West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer has raised concerns with Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs about the impact of Brexit on the future of rural development.
Following a meeting which took place at the DAERA Headquarters in Ballykelly between Sinn Féin, the Permanent Secretary and senior officials, the party's Agriculture Spokesperson said:
“The Rural Development Programme provides support for community development and economic initiatives through a range of funding streams including the Rural Business Investment Scheme, Rural Basic Services Scheme, Broadband and Village Renewal.
“The previous programme achieved a £100m investment in rural communities and created 1,200 jobs.
"I am pleased that the current programme has created 108 jobs and achieved £9.7m spend so far.
“However, I did express concern that DAERA has not yet drafted a rural policy for consultation on the same basis as the draft agriculture policy.
"I emphasised that Sinn Féin supports the north’s vote to remain in the EU and that any future policy must adopt the LEADER approach to ensure that local people are involved in decision making and future policy must align with the rest Ireland and the EU.
“The Rural Development Programme is the only source of strategic funding for rural community organisations and businesses. The threat posed to this by Brexit has caused a great deal of concern among rural groups and businesses.
“Sinn Féin is consistent in our position that securing special status is the only way to protect the interests of rural dwellers, businesses and community groups.
"We will continue to press ahead with this campaign at all levels – in the EU Parliament, in the Dáil and local Councils, with the British government, in local communities and in our engagements with government departments."
Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon has said every employer should be committed to equality.
The party’s equality spokesperson was speaking after a 63-year-old man was awarded £3,000 by an industrial tribunal on grounds of age discrimination.
Megan Fearon said:
“This is not the first case of age discrimination in terms of accessing employment and it is deeply regrettable that in the 21st Century discriminatory practises are still prevalent.
“It is important that all employers should be committed to equality and work for the elimination of unlawful discrimination at their place of work.
“An important tool in the Good Friday Agreement is section 75 where all public bodies are obliged to promote equality across a range of categories including age religion, gender, and ethnicity.
“Age discrimination legislation is another important protection for citizens in which employers must adhere to and I would encourage all businesses/employers to provide equality training to all employees on existing anti-discrimination laws including age discrimination legislation.
“Sinn Féin believe that all citizens regardless of race, age, religion or sexuality should be treated as equals in the eyes of the law.”
Government response to Magheracloone mine collapse “Not Good Enough” - Matt Carthy MEP
SF rep calls for emergency road funding
Matt Carthy MEP has described the response of government, and particularly the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment, following the recent mine collapse in Magheracloone as “not good enough. The Sinn Féin representative claimed that a response received by him by Junior Minister, Seán Kyne, was deferential to Gyproc rather than committing to the independent appraisal of all mines in the area which Sinn Féin have called for.
Meanwhile Matt Carthy confirmed that he has also made an urgent appeal to transport Minister Shane Ross to establish an emergency fund to tackle the road issues resulting from the fallout of the recent Magheracloone mine collapses.
Matt Carthy said:
“Following the recent mine collapses I wrote to Minister Denis Naughten urging that a full independent appraisal of the mine network in Magheracloone be commissioned by his department. Minister Naughten replied to state that he was passing responsibility to his junior minister, Seán Kyne.
“In his response Minister Kyne continuously defers to Gyproc in terms of their own initial investigation of the recent collapse and their historical role in monitoring the subsidence risks at their own sites.
“It is not appropriate for the responsibility to monitor and appraise the risks involved to rest with the owners of the site. Concerns that this type of event was possible have been raised by many people in Magheracloone, especially those living above or nearby Gypsum’s network of mining passages, for several years. These concerns were continuously dismissed.
“It is now essential that people in the area are provided assurances that the remaining mine sites are safe. Quite frankly this assurance cannot be adequately provided by Gyproc and only be delivered through a comprehensive and independent investigation. I had called on Minister Naughten to deliver this as a matter of urgency.
“That he chose to pass the buck to his junior minister is worrying, that the junior Minister in turn appears content to allow the company involved to essentially monitor itself will be unsettling for many residents.
“I have re-written to Minister Naughten calling on him to personally intervene to initiate the required independent investigation of all mine sites in this area. The community in Magheracloone deserve no less.”
Matt Carthy has also confirmed that he has written to transport Minister, Shane Ross, calling on him to allocate any necessary funding to ensure that all roads in the area are fully restored. Subsequent to the Gyproc Mine Collapses, a section of the R179 has been closed resulting in unprecedented volumes of traffic being diverted via local roads throughout Magheracloone resulting in the rapid deterioration of road surfaces that were already in poor condition.
Carthy said: “Thousands of heavy goods vehicles are now using these narrow local roads. The road surfaces have been completely destroyed and are now reaching a critical point where they are becoming impassable.”
