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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 MLA Megan Fearon has said that discrimination against pregnant women should not be tolerated.

The party’s equality spokesperson was speaking after a Belfast firm paid a £25,000 settlement to a woman who alleged discrimination relating to her pregnancy.

Megan Fearon said: 

“All employers need to make sure that pregnant women and returning mothers have a supportive environment with flexible, family friendly policies and practices. That is what they are entitled to under the law.

“Any discrimination against pregnant women is unacceptable and their career opportunities should not be negatively affected by having a baby.

“Every year 27 percent of all complaints made to the Equality Commission are connected to sex discrimination.

“Twenty percent of these complaints are related to discrimination because of pregnancy and maternity.

“Sinn Féin is committed to reducing discrimination and inequality in the workplace." 

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Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has broadly welcomed the decision announced this morning by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the North that he intends charging the British soldier responsible for firing the fatal shot that took the life of innocent nationalist Aidan Mc Anespie in February 1988 with manslaughter as a “significant development”.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated that for him and for most anyone he has ever spoken to regarding Aidan Mc Anespie’s death, the charge should be murder.

Teachta Ó Caoláin said;

“I welcome the DPP’s decision. I expect the Mc Anespie family will also view it as a positive decision. It is certainly a significant development. However, for me, and I have no doubt for most anyone I have ever spoken to or heard speak of Aidan’s death, the charge should be one of murder.

“It was said to Aidan repeatedly by British soldiers at the Aughnacloy checkpoint that they would shoot him, that they would kill him. He told me of these incidents himself in the months prior to his killing. It was their signalled intention and they injected such fear into that young man. And then it happened.

“I would hope that the charge would yet be elevated to murder and that the truth behind Aidan’s killing, that it was a conspiracy to murder, would come out in whatever trial might yet present.

“It is not just a single British soldier who fired the shot who should be facing prosecution, but all those who over a protracted period subjected Aidan to a daily nightmare as he made his way daily from his home in Aughnacloy to work in Monaghan.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Seán Crowe TD has spoken out against what he calls the cruel and horrific detention of children separated from their parents on the US-Mexican border and said it violates the rights of these children and their human rights.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Like many others I have been disturbed and appalled by the images coming from the US-Mexican border.

"Separating children from their parents and detaining them in cages is horrific and a violation of child and human rights.

“The recently released audio footage of children crying out for their parents while a US Federal Officer joked that it was an orchestra reveals just how inhumane this policy is.

“A US Department of Homeland Security spokesman has confirmed that nearly 2,000 children were separated from 1,940 adults who crossed the US border without documents between April 19th and May 31st.

“Amnesty International has said this policy is ‘nothing short of torture’ and I agree. The Trump administration has reached a new low with this immoral policy and they should end it immediately.

“I have requested an urgent debate in the Dáil on the issue and I am calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, to raise Ireland’s disgust and opposition to this abhorrent policy with the US Government.”

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Sinn Féin Dublin MEP has reacted to the news that Egyptian feminist and human rights activist Mozn Hassan, who founded the organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies, has been summoned by an investigative judge to appear in front of him this Wednesday in a NGO foreign funding case.

The Dublin MEP was part of a delegation which travelled to Egypt in 2017 to present Ms. Hassan the prestigious ‘Right Livelihood Award’, widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize.

Speaking today, Ms. Boylan said:

“Like many activists in their struggles, Mozn has been directly targeted by the Egyptian State and lives under the constant threat of persecution and imprisonment. The investigation was launched by the Egyptian authorities as part of its ongoing crackdown on civil society.

“Mozn was also summoned for investigation in March 2016 but the interrogation was postponed indefinitely. In June 2016 she was banned from travelling, and in January 2017 her assets and those of Nazra for Feminist Studies as an association were frozen on the background of the same case."

