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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 spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has raised concern that delays in the processing of the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance will force parents into taking out high interest risky loans.

Teachta Brady said:

“I have been contacted by parents in absolute panic at the fact that they are yet to receive the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance payment.

“We are just over two weeks away from back to school and parents are struggling with the enormous costs involved.

“I have been informed that the call centre dealing with the payment will be closed this week and next week. The processing team are currently dealing with applications received on July 6th and they are in the middle of manually processing up to 50,000 applications.

“Parents have no idea what is going on within the Department and they have no idea when they will receive their payment. The only option being left to them is to seek high interest and high risk loans.

“I contacted Minister Doherty to seek clarity as to the current situation with the processing of these payments last week and I am yet to receive a response.

"I am calling on her to deal with what is a crisis for struggling parents as we approach the start of the new school year.

“There is no excuse for delays to these payments, this is the busiest time of year for parents, the Minister knew this and clearly failed to put the necessary resources in place on time.”

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Sinn Féin Culture, Arts and Sport spokesperson Sinéad Ennis MLA has congratulated Irish gymnast, Rhys McClenaghan, who secured a gold medal on the pommel horse at the European Championships in Glasgow.

The South Down MLA said:

“I would like to congratulate Rhys McClenaghan on his magnificent gold medal win at this year’s European Championships in Glasgow. 

“Rhys has made history by becoming the first Irish gymnast to reach the European gymnast final and then remarkably going on to win the title. 

“This achievement demonstrates the top class and unique sporting talent that we have on the island of Ireland and the potential we have to perform and win on the world stage.”

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A stark warning from farmers and meat processors over a ‘no deal’ Brexit is further evidence of the devastating consequences it will have here, Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson Declan McAleer MLA has said.

The West Tyrone MLA was commenting after the Ulster Famers Union and the NI Meat Exporters Association came together to warn that a no-deal Brexit would be "disastrous".

He said: “The warning from the UFU and NIMEA is stark and further evidence of the devastating consequences that this Tory government, supported by the DUP, is prepared to force on the people of the North.

“They have warned that producers could face tariffs of up to 60% and risk losing access to key markets while also seeing the domestic market being flooded with cheap food.

“Such a scenario would be catastrophic for our agri-food industry which is a key driver of our overall economy.

“Unfortunately, it has become more likely as a result of Theresa May’s capitulation to the DUP’s refusal to countenance separate arrangements for the North.

“However, with the Brexit negotiations reaching a critical stage, it is crucial that the Irish Government and the EU27 continue to heed the kind of warnings we are hearing from our agriculture sector and ensure that the north does not become collateral damage in this reckless agenda.”

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Sinn Féin’s Environment spokesperson Brian Stanley TD has said that a report which was conducted by An Taisce, highlighting that shockingly only 8% of Irish waters were judged ‘clean’ is yet another indication of the chronic levels of litter and illegal dumping in our society.

Deputy Stanley said:

“This report covered beaches, rivers and harbours around the State with just one beach, Salthill in Galway deemed to be ‘clean’.

“It indicates yet again that the current policy for waste management is flawed, and ineffective, and that a new approach is required.

“There is a huge problem with plastics in our oceans in rivers and litter pollution is having a horrific effect on our environment.

“The report shows the high level of litter was unpleasant for tourists, so for a State so reliant on tourism it further compounds the urgent need for change in how we deal with waste.

“We need a holistic approach to how we deal with litter and waste. Reduce reuse and recycle, should be at the centre of waste policy as well as specific new initiatives such as a deposit return scheme, which Sinn Féin have put forward a bill last year to establish such a scheme.

“We also need to reduce waste at source, putting obligations on manufactures to stop producing needless packaging in the first instance.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has called on the Government to end the use of Shannon Airport by US military forces in light of the latest atrocities in the US backed war in Yemen.

Senator Gavan said;

“Coalition airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia hit a bus carrying children in northern Yemen on Thursday, killing 29 children who were on their way back from a picnic.

