abolished by now.

The lower charges – which apply also to Irish citizens crossing into the North – are coming into force ahead of the planned abolition of roaming fees across the EU next year.  An earlier position of the European Parliament would have seen the charges abolished last December but this was extended by national governments on the Council of Ministers with the support of Fine Gael and Labour. 

Matt Carthy said:

"Roaming charges have been a severe nuisance and injustice to thousands of people living in the border region who daily commute to work daily across the border, resulting in increased phone bills.

“It is also places a barrier for business start-ups and cross border co-operation as well as those who travel across Europe on holidays.

"Sinn Féin has campaigned strongly at EU level for the abolition of roaming charges and while I welcome the latest development, it is regrettable that charges will continue for another year.

"We will continue to work towards the earliest possible abolition of phone roaming charges and to end discrimination particularly against border residents."

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Commenting on the release of the second interim report of the Commission of Investigation into IBRC, Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Deputy Pearse Doherty has stated;

“Firstly, it beggars belief that the second interim report was released late on Friday afternoon, on the same day that a deal relating to the formation of a new government was being announced. It seems that the government attempted to orchestrate an information dump in the hope that the report would not garner the attention that it deserves.

“The delays pertaining to the commission are not acceptable and the stalling comes at a considerable cost to the people of this state. It is a deeply frustrating thing to observe as Sinn Féin has asked hundreds of parliamentary questions relating to the establishment of IBRC, the actions of IBRC, its liquidation and the appointment of the special liquidators from KPMG. We have always said that IBRC was no ordinary bank and that the public funding of its core elements meant that Irish citizens deserved answers to its operations.


"Enda Kenny was fond of saying that we pay our way. However, with IBRC customers his government made an exception by giving €1.8 billion worth of write-downs. We do not know why this decision was made. Ten months after the Commission of Investigation was established we still do not know why.

“Justice Cregan said that the legislation required to allow the Commission to do its job has not been brought before the House. Sinn Féin called for emergency legislation to be brought before the House in November. We are still waiting.

“Now that Fianna Fáil is on board it remains to be seen whether Micheal Martin is ready to jump in and shake the trees of what is also Fianna Fáil's recent past. The accounts of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide continue to cast a shadow over this state. Fianna Fáil gave the guarantee, Fine Gael gave the write-downs. It will be left to the genuine opposition in the Dáil to push for the answers.

“Sinn Féin will continue to press this issue, as we will in relation to the write-downs relating to NAMA."

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney said today that the momentum brought about by the centenary of 1916 should be used to build republicanism and the politics of social change. 

Mr Kearney said; 

"In recent days tens of thousands of Irish people and international visitors celebrated, remembered and commemorated the 2016 centenary with imagination, colour and great pride. 

"2016 is not only a year to mark special anniversaries but to harness these as opportunities to build the politics of Irish republicanism and social change.

"This is a year to popularise the vision and spirit of the Rising, and to encourage even greater levels of support for republican objectives and the transformation of Irish society. 

"Against the backdrop of increased republican representation in the Dáil and Seanad, next Thursday 5th May presents another major opportunity to increase the electoral support, and the political strength of Sinn Féin in the North. 

"Every republican in Ireland should be organising to achieve that goal."

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Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard has expressed his sympathies following the death of a 60-year-old man from carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Mr Hazzard said:

"The death of a 60-year-old man in a house on the Castlewellan Road in Newcastle is a tragedy. 

"It has shocked and saddened the local community. 

"I want to express my condolences to the family and friends of this man at this difficult time. 

"Five other people, including two paramedics, were also taken to hospital as a result of this incident and I wish them a full and speedy recovery. 

"The authorities must now carry out an investigation to find out exactly what happened in this incident."

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has urged the outgoing government to review again the fuel allowance, which ended on April 1st. He made the call due to serious concerns regarding the impact of the current long, cold spell on vulnerable families and individuals.

Deputy Crowe claimed that 2,800 people died last year from medical conditions that are directly linked to fuel poverty.

The fuel allowance payment from the Department Social Protection has a cut-off date of the 1st of April but the Dublin South West TD believes that it doesn't take cognisance of weather conditions.

Arguing that the allowance should be extended until the end of May, or until the cold period passes, Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“There are between 200,000 and 400,000 households in chronic fuel poverty in this state, including the elderly and those with a disability, who more susceptible to the cold. These groups have a greater dependency on the fuel allowance.

“The current payment is €22 a week, but it begins on the 1st of January ends on the 1st of April, which is far too soon. The fuel allowance support needs to be extended to reflect Ireland’s current cold conditions and weather patterns in recent years. The payment from the Department Social Protection isn’t fit for purpose and needs to be more flexible. Irish weather patterns, in recent years, also suggest that this payment period doesn’t reflect the need or reality of many households in fuel poverty.

