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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has challenged new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on what he described as “the sham” of new politics.

The Sinn Féin Leader also criticised the “fake outrage” consistently expressed by Fianna Fáil in holding the government to account.

Speaking directly to Mr Varadkar at Leaders Questions this afternoon, Teachta Adams said;

“You have been at the centre of controversy over the appointment of Former Attorney General Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal. 

“While I cast no aspersions on the ability of the former AG it appears that the normal procedure for judicial appointments was not adhered to in this case.

“Yet you have defended the appointment and the process. You stand over it.

“Indeed you pressed ahead and requested that the President ratify Ms Whelan’s appointment yesterday morning.

“This controversy has overshadowed your appointment of three Super Junior Ministers when you are permitted to appoint only two.  

“This is hardly new politics.

“Meanwhile, last month there were eight thousand one hundred and fifty four citizens on trolleys in our hospitals. That’s a twenty three percent increase on last year.

“Almost 92,000 families languish on local authority waiting lists. There are almost 5,000 homeless adults. 2,708 children are in emergency accommodation.

“What’s new about the politics that creates and sustains this inequality and stress in the lives of citizens?

“What’s new about Fianna Fáil’s fake outrage?

“What’s new about the soldiers of destiny marching up to the top of the hill, their brass-necks glistening in the sun?

“When it comes to the crunch, as always, they simply roll-over.

“The hard, undeniable reality is that this government remains in power because of Fianna Fáil.

“It is all about sustaining the status quo.

“Do you agree Taoiseach that these ‘new politics’ are a sham?

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Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD, speaking on the renewal of certain provisions of the Offences Against the State Act in the Dáil this evening, has said, “a comprehensive review of the emergency legislation in advance of its renewal next year is required.”

Teachta O’Brien said “the Gardaí and the criminal justice system need to be equipped to effectively and relentlessly target organised crime bosses, their operations and their assets.”

He said;

“The continuing spate of gang-related murders in Dublin and the fear within communities most directly affected by the activities of violent organised criminals requires a sustained and focussed response.

“In this regard, a comprehensive review of the emergency legislation in advance of its renewal next year is required, which should focus on how to modernise the criminal justice system to make it responsive to the needs of Ireland in 2017.

“Sinn Féin believes we need new legislation repealing the outdated emergency acts currently in place and replacing it with strengthened legislation providing for new courts to deal with these particular cases.

“While always supporting, defending and promoting the judicial norm of the right to a jury trial, only in very special circumstances should we deviate from this in order to protect the judicial process. Currently, hearings at the Family Court are held ‘in camera’ while the Drug Treatment Court is a specialised court operating within the legal system.

“The reality is that the Gardaí and the courts are facing 21st century challenges with 20th century legislation. The current outdated criminal justice system does not act as a deterrent to organised crime. It is in fact exploited by them.

“Sinn Féin recognises that there are certain criminal cases which are more difficult to prosecute given the nature of organised crime today. The opportunity for well organised and well-funded criminal enterprises to influence juries or tamper with evidence or intimidate witnesses is greater than in the vast majority of criminal cases.

“Therefore Sinn Féin does not oppose special courts to deal with the very specific circumstances of violent organised criminal gangs which present serious threats to the security of the state and communities when the ordinary courts are prevented from securing the effective administration of justice. The Constitution provides for this.

“Sinn Féin has also called for a proper examination of the option of juror anonymity and other special arrangements to protect those involved in court cases dealing with organised crime.”

Full text of Deputy O’Brien’s speech follows:

The continuing spate of gang-related murders in Dublin and the fear within communities most directly affected by the activities of violent organised criminals requires a sustained and focussed response.

Sinn Féin stands 100% with citizens, Gardaí and the courts against the unprecedented threat of organised crime.

To properly confront this threat and the wider, corrosive impact it is having on our society, the Gardaí and the criminal justice system require the tools to do their job effectively.

In this regard, a comprehensive review of the emergency legislation in advance of its renewal next year is required, which should focus on how to modernise the criminal justice system to make it responsive to the needs of Ireland in 2017.

