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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 Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said today it is absolutely clear that the British government is placing their deal with the DUP at Westminster above the need to re-establish the Executive and delivering rights for citizens.  

Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

“Last week we marked the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. 

“This is an Agreement voted on by the people and is binding on both governments. The Agreement included safeguarding rights and equality, rights which were further developed in subsequent agreements between the governments.

“The British and Irish governments have said over recent days that they want to see a process up and running to restore the institutions.

“However, it is absolutely clear that the British government has placed their deal with the DUP above the need to get government back up and running in the north and delivering rights for citizens.

“It’s clear the British government is playing for time, and it’s clear that Karen Bradley has failed to introduce any new momentum into the process.

“The governments need to act to end the DUP’s denial of rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else on these islands, including Irish language rights, the right of LGBT citizens to marry the person they love, and the right to a coroner’s inquest.

“The way forward is for the governments to convene the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to deal with the outstanding equality issues by implementing previous agreements to resolve the outstanding issues.

“This would clear the way for a credible talks process to re-establish the institutions.”

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A Sinn Féin delegation consisting of Paul Maskey MP, Belfast MLAs Carál Ní Chuilín, Mairtín Ó Muilleoir, Gerry Kelly, Órlaithí Flynn, Fra McCann, and Education Spokesperson Karen Mullan MLA, have today met with the CEO of the Education Authority and its senior management on issues relating to Special Educational Needs.

Speaking following the meeting, Paul Maskey MP said:

“Today we made clear to the Education Authority that a lot of confusion still surrounds its message on the future provision of Special Educational Needs (SEN), during this period. 

“Parents and schools remain very uncertain about the future arrangements for their pupils and children within SEN schools. 

“On this matter, we have urged the Education Authority to publicly make its position clearly and consistently to avoid confusion and put the public’s minds at ease.

“The Education Authority must meaningfully engage with all stakeholders throughout this process, and must make certain that there are no pre-determined outcomes on consultations.

“All views and concerns must be taken on board on any decision regarding the future of funding for Special Educational Needs.”

ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan called today for all armed groups to leave the stage after a home was targeted in a hoax bomb attack in Ballymoney at the weekend.

The North Antrim MLA said:

“There have been a number of incidents in North Antrim in recent times.

“This latest incident is being linked to the North Antrim UDA. It’s clear that the criminals associated with this group are intent on continuing their drug dealing, extortion, and intimidation of the local community.

“Society wants all armed groups to leave the stage rather than empty expressions of intent to end criminality.

“The local community also want to see a targeted response by the PSNI to bring this gang to justice and bring their activities to an end.”

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Conor Murphy MLA has today rejected British government plans to hire British Border Force officials to monitor the British border in Ireland as a result of Brexit.

The Newry Armagh MLA said:

"With this British Border Force recruitment drive, the British government are clearly planning to impose their hard Brexit border across the island of Ireland.

“It shows that the Tories see a hard border as the predetermined outcome of the Brexit negotiations despite the fact they have already agreed to an option to avoid it.

"There can be no Tory-DUP Brexit border across Ireland. This is a deeply damaging, disruptive and dangerous position, rejected overwhelmingly by the people of this island.

"It also points to the Tory-DUP pact's growing disregard for the Good Friday Agreement, which allows citizens to determine their own identity free from discrimination.

"Not only are they ignoring the democratic expressions of Irish citizens, they're also actively excluding them by reserving these posts solely for citizens with British passports.

"This is naked discrimination of a public sector position, and a statement of intent to impose a Brexit border in Ireland. Sinn Féin reject both these discriminatory plans unreservedly."

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has commented on a story by RTE journalist Louise Byrne which revealed that a government scheme established to encourage the construction of affordable housing has not made any payments since it was launched in December 2015.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The Development Contribution Rebate Scheme was established by the last government under then Minister Alan Kelly.

“Under the terms of the scheme, if builders were constructing more than 50 units and then selling them on in Dublin for less than €300,000 and in Cork for less than €250,000, they were entitled to apply for a refund of development levies.

“This scheme was poorly designed and the proof is that it failed to incentivise the delivery of a single affordable home despite rebates of half a million euro being available.

“The failure of the scheme demonstrates that tax break-based incentives for affordable housing don’t work.

“This government hasn’t learned this and is now instead pinning its affordable housing delivery hopes on the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund.  Where in many cases there are no commitments in place to deliver affordable homes despite developers benefitting from the state funding the infrastructure necessary to open up the site.

