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Speaking on World Diabetes Day, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has called for the Minister for Health Simon Harris to take the opportunity to rollout ‘Smart’ Diabetes Technology under the Long Term Illness Scheme for those suffering from diabetes.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Living with diabetes is incredibly difficult and requires constant vigilance taking a severe toll physically and mentally.

“That difficulty is compounded by the hours spent each week as sufferers carefully track blood glucose levels, food intake and physical exercise in order to calculate when and how much insulin should be injected into their bodies.

“Despite the enormous strides made as regards research, there is still no cure and, as a result, diabetes is included under the Long Term Illness (LTI) Scheme. Due to being designated as a long term illness, people with diabetes receive their drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances for the treatment free of charge.

“However, much of what is covered under the LTI scheme for people with diabetes is still rather rudimentary, particularly when it comes to blood glucose monitoring. The current practice requires blood to be drawn through finger pricks for each test, which causes pain and inconvenience. Each test also requires a new test-strip, contributing to the recurring cost of such a device.

“Despite the advancements when it comes to electronic blood glucose monitoring, those receiving treatments under the LTI scheme still only receive blood glucose monitoring strips. This is in spite of the body of evidence pointing towards smart diabetes technology, such as non-invasive electronic blood glucose monitors, not only being better for patients in the way diabetes is controlled and monitored, but in the long run it may also be cost neutral to the state.

“Therefore, I am calling on the Minister for Health to move to updating the LTI book to include smart diabetes technology such as non-invasive electronic blood glucose monitors and to construct a chronic diseases register similar to the registry collated by the National Cancer Registry.” 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Government to “invest directly in the supply of affordable rental and purchase homes” to address the growing affordability crisis. His call was made in response to an ESRI report predicting a 20% rise in house prices over the next three years.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Renting or buying a home has become increasingly out of reach for many working people. Those earning above the thresholds for social housing but below a gross household income off €75,000 per year are being priced out of the rental and purchase markets.

“Today’s ESRI report makes for grim reading, predicting as it does a 20% increase in house prices by 2020. Read alongside today’s Daft.ie Q3 rent report, showing an increase of 11.2% since last year it is very bad news indeed.

“While the ESRI are correct to warn against easing access to credit, they are naive if they believe supply on its own will remedy the situation. As we saw during the boom, supply without real affordability measures will not solve the problem for modest income working people.

“Government focus must be on reducing the cost of purchasing and renting a home. They must focus on investing in a supply of affordable rental and purchase homes.

“Instead of pumping €1.1bn over three years into private sector schemes such as Help to Buy, the Local Infrastructure Fund and Home Build Finance Ireland, Government must invest this money into Council led affordable housing. This could also be done in conjunction with not for profit housing co-ops.

“Affordable housing means properties at a sale price of between €160,000 and €260,000 in Dublin targeting households with incomes above the social housing threshold and below approximately €75,000 per year.

“It also means affordable rental tenancies with rent set at the economic cost of the provision and maintenance of the unit rather than on market prices.

“Sinn Féin outlined in our Alternative Budget how government could start providing these two new streams of affordable rental and purchase public housing. Given the bad news from the ESRI and Daft.ie today, it is high time the Government started to listen.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Minster for Housing Eoghan Murphy to introduce real rent certainty as figures published by Daft.ie show that, yet again, rents are at a record high across the state. The report states that the average rent is now €1,200, with Dublin rents up 12.3% in the year to September 2017. 

Deputy Ó Broin said: 

“Daft’s figures for Q3 of 2017 show that rents are continuing to rise to unsustainable levels. The data also indicates that the rent pressure zone legislation, introduced almost a year ago is not working, as there is no tangible difference in the rent increases in designated rent pressure zones and the rest of the state.

“The rent pressure zone legislation was supposed to cool rent increases. It hasn’t worked. The rental market is still broken and now the Minister needs to act decisively and bring in real rent certainty. 

