Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Seán Lynch has called for schools to be reimbursed for the cost of putting minibus drivers through an ‘unnecessary’ licensing process.
The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA was commenting on new proposals to change minibus licencing in Britain.
"In November last year the Department for Infrastructure said it was a legal requirement for school minibus drivers to hold a D1 minibus licence,” he said.
“As a result, many schools put teachers through the licencing process at a cost of some £700 per licence.
“At the time we told the Department for Infrastructure that that there was no legal requirement for schools to obtain this licence.
“The fact that the Department for Transport in Britain is now consulting on a different approach confirms this.
“Sinn Féin are therefore asking for schools to be reimbursed for any unnecessary spending incurred in obtaining these licences."
Sinn Féin representative for East Antrim Oliver McMullan has urged the public to celebrate and support World Down Syndrome day on the 21stMarch.
Oliver McMullan said:
“The United Nations declared the 21st of March international World Down Syndrome day in 2012 to give the public the opportunity to celebrate the contribution of people with Downs make to our society.
“World Down Syndrome Day should be used to recognise the right of people with Downs to have equality and live a fulfilling life by maximising their potential.
“It is worthwhile marking their contribution and at the same time acknowledging the role that families play in supporting children with Down Syndrome.
“As a father who has a child with Downs I know the pride and joy she brings to our family and local community and it is great to see her participate in society with her different interests.
“It is therefore important that we as a caring society continue to give people with Down Syndrome the equality that each of them deserves and World Down Syndrome Day is the perfect vehicle in which to promote this.
“I would urge the public on the 21st of March to remember that all those children and adults with Down Syndrome in your community it is their day help them to celebrate and I would ask them to wear a pair of brightly coloured socks or take a picture with the official "Lots of Socks" logo which can be accessed from the site www.worlddownsynfromeday.org.”
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on rural affairs, Declan McAleer has welcomed a commitment from Fire Service to hold an engagement session in Gortin, County Tyrone on the potential impact of wildfires and the safer management of gorse.
The West Tyrone said:
“I wrote recently to NIFRS requesting information on the advice they provide to farmers and landowners about prescribed burning and methods of managing the fire fuel load safely on their land. The purpose of such advice is to protect communities and also to protect farmers and landowners.
“I discussed the issue further with fire chiefs at NIFRS headquarters on Tuesday. During the meeting I explained that I was aware of the inter-agency approach taken to deal with this issue in the Mournes. I added that I would be keen for the NIFRS and their respective partners to provide similar education and safety advice to landowners and farmers in the Sperrins region.
“As such, I welcome the decision by Fire Service to host this engagement with the public this Wednesday evening 21st March from 7.30pm to 8.30pm in the Owenkillew Community Centre, Gortin and I strongly encourage farmers, landowners and anyone interested in learning more about this issue to come along."
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD met The Congressional Friends of Ireland Committee in Washington DC this morning.
Ms McDonald briefed the CFOI committee on efforts to restore the political institutions in the North and the collapse of the talks process, the threat posed by Brexit to Ireland, the Gerrymandering proposals regarding the redrawing of electoral boundaries in the North, and her hopes and vision for the future.
Mary Lou McDonald TD said:
"For over twenty years, the Congressional Friends of Ireland Committee has been a strong supporter of Ireland, the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
"I told the Committee that Sinn Féin had negotiated for more than thirteen months in good faith. We had reached an accommodation with DUP leadership who subsequently walked away and collapsed the process.
"Any new talks process cannot slide back from the commits made. There cannot be any further delay or denial of the rights of citizens. This means status for the Irish Language, Equality for LGBT citizens and funding for legacy inquests.
"We discussed the controversial new electoral boundary changes. The changes would see thousands of nationalist voters left without representation. The changes also blatantly advantage the DUP. We will not accept any return to the Gerrymandering of the past.
"We had an informed exchange on the threat posed by Brexit. I made it clear that the re-imposition of a hard border on the island would be devastating for Ireland.
"I also made it clear that the only way to avoid this devastation is for the North to remain within the Customs Union and the Single Market.
"Brexit is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement. Elements within the British Government and political unionism are seeking to undermine the Good Friday Agreement in order to ensure that Brexit happens at any costs.
"The support of the Committee and the US administration for the Good Friday Agreement is more crucial now that any other time since 1998.
"I concluded by stating that I am confident that we will see Irish Unity in our time but I stressed that it must be worked and planned for now.