Sinn Féin believes we need new legislation repealing the outdated emergency acts currently in place and replacing it with strengthened legislation providing for new courts to deal with these particular cases.

The Gardaí and the criminal justice system need to be equipped to effectively and relentlessly target organised crime bosses, their operations and their assets.

Sophisticated, organised, well-resourced and murderous threats to citizens require a focussed and rigorous response.

Any strategy to counter the threat posed by crime gangs with a huge international reach needs to be intelligent and multi-layered.

One of those layers must be at community level.

We need targeted and substantial investment in community development, education and employment, particularly in areas where organised crime gangs are recruiting members and where their malign influence is having a devastating effect on social cohesion.

A level of investment in local community policing, greater than anything we have witnessed so far, is required.

This must include an end to the reckless and irresponsible policy of closing local Garda stations.

Those at the upper echelons of the crime syndicates are well known to the authorities and are clearly deploying the huge resources at their disposal to avoiding prosecution.

This requires the state to prioritise and adequately resource intelligence gathering and intelligence-led operations against key organised crime organisations.

It also requires full cooperation between the Gardaí and police services abroad, especially in countries where crime syndicates directing organised crime in Ireland are based.

The Gardaí must have the ability to respond rapidly to violent incidents and threats, and to deploy highly trained armed units.

We also need the Courts to be resourced so they can effectively expedite criminal trials and demonstrate that justice can be delivered fairly and swiftly.

While always supporting, defending and promoting the judicial norm of the right to a jury trial, only in very special circumstances should we deviate from this in order to protect the judicial process.

Currently, hearings at the Family Court are held ‘in camera’ while the Drug Treatment Court is a specialised court operating within the legal system

Sinn Féin’s position on the use of special courts in dealing with organised crime has been seriously misrepresented by our political opponents and elements of the media.

The reality is that the Gardaí and the courts are facing 21st century challenges with 20th century legislation.

This needs to change.

The current outdated criminal justice system does not act as a deterrent to organised crime. It is in fact exploited by them.

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) was first established under the Offences against the State Act (OASA) during the Second World War to counter what the Government at the time claimed was a threat to the state’s neutrality from the IRA.

Its current incarnation dates from May 1972, following Bloody Sunday in Derry and the escalating political conflict in the North.

The reality is that the OASA and the SCC are ineffective relics of a conflict-era, which have failed to deal with the new threats posed by organised crime.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish and British Governments have a responsibility to work towards the normalisation of policing and security matters.

That means ending the state of emergency under which the OASA operates.

An academic debate about the merits or otherwise of the SCC during the political conflict will not make communities in 2017 any safer from the activities of organised crime.

This is what needs to be the focus now.

The current threat to the administration of justice, including jury intimidation, emanates from the rise of ruthless, organised criminal gangs, principally involved in drug-related and violent crime.

Sinn Féin recognises that there are certain criminal cases which are more difficult to prosecute given the nature of organised crime today.

The opportunity for well organised and well-funded criminal enterprises to influence juries or tamper with evidence or intimidate witnesses is greater than in the vast majority of criminal cases.

Therefore Sinn Féin does not oppose special courts to deal with the very specific circumstances of violent organised criminal gangs which present serious threats to the security of the state and communities when the ordinary courts are prevented from securing the effective administration of justice. The Constitution provides for this.

The objective is to minimise the capacity for those on trial to interfere with or influence the outcome of such cases by engaging in jury or witness intimidation.

Sinn Féin has also called for a proper examination of the option of juror anonymity and other special arrangements to protect those involved in court cases dealing with organised crime.

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said banks cannot be given a free hand by the removal of Section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 which gives the Central Bank the power to authorise increases in fees and commissions.

He was responding to a suggestion from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission that the Section should be reviewed.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I am completely opposed to any review of Section 149. It is a safeguard that exists for a reason. If this section had not existed during recent years I am sure banks would have increased charges and fees even more than they did. The mere existence of the section inhibits banks from increasing fees and commissions at the drop of the hat.  

“I hope this proposal falls with the publication of this report. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission should remember their mandate is not just competition.

