Today, Sinn Féin Dublin MEP, Lynn Boylan participated in a delegation of the EU Catalan Platform for Dialogue in Berlin.
The purpose of the delegation was to meet with the exiled President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont to receive an update on the current situation. The Platform then hosted an International Press Conference.
Ms Boylan addressed the press conference and called on the European Institutions to facilitate constructive dialogue between the Spanish and Catalans, saying:
“The Spanish State are undermining fundamental rights and the EU cannot simply sit on the sidelines while the situation continues to deteriorate. By issuing European arrest warrants for political purposes, the Spanish Government have directly involved other Member States, this is deeply concerning and the EU is in a position to mediate dialogue to move the situation forward.
“Today, the Catalan Government have successfully elected an interim President, therefore the EU Catalan Platform for Dialogue believe that the Spanish Government cannot justify a continuation of direct rule. The platform also called for the release of political prisoners and the dropping of the charges against those in exile. The election of a President and the formation of a new government should be welcomed and seen as an opportunity. The EU Institutions should seize that opportunity and facilitate constructive dialogue without delay.
“We are witnessing the erosion of fundamental human rights in a number of Member States and two of those Member State’s ruling parties are in the same political group as Fine Gael, the European People’s Party. There is no doubt that, due to the fact that this is the largest group in the European Parliament, any solution to the situation is being impeded. It is imperative that Fine Gael MEPs encourage their Spanish Popular Party colleagues to engage in meaningful dialogue and respect fundamental rights.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams today called again on the Irish government to expel the Israeli Ambassador and to formally recognise the state of Palestine.
Speaking in the Dáil on the recent mass killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces, Teachta Adams said:
“The refusal of the Cabinet to do no more than issue a call for an independent investigation into the dreadful events in Palestine is in reality a call to do nothing.
“We are all aware of the mass killings of Palestinian protestors. The government has rightly repudiated the Israeli government actions. But the Taoiseach claims that to expel the Israeli Ambassador is against the principle and imperative of dialogue. Not true.
“Recently, the government expelled a Russian diplomat not for any alleged wrong doing in this state but in solidarity with the British government.
“So, the Taoiseach and the Minister should stop finding excuses for not taking positive action that gives meaningful expression to the rejection by the Irish people of the treatment of the people of Palestine.
“There is no excuse for the government not formally recognising the state of Palestine as agreed by the Dáil and Seanad. If the Irish don’t stand by the Palestinians who will. If we as a former colony, still occupied in part by a government we don’t want; if we with our history of freedom fighters and resistance and our peace process; if we don’t uphold the rights of the Palestinians who will?
“Their land is being slowly stolen from them. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers live on Palestinian land in violation of UN resolutions. Their water rights are taken. They live in poverty and disadvantage, with no rights to freedom of movement. Our government’s stance is a cop out.
“What is Sinn Féin asking for? We are asking for our government to demand that the international community uphold international law. The muted words of condemnation are insufficient.
“I have visited the Middle East five times in recent years. I have spoken to Israeli leaders and citizens and Palestinian leaders and citizens. I have been in Gaza City and the west Bank. I have been in the refugee camps, spoken to children released after years in Israeli prisons, spoken to their parents who despair at the neglect of the international community, and walked along the abhorrent separation wall which cuts Palestinian families off from their land.
“Those Palestinian academics and others who organised the recent series of protests to mark 70 years of the Nakba, took as their example the non-violent campaigns of Martin Luther King and of Ghandi. The protests in Gaza were the Palestinian equivalent of the March to Selma. A peaceful, mass protest at an injustice ignored for 70 years.
“So, the government’s options are clear. Talk a lot, but do nothing. Or, they can expel the Israeli Ambassador. Stop ignoring the democratic will of the Dáil. Recognise the state of Palestine as you recognise the state of Israel. And stand up for peace in the Middle East by standing by the Palestinians.”
East Cork Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley has hit out at the HSE after a report by the Association of Optometrists Ireland suggest that the sixth class vision screening has been abandoned in East Cork.
Teachta Buckley said:
“No alternative arrangements have been put in place with people having to wait up to 48 months for treatment, but if you can afford private care, a person will wait only 3 months for the same operation.
“The School eye-care scheme finishes at the age of 12 and the medical card scheme starts at 16 so everyone is left in limbo between these years. In East Cork, the report says that the waiting list for children is longer than 18 months.