“I am aware that Monaghan County Council will be making a claim for the damage caused but an Emergency infrastructural Fund is required as a matter of urgency. This was an unprecedented event. The road maintenance budgets of Monaghan County Council are nowhere near sufficient to address the amount of remedial work required on this network of roads.
“The local roads both north and south of the R179 are now in a very dangerous condition. A combination of bad road surfaces, over grown hedgerows and increased levels of road users has left many residents worried that serious accidents are imminent.
Carthy concluded: “I have written to Minister Ross asking him to put an emergency fund in place as soon as possible to address these critical infrastructural issues.”
Shared education has a key role to play in building a shared society as well as improving the attainment of our young people,” Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan has said.
Commenting after attending the launch of Shared Education Week at Girdwood Hub, the Foyle MLA said:
“Education has the potential to play a crucial role in the development of the type of shared society that we wish to see.
“The research around educational underachievement and inequality clearly demonstrates that genuine co-operation and good leadership within schools and communities provides the potential to yield better results and higher levels of attainment.
“Increased levels of sharing and co-operation between schools and across different sectors is key to delivering a comprehensive access to the curriculum on the basis of equality. We already have many examples of schools sharing facilities and collaborating with each other in a range of areas and with the levels of funding promised for shared education we would hope to see much more of it in the future.
“Sinn Féin is committed to providing all children with the option of accessing shared education which I believe can play a part in furthering reconciliation as well as impacting positively on educational outcomes.”
Shared Education events are running all week and for more information or to register go online: www.selfni.org/shared-education-week/
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has welcomed confirmation that Lidl will remove all single-use plastics and black plastic packaging from fruit and veg products in its stores across the north.
The supermarket chain has also announced further measures to remove black plastic packaging from other items by Summer 2019.
The party’s Energy, Environment & Climate Change spokesperson said:
“Moves by Lidl to remove all-single use plastics and black plastic packaging from the fruit and veg range in their stores is a positive step in the fight against plastic pollution.
“Black plastic containers cannot be recycled and it’s estimated that this initiative will result in the removal of 65 tonnes of plastic waste each year.
“This figures should act as an incentive for other stores and manufacturers to get involved in tackling this manmade problem.
“With over 10 million tonnes of plastic waste leaking into our oceans each year, we are reaching a critical point.
“We all have a responsibility to make the right choice and move to renewable alternatives that will help drive the fight against plastic pollution.”
The Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) charity are to be presented with the European Citizen's Prize in Brussels today (Tuesday), having been nominated by all four Sinn Féin MEPs earlier this year.
The award will be presented to Anthony Flynn, CEO of the charity, in the European Parliament building in Brussels.
Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin, Lynn Boylan, expressed her delight that ICHH have had their work helping the homeless, recognised in Europe:
"At a time when 10,000 people are currently homeless in Ireland, including over 1700 familes and just under 4,000 children, many Irish citizens have decided to roll up their sleeves and help those who have been abandoned by the Irish government.
"Anthony Flynn and his ICHH volunteers are such a group and the Citizen's Prize award, to be presented tomorrow, is international recognition for their incredible work. I am proud to have been part of the Sinn Féin team to have nominated ICHH for this award and I am delighted that their nomination has been successful.
"I would like to congratulate all the ICHH volunteers who work nightly on the streets of Dublin, The Citizens Prize is a thank you to each and every one of them."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said it is essential the Good Friday Agreement is protected in the face of the Tory Brexit agenda.
Speaking from London, Martina Anderson said:
"I met today with Hilary Benn, the chair of the British Parliament's Committee for Exiting the EU and also with members of the House of Lords select committee on Brexit.
"At both meetings I made it clear that it is vital the Good Friday Agreement is not undermined as a result of Brexit.
"This is a message that needs to be heard, particularly as the Tories clearly don't give a damn about the Good Friday Agreement or the peace process.
“It is all the more timely as a new opinion poll alarmingly showed that 75 per cent of Tories would be willing to collapse the peace process to secure the warped Brexit they are seeking.
"I made it abundantly clear to them that the people of Ireland, north and south, will not tolerate that and the British government, as a co-guarantor of the Agreement has a duty to protect and uphold it.
"With a Tory government in hock to the DUP who have never supported the Good Friday Agreement and the looming impact of Brexit, it is essential this international agreement is maintained.
"I urged them to pull back from any course of action which would undermine or threaten the Good Friday Agreement.
"The Irish government too have a responsibility to ensure the agreement is protected and that the rights it guarantees are not lost to Brexit.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has raised concerns with members of the British House of Lords regarding the British government’s Counter Terrorism and Border Security bill.