“Bank customers have put up with a lot, to put it mildly, this step would be an insult and should be rejected out of hand.”

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Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has said that the newly appointed Minister of State on Mental Health has a big job to do to improve services. He was commenting on the appointment of Jim Daly TD to the role in todays cabinet reshuffle.

Deputy Buckley continued;

"I know Jim Daly to be a decent, hardworking public representative and I hope that we can work closely on some of the very important outstanding issues in reform of the mental health services. I also want to thank Helen McEntee who is leaving the role. We did not always see eye to eye but I know she cared about the issues we dealt with deeply.

“At present we are still to put the meat on the bones of planning for a 24/7 mental health services, we are well behind in addressing the failure to adequately treat mental health and addictions together and child and adolescent services are not just inadequate but under serious threat with thousands waiting for their initial assessment.

“The new Minister will have to be a fighter for the rights of people with mental health issues. He will have to be a strong voice at cabinet to ensure that the new cabinet supports real significant investment in mental health services after an extremely disappointing budget in 2016.

“The Minister must also be a strong voice against austerity and for social and community investment more broadly to support vulnerable people where they live and avoid an over reliance on inpatient care.

“I will do my best to work constructively with the Minister to that end and I ask that he ensures his office is one which is open to the voices, the experience and ideas of those who have been through the services, those who have cared for them and those who fight for their rights as advocates and campaigners.

“Doing this will be a very good step in the right direction and I look forward to discussing this with him soon."

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Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion has criticised An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s appointment of just seven women out of a possible 33 junior and senior ministries.

Speaking today the Carlow/Kilkenny TD said;

“At a time when Irish women face increased hardship as a result of the austerity policies of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour; when women and children live in danger due to cuts in domestic violence and rape crisis services; when the state’s maternity hospitals are literally falling apart; when women are forced out of the workplace due to lack of affordable childcare; in the face of a referendum on the eighth amendment, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, in his wisdom, has seen fit to appoint only seven women to the 33 available junior and senior ministry positions.

“Truly this is no government for Irish women as the jobs for the boys, crony culture pioneered by their friends in Fianna Fáil is perpetuated by the so-called ‘new politics’ of Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar.”

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Speaking on World Refugee Day Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien today reiterated the party’s longstanding call for an end to direct provision and legislation that would allow refugees the right to work.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“Thousands of people flee for their lives each day and 4,300 of those people are now languishing in direct provision centres here in Ireland.

“We want to stand with the strength, courage and perseverance of refugees and acknowledge that we do not believe that people should be forced to remain in substandard direct provision centres with no control over how they live their lives.

“I am calling on the government to implement the outstanding recommendations of the McMahon Report and end direct provision and introduce legislation that would allow those who are seeking asylum to work legally in Ireland.

“We have a responsibility to welcome people into our communities and ensure they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

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Sinn Féin TD for the Offaly and North Tipperary Constituency, Teachta Carol Nolan, has today said that figures from the HSE show clearly the failure of current and previous governments to invest in mental health services.

Teachta Nolan said:

“The Vision for Change, published in 2006 recommends that 12,778 full time staff should be employed in the mental health service in 2017, taking into account population increases.

“Figures released from the HSE show that just 9,815 whole time equivalents are employed in mental health services across the state in 2017.

“Across the state, child and adolescent mental health services have only 53% of the staff deemed necessary under a Vision for Change, while for adult teams that number if 78%.

“In HSE area CHO8, the area that covers a significant proportion of the midlands area, including Counties Offaly and Laois, the figures are stark.

“The Child and Adolescent services have just 57% of the staffing levels recommended under a vision for change, with a gap of 76 whole time staff.

“The adult service has 80% of the recommended staffing levels with a shortfall of 57 full time staff.

“These figures clearly show the failure of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour Governments to adequately invest in mental health services and implement the vision for change recommendations.

“Of course, this has had a huge impact on our communities, as a recent UNICEF study shows that Ireland has the fourth highest teen suicide rate in the EU and 22.6% of children aged between 11 and 15 stated that they had experienced two or more psychological symptoms more than once a week.

