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Sinn Féin TD and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has called upon Minister for Health Simon Harris to give guarantees that the mental health budget will be ring-fenced and protected from the almost annual raids of the previous government.

Deputy McDonald said that self-harm is the largest killer among 15 to 24-year-olds in Ireland and the government must wake up to the crisis situation.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“While much good work has been done in recent years in raising awareness, developing suicide prevention strategies and producing reports, more needs to be done. In particular, the mental health budget needs to reflect the seriousness of the problem. Self-harm is now the leading cause of death of 15-24 year olds in this country. Any government that did not realise the seriousness of the situation were either callous in the extreme or detached from reality

 “We were told that the recent move to reallocate €12 million of the mental health budget this year is not a ‘raid’. It is so much more than that; it is an attack on the services that so many vulnerable people depend on. This is the crux of what is wrong in our mental health services; poaching the mental health budget because of a crisis somewhere else.

“Minister Simon Harris must now give an absolute guarantee that money ring-fenced for mental health services is not seen as soft money to be poached when another crisis in the health service rears its head. This is not just a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul; it is putting lives in jeopardy.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Seán Crowe TD has criticised the Egyptian Government for continuing to imprison Ibrahim Halawa and the Irish Government for failing to secure his release.

Deputy Crowe said:

“Today marks Ibrahim Halawa’s 1,000 day in prison in Egypt.

“We know that Ibrahim is being unlawfully and unjustly incarcerated in atrocious conditions in Egypt.

“He has had his human rights violated and has no chance of ever receiving a fair trial.

“While the last Irish Government put a great deal of effort into getting Ibrahim released, their approach has been unsuccessful and Ibrahim is still locked up.

“I am calling on this new Government and it’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, to listen to Ibrahim’s legal team and the campaign to free him and to change their softly, softly approach.

“It’s time for the Irish Government to stop blindly believing everything that the Egyptian Government is saying in relation to Ibrahim’s case and imprisonment, and An Taoiseach needs to directly get involved in the case in order to raise Ibrahim’s continued unjust imprisonment with the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.” 

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Lynn Boylan MEP has today asked the incoming government to seek the release of Ibrahim Halawa under the available Presidential decree.

Speaking early today, Sinn Féin's Dublin MEP said:

"Today is a difficult day for Ibrahim's family and friends and more importantly for Ibrahim himself. Today he faces his 1,000th day in prison in Egypt. He is there without reason, without trial, without access to his lawyers and with 13 "hearings" already postponed at the last minute.

"I am asking the incoming government and in particular the new Independent Ministers to intercede on Ibrahim's behalf. In particular I ask Minister Katherine Zappone TD from Ibrahim's constituency to speak for Ibrahim at the Cabinet table.

"I ask them to ensure Taoiseach Enda Kenny takes up Ibrahim's case personally and requests that Ibrahim is released under the available Presidential Decree.

"Today I particularly recall my visit to Ibrahim in prison. I found him to be a young Dub, born and bred here, being detained without trial. Please remember him today by contacting your public representatives and the Egyptian Embassy seeking his release.  

"Finally Ibrahim's family will today hold an 'information stall' at the top of Grafton Street / St. Stephen's Green from 1pm-3pm to remember Ibrahim. Please drop by and show your support."  

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Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard has expressed sympathy following the death of a young man in a road collision in Castlewellan. 

The South Down MLA said; 

"The death of this young man in a collision on the Newcastle Road in the early hours of this morning is a tragedy. 

"It has shocked and saddened the local community.

"Any death on our roads is one death too many. 

"I send my condolences to the family and friends of this young man at this sad and difficult time."

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Sinn Féin MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he is committed to providing positive, responsible and constructive leadership on the Executive. 

Speaking after being re-appointed as deputy First Minister, Mr McGuinness said; 

"All of us now have a huge responsibility to take the Fresh Start Agreement forward; we have made a good start but there is more to be done. 

“We are in a process of trying to put together a Programme for Government to continue to build on the progress we have already made. 