“From the data in this report, it is clear that landlords are breaching the 4% cap set by the current legislation. Unfortunately, as with most issues within the private rented sector, the tenant is responsible for ensuring that landlords are complying with the new legislation.

“This report from Daft also indicates that there were only 3,365 properties available to rent across the state on November 1st. According to Daft.ie, this is the lowest number ever recorded for this time of year, since Daft started reporting in 2006. 

“With the supply of rental properties so limited, many tenants are reluctant to challenge the landlord’s asking price for fear of not finding anywhere to live. 

“Sinn Féin has tabled numerous Bills and amendments calling for the introduction of real rent certainty. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil failed to support this measure, which would have provided real breathing space to all tenants. It is past time for them to reconsider their opposition to rent certainty.” 

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Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP will meet the BBC to challenge the broadcaster on its failure to adequately cover the production 'No Stone Unturned’.

Despite the BBC's failure, the ground-breaking documentary into the massacre at Loughinisland in 1994 has received widespread coverage on TV, radio, online, the print media and is attracting sellout audiences to local cinemas.

The South Down MP said:

“People are genuinely dumbfounded that BBC News has not covered this story when other media outlets have focused on the documentary and its revelations.

“As the MP for South Down I will meet with the BBC and challenge this editorial approach.

“It is beyond belief that there should be such a glaring omission.

“I was 9 years old when my local community was ripped apart by these killings; the community stood with the families for decades until last year’s Police Ombudsman report confirmed the extent to which the British state colluded with the loyalist gunmen. 

“I will convey the growing feeling throughout the community that the BBC is now part of the cover-up of this massacre.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said news that the Líofa scheme has reached its target of 20,000 three years early shows there is a demand to learn Irish.

The North Belfast MLA said:

“News that the Líofa scheme has exceeded 20,000 is to be welcomed.

“When Líofa started in September 2011 the target of 1,000 was set, this was then revised as demand grew. The target of 20,000 for 2020 was set in 2016 and that too has been exceeded.

“This shows that there is a demand to learn Irish and that people from all backgrounds are taking up the opportunity to do so.

“The Irish language belongs to us all and it is time that an Irish Language Act was introduced so that Irish speakers and learners are afforded the same rights as citizens across these islands.”

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Speaking at Stormont today, Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O’Neill commented:

“The British Secretary of State will today move to introduce a budget to finance public services here. This is an acknowledgement by the British Government that agreement has not been possible.

“The reason for this is the DUP opposition to a rights-based society. While some progress was made, the denial of rights would not be tolerated in Dublin and London and should not be tolerated here. We met the DUP this morning and told them this.

“Since March of this year Sinn Féin has been seeking agreement on the implementation of outstanding commitments as a basis for restoring public trust and confidence in the institutions.

“Sinn Féin were flexible, we were willing to stretch ourselves to achieve a breakthrough and we were right to do so.

“The DUP’s resistance to the implementation of previous agreements and particularly rights available everywhere else in these islands means that there is not a locally-elected Executive to take decisions.

“The British government has been complicit in this, backing the DUP’s refusal to honour the commitments previously made and blocking the delivery of equality.

“Theresa May has prioritised her own electoral survival via the Tory/DUP pact over the interest of all of the people in the North.

“This is compounded by the DUP’s refusal to accept the vote in the North to reject Brexit. The DUP are committed to the North being dragged out of the EU against the will and the interests of people here.

“Last Friday we told the British PM that direct rule is not an option.

“In the absence of the Assembly and Executive the choice for both governments is between the protection of the Good Friday Agreement or its abandonment.

“These issues aren’t going away. It is now the responsibility of the two governments to look to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and for a British-Irish intergovernmental conference to meet as soon as possible.

“We have sought urgent meetings with both the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. The way forward now is for the two governments to fulfil their responsibility as co-guarantors of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements, to honour outstanding commitments, and to deliver rights enjoyed by everyone else on these islands to people here.