“The HSE National Vision for Change Working Group states ‘the mainstay of any mental health service is the sector-based Community Mental Health Team’ yet these teams are being starved of resources and are being consistently asked to do more with less.

“Sinn Féin has consistently called for more investment in mental health services – in our alternative budget we provided for an additional 14 community mental health teams and investment towards 24/7 crisis support services.”

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Sinn Fein Deputy Leader and Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald has today published a comprehensive and substantive document on the Mater Hospital.

Deputy McDonald was joined at a press event today by her party’s Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD and by Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association.

She said;

“This report was compiled from a series of parliamentary questions, engagement with the HSE and discussions with stake holders and service providers.

“The Mater has a massive catchment area. It provides not just a local service but also provides many specific specialities such as in the area of transplants.

“It is in all of our interests that the hospital works and works well.  This why we have produced this discussion document.  We wanted to see how well it was working.

“I want to acknowledge the staff of the Mater who as we know are a committed, caring and very overworked group of people.  There aren’t enough of them.  

“There aren’t enough staff because of the moratorium on public sector recruitment.  

“So a figure that jumps out from this discussion document is the amount of money being spent on agency staff.  Over €26,000,000 has been spent on agency staff over the last eight years.

“Agency staff is the most expensive way to staff any service.  

“There are many other such startling figures in terms of hospital cancellations, waiting times, emergency department attendances and so on.

“So I would encourage people who work in the voluntary sector or who are professionals working in health to read this document.  I would also encourage those who are patients of the Mater to read it.  

“The detailed information gathered in this document clearly illustrates the pressures and stresses faced by both the staff and the patients of the Mater.

“It also shows government under spending in Health.  This has consequences for service provision and will have consequences for patients in cancellations of elective surgery, longer waiting times and less resources available to treat them.

“Our health service is in crisis.  This report is a snapshot of that crisis in one hospital.  Sinn Féin wants to fix that crisis. We don’t just have ideas and plans but worked out costed strategies.

“Sinn Féin’s plan for the future health service will place every citizen at the centre of a healthcare system, free at the point of delivery.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said it is clear the wheels are starting to come off the British government's Brexit agenda. 

Martina Anderson said: 

"Remarks made by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney at the Mansion House in London reveal what we have known all along, that Brexit is bad for the economy. 

"Mark Carney told the assembled crowd of bankers and merchants, and the British Chancellor, that there is 'weaker real income growth' as a result of Brexit. 

"It is clear that the uncertainty over the disastrous Tory Brexit agenda is having a negative impact on markets, deterring investors and putting jobs in jeopardy. 

"Sinn Féin have brought forward a credible alternative to Brexit with our case for the north to have designated special status within the EU and we have been building support for that across Ireland and across Europe. 

"We now need to see the Irish government demanding special designated status for the north within the EU in the current Brexit negotiations."

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West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer has welcomed the completion of the new Omagh Hospital and Primary Care complex and said that the co-location of primary, secondary and community services on the one site reflects the vision of the Bengoa Report.

Mr McAleer was speaking after a tour of the new hospital along with Michaela Boyle MLA and other local representatives, including Cllrs Sean Clarke and Frankie Donnelly.

"This is a state-of-the-art healthcare facility right at the heart of the Omagh community. With a range of co-located services under the one roof, this represents the vision outlined by Professor Bengoa.

"With services such as GPs, urgent care, cardiac assessment, renal, a children’s dept and 40 individual en suite wards this new facility will cater for the vast majority of health needs for generations to come.

"There are 17 different specialties in the new complex and the introduction of the new shuttle bus service (384e) every 30 minutes from Omagh bus station starting at 7.40am until 6pm, then hourly until 9pm, makes the new facility accessible for everyone.

"The final move of patients from the Tyrone County Hospital is taking place today (Tuesday) and while this will effectively bring the curtain down on the TCH, it will usher in a new era of joined up health care provision in the district. This good news for Omagh."

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Sinn Féin’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill has called on political unionism to join the debate about shaping a new and agreed Ireland.