Speaking after the meeting the South Down MP commented,
“This bill clearly shows that the British government is prepared to impose a hard border in Ireland.
“This British government has no interest or concern for the political, social and economic consequences of a hard border.
“Indeed, this bill represents further draconian legislation by the British government and totally disregards the fact that the people of the North of Ireland rejected both a hard border and Brexit.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has congratulated the organisers of Science and Stormont 2018 on a successful event.
The event took place on Monday 8 October on the theme of The Impact of Brexit on STEM and industry.
The vice chair of the All-Party Group on Science Technology Engineering & Maths said:
"This is a yearly event, which takes place to encourage good relations between the Assembly and the scientific community, this year the theme for discussion was the impact of Brexit on STEM and industry.
"The impact of Brexit is of huge concern for the scientific community, it will be deeply damaging particularly for the universities and research sector.
"The ability to access EU funding streams into the future is of major concern, as highlighted by a recent 'no deal' guidance note which outlined the uncertainty around H2020 funding.
"People mobility is another area of great concern, for those EU citizens currently working in the north and Britain; and also for universities and research organisations seeking to recruit talented staff and students.
"To protect the research and innovation sector it is essential to secure an outcome in the Brexit negotiations which sees the north remain in the customs union, the single market and which secures the rights of citizens to ensure continued free movement and access to EU funding streams.
"Engagements like Science and Stormont are important to ensure politicians and policy-makers have the opportunity to hear the views and concerns of the scientific community."
Sinn Féin Councillors on South Dublin County Council have today voted against selling land at the Grange/Kilcarberry site in Clondalkin to a private developer. The proposal would have seen the large site sold as part of a Joint Venture deal to deliver over 900 houses. 30% of the houses would be social, with the remainder being sold at open market prices.
Sinn Féin Clondalkin Councillor Mark Ward said:
“Sinn Féin has campaigned for five years for a Council led mixed-income and mixed-tenure development on this site. Clondalkin needs social, affordable rental, and affordable sale homes, alongside community and economic infrastructure.
“The current proposal, while containing many positive elements, would see 70% of the homes sold at inflated unaffordable prices. At a time when people are crying out for affordable homes, selling this land would not be a good use of such a strategic public asset.
“Nearby residential developments in Adamstown and Shakelton have a price range of between €320,000 and €500,000 for two-bedroom and three-bedroom family homes. Working people on modest incomes simply cannot afford these prices. Public land should not be sold to allow developers make profits for such unaffordable prices.”
Sinn Féin group leader Cllr Cathal King said:
“Last month, when we deferred the decision on this issue, we called on Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to intervene to resolve the matter. Five TDs from different political parties wrote to the Minister three times seeking an urgent meeting to ensure that affordable housing would be included on the site. Unfortunately, the Minister refused to meet.
“I am disappointed that a majority of Councillors voted to sell the land today. Rather than stand with hard working modest income families to ensure that they would have access to affordable housing, they have chosen to sell land to a private developer who will be the big winner for this deal.”
Speaking after meeting the British Secretary of State in Belfast today, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill said:
“Yet again we heard no plan from Karen Bradley to restore the institutions. No ambition to deal with the issues of rights and equality.
“No indication whatsoever that Karen Bradley’s government is prepared to start prioritising the needs of our people and our institutions over the demands of the DUP.
“The only action we have seen from her is a step away from the Good Friday Agreement to deny people the right to have their say in an election.
“I made it clear that any attempt to move towards Direct Rule will fail.
“Karen Bradley is intent only on protecting her party’s survival with the DUP and she has a duty to explain to the people of the North why she is allowing us all to be held to ransom.
“On Friday I, along with the leaders of the SDLP, Alliance and Green Party, met with Michel Barnier. We did so as the majority voice of the people here.
“All those parties made it clear we want the institutions restored on the basis they were intended and all those parties made it clear, in terms of Brexit, that the DUP should not have a veto.
“Business people are also in Brussels today, looking for certainty and clarity. They are looking to the EU for protection from the reckless Tory Brexit agenda. This is further evidence of the opposition of the majority to any attempt to drag us out of the Customs Union and Single Market.
“As the negotiations reach a critical point, it is incumbent on us all to ensure our voices are heard and that our needs take precedent over the Tory-DUP pact.
“I’m going to meet the Tánaiste now and along with the Sinn Féin Leadership will meet with the Taoiseach and Theresa May over the coming days. Along with the SDLP, Alliance and Greens, we have also sought a joint meeting with the Taoiseach and Theresa May.
