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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the government should withdraw its appeal against the EU Commission State Aid ruling in the Apple case.

He was speaking as the Minister for Finance confirmed that €14.3bn has been lodged into an escrow account following the ruling.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I welcome that the €14.3bn has now been paid over. This is long overdue and required an explicit warning from the Commission to get on with it.

"The Minister speaks about 'alleged' State Aid. As things stand the monies are the result of illegal State Aid monies and represent taxes due to the Irish people from Apple.

"Apple is free to appeal and is doing so but the time has come for Ireland to remove its appeal.

"Millions of the Irish people’s money has been spent by the State appealing this case and millions more will be spent unless the State withdraws its appeal.

"Ireland’s reputation has been badly bruised because of this government’s policies. It is time for a new start and to rebuild that reputation.

"Withdrawing the Apple appeal is a good place to start.”

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Speaking after reports that universities and further education colleges in the north suffered 16 serious cyber-attacks in 2017/’18 Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said:

“The findings by Jisc (the organisation which provides digital infrastructure and services to universities and colleges) that there has been an increase in the number of cyber-attacks on universities and further education colleges in the north in the past year is very concerning.

“I have written to universities and further education colleges across the north to query the level of protection in place.

“I have asked what contingencies they have in place in the event that such cyber-attacks are successful in creating disruption.”

The party’s further and higher education spokesperson added:

“The internet has transformed how we connect with each other, how we share information, and how much of our behaviour is recorded; as such it is necessary to have high levels of privacy and safety online.

”It is particularly important that institutions holding sensitive data have protections in place."

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There is no good news in Brexit and the backstop agreement from last December is the bottom line to prevent a new border in Ireland, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

The Sinn Féin Vice President was commenting after meeting with EU Commissioner Julian King in Belfast today.

“Today’s discussion was another opportunity to raise the threat that Brexit poses to Ireland,” she commented.

“The reckless Brexit agenda being pursued by the British Government has swept away all the previous economic, political and cultural assumptions and threatens the social and economic future of the entire island of Ireland.

“There is no good news for us in Brexit and there is an onus on all political leaders to defend the interests of citizens, North and South.

“That means standing firm on the backstop agreement from last December in face of the renewed British Government attempts to renege on those commitments.

“The backstop is the bottom line in terms of preventing a new border in Ireland and that is the message I will be taking to EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier when I meet him along with the leaders of the SDLP, Alliance and Greens next month.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has welcomed the announcement that Primark are set to donate £500,000 to a fund to help Belfast businesses affected by the fire last month.

 

Following a meeting with Primark, the West Belfast MP said,

 

“Along with the three other Belfast MPs and the City Council, I met with Primark today and welcome their commitment to donate £500,000 to the recovery of Belfast city centre after the devastating fire at their premises last month.

 

“I also welcome Primark's assurances to workers by deploying them to other Primark stores or protecting their wages until the end of the year.

 

“There is still a long way to go but I am optimistic that if the city continues to work together that we can look forward to a return to normality sooner rather than later.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has advised the public to take all necessary precautions as an amber weather warning has been issued by the Met Office.

The party’s infrastructure spokesperson said:

“Following severe weather warnings including high winds which are set to reach up to 60 or 70 miles per hour and heavy rain there is a possibility that there will be power outages especially in exposed and coastal locations.

"I would urge caution as driving conditions will be dangerous at times and rail, air and ferry services may be affected.  There is also the possibility of longer journey times and cancellations are possible.

“All road users should take extra care of loose debris and be mindful that tree falls and some structural damage are possible.

“Power cuts may occur, and I would advise members of the public to report any damage to poles or electricity lines immediately and to stay clear. 

“People should keep informed about the weather and act to protect yourself and your home from the effects of flooding and high winds, and importantly to heed safety warnings.” 

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Francie Molloy MP has expressed disappointment at the final Boundary Commission recommendations which have seen a total reverse of the original proposals in favour of constituency boundaries remarkably similar to those proposed by the DUP.

The Mid Ulster representative stated,

“It’s hugely disturbing that the Boundary Commission, despite a huge response from the nationalist community throughout the consultation, have abandoned their earlier proposals in favour of a version that is remarkably similar to DUP’s proposals.