Ms. Boylan continued:

“Hassan and Nazra have mentored female candidates for parliamentary, municipal and student union elections across Egypt’s political spectrum through their Women’s Political Participation Academy, and mentored many young feminists to build their own initiatives.

“Hassan's situation is more worrying if we take into consideration the generally repressive environment in Egypt under President Sisi.  Civic society and all dissenting voices are being shut down. "


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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Brian Stanley TD has said that waste collection in this State, with its ‘unique’ side by side competition model of collection, is not working.

Last night’s RTE Investigates programme highlighted the need for urgent change and the disastrous consequences of privatisation.
 
Deputy Stanley said:
 
“I asked the Minister last month to move to a different model for waste collection in the State. Separately at an Oireachtas Committee meeting also last month I asked Department officials to look at alternatives.
 
“Both the Minister and Officials referenced a study being conducted by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) on the market.

"But changes need to be urgently made to the whole structure of this market because householders are suffering from lack of regulation and the environment is also suffering because of how some companies are dealing with waste.
 
“Householders are going to the effort of segregating waste, paying substantial fees for collection, then pass it is to some waste collectors to be dumped illegally.

"It makes a farce of environmental protection. I put forward a bill last year to increase the penalty for illegal dumping.  The fact that the fines issued are so derisory is another issue.
 
“Our side-by-side competition for waste collection is unique compared to the rest of Europe. This is where several collectors compete in the same area.

"Poland abandoned this form of collection in 2012 moving to State ownership, and Finland switched in 2010. We need now to seriously change our whole market structure with greater local authority control and direct control on standards and prices.

"We need to address how the market is regulated and how we enforce environmental laws because the environmental damage is unsustainable.”

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Sinn Féin victims and legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon has called on the Irish government to release the Crowley Report immediately so that as much disclosure relating to the death of Aidan McAnespie is made available.

The Mid Ulster MLA made the call after news that a soldier has been charged with manslaughter over the 1988 killing of Aidan McAnespie at a British army checkpoint as he made his way to Gaelic football match.

Linda Dillon said:

“The family of Aidan McAnespie have waited over 30 years for truth and justice and they are commended for their persistence.

“I am calling once again on the Irish government to release the Crowley Report immediately so that as much information to assist with full disclosure for the case is made available.

“Hopefully this will begin the process of closure for the family.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support the family in their endeavours for truth.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Justice Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has today condemned the latest immigration policy to be implemented by the Trump administration.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;

“What we have seen develop over the weekend is nothing short of disgusting and barbaric, and we must act as a state to condemn these measures.

“The Minister for Justice and the Government must act to do all within their power to ensure the message that Irish society does not believe this to be remotely acceptable.

“We’ve seen children being caged after being separated from their parents; it’s a practice that wouldn’t have been acceptable 100 years ago, and is a flagrant human rights abuse.

“We must also begin to have a proper conversation about our own immigration policies, namely Direct Provision.

“Society is rightly outraged by Trump's policies, but we also must accept our own failings, and act to change them.

“Direct Provision is an outdated model, and must be done away with.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has today warned that much needed public investment cannot be sacrificed on the altar of unsustainable tax cuts by Fine Gael and their partners in Fianna Fáil.

The TD for Cork North Central was speaking after the publication of the ESRI’s Quarterly Economic Commentary.

Teachta O’Brien said;

“The recent report by the ESRI reveals the choice that must be made in the upcoming Budget for Fine Gael and their partners in Fianna Fáil.

“In its Quarterly Economic Commentary the ESRI noted that while an ambitious programme of capital investment is required to redress over a decade of infrastructural neglect, this cannot be done while simultaneously reducing the tax base without compromising the public finances.

“Amidst emergencies in homelessness, housing crises and unprecedented dysfunction in our hospitals, the Irish public are all too aware of this need for investment.

“While Sinn Féin has articulated our commitment to an ambitious and far reaching plan of public investment that respects the integrity of the public finances, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil must make a choice.

