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Latest Statements

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


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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed the launch of the Shared Education Roe Valley campus.

The East Derry MLA said: 

“I was pleased to attend the official launch of the Shared Education Roe Valley campus in the Roe Valley Arts and Culture Centre this afternoon.

“St Mary’s Limavady and Limavady High School have a strong history of working in partnership dating back to the 1970s.

“The new campus which was approved by John O’Dowd as Education Minister to be funded by Fresh Start Agreement funding will enhance the ability of the two schools to work together.

“The new state of the art facilities will include a STEM centre, a sixth form centre and a careers and media hub, and will enable the schools to deliver a wider curriculum to pupils.

“The planning application for the campus was submitted in April 2018 and I look forward the project progressing.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has said that the bank bailout and its consequences are being felt by people and that the ECB hasn’t learned any lessons from the misery inflicted on the Irish people.

The Limerick senator said:

“I questioned ECB head Mario Draghi on the role the ECB has played in recent decisions made by Irish banks that have resulted in Irish bank customers paying some of the highest interest rates in the EU and burdened by spiralling property and rent prices.

“I questioned Mr. Draghi on behalf of the thousands of mortgage holders who have had their loans sold on to vulture funds against their will. These people have been put from pillar to post.

"The banks say they have no choice and are forced to do so by the Central Bank of Ireland. Yesterday Mario Draghi refused to categorically state that the ECB actually tells the Irish banks to do this.

“Yesterday‘s engagement with Mr. Draghi was an exercise in pass the parcel. Mr Draghi was more than happy to take credit for what he sees as a recovery in the Irish economy. As soon as I raised questions about the hundreds of thousands of people affected by homelessness and the health crisis he pointed to the limitations of the mandate of the ECB.

“I also pointed out that it was the Irish people who paid such a huge financial price to bail out the banks but many communities have either no branch in their town or cannot access cash services in their branch. On issues like this the Government and the ECB have no opinion.

“The ECB’s position is that the bank bailout should never happen again. Yesterday’s engagement with them shows that the bank bailout imposed by Fianna Fáil continues to impact people’s lives. The ECB seems unwilling to act on behalf of the Irish people and the Government are happy that this uncertainty continues.”

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Sinn Féin has formally nominated its representatives to the reconstituted Policing Board which is expected to resume meeting next month, the party’s Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

Confirming that the party’s Policing Spokesperson Gerry Kelly MLA will be joined on the board by Linda Dillon MLA and Philip McGuigan MLA, Michelle O’Neill commented: 

“The Policing Board is a hugely important mechanism in terms of holding policing to account.

“Our party’s support for the policing structures is based on transparency and accountability so we welcome the reconstitution of the Policing Board which is now expected to meet in December.

“Democratic oversight of policing is crucial, particularly in the current context where issues such as Brexit are likely to impact on policing arrangements.

“Therefore, I am pleased to nominate three Sinn Féin representatives to the board who will bring a dedicated and diligent approach to this crucial work.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has said introducing free period products at sporting facilities can increase female participation in sport.  

Sinéad Ennis commented:

“Many women and girls are struggling with the rising costs in sanitary products and sporting organisations can play their part in reducing this pressure.

“Support for the recent ‘On The Ball’ campaign by Celtic FC fans has surged across sports teams with more and more clubs introducing free products in their facilities. 

“By joining the campaign, sporting organisations and clubs can remove some of the pressures facing women and girls who wish to participate in sport. 

“Introducing free period products would relieve the financial pressure brought about by the rising cost in sanitary products. 

“I am calling on the three main sporting bodies in the north - the Irish Football Association, Ulster Rugby and the Ulster Council of the GAA - to get involved in this campaign and help increase female participation in sport.”

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The British Government must be held to its commitment to prevent a hard border in Ireland, rather than ‘promises’ to the DUP, Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has said.