“Earlier this year nationalists were outraged at the effect of the reversal in its position by the Boundary Commission. The Commission has yet to explain the rationale or reason for this, a failure that can only lead to further unease and suspicion.

“Among other things, the reviewed map aimed to divide Dungiven into three constituencies, a huge concern for local residents who worried about the confusion this would mean in terms of representation. 

“Whilst the final recommendations have reversed this, Dungiven will be in one constituency, Sperrin, Dungiven is in North Derry, so this will mean separating it from the natural hinterland of Limavady and surrounding villages.

“It is clear the nationalist responses to the consultation have been ignored and this report could lead to an increase in the number of constituencies with no nationalist representation, either at Westminster or Assembly level, and potentially re-instating a Unionist majority at Stormont.

“Fifty years on from the civil rights campaign, the suggestions of gerrymandering are unavoidable."

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said those engaged in life saving work in the Mediterranean should not be hindered in their work. 

Speaking from Malta, Martina Anderson said: 

"As part of the European Parliament's LIBE committee delegation to Malta I had the opportunity to meet with members of Sea-Watch, a civil search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean and to go out in one of their boats to see at first hand what they do. 

"I spoke to crew members about what they do and the literally thousands of people they have saved from a certain death in the Mediterranean. 

"I also went out in a small boat at night to get an idea of the conditions they work in and the excellent humanitarian work they are engaged in. 

"SeaWatch vessels regularly get stopped and held by the authorities while they are attempting to go about their vital life-saving work and crew members face the potential of criminal charges as a result of what they are doing. 

"I saw boats laden with medical supplies and ready to go out on live-saving missions but prevented from doing so because they are detained in port. 

"I am calling on the Maltese Prime Minister to intervene and give permission for SeaWatch search and rescue boats to leave port and carry on their work. 

"I have signed a joint letter to the Maltese Prime Minister alongside other MEPs and to call an end to the detention of search and rescue boats and aircraft." 

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Sinn Féin deputy spokesperson for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform Jonathan O’Brien TD has called on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to provide for a clear path of pay restoration for Section 39 workers, ahead of negotiations at the Workplace Relations Committee later today.

Speaking today, the Cork North-Central TD said:

“The Government must provide a time-limited road map of pay restoration for Section 39 workers, and it falls upon Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to provide for this road map in the upcoming Budget.

“There are as many as 12,000 workers providing vital health and care services to the most vulnerable in our society. They deliver public services on the same terms and with the same commitment and professionalism as their public sector colleagues.

“Yet, they continue to be subject to the legacy of cuts that was exacted upon them during the austerity era.

“While these cuts have been slowly reversed through a series of agreements with the public sector, Section 39 workers have been continually ignored and left in the cold.

“This is not acceptable. Worker rights cannot be denied at the whim of the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Health.

“An internal HSE audit report confirmed what had long been suspected. The average wage of Section 39 workers has been substantially reduced without redress.

“Many of these workers support themselves and their families on modest incomes. It is imperative that their rights are recognized on the same basis as their public sector colleagues.

“The Government must provide these workers a clear path to pay restoration that reflects the redress offered to public- sector workers through the Public Service Stability Agreement.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael must provide for the pay restoration of Section 39 workers in their upcoming budget. Anything less than this will be judged a failure.” 

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Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan has today condemned the huge number of patients waiting on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick. This morning’s figures from the INMO show that there are currently 69 patients on trolleys in UHL, the highest in the state once again. 

The Limerick City TD said;

“It’s absolutely disgraceful that the trolley crisis in University Hospital Limerick is being totally ignored by the Minister for Health Simon Harris, and continues to escalate to a completely unacceptable level. 

“I wrote to Minister Harris back in January seeking a meeting with him to discuss ways to reduce the overcrowding problem in the hospital, because it’s abundantly clear his plan for our local hospital is failing, and failing miserably. I’m yet to hear back from the Minister. 

