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Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South, Liadh Ní Riada, has called for a major upgrading of Cancer treatment and services across Ireland, after stark figures were released today, a day which also happens to be World Cancer Day.

Speaking from Cork whilst on the campaign trail for the general elections and highlighting the atrocious successive governments have had on the quality of health services, Ní Riada said;

"30% of all deaths in Ireland are due to cancer, compared to 26% across the EU - the third highest in Europe, figures compiled by Eurostat reveal. This is worrying news and a damning indictment of our health services.

"Cancer can be treated once it is diagnosed early, however, the two tier access to hospital care that exists in Ireland could be seen as contributing factors to these stark figures.

"The waiting lists, the trolley crisis and the growing costs of GP care and prescriptions are literally placing Irish citizens in dire situations in terms of their health.

"Sinn Féin has vowed to increase spending on healthcare by €3.3 billion and recruit 6,600 additional frontline health workers including nurses, midwives and consultants, which would help close the cancer gap.

"Cancer mortality rates in Ireland are at unprecedented levels and forecasted to increase in the future, this trend needs to be stopped.

"The successive Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil´s governments have shown gross incompetency in this regard, however, Sinn Féin in government will ensure our policies support such research and provision, and that we will invest in a decent public health system that the people deserve.

"As the General Election campaign is underway, I would call on all candidates and parties to ensure this is enshrined in their policies. Not just today, World Cancer Day, but every day." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has criticised Alan Kelly for his arrogance and lack of touch with the workers and families. This comes after Alan Kelly claimed that ‘water charges would not be an issue with the voters’.

Senator Cullinane said:

“Alan Kelly’s comments come shortly after his arrogant interview where he proclaimed himself his own boss, although Joan Burton quickly put a halt to that. The Minister fails to realise that water charges were the last straw for Irish people who had been saddled with property tax, social welfare cuts, child benefit cuts, and a whole host of austerity measures that were both cruel and disproportionate upon lower and middle income earners.

“The Minister for the Environment is clearly out of touch with workers and families when he dismisses water charges as a past issue. He has clearly bought into his own fantasy and believes that the electorate will forget water charges simply because he wants them to. The Right2Water campaign has grown into the Right2Change election platform that we in Sinn Féin and many others have signed up to.

“The Minister may dismiss the anger against water charges, but he does so at his peril.” 

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Declan Kearney has said the latest job announcement at Belfast International Airport is a boost to the area.

 Mr Kearney said:

 “The latest announcement of 115 new jobs across a range of businesses at Belfast International Airport is a sign of confidence in the airport.

 “This brings the total number of jobs created at the airport to just under 300 over the past few months.

 “The jobs will add to the economic fortunes of the area as spending power is increased.

 “However I believe that the full potential of the airport has not yet been reached and more can be done to attract more airlines into the International Airport and create more employment at the site.”

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Boylan: A vote for Fine Gael is a vote for fracking

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has slammed Fine Gael MEPs for their continued support for fracking. Speaking after a key vote on the issue in the European Parliament this week Boylan criticised them for their position on the dangerous gas extraction method.

‘It is disappointing but not surprising given their track record on the issue that once again, Fine Gael have demonstrated their clear support for fracking in Ireland. This time, they tried to remove wording which called for EU countries to not authorise any new fracking operations given the risks for the environment and the gaps in regulation which should cover such activities.

‘In spite of clear opposition in Ireland from civil society, farmers and local communities, Fine Gael want to stamp out any legitimate criticism of this risky gas extraction technique to pave the way for fracking in Ireland, no matter the cost. Their rejection of criticism of the practice in Europe paints a worrying picture of how they will deal with the issue if in government again.’

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly is to raise with Chief Constable George Hamilton today at a meeting of the Policing Board the failure of  PSNI to deal with the issue of anti social activity in areas where it is particularly acute

 Mr Kelly said,

 “As we have seen in the past few weeks anti social activity remains a major concern of some local communities when it comes to policing and safety.

 “There are particular areas and communities where anti-social behaviour is more acute and I will raise directly with the Chief Constable George Hamilton today the failure of the PSNI to give a sufficient focus to those areas.

 “In the Policing plan it was stated that by 31 March 2016 the PSNI was to have carried out a pilot study to examine how PSNI address antisocial behaviour in areas of high crime/social disadvantage; and by 31 March 2017 to implement 90% of recommendations identified in the pilot study.

 “We are now in February 2016 and this pilot programme has yet to begin and this is an unacceptable response to what is a really acute problem in some areas. 