“The only way to guarantee the delivered of truly affordable homes for purchase between €170,000 and €260,000 is for the state to build homes on public land.

“Sinn Féin set out costed proposals in our Alternative Budget 2018 on how local authorities can drive the delivery of affordable homes for families earning between €45,000 and €75,000.

“In addition to this, truly affordable homes have been delivered in Poppintree in Ballymun using the Ó Cualann co-operative model. It can be done elsewhere.

“The government needs to move away from tax break policy and focus on funding the delivery of affordable houses via local councils.” 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has offered his condolences to the family and friends of a homeless man who passed away in the emergency department of Tallaght Hospital last Saturday.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“From media reports, it is understood that the man was seeking shelter in the hospital and not seeking treatment.

“This death follows on from the death of a homeless man in Galway last week.

 “Government policy is not working and its reluctance to deal with the causes of homelessness is in fact exacerbating the problem.

“We don’t need summits, we don’t need media statements, and we certainly don’t need any more government rhetoric on how money isn’t an issue and that the problem is being tackled.

“The only real solution for rough sleepers with complex needs is the Housing First programme. Internationally, Housing First is recognised as a permanent solution to rough sleeping that provides housing for homeless people with complex needs first instead of focusing on treatment first.

“Unfortunately, despite the roll out of this programme being government policy, only 180 Housing First tenancies were created out of a government target of 300 for 2017.

“Minister Eoghan Murphy must expand the number of Housing First tenancies to 1,000. This would have the potential to positively impact on the lives of the growing number of rough sleepers throughout the State.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Kenny TD has welcomed the news today that the Chinese market has been opened to Irish beef from three factories, with five more to follow.

Deputy Kenny said:

“The opening of the Chinese market is a positive move for Irish beef farmers and I congratulate those involved in negotiating it.

“The Chinese market will be a key factor in our response to Brexit. The importance of the beef sector to the Irish Agri-food economy cannot be underestimated and it is a sector which must be supported develop its benefit to the primary producer.

“The Department of Agriculture and the Minister must ensure that emergencies like the fodder crisis do not affect Ireland’s ability to supply new markets and I urge the Department to implement an adequate monitoring of conditions affecting the sector and not risk a disruption of supply due to weather or feed crises.

“I look forward to seeing another five factories being approved by the Chinese authorities and I wish those involved in that process every success. A key element of the opening of new markets must be the delivery of a better margin to the primary producer, whose hard work, diligence and skill have made Irish beef the quality product that it is.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has called on students to apply for the All-Ireland Scholarship Scheme, which is now open until 29th June.

The party's Further and Higher Education spokesperson said: 

"The annual scholarship scheme which is funded by businessman JP McManus provides financial assistance to top-performing students from low income households who intend to take up full-time undergraduate courses from September 2018.  

"The scheme is open to applicants in receipt of the Educational Maintenance Allowance at the time of application and due to commence an undergraduate degree at university in September or October 2018.  

“The value of each scholarship is £5500 per annum for the undergraduate degree course duration.

"There are 25 scholarships to be awarded in the north to the top 19 performing ‘A’ level students in grant aided post primary schools and the top six performing Level 3 Extended Diploma students in the further education colleges.

"The scheme is open for applications until 29th June 2018 and I would urge eligible students to apply, further information on eligibility and details on how to apply can be found at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/all-ireland-scholarships." 

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John O'Dowd MLA has described the online abuse suffered by constituency colleague Carla Lockhart as wrong and inexcusable.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"I disagree with many aspects of Carla's politics but there is no excuse for the online personal abuse she has suffered.

"The online bullying of Carla and other public representatives particularly women by online trolls must end."

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has called on the HSE and the Minster for Health to state why they did not previously reveal the scale of non-specialist doctors operating as consultants and what has been done to address the situation. 

Teachta O’Reilly said: 

“I have been calling on the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the HSE to address the issue of doctors operating as consultants even though they are not on the Medical Council’s specialist register and have not passed their consultant exams since last May.

“I first raised this issue having been informed through a Parliamentary Question response from the HSE that there were over 100 doctors without the specialist skills operating as consultants.

“However, in the 11 months since, not only does it appear that the situation has not been addressed. In fact, it appears that the issue is worse than was originally reported to me.

“It has been reported today that 650 out of 4,373 medical consultants in the state are not on specialist register (as of 2015). The figures released to Susan Mitchell of the Sunday Business Post show that one in seven of every consultants employed in private and public hospitals in the State has not completed their specialist training.

