Sinn Féin environment, energy and climate change spokesperson MLA Cathal Boylan has said he will be requesting a meeting with the Department of Infrastructure to discuss today’s decision to grant full planning permission for the All-Ireland interconnector to proceed as proposed.
Cathal Boylan said:
“Sinn Féin recognise that the interconnector has an important role in the provision of the All-Ireland electricity and utilities.
“We have long argued that it should be developed using undergrounding technology in order to protect rural communities.
"It is vitally important that the views and needs of residents in the surrounding areas are fully taken into account at all points in this project.
“There has been huge opposition to over head pylons in these areas, including thousands of objections and local campaigns.
“We will carefully consider the decision notice and associated documentation including the independent report and recommendations to Planning Appeals Commission and will be requesting a meeting with the Department on this matter.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has stated that his party supports the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) proposals to tackle the housing crisis.
Speaking today after attending the launch of ICTU’s Charter for Housing Rights, Deputy Ó Broin said:
“At the conference today, hosted by ICTU, we heard from a number of different NGOs, stakeholders and politicians on what needs to be done to tackle the housing crisis.
“ICTU have outlined a five point plan for tackling the problem - all of which Sinn Féin supports.
“We need a minimum of 10,000 new social homes built annually, the right to housing needs to be enshrined in the Constitution, tenants need rent certainty & greater security of tenure, evictions that would result in homelessness should be outlawed and publicly owned land must provide affordable housing.
“We look forward to working with ICTU and the Unions and actively campaigning to secure these goals."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has expressed his disappointment at the refusal of the Taoiseach today to commit to recognising the state of Palestine.
Teachta Adams said that the excuses given by the Taoiseach in the Dáil do not stand scrutiny.
The Louth TD said:
“The decision by President Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the announcement by Vice-President Pence that the US Embassy will move to Jerusalem next year, has heightened tension in the Middle East.
“According to the UN, at least 345 Palestinian children have been injured in clashes with Israeli forces. At least 17 Palestinians have been killed.
“Three years ago, the Oireachtas supported the recognition of the Palestinian state. Speaking on the fringes of a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged EU members to recognise the state of Palestine.
“However, the Irish government position which links recognition of the Palestinian state to the final settlement and the final stages talks hands to Israel a veto over the right of the Palestinian people to statehood. It makes Palestinian people second class citizens in their own land.
“To also claim, as the Taoiseach did today, that the Palestinians don’t have a state yet – that their land is occupied – ignores the decision by nine EU states to formally recognise Palestinian statehood. It also ignores the fact that almost two thirds of the United Nations – almost 140 states – recognise the state of Palestine.
“The Taoiseach also excused the Irish government’s do-nothing position on the basis that it would be best that all 27 EU states agreed to formally recognise Palestine together.
“The Irish government has the opportunity, along with those states that have already taken this decision, to provide leadership to those EU states that have not.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said that inequality, lack of fiscal autonomy, and continued stagnation is the price of the union with Britain.
Speaking following the release of NICIE figures pointed to relative stagnation in the British economy, in contrast to continued growth in the south of Ireland, Chris Hazzard said the economic case for Irish unity is becoming apparent for everyone.
The South Down MP said:
“The NICIE economic data reveals a story all too familiar for those of us making the case for increased fiscal autonomy and Irish unity.
“As a result of having no meaningful fiscal or monetary levers, with which to direct the economy in the north of Ireland, the north remains less productive, lower paid and is growing more slowly than Britain.
“Instead of realising the opportunities and savings of greater cross-border economic integration and cooperation, the north is hitched to a profoundly unequal British economy that is increasingly unproductive and vulnerable to impending Brexit shocks.
“The north of Ireland will only ever realise its full potential in an all-island framework with full fiscal and monetary powers.
“A united Ireland gives us all an invaluable opportunity to forge a new island economy which is prosperous, just, democratic and sustainable.”
Sinn Féin MPs Mickey Brady and Francie Molloy met with officials from the Swedish and Norwegian embassies in London today, to discuss the imminent Brexit complications for Ireland, and the case for Designated Special Status for the north of Ireland within the EU.
Mickey Brady MP said:
“Our meeting with Norwegian and Swedish embassy officials is part of our ongoing international engagement efforts to make the post-Brexit case for Designated Special Status for the north of Ireland within the EU.
“Norway in particular operate under a bespoke economic arrangement with the EU, and in this context we discussed the future for the north of Ireland remaining within both the Customs Union and the Single Market.
“As Sinn Féin MPs we’re routinely consistently making the case for Designated Special Status in Dublin, London and Brussels.