The party’s Brexit spokesperson was commenting after DUP MP Sammy Wilson accused British Prime Minister Theresa May of breaking promises to the DUP by indicating a willingness to agree new regulatory checks between Britain and Ireland as part of a Brexit backstop.

The South Belfast MLA said: 

“The British Government must be held to their commitments to a backstop and no hard border on the island of Ireland agreed to with the EU, rather than promises to the DUP.

“The fact is that Theresa May signed up to the Irish backstop in December and that remains the bottom line in order to prevent a hard border and safeguard our political and economic stability now and for the future.

“It cannot be negotiated downwards. It cannot be watered down or bargained off.

“It must be built on to ensure our rights are protected and translated into legally operable and binding text as part of any withdrawal agreement.

“The integrity of our peace process is at stake and the onus is on the Dublin Government and the EU 27 to ensure there is no resiling from the backstop and no return to a hard border on our island.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has reiterated Sinn Féin’s commitment to the completion of the ‘groundbreaking’ Strule shared education project in Omagh. 

The party’s Education spokesperson was commenting after visiting Strule Education Campus with Sinn Féin representatives from West Tyrone.

Karen Mullan said:

“We were delighted to visit Strule Education Campus for an update on the works being carried out at the site in Omagh. 

“This is a groundbreaking project and when completed will be a massive boost to the Omagh area with state-of-the-art education facilities for six schools. 

“Sinn Féin are totally committed to this shared education project and have been from its conception. 

“All evidence on shared education has shown that when schools work together in partnership with good leadership it leads to better outcomes for pupils.”

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Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has said it is deeply worrying that the British government appear tone-deaf to the repeated warnings of leading health organisations regarding the looming impact of Brexit. 

He made the call after NHS providers called for urgent talks with the British government to highlight the oncoming Brexit catastrophe for the NHS. 

The South Down MP said:

“Just this week we have had the extremely worrying news that British Government Minister David Lidington reportedly informed Cabinet that the normal Dover - Calais trade route could be at 12% capacity for at least 6 months after the Brexit date next March. 

“This comes on the back of an extremely depressing Public Accounts Committee report on medicines earlier this year that found no evidence that the British government was adequately prepared for leaving the EU. 

“With NHS providers now practically begging the British government to get their act together in relation to Brexit, it is totally unacceptable that a clear plan still does not exist to ensure patients that they will continue to have access to the medicines they need, and to mitigate the huge impact of price rises on desperately stretched public health budgets. 

“Yet again these failings will be hardest felt by citizens in the north of Ireland; there is an onus on An Taoiseach to finally deliver on his commitment that no citizen in the north would be left behind."

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Speaking last night in New York at the annual Friends of Sinn Féin Dinner, Mary Lou McDonald reiterated the importance of the December backstop agreement being upheld.

Teachta McDonald said:

“Brexit is a disaster for Ireland, north and south.

"There is an onus on of us all to protect Irish interests. Sinn Féin has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Taoiseach and with European leaders to defend the interests of our peace agreements, our economy and our people.

"In the face of British bad faith and intransigence the Taoiseach must stand firm and the Irish government must be resolute.

"It is alarming that earlier this week the Taoiseach moved away from the agreed position on the backstop.

"Considering a review clause is a dangerous move and a reckless mistake.

"The Taoiseach must correct this mistake. The EU and British Government are looking on and we need a sure footed and confident Taoiseach. This week we saw a Taoiseach who looked uncertain and naive under pressure.

"Leo Varadkar needs to be firm. He needs to be clear and he needs to be consistent. The backstop that was agreed in December must be put in place. It must be legally enforceable and must remain in place as our insurance policy."

ENDS//

Editor's notes:

Full Speech from NYC:

Friends, it is good to be here back in the wonderful city of New York.

It is my great pleasure to address you as the President of Sinn Féin for the first time.

I want to first of all thank all of those who organised the event here this evening, and all of you for attending and for continuing to support the cause of Irish unity.