“What’s more damning is the fact that children who are referred to the HSE Eye Clinic must wait 24 months before they have an eye examination which could be done by Optometrists in their own community.
“What must be done now is for the Government to roll out a national scheme to allow children who do not need a surgical or medical management to be examined in their community by a qualified optometrist.” ENDS
Note: Please see the report attached
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said remaining in the customs union and single market is essential for the continued growth of the north's agriculture sector.
Speaking after attending the Balmoral Show, Martina Anderson said:
"Today I met with farmers, food producers and rural businesses at the the Balmoral Show and listened to their concerns over the Tory Brexit agenda.
"Farmers' representatives, including the Ulster Farmers' Union, have made it clear that being in the customs union is essential for trade and Theresa May and her government need to listen to that.
"The north's agriculture sector has a well deserved reputation for excellence across the world and for that to be maintained and for the industry to grow is is vital that we remain in the customs union and single market and, crucially for our farmers, the Common Agricultural Policy.
"The backstop option which is already on the table would allow for that and it is essential that option is maintained and that the British government are not allowed to renege on what they have already agreed.
"In the Brexit negotiations the Irish government must ensure the backstop option is protected in order to safeguard the interests of Ireland's agriculture sector."
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the opinion of the ECB on his legislation to impose jail sentences on bankers and others in financial institutions that have lied to the Central Bank.
The ECB said that “the draft law complements the Central Bank of Ireland’s existing tasks”. Deputy Doherty said a potential major obstacle had now been removed and that the Bill can proceed swiftly.
The Donegal TD said:
“I welcome the ECB opinion that my Bill complements existing Central Bank tasks. This leg will impose jail sentences on banks and others who are found to have lied to the Central Bank. Their opinion removes an excuse for the government to impede this legislation.
“I note the ECB’s comments that ‘it may be useful to further examine whether there are specific gaps in the CBI’s powers to sanction financial service providers and their senior managers’ which are in line with the Central Bank’s own submission to the Law Reform Commission that ‘The Central Bank strongly recommends that reforms assigning responsibility to senior personnel be adopted in this jurisdiction’, remarks referenced again last week by Governor Lane.
“The path is now clear for this piece of anti-white collar crime law to progress. I will examine taking on board the ECB and Central Bank recommendation of adding in reforms holding senior personally accountable to a greater degree. Today the Finance Committee agreed to move this legislation to the next stage of scrutiny which will also look at the Central Bank and ECB’s proposals.” ENDS
Note: Please see the ECB opinion attached
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that the status quo is no longer tenable when it comes to women and families being forced to travel for care in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.
Speaking this morning at Together For Yes event in supporting families bereaved by fatal foetal abnormalities, Teachta McDonald said:
“Over the next week people will be considering their approach to the coming referendum. We need an informed and respectful debate.
“This is about people, this is about families, and this is about our law and our constitutional provision which criminalises tragedy.
“The testimony of families today rises above the din in this debate. The integrity, honesty and pain of their testimonies are beyond question. Their motive is only to do good and to make sense of their deep personal pain.
“These women and families want their voices to be heard to address a deeply wounding wrong visited on them by this state – a wrong that is rooted in the 8th Amendment.
“This constitutional provision outlawed the very medical care and intervention that these women and their families needed.
“I think that most people know that change must come, and the families bereaved by fatal foetal abnormalities need to be listened to and need to be supported. That is why the Eighth Amendment must go.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has criticised the Boundary Commission over its failure to adequately respond to a number of Freedom of information requests relating to its controversial proposals to amend electoral boundaries here.
The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA commented: “Sinn Féin has been very clear in our opposition to the current Boundary Commission proposals as have the many thousands of people who lodged objections during the public consultation process.
“The Commission amended their original 2016 proposals in favour of a new plan that closely mirrors a submission made by the DUP which would greatly benefit that party at the expense of thousands of nationalist voters right across the North.
“That is simply unacceptable and flies in the face of the Commission’s remit to distribute the electorate in a fair and equitable way across the new constituencies. It also prompted a huge amount of anger, as evidenced by the strength of the response to the consultation with at least 5,000 submissions being lodged, strongly objecting to the proposed new boundaries.
“It is also a decision which the Boundary Commission have failed to provide any justifiable explanation for reaching.