"Uniting Ireland cannot be a crude exercise of simply stitching north to south and returning to business as usual.
"We want to create a new and reconciled Ireland in which ordinary people can prosper and live good lives.
"I urged the CFOI committee to keep faith with Ireland and to continue its valued and appreciated support for our country as we face these challenges."
Sinn Fein Spokesperson for Children and Young People Catherine Kelly has called for workforce shortages to be addressed following news of a backlog in child annual reviews in the Western Trust.
The West Tyrone MLA said:
"It is very concerning that due to a shortage of Health Visitors almost 700 one and two year olds across the Western Trust have not had their annual review."
"Health Visitors play a very important role in delivering better health and wellbeing outcomes through early intervention."
"They provide excellent support and advice to parents, particularly to first-time parents, and in working with families they can identify health and development problems with young children."
"In that context it is really important that every child gets their annual review from their Health Visitor."
"The backlog in annual reviews shows the need for effective recruitment and retention of Health Visitors in the short term and a workforce strategy to ensure the sustainability of the service moving forward."
"Health Visitors, and Health and Social Care staff generally, are the Health Service's greatest asset and they must be properly supported to continue to deliver a high standard of care to the community.”
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has expressed concern that delays could be caused by the resignation of the independent chairwoman of the departmental working group which is investigating clerical child abuse at mother and baby homes here.
The party’s Victims spokesperson said: “Norah Gibbons has stepped down due to health reasons and we of course wish her well in her recovery.
“I would also be concerned that this development may cause further delays in an already frustrating process.
“Every possible step must be taken to ensure that isn’t the case and that will require the working group operating in full consultation with victims and survivors.
“That is the only way to develop a process that is victim centred and meets their needs and concerns. I am disappointed that this has not been the case to date.
“I have also requested a meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Health Department to discuss the concerns that the Mother and Baby Group have raised with me.”
“The Minister needs to take meaningful and immediate action so that people with disabilities and their families no longer have to battle for every single thing they are entitled to. We need to look after the most vulnerable in our society not just a select few."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has welcomed the move by her colleague Senator Fintan Warfield to introduce legislation which would ban so-called conversion therapy.
Speaking on Thursday, Deputy Mitchell said:
“This is a very important step in protecting our young people. The purpose of this Bill is to prohibit any practices which aim to eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and, or gender expression.
“Unfortunately, we still see this deeply harmful and archaic practice being advertised and conducted in this State. It is often aimed at young people who are struggling with their sexuality and may be quite vulnerable.
“Conversion therapy has been rejected and discredited as unethical and damaging by all the main expert bodies across the globe, so it is long past the time when this harmful practice was banned in this State.
“I also want to particularly mention the elements of the Bill which will make it illegal for a person to take another person out of the state for the purposes of undergoing this discredited practice. That is a very welcome inclusion and will help prevent attempts to circumvent the ban.”
Sinn Féin’s Dáil Deputy Leader Pearse Doherty TD has said the government must immediately begin to implement to recommendations of the Sláintecare report and the Sinn Féin Dáil motion unanimously passed by the Dáil in January, in order to begin tacking the hospital trolley crisis.
Teachta Doherty said the trolley crisis is a national emergency and should be treated as such.
Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:
“The ongoing trolley crisis in our hospitals is a national emergency, but it is not being treated as such. The government must implement the recommendations of the Sláintecare report and the unanimously passed Sinn Féin Dáil motion from January which comprehensively details actions to tackle this.
“Minister Simon Harris has so far failed to deal with the issues that are causing this emergency. These are the issues of recruitment and retention of staff, capacity - failure to reopen closed beds, adequate step down facilities, and proper primary and community care.
“The Taoiseach and Minister for Health apologised when figures went over 650, but 500 plus is now the norm. Indeed, it is at 511 today, and no apology is given to those people.
“Minister Harris should acknowledge the scale of the problem, that there is a national emergency and that what he has done to date has not worked.
“At the very least, the Minister must open up all the closed hospital beds across the state to immediately stabilise the numbers on trolleys in the short term.”
Thousands of nationalist voters will be left without any representation if controversial electoral boundary changes are not stopped, Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said.
The Newry-Armagh MLA was speaking as Sinn Féin submitted a formal submission to the Boundary Commission consultation on the proposed new electoral boundaries.
“These boundary proposals have been branded a gerrymander for the 21st century and it’s easy to see why people have come to that conclusion,” he said.