Many of your parents , grandparents, great grandparents, left Ireland, made the hard choice to leave a place called home, to come to America.

An America that welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. 

An America that promised opportunity

Landing on a shore with a little else but the promise of work, maybe a distant relative and hope for the future.

Many found hardship and struggled in the belief that they would build a better life for their children.

They persevered, they met the challenges and shaped a life for their families.

The contribution of the Irish to American life is immeasurable.

Generations of Irish immigrants helped build this nation, with their courage, their labour, their intellect and creativity.

Presidents, business leaders, labour leaders, artists and generations of working families have proudly proclaimed their Irish heritage.

And Ireland is so proud of them.

Generations of Irish in America have acted as the bridge between our two nations.

Millions of Americans view Ireland as their homeland, a place of welcome and a place of common heritage.

A place of common struggle.

At every stage of revolutionary struggle in Ireland, Irish America stepped up.

Standing by the demand for an independent and sovereign Ireland.

The Irish Republican principles of liberty, equality and fraternity were echoed in homes and States across America.

Generations that sought refuge in the US brought with them the love of Ireland and their Irish Republicanism.

They were the Young Irelanders, the Fenians, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Clan na nGael.

Without Irish America there would have been no 1916 Rising.

Standing on the steps of the GPO on Easter Morning Padraig Pearse proclaimed the Irish Republic and thanked our “exiled children in America”.

With the ending of the Rising and the execution of our leaders, the British government believed that they had defeated Irish Republicanism.

The soldiers of the Republic were imprisoned or scattered to all corners of the globe.

How wrong they were.

They underestimated the passion and determination of Irish Republicans.

December 1918 - a century ago - was the turning point.

With the support of Irish America, Sinn Féin stood candidates across Ireland.

Republicans had a landslide in what would become known as the Sinn Féin election.

The people returned a clear majority for Irish Freedom, for independence from Britain.

Sinn Fein abstentionist MPs.

They refused to take their seats at Westminster.

Instead they established our own parliament, the First Dáil in Dublin.

1918 was a fully and truly a national election.

It is a matter of immense pride that in that election the first ever woman MP was elected.

A Sinn Fein MP - Constance Markievicz.

She was part of that tradition of Republican women who wear as a badge of honour the title of the most unmanageable of revolutionaries.

A tradition that is still with us alive and well, with anyone who knows Rita O’Hare!

Fifty years on from 1918, the injustice of partition was the reality for a new generation of Republicans. Discrimination, repression and inequality.

In 1968, inspired by the Civil Rights movement in American, Republicans and others took to the streets of Derry.

They demanded respect, rights and equality.

A courageous generation, marched with defiance, with determination and with hope.

The response of the Orange State was laid bare for all to see.

The attack on peaceful protesters in Duke Street in Derry was an iconic moment of the civil rights struggle.

As far as the Stormont regime was concerned, it was a Unionist state for a Unionist people and they would crack as many skulls as necessary to preserve it.

They failed.

They failed because repression cannot defeat a just demand, cannot defeat a people alive with hope and expectation.

Thirty years later, after much hardship, conflict and suffering the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

It was Irish America who put the cause of peace, justice and Irish unity on the agenda of an American President.

The Good Friday Agreement is your agreement. Is our agreement.

The changes that the North now enjoy are because of the people in this room and those that came before us.

It has not been easy and it came at a cost.

Many in this room have been dismissed, pilloried and denigrated for standing up for the people of Derry, Belfast and Armagh. (I’m told that Tyrone always looked after their own).

You were right, you have prevailed, you have delivered.

We how have a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish unity.

A confident and strong Irish America brought a new dynamic to politics.

For years American administrations followed the lead of British governments.

But the Irish in America broke that mould and build a new American policy on Ireland.

A policy that centred on the rights of the Irish people, of justice and peace.

We are all better for that. We are all thankful for that.

The process of change continues.

Ireland is changing.

The perpetual unionist majority, the very foundation of partition is gone.

