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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 MLAs Pat Sheehan and Colm Gildernew today attended a cross party briefing from the Permanent Secretary for Health and the Chief Medical Officer regarding the recall of 2,500 Neurology patients.

Speaking after the meeting the party spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan said:

"This morning we had a very detailed engagement with the Department of Health regarding the recall of neurology patients, lasting over 2 hours.

"We stressed as a priority the importance of all 2,500 patients receiving their review within the 12 week timeline.

"We also emphasised the need for anyone requiring further care or support following on from their review to be prioritised and not be placed on the already long neurology waiting lists.

"This should include written information for patients detailing next steps where further treatment or care is needed.

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Carers Colm Gildernew added:

"Today's meeting was important in communicating to elected representative what is being done to ensure patients are getting the support and care they need.

"However, we insisted that the Department and indeed Belfast Trust need to communicate much better with patients and the public to provide them with reassurance they deserve.

"We welcome the very recent publication of the Terms of Reference for the RQIA review into outpatient neurology services but also need the Independent Inquiry Panel to publish its Terms of Reference as soon as possible.

"We will continue to hold the Department of Health to account at fortnightly update briefings and insist patients get the support they need.” 

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Sinn Féin Councillor Kevin Savage has condemned two hate crimes which took place in Banbridge on Thursday night.

He said:

"I unreservedly condemn two hate crimes which took place in Banbridge last night.

"Damage was caused to cars and property. Those involved struck in the dead of night carrying out their cowardly attacks as families lay sleeping.

"In the immediate aftermath of the attacks the local community have rallied around both families and neighbours reported the crimes promptly. 

“I commend the local community for their solidarity with the victims. They have demonstrated clearly that racism will simply not be tolerated in Banbridge.

“I urge anyone with any information on these hate crimes to bring it forward to the police.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said comments reported by the Scottish Brexit Secretary Mike Russell call into question the British government’s commitment to restoring the political institutions in the north.

He was commenting after the Scottish Brexit Secretary accused Theresa May’s Government of refusing to transfer powers to the devolved administration due to fears of how Sinn Féin would use them in a future Stormont Assembly. 

Mike Russell also described the DUP’s influence on Downing Street as a ‘dangerous situation’ and told the British Government they should ‘give up democracy altogether’ if they are so afraid of giving people a vote on their own future. 

Alex Maskey said:

“MIke Russell’s comments stem from his discussions with the Minister for the Cabinet Office so they are not without substance and, in Sinn Féin’s view, his assessment is absolutely correct. 

“His comments call into question the British government’s commitment to restoring the power sharing institutions in the north.

“The British Government is in hock to the DUP and this toxic relationship is manifesting itself in an increasingly anti-democratic, anti-equality and anti-rights approach from Downing Street.

“It is blatantly obvious they are abandoning any pretence of the rigorous impartiality demanded of them by the Good Friday Agreement.

“It comes as no surprise to us that the British Government would be afraid of Sinn Féin’s approach in a local administration with increased powers. 

“They know we would use those powers to protect citizens from the reckless hard Brexit and harder austerity agenda they are pursuing.

“The British Government have always been prepared to treat the people of the North as collateral damage. 

“However, Mike Russell’s comments show that more and more people in Britain are seeing that Theresa May is prepared to see her own citizens suffer in order to cling to power by pandering to the DUP.”


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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard is travelling to Venezuela at the request of the National Electoral; Council (CNE) as part of an international delegation to observe the upcoming Presidential elections on 20 May 2018. 

Whilst in Venezuela Chris will meet with the Board of the Supreme Court of Justice, Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Popular Power for Defence, and Jorge Arreaza, Minister of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs and the Government-opposition Dialogue Table along with representatives of civic society administrating the election process.

Chris Hazzard said:

“It is an honour to have been asked to travel to Venezuela as part of an independent international observer team. Open and fair elections are a fundamental part of all democracies.

“Sinn Féin have consistently supported the highest standards of human rights for all people.

“The Venezuelan people are entitled to elect a government of their own choice and that government is equally entitled to conduct their affairs in the interests of their people without foreign impediment.” 

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan MLA has encouraged local secondary school students to start preparing for next year’s BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE), which will take place from 9 – 12 January 2019 at the RDS in Dublin.

Supporting BT’s call for more schools to take part, Karen Mullan said: 

“The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity for young people to showcase their talents across a range of STEM subject areas. It allows participants to develop their creativity, problem solving and team working skills - key qualities which are highly sought after by employers.

