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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 Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has said "an Irish Unity referendum is back at the centre of political discussion”.

She added that the process of building a new and united Ireland must involve a dialogue which includes unionists and that the Irish government has a responsibility to lead an informed and respectful discussion on the matter.

Ms McDonald made the remarks this afternoon during her keynote speech at the National Hunger Strike Commemoration in Castlewellan, Co Down.

The Sinn Féin Leader said;

"A referendum on a United Ireland is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement. The need for a referendum to end partition is writ large.  The time for a Unity Referendum is drawing near. It is not a question of if a unity referendum will happen but a question of when.

"So too is the urgent need for dialogue to manage the change that is coming. That dialogue must involve unionist political leaders. Political leaders must begin practical preparations for a new, inclusive Ireland beyond partition.

"The Irish government in particular has a responsibility to lead an informed, reasoned and respectful public dialogue on this issue. We are entering a defining period in Irish political history. Change is coming and it must be managed, sensitively and imaginatively. A process of national reconciliation must be central to any genuine effort to unite the people of this island.

"As Britain turns away from Europe, the appeal of being part of a new and outward-looking Ireland will, I believe, prove ever more attractive to some within the unionist community. 

“British identity can and must be accommodated in a united Ireland and I believe nationalist Ireland is open to constitutional and political safeguards to ensure this."

Ms McDonald highlighted Sinn Féin’s vision of a United Ireland;

“It will be an Ireland united and at peace with itself. It will be a successful, prosperous Ireland of opportunity for all, regardless of class, colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

“It will be an Ireland that will take its place among the nations of the world; an ancient European nation that stands squarely on the side of global justice, on the side of emancipation, freedom solidarity.” 

The Sinn Féin leader said her party is committed to re-establishing the Executive and Assembly.

“The Irish and British governments have said there will be a new round of talks in the autumn. That is welcome.

“However basic rights, respect and equality cannot be disregarded, they are not bargaining chips.They are for all in society. 

“Marriage equality, the right to inquests and language rights are for everyone.

“Fifty years on from the civil rights movement, sections of political unionism still resist equality and rights, but they will not succeed.

“It is not sufficient for the two governments to only call a talks process. They must bring something to the table. They need to make clear that agreements must be implemented in full.

“The way to unlock the political process is to make clear that rights enjoyed in the rest of Ireland and across Britain will be implemented in the north. 

“Of course, we are dealing with a British government that is dependent on DUP votes and sees Ireland and as collateral damage in their desire to remain in office.

“That is why we need a strong Irish government leading on these issues." CRÍOCH/ENDS

Full text of Mary Lou McDonald’s speech at the 37th commemoration of the 1981 Hunger Strike in Castlewellan, Co Down - 5th August 2018
 
Fáilte romhaibh go léir, a chairde. 

Táimid anseo inniu chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar na laochra a fuair bás ar Stailc Ocrais agus táimid anseo chun seasamh le muintir na Stailceoirí Ocrais.

Spreagann sibh muid go deo.

Today, Irish Republicans commemorate the sacrifice and celebrate the lives of our Hunger Strikers.

We are humbled to stand here with the families of the Hunger Strikers – families who have given so much and who have carried their loss with such dignity. 

You continue to inspire us all.

The 1981 Hunger Strike was a pivotal moment in Irish history, which saw Republican prisoners thwart British government efforts to criminalise the struggle for a united Ireland.

The bravery of the Hunger Strikers has inspired freedom loving people across the globe.

In Ireland, Republicans remember with deep pride the sacrifice and heroism of those who died in the H-Blocks - Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee and Michael Devine.

We also remember Thomas Ashe, Terence MacSwiney, Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan who died in English jails and all those from every generation who died on Hunger Strike.

1981 was a watershed year in Irish history. 

The Irish political landscape was upended and recast. 

The election of Bobby Sands as MP for Fermanagh South/Tyrone and the election of Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew as anti-H Block TDs changed and charged the direction of Republican electoral strategy. 

It shattered the era of single party government in the south.

The Hunger Strikers gave Thatcher her answer.

They would not be criminalised.

Ten young men - young Volunteers - born into an oppressive, sectarian State.

Ten who took a stand.

Ten who would not be broken.

Ten who amplified the words of Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork who died on Hunger Strike in Brixton Prison in October 1920, who said:

“This contest of ours is not on our side a rivalry of vengeance but one of endurance… It is not they who can inflict most but they who can suffer most who will conquer.”