"The leader of the UUP has shown a lack of leadership and disregard to the views of the electorate who have endorsed power sharing government. 

"I have made it clear that Sinn Féin is going into government.  

"We now wait to see if SDLP will stand by the principles of the Good Friday Agreement or follow the UUP into opposition. 

"For my part I intend to continue to provide positive, responsible constructive leadership, taking society forward." 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Jobs, Maurice Quinlivan TD has voiced his concern at the news that the High Court has appointed an Interim Examiner to Debenhams Retail (Ireland).

Deputy Quinlivan said.

“Debenhams employs 1415 people. That there are potentially 1415 jobs at risk is very worrying. Every effort must be made to ensure that as many jobs as possible are protected. I am calling on the Interim Examiner to save as many jobs as possible.

“Despite all the talk of recovery  we are still seeing pressures in the retail sector – even in institutions like Debenhams. We mustn’t forget the actions of the owners of Clerys whose actions led to 440 workers losing their jobs.

“As Debenhams have 11 stores, this will potentially affect workers right across the state which is the last thing that many towns and cities need.

“As anchor tenants in many shopping centres, if they leave it could be potentially a threat to the centre itself. There we have to be mindful of the potential knock-on-consequences.

“I am calling on Minister for Jobs, Mary Mitchell O’ Connor, to make every effort to minimise job loss and to ensure that this issue will be a priority for her new portfolio.”

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, has today met with Tesco workers and representatives from their trade union, Mandate.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“I had a very open and constructive meeting with these workers and union representatives today.

“Tesco, which is one of Ireland’s most profitable retailers, is attempting to cut the pay and conditions of employment for their long serving members of staff.

“Tesco is also failing to abide by the collective agreements that it has made with workers’ representatives and is refusing to attend the Labour Court for a hearing on the issues in dispute.

“It is attempting to undermine the pay and conditions of workers’ who have over 20 years’ experience working for the company. It has done this in other European countries and expects that Irish workers will somehow rollover and accept their unscrupulous attack on their income.

“Workers at 70 Tesco supermarkets across the State balloted in favour of industrial action and a planned strike on Monday 16 May, but this has now been suspended after management at Tesco agreed to attend talks with the Mandate Trade Union.

“There are currently two Tesco shops in Dublin South West, in Rathfarnham and Tallaght. If the talks are unsuccessful and the workers decide to set up pickets on these shops on another date, I am encouraging everyone not to break the strike and to show solidarity and support for these workers.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has welcomed an agreement at EU level on a directive which will makes public sector websites and mobile apps more accessible, especially for the blind, the deaf and the hard of hearing. The agreement was reached during negotiations between the European Council, the Commission and the Parliament. The Directive on Web Accessibility for Public Sector Websites will go to a vote of the European Parliament for approval, and member-states will then have 21 months to transpose its measures into national legislations.

“I welcome this agreement and the progress towards improved online accessibility for people with disabilities, especially people who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing, and I call on the Government here to take the initiative and ensure that its online platforms and communications are made fully accessible ahead of the introduction of this law.

“The internet is a powerful and useful tool. This is especially true in the field of public administration and public services. The EU requires state services to move more and more of its business online. This allows for greater efficiency and speed in processing applications, but it also puts some people at a disadvantage. It is important that those who wish to conduct their business offline are allowed to do so.

“It's important also that public service websites and mobile apps are made fully accessible to the blind, the deaf and the hard of hearing. It is a matter of equality and respect.

“The Directive will require all new public sector apps and websites will have to be accessible, and existing ones will have to be updated. Existing content will be available in an accessible format on demand, and new content in the form of text, audio or video will need to be provided in accessible format shortly after publication. Online application and payment services will also need to be fully accessible to all.

“It may take up to two years for this directive to have an impact on Irish law, so I am calling on the incoming government to begin the process of updating and improving its online content and platforms now, rather than waiting until required to do so.”