There will be a nationalist majority in the north in the coming time.

It is no longer a case of if there will be a referendum on Irish unity, but when.

We must win that referendum.

All of us must be part of that and be part of building a united Ireland.

If you hold dear the cause of unity; the cause a new, progressive and united Ireland, now is the time to act.

Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to let your voice be heard.

We are in the end game of partition and this will be one of the most challenging phases in our republican struggle.

Brexit is a disaster for Ireland, north and south.

There is an onus on of us all to protect Irish interests. Sinn Féin has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Taoiseach and with European leaders to defend the interests of our peace agreements, our economy and our people.

In the face of British bad faith and intransigence the Taoiseach must stand firm and the Irish government must be resolute.

It is alarming that earlier this week the Taoiseach moved away from the agreed position on the backstop.

Considering a review clause is a dangerous move and a reckless mistake.

The Taoiseach must correct this mistake. The EU and British Government are looking on and we need a sure footed and confident Taoiseach. This week we saw a Taoiseach who looked uncertain and naive under pressure.

Leo Varadkar need to be firm, he needs to clear and he needs to be consistent. The backstop that was agreed in December must be put in place. It must be legally enforceable and must remain in place as our insurance policy.

Unionist parties support Brexit and see a hard border and economic recession an acceptable cost for the union with Britain.

They are on the wrong side of history.

Their poisonous pact with the Tory Party in London will end.

But the demand for Irish unity will remain. It will strengthen, and it will be delivered.

A chairde gael the coming time is full of challenges and opportunities.

It is a time for cool heads and strong hearts.

A time for determination and vision.

It is a time for action. It is time, once again, for Irish America to make your voice heard.

We need Irish Americans - and America - planning for unity.

We need an Irish government that is planning and advocating for unity.

Next year the Irish government will hold a referendum on extending voting rights to Irish citizens in the north and across the globe.

Many in this room, your friends and family have the opportunity to have a say in electing our Presidents and being part of Irish political life.

Let’s do everything we can to make sure that referendum is passed.

Let’s support the campaign for the McGuinness Principles. These principles are what defined and guided our friend Martin McGuinness. Equality, Justice, Respect and Unity. These are the foundation stones of the Good Friday agreement, they are the way back to restore the institutions of the north. They are the road map for the future.

Writing from his prison cell Bobby Sands said; “There is nothing in the whole Imperial Arsenal of Britain that can break the spirit of an Irish man”.

They have tried. They have attacked us, Imprisoned us, banished and killed us. Censored us, demonised and disrespected us.

And still we rise. And still we stand.

We have endured.

Now is the time to build a sovereign and free Ireland.

An Ireland of equals that will claim its place amongst the nations of the world.

This is my first time addressing you as president of Sinn Féin. I follow in the footsteps of my friend Gerry Adams.

A leader who refused to be broken. Who redefined history.

A giant of Irish political life. Irreplaceable.

I can’t step into his shoes. So I have brought my own.

I follow in the tradition of many proud republican woman. Resolute and irreformable. Many of the men in this room know to their cost to never underestimate an Irish woman.

We all gather here this evening in common cause.

In the cause of Irish Unity.

I ask you to keep the faith. To continue the journey. To know your power and to use it.

Friends this is our time, this is your time.

Unity is within reach.

We will be the generation to unite our country and our people.

We will write the epitaph of Robert Emmett.

And together we will deliver a new, independent progressive and prosperous united Ireland.  

Up the rebels.

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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said the British government must be reminded that a Brexit withdrawal agreement must be negotiated with the EU27 and not internally within the Tory cabinet.

The South Down MP said:

“It’s important that the British government are reminded that the Brexit negotiations are between them and the EU27 - not solely with the British Tory party. 

“Ireland will not be collateral damage for the internal squabbling of the British Tory party and their civil war on Brexit. 

“While it appears that the British cabinet have may reached some form of agreement among themselves the facts remain that the British government have already agreed on the backstop and this agreement must be maintained.