“If they go ahead, at least four Assembly constituencies will be left without any nationalist representation whatsoever. The views of thousands of nationalist voters will effectively count for nothing and electoral boundaries at every level will be manipulated to give maximum advantage to the DUP.
“That is completely unacceptable. There can be no justification for it and the Boundary Commission have failed to produce any justification for it.”
The origins of the latest proposals are also a source of major concern, Conor Murphy added.
He commented: “The Boundary Commission was established in 2016 with a remit to reduce the number of constituencies from 18 to 17 and to distribute the electorate in a fair and equitable way across the new constituencies.
“They published proposals in 2017 which went some way to achieving that. However, these were radically revised in the face of DUP opposition and nobody could argue that the new plan represents fairness, given that it so blatantly advantages the DUP at the expense of the nationalist electorate.
“The Boundary Commission deny that a deliberate gerrymander is taking place at the behest of the DUP but they have failed to explain or justify the changes which will have such a negative impact on democracy and which fly in the face of their own remit.
“Sinn Féin has today submitted our proposals to the Commission which set out a fair and equitable way forward in line with accepted good practice and the Commission’s own remit. We would urge members of the public to also make submissions and demand fairness in the electoral process.
“There can be no return to the gerrymandering of the past. All votes should be equal and all citizens should be entitled to democratic representation.”
Tá achainí ar líne cruthaithe ag urlabhraí Gaeilge Shinn Féin, an Teachta Peadar Tóibín, le Cultúrlann i lár Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath a bhunú láithreach bonn. Tá an Teachta ag iarradh go shíneoidh an oireadh daoine agus is féidir daoine an achainí seo leis an sprioc a bhaint amach.
Dúirt an Teachta Tóibín:
“Tá easpa áiseanna ann do chainteoirí Gaeilge sa chathair agus in Éirinn. Ba bhréa lár-ionad a bheith ann chun an Ghaeilge, na healaíona agus ár gcultúr a chur chun cinn ar mhaithe le muintir na hÉireann agus na mílte cuairteoirí a thagann anseo de bharr ár n-oidhreachta.
“Is beag deis atá ag lucht labhartha na Gaeilge an teanga a úsáid tar éis dóibh an córas oideachais a fhágáil. Thabharfadh lár-ionad le café, amharclann agus seomra comhdhála, deiseanna do dhaoine Gaeilge a labhairt gan bac.
“Tá lár-ionaid bhreátha ag lucht na Fraince, na Gearmáine agus na Spáinne i mBaile Átha Cliath ach níl áit ar bith lárnach inar féidir le Gaeilgeoirí de chuile aois teacht le chéile.
“Mhaígh an rialtas go mbunófaí ionad Gaeilge agus cultúrtha i lár chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath sa Phlean Forbartha Náisiúnta 2018-2027.
“Seo Bliain na Gaeilge. Tacaigh linn agus iarr ar an Aire Madigan Cultúrlann a bhunú, ní i gceann deich mbliana, ach anois!”
Campaign underway to establish a Cultúrlann as soon as possible – Peadar Tóibín TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Irish, Peadar Tóibín TD, has created an online petition for the establishment of a Cultúrlann in Dublin City Centre. The Deputy is trying to get as many people as possible to sign the petition in order to achieve this goal.
Deputy Tóibín said;
“There are a lack of facilities for Irish speakers in the city and in Ireland. It would be great to have a centre that would promote Irish, the arts and our culture for the people of Ireland as well as the thousands of visitors who come here because of our heritage.
“Irish speakers have few opportunities to use the language after they leave the education system. A Cultúrlann which would have a café, a theatre and a conference room would provide people with opportunities to speak Irish without any hindrance.
“The French, Germans and Spanish have lovely centres in Dublin. There is no central place where Irish speakers of all ages can come together.
“The government stated that a language and cultural hub in Dublin city centre would be established in the National Development Plan 2018-2027.
“This is Bliain na Gaeilge – the Year of the Irish Language. Support us and ask that Minister Madigan establishes an Irish language centre, not in ten years’ time, but now!”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has addressed the European Parliament in a debate on the US government's announcement of new tariffs on aluminium and steel products.
Addressing MEPs in the plenary in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Carthy said:
"Donald Trump does not care about lower income workers; their jobs, their wages or their rights.
"We know this from his actions in providing tax breaks for the richest and his regular attacks on vital services, such as healthcare.