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The Irish Diaspora have been completely forgotten in the Programme for Partnership Government published yesterday, according to Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

Speaking from Galway today, the Sinn Féin Diaspora Spokesperson said:

‘The Irish Diaspora have long been neglected by successive Governments, but the programme published yesterday adds insult to injury by omitting to even mention them. This shows a complete lack of respect for the millions of Irish living abroad and shows that they are not a priority for the incoming administration.

‘There is no mention of representation for the Diaspora in our parliament and no mention of implementing the recommendation of the Constitutional Convention in relation to a referendum on voting rights for the Irish abroad. The programme gives no indication of increased support for the Irish abroad or action to help the undocumented Irish either.

‘It appears that after almost two months of discussions between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the spectrum of Independents that Diaspora issues didn’t even feature, or worse again - if they did, that they weren’t considered important enough for inclusion in the Programme for Government. That is totally disrespectful.

‘Sinn Féin on the other hand has for a long time advocated for the above issues to be addressed and we will be pressing the government to review their programme, take them on board and implement them as soon as possible.’

Dearmad iomlán déanta ar an Diaspóra sa gClár Rialtais – Ó Clochartaigh

Tá Diaspóra na hÉireann fágtha ar lár ar fad sa gClár Páirtnéireachta Rialtais a foilsíodh inné, dar le Seanadóir Shinn Féin, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

Ag labhairt dó as Gaillimh inniu, deir urlabhraí Diaspóra Shinn Féin:

‘Tá neamhaird tugtha le fada ag Rialtais éagsúla ar an Diaspóra Éireannach, ach le barr a chur ar an mí-ádh fágadh ar lár ar fad iad as an gclár Rialtais a foilsíodh inné. Léiríonn sé seo drochmheas amach is amach ar na milliúin Éireannach a chónaíonn thar lear agus taispeánann sé nach bhfuil siad ar liosta tosaíochtaí an Rialtais seo beag na mór.

‘Níl aon chaint ar ionadaíocht sa pharlaimint don Diaspóra agus níl geallúint ar bith ann chun reifreann a ghairm maidir  le cearta vótála d’imircigh, mar a mhol an Choinbhinsiún Bunreachtúil.  Níl aon chaint ann ach an oiread ar acmhainní breise a chur ar fáil chun tacú leis na Gaeil i gcéin, ná aon ghníomh luaite chun cabhrú le hÉireannaigh nach bhfuil stádas cuí acu thar sáile.

‘Tá an chosúlacht ar an scéal, in ainneoin beagnach dhá mhí de chainteanna idir Fianna Fáil, Fine Gaeil agus an meascán mearaí do neamhspleáigh, nár déanadh caint ar bith ar an Diaspóra, nó níos measa arís, má rinneadh, gur socraíodh iad a fhágáil amach as an gclár rialtais in aon turas. Is mór an náire don Rialtas nua ceachtar don dá chás.

 ‘Ar an lámh eile, tá Sinn Féin tiomanta le fada an lá chun gníomhú ar na ceisteanna tábhachtacha seo agus leanfaidh muid ag cur brú ar an Rialtas nua chun an Clár Rialtais a athrú , iad a thógáil ar bord agus iad a chur i bhfeidhm a luaithe agus is féidir.’

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has challenged Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune over her party's hypocrisy on TTIP, and questioned her reasons for supporting the controversial trade deal.

Liadh Ní Riada said:

“Last week Deirdre Clune issued a statement that raised concerns about the Mercosur trade agreement, currently being negotiated between the EU and the South American countries that comprise the trade bloc. Her contention is that this proposed agreement will be bad for Irish agriculture.

“Deirdre is correct to be cautious, however given her party's ongoing support for the much more dangerous TTIP trade agreement, I must question her reasons for urging caution on one deal, whilst supporting another. This points to a level of hypocrisy that cannot go unchallenged.

“Less than a year ago Fine Gael's four MEPs voted in favour of the continuation of the secretive negotiations between the EU and the United States on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In a rare display of unity the four MEPs issued a statement championing the proposed agreement.