Ten lives cut short.

Ten grieving families.

Ten figures who will never be forgotten, who loom large in the history of Ireland.

Thirty seven years on, many of the men and women active in the jail protests have raised families. 

They have lived to see their children grow up in a changed and changing Ireland.

Today, the legacy of the Hunger Strikers lives on. 

Republicanism is renewed and revitalised. 

There are more Republicans across Ireland now than at any time since partition.

A new generation of Republicans are driving change; change rooted in the Republican values of equality, solidarity and freedom.

This year marks the centenary of the 1918 General Election - in which a majority of Irish citizens turned their backs on Westminster and voted overwhelmingly for an Independent Ireland.
 
This was a changing Ireland led by a revolutionary generation. 

Sinn Féin MPs refused to go to Westminster and established the First Dáil. 

This election was the first in which women had a vote.

And the first women elected to Westminster was Sinn Féin Abstentionist MP Constance Markievicz.

Today, Ireland is once again at a point of great change. 

Many old certainties are gone. 

Long standing conservative forces have been weakened. 

The tide of history is with those seeking a progressive, inclusive future.

The tide of history is with those who seek a United Ireland.

It is increasingly clear that the partition of Ireland is an obstacle to building a modern, open and forward-looking society.

Economic and social challenges, the civil rights of women and gay citizens and, of course, Brexit and the prospect of a hard border, are further exposing the fact that a divided Ireland does not serve the needs of our people.

Tá aontacht na hÉireann ar ais i lár an phlé pholaitiúil agus tá gá le reifreann chun Éire a aontú.

Irish unity is back at the centre of political discussion.

A referendum on a United Ireland is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.

The need for a referendum to end partition is writ large. 

The time for a Unity Referendum is drawing near.

It is not a question of if a unity referendum will happen but a question of when.

So too is the urgent need for dialogue to manage the change that is coming. 

That dialogue must involve unionist political leaders.
 
Political leaders must begin practical preparations for a new, inclusive Ireland beyond partition.
 
The Irish government in particular has a responsibility to lead an informed, reasoned and respectful public dialogue on this issue.

We are entering a defining period in Irish political history. 

Change is coming and it must be managed, sensitively and imaginatively.

A process of national reconciliation must be central to any genuine effort to unite the people of this island.

As Britain turns away from Europe, the appeal of being part of a new and outward-looking Ireland will, I believe, prove ever more attractive to some within the unionist community.

British identity can and must be accommodated in a united Ireland and I believe nationalist Ireland is open to constitutional and political safeguards to ensure this.

The right of unionists to celebrate their history and their tradition, to recount their experience and suffering, and to remember and honour their dead must be - and will be - respected.

Just as our right to  remember, commemorate, to honour our dead must be respected.

The responsibility to ensure an agreed process of change is also why we need the institutions at Stormont re-established.
 
It is why we need the foundations of the Good Agreement - equality, rights and respect - in place.

Increased all-Ireland co-operation and the building of relationships between people from different political outlooks, is crucial as we face into challenging and changing times.

Sinn Féin is committed to re-establishing the Executive and Assembly.

The Irish and British governments have said there will be a new round of talks in the autumn. 

That is welcome.

However basic rights, respect and equality cannot be disregarded, they are not bargaining chips.

They are for all in society. 

Marriage equality, the right to inquests and language rights are for everyone.

Fifty years on from the civil rights movement, sections of political unionism still resist equality and rights, but they will not succeed.

It is not sufficient for the two governments to only call a talks process. 

They must bring something to the table. 

They need to make clear that agreements must be implemented in full.

The way to unlock the political process is to make clear that rights enjoyed in the rest of Ireland and across Britain will be implemented in the north. 

Of course, we are dealing with a British government that is dependent on DUP votes and sees Ireland and as collateral damage in their desire to remain in office.

That is why we need a strong Irish government leading on these issues.

Díreach céad bliain ó shin ar an 4 Lúnasa 1918 bhí an Domhnach Gaelach ann, le cluichí ar fud na tíre, mar freagra ar rialtas na Breataine a bhí ag iarraidh cosc a chur ar Chumann Lúthchleas Gael. 

100 years ago this weekend, 4 August 1918 was Gaelic Sunday. On that day hundreds of football, hurling and camogie matches were played all over Ireland by the GAA in defiance of a ban by the British regime in Dublin Castle. 