“The people of Limerick City deserve quality healthcare like every other citizen, yet people are being constantly packed into UHL in an incredibly unsafe manner. The 69 patients on trolleys in UHL today are more than all those in Wexford, Waterford, Kerry, Sligo, Mayo, Cavan, and Kilkenny hospitals combined.

“This level of overcrowding is incredibly unfair on patients and their families, and also on the staff and nurses who have to work in these very difficult circumstances.

“Minister Harris has far failed to deal with the issues that are causing this emergency. These are the issues of recruitment and retention of staff, capacity - failure to reopen closed beds, adequate step down facilities, and proper primary and community care.

“The trolley crisis has been continuously escalating under Simon Harris’s tenure as Minister for Health. Last year saw the largest number of patients on trolleys in recorded history – 98,981.

“Minister Harris must intervene in the situation in University Hospital Limerick, before the situation escalates any further, especially facing into the winter.”  

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Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly has urged new parents and working families to ensure that they register for the Childcare Voucher scheme.

The party’s Children and Young People spokesperson was speaking after meeting Employers for Childcare in the Assembly ahead of the 4 October deadline for the Childcare Voucher scheme.

The West Tyrone MLA said:

"I would urge new parents and working families to ensure they register for the Childcare Voucher scheme as it is due to close to new entrants on 4 October 2018.

“This means new parents and working families not registered before then, alongside current users who switch jobs after October, stand to lose out on vital savings of up to £933 per parent each year.

“In March this year, a six month extension to the scheme was secured and since then Sinn Féin have been lobbying to keep Childcare Vouchers open to new entrants, alongside Tax-Free Childcare, as part of a comprehensive and flexible package of childcare support for working families.

“I am also urging parents to make sure they know what support they are entitled to by calling Employers For Childcare charity helpline for Family Benefits Advice Service on 0800 028 3008 or emailing [email protected]

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan has raised concerns about the delay in flu vaccinations for over 65s.

Reports say the delay is due to a shortage in supply and that the vaccine for pensioners will be staggered over September, October and November.

Pat Sheehan commented: "Flu vaccination is an important and effective measure in preventing those most vulnerable getting the flu, and news on a shortage of flu vaccines is very concerning heading into the winter season.

"It is particularly concerning given that it is affecting older people over 65 who may be more susceptible to flu."I am sure this will cause distress to those older people who were expecting to get their vaccine but who will now have to wait.

"I will be requesting a meeting with the Public Health Authority to clarify why this shortage has occurred and how they will ensure all those who need, and those who are eligible for, the flu vaccine can access it in a timely way."

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said the Housing Executive and Department for Communities need to step up and address the growing inequalities that exist in rural housing provision. 

The party’s Housing spokesperson was commenting ahead of her address at Friday’s Rural Housing Seminar in Cookstown. 

Carál Ní Chuilín said:

“Rural communities have experienced increased and systemic levels of housing inequality. 

“In 1998 the Commission of European Communities in its study 'the future of rural society’ identified the main problem facing rural people as the provision of affordable housing in local communities.

“Most rural families rely on private home ownership, not because they can afford it more than their urban counterparts, average incomes in rural areas are lower, but because there is very little choice.

“The Housing Executive and Department for Communities need to step up and address the growing inequalities that exist in rural housing provision. 

“The private rented sector are being used by the Housing Executive to deliver a public response to the growing housing crisis. This is unsustainable. 

“The focus should be placed on prioritising the supply of social and affordable housing to reduce the growing demand. 

“I commend Cllr. Seán Mc Peake on his leadership in beginning the discussion on how we address these issues and provide support to the many families and individuals from rural communities who are waiting for a home. 

“I would appeal to people to attend this Friday’s Rural Housing Seminar to ensure that those with the responsibility for building homes hear first-hand the experiences of people who are on the waiting lists.”

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Sinn Féin Communications Spokesperson Brian Stanley TD has said that the Government is failing rural Ireland with post office closures. This comes as Sinn Féin put a Motion before the Dáil this evening which seeks to save the postal network from announced closures, and see a revitalised postal network into the future.

The Laois TD said:

“The closure of 159 post offices announced last month comes on the back of previous closures. From 2000 – 2011 under Fianna Fáil, 732 post offices closed their doors. We have one of the most rural populations in Europe and it needs services to survive.