“The extent that non-specialist doctors are being appointed as consultants in hospitals across the state is extremely worrying from a patient safety perspective and a medico-legal perspective. 

“On Friday I called on Minister Harris to outline the measures he had taken to tackle the appointment of non-specialist doctors as consultants.

"Today I am calling on both the Minister and the HSE to outline what is being done to address this situation and also why the full scale of the situation was not revealed to TDs who submitted PQs investigating the issue.

“I have also this evening written to the Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health requesting a hearing on this issue at the earliest available opportunity.  

“There have been very serious developments regarding this issue over the weekend and I believe the Minister for Health, the HSE, and representatives from private hospitals need to come before the Health Committee to explain this situation."

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has condemned attacks on taxi drivers in Derry city centre and called for greater protections for drivers, particularly those working at night. 

The Foyle MP said: 

"Reports of assaults on taxi drivers in the city, as well as an incident during which a taxi was hijacked at knifepoint, are very concerning. 

"No one should be subject to fear, intimidation or assault while going about their business and providing a much-needed service to the community. 

"I have been engaging with taxi drivers and taxi companies as part of an initiative to support and develop the night-time economy in the city and it is clear there is concern among drivers, particularly about working at night and, as a result, it is becoming more difficult to recruit more drivers into the industry. 

"I have also been in discussions with the PCSP in relation to proposals to improve driver safety, including the possible provision of cameras in taxis to improve safety for both drivers and passengers. 

"Taxis play a key role in our night-time economy and it is important that drivers are able to earn a living without fear of assault. 

"I would encourage anyone with information on any of the weekend incidents to bring it forward to the PSNI."

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Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill has written to British Secretary of State Karen Bradley calling for the release of the funding requested by the Lord Chief Justice. 

Michelle O’Neill also said there is sharpening frustration in the victims community at the British government’s continued delay in bringing forward the consultation on the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House.

The Sinn Féin Deputy Leader said:

“In the most recent round of negotiations the British government outlined its clear intention to progress a consultation on the Draft Legacy Bill.  

"It has become clear from my ongoing engagement with the victims community that there is a sharpening frustration, deflation and in cases anger with the British government’s delay in bringing forward the legacy consultation.  

“This frustration has been compounded by the British government’s refusal to release the funds requested by the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests.

“There is an added onus on the British government to release these funds. 

“This follows recent High Court ruling by Lord Chief Justice Girvan that former First Minister Arlene Foster unlawfully blocked a plan aimed at clearing the backlog of legacy inquests.

“Further delays and prevarication is totally unacceptable given that many families are now waiting almost half a century for the most basic right to an inquest.

“The British Secretary of State should bring forward the legacy consultation and a time frame for implementing the mechanisms of the Stormont House Agreement and immediately release the legacy inquest funding.”

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Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has condemned this morning’s airstrikes in Syria by the US, Britain and France.

Speaking today Teachta Crowe said;

“Like most people waking up to this morning’s news I am saddened and appalled at these aerial attacks.  There is nothing smart about this technology, it is designed to kill people on a massive scale and there is no justification for these attacks.

“I condemn this morning’s airstrikes in Syria in the strongest terms possible.

“The US, Britain and France are not neutral, having armed and supported various protagonists.  They have no credibility when it comes to peaceful settlements to conflicts in this region.They need to desist from their military interventionism. 

“Intensification of the military conflict is clearly not a credible way to save Syrian lives. The  deployment of more Western forces in Syria, or any further bombing of that country, will not bring an end or shorten this conflict in any way.

“What is now needed is a lasting ceasefire in Syria to make way for a political solution to the conflict there. Inclusive dialogue with all parties is the only workable solution that will lead to a lasting settlement.

“I believe lreland, in view of our own difficult past can and should play a positive role now in promoting dialogue.

"The Irish Government also needs to increase its humanitarian response by supporting the Syrian people and by reaching its own targets for the resettlement and relocation of Syrian refugees to Ireland.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Declan Kearney MLA, has said only those who politically and electorally benefit from a segregated society oppose anti sectarianism.

The South Antrim MLA was speaking at a discussion event between republicans and loyalists on the issue of sectarianism in South Belfast organised by the Queen's University Mitchell Institute.

The "Whats wrong with anti sectarianism?" seminar was chaired by Professor John Brewer, and also addressed by PUP Cllr John Kyle.

Speaking after the event at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Declan Kearney said:

"Sectarianism is endemic in this society. It is at the crux of all our political, social and communal divisions in the north.