“That is why Sinn Féin submitted a number of Freedom of Information requests seeking details of the deliberations and evidence used to come to the conclusion they did.
“However, the only information the Boundary Commission were prepared to divulge is already in the public domain and they refused to provide notes and correspondence relating to their discussion, decision making and deliberations on the proposals. Ironically, one of the reasons they cite for not releasing the information is that it would not be in the public interest to do so.
“Clearly it is in the public interest for the electorate to be informed why such fundamental changes are being proposed to their democratic entitlement.
“This is yet another example of the Boundary Commission failing to justify its proposals and, in Sinn Féin’s view, that is because no justification is possible.
“The only way that the Boundary Commission can now begin to restore the damage they have caused to confidence in the process is by taking on board the consultation responses and returning to its original 2016 proposals.”
The implications of the Hackitt report into the Grenfell Tower tragedy must be taken on board by the Housing Executive and the Department for Communities here, Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Carál Ní Chuilín has said.
Commenting on the release of the report today, the North Belfast MLA said while there is disappointment that it did not call for a ban on non-combustible cladding, it is comprehensive about the scale of the failings that resulted in the tragic loss of life in Grenfell and decisive about what can be done about it.
Carál Ní Chuilín commented: “The report identifies an attitude of indifference and a lack of real accountability at the heart of a decision making process that led to this tragedy. An approach that promoted a culture of doing things as quickly and cheaply as possible. A failure not only to listen to tenants’ real concerns but also a failure to put their safety first and foremost.
“Going forward the report offers simpler regulations and tougher penalties for anyone found to be ‘gaming the system’ and putting tenants’ lives at risk. This includes clients, designers, contractors and owners, those who procure and those who maintain, all have a responsibility to ensure standards are met.
“The report also calls for a reassertion of the role of residents, their active participation and recognition by others that they have a significant voice.
“I will be arranging a meeting with the Housing Executive and Department of Communities to discuss the implications of this report for tower blocks residents here.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has welcomed the passing of his party’s amendment to the Government’s Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill at Committee stage which was taken this afternoon.
The Sinn Féin amendment for fair hours was passed following the defeat of the Government’s own amendment to the Bill.
Speaking following the meeting, Teachta Brady said:
“This Bill is crucially important to protect the rights of all workers but in particular workers in precarious and low-paid employment.
“This Bill needed to achieve security for workers when it comes to their working hours and in turn, their incomes. We also needed to ensure that the actual hours worked by an employee are reflected in their employment contract.
“While this Bill consists of a number of important provisions, it was essential that the bands of weekly working hours were made sharp and precise and legislated for in this Bill.
“The Government had brought forward an amendment to the weekly bands which they had initially proposed, but this amendment was defeated in favour of the bands we put forward.
“This was an amendment brought forward by myself and my colleague Deputy David Cullinane who has worked tirelessly to ensure the protection of workers’ rights when it comes to fair hours.
“I also want to pay tribute to the Dunnes Stores workers who highlighted their own case back in 2015 and persisted with this to the benefit of all workers.”
Sinn Féin equality spokesperson Megan Fearon has said a rights-based society will benefit all.
Speaking on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the Newry and Armagh MLA said:
“There can be no tolerance of homophobic, transphobic, biphobic or any other discrimination in our society.
“Everyone should be free to live their life free from discrimination, persecution or intimidation but unfortunately, members of the LGB and T communities are still discriminated against and some even are the victims of physical harassment.
“Here in the north members of the LGB and T communities also face the continued denial of marriage equality.
“Sinn Féin supports the extension of marriage equality throughout Ireland. It is unacceptable that citizens in the north are denied rights that are available across the rest of these islands.
“More needs to be done to break down the barriers face by the LGB and T communities.
“Sinn Féin believe it is time all parties embraced the need for a rights-based society and for citizens here to enjoy all those rights available across these islands.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for LGBTQI rights Senator Fintan Warfield has called on Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan to bring forward robust hate crime legislation as a matter of urgency.
Senator Warfield said:
“I’d like to commend the LGBTQI activists and our allies across Ireland in their efforts in eradicating Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia this year. However, this state remains the only western European jurisdiction without standard hate crime legislation.
“Hate crime is a manifestation of prejudice and bigotry amongst a society and it’s no longer acceptable to leave LGBTQI people or other marginalised communities in Ireland vulnerable.