It was an act of mass resistance by the Irish nation in which tens of thousands of people took part as players and spectators. 

And it was a reminder to all - then and since - that rights and freedoms are won by those who stand up for them and take them with both hands. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the north will never again be left behind. 

We are fast approaching a time when that commitment will be tested.

The process of political change is not confined to the north.

The days of two conservative political parties completely dominating politics in the south is over.

The growing strength of Sinn Féin has been central to this change and further change is on the way.

As evidenced by recent referendums, this generation is making political and social change, and there is further to go.

Broadening out that process to include more of our citizens, in particular those who need economic change, requires a new type of government.
 
Only a government of which Sinn Féin is a major component will address the challenges that face our people.

Only Sinn Féin will bring fairness, equality and social justice to the heart of government.

Spreagann na Stailceoirí Ocrais muid sa lá atá inniu ann.

Táimid tiomanta chun cinntiú go ndéanfaidh an tír a thógfaimid onóir dóibh.

Beidh Éire aontaithe, síochánta.

Beidh deis rathúil ann; agus neamhaird do cuid creideamh, do dath, do inscne nó do claonadh gnéasach.

The Hunger Strikers lit a flame which burns brightly today in the hearts of all Irish Republicans.

We are deeply committed to ensuring that the type of Ireland we build will honour their extraordinary sacrifice.

It will be an Ireland united and at peace with itself.
It will be a successful, prosperous Ireland of opportunity for all, regardless of class, colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

It will be an Ireland that will take its place among the nations of the world; an ancient European nation that stands squarely on the side of global justice, on the side of emancipation, freedom solidarity.

We will face political resistance on the way. 

But Republicans are long sighted and optimistic.

Frustration, anger and negativity cannot and will not blunt or blur our political imagination, political struggle and political will.

If anyone had a right to be frustrated, angry and negative it was the prisoners of Long Kesh, Armagh and others elsewhere.

But thirty-seven years ago, naked and imprisoned, Bobby Sands looked beyond the immediate, daunting challenges that faced him and towards the future.

When the system tried to break Bobby, his reply was: “Our revenge will we the laughter of our children”

We draw our inspiration from those words.

Those words typify the generosity and hope of a true leader - a leader who looked beyond the challenges of today and towards the opportunity of tomorrow.

That is the leadership, hope and positivity that should drive Republicans today.

Despite all the challenges and political frustrations that may confront us, we know in our hearts and in our heads that a new and agreed Ireland is coming.

As Bobby said: “It is then that we will see the rising of the moon”.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.

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Sinn Féin MLA for East Derry Caoimhe Archibald has condemned the painting of kerb stones and other surfaces in the Glens area of Limavady.

Caoimhe Archibald said:

“I condemn the painting of the kerb stones and other surfaces green, white and orange in Limavady.

“There has been an increase in the numbers of flags, including paramilitary flags, being flown and a surge in kerbs painted red, white and blue in the town.

“Sinn Féin have consistently stated that kerbs and flags should not be used to mark territory. 

“Myself and Limavady Councillor Brenda Chivers have met with the PSNI and other agencies to demand action to address the concerns of residents, including an inter-agency meeting which took place last Tuesday.

“Last week after St Mary’s Chapel was daubed with loyalist paramilitary graffiti we appealed for calm and for no retaliation, I would re-iterate that call.

“I would once again urge all elected and community leaders to come together to show leadership in order to bring an end to the tensions in the area caused by marking territory in this way.”

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 Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has said Gaelic Sunday is an opportunity for Gaels across Ireland to remember and celebrate our island’s rich sporting and cultural heritage.

The party’s Culture, Arts and Sport spokesperson said: 

“A century ago, Britain tried to crush our culture by effectively banning Gaelic games.

“The people of Ireland defied them in best way possible, by coming out in their tens of thousands to play Gaelic games on Sunday 4 August.

“Today, Gaelic Games thrives across the island of Ireland. The GAA is at the heart of communities.

“It symbolises everything that is positive and unique about our country.

“Sinn Féin – the only party with representation in every part of Ireland - salutes those who stood their ground on Gaelic Sunday.

“They showed what can be achieved when ordinary people stand together and defend their rights, they made the stand and today we are still reaping the benefits.

“Celebrate Gaelic Sunday and all that is good and positive about our games, our culture, our people.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has dismissed as "utter nonsense" claims she is opposed to vaccinations.