Writing for the eamonmallie.com website ahead of a major conference on Irish Unity this weekend, which is open to the public, the Mid-Ulster MLA also pointed to recent election results as evidence of growing demand for reunification.

“The trend is obvious, there is a growing nationalist and republican vote, there is a growing progressive vote that is looking for real change,” she writes.

“In the recent Westminster election, unionist parties failed to secure 50% of the vote for the first time in the northern state, despite pitching it as a referendum on the union. If the result was a high water mark for unionism then the tide is certainly turning because the growing nationalist electorate have clearly turned their back on Westminster and now see the future based on all-Ireland and European representation.”

Michelle O’Neill continued: “Sinn Féin accepts that it is up to us to convince unionists of the merits of a new Ireland and we are confident that we have the economic, social and political arguments to do so. 

“Independent studies have already concluded that the island’s economy would benefit to the tune of €35 billion. Can any responsible political party really close their minds to that simply because it isn’t what they want to hear?

“We are confident about reunification. We are confident in our analysis and our vision of hope for the future.

“Unionism now needs to ask itself if it is as confident about the benefits of a union that has brought us Brexit, austerity, partition, conflict and decades of inequality and discrimination?”

The National Conference, ‘An Agreed Future?’ takes place in the Waterfront, Belfast at 12pm on Saturday June 24th. You can read Michelle O’Neill’s full article here: http://eamonnmallie.com/2017/06/tide-turns-favour-new-ireland-michelle-o-neill/

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More than assurances are required from the DUP to secure an agreement to form a new Executive, Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly MLA has said.

Speaking from Stormont today, the North Belfast MLA said:

“Sinn Féin are engaged and working for an agreement. We want to see the institutions back up and running and a sustainable, credible Executive in place, which can deliver first-class public services on the basis of equality, respect and integrity.

“A resolution is possible but the implementation of previous agreements is central to that if citizens are to have any faith in it.

“Obviously, these discussions are also taking place against the backdrop of the DUP-Tory Party negotiations and the Brexit talks, both of which have the potential to negatively impact on this process. 

“So we are going to need more than reassurances that any deal between Arlene Foster and Theresa May won’t undermine this process. 

“We need to see the detail because it is the Tories who undermined the Executive in the first place by pandering to the DUP’s actions in government and slashing over £1 billion from the Block Grant. 

“And it is the Tories who may inflict yet more cuts on the North through their austerity policies, regardless of any deal with the DUP.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay North Denise Mitchell has said recent figures obtained by her colleague Louise O'Reilly TD from the HSE which show that community teams for mental health services have only around two-thirds of necessary staff in Dublin Bay North are “deeply worrying”:

“These figures which show that our child and adolescent mental health services are severely understaffed are shocking and worrying,” she said.

“When it comes to Community Teams for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) staffing levels in North Dublin are at just 69% of those recommended in the Government's 'A Vision for Change' mental health plan. General adult mental health services staffing levels are even lower again at 66%.

“If mental health really is a priority for this Government then it needs to step up to the mark and ensure that mental health services are adequately staffed and appropriately funded.

“The shortage of staff is not unique to mental health services. It is part of a broader problem in our health services which includes issues around working conditions, pay and training opportunities; which are making it difficult to hire and retain staff – particularly front-line workers. Until these issues are addressed there is no doubt the crisis will continue to grow.”

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Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has that the figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation on the number of patients on trolleys for May are shocking and a symptom of a health service that is completely out of control and lacking leadership from the Minister.

Speaking today Deputy O’Reilly said:

“The figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation on the number of patients on trolleys for May are shocking. That 8,154 patients languished on trolleys in hospitals around the state in completely unacceptable to the patients, to their families, to the hardworking staff in our hospitals, and to the people of the state.

“The trolley crisis, like the waiting list crisis, is a symptom of a health service with huge capacity issues and problems regarding the recruitment and retention of healthcare staff.  It is also a symptom of a Government which lacks the appetite to address these fundamental problems and a Minister for Health devoid of leadership.

“Due to the legacy of the recruitment embargo and funding cuts thereafter, beds have been closed, staff have been lost, and the capacity of the health service is far too small. Currently, staffing shortages are leading to the closure of both acute and long-term beds closed in many hospitals.