“The citizens of the north voted to remain. To protect the welfare and livelihoods of citizens, our rural communities, and the Good Friday Agreement, the north of Ireland must be granted Designated Special Status within the EU after Brexit.”
Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O’Neill said the party is ready to engage in the talks process and find a way through the current political impasse.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“The Sinn Féin assembly team gathered today to prepare to enter into a short sharp phase of negotiation.
“Sinn Féin said we will enter these negotiations in order to try and resolve the issues at the heart of the current political impasse.
“Issues like marriage rights, language rights, the Bill of Rights and legacy inquests should not be politically contentious.
“They should be issues that we are able to resolve here as part of the current discussions.
“We believe that the biggest threats facing this Executive are Brexit and Tory austerity and that the institutions are the best mitigation against those twin threats.
“The public want these institutions to work but they will only work if the people have confidence in them.
“The way to achieve that is to work for genuine power sharing and political institutions operating on the principles of mutual respect and equality.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has expressed frustration at the fact that thousands of pensioners who have been wrongly receiving reduced State Pensions since 2012 will not see that lost money returned to them.
Teachta Brady said:
“Pensioners were very clear when they protested outside Leinster House last week. They wanted to see the reversal of the 2012 changes and they wanted the money they had wrongfully lost given back to them.
“The Government, in the solution brought forward by them today, has failed to do this.
“The new system will be implemented from March 30th, but any back money will only apply from that date, and not from 2012 when the anomaly was introduced.
“As a means to address the impact that the 2012 changes have had on over 42,000 people, the Government are bringing forward the Total Contributions Approach for these people. They will now have their pensions reviewed based on their own entire working life.
“This review is welcome, so too is the introduction of a new Home Caring Credit of up to 20 years to assist workers who took time out to raise families.
“While the long-awaited action by Government on this matter is welcome, we must too recognise that pensioners will be bitterly disappointed not to receive what was taken from them since 2012.”
Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd has welcomed the establishment of a new £1 million EU project to assist minority and migrant workers facing an upsurge in racism as a result of Brexit.
The party’s Brexit spokesperson and Upper Bann MLA was speaking following the launch of EU-funded project entitled ‘Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries’ in Portadown today.
“The fear and uncertainty regarding Brexit has led to an upsurge in racist abuse faced by the minority and migrant worker community,” John O’Dowd commented.
“That is entirely unacceptable and needs to be confronted. Minority and migrant workers play a vital role in the local economy and within our communities. They should be valued, not subject to intimidation.
“Therefore I very much welcome the establishment of the ‘Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries’ project as a valuable resource to provide support and assistance they need.
“Of course, the great irony is that important EU-funded projects such as this are themselves under threat as a result of Brexit, a fact that again reaffirms the need for the North to be given designated special status to remain in the EU.”
Sinn Féin's Oliver McMullan has said plans to cut public transport services will cause great concern in rural areas.
Oliver McMullan said:
"Public transport is essential in rural areas and proposals to cut current provision will cause concern, particularly in areas like the Glens.
"People attending medical appointments, those travelling to their jobs or to seek work and young people travelling to schools all depend on public transport.
"Public transport also helps tackle rural isolation which can have a hugely negative impact on people's mental health.
"Instead of reducing public transport in rural areas, we could be doing with more frequent services.
"I would urge Translink to reconsider these plans and maintain the public transport lifeline for rural communities.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Denise Mitchell, has said that the Public Accounts Committee’s Report on Tusla again raises serious concerns about accountability at the Child and Family Agency.
Speaking in Leinster House, Deputy Mitchell said:
“It’s obvious that a culture change is badly needed within Tusla. This report is not just a damning verdict on the lack of oversight within the Agency’s own structures, but it raises serious questions as to whether the Minister is holding Tusla to account when it comes to its use of public funds.
“In one instance highlighted in this Report, Tusla appeared unable to explain where €700,000 had been spent, and it was left to the Comptroller & Auditor General to identify this. Furthermore, the report notes that the Agency failed to follow prescribed processes when it came to procurement practices, meaning it is unclear whether value for money was achieved when it came to the spending of €5.2million.”
Deputy Mitchell also commented on the issue of staff retention in the Agency:
“The report highlights the high staff turnover rates at Tusla. Despite hiring 250 new staff, there was only a net gain of 18 due to the high numbers leaving the Agency. This is an issue we have raised time and time again with the Minister.