“While Fine Gael had previously promised to abolish the USC only to realise the fantasy of their own policy, Fianna Fáil have promised to return to the McCreevy economics of old by cutting the tax base, increasing spending and diverting over half a billion of public money annually towards an ill-defined contingency-reserve fund.

"These commitments are both incredible and incoherent.

“Sinn Féin is committed to public investment through a sustainable fiscal policy. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil need to face economic reality or admit their policies are unfit to solve the problems of today.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has encouraged support for Learning Disability Week.

The party’s Disability and Ethnic Minorities spokesperson was speaking after attending the rededication of the Leonard Cheshire garden in Omagh. 

The West Tyrone MLA said:

“This year the focus of Learning Disability Week is health, with a big focus on the ‘Treat Me Well Campaign’.

“The ‘Treat Me Well Campaign’ calls on NHS staff and people with a learning disability to work together to improve healthcare for patients with a learning disability as quite often the treatment people with a learning disability get in hospital is still not good enough.

“Hospitals can make some simple changes that will make a difference to how someone with a learning disability encounters healthcare in hospital, this includes ensuring communicating better, giving clearer information and taking more time help to save lives.

“I would encourage all hospital workers to become ‘Treat me well Champions’ and to hold events in their local hospital.”

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Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed an apology from Sky TV after viewers in the north were blocked from watching the ‘Sunday Game’ on the satellite platform.

Niall Ó Donnghaile said:

“I welcome the apology from Sky TV for incorrectly blocking the ‘Sunday Game’ from being broadcast to satellite TV viewers in the north. 

“Viewers rightly aired their frustration due to being met with a blank screen on Sunday night. This only added to growing frustration among people in the North due to the constant blocking of RTE programmes, mainly sporting events,  via satellite.

“RTE and Sky must now move to put processes in place to ensure that the blocking of the ‘Sunday Game’ and other programmes never happens again.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for the Arts, Youth Affairs and LGBTQI rights, Senator Fintan Warfield has submitted amendments to a motion before the Dáil and Seanad today that apologises to men convicted under the anti-homosexuality laws pre-1993. 

Sinn Féin’s amendments, if accepted, commit the government to initiate legislation that will also exonerate those convicted by the same laws.

Senator Warfield said:

“An apology on the part of the state for the treatment towards the LGBTI community is welcome.

"It is more than appropriate that the state should apologise for institutional discrimination and admit that it has historically mistreated the LGBTI community.

“The government should make every effort to vindicate those convicted under these laws. It is not good enough to apologise and then neglect to sufficiently investigate methods of exoneration.

“Sinn Féin have proposed an exoneration amendment along with future commitments to implementation of hate crime legislation and a ban on so-called ‘conversion’ therapies. 

“We call on all parties and independents to support these amendments, as they commit the government to act on protecting our LGBTI community now and in the future”.

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has today said unsustainable net tax cutting measures in the coming budget will deepen crisis in public services and add to instability in state finances.

The Donegal TD was speaking following warnings from the ESRI to the government that infrastructural investment in Budget 2019 must be prioritised over tax cuts.

Pearse Doherty TD said:

"In the midst of Fine Gael's unprecedented homelessness crisis, crumbling infrastructure, and chaos in public services, unsustainable tax cuts will undermine our ability to invest and secure our volatile public finances.

"In Ireland we still feel the consequences of the lost decade - years of underinvestment and crisis, of emigration, and of deepening inequalities.

"This coming budget must be about building a new economy for a changing Ireland, with world class public services, and meaningful investment to bring stability to our public finances and to people's homes.

"In Budget 2019, Sinn Féin in government would stabilise our tax base, while investing in our infrastructure, the full economic potential of our young people, and those left behind by successive governments."

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Following a report published today by Climate Action Network Europe, which reports on EU countries’ ambitions and progress in fighting climate change, Sinn Féin Dublin MEP has slammed the lack of commitment shown by the Irish Government to tackling this issue.