“This would pave the way for the Executive to be restored.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has called on the Education Authority to reverse the decision to end the provision of outdoor education at Killowen Outdoor Education Centre.

The South Down MLA said:

“Killowen OEC is a vital asset to all young people and to the South Down community.

“These centres not only keep young people active, but also help with young people’s mental health.

“As an outdoor education centre it provides quality learning experiences in the outdoors for all young people and provide experiences that other centres, like youth centres, can’t provide.

"The Education Authority should be investing to enhance such a facility, not restricting its services.

“I have requested a meeting with the Education Authority and will be raising the matter with the Education Department. I hope given the severe impact of this decision they will afford local representatives the opportunity to make their case.”

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the Tánaiste to come before the Tribunal to provide full clarity in relation to what the Department knew of the approach that the Garda Síochána was going to take in the O'Higgins Commission.

Speaking this morning, Teachta Ó Laoghaire stated;

“The comments from the Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, in response to the questions raised by Alan Kelly were ambiguous at best, and evasive regarding both her and the Justice Departments prior knowledge of the attempts to discredit Garda Maurice McCabe.

"If it is the case that the Department was aware, and either assented to or approved of such a course of action, then the campaign to undermine the credibility of Garda McCabe goes right to the heart of Government. This is a deeply concerning possibility.

"The need for the Government to provide clarity on this is obvious and urgent. The Tánaiste has referenced the Charleton Tribunal as being the appropriate place to discuss this. However, the terms of reference do not cover the Departments involvement, and whether it would have been privy to this approach of undermining credibility.

"So we cannot know for certain if it will be discussed or explored there, and in any event, the Tribunal cannot be used as cover for legitimate questions about a Government enquiry.

"Therefore it is my view that the Tánaiste must come before the Dáil, and make it clear that the Department had no such knowledge - and if she cannot do that, the the Dáil needs to have a discussion as to whether or not an expansion of the Terms of Reference is required to include representatives from the Department.

"That would ensure that the Tribunal does examine that, and that Tánaiste Fitzgerald, and Departmental officials would therefore come before the Tribunal.

“I think the Government has to answer questions on what are some very serious allegations that have been levelled regarding their prior knowledge; and should be discussed as a matter of urgency in the Dáil - Frances Fitzgerald should take the earliest possible opportunity to clarify this issue.

ENDS//

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to “come clean on the real number of vacant Councils houses returned to use”. The call was made after a PQ reply from the Minister claims that 8,512 Council voids were returned to stock between 2014 and 2017 while a 2016 report by the National Oversight and Audit Commission indicated that there was a total of 4,202 council voids in the system in 2014.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The issue of long term vacant Council houses has been a cause of concern for some years. At a time of acute housing need, there has been significant pressure on Councils to ensure that Council properties that become vacant are relet as quickly as possible.

“A number of years ago, it was revealed that there were a large number of long-term vacant houses that Council not be let out because they did not have the money to refurbish them. These units had essentially fallen out of Council stock.

“Additional money has been provided by the Department of Housing since 2014 to bring these units back into active use. Each year, the total number of ‘returned long term voids’ has been included in the Department’s new social housing figures.

“However, a major discrepancy has now emerged in the Governments figures. A 2016 report from the National Oversight and Audit Commission states that there were 4,202 vacant Council houses in 2014. Just over half of these units were vacant for more than one year.

“Yet, in a recent Parliamentary Question Reply, Minister Murphy has claimed that 8,512 long term vacant Council houses have been brought back into use since 2014.

“This is not just a question of numbers. The Government is including these figures in their annual social housing output figures. However, it appears that either the Councils underreported the real level of long term vacancy when reporting to NOAC for the 2016 report or that the Department of Housing are not only including Council units that have been brought back into use after a long period of vacancy but also those that are just being relet from one tenant to another. 

“No matter what the explanation is, this looks suspiciously like a case of cooking the books to make the figures look better. I have raised the matter directly with the Minister for Housing and strongly feel that he needs to come clean on the real number of vacant Councils houses returned to use.