“There is an onus on An Taoiseach to live up to his commitment that no citizen in the north would ever be left behind again by ensuring people’s rights are protected and the backstop remains the bottom line.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon said today is ‘groundhog day’ for families seeking truth and justice as it marks eight months since a landmark court ruling that the DUP leader acted unlawfully in blocking legacy funding. 

The party’s Victim’s spokesperson was commenting after joining ‘Time For Truth’ and families at a protest outside Stormont. 

Linda Dillon said:

“Today marks eight months from Justice Girvan ruling that Arlene Foster acted unlawfully in blocking funding for the Lord Chief Justice’s plan to clear the backlog of legacy inquests. 

“I joined families and the Time for Truth campaign group at Stormont today to support their campaign for truth and justice for their loved ones.

“For those families, today is groundhog day as once again they are forced to come here to protest despite some waiting nearly half a century for the basic right to an inquest. 

“The British government are dragging dragging their heels in releasing this funding. 

“The Department of Finance and now the British government have the business case to allow the Lord Chief Justice’s plan to go ahead, this must happen with no further delays. 

“Karen Bradley must release the legacy funding and implement the mechanisms agreed at Stormont House to allow the Lord Chief Justice to carry out his work for families to get the truth of what happened to their loved ones.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said today the PSNI has serious questions to answer about the arrests of two journalists.

This follows revelations that Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire had made no complaint to the police about the alleged theft of documents which Durham Police said triggered the arrests.

Gerry Kelly said:

“Two highly respected local journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney were recently arrested in high-profile police operations carried out by Durham Constabulary at the behest of the PSNI.

“Following the arrests, Durham Constabulary said: ‘Officials from Police Ombudsman of NI reported the theft to PSNI, who in turn asked Durham Constabulary to conduct an independent investigation’.

“It is deeply disturbing to learn today that in fact Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire had not made a complaint to the PSNI about theft. 

“This revelation completely undermines the whole basis of the men’s arrests.

“The two men were involved in the making of the widely acclaimed documentary ‘No Stone Unturned’ by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney which helped expose the extent of collusion between the state and loyalist paramilitaries in the murder of six people in Loughinisland. 

“The documentary took its name from a pledge by then British Secretary of State Patrick Mayhew that there would be ‘no stone unturned’ in the hunt for the killers.

“Instead the families of those murdered have been subject to more than 20 years of state cover-up on collusion into the murders and no one has ever been brought before the courts for the Loughinisland Massacre.

“And instead of the police taking action against those responsible for murdering these six people, they arrested the two journalists who exposed the evidence to TV screens across the world.

“These arrests were an attack on the freedom of press which is a fundamental element of any democratic society that allows journalists to carry out their work unhindered and the PSNI clearly have serious questions to answer.”

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Sinn Féin’s Seanad spokesperson on Workers’ Rights Paul Gavan has called for the end to precarious employment.

Senator Gavan was speaking at the launch of TASC’s ‘Precarious work, precarious lives’ report, and called on the Irish Left to work together to implement key workers’ rights proposals in the report.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Senator Gavan said:

“The policy recommendations contained in this report offer a blueprint for a radical programme for a government of the Left.

“If we are serious about dealing with inequality, we must deal with workers’ rights.

“We must introduce a Living Wage of €11.90 as the minimum wage. We must ban if-and-when contracts.

"We must abolish bogus-self-employment. We must empower trade unions through collective bargaining.

“If we do not deal with precarious employment, we will not be able to deal with our housing, childcare or health crisis. We need to raise the floor of our economy and of our society.

“The report published by TASC is a comprehensive examination of how poor employment practices, low wages and insecure work can have significant knock-on effects for all other aspects of our society.

“Workers can’t plan to have children because they don’t know how many hours of work or what wages they will receive next week, let alone next year.

"Families can’t get a mortgage because the bank tells them they aren’t guaranteed any hours next week.