“Sinn Féin have consistently raised concerns over the trade deal, which amongst other things would harm Irish farmers, as well as potentially weakening our laws on food safety standards, workers' rights and environmental protection.

“Independent economic advice, sought and paid for by the Irish Government, shows that TTIP would cost Ireland's beef sector between €25 – 45 million. This sector supports over 100,000 family farms and TTIP would see the EU market flooded with inferior quality, and cheaper, US-origin beef.

“The beef sector has been removed from the Mercosur negotiations, however the very real threat from TTIP remains. I am challenging Deirdre Clune and her colleagues in Fine Gael to stand with Irish farmers and to come out in opposition to TTIP.”

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 Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called for a system where Ireland has a joined up approach to finance to ensure SMEs are supported and local economies are developed.

 Speaking during the European Parliament Plenary session in Strasbourg, Ní Riada said,

 "Two weeks ago I initiated a public hearing on the role of National Promotional banks for the benefit of our SME's during a meeting of the Budget committee within the European Parliament. 

 "The aim for me is to create and facilitate an Irish public banking system.  We only currently have 2 and a half pillar banks in Ireland which are of course commercial banks. 

 "Credit Union branches across Ireland are being hamstrung and limited in their capacity for lending to SME's.  A public banking pillar in Ireland would aid economic growth and stability and ensure a more balanced and sustainable economic development.   It would allow for greater access to finance for the SME and community enterprise sectors. 

 "Any entrepreneur will tell you that accessing credit or securing finance for business development is difficult in the current climate. An inability to access credit especially for SME's outside of the great Dublin area is holding back economic growth and job creation particularly in rural Ireland.

 "A public banking system would ensure that capital created in a given region would be used there to aid local economic development instead of being syphoned out of the local economy for investment elsewhere.

 A Member of the European Committee on Budgets, Ní Riada added,

 "We need to incorporate a system where we have a joined up approach to finance.  We need to bring about a cohesive approach with a public banking system that will incorporate the Credit Unions, Post Offices and Promotional banks, particularly when it comes to accessing finance from the EU through the Junker Investment plan. 

 "The Junker Investment Plan, or FC as it is also called, seeks to provide finance as a kick-start for economic growth within the EU.  A forum of this joined up collective approach would be extremely beneficial and practical in terms of accessing other EU funding financial instruments which are aimed at SME's and generating employment.

 "In my role as an MEP and as a co-ordinator on the Budget committee, I will continue to seek a public banking system in Ireland, together with the Public Banking Forum of Ireland and other Sinn Féin representatives at local, National and European level." ENDS

 

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Dublin City Councillor Noeleen Reilly, member of DCC Finance special policy committee, has said that the Housing Finance Agency needs to be looked at as a means of providing the funding for housing.

Speaking today, Cllr Reilly said:

“I raised this issue at the recent Council meeting on Monday and I am still none the wiser.  We have a curious situation where the Housing Finance Agency will lend money to Dublin City Council to provide home loans, but not to build.

“I was told approval would have to be given by both the Department of Finance and the Department Housing, Planning and Local government and that Dublin may not be an attractive market, but it’s ok to lend for mortgages which has arrears of €15m.

“It makes no sense that they would lend to DCC for home loans, but not building. Questions need to be asked of both departments and Dublin City Council housing department.

“We are the largest local authority and have fixed assets of over €10 billion.

“Small scale housing associations can borrow money, so why can’t Dublin City Council with such a huge portfolio of assets to act as collateral borrow to build.

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis all options need to be on the table and answers need to be given on this issue.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Cat Seeley has said legislation has now been put forward on three major equality issues as the party’s first acts of the new Assembly. 

The Upper Bann MLA said; 

"Sinn Féin made it clear before the election that we would prioritise key equality issues as a matter of urgency in the new Assembly. 

"Today, as the first act of the new Assembly term, Sinn Féin tabled bills on marriage equality, gender quotas for local government and dealing with the difficult issue of pregnancies in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

"We want to see marriage equality extended throughout Ireland and are committed to increasing the number of women in politics through gender equality quotas at local government elections. 