“It is very obvious that many social workers are overworked and carrying huge caseloads. These staff work directly with children – some of them very vulnerable – and with whom they need to build-up a long term working relationship based on trust. That is why the retention of staff is so vitally important and we need to see serious improvement in this area.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today raised renewed efforts to resolve the crisis in the North with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil today. The Sinn Féin leader urged the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to “hold more meetings with people in the North outside of the political parties to get a deeper sense of what is happening there”.
Gerry Adams also welcomed “the announcement this morning by the group describing itself as ‘Oglaigh na hEireann’ that it has ended its armed actions. I especially want to thank those trade unionists and community leaders who were involved in securing this outcome.”
The Sinn Féin leader added:
“Martin McGuinness’s letter of resignation is very clear about what needs to be done. Grassroots opinion is very clear also.
“So Taoiseach, will you recommit to engage energetically and consistently with the British Prime Minister to uphold the Good Friday Agreement and to help to get the political institutions restored ASAP?”
Note: Text of Gerry Adams remarks in Dáil (Check against delivery)
“Taoiseach, another round of talks to re-establish the political institutions will start tomorrow in Belfast.
This will be the fifth round of formal talks since the power-sharing arrangements collapsed a year ago.
There have also been numerous informal and private exchanges between Sinn Féin and the other parties, including the Democratic Unionist Party – mostly on Michelle O’Neill’s initiative.
The institutions need to be re-established on the basis of equality and parity of esteem.
Thus far, the Democratic Unionist Party has resisted this imperative.
No doubt elements of its leadership are encouraged by the pact they have with the Tory government in London.
Many people in the North were very pleased with your recent assertion that nationalists in the North 'will never again be left behind by an Irish government'.
Your recent remarks on Clare FM were therefore very disappointing.
This type of negative commentary has long been the hallmark of statements on the North from leaders here in the south.
Whether yourself, your predecessor, the Fianna Fáil leader or others, the difficulties are presented as the fault of two problem parties.
Whatever affect this has in elections here, it certainly will be of no assistance to the talks process in the north.
You are well aware of the issues.
It is about rights.
In essence, all of the rights being denied people at this time are rights which are available to everybody else on these islands.
In your Clare FM interview you say Sinn Féin is “incapable of negotiating and compromising in the North.”
That begs the question for you to spell out what rights we should compromise on.
Perhaps citizens should forget about an Irish Language Act?
Or maybe Marriage Equality?
Or the Bill of Rights?
But these are not the questions I am asking you today.
Instead, I want to actively encourage you to meet with people in the North outside of the political parties to get a deeper sense of what is happening there.
I know you and Minister Coveney have done some meetings and I would encourage you both to do more.
I have recorded my concern at the toxic atmosphere which has shrouded political discourse in recent times.
However, I do want to welcome the announcement this morning by the group describing itself as 'Oglaigh na hEireann' that it has ended its armed actions.
I especially want to thank those trade unionists and community leaders who were involved in securing this outcome.
Meaningful change will only be advanced through exclusively peaceful means.
That is Sinn Féin’s commitment.
Our record is there for all to see.
Martin McGuinness letter of resignation is very clear about what needs to be done.
Grassroots opinion is very clear also.
So Taoiseach, will you recommit to engage energetically and consistently with the British Prime Minister to uphold the Good Friday Agreement and to help to get the political institutions restored ASAP?
Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has welcomed the resounding support on the European Parliament Employment Committee for her report on gender diversity in the media. Ms Boylan, a strong advocate for media reform, said:
“This timely report draws attention to the worrying levels of harassment experienced by women working in the media sector. A recent study found that 64.8% of female journalists experienced intimidation, threats, or abuse in relation to their work and over one third of those said that the abuse was carried out by a male boss or co-worker. My report commends the #MeToo campaign and calls for media organisations to establish structures that assist victims of harassment and facilitates whistleblowers.
“Harassment in the workplace is compounded by the high level of precarious working conditions in the media sector. Women are over represented in these atypical contracts and the precarious nature of their work leads to a greater risk of their exploitation.
“I have also called for greater transparency in pay systems to address the issue of pay inequality which stands stubbornly high at 17%. This, of course, feeds into the pension gap.
“Transparency is also called for in recruitment and promotion processes. Despite women making up 68% of media and journalism graduates, less than 32% of those are senior staff and only 16% hold high level strategic positions. Women are also less likely to receive workplace funded training than their male colleagues.
“I would hope that both public and private Irish media organisations take on board the recommendations in this report. RTÉ’s recent report into the pay gap was a missed opportunity, given that many high profile presenters were excluded from the study. Within the private media organisations, we have even less information regarding salaries, not to mention a distinct absence of women’s voices on private radio stations during peak listening hours.”