“The number of patients on trolleys reinforces the extent of the crisis and highlights the failure of the Government’s recent nursing recruitment drive which aims to attract 100 nurses each month into the health service but is only currently managing to attract around 32 per month.

“I have said it on several occasions before and so have patients, advocacy groups, healthcare staff, and their Trade Unions - it is in all our interests to resolve the staff recruitment and retention issues in our health service. If this is not addressed then doubtless beds and services will continue to be curtailed and trolley numbers will continue to grow.”

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The latest evidence of persistent inequalities in housing are further proof of the need to enshrine equality within all areas of public policy, Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said.

The North Belfast MLA was reacting to the Equality Commission's latest assessment of inequalities and experiences of the housing system faced by people from different backgrounds.

Carál Ní Chuilín said: 

"The report again demonstrates the persistent inequalities that exist in relation to housing and I very much welcome the work the Equality Commission has done on this important issue.

"The report details the longer waiting lists faced by Catholic applicants, attacks and the threat of attack on newcomer and LGBT communities, lack of accommodation for Travellers and substandard accommodation for migrant workers and those living with disabilities.

"All of that underscores the need for equality to be enshrined at every level of government and public policy. Housing accommodation – like all public spending – should be allocated on the basis of objective need. 

"More should also be done to ringfence protection for the vulnerable groups identified in this report. That is a case which my party has been making for some time and it's unfortunate that some of these key protections were removed by the then SDLP Minister in 2010." 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the international community must take action to tackle the growing refugee crisis. 

Speaking today on World Refugee Day, Martina Anderson said: 

"This year more than ever we need the international community to take real action to solve the growing refugee and humanitarian crisis.

"Every minute, 24 people are displaced by war, persecution and terror. The United Nations Agency for Refugees estimates that there are over 22 million refugees worldwide. There are a further 40 million people internally displaced in their own countries.

"Last year, over 75,000 unaccompanied or separated children sought asylum as refugees. This record of shame is not just statistics; they are people.

"We cannot stand idly by and just let this humanitarian crisis unfold before our eyes. The Irish people share a common history with those escaping conflict and hunger.

"Today, on World Refugee Day, I am calling on the Irish government and the governments of Europe to do more.

"They must safely relocate and resettle more refugees, end Direct Provision, and invest in sufficient housing and public services for everyone.

"The international community must also do more to stop the conflicts, and protect those who come desperately seeking shelter from persecution."

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Sinn Féin TD for Meath West, Peadar Tóibín has stressed the need for greater regulation in the wind turbine industry and has voiced his opposition to the proposed 175 meter high wind turbines for North Westmeath.

If permitted, these thirteen industrial size wind turbines will be the highest turbines erected anywhere in Europe and will directly affect many areas of the county.

Deputy Tóibín said:

“This application submitted by Element Power to Westmeath County Council is very worrying. They are proposing that thirteen industrial size wind turbines, 175 meters in height, be built on cutaway bog between Coole and Finea.

“This means that the townlands of Coole, Monkstown, Carnagh (Fore by) Doon, Clonsura, Mullagh, Boherquill and Joanstown will be directly affected by work on the windfarm. The size of the turbines means that the landscape will be totally dominated by their presence, and the surrounding properties will be devalued.

“Other causes for worry are the constant noise that these huge turbines emit as well as the shadow flicker which emanates from their rotating blades.  If permission is granted this will pave the way for yet further wind turbines throughout the greater area.  

“My colleague, Brian Stanley TD has introduced a Bill to the Dáil to regulate the wind industry. This will ensure that large scale industrial wind farms are kept a safe distance from people’s homes. It also includes public consultation requirements on the effects on the local community and environment as well as optional co-ownership for local residents.

“Our landscape and heritage is unparalleled and we should not jeopardise our natural assets or the health and well-being of our residents most of all. We will be fighting for greater regulation of the wind turbine industry in the Dáil.  I am also urging residents who are concerned to attend a demonstration in Castlepollard on July 1st at 3pm to show their opposition to the latest wind farm proposal.”

