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Michelle O’Neill has been named the new leader of Sinn Féin in the North.

Please watch and share this exclusive interview below which tells a bit of her life story as a mother of two from a small village in County Tyrone, her work in politics and in the Executive, standing up for equality, respect and integrity in government and continuing the work that Martin McGuinness has done stretching himself for peace and reconciliation.

You can view a biography of Michelle O’Neill here


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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has extended his deepest sympathy and condolences to family of David Dunseith.

 
Mr Adams said:

"David Dunseith was the consummate broadcaster and interviewer.
 
“He was thoughtful and insightful in all that he did.
 
“David interviewed me many times and I always found him to be professional and very fair. His death is a significant loss to journalism.
 
“I want to extend to his family and many friends my sincerest condolences. Go ndeanfaid trocaire a anam.”
 

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Strabane Sinn Féin Councillor Jay Mc Cauley says has described the failed pipe bomb attack on Strabane PSNI station last night as a futile act.

He said,

“Throwing a pipe bomb at a fortified PSNI station is a totally futile act.  The only affect of this act was to cause endangerment and disruption to the local community especially given the fact that it ended up so close to the local play park.

“Rather than putting their energies into causing disruption for the local community those involved should recognise the absolute futility of their actions and join with the overwhelming majority of people in this area who are trying to forge a better future for this community and in turn to adopt a constructive strategy towards achieving the objectives Irish republicanism.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey has welcomed home two members of the crew of the MV Saoirse, who were participating in the Gaza aid flotilla. The MV Saoirse was interfered with and the propeller damaged in what appears to be sabotage forcing its crew to abandon the ship and redistribute medical aid and building materials amongst the rest of the flotilla.

Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

“The MV Saoirse was forced to abandon its voyage as part of the Gaza Aid Flotilla due to what appears to be an act of sabotage on the propeller of the ship.

“This was a very serious incident given that if the ship had taken to the water it may have sank with the possible loss of life.

“I will be pressing the Irish Government, as this was an Irish registered vessel, to investigate this incident and seek the relevant answers for the Israeli government.

“I wish those who are still bound for Gaza all the best. They are committed to bring much needed aid to the people of Gaza. Fortunately the much needed medical aid and building materials needed in Gaza that the ship was carrying was redistributed amongst the flotilla and several crew members also joined other crews ensuring Irish participation in the flotilla.

“It is an extremely brave thing to do given the murderous actions of Israeli forces when they boarded the Mavi Marmara last year when the first flotilla attempted to enter Gaza and despite the circumstances we are happy to see the two crew members from West Belfast home again.

“The international community must bring whatever pressure to bear on Israel to lift their illegal blockade on Gaza. This aid flotilla must be allowed through." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board member, Gerry Kelly, has stated that the independence of the Police Ombudsman's office has been seriously compromised and that confidence can only be restored if Al Hutchinson resigns from his position.

 

Speaking today Mr kelly said:

 

“The Police Ombudsman’s Office is a crucial element of the new policing structures. It came about after much hard negotiation. Its independence and its ability to hold policing to account free from outside interference is key to securing and sustaining community confidence in policing.

 

“The report released yesterday by John McCusker shows clearly that this independence has been seriously compromised. This is a fundamental issue and cannot be ignored. This happened on Al Hutchinson’s watch and the responsibility rests with him.

 

“There is an urgent need to restore confidence in the Police Ombudsman’s Office. It is my firm view that this can only happen if Mr Hutchinson resigns from his position and allows new leadership to take over and repair the damage done in recent times.”

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Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson, Deputy Seán Crowe, has called for a review of the excessive salaries earned by of those working in Irish third level institutions.

He continued: “The figures recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Ireland’s seven universities and the Dublin Institute of Technology have more than 1,000 lecturers who earn six-figure sums.

“Some of these excessive salaries are being paid to a small minority of senior academics and are accompanied by lucrative perks and additional expenses. This results in significant costs to the taxpayer and must be reviewed by the Government who have been very quick to cap key services such as Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) and cut traveller support teachers.

“The rate of actual pay, expenses and bonuses being paid to some senior personnel of third level institutions cannot be maintained in the current economic climate.

“I also understand that a number of people who are earning huge salaries are involved in management positions rather than lecturing and there must be a rigorous examination of these positions and a value for money audit has to be part of any review.