“This is the latest atrocity in a horrific war being waged by the Saudi led Coalition. There is a direct line from these atrocities back to Shannon Airport.

"The US provides logistical and weapons support to the Saudis. US contracted military planes leaving Shannon regularly travel to states belonging to that Coalition- states such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and the UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia itself.

“We also know from figures released under freedom of information that hundreds of permits for military munitions of war were approved by our Government last year, with many of these planes heading to these same destinations.

"Did the missile that blew up these children pass through Shannon? It’s quite possible. Either way it’s a shameful practice and a betrayal of the principles of neutrality.”

Senator Gavan was one of dozens of protesters who attended the Shannonwatch vigil yesterday regarding the US use of Shannon Airport.

Senator Gavan continued:

"In a moving ceremony each of the dead children’s names were read out while a ribbon with the name of each child was attached to a barricade erected by Gardai.

"Every month a heroic group of people travel from near and far to highlight the ongoing abuse of our neutrality and complicity in a number of wars being waged by US backed regimes across the Middle-East.

"Their action stands in stark contrast to the silence of our political establishment who keep up the pretense that there is nothing to see here. It’s long past time when our Government should end it’s support for US Military use of Shannon Airport."

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Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan has today welcomed the announcement from Ticketmaster that they are to close the Seatwave ticket selling website, with a new fan-to-fan ticket exchange system, where tickets can only be bought for the cost price or less.

Speaking today, the Limerick City TD, who currently has an anti-ticket touting bill at Committee Stage in the Dáil, said;

“This is excellent news for fans who are fed up of getting ripped off by ticket touts when trying to buy tickets for concerts or sporting matches.

“There has been considerable debate and pressure about ticket touting over the last couple of years, and I am glad to see the ticketing industry moving in the right direction now.

“Seatwave was a source of great frustration for so many people across the country, with many rightly questioning how tickets could sell out within minutes on one site, and re-appear on another site at inflated prices almost immediately.

“It would be great to see other ticket reselling firms take similar voluntary action, but regardless of this, the government must move ahead with introducing legislation in this area. It has been unregulated for far too long.

“I introduced the Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill back in March 2017, and just before summer it came before the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation for scrutiny.

“Very few opposition bills make it through the legislative process in this Dáil, but I was happy that the pressure of a Sinn Féin bill reaching Committee Stage forced the government into taking action.

“It’s very encouraging to see that the debate, conversation and pressure about ticket touting over the past couple of years has resulted in the government committing to introduce legislation and ticketing companies introducing change that will be of huge benefit to fans.” 

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has extended her sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Tom Moran who died today.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“I am deeply saddened by the news today of the death of Tom Moran, former CEO of Mutual of America.

“Tom has been a stalwart promoter of the Irish Peace Process since the early 90s and he worked closely with Bill Flynn, who also sadly died several months ago, in promoting and supporting the efforts for peace in Ireland.”

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD knew and worked with Tom over many years.

Teachta Adams extended his condolences and solidarity to Tom’s family, saying:

“I was first introduced to Tom by Bill Flynn who was then the CEO of Mutual of America. In May, Tom spoke movingly at Bill’s funeral of the enormous influence Bill had on him in supporting the search for peace in Ireland and in particular the work of Irish America.

“Tom understood the critical importance of involving representatives of all political views in the evolving process of peace and in support of the Good Friday Agreement. He was particularly determined to ensure that the voice of loyalism was heard. Tom knew and was a friend to David Ervine.

“Tom’s loss will be deeply felt by all of us working for peace and justice and for a new dispensation based on inclusivity and equality.

“To his wife Joan and all his family and friends, we send our deepest sympathy.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has extended his condolences to the family of Conal McKee who tragically passed away this weekend. 

The South Down MP commented,

“This is a heartbreaking time for Conal’s family and the Dundrum community. 

“Conal was a very likeable and popular young man who represented Dundrum GAC.

“My thoughts and the thoughts of everyone in South Down are with all the family and friends at this tough time.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has offered her condolences following the death of Queens University Chancellor Dr. Tom Moran.