The Ireland South MEP was responding to claims in a newspaper that she was against vaccinations due to comments made in a radio interview in 2016.

"It is utter nonsense to claim that I am in any way opposed to vaccinations," she said.

"During a radio interview in 2016 I clearly outlined that my issue was a lack of information coming from the HSE.  A lot of concern and confusion around the HPV vaccination was going on at the time resulting in a pick up of the vaccine of just 51% and there was not nearly enough information forthcoming from the HSE to clarify matters or soothe the concerns of parents.

"So there is no confusion, let me be absolutely clear. Vaccines are a crucial part of modern life and it is only because of them that we now enjoy the greatest life expectancy in human history.

"I would, of course, encourage all parents to get their children fully vaccinated, including with the HPV vaccine and indeed there is recent research saying that this particular vaccine should be extended to boys, which I would also support.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy is to meet the Electoral Commission over its decision not to investigate claims in a BBC programme over DUP ‘dark money’ in the Brexit campaign. 

The Spotlight programme ‘Brexit, Dark Money and the DUP’ alleged the DUP broke Electoral Commission rules over its links with other pro-Brexit groups and the businesspeople who helped fund them.

Francie Molloy said: “I have asked to meet the Electoral Commission because I believe they need to clarify the reasons behind their decision not to investigate the very serious allegations made in this programme.

“They have said they do not have grounds to open an investigation and made reference to the legislation which bars publishing details of donations to political parties here prior to July 2017.

“That clearly doesn’t indicate that the DUP has been exonerated but rather that the process for investigation is too restrictive.

“There are very serious concerns regarding the ‘dark money’ paid to the DUP during the Brexit campaign. These claims need to be rigorously investigated and if the Electoral Commission are saying they are unable rather than unwilling to do so, then they need to clarify that.” 

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has urged as many people as possible to attend this weekend’s Pride parade in Belfast.

She commented: “Sinn Féin is proud to support the Belfast Pride Festival and we will be assembling outside McHugh's Bar at Custom House Square at 12.15 on Saturday to march with our LGB&T brothers and sisters to continue the demand for full equality.

“Pride is a wonderful platform for raising awareness and campaigning on issues faced by the LGB & T communities such as the need to extend marriage equality across the whole of Ireland.

 “I would encourage as many people as possible to attend the Pride parade to show solidarity and send a clear message that inequality and discrimination of any kind is simply not tolerable.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD today launched a party campaign aimed at tackling the growing levels of illegal dumping and littering across Dublin. The campaign includes a five-point action plan which will include lobbying Dublin City Council and the Government to invest greater resources into street cleaning. Ms McDonald TD was joined by Cllr Gaye Fagan and members of the local community. 

Speaking today at the campaign launch in Dublin’s North East Inner-City, the Dublin Central TD said,

“Illegal dumping and dog fouling across the city is on the rise. Apart from the fact that this devalues our entire community, litter and fouling also attract vermin which can lead to serious illness. Enough is enough. 

“Today, we have launched our five-point plan to highlight what needs to be done to curb the plight of litter. The Government need to take action and wake up to the reality of littering and fouling.  It’s also important that as a community, we all embrace initiatives which will lead to a safer, cleaner and healthier environment for all.”

The five-point action plan seeks to:

·         Increase the use of CCTV to detect offenders

·         Increase the number of litter wardens across Dublin Central

·         Create greater public awareness about implications of illegal dumping and littering

·         Increase Dublin City Council’s funding towards street cleaning

·         Provide additional stations where dog ‘poop-scoops’ can be obtained

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has said a proposal by Minister Shane Ross for a grant for grandparents who care for their grandchildren is an attempt by the Government to abdicate responsibility for continued failings to bring down the cost of childcare.

Speaking on Friday, Deputy Mitchell said the Government’s time would be better spent coming up with real ways to bring down the cost to parents:

“Childcare costs are absolutely sky-high at the moment, many parents are paying the equivalent of a second mortgage in crèche fees.

"The Independent Alliance’s time would be better spent on bringing forward proposals that will bring these costs down so that every parent who wishes to avail of childcare can do so.

"Instead they appear to be looking at ways in which the state can abdicate its responsibility on this issue.

“We all recognise the important role grandparents play in caring for grandchildren, but this half-baked proposal is simply not a realistic way of tackling a very serious issue.