"The issue of fatal foetal abnormality is a complex one which needs to be treated with compassion. In cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and sexual crime we believe women should have the option of a termination. Where woman wish to continue with the pregnancy they should be supported in doing so. 

"For us, equality is a major issue and we are committed to dealing with these three important matters. 

"We are hopeful of the widest support on these important issues as we take them through the Assembly."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called on the Minister for Children to ensure that the proposal to link Child Benefit to School Attendance is withdrawn.

The Cork South-Central TD said:

“This proposal is a deeply misguided, and potentially very damaging to the welfare of some of the most vulnerable Children. It is contained in a section entitled ‘Giving Vulnerable Young People the Best Chance in Life’; it is difficult to see how taking even more money out of the some of the poorest families in the country, would do anything other than further harm their chances in life.

“Some of the commentary on this from TDs such as the now Minister Denis Naughten, has focused on the savings that might be made from this proposal. The question needs to be asked, is this about Child Welfare, and about Education, or is it about money?

“If it is really about children and giving them the best possible chance in life, the Government would be better advised to consider reversing the cuts to, and expanding upon, the School Completion Programme, which provides supports and assistance, to ensure better school attendance.

“It won't achieve that by cutting Universal Payments that all families rely upon to meet their basic needs. Cuts to Child Benefit will only see more and more families fall further in to poverty and deprivation.

“I am calling on Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to ensure that this proposal is withdrawn promptly from the programme for Government, it is essential that she speak out on this issue, and to recognise the impact it would have on thousands of Irish families.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane today hosted a cross-party briefing today by Mandate Trade Union on the current situation between Tesco and its workforce in Leinster House.

John Douglas, the union’s General Secretary, told the meeting that Tesco Ireland is the largest private sector employer in the South of Ireland employing 14,000 workers in 149 stores throughout the country. They are also one of the most profitable retail companies in Ireland and Mandate Trade Union estimates they are achieving profits in excess of €200 million per year.

Mr Douglas said:

“Despite this, around ten per cent of all Tesco workers are in receipt of family income supplement or other welfare payments.

“Around 70 per cent of all Tesco workers are female, some with 30 years’ service with the company and are being told by management, ‘thanks for all your service but you are not wanted now’.

“The cuts in pay and conditions that Tesco management want to bring in will end up as an additional burden on the State as workers are forced to apply for benefits in order to pay their bills.

“Tesco management have used intimidation and coercion against their workforce in relation to this dispute.”

Deputy Cullinane said that it is clear that workers need to be given additional legislative rights in order to allow a level playing ground when dealing with management, with union right to access a key issue as well as union recognition.

The Waterford TD said:

“The Programme for government acknowledges the need for proper arbitration structures. Now is the time to bring balance to these structures, by giving Irish workers the kind of union rights that are necessary for equality and fairness in the workplace.” 

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Speaking today, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said the O’Higgins Report demonstrated that there were serious issues regarding Garda practices in Cavan/Monaghan.

The Cork North Central TD;

“Firstly it has been disappointing that the government decided to stage manage this report by selectively leaking sections over the past fortnight, then publishing it, while the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald left the country immediately afterwards. It is a far cry from the type of ‘good faith’ politics the Programme for Government promises.

“Secondly, while I acknowledge the report does not claim anyone is ‘corrupt’ it does point to major deficits in how Garda investigations were handled and it does not indicate who is going to be responsible for this malpractice.

“I am calling on the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Taoiseach to state in the Dáil what the government plan is to implement the recommendations of the report, particularly regarding adequately resourcing the Computer Crime Unit, immediately implementing a new performance management system within the Gardaí, introducing continuing professional development for PULSE, and making use of victim impact statements a standard court procedure.

“There are questions still standing over the Taoiseach’s handling of the whole affair and if it is found that the Dáil record needs to be corrected, then this must happen immediately.” 