"Workers can’t even make plans to see their friends or family because they are at the beck and call of their employer.

“Employers have too much power and we need to address this imbalance. It is outrageous that workers in precarious employment are effectively controlled by their employer not just within their workplace, but also outside of work.

“We need to acknowledge the great work of SIPTU in the Childcare sector, of Mandate in Retail, of Unite in the English Language Sector, and of political parties on the left– and we need to work together, collectively, to implement a workers’ rights based agenda across our 32 counties.”

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Speaking this morning Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has said the government’s failure to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis has meant that in some instances, under-qualified doctors are being appointed to posts in a wholly inappropriate manner.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“There is a serious recruitment and retention crisis facing doctors across the state.

“This crisis has meant that the health service has not been able to attract and retain enough highly educated and trained doctors and to sometimes to fill these gaps under-qualified doctors have been appointed to roles in the health service, which is wholly inappropriate.

“Yesterday’s High Court proceedings where Mr Justice Peter Kelly stated that defective procedures for recruiting doctors represented a danger to patients laid bare the implications of the government’s failure to address the doctor recruitment and retention crisis and the failures of the HSE in recruitment practices.

“For years doctors and their unions have been raising these issues and highlighting the implications for the health service of recruitment and retention crisis.

"They have continuously stated that in some instances doctors were being hired even though they were unqualified or under-qualified to work in the Irish health service.

“Doctors have been flagging the issue of recruitment and retention for years now but it has fallen on deaf ears in government buildings.
 
“The government must take Mr Justice Peter Kelly’s observations as a wake-up call and start engaging with doctors and their unions and focus on addressing the causes of the crisis.

“The reality is that not addressing this crisis will continue to irreparably damage the health service and put patients at risk."

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD described as “worrying and unacceptable” the fact that 12% of those leaving state care are homeless and called for their prioritisation when it came to housing and education services.

The statistics were outlined in EPIC’s (Empowering People in Care) annual advocacy report.

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Mitchell said:

“Young people leaving care face unique challenges in housing and education. I found it particularly worrying that the EPIC’s annual advocacy report outlined that 12% of those leaving the care system face homelessness.

“I hope Minister Zappone will work with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government on this, because I find it unacceptable. These young people are some of the most inspirational young people any of us could meet and they should be prioritised when it comes to housing and education.”

Deputy Mitchell also called for more resources to ensure care leavers have access to services in a timely manner:

“We have a very serious shortage of aftercare workers. In my area of north Dublin, 35 young people are waiting for an appointment with an aftercare worker while 14 are waiting on residential services. So we need to ensure that Tusla has the resources and staff to work with them in a timely manner.” 

In her response, Minister Zappone stated that 40 units for use by those leaving state care have come on stream and will be available soon:

“We got access to funding through CAS to set up suitable accommodation and that it has taken time to establish that. However, I have a list of 40 units that have been identified and are sale agreed, and I am happy to share that list with Deputy Mitchell and other Deputies. Focus Housing Association is in the process of taking over a number of them in places like Dublin, Sligo, the mid-west and Limerick. The Peter McVerry Trust is also involved in other settings throughout the country where it will renovate, adjust and accommodate young people leaving care. Those are the additional supports that are coming on stream.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Department for Housing reverse removal of 1,606 adults and children from their monthly homeless figures.

The call was made following clear disagreements between the Department, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and key homeless experts at today’s Housing Committee.

Speaking today after the Housing Committee looked at the issue, Deputy Ó Broin said:

“This morning the Housing Committee had the opportunity to hear from the Department of Housing, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and Prof Eoin O’Sullivan from Trinity College on the homeless figures and the ongoing re-categorisation of homeless families.

“We also relieved written submissions from Focus Ireland, Simon, Merchants Quay, Barnardo’s and correspondence from a number of Local Authorities affected by the homeless numbers controversy. 
 