"But he has was elected because he exploited the genuine concerns of many working people in the United States; people who have not received the benefits of free trade and globalisation, who in fact, have lost their jobs and their faith in politics.
"Trump’s latest actions in imposing trade tariffs must be seen in this context.
"However, the European Commission is playing into this game.
"By promoting a dangerous trade agenda through deals such as CETA & Mercosur the EU will increase the alienation and distrust that has already surged in many member states.
"Any honest observer will attest that this agenda is, rather than enriching everyone, actually fuelling the massive growth in inequality, exacerbating a race to the bottom on global labour rights and standards.
"If we want to effectively combat Trumpism then we need to abandon a trade agenda that will widen inequalities in Europe and across the globe."
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed an apology from Queen's University for offence caused by the response to An Cumann Gaelach regarding a request to meet to discuss bilingual signage and the role the university could play in recognising the rights of the Irish language community on campus.
The Party's Further and Higher Education Spokesperson said:
"Following the meeting myself and Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile had with Queen's University management this morning, Sinn Féin welcome the apology which has been issued by the Vice Chancellor.
"We also welcome the commitment to engage with An Cumann Gaelach and others on the issue.
"It is important to address the visibility of Irish language and we will continue to be in constructive dialogue with Queen's University and the Irish language sector on how to achieve this."
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has addressed MEPs regarding the EU proposal for a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) during a debate of the plenary session in Strasbourg this evening, Wednesday. Sinn Féin MEPs will vote against the proposals tomorrow.
Addressing MEPs, Carthy said:
"It is clear that the current system of taxing multinational corporations isn't working.
"The so-called arms-length principle is out of date and ineffective. But for unitary taxation to work effectively as a means to end profit-shifting, it needs to be global.
"My main concern is that Member States are being asked to transfer further powers to the Commission in exchange for the promise that this new system will end the ability of multinationals to shift profits – but shortcomings in the proposal mean this goal is unlikely to be achieved.
"Profit-shifting outside of the EU is not addressed at all and it will actually increase the incentive for multinationals to shift profits outside the EU. By creating a common tax base across the EU, the proposal will in fact promote a race to the bottom on tax rates, because the headline rate itself will be the only measure left for Member States to compete on.
"The Irish government has signalled its concerns over this proposal and no doubt will continue to do so.
"At the same time the Irish government needs to act now to end the dangerous and unsustainable situation in which it actively markets the Irish state as a tax avoidance hub, and in which our public finances are severely over-reliant on the corporation tax receipts of a handful of multinationals."
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Sport, Imelda Munster TD, has today hit out at Minister Shane Ross for allocating millions of euro of state funding into private sports facilities, while local public sporting clubs and facilities in disadvantaged areas go without.
Deputy Munster said:
“This week we learned that Shane Ross allocated €150,000 to improve sports facilities at the fee-paying Wesley college in Dublin. He is giving another €150,000 to a private golf club that charges annual fees of over €8,000 to members.
"Meanwhile, local clubs in disadvantaged areas are receiving a pittance by comparison.
“The government is using the Sports Capital Programme to buy votes by funding clubs in middle-class areas.
“This is not what the Sports Capital Programme is about. I am sickened that the government is using the grant programme to fund organisations in their own areas.
“Clubs in middle class areas that charge membership fees of several thousand euros year do not need the funding.
"If a club can charge €8,000 annual fees from members, then it should use that money to improve facilities. The rest of us shouldn’t have to pick up the bill.
“We need a thorough investigation to look at where this money is going.
“Clubs like this don’t warrant funding from this programme when there are so many other local sporting clubs which provide invaluable service in communities across the state.
“The very purpose of these grants is to help voluntary community sports groups. This flies in the face of the whole ethics of the project and what it was set up to do in the first place.
“The whole qualifying criteria and how disadvantaged areas have not been awarded adequate funding needs to be investigated.
“This is a Fine Gael Government buying votes by favouring middle class areas.
“The government thinks it’s reasonable for the tax-payer to pay €2million this year to improve facilities in elitist social clubs. It’s outrageous.
"The Minister, Shane Ross, is so out of touch that he is boasting about it.
“This government isn’t even pretending to care about the ordinary people in this country any more.
Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has called on the public to ensure they submit their application for an Irish passport well in advance of the upcoming holiday season following the revelation that there is currently a backlog of almost fifty thousand applications being processed through the system.