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Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin, party spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government, has called on Ministers Zappone and Coveney to make a joint statement on the growing scandal of child homelessness.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The fact that 6,000 people are now living homeless is reflective of successive government’s abject failure to deal with the housing crisis.

“As a Dublin-based representative it is not a surprise to me that 75% of those living homeless, 4,473 people, are in the capital and that nearly one third of those homeless are children.

“The programme for government does not provide for any additional money for homeless services or for accessible and appropriate emergency accommodation.

“It simply regurgitates former Minister Alan Kelly’s unambitious plan.

“85% of new 'social housing' in 2015 was state subsidised private housing. 15% was Council or Housing Associations, that’s only 1,561 of 10,554 units.

“While there is a continued over reliance on the private sector, through schemes like HAP and RAS, more families will continue to become homeless.

“The State needs a minimum of 200,000 social houses. The incoming government must significantly increase the level of investment in Local Authority social housing through a mixture of revenue funding and off balance sheet Housing Finance.

“This government undoubtedly has a huge challenge ahead of it on the issue of housing and homelessness.

“It is a scandal that tonight almost 2,000 children will sleep in emergency accommodation.

“That this level of child homelessness was created by the same Government who inserted the rights of children into the constitution is beyond belief. I am calling on the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to urgently meet with Minister for Housing Simon Coveney to discuss how to deal with the crisis of child homelessness.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has warned of dire consequences for the Eurozone if Greece’s main European creditors renege on their commitment to debt relief for the Greek state.

Carthy was speaking from Strasbourg where this week the European Parliament debated the Greek debt crisis in light of Monday’s Eurogroup meeting.


The Sinn Féin MEP said: “It’s déjà vu in Athens this week as Greece’s creditors stall on the question of debt relief while attempting to impose yet another new raft of painful austerity measures on the Greek people.


“The creditors continue to delay the review of Greece’s compliance with the third bailout memorandum, which was due in October. The release of the next tranche of funds is dependent on a successful review, but the July deadline for Greece’s next €3 billion repayment to the European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) is approaching fast and the country is again facing bankruptcy.


“The situation is absurd - almost all of the €86 billion provided under the third memorandum, when provided, will go straight back out of Greece to repay the ECB and IMF, while Greece’s debt keeps growing.


“The Eurogroup this week stated they would impose a €3 billion bundle of ‘contingent’ extra cuts on Greece if it fails to meet its debt reduction targets, which require primary budget surpluses of 1.75% of GDP in 2017 and 3.5% in 2018 – targets the IMF itself has said are simply not achievable. The Eurogroup also postponed discussions on debt relief, once again, until after the completion of the third programme in 2018.

A Member of the European Parliament ECON Committee, Carthy continued, 

“For almost a year the IMF has voiced the opinion that without a debt write-down by creditors, it will be impossible for Greece to reach these targets, meaning that the IMF could not participate in the bailout programme due to its rules on lending to states with unsustainable debt. The German position ignores this reality, with finance minister Wolfgang Schaüble insisting that Greece does not need a restructuring of its public debt burden, which now stands at €311 billion, 176.9% of GDP.

“But the leaders of the IMF have moved closer to the German and EU position in recent months, agreeing that Greece must reach debt reduction targets that IMF's own economists say are impossible. 


“This followed the release by Wikileaks in March of a transcript of a phone conversation between two leading IMF representatives in which they suggested that the only way to force the Greek government to implement harsher austerity measures was to bring about a ‘credit event’. Well, they’ll get their ‘credit event’ in July when Greece may again face default on repayment.

Carthy continued: “Despite the fact that the Syriza-led government has met all of its commitments under last July’s agreement, the creditors are not satisfied. They are clearly pursuing a strategy aimed at replacing the government with their reliable allies in New Democracy. 


“With the IMF playing these games, the impetus is on the leadership of the EU at the political level to ensure that the commitments made to Greece under last year’s agreement are adhered to and that the creditors cannot change the goalposts halfway through the implementation of the third programme.” ENDS

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Newly appointed Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education and Skills, Deputy Nolan, has today criticised the proposal in the Programme for Government, which links the payment of Child Benefit to school attendance rates. Deputy Nolan states that such a proposal is unfair and targets particularly vulnerable children.