“This week, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released their European Rainbow Map an annual benchmarking tool, which ranks 49 countries in Europe on their LGBTI equality laws and policies. The state has fallen to 15th and it’s noted in the ILGA report that the copious absence of hate crime legislation in Ireland is the main reason for its poor ranking.
“I am calling on Minister for Justice and Equality to bring forward robust hate crime legislation as a matter of urgency.”
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin North-West Dessie Ellis has called on Minister Eoghan Murphy to avert a growing crisis in the Rental Accommodation Scheme as RAS tenants are finding that they have nowhere to go after being served notices to quit.
Deputy Ellis continued;
"I have found an increasing number of people in the Rental Accommodation Scheme(RAS) who are being served with an eviction notice are unfortunately being placed in a position where they have to look for a place themselves or potentially face becoming homeless.
"Normally when you get served a notice to quit, the RAS section of the local authority will tell people to go to the PRTB or Threshold to verify the bona fides of the notice to quit issued by the landlord.
"There was an agreement with local authorities that RAS tenants would be housed in other accommodation should they end up on the street and I am increasingly finding that this is just not happening. We now have large numbers of families and individuals sitting through these notices to quit because they have nowhere to go.
"There is now a queue of people with Dublin City Council waiting to be housed as a consequence.
"This is just another emergency measure in the housing crisis that is now reaching breaking point.
"The Government must do all it can to avert this growing crisis and address the urgent need for additional social housing. It is vital that Minister Murphy deals with such issues before they become a crisis."
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the news that the EU investigation into anti-competitive practices in the insurance industry is focusing in on the exclusion of new entrants will come as no surprise to drivers and others who have dealt with the industry.
The Sinn Féin Dáil deputy leader has called on Insurance Ireland to drop its frivolous opposition to the new Claims Database which he said now looks like a “sick joke”.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The report this morning that Insurance Ireland is under investigation for excluding new entrants from accessing data on an equal footing will come as no surprise to me or anybody else who has dealt with the body.
"Insurance Ireland have denied any wrongdoing and I am sure the record of their replies to me and colleagues on this issue will be important in the investigation.
"The opposition of Insurance Ireland and their delaying tactics on the new Claims Database are a cynical attempt to resist change. They should now drop their very weak objections and accept that change is coming whether they like it or not. Ironically they claim that the new system could create additional barriers to entry to the market. That seems like a sick joke in light of today’s reports.
"It also points to the need for my legislation to impose jail sentences on insurers who lie to the Central Bank. It was misleading information from insurers put the need for this new law into the political sphere. I am determined to follow through and put in place real punishments for the bankers and insurers who have lied to the regulator.
"I have received this week an ECB opinion on the legislation which says it complements existing law meaning there are no excuses in the way for government to block the Bill. Today’s news shows why my Bill is needed and I hope that it will be put into law soon.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Sports, Culture and Art Sinead Ennis has said the maximum stake that can be placed on Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBT) should be reduced from £100 to £2. Ennis said:
“FOBTs are mainly found in economically deprived areas and have been described as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
“Gambling can get people into debt and with that comes a whole host of problems including mental health, crime, relationship breakdown and even suicide.
“By reducing the amount people can bet and lose on these addictive machines we can reduce the destructive consequences of gambling debt.
“I therefore support reducing the maximum bet on FOBTs from £100 to £2.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Carál Ní Chuilín has reiterated a call for comprehensive measures to be taken to ensure the safety of tower blocks here.
The North Belfast MLA was speaking following the publication of a review into building regulations established after the Grenfell fire tragedy.
She commented: “The full extent of the review and any implications for tower blocks here needs to be studied but there will be disappointment that it stopped short of recommending a complete ban on combustible cladding.
“Nevertheless we have been engaging closely with the Housing authorities ever since the Grenfell tragedy to ensure that comprehensive measures are in place to ensure the maximum level of fire safety and the protection of residents.
“That remains the case and we will continue to seek measures such as the retro-fitting of sprinklers and the use of non-combustible materials.”
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has hit out at the news that Mark Zuckerberg’s upcoming meeting with the European Parliament will be behind closed doors.
Speaking from Brussels, Ms. Boylan remarked:
“Like many other MEPs, I am disappointed that the upcoming meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and the European Parliament will not take place in public. Having the meeting behind closed doors is a missed opportunity for Facebook to show that they are committed to openness and transparency for European Citizens.