“To date 1,606 people have been removed from the monthly homeless reports as the Department has claimed they have been miscategorised as homeless, when there they are not.
 
“Despite local authorities such as Louth and Galway County Council maintaining that the people removed from the figures as still categorised as homeless, the Department is still maintaining that they are not.
 
“The Department said today at Committee after I asked if they believe that these people were still in fact homeless: 'They’re not homeless. They’re being accommodated in an own door premises'.
 
"However the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive in response to the same question said: 'Yes I would consider that they are still homeless, because they are accessing homeless services. They’re not counted as they are in emergency accommodation for the purpose of our monthly reports because they’re, to use your own words, in a hybrid situation in relation to accommodation, they’re not in the normal form of emergency accommodation but they are accessing homeless services'.
 
“The NGO submissions also raised significant concerns. The Simon Communities said the re-categorisation is 'a cause for concern'. Further they state it, 'has created confusion and caused a range of problems'.
 
“Focus Ireland have said it is unclear and has also stated that the fact that the re-categorisation wasn’t retrospectively applied backwards to give us a proper read of it leads further weight to the 'suspicion that the underlying motive was to produce a lower total figure'.
 
“It is now clear from what we heard this morning that there is no agreement between the Department of Housing on one hand and the Local Authorities, the DRHE and the homeless NGOs over the re-categorisation.
 
“The Department must now bring together the Homeless Consultative Committee and its data sub group, which should include the Department of Housing and other government stakeholders including Tusla and the Reception and Integration Agency in the Department of Justice, Local Authorities, NGOs, the CSO and academics to agree once and for all for the homeless reports.
 
“The CSO should then take responsibility for compiling and publishing the monthly reports.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has said that the revelation by Department officials at this morning’s Committee meeting that no records are kept of Bogus Self-Employment is ‘astonishing’.

Speaking at Committee, Teachta Brady said:

“It is baffling that the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection keeps no records whatsoever on cases of Bogus Self-Employment despite carrying out inspections to supposedly identify it.

“The Department cited that in 2017 they carried out 2,698 employer reviews with savings of €2.27 million recorded yet could not tell the Committee the number of these reviews which resulted in Bogus Self-Employment being identified.

“So, we have the bizarre situation where inspections are being carried out yet no data is being kept on the level of Bogus Self-Employment found. Therefore, this begs the questions as to why the Department would even bother carrying out the inspections in the first place.

“Despite keeping no records of actual Bogus Self-Employment, the Department believe from some reports they cite, that Bogus Self Employment is not significant or prevalent. This shows a very lax attitude on behalf of the Department to the whole area of Bogus Self-Employment and any real intention of tackling it.

“While on the one hand, the Department are happy to put pressure on ordinary citizens to recoup money where they themselves make a mistake and an overpayment is made and where they are happy to roll out campaigns on so-called welfare cheats, yet they have no issue with millions being lost through Bogus Self-Employment.

“This is a ridiculous situation and, for those trapped in Bogus Self-Employment, it is clear that the Department do not want to know.” 

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The extent of suicide rates across the island of Ireland show the need for action to tackle the issue and the devastation it causes, Sinn Fein MLA Órlaithí Flynn has said.

The party’s spokesperson on mental health was commenting following the release of the latest figures showing the numbers of suicides in 2017.

“The figures show that suicide remains a huge problem across the island of Ireland,” she said. “In 2017 there were 697 suicides on the island of Ireland, with 305 of these in the North. Tragically, this will come as no surprise to the many organisations and individuals who work tirelessly within our statutory, community or voluntary sectors.

“Every area across the North has been affected within the past year and in particular in parts of Belfast as well as in some rural areas like Fermanagh and South Tyrone. It is important to remember that behind every figure and statistic is a real family and community grieving and in need of support.

“We know that each suicide can be deeply devastating for families, friends and communities. At the recent Assembly All Party group on Suicide Prevention meeting, which I chair, we had a presentation highlighting that around 135 people can be affected by just one suicide.

