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Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people

Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



“HAP is not a solution and if the government succeeds in passing it into law, it will have wide ranging negative effects on the future of housing in Ireland and our ability to tackle housing need in the years to come.”



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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has called on the Government to ensure that they are the last Government to make political appointments to the judiciary.

He made the appeal today as the second stage of his Reform of Judicial Appointments Procedures Bill 2013 was debated in the Dáil.

The Reform of Judicial Appointments Procedures Bill 2013 is designed to amend the way in which the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board operates in order to increase transparency and accountability in judicial appointments.

The Donegal North East TD said;

“I am disappointed that the Government are opposing my bill but I remain hopeful that the current governmental review of the judicial appointments process will bring an end to political appointments to the judiciary.

“The appointments process needs drastic reform and public confidence in the justice system is contingent on a judiciary which is free from political control or political or other bias. It is essential that there is an independent and impartial judiciary which is representative of the community it serves.

“A truly representative judiciary would enhance confidence in the justice system. It would also promote the development of a non-partisan judiciary, and thereby further promote a culture of judicial independence.

“Future judicial appointments should be drawn from a wider pool of qualified candidates that is fully representative of the community in order to eradicate the corrosive and unaccountable system of patronage previously in operation.

“This bill is part of Sinn Féin’s campaign to end the political cronyism that has been embedded in Irish society.

“We cannot allow a ‘jobs for the boys and girls’ attitude to permeate something so fundamentally important as the administration of justice in this State and this bill is one part of a range of measures that we intend to propose.

“As well as increasing transparency and accountability in the appointment of judges, we also want to see a judicial council and complaints body that will hold judges to account, as well as a Code of Ethics that they should abide by.

“We also want to see the establishment of a Sentencing Council here in this State that provides clear sentencing guidelines to the judiciary similar to that in place in England and Wales. This would ensure accountability and consistency in judicial decisions.”

ENDS

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Speaking after the erection of yet more flags across mixed residential areas of South Belfast, Alex Maskey has slammed the lack of political will within unionism to deal with contentious issues.

 Mr Maskey stated,

 “Last night the Finaghy area became the latest community to be subjected to the erection of yet more flags. Over the past few days my office and my party colleague Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has again been inundated with complaints from residents about what they see as acts of intimidation in the erection of these flags.

 “The Finaghy area, like other parts of South Belfast, is one, which has experienced significant shifts in demographics in recent years. At best, this factual reality is being ignored and at worst it has motivated sections within loyalism to attempt to intimidate what is a mixed identity community.

 “These situations are being allowed to develop and fester due to the lack of political will within unionism to deal with contentious issues such as flags.

 “The Haass process presented the greatest potential to date to deal with contentious issues but unfortunately unionism failed to sign up to the proposals.

 “In the immediate future I will be again raising the flags issue in South Belfast directly with the PSNI.

 “The annual raising of tensions through the erection of flags on lamp posts, particularly in mixed identity communities is unsustainable.

 “However there can be no dodging these issues in the future. The political will must be created within unionism to find resolutions to contentious issues. The people who elect us to represent them expect and deserve no less.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has written to the Finance Committee requesting that the Financial Regulator and other relevant bodies be called in to discuss the closure of Setanta Insurance.

Deputy Doherty said information he has received from the Malta Financial Services Authority, which regulated Setanta Insurance, raises new questions about the Financial Regulator’s handling of the Setanta collapse.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The collapse of Setanta Insurance left 75,000 people in financial difficulty and many small businesses facing bills for non-existent insurance cover and another bill for a new policy. This process of dragging information out of the Central Bank and Minister Noonan is adding insult to injury to those policy holders.

“The Malta Financial Services Authority has confirmed to me that the first contact with the Regulator here took place in September 2013 ‘in relation to the solvency position of the company’ and that ‘Initial contact was made in September 2013 where the Central Bank of Ireland was provided with the financial statements of Setanta. It should be clarified that at that stage the company was still maintaining its legal solvency requirements.’

“Yesterday evening the Minister for Finance stated that the Regulator had indeed been in communication with Malta since September 2013. In a host of previous replies the Minister consistently said the Regulator began investigating the company in November 2013.

“Although the company was still solvent by the lower legal standards in Malta the financial statements would have shown them to be in trouble by Irish standards and indeed even by the regulatory standards in Malta.

“The Malta Financial Services Authority also confirmed to me that the company has been operating below its regulatory level since 2011. They also confirmed the company does not employ a single person in Malta.

“Clearly the government had concerns about Setanta in September 2013 but it waited months and months to do anything about. In the meantime thousands of policies which are now null and void where signed.

“I have therefore written to the Finance Committee requesting that the Financial Regulator any other relevant bodies be called in to discuss the Setanta case so that I and the other members can quiz him directly on what he knew and when.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has warned of people to be cautious of scammers using the potential ‘Two Week’ computer virus in order to access their personal information.

Mr Flanagan said,

“The ‘Two Week’ virus has been widely reported in the media as having the potential to lock your computer and Internet Service Providers have been contacting those at risk.

“However, unscrupulous people are using the threat of the so-called ‘Two Week’ computer virus in order to access personal computers.

“I have been made aware of people receiving cold calls from companies claiming to represent computer or broadband providers looking for access codes and financial details.

“These opportune criminals are cold calling homes telling them of the threat from the Two Week virus and asking for login and other personal information including financial details.

“They offer computer upgrades, installation of anti-viruses in order to protect the computer from this virus then claim they need credit card details so they can install the software online.