“The island of Ireland currently has the highest levels of excess winter mortality in Europe, with an estimated 2,800 excess deaths during each winter.

“Research has also shown that people over the age of 65 are seven times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of cold temperatures, compared to a younger age group.

“Fuel poverty occurs when a household needs to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on energy in order to maintain an acceptable level of heat throughout the home.

“Hospitals and Accident and Emergency wards across the country are currently inundated with people suffering from pneumonia, hypothermia and other severe bronchial conditions.

“Surely, this should be another indicator that it would be a rational decision to extend the fuel allowance scheme to those in need.

“I am calling on the outgoing government and the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to do the right thing They should, as a matter of urgency, agree an extension of the fuel allowance scheme till the end of May or until this cold period passes.”

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Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd has challenged the SDLP leader to explain how he intends to finance the claims made in his party's manifesto. 

Mr O'Dowd said; 

"The SDLP, despite being publicly caught out with a huge gap in their manifesto in terms of costings, are still making claims they simply can't deliver. 

"They are promising all kinds of everything but with no explanation on where the money is coming from. 

"It's high time that SDLP leader Colum Eastwood came clean and explained to voters how he plans to fund these pledges. 

"He also needs to state once and for all if he and his party are intending to sit on the next Executive or are laying the ground for walking away from their responsibilities and into opposition."

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Commenting on the announcement of a partnership agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil this evening, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has said “Sinn Féin will fulfil their role as leaders of the opposition and hold the new conservative Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil partnership to account”.

Teachta Adams said:

“Fianna Fáil, who have maintained that their mandate was to put Enda Kenny out of office, have by all accounts agreed this evening to a deal to put Fine Gael back into office.

“Whatever deal has been reached will I have no doubt fallen well short of delivering the change and investment required to tackle the housing and homelessness crises and fix our health service, and will not bring about a fairer, more equal society, as Fianna Fáil claimed to want to deliver in their manifesto.

“It will also not deliver what citizens demanded on water - which is the outright abolition of water charges and the dismantling of Irish Water. .

“Sinn Féin are very clear in stating that we will hold Fianna Fáil equally accountable for every decision taken, and those not taken, by an incoming Government.

"In deciding to prop up a Fine Gael administration, Fianna Fáil have forfeited their leadership of the opposition. Sinn Féin will however fulfil our obligations as opposition leaders and hold the new Conservative Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil partnership to account”.

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed a decision by the EU Commission to legally challenge the British Government on its introduction two years ago of a road toll for trucks because it discriminates against "non-UK hauliers".

Matt Carthy said:

"The decision by the EU Commission to challenge the legality of Britain’s HGV levy charge is very welcome.

"This development comes following similar concerns of a proposed German levy which is believed to contravene EU rules.

"Both of these levies discriminate against so-called foreign or non-domestic drivers. The levy introduced by the British government presents a particular threat in Ireland where haulage and transport firms naturally operate on a cross-border basis.

"Sinn Fein MEPs had raised this issue with the EU Commission, while our TDs and MLAs had raised it in the Dáil and the Assembly on numerous occasions.

"As a representative for an Irish border region I know the importance of developing the all-Ireland economy, this levy is a real obstacle to its delivery.

"There must be a united voice from across the political spectrum in Ireland calling on the British government to abandon the levy immediately rather than protracting a legal process with the commission."

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has voiced her concerns regarding the adverse impact the new EU Mortgage Credit Directive is having on citizens across the North of Ireland.

Ms Anderson stated:

"It has been brought to my attention through my colleague Phil Flanagan that residents of the North working in the South of Ireland are being refused Mortgages due to aspects of the new Mortgage Credit Directive.

"The directive has introduced a new category of “foreign currency loans” which means Northerner residents working in the South have their applications classified as a foreign currency mortgage due to the different currencies making approval extremely difficult.

"Ironically, the Directive was designed to ease the provision of mortgages across frontiers but in fact it's achieved the exact opposite.

"While the Directive does not prohibit lenders from providing a mortgage and some providers are continuing to do so, it is now a commercial decision based on the risks associated with currency fluctuation and a number of other cost factors as to whether or not a mortgage is approved.

"Many lenders are simply refusing to accept sterling applications because of the burdensome administrative procedures involved.  Irish people should not be punished or denied the opportunity to own their homes because of an artificial border.

"It is quite clear that Directive needs to be changed in order to address the unintentional obstacles it is creating for thousands of Irish cross-border workers.