“The Government appears to have a problem with housing figures. To date, they have been called out on figures for new builds, affordable housing and homelessness. Now, it appears that they have a problem with vacant Council units too.” 

Note to editor: Please see the PQ in question and a link to the NOAC report below:

http://noac.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/NOAC-Management-and-Maintenance.pdf


For Written Answer on : 07/11/2017
Question Number(s): 1358 Question Reference(s): 47024/17
Department: Housing, Planning and Local Government
______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the number of long term social housing voids returned to stock by each local authority in each of the years 2014 to 2016 and to date in 2017; and the funding allocated to each local authority in each year to restore these units to use, in tabular form.

REPLY

The Voids Programme, introduced in 2014 by my Department, provides additional support to local authorities in preparing vacant units for reletting.  This funding is available as an additional support over and above what local authorities provide themselves towards such work.

There were 2,326, 2,696 and 2,090 vacant social homes brought back into productive use in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively, with funding assistance from my Department. The latest information for 2017 indicates that nearly 850 units have been completed and I anticipate that this figure will reach over 1,400 by year-end.

Local authorities are continuing to undertake works under the programme in 2017 and submit claims for funding on an on-going basis, as works are completed.  As such, my Department does not yet have complete figures for the average costs of units retrofitted this year. 

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Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny TD has said that the publication of the Pobal Deprivation Index bore out what everyone in rural Ireland knows; that successive governments have neglected and ignored rural towns and villages which suffered inordinately from the economic crash and have seen no recovery.

Deputy Kenny said:

“Emigration, unemployment, under-employment, loss of services and poverty are still common in rural towns and villages, where the visual evidence of recession is clear and present.

“The lack of infrastructure, no public transport, little or no broadband, and severely curtailed emergency services are the norm and there is little sign of the recovery which the FF-FG coalition likes to talk about every day in the Dáil.

“I proposed measures as part of the National Planning Framework consultation which would nurture economic activity in rural areas, like support of small enterprise, especially those with low carbon output, as an essential element in the sustainability of rural communities.

“Supporting sustainable agriculture and food sector especially in achieving a fair and viable price for the primary producers are essential to the survival of the family farm, which in turn is essential to the prosperity of rural towns and villages.

“I am sick and tired of listening to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael paying lip service to rural Ireland, and standing idly by while research such as this shows that deprivation is worse in the rural areas which are farther from major towns and that the level of deprivation is increasing outside cities. In fact, it is a key finding of this index that small towns with a population of between 1,000 and 5,000 have been inordinately affected by the recession and have not seen any recovery.” 

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Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Taoiseach to retract his ill informed comments on homelessness.

Deputy O Broin said:

“The Taoiseach at the weekend made light of a serious problem afflicting our society. The levels of family, child homelessness and adult homelessness is at the highest levels ever recorded in the State.

“He was not comparing like with like when made his inaccurate claim that Ireland has low levels of homelessness when compared on an international level.

“Other states across the OECD have broader definitions of the term homelessness. Plus the OECD data that Varadkar’s spin team used is two years out of date and makes it clear that countries count homelessness in different ways. 

“As I have pointed out to the government on many occasions our housing statistics are based on data from the department of housing.

"The figures published on a monthly basis does not include women and children in Túsla funded domestic violence accommodation. Nor does it include those sofa surfing or those involuntarily sharing unsuitable accommodation in over crowded conditions.

“The Taoiseach has yet again demonstrated his incompetence of all things housing related. I hope for the sake of those experiencing homelessness that it was an another embarrassing gaffe and not an honestly held belief.

“Comments like these are an attempt to normalise homelessness and make it more acceptable.

"I was disappointed with the comments of the out going chair of the Housing Agency on Morning Ireland this morning. Normalising the homelessness crisis is not the way to deal with the issue.