“2019 will be the 55th year of the exhibition and the theme is ‘It Starts Here,’ highlighting the important role BTYSTE plays in inspiring students’ interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and promoting the innovators, scientists and technologists of the future.

“With the summer holiday fast approaching, I would encourage students to start coming up with ideas now and begin developing their STEM project in time to meet the deadline for entries in September.”

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has called for increased north-south partnership working to assist with the delivery of a strategic growth deal for the north west.

The Foyle MP said:

“I led a Sinn Féin delegation in Letterkenny today, to engage with the local Chamber of Commerce, Chief Executives of local authorities and other sectors who are committed to securing the much needed growth of the north west region. 

“The economic potential of the north west region has not yet been realised, we need to build on the foundations of existing collaborations in health, education and infrastructure. 

“One of the key topics raised by these sectors is the A5 dual carriageway, which is an essential lifeline for addressing the infrastructural deficit west of the Bann and for reinforcing connections with the capital city in Dublin. 

“We need to ensure that key infrastructure projects like the A5 and others are delivered in order to open up the entire north-west region and bring the benefits on an all-island basis so there is a responsibility on both Belfast and Dublin Government to ensure it is fully resourced.

“There is an onus on the Irish government, along with the British government, to step up to the plate with their contribution to an inclusive growth deal to tackle the longstanding regional imbalances, deprivation and economic deficiencies of the North West.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said businesses in the border region need to make their voices heard to ensure the north stays in the single market and customs union. 

Martina Anderson said:

“Today I met with business representatives from Donegal in the Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce alongside my party colleagues from Derry and Donegal. 

“It is clear there is widespread concern about Brexit among the business community, north and south. 

“The border region will be the worst hit by the Tory Brexiteers dragging us out of the customs union and single market against our will. 

“That is what is is vital that the business community, on both sides of the border need to make their voices heard and demand the backstop option, which would allow the north to remain in the customs union and significant elements of the single market, is protected. 

“We cannot allow and reduction in what has already been agreed in the backstop. 

“In particular, businesses need to call on the Irish government and demand that it maintains its position and ensure the backstop is maintained and expanded upon. 

“It is essential for business that the north remains in the customs union and single market and the business community must raise their voices and make their concerns heard.”

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The Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has welcomed the move to pay compensation to the Byrne family in Donegal under the “Lost at Sea” scheme.  Carthy commended the family members who have campaigned for 14 years to secure compensation owed to them as a result of the deaths of their loved ones in 1981.

The scheme, which was set up to compensate long-standing fishing families through the provision of valuable tonnage quota, led to accusations against the Fianna Fáil Minister Frank Fahy, who established the scheme, who was suspected by many of tailoring the scheme towards select constituents.  A 2009 Ombudsman investigation into the scheme found that a selective advertisement campaign had been run resulting in 75% of the fund going to just two of Fahy’s constituents.

Speaking this week, Matt Carthy said:

“I want to extend my congratulations to the Byrne family for the sheer determination and perseverance they exhibited in seeing through their campaign against successive Irish Governments on the Lost at Sea Scheme.  I am delighted that they have now finally received the compensation that was legislatively owed to them and hope that this will close what I am sure has been a difficult, and at times frustrating, case.

“The Byrnes, who tragically lost two members of their family, 3 crew members and their entire livelihood had been fighting against their exclusion from the scheme for over 3 decades.

“I had the opportunity to support their case when it came to the European Parliament for the second time last year, and called full payment of the judgement of €245,570 made by the Ombudswoman to be made to the family.

“I further called for the European Commission to immediately look into the scheme, something they had refused to do on the basis that the Irish Government never notified them of its existence. In fact, to this day, the Committee of Petitions is still waiting to receive replies to letters sent on behalf of the Byrne family one and a half years ago. The Minister took three years to reply to the first letter.

“The Byrne family have campaigned tirelessly for the implementation of the Ombudswoman’s 2009 findings, and have utilised every possible avenue available to them to rectify the injustices of this corrupt scheme.

“In 2010 Fianna Fáil used the party whip to vote down a proposal to implement the proposals of the Ombudsman at the Oireachtas Agriculture committee.  This compounded the injustice and forced Winifred Byrne and her family to bring the issue to Europe.  In short, the saga was a perfect example of the treatment of the state towards victims and their families.