“I would appeal to people not to be taken in by this scam. Never divulge personal information over the phone or through e-mail as genuine Internet Providers do not ask for these details.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has encouraged people to support an anti-racism rally in Belfast city centre on Saturday afternoon. 

Speaking ahead of Saturday's march, the Junior Minister said; 

"This is an opportunity for people to stand up and show their rejection of racism in all its forms. 

"It is also about showing support and solidarity for our ethnic minority communities who have contributed so much to the cultural diversity of our society. 

"We want to send out a clear message that racist attitudes or attacks will not be tolerated in Belfast or anywhere across the island. 

"It is important that as many people as possible come along on Saturday to stand alongside our minority communities to reject racism. 

"We are asking people to come along to Writers' Square for 1.30pm to begin the march and rally at 2pm."

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Sinn Fein’s Peadar Tóibín TD has expressed shock at the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation’s refusal to agree to a Dáil debate on the EU Colombian Trade Agreement in advance of ratification by this state.

The Meath West TD said:

“Despite all the talk of citizens’ disconnect with the EU during the recent European Parliament elections the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has refused to agree to a Dáil debate on the EU’s proposed trade agreement with Colombia in advance of ratification by this state.

“Ireland’s ratification of the agreement is subject to prior approval of the Dáil so the short of it is the Minister is refusing to allow TDs debate a trade agreement that he will be seeking their approval on.

“Colombia has had 60 years of conflict, at the heart of which has been the question of land and land grabs. Human rights violations in the country are directly linked to the extremely unequal distribution of land, power and wealth.

“In truth Fine Gael and Labour have a unique opportunity to use Ireland’s leverage in the EU to advocate for human rights in Colombia.

“When debating the agreement the European Parliament raised significant concerns on human rights, environmental rights and labour rights in Colombia.

“Oversight and human rights provisions in the agreement are not sufficiently robust or independent and the Commission has failed to reflect the parliament’s concerns and recommendations in the final agreement due for ratification by Ireland this year.

“Security forces in Colombia are using excessive force and last year alone 70 people were killed during increased social protests against land grabs, working conditions, large-project developments and opposition to free trade agreements which are proving detrimental to peasant farmers who make up one third of the country’s population increased.

“These actions by the Colombia’s security forces negate Minister Bruton’s position that the EU’s trade agreement with Colombia is a vehicle for positive change.

“Members of the Dáil must at a minimum be given the ability and right to debate the EU’s trade agreement its consequences for Colombian citizens and their human rights before voting on it.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has described the latest quarterly mortgage arrears figures from the Central Bank as “very worrying”.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I welcome the slight decrease in the numbers of households in mortgage arrears. However the figures point to a ramping up of legal action by the banks. The number of legal actions they have initiated in the first quarter of the year has jumped to over 3,000; that is 34 letters a day arriving in people’s letter boxes threatening their home.

“Three years into this government ‘s term and seven years on from the economic crisis we still have a huge mortgage crisis which shows no sign of being resolved. The numbers in arrears has started to come down from its peak but still stand at nearly double the number at the time of the last general election.

“The very worrying aspect of these figures is the fact that 60,549 families have been in arrears of over a year and that figure is increasing. Over 35,000 of these families are now in arrears of over two years. This is very worrying; not only for these families but also for the wider economy as clearly these families are mired in debt.

“The government’s handling of this crisis has lacked ambition and determination. We saw an example of this yesterday when the Central Bank published unambitious targets which would leave 55% of those in arrears without agreement on a long term solution by the end of the year.

“The government must stand up for those in arrears and inject some momentum and ambition into resolving this crisis. These two factors have been sorely lacking for the past three years of this government’s term.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has called on the Department of the Environment to end the confusion over a controversial levy for hauliers crossing the border. 

The West Tyrone MLA said; 

"Since April 1 when the Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Levy came into force from Westminster, hauliers entering the North have been required to pay a tax. 

"This legislation does not take account our circumstances here where many hauliers operate on an all-island basis. 

"Sinn Féin has consistently raised our opposition to its imposition in the North as it goes against all our efforts to promote trade across the island and to develop the all-Ireland economy. 

"I welcome the reassurance from the environment minister that this illogical levy will not be enforced in the North but there is still some confusion out there among hauliers. 

"DVA officials are stopping hauliers at Strabane, Ballygawley, Enniskillen, Armagh and other border crossings and handing out leaflets providing information on the levy and how it can be paid. 

"This is causing great confusion because on one hand the department is saying the levy will not be enforced while on the other drivers are being given information on how it can be paid. 

"The department needs to act decisively to end the uncertainty and confusion over this issue so that it does not become a barrier to trade."

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Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said the Attorney General has been asked to look at legislation to ban so-called 'legal high' drugs.

Speaking after the deaths of 20 people as a result of taking unclassified 'legal high' drugs was discussed at today's Executive meeting, the health committee chair said; 

"The deaths of 20 people as a result of these so-called 'legal high' drugs is a major public health issue. 

"I asked for this to be raised at the Executive today to explore what options are available to the Justice Minister to ban this toxic drug and remove it from our streets. 

"I understand both the health minister and the justice minister were lobbied on this issue and  the Attorney General has been asked to look at the legislation to see what can be done to ban these substances.

"We have a duty to explore every avenue to keep people safe from the scourge of the misuse of drugs, both legal and illegal."

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Demand for Israeli ambassador to Ireland to be expelled reiterated


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Michael Colreavy TD & Cllr Darren O'Rourke