“Government have not taken action on the postal network and revitalised the network by adding additional services. It has been left to stand still for years. Services such as motor tax renewal and small scale banking should be available through the post office network.

“The postal network is a vital facility in rural Ireland. Other services have been lost and rural Ireland cannot survive without essential services that all communities need.  Part of this is the need to realise the importance of our post offices in communities and the potential they have in providing further services in the future.” 

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Matt Carthy calls on TDs to support Sinn Féin Dáil motion on rural post offices

Sinn Féin’s local MEP Matt Carthy has called on TDs from across the political spectrum to support his party’s upcoming Dáil motion aimed at saving 159 rural post offices which have been earmarked for closure.  The proposed closures include 9 in counties Cavan and Monaghan.

Matt Carthy said:

“Under Fianna Fáil governments 755 post offices were shut down between 1999 and 2011.  Now, under Fine Gael we are facing the impending closure of 159 post offices.

“Experience tells us that if these closures are not stopped others will follow and that further services will be removed from rural communities who are already devastated by the lack of government support or investment. 

“The motion put forward by Sinn Féin deputies now provides the opportunity to TDs from all political backgrounds to speak as one and stop these closures.

“Local post office branches are a vital element in the sustainability of many small towns, villages and communities across Ireland.  But our rural post office network has been under sustained attack in recent years.

“Sinn Féin is committed to the campaign to retain these vital local services across Ireland.  As a first step additional financial and statutory services should be delivered through the post office.  But, we also require a fundamental policy change and a rethink about how services are delivered to and for rural Ireland. 

“Through this Dáil motion Sinn Féin TD’s, including Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, are calling time on Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s attack on rural Ireland.  I commend them for that and urge the other Cavan/ Monaghan TDs to support the motion.  

“The truth is that the proposed post office closures must be resisted if Rural Ireland is to have a future."

The text of the Sinn Féin motion that will come before the Dáil reads:

“That Dáil Éireann:

recognises that:

the recent announced closure of 159 post offices across the State will have a devastating effect on many rural communities;

post offices form a vital part of communities, and have suffered long-term neglect by successive Governments, with hundreds of closures since 2000;

successive Governments have allowed the post office network to decline and have not allowed alternative services to be established and expanded;

postmasters and postmistresses are entitled to accept retirement packages, however, the criteria used by An Post in such instances, to retain post offices and advertise a new contract, is flawed; and

the Programme for a Partnership Government commits to protecting the postal network; and

calls on the Government to:

prevent the closure of 159 post offices across the State by advertising new contracts, offering alternative services and allowing the potential for co-location of post offices;

reinvigorate the network of post offices by extending the services which post offices provide, and by retaining existing services such as social welfare payments;

implement proposals contained in the Final Report Of The Post Office Network Business Development Group (Kerr Report) from 2016 which included post offices providing alternative services such as financial services and Government services before closing post offices; and

commit to a new model of community banking through the post office network.”

— Brian Stanley, Gerry Adams, John Brady, Pat Buckley, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin J. Ferris, Kathleen Funchion, Martin Kenny, Mary Lou McDonald, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Jonathan O'Brien, Eoin Ó Broin, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Louise O'Reilly, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Maurice Quinlivan, Peadar Tóibín.

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill said today that the Irish government has to stand firm on the backstop agreed between the British government and the EU last December.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“The Chequers Plan put forward by Theresa May would not resolve the issues around the border and protecting the rights of people in the north of Ireland. 

“It also falls considerably short of the backstop option which her government has already accepted and agreed to. 

“We need to see the backstop maintained and indeed built upon to ensure the north remains in the customs union and the single market but we also need to see it enhanced to include rights protections. 

“That is the message I will be taking to Michel Barnier when I meet him alongside representatives of other parties ahead of the October summit. 

“Theresa May’s focus remains on the civil war in her own party instead of focusing on negotiations with the EU. 

“More than 18 months into these negotiations and with time running out Theresa May still shows scant regard for Ireland, for rights, our economy or our Agreements. 

“The Taoiseach said a few months ago that citizens in the north would never be left behind again.