"Unfortunately decades of Government under-investment in Early Years Services have led us to where we are now.

"We in Sinn Féin showed at Budget 2018 through fully-costed proposals how the cost of childcare for families can be reduced on average by half. A key part of that was through significantly increasing the Universal Childcare Subsidy.

“According to Shane Ross, his so-called ‘granny grant’ would cost €70million. In comparison, based on last year’s figures from the Department of Finance, it would cost €116millionto cut the cost of childcare by an average of half across the board through an increase of the Universal Childcare Subsidy by €2 per-hour.

“The proposal by the Independent Alliance seems to be more about grabbing headlines than about any real attempt to reform our childcare system.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has said the funding concerns raised by the Department of Education’s Permanent Secretary are a direct consequence of the Tory-DUP austerity pact.

The party’s Education spokesperson said:

“The austerity agenda pursued by the Tory Government and their bedfellows in the DUP is at odds with the properly resourced education system parents rightly demand for their children.

“The much lauded confidence and supply money did not lead to additional or adequate investment in education, it only mitigated against cuts.

“Sinn Féin believe that the educational welfare of our children must be prioritised over short sighted cuts. Children and families should not have to bear the brunt of Tory-DUP austerity. We will continue to demand adequate resourcing for our education system.”

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Responding to the announcement by An Post that 161 Post Offices will be closed as part of a voluntary retirement scheme, Sinn Féin TD and Communications spokesperson Brian Stanley has said that closures must not inflict a loss of services and greater isolation on rural communities.

The Laois TD said:

“The voluntary retirement scheme was backed by the membership of the Irish Postmasters’ Union, but this does not absolve An Post of the responsibility to ensure that access to the post office network is a geographical lottery.

“Reform of our post offices has been neglected for a number of years and both An Post and the Government Department need to take positive action. The post office network needs reform.

“Sinn Féin and others have put forward alternatives. Government and local government services can easily be provided through the post office network, such as looking at providing motor tax renewal, small scale banking, and creating digital hubs of the network in the absence the ever slow roll out of the National Broadband Plan.

“Any rural dweller will testify to the economic and social importance of a post office in the community. Garda stations, schools, and other services are gone, so keeping the post office network intact is more important than ever especially in isolated communities.

“Minister for Communications Denis Naughten needs to decide whether rural Ireland matters and he needs to take a hands on approach. There has been a series of reports on the future of our post offices over recent years and there are models in other States where a viable and vibrant post office network is in place.

“Rural Ireland cannot take any more cuts to services, of which postal services are a vital part.” 

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Sinn Féin legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon has branded comments by the British Chief of the Defence Staff as extremely insulting to families and victims of the conflict.

The Mid-Ulster MLA was responding to comments from Nick Carter that “he will not allow British soldiers to be chased by people making vexatious claims about their conduct during the conflict in the north”.Linda Dillon said:“I would call on the British Chief of the Defence Staff to provide evidence of any such ‘vexatious claims’.“These comments are extremely insulting and will provide further hurt to families and victims of the conflict some of whom have waited over 40 years for closure by way of an Article 2 investigation or inquest or the timely provision of disclosure in relation to the circumstances surrounding the death of their loved ones.“During the conflict, State forces operated with impunity and we will resist any attempt to legalise this policy, which constituted an integral aspect of the British Government’s sustained abuse of the human rights of Irish citizens both during and after the conflict.“The British Chief of the Defence Staff should acquaint himself with the facts and the best way to do this would be by meeting with the families in order to understand the hurt such claims make.“Sinn Féin fully support the legacy mechanisms which were agreed at Stormont House and are currently out for consultation and we would encourage everyone to make a submission to this.

“We will continue to stand with those families and all victims and survivors as we demand the full implementation of all agreements.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has said the Electoral Commission’s decision to open only three centres with limited opening hours for people to sign the Recall Petition to unseat North Antrim Ian Paisley is extremely disappointing.

And the North Antrim MLA said the Commission needs to do more to ensure the democratic process is not subverted. 

The North Antrim MLA said:

“It is extremely disappointing that the Electoral Commission has decided to only open three centres with limited opening hours for the recall petition.

“This is simply not good enough.

“It greatly reduces people’s ability to reject the disgraceful behaviour of Ian Paisley in accepting lavish family holidays from the Sri Lankan government before lobbying against a UN investigation into war crimes and human rights abuses.