The party’s Higher Education spokesperson commented: “It is with great shock and sadness that we learned of the death of Dr. Tom Moran in New York.

“As Chancellor of Queens, he made an invaluable contribution to the education of our young people but he also played a key role in our peace and political process, acting as an unofficial US peace envoy in the past and was also a noted philanthropist and leading international humanitarian, serving as Chairman of Concern Worldwide.

“We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and all those who knew him at this sad time.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Ryan Murphy has condemned an attack on a memorial to British soldiers on the White Brae near Ligoniel.

Cllr Murphy said:

“This latest attack on a memorial to British soldiers on the White Brae near Ligoniel is just one of many in recent years.

“These actions are not reflective of this local community and they need to stop. 

“All families deserve to remember their loved ones in peace. 

“If people have any information on who carried this out or the location of the memorial stone that was stolen they need to bring that forward to myself or the police.” 

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British soldiers must face the due process of the law for crimes committed during the conflict, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Victims, Linda Dillon MLA has told the annual Ballymurphy massacre commemoration. 

Speaking at today’s ‘March for Truth’, the Mid-Ulster MLA branded recent comments from the British Prime Minister and senior military figures as “offensive, insulting and demeaning to the memory of the deceased”.

She added: “The current campaign around the Statute of Limitations for British state forces is yet again adding to the distress of families.

“These soldiers like everyone else must face due process of the law and if they have done nothing wrong they have nothing to fear.  

“In fact if they have nothing to hide why don’t they co-operate fully with any investigation to clear their names?

“Why don’t the MOD co-operate with families and the Coroners Office to locate Paras that were involved in the massacre in Ballymurphy

 

“This brutal policy of execution, cover up and lies carried on over many years.”

Linda Dillon also urged the public to take part in the current consultation process on establishing the Legacy bodies from the Stormont House Agreement.

“I would appeal to everyone to engage with the consultation. It will be an opportunity to try to shape the legacy mechanisms and to do so based on your life experiences.

“Every story must be told right across the board.” 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children and Young People, Catherine Kelly MLA, has marked International Youth Day on Sunday 12th August by reiterating the call for no borders and barriers in Ireland.

Speaking after joining young people at Strabane-Lifford Bridge protesting Brexit and any hardening of the border in Ireland, the West Tyrone MLA said:

“Today is International Youth Day. The theme for 2018 is ‘Safe Spaces for Youth', where the UN stress that youth need safe spaces to come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests.

"Safe Spaces create the circumstances in which they can effectively contribute to decision making and development including peace building and social cohesion.

“Brexit, the prospect of a hardening of the border in Ireland and potential plans for a mile-wide stop and search zone along the border will create barriers that divides young people with catastrophic impacts for human rights, the Good Friday Agreement and the European Common Travel Area.

“16 and 17-year-olds will live with the disastrous consequences of Brexit, yet if they'd been allowed to vote, all polls suggest they could have changed the outcome. 

"During this crucial period for the future of Ireland and the European Union, we need young people to have a voice in deciding our future role in a post-Brexit EU.

“Lets send a clear message to the British government and the EU 27 on International Youth Day - we want safe spaces for youth and no borders in Ireland."

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Speaking this afternoon, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has questioned why it has taken the Minister for Health Simon Harris over two years to ask the HSE to examine if there is any additional capacity in hospitals that can be utilised.

Teach O’Reilly said:

“For over two years now, I and other stakeholders, including the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), have been asking the Minister for Health to examine what beds had been closed in hospital during the austerity years and to commit funding to reopen them.

“On countless occasions, we were rebuffed and told to wait on the publication of the bed capacity review. However, when the review was eventually published, it did not even fully examine where beds are closed and how many there are. 

“Therefore, while I welcome the Minister’s announcement that he will ask the HSE to examine if there is any additional capacity in hospitals that can be utilised, I cannot fathom why it has taken him over two years to do this.

“The fact it has taken over two years for this action to be taken by Minister Harris speaks volumes about this government’s utter lack of urgency in resolving the waiting list and Emergency Department trolley crises. 