 “I will be demanding an assurance that the Chief Constable ensures this issue is given the focus it requires in the coming months” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has accused Fine Gael of making it up as they go along after Michael Noonan abandoned his plans for a rainy day fund when it became clear that their figures don’t add up.

Deputy McDonald said this is the fastest fiscal flip-flop of the election campaign and shows the true face of Fine Gael - tax breaks for the wealthy and tax increases for working families.

Deputy McDonald said this announcement is a direct result of Sinn Féin exposing Fine Gael’s figures as being completely dishonest.

Speaking this morning Deputy McDonald said;

“The reality is that Fine Gael were spoofing on their figures and Sinn Féin called them on it.  They are now in disarray and the announcement that they are to drop their rainy day fund is a direct result of them being exposed by Sinn Féin.

“They are now making it up as they go along.

“Sinn Féin wants an honest debate.  Fine Gael must realised that they cannot promise massive tax breaks for the wealthy while promising to invest in public services.

“They have had five years to invest in public services and they haven’t done it.  They cannot be trusted to do it now.

“Sinn Féín has a plan to use the available resources to resolve the crisis in our health services, to deal with the housing and homelessness crisis and to invest in affordable childcare.

“We would give struggling workers a break by scrapping to the water charges, the property tax and take 277,000 workers out of the USC net.”

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Speaking after Enda Kenny failed to turn up for the first leaders interview of the election campaign on the 6.1 this evening, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said that it is simply not good enough for the outgoing Taoiseach to dodge public debate during this election.

Teachta Adams said Mr Kenny has spent five years dodging questions in the Dáil and is now dodging questions from the media on the first day of the election campaign.

He said;

“Every other leader of Ireland’s main political parties participated in the RTÉ 6.1 Leaders’ interviews, the first opportunity for each leader to set out the stall of their party. Enda Kenny did not seem to think that it was worth his while and sent Leo Varadkar in his place.

“Enda spent five years dodging questions and it appears that this election campaign will be no different.

“Mr Kenny must realise that if he cannot answer the difficult questions during an election, he cannot expect to instil confidence in the electorate.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Lynn Boylan has called for a suspension of the Trade in Services Agreement currently being negotiated between the EU, the US and 23 other countries. Ms Boylan was speaking as Sinn Féin MEPs voted against a report on TiSA in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today.

The Sinn Féin MEP said: “The TiSA agreement will create an international legal regime which aims to deregulate and privatise the supply of services. Services now account for the majority of the economy across TiSA states. 

“The TiSA is a crucial part of the ‘new generation’ of so-called free trade agreements which includes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). 

“Together these agreements, if signed and ratified, will result in a historic and unprecedented transfer of political and policy-making power to multinational corporations.

“The negotiation process for all of these agreements has been highly secretive – a fact that is unacceptable to Sinn Féin given the significant impact these agreements will have on the economy and communities in Ireland.

“Our concerns about TiSA include the lack of transparency in the negotiations; the negative impact it would have on workers’ rights; and the accelerated privatisation of public services it would result in.

“But of particular concern to us is the impact that TiSA may have on the financial services sector. From what we have seen in leaked negotiation texts published by Wikileaks last year, TiSA may require states to stop and reverse the financial regulation measures put in place in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

“It is clear from the leaked TiSA Annex on Financial Services that TiSA’s extreme deregulation agenda would apply to virtually the entire financial sector. 

“That means governments would be forced to deregulate banking, derivatives, insurance, stocks and bonds, foreign exchange, credit cards, financial data processing, credit-rating and other financial services. If a state refuses to conform to TiSA rules it would face trade sanctions. That is a recipe for disaster.

Ms Boylan continued: “The report we voted on today aimed to provide direction to the European Commission in negotiating the text of this agreement. Sinn Féin and other left MEPs voted against the report as it essentially endorsed the TiSA negotiations. In our view, the EU should immediately withdraw from the TiSA negotiations as Uruguay has done.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson along with Alyn Smith MEP and Jill Evans representing the SNP and Plaid Cymru have today (Wednesday) intervened in a European Parliament debate on the EU proposals which may form a basis for agreement to be presented by the British Prime Minster in a referendum on EU membership.

All agreed that a possible June referendum, in the event that Britain can agree a deal with the other member states, would be disrespectful of elections in May and give insufficient time for a proper campaign.  All three also agreed that Scotland, the North of Ireland and Wales must not be removed from the  EU against their democratic will.