“This case highlights the need ongoing need for transparency throughout Government Departments, Agencies and top level civil servants. It has taken more than three decades for the Byrne family to receive justice.    There remain daily reminders of a genuine lack of accountability and transparency from public institutions.

“Ongoing Cervical Check, Garda Whistleblowing and Media Merger knowledge issues show that the current Government, like its predecessors, is failing to achieve standards that should be commonplace when it comes to transparency.

“In this instance it was the resolve of the Byrne family that led to a resolution, albeit far too late.  I commend them for their efforts.”

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Speaking in the Dáil today on his Brexit Bill, Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams expressed concern at claims of ‘new thinking’ by the British in dealing with the issue of a hard border said that the “Irish government carries an onerous responsibility to protect the rights of all citizens on this island, both in relation to Brexit and the future of the Good Friday Agreement”.

The Louth TD expressed his disappointment that the government rejected a Sinn Féin Bill which called for additional formal reporting by the government to the Dáil on the Brexit negotiations.

Commenting on recent developments in the Brexit process, the former Sinn Féin leader expressed his concern at the commitment of Theresa May to ensure that there will be no border controls. Teachta Adams specifically raised the issue of rights for EU citizens in the North. The EU Legal Text published on March 1st was very explicit on this but thus far we have seen no progress.

Addressing Minister Coveney, Teachta Adams said:

“Today, following his meeting with Theresa May, the Taoiseach reports that the British will now table a new proposal on a future customs relationship within the next two weeks. This is new thinking he said.

“We were told that in December when the EU/British joint agreement was achieved only to have the British Prime Minister repudiate the EU legal text in February. Remember her blunt: ‘No UK prime Minister would ever agree to it’. Why should this time be any different?

“This is the same British Prime Minister who last week claimed that only British soldiers are being investigated in relation to legacy matters. As the Minister knows, this is a patent untruth.

“This is the same British government that refuses to provide information on the role of its agents in the Dublin-Monaghan bombs which took place on this date 44 years ago.

“And this is the same British Prime Minister who has done a deal with the DUP which is taking precedence over her obligations in respect of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The EU legal text accepts that the alignment option contained in the December agreement means that the North shall be ‘considered part of the customs territory of the EU’. It explicitly states that there should be ‘no diminution of rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity as set out’ in the Good Friday Agreement. And it definitively demands that the Good Friday Agreement and its subsequent implementation agreements ‘should be protected in all its parts’. There is significant concern at the British commitment to this.

“In his response to the joint agreement in December, the Taoiseach addressed northern nationalist and said: ‘There will be no hard border on our island. You will never again be left behind by an Irish Government’.

“The Irish government therefore carries an onerous responsibility to live up to this commitment and to protect the rights of all citizens on this island, both in relation to Brexit and the future of the Good Friday Agreement.

“If an agreement is reached in the upcoming negotiations between the EU and the British government, it cannot fall short of the position that the legal text has established.” 

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At the Balmoral Show today Martina Anderson MEP challenged the British Secretary of State Karen Bradley on a border poll, Brexit and the need to release legacy funding.

Martina Anderson MEP said:

“The Tory position on a border poll is untenable. Comments attributed to Theresa May that she believes her government would lose a referendum on Irish reunification are an admission the threshold to hold such a vote has now been met.

“The toxic deal between the Tories and the DUP for selfish party political interests is at odds with the rigorous impartiality required of them under the Good Friday Agreement and the British government is facilitating the DUP’s denial of rights and their refusal to restore the political institutions.

“I also took the opportunity to raise the issue of Brexit and the fact that the British government are deliberately ignoring the democratic wishes of the people here who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. They are working against the interests of the people of this island.

“The Balmoral Show is a showcase for farming and agriculture, these industries are going to be the hardest hit by Brexit.

“We need designated special status for the north to remain part of the Single Market and Customs Union in order to protect the rights and interests of all citizens in Ireland.

“I also told her that the comments last week by Theresa May and Karen Bradley in the British Commons were misleading and shameful and display contempt for victims.

“The British government should move immediately to release the funding requested by the Lord Chief Justice to hold coroner’s courts.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley said tonight although much has changed since Countess Constance Markievicz became the first woman MP a century ago that women continue to be written out of history and more needs to be done to achieve gender equality.