“North Antrim is a large constituency and Sinn Féin proposed that the recall petition should be available in as many as ten local government offices. 

“I would urge the Electoral Commission to provide more centres and more flexible opening times to ensure that the democratic process is not subverted.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley stressed the need for no further delay in the completion of the Strule Education Campus in a meeting with the Department of Education with her party colleague Emma Rogan MLA. 

The West Tyrone MP said:
“The announcement in June that extra funding was being made available for the Strule Education Campus was positive news however there remains concerns about the ongoing delay in the completion of the project.

“I raised the matter during discussions with the Department of Education and also highlighted the impact this was having on local schools who face the prospect of having to carry out maintenance work as they continue to wait on the completion of the shared campus.

“The department assured me that the procurement issue which has impacted on the timeline for completion will be resolved and that there will be progress on the project soon. The procurement process had been suspended as there is only one applicant for the main works contract. 
“The department is now considering whether to proceed with the current applicant or to restart the tendering process.

“Sinn Féin worked hard to ensure that the British Army Barracks at Lisanelly would be transformed into a site that would be of benefit to the local community.

“We will continue to press for these facilities to come to fruition. I expressed the importance of no further delay with the Department of Education as the current buildings of the local schools are unsustainable and require extensive maintenance and repair."

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The rights of Irish language speakers must be respected if fresh efforts to restore the power-sharing institutions are to be successful, Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has said.

The Foyle MLA was commenting after attending a protest in Derry at which Gaelgóirí voiced their opposition to the latest comments by former First Minister Arlene Foster ruling out an Irish Language Act.

Raymond McCartney said: “The rights of citizens, whether it is Irish speakers, women, victims or the LGBT community, their rights must be respected.

“Sinn Féin will continue to demand an Acht na Gaeilge and we will continue to demand equal treatment for all sections of our society.

“We will certainly enter any new talks to restore the power-sharing institutions in good faith but the simple fact is that those talks can only be successful if they deliver equality, rights and respect for all.”

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The debacle over Ian Paisley Jnr’s status at Westminster is further evidence of the need for the DUP leadership to clearly state its position on the disgraced MP, Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has said. 

The North Antrim MLA was speaking after it emerged that Ian Paisley’s party affiliation has been changed to ‘independent’ following his suspension from the DUP.

Philip Mcguigan commented: “The DUP Leadership have serious questions to answer over the Ian Paisley scandal and the latest debacle over his status as an MP only adds to the need for clarity.

“The DUP Leadership still refuse to say how long he is suspended for or to provide any details into the investigation they say they are conducting into his activities.

“Are they only reinvestigating what has already been established about his links to the brutal Sri Lankan regime or is there more? 

“They have also refused to state what their position will be if Ian Paisley contends any by-election as he has vowed to do. Will he do so as a DUP candidate or as an independent? And will the DUP run a candidate against him?

“This is important because the public have a right to know whether the DUP will take a stand against a lack of integrity in public office.

“They also have a right to know the DUP’s position on Ian Paisley’s attempts to prevent the UN investigating human rights abuses, war crimes and mass murder in Sr Lanka.

“That is absolutely appalling yet the DUP leadership have yet to even condemn that aspect of this whole sorry affair.” 

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said today that there can be no watering down of the EU positions on the backstop and that any changes must be to expand the backstop to include human and social rights.

Teachta McDonald was responding to comments made by the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier today.

She said;

"Mr Barnier today restated his intention to change the EU's position on the backstop.

"He first made these comments after the publication of the Chequers paper.

"He says that such changes will strive to improve the backstop - but once the backstop is put on the table there is a risk that it will lose its shape.

"Any change to the EU's stated position from February of this year as to what the backstop will entail cannot be allowed to happen.

'“It is becoming increasingly obvious that the British Government does not want to deliver on the Irish backstop agreed last December. 

“This agreement represented an insurance policy for Ireland in the event of no deal on a future trading relationship between Britain and the EU. 

“It is obvious that by introducing ‘time limits’ the British want to hold on to the Irish issues as a negotiating hand right up until the conclusion of future relationship talks. It is their wish to turn the Irish backstop into nothing more than an extension of the implementation period. 

“The EU must hold firm.  The backstop is not a bargaining chip.

"We must not accept a fudge and allow resolving Irish issues drift into wider trade talks between the EU and Britain. 

"This is precisely what the backstop was to avoid.