Speaking from Dublin, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan stated:

"It is not surprising in the slightest that Ireland is at the bottom of this ranking. We have known for far too long that this government has been dragging its feet on climate action, with a woefully insufficient National Mitigation Plan. Today we have further proof that Fine Gael is unfit for government, bringing our country into disrepute on an issue where we could be leading the way.

"There is no political will from the Government to tackle this issue. The findings in this report are appalling – stating Ireland's 'stiff opposition to climate action nationally and in the EU' is keeping us in the red.

"It finds 0% in the area of more promoting more ambitious EU targets and strategies, and reports a shocking 8% progress on implementation of 2020 targets.

"It is important to quote this report at length - it finds that  Ireland 'played a negative role in the negotiations of the EU 2030 climate and energy legislation, pushing for loopholes to dilute the laws.' This is absolutely unacceptable, particularly given that the Citizen's Assembly expressed major concern over climate change.

"The people of Ireland want a government that represents them, and they want us to be leading the other EU Member States, not dragging them down.

"This year, I am representing the European Parliament and Sinn Féin at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, which will see world leaders from all levels meet to encourage more ambition in this policy area.

"I will also be representing the same at COP 24 in Poland this December, the follow-up conference to the Paris Agreement.

“Minister Denis Naughten can no longer defend Ireland’s record on climate change which he attempted to do at the UN Climate talks last November. The Government must radically revise and fully implement the National Mitigation Plan and get serious about achieving its emissions targets".

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Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has welcomed funding of £140m towards the construction of the Strule shared education campus.

The West Tyrone MP said:

“The Strule education campus will be an iconic state-of-the-art education facilities for six schools and massive investment in the Omagh area.

“Sinn Féin have been instrumental in moving this project forward and I am delighted that funding has been confirmed.

“This is a good news story for education and for the Omagh area.”

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Former MLA Catherine Nelson (nee Seeley) will be co-opted onto Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council tonight.

Councillor Maire Cairns, who has represented the Lurgan area for almost four years, is retiring as an ABC Councillor.

Sinn Féin Deputy Group Leader Liam Mackle said:

“It has been a great privilege and honour to work with Maire.

"We are also delighted that Catherine Nelson is stepping forward into the role.

“Catherine is an experienced activist who will work hard for those she will represent."

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Commenting on the blocking of 'The Sunday Game' Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile said:

“The ongoing block on important sporting events broadcast on RTÉ is causing major frustration for sports fans, and members of organisations like the GAA.

“Last night the Sunday Game was blocked from satellite TV in the North.

“The coverage blocked was for games which had already been played.

“This treatment of GAA members in the north is unacceptable. 

“I will again raise this on the floor of the Seanad in the hope of drawing more attention to this issue.

“I am under no illusions about the complexity of licensing and broadcasting rights but this issue needs addressed and taken into consideration by both RTÉ and the satellite providers when negotiating their deals. 

“People need to see RTÉ, even if they aren’t responsible for the block, take their frustrations on board and do what they can to acknowledge and address them - up until now it’s been radio silence from them. 

“RTÉ’s own Charter states that they will provide services to have the character of a public service.....universally available to the whole community on the island of Ireland’ - last night’s blocking of the Sunday Game is yet another in a litany of examples of where this commitment is most definitely unfulfilled. 

“The digital partition of Ireland is both unacceptable and unsustainable. 

“RTÉ should work to ensure they adopt a position that is in line with their own Charter when negotiating licensing and broadcasting rights for events of such important sporting and national significance.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald reminds students of the deadline to apply for the All-Ireland Scholarship scheme, which is open until 29th June.

The party's Further and Higher Education spokesperson said: 

"The annual scholarship scheme which assists top-performing students from low income households and is funded by businessman JP McManus, is open for applications until 29th June.  

"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.