“If we look at some of the areas in Belfast, this impact on social networks and communities can be affecting the same families and neighbourhoods over a course of a year.

“Recently I have been following up on the progress of the crisis de-escalation centres, the street triage services and the work being undertaken by the Health Trusts to prevent suicides.

“For anyone in crisis or who is feeling suicidal, please know that there is help out there and you can get better, please call Lifeline on Freephone 0808 808 8000.”

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A Sinn Féin delegation including Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd and Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Colm Gildernew have met with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust to raise concerns over an underspend within Learning Disability services.

The meeting follows confirmation that the trust has underspent on services for adults with learning disabilities by more than £7m since 2014.

John O’Dowd said: “The underspend has caused concern to services users and their families and we were keen to gets answers from the Trust.

“We were informed that staff shortages were partly to blame but that this is being addressed.

“It is important those who rely on services, especially those with a learning disability, are getting the best service they can. It is remarkable that the budget available was not fully utilised.”

Sinn Féin spokespeople on carers Colm Gildernew added: “The families, carers and people with a learning disability who use the services are essential voices and participants within their care. It is vital that every opportunity is made to not only ensure they are involved but they are helping to design and monitor the services being used.

“Genuine co-production can be a great asset for making decisions to ensure the best health outcomes are realised. We call on the Trust to work closely with the families to ensure that going forward this is achieved.

“We will be following up with wider issues facing those with a learning disability including the provision of supported living accommodation with the Housing Executive and relevant authorities.”


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Responding to the Auditor and Comptroller General’s report on the Social Investment Fund, Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said:

“The Auditor and Comptroller General’s report flagged up a number of weaknesses in regard to processes, governance and transparency in the SIF scheme.

“Those lessons must be learned and applied to any future schemes.

“The Social Investment approach was based on a progressive ethos, seeking to empower local communities and include them in the decision making process.

"The scheme identified both capital and revenue projects to tackle key issues in deprived communities.

"The bulk of the budget was spent on improved sport, social and community facilities, including childcare facilities, fuel poverty initiatives, literacy and numeracy programmes and on employment and training initiatives in areas of high unemployment.

“The Auditor and Comptroller General identifies a number of projects that are likely to have a positive impact.

"Sinn Féin’s focus will continue to be on tackling disadvantage and deprivation."

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The planned medical school at Magee is too crucial to allow it to be delayed or frustrated any further, Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has said.

The Foyle MP was commenting after Ulster University Vice-Chancellor Paddy Nixon warned that it would not be in place in time for the 2019 academic year as approval is still being sought from the Department of Health.

Elisha McCallion said: 

“Obviously it’s hugely disappointing that the opening has been delayed for a year and we share the frustration of the university because this is such a crucial project for the city.

“Today, we should be celebrating the really positive news that Magee has signed an agreement with St. George’s Medical School in the University of London, another crucial hurdle passed.

“I have also opened a very positive dialogue with the Irish Government about the contribution they would be willing to make while good work has also been done between Ulster and Queens to ensure that both universities are complementing each other in relation to the courses offered

“So the work continues and progress continues to be made.

“The university has done all it can to advance this project and the onus is clearly now on the Department of Health to play its part.

“I don’t believe the lack of an Executive should be a barrier to that. We would all much prefer if power-sharing was restored but unfortunately the DUP are still preventing that by refusing to share power on the basis of equality.

“Nevertheless, the Magee medical school is entirely in line with the transformation of health endorsed by the last Executive and, therefore, with the required will and an imaginative approach, the Department of Health can and should proceed as planned.

“Despite this delay, I remain convinced that the medical school will still go ahead.

“I am seeking an urgent meeting with the Head of the Civil Service and I would again urge all political and civic leaders in this city to unite behind the drive to secure the medical school.

“I will continue to bring a focus to this project because it is too crucial to the economic regeneration of this entire region to allow it to be delayed or frustrated any further.”

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