"If we are to make progress towards a shared society sectarianism must be successfully challenged.

"It is the greatest and most enduring impediment to ending segregation, dealing with the past and achieving a shared and reconciled society.

"Sectarianism is the antithesis of Irish republicanism.

"Sinn Féin has consistently tabled anti-sectarianism proposals in every political forum.

"During the last five phases of Stormont negotiations from last year until the DUP reneged on the draft agreement with Sinn Féin in February, we had proposed that anti sectarianism should be ingrained within the fabric of all political and civic institutions.

"We set out comprehensive proposals for how that could be achieved, including a clear definition of sectarianism as hate crime in legislation with legal enforcement, and a popular anti-sectarianism charter which would be incorporated into the pledge of office for all elected political representatives.

"The DUP rejected this approach. It is for that party to explain its reasons why that is so: But anti sectarianism must not be reduced to a zero sum, win or lose negotiation.

"The Good Friday Agreement held out the vision of an integrated, anti-sectarian society.

"That must remain our collective ambition.

"Sinn Féin is committed to a rights-based inclusive society which is avowedly anti sectarian. However, we can not achieve that on our own.

"United civic and political leadership is now needed. Anti sectarianism should be common ground regardless of our constitutional differences.

"Only those who benefit and profit, politically, electorally or otherwise, from sectarian division and segregation oppose this vision.

"Notwithstanding our deep political crisis I urge all progressive political parties and citizens to work together towards mainstreaming anti sectarianism as a central element of a rights-based agenda which benefits our entire community.” 

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The Sinn Féin national leadership met in Strabane today to discuss the ongoing political crisis in the North, the imposition of Brexit on border communities and failure of the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael partnership to deal with the housing crisis. 

Speaking following the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle meeting, party leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said, 

“It is clear that politics are in flux, north and south and this reflects that Ireland is changing. 

“People have the power to shape the future and to build a new and united Ireland.

“To build an Ireland of opportunity, of prosperity and an Ireland which everyone calls home. 

“To build an Ireland in which all citizens are treated equally and with respect. 

“The West Tyrone by-election will be the first time since the DUP collapsed the talks process that the people can their say on the way forward to re-establish of the political institutions on the basis of rights, respect and equality

“The by-election is an opportunity for the people of West Tyrone, to vote for unity and to reject borders and division. To vote for equality and fairness and reject disrespect and discrimination. 

“To vote for an all-Ireland party, in a changing Ireland.

“Órfhlaith Begley, a young, progressive, dedicated and determined woman. She will deliver for the people of West Tyrone.

“If elected Órfhlaith will be part of our Westminster team and our all-Ireland team as we build a new and united Ireland for all our people. 

“I would call on all people to use their vote and vote for Órfhlaith Begley.”

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Sinn Féin has joined with thousands of Irish language activists in the “Beo” march and street festival in Dublin today. The street festival is one of the main events of Bliain na Gaeilge.

Sinn Féin’s Irish language spokesperson Peadar Tóibín TD was among the thousands who gathered from every county in Ireland. 

He stated;

“This is a wonderful event to celebrate one of the most important cultural aspects of who we are as a people.

“The Irish language is a rich, unique, living treasure. It holds an unending store of literature, song and history. Its embedded deep in the landscape around us.

“It’s one of the oldest languages of Europe and yet it lives in the play of young children around us today.

“It’s clear that there is a wealth of desire amongst the majority of people in Ireland to see our language grow into the future.

“That’s why we are calling for the government to take this project seriously and join with us in the Irish Language Movement and reverse the damage that has been done to the language over recent years.

“With the right policies Irish can flourish in all aspects of our society at little cost.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on all sides to end military interventions in Syria and to look towards building a lasting peace. Teachta McDonald said the international community must be consistent in its approaches to conflict and put peace as a priority above all other considerations.

Ms McDonald said;

“This morning’s airstrikes represent a significant escalation of tensions in the area. It will be the people of Syria who will suffer with the continuation of this conflict. This intervention is wrong.

“The international community must be consistent in its application of international law and policy, in which peace and protecting civilians is a priority. This holds for Syria, Palestine and other conflict areas. 

“All countries with influence in Syria should be using their influence to push for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to the conflict, instead of escalating the conflict and killing.

“There has to be a political solution to the conflict in Syria. What we need to see is a lasting ceasefire and a political process that leads to a sustainable resolution of the conflict. 