Speaking today Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile commented:
“Given the latest revelation about the scale of applications currently being processed by the Passport Office I would encourage those planning on travelling, particularly families ahead of the summer season, to submit their applications without undue delay.
“These figures also strengthen the case for the Government to invest in additional resources for our Passport Office services in order to ease the burden on the first class and diligent staff.
“It is my long established view that it makes most sense and would most improve service infrastructure and delivery if this new facility was located in the North.”
Sinn Féin Leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD, has responded to remarks made by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the United States last night in which he said he wants to see a return to talks in the North.
Speaking from Washington DC, Ms McDonald said.
"Last night an Taoiseach set out his wish to see a further process of talks in the North.
"I welcome his acknowledgement that Marriage Equality and Language Rights must be delivered. He must ensure that these rights are delivered.
"He might also reflect on the fact that an accommodation was found. We had a draft agreement with the DUP leadership that they walked away from and collapsed the talks process as a result.
"Sinn Fein has said that standing still is not an option. We cannot and will not ask citizens to wait indefinitely for basic rights to be vindicated.
"This should also include the convening of the British Irish Intergovernmental conference.
"So a plan is needed. Momentum must be built into the process. However, we cannot and will not engage in talks for the sake of talks or the optics of talks.
"Any engagement must be about delivery. Any engagement must also be premised on the progress achieved on the core issues of delivery of Acht, marriage equality and resolving legacy issues."
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has been selected as a vice chair of the new special committee of the European Parliament on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (TAX3). Carthy was appointed to the 45-member committee by a vote of the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg today, Wednesday.
The ALDE group will select the chairperson of the committee, while GUE/NGL, the Greens, the EPP and S&D are all entitled to appoint a vice-chair of the committee. The GUE/NGL group (European United Left) has selected Matt Carthy to be vice-chair.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Carthy said:
“I have been calling for a new special committee to examine the revelations in the Paradise Papers from offshore law firm Appleby since the leak, so I am very pleased to be a member of this committee, and thank my colleagues in the European United Left for appointing me as the vice-chair of the committee.
“This new special committee will allow MEPs to continue our work examining the nature of, and solutions to, tax avoidance, tax evasion and money-laundering in the EU and around the world.
“As vice-chair I will be urging the committee to examine the many Irish connections to the Paradise Papers, including revelations regarding the Irish government’s facilitation of ongoing massive tax avoidance by Apple, as well as regarding AIB, Denis O’Brien, Bono and others.
“As well as continuing the work we carried out in the Panama Papers inquiry committee, which came to an end in December – and the previous special committees examining the LuxLeaks revelations – we will also be focusing on new emerging issues including tax avoidance and tax evasion in the digital economy.
“The committee intends to put particular emphasis on examining the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies as notorious hubs for financial crime, secrecy and tax-dodging.”
Note to editors:
The name of the new special committee is ‘TAX3: Special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance’.
The mandate of the special committee as adopted is here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fTEXT%2bMOTION%2bB8-2018-0125%2b0%2bDOC%2bXML%2bV0%2f%2fEN&language=EN
Sinn Féin TD and Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane has welcomed the vote of the European Parliament on a resolution which calls for protection of social and employment rights in the north of Ireland.
The Waterford TD said:
“I welcome this further declaration by the European Parliament that special arrangements are required in order to safeguard Ireland from the cavalier actions of the Brexiteers.
“This resolution calls for no diminution of rights, including employment rights and social rights.
“It also formally welcomes the backstop option which would see the north remain in the customs union.
“However, the only way to guarantee these rights and the economic security of Ireland as an island is to secure designated special status for the north within the European Union.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said Queen's University must address the concerns of the Irish language community including on the visibility of the Irish language on campus.
Speaking following a meeting with Queen's University management the Party’s Further and Higher Education spokesperson said:
“Myself and party colleague Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile met with Queen's university management including the vice chancellor James McElnay on a number of issues including the recent response from the vice chancellor to An Cumann Gaelach.
“We expressed the disappointment and offence that was felt in light of that response and impressed upon them the need to address this.
“We also emphasised the need to constructively engage on the issues raised by An Cumann Gaelach in their original communication and to look towards the European Charter on Minority Languages and other international best practice regarding the visibility of the Irish language on campus.
“We also discussed the ongoing pension dispute and industrial action and encouraged university management to engage with staff on the issue.
"We raised the issue of refunding student fees in the context of ongoing action and highlighted that this is something the university must consider going forward.”