The West Tyrone MP was speaking in London tonight at a TUC event on the ‘Life and Politics of Countess Markievicz’. Órfhlaith Begley said: 

“Constance Markievicz was a feminist, a socialist, an internationalist, an Irish republican and the most unmanageable of revolutionaries. She commanded a contingent of the Irish Citizens Army during the 1916 Easter Rising.

“In the December 1918 Election, Markievicz was one of 73 abstentionist Sinn Féin MPs elected across Ireland. Her significance should not be overlooked just because she did not take her seat on the Green Benches.

“It often is overlooked by the British establishment - how often do we hear that Nancy Astor was the first woman MP? How often is Markievicz omitted as one of the leading figures in the campaign for women’s suffrage.

“Constance Markievicz was elected in her own right. It happened less than a year after any women had been granted the vote – and only weeks after women were permitted to stand as candidates. No other woman was elected as early as December 1918.

“She was a member of the first Dáil Éireann in Dublin and in 1919, she became Secretary for Labour, the first female Cabinet Minister in Western Europe. 

“For this and all her other achievements she deserves a proper share of recognition for her place in not just Irish history but arguably world history. And while we remember Markievicz today and honour her memory we must also be mindful of the tens of thousands of women who have been written out of history.”

The West Tyrone MP said that women have made enormous strides in public life but more needs to be done.

“The political establishment north and south remains dominated by men. Political decisions made by men, will reflect the needs of men.  We need greater gender balance, gender proofing and gender equality in decision making processes.  

“As a party we have worked to ensure that women are properly represented at each level of the party structure.  Sinn Féin was the first party in Ireland to have a woman leader,  Margaret Buckley who led the party from 1937 to 1950. 

“Today our Party President and Vice President are women. However, women occupying positions of power is not enough. The decision-making process goes beyond the field of politics to all levels of society where decisions are made. 

“Women's work is too often undervalued and underpaid. Equal opportunity laws and sex discrimination legislation have not achieved their goals. Mechanisms for advancing gender equality should include legislation, positive action and gender mainstreaming.

“So while, there has been enormous progress across Ireland since 1918, we still have some distance to go.”

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Mayo Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has said that if vulture funds claim to be a necessary part of the Irish financial system, they should have no problem in facing the Finance Committee to answer questions about their operations in Ireland.

Senator Conway-Walsh was speaking at the Finance Committee where the issue of non-performing loans was discussed with financial experts.

Senator Conway-Walsh said:

“The Finance Committee has sent scores of invites to these vulture funds asking them to appear before us. The vast majority have refused. The Central Bank has previously urged the vulture funds to attend the committee. Today, it was suggested to me that they were not inclined to accept as they did not want to listen to ‘grandstanding’. I put it very clearly that giving voice to the misery and fear experienced by those who find their mortgages sold to these companies is not grandstanding but it is our duty to convey.

“An expert in the area claimed that up to 10,000 people with mortgages were in arrears of over 5 years. However, after further queries, it was accepted that this did not mean that no payments at all had been made over the last 5 years or that there was no engagement on the part of the customer. While we all agree that those who can afford to service a mortgage should do so, those who cannot afford to do so should be engaged with and flexibility and understanding shown to them.

“Vulture funds have a social responsibility to engage with customers whether they like it or not. The banking debt was socialised whenever the taxpayer bailed out the banks. Those vulture funds who are now profiting from the result of the crisis must be compelled to listen to and engage with mortgage holders.” 

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Mayo Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has called on Minister Denis Naughten to clarify the Government’s plans to help homeowners who are unsure whether their house has a Radon barrier or not.

Speaking after questioning Minister Denis Naughten about homes in Mayo that have higher than reference levels of Radon gas present, Senator Conway-Walsh said:

“There needs to be a scheme for the retrofitting of houses that are not covered by the 1998 Regulations. The Minister says that he cannot move until new primary legislation is enacted. I am urging him to make this new legislation a priority and to use his position at cabinet to

“The current retrofitting pilot scheme covers 1400 homes in counties Roscommon and Galway and has been allocated €75 000. The Minister says that these areas were chosen due to their high level of Radon gas present. According to mapping carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, County Mayo has some of the highest percentage of Radon present in houses in the entire State.

“I want to see this scheme extended to County Mayo and, eventually, right across the State. I have urged the Minister to prioritise getting the legislation right and to secure the funding. Radon exposure is a huge contributing factor in lung cancer cases. It is vital that any work needed to be done is done quickly. In this, he will have the full support of Sinn Féin.” 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has stated that the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has failed to explain or justify why a number of adults and children were removed from the March homeless figures. 