“That is what the Irish Government and all governments should be seeking to bring about. There is onus of the Irish government to increase its humanitarian support to the Syrian people and reach its targets for the resettlement and relocation of Syrian refugees in Ireland.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has commented on a new report exposing the revolving doors between the European Commission and finance industry, which singles out former Fianna Fáil minster and European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy for specific criticism.

The report on revolving doors at DG FISMA was published by the Corporate Europe Observatory today.

Carthy said: “This report examines the Commission’s finance unit during the aftermath of the financial crisis, from 2008 until 2017, and shows an appalling level of influence by the finance lobby on European policy regarding financial stability.

“Four out of five of the former directors of DG FISMA during this period left the Commission only to go on to work directly in the finance industry or else for one of the industry’s lobby groups. Two out of the three of the Commissioners with responsibility for finance, and one of the three heads of unit for DG FISMA, did the same.

“Fianna Fáil’s Charlie McCreevy, who was Commissioner from 2004-2010 during a period of financial deregulation and the consequent financial crisis, is singled out for special mention in the report as the first former Commissioner to be ‘given the red light’ by the Commission when he tried to set up a bank shortly after leaving his post.

“The Commission insisted McCreevy observe the cooling-off period before taking his proposed role at NBNK investments as the links between his role in office and the new bank were so extremely stark that this brazen request was turned down – for the first time in history. But the Commission at the same time gave the green light to McGreevy to join the board of Ryanair, on which he still sits, immediately after leaving office and in spite of the fact that he had often dealt with Ryanair issues as Commissioner.

“Then just a week after the end of his 12-month cooling-off period, McCreevy joined the Bank of New York Mellon. As Commissioner, McGreevy had direct responsibility for deregulating the derivatives industry and he joined the derivatives trading unit of BNY Mellon. He also joined other financial firms Sentenial, World Spreads and Celsius Funds.

“The fact that a Fianna Fáil politician has been singled out as one of the worst offenders when it comes to conflicts of interest and the financial industry’s influence on public policy is an indictment of the party’s approach to these issues. This report reflects a deeply embedded and deeply problematic culture in the EU institutions that needs to end.”

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Sinn Féin will move the Extreme Weather (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018 in the Dáil next Thursday, 19th of April, during Private Members’ Time.

The bill, drafted by Sinn Féin TDs Gerry Adams, Imelda Munster and David Cullinane, will provide for the safety of employees during certain severe weather warnings. 

It will enhance public safety and ensure the safety of rescue service personnel during such a weather warning. 

The bill would also impose penalties on those who would put lives in danger through reckless behaviour when an extreme weather warning has been called. 

It seeks to give an Garda Síochána enhanced powers to pursue such behaviour. 

Finally, the bill ensures that employees are not penalised for staying away from their place of work during a Status Red severe weather warning.

Speaking today, Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster said:

“Three people tragically lost their lives as a direct result of Storm Ophelia.

“As legislators we must now take measures to guide employers, protect workers and strengthen the powers of emergency services in the case of future warnings.

“I believe that this legislation will help prevent tragedies during future extreme weather events, and so I ask that this legislation be supported.”

Sinn Féin spokesperson for workers rights, David Cullinane, added:

It is utterly incredible that the Taoiseach believes the decision to open or close a business during a national weather emergency is a personal matter.

“We are talking about people's lives here. 

"Despite this, Leo Varadkar refuses to provide government leadership and direction. 

"He has essentially outsourced the government’s role to the private sector. This is the way he thinks. This is the way he sees the world.

“Sinn Féin has stepped up to the mark and produced a bill that would do exactly that. 

"This Thursday, myself and my colleagues Gerry Adams and Imelda Munster will move the Extreme Weather Bill in the Dáil.

"Sinn Féin calls on all parties to support this legislation.”

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A Sinn Féin Bill entitled “Extreme Weather Warning (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018, which was introduced  by Imelda Munster TD, David Cullinane TD and Gerry Adams in February will be brought to second stage in the Dáil on April 19th.


Teachta Adams said:

“The Bill’s objective is to provide guidelines for public sector employers and self-employed persons in the event of an extreme weather warning.

"The legislation would also impose penalties on those engaged in reckless behaviour in the midst of a severe weather warning. 

"Last October Storm Ophelia claimed three lives, including Fintan Goss from Ravensdale. As a result of a campaign for stronger legislation by the family, Sinn Féin TDs introduced our legislation.

"At the end of March I wrote to all Oireachtas members asking them to support the Sinn Fein Bill. I would appeal to the Government parties and opposition TDs to support this Bill when it comes into the Dáil next Thursday.”

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