“This is just a window into the failures of this Minister for Health, such as an inability to address the underlying issues around the recruitment and retention of staff, all committed with the complicity of Fianna Fáil.

“The HSE, under the direction of Minister Harris, are not prepared for the challenges what winter will bring and the service is already overstretched and we are only in August. This announcement by the Minister, while welcome, is something that should have been done when Sinn Féin first called for it in early 2016.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has expressed his frustration that the long awaited Dundalk primary care centre is not expected to open until early 2020. 

 

Following a response received to a parliamentary question Teachta Adams stated; 

 

“There is a longstanding government promise of a primary care centre with mental health services for Dundalk.  I have been campaigning for provision of these services for some time now.

 

“In Dundalk community based psychiatric services are practically non-existent, and delivered from Ladywell. They cannot provide Child and Adolescent Mental Health services, or Old Age Psychiatry services in this building.

 

“A new primary care centre is the solution to this. 

 

“I have asked both the Taoiseach and the Minister of State for Mental Health to visit this 60 year old damp building to see how badly facilities are needed. They have not done this. They won’t do this.

 

“The HSE have told me that the developer intends to submit a planning application towards the end of 2018, and they expect services to open in 2020. This means people must continue to travel, to Ardee or Drogheda to access basic mental health services.

 

“It is not acceptable for people to just wait until 2020. The Minister must ensure an interim solution is put in place. I will continue to raise this issue with the government until people have access to necessary services."

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Sinn Féin is urging support for this weekend’s ‘Time for Truth’ March organised by relatives of those killed by the British Army in the Ballymurphy massacre.

With an inquest into the massacre due to begin in September, Sinn Féin Victims Spokesperson Linda Dillon said it was important to show solidarity with the Ballymurphy families. “Sinn Féin will continue to support all families who are being denied truth and justice,” she added.“There is a clear need to address the issue of legacy of the past and we need to see the full implementation of the mechanisms agreed at the Stormont House talks, including setting up the HIU.“The public consultation process is finally underway after years of prevarication from the British government and I would urge as many people as possible to engage with that process.”The Mid-Ulster MLA also slammed the continued refusal of the British Government to release the funding requested by the Lord Chief Justice to address the backlog of legacy inquests.She said: “The funding was blocked by then First Minister Arlene Foster in a move that was later ruled as unlawful by the High Court.“Despite this, the money has still not been released and that is totally unacceptable. The funding for legacy inquests has already been agreed, the British government should release the funding immediately.“It is important that as many people as possible come to the demonstration on Sunday to make that demand and support these families in their continuing campaign for access to truth and justice.“All those wishing to march with the Ballymurphy families are asked to assemble at 12noon at Springfield Park, Belfast.”

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Political and civic leaders must use their influence to ease tensions in Limavady following a recent spate of sectarian incidents, East Derry Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said.

Commenting after meeting with the PSNI today, she said: “Tensions have been increasing over recent weeks following a number of incidents where flags have been erected, kerbstones painted and sectarian graffiti daubed on the local chapel.

“I, along with Sinn Féin Councillors, have been on the ground each night because residents are very concerned and what we need to see now is a de-escalation of all this activity.

“Therefore, it was extremely disappointing that, far from seeking to defuse tensions, a large group of loyalists sought to exacerbate them by erecting Union flags outside the chapel and parochial house on Thursday night. It is also disappointing that the PSNI, who were on the scene, took no measures to stop them and that is something I raised with the police in today’s meeting.

“As we face into the weekend, particularly with the Apprentice Boys parade taking place, there is a responsibility on all political, civic and community leaders to do all they can to help reduce the tensions that exist.

“The community in Limavady are growing increasingly concerned at the damage that is being done to community relations so I would again appeal to all those in positions of influence to stand together in combating this negative agenda.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has accused the British Government of duplicity over controversial new legislation ‘which is clearly preparing for a hard border in Ireland’.

The legislation currently going through Westminster would see the creation of a one-mile border zone where members of the public can be stopped, searched and detained.