“My Sinn Féin colleague Matt Carthy and myself have made a number of representations on the issue including writing to the European Commission raising the matter and requesting an urgent response.

"Sinn Féin will continue to work to ensure that all impediments to a fully functioning all-Ireland economy are broken down.

"We are the only party in Europe and in Ireland who are committed to delivering for the citizens of Ireland on an all-Ireland 32 county basis."

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has welcomed the news that the DTNI has recommended the establishment of Development Trust for Lough Neagh.

 Ms O’Neill said,

 “As I come to the end of the current assembly mandate I'm delighted that we have made another significant step forward in bringing together the many competing interests on Lough Neagh.

 “Lough Neagh is the biggest body of fresh water on the island and the lough itself and the lands around the banks are provide a way of living for many communities.

 “I was very passionate as the rural minister to ensure that we brought together all the interests on the Lough to be part of the conversation on how we can maximise the benefits and address the challenges, to establish the merits of public ownership and to look at how all of this could be properly managed, both in the short term and the longer term.

 “The consultation itself involved over 300 participants including local community, farmer, fishermen and business users.

 “It is important that the lough is protected including the habitat, economy, tourism and recreation safety, and the need for proper management of the Lough.

 “I welcome this significant step forward in recommending that a development trust is established and I look forward to the day where the lough is returned to public ownership, so that it can be developed for the entire community who use and live by it.”

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News that the Department of Communications has admitted that the provision of high speed broadband would be postponed again, this time until 2020, is indicative of the attitude of government to rural Ireland, said local TD Martin Kenny of Sinn Féin, who represents Sligo, Leitrim and parts of Cavan and Donegal.

Deputy Kenny said:

“Nowadays, if you don’t have reliable broadband you cannot function in a modern society. People are hindered from doing business and students cannot avail of distance learning or even function within university systems in which they submit their assignments online.

“There are people in these parts who have broadband speeds of between half a Mb and one Mb. They might manage to send a small message or look on Facebook, but sending or downloading anything of any size is impossible.

“Doing business is almost impossible. I know of someone employing 30 people in a rural area of West Cavan, whose business demands that she participate in on-line bidding for product. She has to travel to the nearest town to get a signal and even then, it is low speed.

“Talk about operating with your hands tied behind your back. We need jobs and services in rural Ireland and people trying to do that are handicapped by the lack of broadband.

“From next year, farmers will be obliged to apply for their basic payments online too. If this is to be implemented, how does the Minister envisage it happening with the lack of service that exists at the moment.

“These days, and especially for the younger generation, not being online can mean being socially isolated.

“It is not good enough that rural Ireland comes last again. Broadband is an essential service and rural areas should not be left behind. The provision of proper fibre broadband across rural Ireland would be the game-changer in the creation of a rural economy and local jobs.” 

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Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has this morning published a terms of reference for a commission to establish the best public ownership model to replace Irish Water.

Deputy Cullinane said his party will send the terms of reference to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil with a recommendation that they be used for the commission that those two parties have agreed to form.

Speaking from Leinster House today Deputy Cullinane said;

“Irish Water is a failed entity. It has no public support. Water charges have been given their marching orders from the voting public.

“It is vitally important that any new body established to replace Irish Water has the full confidence of the public to manage and deliver our water and sewerage services and to fund and govern those services appropriately.

“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have agreed to establish a commission on this and Sinn Féin is today publishing what we believe should be the terms of reference for that committee.

“In order for any new body to have full public confidence water charges must be gone and gone permanently.”

Terms of reference for Independent Commission on Irish water services:

The aim of this Commission is to ensure that there is public trust and confidence in the arrangements for financing and delivering water and sewerage services for all citizens in this State.

To independently advise the Houses of the Oireachtas on the level of exchequer funding required  following the abolition of domestic charges and related options to finance the State water and sewerage services now and in the future.

To advise on the level of investment in our water and sewerage infrastructure needed to deliver quality, water and sewage infrastructure in a cost effective and efficient manner. 

To bring forward an organisational model to replace Irish Water which will be publicly owned, protects the public interest and complies with EU standards.

The Independent Commission will consist of a chairperson and no less than 4 additional members and should as far as possible collectively reflect the following elements:

- Independence

- Expertise and knowledge within Ireland North or South, or international.

- Public administration

- Regulatory, operational/management and environmental expertise in utility;

- Economic and academic expertise;

- Workers rights and consumer interest expertise

 Process would be completed and presented to the Oireachtas within 9 months of being established.  It would have an independent secretariat.

The public ownership model options presented by the Commission to replace Irish Water would come before the Dáil and Seanad and be enshrined in legislation once agreed.

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