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:

"Ireland's place is Europe and BREXIT is detrimental for Ireland particularly for All Ireland integration.  Sinn Féin wants to see the creation of a social Europe, a Europe with democracy at its core and a Europe that is closer to citizens.

"The north should have its own referendum,  calculated and counted separately and the outcome respected.  The result of an English referendum should not be imposed on the people of the North of Ireland.  

Alan Smyth, the SNP MEP added,

"We have elections in May and a fundamentally different set of attitudes to EU issues, and a June referendum would be disrespectful of democracy in our countries. We in Scotland were in our own referendum promised by the Prime Minister that Britain is a 'family of nations' and we are fully entitled to expect that to be respected now.

"Scotland has a different politics and a different attitude to the EU. If, as I expect, a majority of Scots vote to remain in the EU, it would be a democratic outrage for us to be removed from the EU against our will."

Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans concluded:

"I represent Wales and EU membership has brought us positive economic, social and cultural benefits. I also believe that the EU has benefitted from having Wales as a member.

"There is a great deal about the EU I would like to change. But we can only do that by working with our European partners - to improve policy and make the EU more effective and more responsive.

"We are far better off working for change from within than shouting from the side-lines. If Wales votes to remain in, we should not be dragged out against our democratic will.

"I want to really engage people in an open, honest, fact-based and mature debate because it's a decision that will affect many generations to come." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called on the ESB and the Irish Government to outline a much needed management plan around the hydro-electric scheme built at Gearagh in the upper Lee Valley.

Speaking from Cork with the Sinn Féin Candidate for Cork North West, Nigel Dennehy , Ms Ní Riada said,

"I have met with representatives from the campaign group 'Free the Lee', which is a campaign aimed at recovering the Gearagh in the upper Lee Valley in County Cork. The Gearagh is a native alluvial forest and is both ecologically and culturally important.

"Over the past months 2,477 people have signed a petition in support of the restoration of The Gearagh, which campaigners believe is threatened due to the presence of two dams.

"This is an ongoing issue especially for a number of ecologists who are fully aware of the negative implications of dams on our rivers.

"A number of experts have contributed to the case outlining the impact such a hydroelectric scheme has on a natural river and these details are now in the public domain. Unfortunately no emphasis or mention was given over to the flood implications post clear-felling of thousands of acres of wet woodlands. Therefore it is suspected that this was a contributory factor to the severe flooding that the area has been hit with in recent months.

"Ecologists and river specialists have studied this area and are in full support of something concretely positive being undertaken by the responsible authorities. I am also calling for responsible authorities, in particular the ESB and the Irish Government to detail concrete plans outlining the future management of the dams, particularly around flood defence." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Anne Marie Logue has said that the people who broke into St Joseph’s school Antrim have deprived an entire community of much needed facilities.

 Councillor Logue said,

 “I was totally dismayed that over 50 laptops and computers have been stolen from St Joseph’s school Antrim during the night.

 “These laptops and computers are essential in the teaching of our children who have now been deprived of much needed equipment.

 “St Josephs School like all schools are facing tight budgets and are now having to look at replacing this equipment and repairing the damage to the school.

 “Not only is this an attack on the school but is an attack on the entire community who use the school.

 “I would appeal to anyone who has any information or is offered a computer or laptop in suspicious circumstances to report  it immediately to the PSNI.”

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General election candidate for Dublin Bay North Councillor Denise Mitchell has said that the increase in residential rents must be an election issue.

Speaking from Donnycarney today as the election was called she said,

“It comes as no surprise that Residential Rents have reached a Seven year high in quarter 3 2015. 

I deal with so many families who are living on the breadline because of an increase in rents. 

Many families have ended up homeless as they cannot meet the financial demands placed on them by some landlords.

Rents in Dublin for houses are almost double than that in the rest of the country at €1,408 and has increased by 9.3% in 2015.

This is not sustainable.  Labour and Fine Gael had five years to address the trend in increasing rents and they chose to ignore it.

We have over 1,500 hundred children today staying in emergency accommodation, hardly the legacy of a successful government.

Sinn Féin have committed to the building of 100,000 social housing units as well as rent certainty.

I am asking any families living in private rented accommodation to make this an election issue and to call out all election candidates across the board on this and demand fairness for all.” End

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Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has welcomed news that legislation to tackle so-called legal highs will soon be extended to the North. 

Ms McLaughlin, the chair of the Assembly's health committee, said; 

"There is no doubt about the misery psychoactive substances or so-called legal highs cause across all communities. 

"Toxic substances, which masquerade under the guise of legality, have led to deaths and caused untold harm to so many, particularly young people. 