“The British Irish Intergovernmental Conference needs to meet again but the solution is clear. Rights that are routine everywhere else on these islands must be routine here also.
“There can be no return to the status quo and citizens cannot be denied and disenfranchised in order to satisfy the DUP’s demands.”
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has called for immediate action to tackle environmental damage caused by climate change.
Commenting on the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the party’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change spokesperson said:
“Swift action must be taken to ensure no more damage continues to be caused to our environment and this must include climate legislation with binding sectoral targets north and south.
“It is crucial that we introduce decisive measures to prevent global temperatures increasing.
“Urgent action must be taken both worldwide and within our own energy sector, in how we manage our land, and in the transition of transportation.
“We need a diverse and indigenous energy mix through renewable energy sources such as biogas, solar power and offshore wind.
“Sinn Féin laid out a possible energy mix in the 'Powering Ireland 2030' document including an electricity mix of 80% renewable energy by 2030. How we produce our electricity will also determine much of the changes needed in domestic heat and transport.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has called for support and investment in skills training as a means of tackling economic inactivity and improving productivity.
The Party's Further and Higher Education Spokesperson stated was commenting on recent Department for Economy (DFE) figures showing that economic inactivity is on the rise and that older males without any qualifications are 13 per cent more likely to be underpaid with a lack of skills and qualifications a significant barrier to labour force participation.
Caoimhe Archibald said: “The statistics published by DFE show the need to upskill our workforce as a means of reducing economic inactivity and tackling the stagnant productivity in the north.
"To do this requires adequate investment and support for our Colleges and other educational providers, which are central to offering accessible education and upskilling opportunities at a community level.
"Employers in the public and private sector also need to recognise the benefits of investing in their workers, and the benefits of upskilling and in work training, for their productivity and output.
"The average wage in the North is nine per cent lower than the average wage across Britain and the north, alongside investing in skills to in productivity, employees must also be provided with good terms and conditions of employment.”
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Pat Sheehan MLA encouraged all those who have had experience of neurology services in Belfast to engage with the Neurology Inquiry Panel's questionnaire.
The Neurology Inquiry Panel was established to review the process initiated by the Belfast Trust in relation to concerns raised about the clinical practice of Dr Michael Watt and to assess whether any complaints or concerns raised should have provided grounds for earlier intervention.
Speaking after the launch of the Inquiry Panel's public engagement process today, the West Belfast MLA commented: "The recall of neurology services earlier this year was the largest patient recall in the north of Ireland.
"It has been a very worrying and stressful time for all those neurology patients directly involved in the recall and many other patients and former patients of neurology services in the Belfast Trust.
"I would encourage all those affected, whether patients, former patients, relatives of patients and health care workers to take the opportunity to have their voice heard and engage with the Panel's questionnaire.
"It is important that the panel hears the experiences of those who used the service and those who worked within neurology services at that time.
"This is vital if the panel is to establish whether action could have been taken earlier to address the concerns of patients and to ensure mistakes are not repeated."
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has reiterated calls for the BBC to introduce a highlights programme of Club championship games here in the north.
The party’s Culture, Arts and Sport spokesperson said:
“Gaelic games is the largest spectator sport in the north of Ireland but continues to be ignored when it comes to TV coverage.
“There is a massive energy and enthusiasm surrounding GAA club championship games with large crowds turning out to watch the games.
“However, this momentum is matched with frustration among GAA fans at what they feel is decades of neglect by BBC in terms of televising and mainstreaming Gaelic games.
“The BBC can do more to ensure there is equal access to GAA coverage and one of these measures should be the introduction of an extended highlights programme.
“As club championships reach the final stage and the Ulster championships begin we are calling on the BBC increase investment and coverage of Gaelic games.”
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has confirmed that a shot was fired at his constituency office in West Belfast during a paramilitary attack on Sunday night.
A man in his 30s was shot in the leg during the attack on the Norglen Road and the West Belfast MLA condemned those responsible.
“The people who carried out this attack have left a man with potentially life changing injuries,” he said.
“They then recklessly fired a shot across the road and through the window of my constituency office, endangering anyone who may have been in the vicinity.
“That is an attack on the democratically expressed wishes of the people of his area.
“Sinn Féin will not be deterred by this mindless attack from providing services to the people of Turf Lodge and West Belfast by the thugs who carried out this attack.
“These people have nothing to offer but intimidation and mindless violence.
"They should desist and get off the backs of this community.
“And I call on anyone with any information on this attack to bring it forward to the police.”
Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has condemned Turkey’s ongoing repression of Kurds at the Council of Europe. The Sinn Féin Senator is attending the October Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as a member of the United European Left.