Speaking today in the Oireachtas Housing Committee, Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Minister Murphy today failed to explain or justify why almost 600 adults and children were removed from the March homeless figures.

“He still insists there has been an ‘erroneous miscategorisation’ of people in the March homeless figures and that more families will be similarly removed from the April figures.

“This is despite local authorities, who collect these figures, contradicting his claims that the reductions were done with the agreement of the Councils. 

“Information from councils in Dublin, Louth, Meath, Waterford, Limerick and Kildare presented to today’s Housing Committee flatly contradict the Ministers claims that he did not seek to have homeless families removed from the homeless figures. It also contradicts his claim that families were removed with the agreement of the Councils in question.

“Either the Minister for Housing does not understand the difference between a tenancy and a temporary Section 10 funded emergency placement which means he is not competent to hold office, or he does understand this distinction and approved the removal of homeless families from the homeless figures which means he is not fit to hold office.

“In either case, he is seeking to introduce a fundamental change in the definition of homelessness that will see all those in transitional accommodation or long term emergency accommodation excluded from future figures.

“This is neither justified nor appropriate and the Minister must reverse course and return to the homeless figures all those adults and children living in temporary emergency accommodation. If he refuses to do this, he will not only have undermined public confidence in the homeless figures but also in his ability to do his job.” 

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Sinn Féin Councillor for Sandyford Glencullen Chris Curran has expressed his shock that no prosecution will be brought against Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in relation to the Carrickmines Fire Disaster.

Speaking this afternoon Councillor Curran said;

“Many people will want to know why no prosecution will be made when it seems that life could have been saved that night.

“Having worked closely with the family I am aware of the hurt that the DPP’s decision will cause them.

“It is my hope that in the fullness of time and through other legal means, the events of Oct 10th 2015 will become clearer.  

“On behalf of the family I appeal to the media to respect their privacy at this time.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane TD has said the only way to ensure there is no hard border in Ireland is to secure designated special status for the North within the EU.

Teachta Cullinane was responding to comments from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this afternoon after his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Deputy Cullinane said:

"I welcome the growing sense of reality among Theresa May's government that Britain as a whole should stay within the customs union but we need to see the detail of her proposal.

“There were commitments in last December's political agreement but there is no agreement on the details, which the government says are still being worked out.

“And now again we are hearing of ‘new thinking’ from the British Prime Minister but again we see no detail.

"We need to know how the political, social and economic rights of EU citizens in the north will be vindicated and how the British Government will avoid a hard border in Ireland.

“An agreement on customs arrangements is not enough to ensure there is no hard border.

“The only was to ensure this is to secure designated special status within the EU for the North.

“Sinn Féin has set out its view clearly and with detail.  We have secured Dáil support for this view.

“It is time for the British Government to flying kites and start providing the details of its proposals.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan has welcomed a public apology to those affected by the Belfast Trust recall of 2,500 neurology patients.

Speaking today the West Belfast MLA said:

”I welcome the apology today from the Permanent Secretary for Health Richard Pengelly to patients of Dr Watt affected by the recall.

"It is an extremely stressful and worrying time for many of these patients and it is important this is recognised and addressed.

"The priority of course is that every patient is seen as soon as possible within the 12 weeks timeframe of the recall and those requiring further treatment or care receive it as a matter of urgency.

"It is also vital the Belfast Trust communicate clearly and regularly with the affected patients to address the stress and worry many will be feeling at this time.

"Sinn Féin raised these issues at a two-hour meeting with the Belfast Trust on the 4th of May and we will be raising them again directly with the Department of Health tomorrow.

"Sinn Féin will also be seeking information from the department on the Independent Inquiry Panel announced last week in relation to the timeline and process it will adopt.

"The work of an Independent Inquiry Panel is necessary to establish whether this situation should have been avoided, and to ensure it doesn't happen again.”

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Today, Sinn Féin Dublin MEP, Lynn Boylan participated in a delegation of the EU Catalan Platform for Dialogue in Berlin.

The purpose of the delegation was to meet with the exiled President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont to receive an update on the current situation. The Platform then hosted an International Press Conference.