"The trolley crisis is hospitals across the State is an example of a terrible, unacceptable situation that has been normalised.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has warned of unpreparedness by both authorities and legislators to deal with consequences of Brexit for the agri-food sector.

Speaking in a special debate in the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Carthy said:

“The three reports presented in the EP Agriculture Committee expose not only just how badly Ireland’s largest indigenous sector stands to lose from Brexit, but also just how unprepared authorities are to cope with the changing landscape.

“I’m glad that fellow MEPs now have the facts that Irish farmers will be particularly vulnerable not just because of reliance on British markets, consumer tastes and processing routes, but also because of the fact that two thirds of Irish Exports to the continent move via Britain.

"When Britain leaves there is the possibility that Irish hauliers will be stopped four times for customs clearance, something Professor Matthew's report says the authorities are completely unprepared for.

“But it's not just the authorities who are unprepared for the consequences of Brexit, it's policy makers.

"It's true that there is little the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee can do so long as the Tory Government refuse to engage with reality on this matter.  But I would like to see discussions developing on the issues we do have control over, such as a crisis reserve fund for farmers disproportionately affected by Brexit and easier triggering of mechanisms already in place. Aswell as funds to help farmers plan for the future in terms of trade diversion and working with new customs and inspections rules.

On the issue of the need for solidarity from other remaining Member States, Carthy stated: 

“Many MEPs have discussed the need for solidarity to deal with Brexit. The reports make for grim reading for Ireland, where it is acknowledged the brunt of the economic shocks will be felt.

"The -3.4% drop in GDP and cutting off of 800l of milk, 400,000 lambs and 400,000 pigs at the border every year are figures we have been discussing at a national level for some time now.

“Real solidarity in this situation would mean committing to protecting the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and protecting Island of Ireland harmonisation that has developed over the last 20 years.

"If MEPs are real about protecting the economy then ensuring special status for farmers in the North is one driver of that”.

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has welcomed the ‘Silent Santa’ initiative at Foyleside Shopping Centre in a Derry, which will provide a quiet and relaxed environment for children with autism to visit Santa.

Karen Mullan said:

“I welcome the news that Foyleside Shopping Centre will provide an autism friendly service for children with autism to visit Santa in a quiet and relaxed environment.

“Many children with autism are extremely sensitive to loud noises, particularly from queuing and large crowds of people, which could overwhelm or distract them.

“I am delighted and encouraged that organisations are making an effort to promote inclusivity when organising events during the festive period.

“Silent Santa will launch on Sunday 19th November and run every Sunday from 10.30am to 12pm, finishing on Sunday 10th December.”

Críoch/Ends

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There can only be an agreement to restore the Stormont institutions if the DUP and British Government are prepared to uphold rights and equality, Sinn Féin Northern Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

Addressing the annual Edentubber commemoration, Michelle O’Neill also accused the British Government of putting its own electoral survival ahead of the interests of citizens here.

“It is clear that the Tory government’s priority at this time is to sustain its political pact with the DUP,” she commented.

“Theresa May and her party have acquiesced in their own self-interests to the DUP blocking the equality agenda and denying rights which are the norm in all other parts of our islands.

“Sinn Féin remains committed to the restoration of the institutions and the Executive.

“However, they only have value if they enjoy the confidence and support of the people they were established to serve.

“They only have meaning if they are delivering fairly for all our people based on the principles of equality and mutual respect on which they were founded.

“If the DUP or anyone else wish to exercise political power in Government in the North of Ireland now or in the future, then the cost is to embrace a rights-based society and equal partnership government, which works for everyone.”

Full Remarks of Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O’Neill Speech at Endentubber Commemoration, Sunday 12th November 2017

INTRODUCTION

A chairde agus a chomrádaithe, is mór an onóir dom labhairt anseo inniu.

It is an honour to have been asked to speak here today, as we gather to commemorate, remember and honour on this 60th anniversary, Volunteers Oliver Craven, Paul Smith, George Keegan, Patrick Parle and Michael Watters who died in a premature explosion in the early hours of Monday 11th November 1957.