"The passage of the landmark Psychoactive Substances Act will ban the production, supply and importation of these deadly substances and penalties will involve up to seven years imprisonment. 

"Sinn Féin has consistently called for an all-Ireland approach to deal with so-called legal highs and this legislation, which will come into effect here in the Spring, will be similar to legislation already in place in the 26 counties. 

"The legislation in the south was successful and led to the closure of almost 100 so-called head shops. 

"While this legislation is welcome in terms of tackling the local sale of so-called legal highs, many of these substances are sold online and we must ensure every effort is made to make sure these substances are not available anywhere."

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Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has today welcomed the news that the EU Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly has recommended a tightening of transparency standards in European decision-making.

Ms Boylan said:

‘The Ombudsman started an investigation in 2014 into the procedure for expert groups. There are over 800 expert groups made up of 25000 industry and civil society stakeholders currently making important recommendation to the Commission on various legislation which shapes the lives of half a billion people in Europe.

 Unfortunately, these so-called expert groups have been accused in the past of being heavily weighted in favour of industry and not transparent in how they conduct their business.

‘Last year I submitted proposals to a European Parliament transparency report where I called for the minutes of these expert group meetings and declarations of interest for each member to be published. 

I am therefore extremely pleased the Ombudsman is also concerned with the lack of transparency in the current operation of these groups. It is important for the democratic process that citizens can see the composition of these groups, the views each member expressed and how these influence legislative decisions by the Commission.

‘I look forward to hearing the how the Commission intends to implement the necessary recommendations required of an open and transparent mode of decision making.’

ENDS//

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has today reiterated calls for all EU countries halt any authorisation of new hydraulic fracturing, (fracking), operations.

Speaking after voting in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Ms Anderson said,

"Fracking is not only an all-Ireland issue, it is a European issue. Today the Sinn Féin MEPs and the GUE/NGL group voted in favour of urging all member states not authorising any new hydraulic fracturing operations in the EU.

"Taking into account the risks and the negative climate, environmental and biodiversity impacts involved in hydraulic fracturing we need to be active in our opposition, which Sinn Féin has been, in all forums.

"However, it is disappointing, yet not surprising that the other two MEPs, from the North of Ireland Jim Nicholson and Diane Dodds, voted against this resolution, ultimately implying that it is acceptable for EU member states to authorise new hydraulic fracturing operations.

"At a major European Fracking conference that I held last February in Fermanagh, it was revealed that if fracking was brought to the north of Ireland, it would create a maximum of ten jobs. Therefore, the argument that fracking could boost employment is nonsence; the agri-food sector, the environment and the water ways, create more jobs than fracking ever could. All of these sectors would be under threat from fracking.

"Fracking is not a short term project; it has major long term implications, which it appears my fellow MEPs, Jim Nicholson and Diane Dodds and their party colleagues fail to recognise." ENDS

NOTES

Full text of resolution:

Urges the Member States – on the basis of the precautionary principle and the principle that preventive action should be taken, and taking into account the risks and the negative climate, environmental and biodiversity impacts involved in hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons, and the gaps identified in the EU regulatory regime for shale gas activities – not to authorise any new hydraulic fracturing operations in the EU;

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 Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has said the next Irish Government needs to do more to resolve the issue around creating an all-Ireland food label.

 Mr McElduff said,

 “The Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Michelle O’Neill told the Assembly this week that she is doing all in her power to achieve all-Ireland labeling for food.

 “The Minister also indicated she had been jointly invited, along with Irish government Minister Coveney to meet with farmers, processors and marts in an further attempt to resolve this ongoing issue.

 “It is important especially to farmers in the North that we achieve one label of origin for all livestock on the island. At the moment farmers in the North are being penalised due to partition.

 “I am disappointed that while the Minister, DEFRA in Britain and European Commissioner Hogan have recognised this negative impact on our farmers that outgoing Irish Agriculture Minister Coveney has only paid lip service to the plight of the farmers.

 “The island-of-Ireland food label would solve the issue for the beef sector and other sectors that are impacted on as a result of country-of-origin labeling.

 “It is crucial after the Southern Election that any new Agriculture Minister ensures all-island labeling is top of their agenda and we resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

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Speaking after Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed the dissolution of the Dáil, Sinn Féin Leader, Gerry Adams TD, has said:

“Fine Gael and Labour have presided over some of the most reprehensible policy decisions ever made by a Government in this State, and they have brought chaos to the lives of ordinary citizens.

“They cut child benefit, the back to school allowance, the respite care grant, 1.5 million home help hours, and they abolished the bereavement grant.