Sinn Fein TD for Meath West, Peadar Tóibín, asked Minister Josepha Madigan when her department would act on a number of issues relating to the Hill of Tara.
The issues mentioned include the dearth of parking facilities, safety issues on the main approach road as well as the lack of a proper visitor interpretation facility.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Tóibín said:
“The Hill of Tara is a magical place. It has a special place in the hearts and minds of Irish people all over the world. It’s one of the few locations in Ireland that is internationally recognised.
“It is according to tradition the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. It is covered with numerous internationally recognised monuments including a Neolithic passage tomb, known as the Mound of the Hostages, which was constructed over 5,000 years ago, the Banqueting Hall of Tara and the Lia Fáil.
As a wonderful cultural asset it is all but ignored. What will the Minister do to fix the problems besetting the Hill? 1,000 buses make their way to the Hill of Tara every Year. It’s conservatively estimated that a quarter of a million visitors now access the hill every year.
“Yet and it pains me to say this, but it’s in a mess. There is insufficient parking for parking, buses find it hard to navigate the area, and the hill is increasingly mucky as there are no dedicated paths. There is a wonderful book shop and gift shop and a restaurant, but the latter is under pressure with regards to capacity.
There are also a lack of toilets on the hill. The Interpretive Centre is only open from June to October, and even then only for limited hours. The land has become increasingly mucky and the rath on which the Lia Fáil is, is continuously flooded.
“I believe that the Minister should have two guiding rules. The first should be the protection of our heritage the second should be the safe, open and unrestricted access. These two are hard to achieve.
“A report on the conservation and management of the historic hill has been sitting in the Department of Culture and Heritage for the past three years, with no action.
"When will this road map be published? Will there be a budget with this plan? There is a wonderful opportunity here to establish a means to showcase the wonder of Tara in a way which ensures the protection of this national treasure.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said EU citizens in the north should have the right to direct representation in the European Parliament post-Brexit.
Speaking after a debate in the European Parliament’s AFCO committee today, Martina Anderson said:
“The ability to directly elect a representative to the European Parliament is a basic fundamental right.
“At this morning’s meeting of the European Parliament’s AFCO committee I brought forward amendments reiterating that all citizens of the north of Ireland, by virtue of the Good Friday Agreement, are entitled to British or Irish citizenship or both and reminded members that as Irish citizens, they will remain EU citizens post-Brexit.
“This means that people living in the north, through their entitlement to Irish and therefore EU citizenship, should still have the right to directly elect representatives to the European Parliament.
“I was pleased that members of the committee supported my amendments and this position now needs to be taken into account by those deciding on the future composition of the European Parliament.
“The Irish government, which has pledged itself to upholding the rights of all Irish citizens, including those in the north, need to ensure that this fundamental democratic right is protected.
“We cannot allow our basic democratic rights to be trampled on by the Tory Brexit agenda and the best way to guard against that and ensure our rights are protected is to secure special status for the north within the EU.”
Sinn Féin member of the Public Accounts Committee, David Cullinane TD, has said today that the government and Minister Shane Ross have serious questions to answer regarding the procedure used to reopen Stepaside Garda station.
Speaking at the launch of the PAC interim report, Deputy Cullinane said:
"The head of Dublin policing told the Public Accounts Committee that the reopening of Stepaside Garda station was not a priority, and that he had more pressing demands on resources across the region.
"Gardaí on the ground are screaming out for resources to tackle gun crime and gangland murders, yet we have Minister Ross pushing pet projects and stroke politics.
"Any decision to reopen a Garda station must take into account the best use of Garda resources, use of state funds and policing priorities.
"It should not be based on whatever pet projects are in the back pockets of cabinet Ministers.
"Given the need for a holistic review of resources, Minister Flanagan has to explain why Stepaside was chosen above other needs.
"It is hard not to conclude that this was done to give Minister Shane Ross a trophy.
"The government needs to understand that trophies do not make for sound policies.
"We need accountability in public office, and here is a shining example of why we need a real change in Irish politics."
Speaking amid reports that the number of patients on trolleys has reached its highest ever number recorded today, 668 patients, Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has said the Government needs to implement the recommendations of the Sinn Féin Private Members Business motion, passed unanimously by the Dáil last week.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The trolley crisis is a crisis of capacity, it will not go away because a flu epidemic subsides - it will remain until the issue of capacity is addressed.
“Anyone in the Government or elsewhere who thinks the trolley crisis is just a winter problem exacerbated by flu, does not grasp the true nature of the crisis in our hospitals and Emergency Departments.