Deputy Nolan said:

“Like many of the proposals contained in the Programme for Government, there is little detail in terms of the proposal to link Child Benefit with School Attendance Rates.

“On the face of it, the wording of the proposal would seem to suggest that school authorities would be placed in the position of ultimately deciding the rate of payment of Child Benefit.

“While I acknowledge, that in certain cases, there needs to be action taken to improve school attendance rates, it is my strong view that linking them to the payment of Child Benefit is simplistic and counter-productive.

“It has been shown through all independent analysis that the children most likely to leave school early or have particularly poor attendance records are those from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds or are otherwise vulnerable.

“For this reason, it is even more important that the appropriate supports for the child are strengthened and enhanced rather than taken away as a punishment.

“Furthermore, in cases where there is an issue in relation to attendance, the school can often provide invaluable support to the family in helping to resolve these issues.

“This proposal could undermine the trust that is needed between the school and family that is needed to resolve these issues for the child concerned.

“The only winner from this daft, ill thought out proposal is the Department of Social Protection and if this Government is serious about tackling the issue of school attendance it should start by committing the extra resources to the School Completion Programme.”

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Sinn Féin has made a submission to the Dáil committee on Housing and Homelessness that outline key priorities Sinn Féin believe would be useful in tackling the housing crisis.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government said:

“While this submission does not represent the full breath of our housing policy, it does outline the key priorities which we believe should be included in the report of the Committee on Housing and Homelessness that will be presented to the Dáil next month.

“The submission contains twelve key recommendations including; a referendum to enshrine the right to a home in the Constitution, a significant increase in capital for Local Authorities for the building and acquisition of social housing stock, the committee should propose an urgent review of procurement and tendering rules with a view to shortening them to allow for faster delivery of new social housing and propose it should legislation on rent certainty.

“The submission also includes measures to tackle the mortgage arrears crisis, including a proposal to cap mortgage interest rates.

“The new Minister has already made it clear that he is willing to be innovative in his approach to tackling this crisis.

“Likewise the committee is keeping an open mind on all proposals submitted and believe that new ideas and real policy changes are required if we are to reverse the flow of people into homelessness and increase the supply of much needed social housing.” 

Please see below 12 recommendations made by Sinn Féin to the Housing and Homeless Committee.

Recommendation 1: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should recommend that the Government set a date within the next twelve months for a referendum to enshrine the right to a home in the Constitution

Recommendation 2: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness must propose a significant increase in capital funding for Local Authorities to deliver a more ambitious acquisition and new build programme with a time frame to bring the social housing stock up to a minimum of 200,000 units.

Recommendation 3: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should support they proposal by the Irish League of Credit Unions to work with the Voluntary Housing sector to provide additional social housing units.

Recommendation 4: The Committee on Housing and Homeless should propose an urgent review of procurement and tendering rules with a view to shortening them to allow for faster delivery of new social housing.

Recommendation 5: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should recommend a radical overhaul of the mortgage to rent scheme.

Recommendation 6: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should recommend legislation to end the banks veto on insolvency agreements.

Recommendation 7: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should recommend legislation to cap mortgage interest rates

Recommendation 8: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should recommend legislation to regulate vulture funds.

Recommendation 9: The committee should recommend that the proposals in the Draft Programme for Government for a new mortgage resolution process be implemented quickly and prioritise maintaining the family home and providing greater security for private rental tenants living in repossessed properties.

Recommendation 10: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should propose legislation on rent certainty – linking rent reviews to the Consumer Price Index. This legislation must be introduced before any across the board review of rent supplement or HAP payments.

Recommendation 11: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should call for an increase in funding for emergency accommodation.

Recommendation 12: The Committee on Housing and Homelessness should call for greater provision of appropriate and accessible emergency accommodation.

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