Ms Boylan addressed the press conference and called on the European Institutions to facilitate constructive dialogue between the Spanish and Catalans, saying:  

“The Spanish State are undermining fundamental rights and the EU cannot simply sit on the sidelines while the situation continues to deteriorate.  By issuing European arrest warrants for political purposes, the Spanish Government have directly involved other Member States, this is deeply concerning and the EU is in a position to mediate dialogue to move the situation forward.

“Today, the Catalan Government have successfully elected an interim President, therefore the EU Catalan Platform for Dialogue believe that the Spanish Government cannot justify a continuation of direct rule. The platform also called for the release of political prisoners and the dropping of the charges against those in exile.  The election of a President and the formation of a new government should be welcomed and seen as an opportunity. The EU Institutions should seize that opportunity and facilitate constructive dialogue without delay.

“We are witnessing the erosion of fundamental human rights in a number of Member States and two of those Member State’s ruling parties are in the same political group as Fine Gael, the European People’s Party.  There is no doubt that, due to the fact that this is the largest group in the European Parliament, any solution to the situation is being impeded.  It is imperative that Fine Gael MEPs encourage their Spanish Popular Party colleagues to engage in meaningful dialogue and respect fundamental rights.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams today called again on the Irish government to expel the Israeli Ambassador and to formally recognise the state of Palestine.

Speaking in the Dáil on the recent mass killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces, Teachta Adams said:

“The refusal of the Cabinet to do no more than issue a call for an independent investigation into the dreadful events in Palestine is in reality a call to do nothing.

“We are all aware of the mass killings of Palestinian protestors. The government has rightly repudiated the Israeli government actions. But the Taoiseach claims that to expel the Israeli Ambassador is against the principle and imperative of dialogue. Not true.

“Recently, the government expelled a Russian diplomat not for any alleged wrong doing in this state but in solidarity with the British government.

“So, the Taoiseach and the Minister should stop finding excuses for not taking positive action that gives meaningful expression to the rejection by the Irish people of the treatment of the people of Palestine.

“There is no excuse for the government not formally recognising the state of Palestine as agreed by the Dáil and Seanad. If the Irish don’t stand by the Palestinians who will. If we as a former colony, still occupied in part by a government we don’t want; if we with our history of freedom fighters and resistance and our peace process; if we don’t uphold the rights of the Palestinians who will?

“Their land is being slowly stolen from them. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers live on Palestinian land in violation of UN resolutions. Their water rights are taken. They live in poverty and disadvantage, with no rights to freedom of movement. Our government’s stance is a cop out.

“What is Sinn Féin asking for? We are asking for our government to demand that the international community uphold international law. The muted words of condemnation are insufficient.

“I have visited the Middle East five times in recent years. I have spoken to Israeli leaders and citizens and Palestinian leaders and citizens. I have been in Gaza City and the west Bank. I have been in the refugee camps, spoken to children released after years in Israeli prisons, spoken to their parents who despair at the neglect of the international community, and walked along the abhorrent separation wall which cuts Palestinian families off from their land.

“Those Palestinian academics and others who organised the recent series of protests to mark 70 years of the Nakba, took as their example the non-violent campaigns of Martin Luther King and of Ghandi. The protests in Gaza were the Palestinian equivalent of the March to Selma. A peaceful, mass protest at an injustice ignored for 70 years.

“So, the government’s options are clear. Talk a lot, but do nothing. Or, they can expel the Israeli Ambassador. Stop ignoring the democratic will of the Dáil. Recognise the state of Palestine as you recognise the state of Israel. And stand up for peace in the Middle East by standing by the Palestinians.”

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East Cork Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley has hit out at the HSE after a report by the Association of Optometrists Ireland suggest that the sixth class vision screening has been abandoned in East Cork.

Teachta Buckley said:

“No alternative arrangements have been put in place with people having to wait up to 48 months for treatment, but if you can afford private care, a person will wait only 3 months for the same operation.

“The School eye-care scheme finishes at the age of 12 and the medical card scheme starts at 16 so everyone is left in limbo between these years. In East Cork, the report says that the waiting list for children is longer than 18 months.

“What’s more damning is the fact that children who are referred to the HSE Eye Clinic must wait 24 months before they have an eye examination which could be done by Optometrists in their own community. 

“What must be done now is for the Government to roll out a national scheme to allow children who do not need a surgical or medical management to be examined in their community by a qualified optometrist.” ENDS

Note: Please see the report attached

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