“Today the Irish Nurses and Midwives organisation reported 668 patients on trolleys in hospitals throughout the state. In University Hospital Limerick alone there were an astonishing 60 patients on trolleys followed by 45 on trolleys in St Vincent’s Hospital.
“One patient on a trolley is one too many and we can never allow this situation to become normalised.
“Last Thursday the Dáil passed a substantive Sinn Féin PMB with solutions on how to tackle and stabilise the trolley crisis. The motion outlined the issues as identified by staff in the health service and patients who have went through the service while proposing achievable solutions to this crisis in the short term.
“The proposed solutions were not solely Sinn Féin suggestions, it incorporated solutions from workers and patients in the health service as well as those of experts and other progressive politicians and political parties.
“It is quite rare that general consensus is reached in the Dáil, however, on this occasion there was near unanimity in the solutions the motion proposed. The solutions which the PMB calls for are achievable if there is sufficient political will from the Government.
“The Government must immediately implement recommendations on trolley crisis passed by Dáil in order to stabilise the trolley crisis in the short term.
“There is also need to move to addressing systematic problems in the long term and I believe that this can be done if we have the political will to fully implement of all the recommendations in the Sláintecare report."
Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Business, Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD today revealed correspondence between the CEO of the Health and Safety Authority and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Innovation shows that due to a lack of resources means the agency is working on a reactive basis and parts of the agency have been stripped back to the absolute minimum.
Speaking today, the Limerick City TD said;
"This correspondence obtained under a freedom of information request, highlights the disquiet between the HSA and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation concerning the effect a lack of resources is having on the agency.
“The Health and Safety Authority submitted an action plan to the Department on the 20th of September 2017, outlining the need for an additional 48 personnel.
“At the beginning of October, the CEO of the HSA gave a media interview which highlighted the agency needed 50 additional staff to allow it to meet its remit.
“The Department responded the day after this interview expressing surprise at it and saying some of the statements and issues raised in a plan submitted to the Department were ‘alarming’.
“It is clear the Department took no notice of the HSA’s action plan and staffing requirements when they were submitted, and only took notice when the CEO was forced to go on the radio and outline the agency’s requirements.
“In response the CEO stated that ‘at the moment there are quite a number of areas we are dealing with on a purely reactive basis and other areas where there are effectively no programmes. Other areas such as COMAH and ADR have been stripped back to the absolute minimum.’
“It is totally unacceptable for areas of this agency to be described as stripped back to the absolute minimum, while some areas of the agency have no initiatives due to resources. In my opinion, this is another casualty of the sacrifices made to allow Fine Gael give away €335 million in tax cuts in Budget 2018.
“It is equally concerning that the CEO of an agency under the remit of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, is forced to go on national radio to try and push the Department into providing the staffing requirements needed.
“Workplace related inspections have fallen from 13,835 in 2012 to 10,477 in 2016, with the number of workplace fatalities totalling 47 in 2017.
“Other correspondence cites the low pay offered by the agency as a problem to filling positions, while the cost of living in Dublin meant that some people were unable to accept the salary reductions involved in taking a job with the agency.
“The Minister must outline whether she intends to allocate the funding required by this agency, to ensure the HSA has funding for personnel needed, and to allow it attract staff to work at the agency, to make sure workplace safety standards are maintained, and workplace fatalities are reduced.”
Commenting after he was selected to replace Pól Ó Gribín as a Sinn Féin councillor on Newry, Mourne and Down Council, John Rice said:
“It is an honour for me to be selected to replace Pól as a councillor for Sinn Féin on the Newry, Mourne and Down Council.
“I am in no doubt about the challenge ahead and I will build on the solid foundations that have been laid down by Pól who has served the people of Newry, Mourne and Down well.
“This is a brilliant time to be a Republican representative and I will do my best to be a voice for the rural communities.
“Working as part of a great Sinn Fein team I will continue to fight for better infrastructure for country areas, improved services for young and old people and will do my best to support farming families.
“The days of second class citizenship are gone and equality, respect and integrity are our road map towards a new inclusive and reconciled Ireland.”
John was ratified by the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle on Saturday to replace Pól who will be resigning from Council on January 31st.
John Rice Bio
57 year-old John Rice is from Ballylough Road in Castlewellan and attended Clonvaraghan Primary and then St Malachy’s Secondary Castlewellan.
He lives in Castlewellan with his partner Fionuola and has one daughter and three grandchildren.
A former St Johns GAA player John is a member of Kilmegan VC Cycling Club and enjoy walking in the Mournes and Local forest parks.
Former POW John has been a political activist all his adult life and has held many positions within Sinn Fein locally including Chair of South Down Sinn Fein and the local Cumann in Castlewellan.