 “The use of stop and search powers is already a cause of massive concern in nationalist areas and if powers as wide-ranging as these were introduced, it would be disastrous,” Michelle O’Neill commented.

 “It runs counter to human rights provisions. It runs counter to the Good Friday Agreement and the principles of the European Common Travel Area. I will be taking this up directly with both governments because it is clear that, through this legislation, London is preparing for the imposition of a hard border in Ireland.

 “That is in direct contravention to the assurances they gave to the European Union last December. It is sheer duplicity and the Irish Government and the EU 27 cannot allow them to renege on those guarantees.

“We warned at the time that British Government promises could not be trusted and legally-binding guarantees were required. Clearly that is the case given their duplicity in this issue.

“The Brexit negotiations are reaching a crucial stage and Dublin and Brussels must ensure that there will be no hardening of the border in Ireland."

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Following a panel discussion on the formation of the Civil Rights movement in Dungannon, Sinn Féin’s MP for Mid Ulster, Francie Molloy, has urged people to get involved in the 50th anniversary.

Speaking after the event, Mr Molloy said:

"It was heartening to see such a turnout of those who were around in the 1960s at our event.

"The first Civil Rights march happened between Coalisland and Dungannon, following the courageous and brave actions of a small group of like-minded individuals, all of whom had different backgrounds.

"We heard the testimony of people like Geraldine Gildernew and Angela McCrystal, both of whom were directly involved in the squatting protests in Caledon and Dungannon respectively. To hear them speak about the living conditions that nationalists were forced to endure at that time, and how this was the catalyst which drove them to take extraordinary measures, is inspiring.

"Civil Rights as a movement was driven by ordinary people, and they achieved an awful lot. When people joined together in peaceful protest, they were attacked on the streets- the violence came to us. We marched for our rights and that meant risking everything, but the foresight shown by a brave few is remarkable. 

"Presently, with the deliberate denial of rights, a shortage of affordable housing, and the ongoing issue around constituency boundary proposals, it is clear that there is still a job of work to be done.

"The political situation at the time of the Civil Rights movement included gerrymandered constituencies, which led to systematic discrimination in the allocation of housing, jobs and rights- there can be no return to this. All of us have a responsibility to ensure that there is fair play and equality across the board.

"Join us as we recreate the march from Coalisland to Dungannon, throwing in at 3pm on Saturday 18th August, in the square in Coalisland."

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Attacks on homes in the Manor Street area of North Belfast are sectarian and need to be brought to an end, Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has said.

The North Belfast MLA was commenting after a number of homes, close to the Oldpark area, had windows broken and were splashed with paint.

He said: “These attacks are wrong. They are sectarian and all representatives should call for them to stop.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Meath West Peadar Tóibín has said that he finds it unacceptable that less respite care is being provided so far in 2018, compared to last year. This is in spite of promises made by the government in 2017 to improve and increase respite care services. 

Teachta Tóibín said: 

“Respite care is one of the most important services provided by the health service. The government promised improved and increased provision of these services last year following the shocking RTÉ Primetime report ‘Carers in Crisis’ which showed the difficulties faced by those providing care for loved ones.

“Despite these promises and despite the increasing demand for respite care, less respite care is being provided in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same time last year.

“Figures released to me through a Parliamentary Question show that there was 1,714 fewer sessions of respite care provided in the first quarter of 2018 compared to last year. Indeed, these cuts come on the back of close to 15,000 hours of respite care being slashed last year.

“In County Meath, there were 370 fewer overnight sessions accessed by people with a disability. This is as fall of 22% from last year. There were 95 fewer day respite sessions accessed by people with a disability. This is a reduction of 71% from the previous period last year. This is not due to a fall in demand of the service but a reduction in availability.

“This situation is completely unacceptable, but it’s unsurprising. How could Fine Gael, backed by Fianna Fáil, slash respite care sessions by thousands of hours and expect things to work the same? The cutting of these respite hours has real life implications for families across the State and it has to be reversed as a matter of urgency.” 

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