These tragic deaths occurred during the course of 'Operation Harvest' — in what became known as the ‘Border Campaign’ waged by the IRA between 1956 and 1962.

These republicans – the Edentubber Martyrs – included the owner of the cottage, 54-year-old Michael Waters, Paul Smith, 19 years old, from Bessbrook; Oliver Craven, from Newry; Patrick Parle and George Keegan from Wexford.

As republicans have done so every year since 1957 - we gather here today to honour and commemorate their memory and affirm our determination and commitment to the achievement of an agreed, new and united Ireland built on equality and social justice.

Three of the Edentubber Martyrs – Michael, Paul and Oliver – came from this area – a community defined by its strong, vibrant and tenacious commitment to the republican struggle. Patrick and George came from Wexford, a proud county with a strong republican heritage stretching back to 1798. 

Tháinig siad anseo chun an tír a aontú.
 
These men came together with common purpose; to bring about the reunification of this island – a vision that binds us all here today. 
 
They knew that there is nothing more important than freedom and an end to the partition of Ireland, and they were killed in pursuit of Irish freedom.
 
They had an inner strength, determination and courage to stand up against injustice and oppression and to demand the rights and entitlements of the Irish people.

They believed that the continued division of our country was an affront to the ideals, which inspired them, the ideals of the Proclamation of 1916.

These patriots represented the republican spirit of Connolly, Pearse, Markievicz and Tone, and together took a stand to end injustice and achieve equality, peace and freedom in our country.
 
Many ordinary brave republican men and women have died for our freedom before the ‘50s campaign and since.

Many were executed, fell in battle, or died on hunger strike.

Thousands were hounded and jailed on both sides of the border and in England where both they, and their families endured great hardships for the cause of Irish freedom.

These were difficult times to be a republican.

Different times and circumstances require different political strategies but our primary goal and commitment to Irish freedom remains the same.

Agus níl an obair seo furasta.

But the journey of course is never easy.

It requires increased effort to mobilise people at home and abroad in support of republican objectives towards a united Ireland.

We have a unique opportunity to be the authors of a new, peaceful, and democratic future – where our freedom will be won.

It is our job to change the political and constitutional conditions and transform and unite this island and its people.

It is 19 years on since the Good Friday Agreement.

I am thankful that after decades of conflict and division that many people, including the republican leadership worked tirelessly to develop and build the peace process that a new generation enjoy today.

We want to ensure that no one else suffers as a result of conflict; that no other family is bereaved; that the political conditions of discrimination and inequality are fundamentally changed, that everybody belongs and nobody feels alienated from their own country, and that the experience of war and of loss and injury is never repeated.

This does not mean we forget our past.

It means that we address the causes and the aftermath of conflict and division in a mature, sensitive and political manner as a society.

POLITICAL TALKS

This year so far has seen the collapse of the political institutions, we have fought two election campaigns, we have been involved in stop start negotiations and of course we lost our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness.

Ag tús na bliana seo d’éirigh Martin as a phost.

At the start of this year Martin resigned his position of Deputy First Minister.

He did so amid a catalogue of allegations of financial scandal associated with our partners in government, the DUP, and their deliberate disrespect for Irish culture, identity and language.

The Sinn Féin leadership have worked tirelessly to defend our peace process, to advance the reconciliation of our community and to build a better future for our young people.

The DUP after ten years in government have failed to embrace the principles of equality, parity of esteem and mutual respect, which are cornerstones of the GFA and subsequent agreements.

Mar sin, rinne Martin an rud ceart, ag an am ceart agus tá muid buíoch dó.

So Martin did the right thing at the right time, and we are indebted to him for his courage, his guidance and his leadership.

In both elections the public overwhelmingly endorsed the stance taken by our party.