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David Cullinane, Sinn Féin TD for Waterford, said today that the HSE has questions to answer over primary PCI at University Hospital Waterford and its refusal to accept the reality of the South East population figures and travel times to Cork.

Deputy Cullinane said:

"First of all, let me convey my condolences to the family of Thomas Power, a young man who died in an ambulance on the way to Cork because the cardiac unit in Waterford was closed.

"It is sad and shocking but unfortunately we knew that something like this was going to happen once the HSE took the decision to effectively shelve the Higgins Report and treat Waterford as an adjunct of Cork.

"Half a million people are not an adjunct. 

"The sleight of hand and playing with numbers that we saw with the Herity Report was always going to cost lives.

"We need to go back to the Higgins Report and implement its findings.

“University Hospital Waterford needs to be treated by the HSE as a regional hospital.

“The present plan to have it as a general hospital simply doesn't make sense form a clinical and regional point of view.

“I will continue to fight to have the Higgins Report put in place and for Waterford and the South East to be given the resources it needs to sustain and grow as a region."

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Speaking this morning Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has said that information she received through a Parliamentary Question shows that community teams for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) have barely half the necessary staff.

Deputy O’Reilly said:  

“Following on from the shocking news last month of bed closures at the Linn Dara child and adolescent mental health centre due to a shortage of nursing staff, I submitted Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Health to ascertain the staffing levels for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) nationwide.

“In order to get a picture of the seriousness of the situation we decided to compare current staffing levels against what are deemed necessary under ‘A Vision for Change’,  the strategy document which sets out the direction for Mental Health Services in Ireland.

“And while the problems in the health service and the inability of the Government to adequately tackle them are well versed, I was completely shocked to be informed that community teams for delivery of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are operating with just 53 per cent of the staff necessary.

“The importance of the community mental health teams is underlined by the HSE themselves. The HSE National Vision for Change Working Group state:

The mainstay of any mental health service is the sector-based Community Mental Health Team.’

“If the mainstay of any mental health service is the community mental health team then why are the Government failing our young people and putting lives at risk by having barely half the staff that Vision for Change state is necessary to operate them.

“It is of the utmost concern that this is happening at a time when we are more aware than ever of the complexities and difficulties for people who suffer with their mental health. Indeed, only yesterday a Unicef report outlined that Ireland's teen suicide rate is the fourth highest in the EU.

“Added to this is information from the same report showing a serious rise in the self-reporting of mental health issues among adolescents in Ireland – with 22.6% of children aged between 11 and 15 stating they had experienced two or more psychological symptoms more than once a week.

“Unfortunately, the Government is doing little to ensure that when these health issues arise that the necessary staff and services are there to provide the essential support.

“The situation for mental health services is part of the broader problem of recruitment and retention of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare staff. It is in the national interest to resolve the staff recruitment and retention issues in our health service, and in order to do this the key issues such as working conditions, facilities, supports, training opportunities, and pay, as identified by nurses, midwives, and other healthcare professionals, as well as their Trade Unions need to be addressed. If this is not done then this crisis will certainly deepen.”

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The rights of citizens must be respected and protected if there is to be any deal to form a new Executive, Sinn Féin’s Northern Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

Speaking from the Stormont talks today, the Mid-Ulster MLA commented:

“There are three important discussions taking place today – here in Stormont between the parties and the two governments, the Brexit talks in Europe and the Taoiseach meeting with the British Prime Minister later.

“Sinn Féin’s priority remains the establishment of a credible and sustainable Executive delivering quality public services for all citizens. 

“We want to see an Executive in place which is dealing with health, education, housing, the economy and delivering for all citizens because that is what people are entitled to.

“They are also entitled to see their rights respected and protected. That includes language rights, marriage equality and their rights as European citizens.

“So there needs to be a step-change in how government is done here. Sinn Féin is up for that. 

“There is also a particular onus on the new Taoiseach to step up and assert his government’s role as co-equal guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.

“It is fundamentally wrong that Irish citizens in the north should be denied the same rights as those living everywhere else on the island.”

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