Contributing to a debate on the recent Presidential Election in Turkey, Senator Gavan condemned the State of Emergency and unparalleled repression against Turkeys third largest party the pro-Kurdish HDP, saying:
“The HDP’s Presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas was unable to campaign because he has been in prison on pre-trial detention since November 2016. He is in prison because he dared to stand up to the autocratic Erdogan regime and demand democratic and human rights for all citizens in Turkey including the oppressed Kurdish minority.
“In any country where parliamentary democracy functions properly, members of Parliament and leaders of political parties are not put in prison for their policies. Yet, that is the reality in Turkey. These elections clearly didn’t take place in a free and fair climate.
“Despite the imprisonment of its activists and MP’s, daily police oppression, and media censorship, the HDP passed the election threshold to win almost 12 percent of the 600 seats in Parliament. They have done so on a campaign for human rights and democracy. I send them my congratulations and solidarity.
“I condemn the continued detention of HDP MP’s and call for the immediate release of the thousands of political prisoners currently under internment in Turkey.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has criticised the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy for refusing to meet a cross-party delegation of TDs to discuss the need for affordable housing at the Grange/Kilcarberry site in Clondalkin.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“South Dublin County Council management have been working on a proposed housing development on the Grange/Kilcarberry site in Clondalkin, Dublin 22. The development could see up to 900 houses build over five years.
“Despite repeated calls over many years for the Department of Housing to directly fund a Council-led mixed-income and mixed-tenure development on the site, the Department insisted on a private sector-led joint venture funding model.
“Sinn Féin councillors have consistently said that the site must be used for social and affordable housing. The current proposal includes 30% social, which is welcome. However, the remainder of the housing would be sold at open market prices by the private developer.
“Similar private housing developments in the area, such as Adamstown, have price ranges from €320,000 to €500,000.
“At last month’s Council meeting, a majority of Councillors voted to defer a decision on the sale of the land to the private developer and called on the Minister of Housing to work with Council management to ensure the delivery of affordable housing on this site.
“Following the Council vote, Deputies John Curran of Fianna Fáil, Gino Kenny of People Before Profit, Catherine Martin of the Green Party, Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats, and I wrote to Minister Murphy seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the issue.
“Over the past four weeks, we have written to Minister Murphy on three separate occasions asking for a cross-party meeting. The Minister has so far refused to meet us.
“It is our view and the view of the majority of Councillors that selling this land to allow a private developer profit from the sale of overpriced unaffordable homes is not good housing policy.
“Minister Murphy says that he wants to work with the opposition to deliver solutions to the housing crisis. Here is an opportunity to provide real affordable housing for working families yet the Minister wont even meet with a cross party delegation of TDs.
“The Grange/Kilcarberry development has the potential to provide social and affordable homes for people from and working in South Dublin. The Minister’s refusal to meet with us and ensure that affordable homes are delivered on this site is a disgrace.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said there can be no more delays in the development of Casement Park.
The West Belfast MP was speaking after the Safety Technical Group (STG) backed spectator safety procedures in the redevelopment plan for Casement Park.
Paul Maskey said:
“The development of Casement Park is a hugely important project which will bring a positive dividend to the people in the area providing opportunities for residents and businesses in terms of investment and job creation opportunities for West Belfast.
“The project was agreed by the Executive and was an Executive priority project within the Programme for Government. Now the STG has backed the spectator safety procedures there can be no more delays in the Casement Park stadium project.
“As MP for West Belfast I have consistently worked with all key stakeholders to ensure a successful resolution to the Casement Park project and will continue to do so.
“I look forward to the final part of the stadium jigsaw being completed with the realisation of a new and modern fit-for-purpose Casement Park in the heart of West Belfast.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Liz Kimmins has said residents voices must be heard and respected on the future of Raymond McCreesh Park.
Cllr Kimmins was speaking as Sinn Féin confirmed it will use a 'call-in' procedure in a bid to halt the plan to sell off the park.
Liz Kimmins said:
“The Council decision to dispose of Raymond McCreesh Park without community consultation is against with the wishes of local residents in the Barcroft and Ballybot areas.
“At last Monday’s meeting Sinn Féin opposed the disposal based on concerns raised by local residents and community groups and proposed a full community consultation.
“This was rejected by the SDLP and unionist parties which is hardly surprising given that they have always wished to remove the name of Raymond McCreesh Park.
“Despite the fact that ten play parks in Newry, Mourne and Down Council area have been declared as surplus assets, Raymond McCreesh is the only one that has been fast-tracked for disposal.
“Sinn Féin have decided to call-in the motion to sell off the park in order to allow for further investigation and to ensure the voices of residents are heard.”