"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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Following the granting of a temporary licence for Billy Caldwell to receive medicinal cannabis by the British Home Secretary, West Tyrone MP Órfhlaith Begley has said this is only a short-term solution and we need to find a long-term resolution so that there can be no repeat of the suffering experienced by Billy last week. 

 

Ms Begley said:

 

“Following confirmation from the Home Office that the medication is only permitted on a short-term basis, I have requested an urgent meeting with the British Health Minister Jeremy Hunt, and British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to discuss a long-term resolution for Billy Caldwell and for the many other people who need medicinal cannabis to ease their suffering.

 

“Last week I met with other families who are in a similar situation as the Caldwell family. There is an obvious and urgent need for legislative reform and public opinion is clearly in support of this.

 

"The medication was working for Billy and he deteriorated badly without it. Billy should not have had to experience severe epileptic seizures as a result of the withdrawal of his medication.

 

"Billy is living proof that this medication can be life changing. We need a long-term solution so that he and others can benefit from it."

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD, has today said the so-called Rainy Day Fund is little more than a pre-election gambit by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The Donegal TD was speaking following reports that Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe is planning to earmark corporate tax receipts as a contribution to the fund.

Teachta Doherty said:

“The so-called Rainy Day Fund simply does not address the social crisis and economic instability fostered by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over successive budgets.

“Moreover, this is now an ever-changing proposal about two years in the making. Quite clearly this is a rehashed election gimmick, trying to create the illusion of stability for a government that is normalising the crisis see in housing and health services across Ireland.

“Not only does the Heads of Bill for this proposal make no mention of corporate tax receipts contributing to the fund, it forces the government of the day to divert €500m away from investment, regardless of the level of crisis in our public services.

“Indeed, this corporate tax idea is itself borrowed from Fianna Fáil's 2016 manifesto. Had Fianna Fáil fulfilled this pledge, they’d have tucked away €1.8bn this year in a Rainy Day Fund. This is the entirety of the fiscal space now remaining for the coming Budget.

“This is dangerous, on-the-hoof policy making in the mouth of an election. The consequences of Fianna Fáil’s 2016 pledge would now mean no investment in housing, no money for the health crisis, and no extra help for society’s most vulnerable in this year's Budget.

“We don’t need election plans. We need action; action to see off overheating and end Fine Gael’s homelessness crisis, and to stabilise our public finances and infrastructure after a decade of neglect, Sinn Féin would invest.

“To continue starving the island of investment and infrastructure at a time of great uncertainty and international volatility is, in effect, an attempt to normalise severe crisis nurtured by Fine Gael in government.”

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The British Prime Minister’s claims about the unfairness of legacy investigations have been exposed as false by her own government’s briefing notes which were accidentally leaked over the weekend, Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has said.

The Sinn Féin Victims Spokesperson was commenting after an embarrassing breach saw a press notice issued to journalists which still had attached confidential briefing notes intended for British Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

Linda Dillon said: “Quite apart from the fact that a government which can’t even put an email out without making a mess of it is also trying to take us out of the European Union, the briefing again exposes the inaccurate and damaging claims which Theresa May made about the legacy process.

“Her remarks that the only people being investigated over conflict-related deaths are British armed forces and police officers caused deep offence and are patently untrue as evidenced by the official statistics.

“Now her government’s own confidential briefing reveal that they know her claims as false. They state clearly that a number of non-state investigations are already underway and that the Historical Investigations Unit will examine more deaths of state forces than those caused by them.

“This directly contradicts what Theresa May told the House of Commons, yet she has still failed to withdraw remarks which caused great hurt to many victims’ families.

“The briefing also reveals that any veteran of state forces facing an allegation will receive full legal support and representation including the services of a barrister. This support will be provided for a long as necessary and comes regardless of the nature of the allegation or the length of time the veteran served.

“That hardly sounds like a process that is unfairly weighted against State forces so, again, I would call on Theresa May to finally do the right thing, withdraw her comments and put the record straight.” 

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