The support for the Sinn Féin party in both the Assembly and Westminster elections was an endorsement of a demand for absolute respect, integrity and common decency and rights for all – a demand for power-sharing as it was originally agreed.

Since then we have been engaged in negotiations to restore the power sharing institutions on the basis of equality, respect and integrity.

Sinn Féin entered into these negotiations in a positive and strategic way strengthened by our recently renewed and increased mandate.

Our leadership has worked closely with the DUP and the British and Irish governments to find solutions to the current impasse to restore power sharing and the political institutions.

Rinne muid ár ndícheall.

We were flexible and willing to stretch ourselves in an effort to achieve a breakthrough.

However, despite our best endeavours the discussions were unsuccessful.

I would like to get the political institutions - an Executive, Assembly, All-Ireland Ministerial Council restored - but it has to be on the basis of rights, equality and integrity.

The peace was hard won.

And therefore the principles and values of the Good Friday Peace Agreement

– the foundation stone of the peace process, must be honoured and fully implemented
– not renegotiated by political unionism.

Commitments must be delivered and it is the duty of both the Irish and British governments to fulfil their part. 

They have undermined the process of change by refusing to honour agreements, refusing to resolve the issues of the past while imposing austerity and Brexit against the wishes and best interests of people here.

I believe a political breakthrough is entirely possible, but only if the DUP grasp the opportunity to guarantee the right of every citizen to their democratic civil and political rights – rights that are realised and enjoyed in the rest of these islands.

That includes an Irish Language Act, which provides the right to use the Irish language for official purposes in interacting with the State.  The right to access coroner’s inquests; equal marriage; a bill of rights; and a commitment to tackle sectarianism.

Without doubt the DUP support for Brexit and for the Conservative Government poses real challenges.

It is clear that the Tory government’s priority at this time is to sustain its political pact with the DUP.

Theresa May and her party have acquiesced in their own self-interests to the DUP blocking the equality agenda and denying rights which are the norm in all other parts of our islands.

Níl sé seo inghlactha.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Sinn Féin remains committed to the restoration of the institutions and the Executive.

However, they only have value if they enjoy the confidence and support of the people they were established to serve.

They only have meaning if they are delivering fairly for all our people based on the principles of equality and mutual respect on which they were founded.

CONCLUSION

Finally, our message to the British Government and the DUP is that it is now time that political unionism accepted that the old certainties are gone.

The Unionist State is gone. Citizens do not want majorities or minorities - they want equality.

I have made clear to British Prime Minister Theresa May as recently as Thursday that Direct rule is not an option, and failing Agreement both Governments must implement those outstanding rights and equality issues.

We are entering a new political era and these issues are not going away, and greater challenges will lie ahead.

So, If they are not dealt with now they will have to be dealt with up the road; and sooner rather than later.

If the DUP or anyone else wish to exercise political power in Government in the North of Ireland now or in the future, then the cost is to embrace a rights based society and equal partnership government, which works for everyone.

Because one thing IS for certain - there will be no return to the status quo!

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

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Speaking after An Taoiseach's interview on RTE's "The Week in Politics" today, Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA said:

"The indifference shown by An Taoiseach for the rights agenda during his 'The Week in Politics' interview clearly demonstrates that he and the Irish Government still do not understand or accept the scale and nature of the political crisis in the north.

"His refusal to acknowledge the significance of Acht Gaeilge or delivery on other rights, and the need to implement past agreements, is giving cover to the negative role of the British Government, and that is a disgraceful dereliction of leadership.

"Resolution of the political crisis and re-establishment of the political institutions on the correct basis is being blocked by the British Tory Government's pact with the DUP.

"For as long as the Irish Government acquiesces to that reality it remains in default of its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, and fails in its responsibility to northern nationalists and other progressive minded citizens.

"The challenges of Brexit and managing public services will not be addressed by a return to the status quo.

"An Taoiseach should say clearly if he now wants northern republicans, nationalists and other progressives to accept the denial of their rights and establishment of proper power sharing and partnership.