“They promised a new health service. Instead, last year we saw the highest number of patients on trolleys since records began and we have the worst A&E waiting times in Europe. The aim of this Government, if re-elected this time around, is to privatise healthcare.

“Workers’ wages were cut and another generation forced into emigration.

“They saddled struggling households with excessive mortgages, Water Charges and a Family Home Tax whilst reducing taxes for the wealthy.

“They refused to invest in house building, abdicating responsibility to developers and taking the side of landlords against tenants.

“But now, for the first time since the foundation of this State, there is an opportunity for real change.

“The choice is between two visions for Irish society. A Fine Gael led Government that will deliver more of the same unfairness and inequality, or a Sinn Féin led Government that has a plan to deliver a fair recovery for all citizens, and put stability back into the lives of the average family.

“That is why our first priority in Government will be to abolish Water Charges and the Property Tax, and take more than a quarter of a million people out of the USC net.

“Polling day is the citizens’ day, and the people have choices to make.

“I hope they choose for fairness and for genuine Republican politics. I hope they vote for Sinn Féin.”

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Speaking in support of today’s TUI strike, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said that there was an onus on the Minister for Education to return to talks with the union and for the incoming government to address the concerns raised by teachers and lecturers about the process to establish technological universities.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“There are over 4,000 lecturers and researchers on strike today and they are supported by the Union of Students in Ireland.

“Sinn Féin have consistently warned against the austerity policies being implemented by Labour Minister Jan O’Sullivan that saw the Institute of Technology sector funding cut by 35% and staff numbers decrease while student numbers rise.

“Since Christmas, the Minister and her department attempted to ram through complex legislation to establish technological universities which is more about rationalisation and cutbacks than it is about providing a decent standard of education for students and failed to address a range of substantial concerns.

“Staff in precarious employment deserve to have their concerns addressed and students deserve to be taught in lecture halls that are not overcrowded by staff who are not overworked.  

“The Minister for Education must engage meaningfully with the trade unions, and that must entail more than tokenistic briefing sessions by Departmental officials, and the same applies to the incoming government.

“If any technological universities project is to succeed it has to be resourced accordingly and cannot be used as an excuse to implement further austerity policies on staff and students.”

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Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that the “responsibility lies with the Government to safeguard our culture and heritage”.  The deputy went on to say that “it is imperative that we preserve this site. Its historic, cultural and political significance cannot be underestimated.”

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:

“In this centenary year, every county in Ireland will organise commemorative events and reflect on how 1916 changed the history and political course of Ireland. However this is all happening in a time when relatives of our 1916 heroes have been forced to go to court to halt construction work, or destructive work, to the historic battle site and final meeting place of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic at Easter 1916. This is a damning indictment of this Government and demonstrates the utter contempt that they have shown to the legacy of the men and women of 1916.

“The responsibility lies with the Government to safeguard our culture and heritage. Instead, the contrary has happened. They have allowed the developers, speculators and profiteers to take control. They fed off grossly inflated property prices during the Celtic Tiger and they saw this street and this site purely as a source of speculative profit. That continues to this day because now, in our so-called recovery, more interests are lining up to see how they can profit from this site. Today a developer plans to level most of it in order to build a shopping mall. This cannot happen. We must not let it happen.

“It is imperative that we preserve this site. Its historic, cultural and political significance cannot be underestimated.

“The people of Ireland, the Irish diaspora and friends of Ireland everywhere, are looking forward to this significant centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. There is also significant public support across the island of Ireland and throughout the diaspora for the full preservation of this national monument and the development of the surrounding General Post Office (GPO)/Moore Street area into an historic revolutionary quarter and battlefield site

“We call on the Government to immediately rescind the Ministerial Order that allows for the demolition of numbers 13, 18 and 19 Moore Street.” 

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Kerry Sinn Féin TD, Martin Ferris, himself a former Kerry footballer, has called on the Dubs of Hill 16 to help save the 1916 battlefield site at Moore Street.

Speaking on his party’s motion during private members’ time this evening, Deputy Ferris said:

“I know that the people of Dublin will never let the bulldozers into Moore Street.

“I know that the spirit of 1916 lives in Hill 16, among the thousands of Dublin GAA members and supporters who have upheld a proud republican tradition.

“I know that the people of the city that fought an empire will not let the destruction of Moore Street take place, not on their watch, not on my watch, and not on this party’s watch.”

He concluded by asking all parties to unite, in one of the last actions of this Dáil, to save Moore Street for future generations. 

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