“The Cambridge Analytica scandal saw the data of tens of millions of Facebook users used without their permission and there has been no comprehensive explanation given. In the current era of fake news and dubious online advertising, Mark Zuckerberg has a number of issues which he needs to clarify but is being let off the hook by not having a public testimony in Europe.
“The role which global internet giants are playing in our democratic process is becoming increasingly evident in political campaigns. At present, there is a lack of accountability from these corporations and private meetings will not address this. What we need is an open and transparent debate on how Facebook is using our data.
“In the interests of democracy, Mark Zuckerberg should be willing to meet democratically elected representatives in an open manner.”
Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has received confirmation from Minister for Education Richard Bruton TD that Special Needs Assistants (SNA) allocations will be published in the coming days.
Deputy Munster asked Minister Bruton in the Dáil chamber when SNAs would be informed of their job status for the coming school year. In previous years, SNA allocations were not made public until July, which left hundreds of SNAs unsure of their employment status when they finished work for the summer.
Deputy Munster said:
“The unions balloted on this issue and 97% of the membership voted in favour of industrial action over this issue. A deal was struck where the Minister committed to publishing the allocations earlier this year, and in the coming years and plans for industrial action were halted.
“Given that we are now in the middle of May, there were concerns that SNAs would be left waiting for this information again this year.
“When I questioned the Minister he confirmed that the allocations would be published in the coming days, which is very positive news for SNAs.
“It is a pity that industrial action has to be threatened for the Minister to move on a matter as important as this.
“It is cruel to leave workers in limbo each year. It leads to huge uncertainty and worry for SNAs, who do invaluable work in the education sector.”
Sinn Féin’s leader on Belfast City Council, Deirdre Hargey, has expressed her deep disappointment after unionist politicians on Belfast City Council refused a Sinn Féin request for a book of condolence to be opened in Belfast City Hall to allow Belfast citizens to show their solidarity and sympathy with the victims of the massacre in Gaza.
Councillor Hargey said:
“I requested on Tuesday that a book of condolence be opened in Belfast City Hall for the victims of the massacre carried out by Israeli forces on Palestinians in Gaza.
“I had hoped that all parties on Belfast City Council would support this request.
“However the unionist parties have failed to give their support which is extremely disappointing given the scale of this massacre by Israeli forces.
"This was an atrocity and the brutal nature of the Israeli Army was laid bare for all to see.
“Sinn Féin will not be put off by this unionist refusal to support a book of condolence and we will be opening our own book of condolence this Saturday from 12-5pm in the Sinn Féin room at Belfast City Hall to allow citizens to come to City Hall and show their solidarity and sympathy with the people of Palestine.
"All are welcome to come to City Hall to sign.”
A Sinn Féin Amendment to ban the commercial exploitation of children's data has passed in the Dáil today.
The amendment, was supported by organisations such as the Irish Heart Foundation, was moved by Sinn Féin Justice & Equality Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire will see children protected from direct marketing, profiling and data harvesting.
Speaking this evening, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“The purpose of the amendment is to restrict the profiling, harvesting, and targeting of children by companies who advertise on social media. This is, I believe, a very important measure to introduce if we truly are to protect children from harmful marketing online.
“Currently, young people are very much exposed to data profiling and targeting, by commercial organisations and businesses. That is something that needs to be tackled, there are very serious risks in this regard, particularly when targeting harmful goods or products, or pushing an agenda which is harmful, such as making young people excessively conscious of their appearance and body.
“Many children will not be aware how their actions online influence the adverts that they see, and will not be aware of the extent to which their data is being gathered, the profile that is being built up on them and the way it is being used to exploit them.
“I do not believe that the capacity for such marketing should supersede the best interests of a child, such as for example in health, given that without the amendment data can be processed and profiled to directly target children online in a very sophisticated way, and this in a country that is set to be one of the most obese in Europe by 2030.
“It is important as legislators we do our utmost to protect children from harm online, and I very much welcome that the Dáil has taken a massive step towards doing exactly that.”
Note: The amendment as passed reads;
“Micro-targeting and profiling of children
30. It shall be an offence under this Act for any company or corporate body to process the personal data of a child as defined by section 29 for the purposes of direct marketing, profiling or micro-targeting. Such an offence shall be punishable by an administrative fine under section 140.