“The Minister has clear choices to make – he can cut services to vulnerable children or he can cut some of the more well-endowed salaries of people who are managing pretty well financially, despite the economic downturn.

“At the very least,” Deputy Crowe concluded, “anyone earning high salaries and benefiting from expenses should be independently assessed and evaluated and some of the excessive wages currently being paid must be brought into line with other countries.” ENDS

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Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has said he shares many of the concerns expressed by The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) who have highlighted the fact that Tallaght Hospital is not effectively managing the risks to patients requiring acute admission.

Deputy Seán Crowe who lives in Tallaght and is long time supporter of the hospital and member of the Tallaght Hospital Action Group said:

“Coming within a week of a damning assessment by Dublin City Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty, who in the inquest into the death of Kilnamanagh man Thomas Walsh described Tallaght Hospital as being a ‘very dangerous place’ the similar concerns expressed by HIQA must serve as a wakeup call for the Hospital Administration and the new Health Minister James O' Reilly.

“It is clear that the continual gutting of funding has severely impacted on services at Tallaght Hospital. The A&E Department is the busiest in the country yet it is understaffed and under resourced. It is unacceptable, that a hospital designed to originally cater for 350,000 people annually is now expected to cope with a catchment area of over 530,000 people.

“I welcome the fact that HIQA has published the terms of reference for its statutory inquiry into the safety and governance of care at the hospital’s Emergency Department. I understand that the terms of reference, the inquiry will assess the quality, safety and governance, and accountability for services provided to patients who attend the Accident & Emergency Department.

“This inquiry will also look at specific patient cases where appropriate and an examine if the hospital has been effective in managing risks to patients.

“The death of Thomas Walsh who attended the hospital with severe ankle pains, tragically exposed the extent of the problems at the hospital.

“The coroner’s report highlighted how he had been moved away from the emergency department to a so-called ‘virtual ward’, a corridor area with no real facilities like oxygen, monitors or life saving specialised equipment.

“This latest finding is a massive indictment on how this State’s Health apparatus treats its citizens whenever they become ill and need treatment.

“It also emerged that last year in the Emergency Department a patient suffered a cardiac arrest on a chair while awaiting admission.

“Despite the dedication of its overstretched staff, Tallaght Hospital is failing the people who depend on its services when presenting – the lack of resources means it is not currently able for the demands being place on the system.

“This Government needs to urgently address the problems of resources and key personnel in Tallaght as a matter of the utmost priority.

“If they don’t, then more and more families will face further heartbreak in what is supposed to be a modern flagship healthcare facility.” ENDS

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The committee met and elected Dominic Hannigan TD for East Meath as chair and Joe O’Reilly TD for Cavan as chair and vice-chair repectively.

Deputy Ferris said:
“I welcome the fact that the committee’s work has begun. The committee has resolved to be a vehicle for reconciliation and to help those disconnected from the peace process to become connected.”

“It is hoped that the committee will visit the North and the Legislative Assembly in the course of its important work,” he added.

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There will be a rally in support of Portlaoise Hospital this Sunday at 3pm at the County Hall in Portlaoise. Those in attendance will then march to the hospital.

Speaking in advance of the rally which is organised by the Local Hospital Action Group, Sinn Féin TD for Laois-Offaly Brian Stanley said:

“People are angry at the potential downgrading of services. There are on-going discussions within the HSE regarding acute surgery and A&E provision at Portlaoise Hospital which deals with 41,000 emergency cases a year. These discussions have reached a critical stage. The people of Laois and surrounding areas cannot afford to have these services downgraded.

“During the general election campaign, Fine Gael and Labour told us they would protect public health services. Far from protecting services they have simply picked up where Fianna Fáil left off.

“Last year when he was in opposition, local Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan called upon the then Minister Mary Harney to accept that she was “accountable” to the Dáil, and went on to ask her to call a public meeting to clarify to the people of Laois and the neighbouring counties what her Department’s intentions were regarding Portlaoise Hospital. Deputy Flanagan also went on to say that he was “not prepared to stand by while hospital services in Portlaoise are removed by stealth”. I would ask Deputy Flanagan now that Fine Gael are in Government to demand that his party colleague Minister James O’Reilly clarify his intentions at a similar meeting in Portlaoise and not allow the hospital services in Portlaoise to be “removed by stealth”.