"The Irish Government needs to recognise that unless agreements are implemented and rights are protected the political process in the north will remain broken.

"An Taoiseach should be disassociating his government from its current acquiescence with the British Government and DUP pact and standing up for the rights of all citizens in the north."

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD today attended the Annual Remembrance Sunday Service of Remembrance in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Speaking about the event Teacha McDonald said;

“I am very happy to attend today's ceremony in Dublin.

“The loss of a generation in the first world war impacted on families across Ireland.  It is right that we remember them. The dead of World War One are part of our shared, and at times contested, history.

“Last year I was proud to visit the Somme with Martin McGuinness and Sinn Féin party chairperson Declan Kearney for a wreath laying ceremony and to see at first hand the scale of the loss.

“I believe that while we may differ on our view of the past, we can all agree on respect for the dead and respect for other traditions

“A history of division must not stand in the way of finding a reconciled future.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Culture spokesperson Peadar Tóibín TD has said Minister Heather Humphreys has failed to act decisively and comprehensively on allegations of sexual harassment and bullying at the National Museum.

Teachta Tóibín said at each and every occasion when he raised this issue over the last year and a half the Minister has tried to shut down the issue.

Speaking today Teachta Tóibín said;

“This is an issue that I have been trying to raise over the past year and a half and I have raised it through questions, in the Dáil, in Committee and in the media and at each point the Minister has failed to act.

“Each and every time I raise this issue the Minister’s instinct is to shut it down.  She has failed to act decisively and comprehensively on these allegations when she could have got to grips with the issue or at least got a handle on it before it hit the headlines.

“Now that it has hit the headlines, I hope that at the very least the Minister will agree to include the National Museum, along with all other cultural institutions, in the review that she has committed to initiate into similar allegations in the theatres.

“She should stop preventing an investigation into these allegations and begin the process of empowering those who want to come forward and tell their story.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly has condemned a security alert in the Drumragh Avenue area of Omagh.Speaking today the West Tyrone MLA said:“The ongoing security alert in the Drumragh Avenue area has caused significant disruption to local residents and to Remembrance Day commemorations.“Everyone has a right to remember their dead with dignity and respect and those responsible for this security alert have shown complete disregard for all the people of this community.“The alert has seen the closure of Drumragh Avenue, Mountjoy Road, Sedan Avenue, George Street and High Street."If this does prove to be a viable device those responsible must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has described Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments regarding homelessness at The Fine Gael National Conference as “deeply insulting to those suffering the crisis.”

Teachta Adams added;

“The Taoiseach either doesn’t care enough or hasn’t grasped the scale of the crisis.

“The main statistic that the Taoiseach should be concerned about is the more than 8,000 citizens, including over 3,000 children, who are without a home. This is happening on his watch and as a result of the policies he is standing over.

“It is alarming that Teachta Varadkar seems to think that this is not such a big deal. His remarks will be cold comfort to those citizens this evening.”

Ends

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Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP says the voice of young people needs to be heard by those involved in Brexit negotiations as they offer a valuable insight into the fears and worries of a post-Brexit generation. The South Down MP was speaking from ‘Its Our Brexit Too’, an all-Ireland Brexit event in Newry organised by the Children’s Commissioner in the north, and the Ombudsman for Children in Dublin. Mr Hazzard said:"In recent months as the Brexit negotiations have unfolded it has become clear that there has been little debate on the impact of Brexit on children and young people in Ireland. This is wrong. “Young people have a right to be heard; for their fears to be addressed and their ideas considered. This forum in Newry is the first of its kind, and it has been an eyeopening experience for myself to see just how clued-in young people are when it comes to the issues dominating Brexit discussions. “From living standards, to human rights, young people across our island have genuine fears that need to be heard. Hopefully those political figures, civil servants, and NGOs who were in attendance today will take on board the issues raised and keep them in mind in the months ahead as we continue to find solutions to Brexit.” 

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