“The Irish Government, as an EU member state which is party to this negotiation, has to stand firm on the backstop agreed between the British government and the EU last December as this is the only insurance policy the people of the North can reply upon.” ENDS/CRÍOCH


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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed new students arriving at universities in the north this week.

The Party’s Further and Higher Education Spokesperson said:

“I’d like to welcome all the new students arriving at universities in the north this week.

“This is an exciting time for those students and I’d like to wish them the very best of luck in their studies in the year ahead.

“I’d encourage new students to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them throughout university life.

“I’d also appeal to all students to be good neighbours and to engage in a positive way with local communities.

“If any student is experiencing difficulties with their studies or any other aspect of life, they should make contact with the students unions for support.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said research and innovation is vital to economic development of the north and needs to be supported through both investment and first class facilities.

Speaking following the official opening of the Wellcome Wolfson Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen's University Belfast, the Party's Further and Higher Education Spokesperson said:

"The new Wellcome Wolfson Centre is a state-of-the-art facility designed to support and encourage collaborative research in experimental medicine.

"The centre represents an investment of £32 million and will house researchers, students and support staff, involved in world-class research being undertaken in disease therapeutics and diagnostics.

"This facility will enable scientists to do innovative research while training the next generation of researchers.

"Our universities must be supported to continue to lead the way in innovation and economic growth." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinead Ennis has welcomed the news that Newry technology company STATSports will create 200 new jobs in Newry.

The South Down MLA commented,

“These jobs will provide a much-welcome boost for the local economy with combined salaries of seven million pounds for the workers. 

“At a time when the uncertainties of a Tory Brexit looms over business and threatens the local economy job creation art this level is great news. 

“These jobs will provide much-needed employment for the local area and particularly for our young people and I look forward to seeing them come to fruition.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane has today dismissed the latest comments by Conservative backbencher Boris Johnson MP on the Irish backstop as nonsense and proof once again that Brexit was never about the future of Britain but the future of the Tory party.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“Another Monday, another Katie-Hopkins-type column from Boris Johnson.

“This time, he is berating the Irish people for having the temerity to have placed a British border on the island of Ireland.

“Let us be clear here, this is not about Brexit. Boris Johnson is all about Boris Johnson, and he is pretty much snookered at the moment. He knows that his window of opportunity to become the leader of the Conservatives is shrinking by the minute.

“At the moment, his support base is a hodgepodge of little Englanders, empire fantasists, and outright racists.

“He needs to keep himself in the spotlight though, hence the now weekly Monday ritual of outlandish statements and vacuous sentences. 

“His newspaper columns read like they are produced by putting the sayings of Enoch Powell and Austin Powers into the Hadron Collider and firing them at each other.

“Next week, I fully expect Boris to inform us that he invented the question mark and to accuse chestnuts of being lazy.

“On the backstop and the north, he is completely wrong, as always.

“It is Brexit, not the backstop, that is against the Good Friday Agreement.

“The people of the north voted to remain in the EU, but Boris doesn’t care about such details as they are facts and Boris doesn’t deal with such things.

“All this man wants is power. He does not care how he gets it, nor who or what he damages to achieve it. 

“He saw Brexit as his way to outflank David Cameron, a plan that failed because Brexit passed.

“In the words of Siegfried Sassoon, ‘he’s a cheery old card’.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has expressed his dismay at the Electoral Office’s decision to close all local offices in order to centralise the service they provide to Belfast.

The Mid Ulster MP stated:

“Earlier this year I welcomed the move by the Electoral Commission to introduce online registration, a much-needed advancement particularly for young people.

“However, this function cannot on its own service the needs of the entire community, particularly amongst our older population, and those in the rural areas where broadband is often unavailable.

“I have grave concerns about the further isolation this poses to rural dwellers.

“At a time when rural services such as banks and post offices are being closed, it is important that as many services as possible are retained. 

“It seems that the Electoral Office have not considered the needs of staff currently working in regional offices. It is hugely unfair that they are expected to transfer to Belfast to carry out the same role.

“I will be raising this with the NIO and hope that the decision can be changed.”

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