"The Backstop is the absolute minimum necessary to avoid a hard border, but it must also protect the rights of EU and Irish citizens in the north in the event of a hard Brexit.

"This is where improvements can be made, and here is where Barnier's focus should be.

"The Irish government must not allow any watering down of the Backstop to appease Tory hard Brexiteers.

"Such a move will not be countenanced by the people of Ireland.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew is taking part in the Breastival Belfast 2018 on Saturday to encourage the normalisation of Breastfeeding.

The Fermanagh South Tyrone MP commented,

“I am delighted to have been asked to sit on the political panel during the Breastival Belfast celebration this year.


“The island of Ireland has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the EU, so there is a clear need to promote the many significant health and social benefits from breastfeeding that exist for a mother and her child.


“Research by the Public Health Agency shows that even though half of all new mums in the North opt for breastfeeding, many quickly stop because they feel there is a lack of support, especially when feeding babies outside the home.

"As a society, we must break the stigma surrounding breastfeeding, and promote it as a natural and healthy facet of child-rearing."



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Sinn Féin MLA and Infrastructure spokesperson Philp McGuigan has welcomed a new report which indicates that up to 100,000 premises, many in rural areas, will benefit from broadband upgrades.

Commenting on the Broadband Industry Forum report launched today the North Antrim MLA said:

“Sinn Féin welcome this report which highlights the social and economic benefits of investing in rural broadband.

“In June this year, BT launched a report which also made the case for prioritising rural areas with weak broadband provision.

“We have been consistently calling for the rural broadband deficit to be addressed and this report further backs up our call for rural areas to be given priority for future-proofed broadband.

“I am due to meet with the Department for Economy to discuss its plans for investment in broadband further.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein’s spokesperson on Rural and Community Development Martin Kenny TD, is calling on the Minister to intervene and prevent closure of over a 100 rural post offices and destruction of rural communities.

Deputy Kenny said:

“An Post’s retirement deal is a very worrying development for rural communities and will no doubt lead to further decline of services in rural Ireland. 

"It is estimated that over 100 small post offices are at risk of closure because of new contractual arrangements with An Post that have come about as a result of the attractive retirement deal that An Post is offering to existing postmasters.

“Is this part of the Governments project Ireland 2040 plan to develop rural Ireland, by destroying rural communities and increasing rural decline with the removal of local services?

“A community with a standalone post office that has a low level of business must be given every opportunity to keep the post office in their community.  

"A plan must be put in place to allow that post office remain in its own premises or for another local business to take it over.

“If the Minister is serious about reversing rural decline then he must intervene to save these post offices from closure.

“I would encourage all communities facing a post office closure to appeal to An Post through their review mechanism which can be done in writing to [email protected] or Independent Reviewer, An Post GPO, Dublin 1.

“Rural Ireland cannot allow this to happen.”

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Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, a member of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, has said today that truth and consequences must prevail in any investigation that is held into the cervical cancer scandal.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“I want to commend the work of Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap and the other victims who have now secured an open and public investigation into the cervical cancer scandal.

“This is something that Sinn Féin has consistently called for and is long overdue.

“I just hope that it is not another one of the Taoiseach's promises such as the one the made two months ago that future cervical cancer cases would be addressed through mediation and not the courts. 

“It is also worth noting that were it not for the courage of Vicky Phelan, Emma Mhic Mhathuna, and Stephen Teap, the government would still be sitting on his hands trying to shelve away the issue.

"It is because of their actions that the Public Accounts Committee and the Health Committee were able to do their jobs and start the process.

“At all times throughout this scandal the government has been reactive rather than pro-active and that is simply not good enough.

“In terms of the investigation itself, we must make sure that it is subject to greater terms of reference than those currently allowed by legislation.

“At the moment, commissions of investigation are held in private, it is a criminal offence to make public any evidence given, and no evidence given at such a commission can be used in any future criminal prosecution.

“Privilege is about who is allowed to make mistakes and who is not. 

“It is clear that serious mistakes were made with regard to the cervical cancer screening programme.

“Will there be any consequences for those who made those mistakes or will we see another round of hand-wringing and a chorus of 'it is now time to move on.

“There is a culture of obfuscation and back-covering at the top of the civil service and public sector - one that is allowed to fester as there is no real accountability.

“At the end of this process we need to see people in positions of authority held accountable for the decisions they made.

“Unless that happens nothing will have changed, and that cannot be allowed to stand.”

ENDS

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