“A downgrading of services is completely against the wishes of the people of Laois and there is massive support for the continuation of services in the hospital. We are calling on people from all parts of Laois to take a stand and support the hospital by attending the rally.”

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Speaking on the publication of the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2011 today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Brian Stanley TD stated that while Sinn Féin welcomes the proposed provisions for the holding of by-elections in the Bill, there were serious problems also contained in it.

The Laois-Offaly TD said;

“The new provision in the Bill that states that a by-election must be held within six months is long overdue. This will put a stop to the practice of Governments not holding by-elections because of the fear that they will lose a seat.

“It is an affront to democracy to leave people unrepresented for months on end in that manner. This provision resulted from the fact a Sinn Féin TD had to take a court challenge in order to for a by-election to be held.

“However, we must take serious issue with the proposal to cut the number of TDs from the current 166 to a figure between 152 and a 160. In the absence of a massive overhaul and strengthening of local government structures, it makes absolutely no sense to reduce the number of TDs sitting in the Dáil. If this is a money-saving proposal we would prefer that the pay of TDs was reduced rather than the actual number of TDs.

“Furthermore, the hands of the Constituency Commission are still tied in that they cannot recommend anything more than three, four, or five seat constituencies. We are calling for proportional representation to be strengthened through the introduction of larger multi-seat constituencies.

“Increasing the number of seats per constituency would ensure a much more accurate representation of the public’s voting intentions based on their percentage vote, in contrast to the current system that favours the largest parties, especially in three-seat and four-seat constituencies.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Economy Conor Murphy has said that the Debt Relief Scheme announced today by the Department of Employment and Learning does not go far enough.


Mr Murphy said,


“More and more people are finding themselves in debt that they have no realistic chance of repaying, due to the current economic downtown, and therefore finding it hard to pay basic household bills but this scheme is very limited in helping those people.


“While on the face of it the scheme looks welcoming, the eligibility criteria limits it to up to a thousand people and the vast majority of people on even the lowest incomes will fall outside the parameters of successfully applying for relief.


 “It is important that people who are overwhelmed by debt are given an opportunity to find a way out of their misery and get their lives back on track.


 “We need to be looking at broader measures which would encompass the many people living in the vicious cycle of paying debts and interest rates while unable to buy basic commodities like food and clothes.


“I am calling on those who are burdened by debt to get advice immediately so that help can be applied on getting them into a situation where they are able to manage the problem without causing their selves severe economic hardship.

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has welcomed the terms of reference of the HIQA inquiry into Tallaght Hospital but said the hospital is far from alone among hospitals with regard to the dangers of over-crowded and under-resourced Accident and Emergency departments.

He said:

“It is right that HIQA should inquire into the particular events and factors in Tallaght Hospital that have led to such serious concerns for patients safety. This arose from the findings of the coroner in the case of a man who died in a co-called ‘virtual ward’ off the A&E Department in Tallaght and another man who suffered a heart attack in a chair while awaiting admission.

“The terms of reference of the inquiry are welcome and I hope it is thorough, with lessons being learned and positive changes implemented.

“But Tallaght is far from alone with regard to the dangers to patients in over-crowded and under-resourced A&E Departments. Record numbers of people are on trolleys and chairs. Some 1600 public hospital beds have been closed and people are spending inordinate time in A&E waiting for a bed on a ward.

“If the further health cuts signalled by the Fine Gael/Labour government proceed then we are heading for further tragedies in our hospitals and no number of HIQA reports will prevent them.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein Donegal South West TD Pearse Doherty has today welcomed the proposal in the Electoral Amendment Bill 2011 to hold Dail by-elections within 6 months of a seat becoming vacant. He also called for the Government to withdraw the by-election Supreme Court appeal initiated by the last Government following Deputy Doherty’s successful High Court action forcing the Donegal South West by-election in November last year.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The Electoral Amendment Bill 2011 includes a proposal which if passed into law would require a Government to hold a Dáil by-election within six months of a seat becoming vacant.

“Having spent months challenging the failure of the last Government to hold a by-election in Donegal South West, I want to welcome the proposed six month rule contained in the Electoral Amendment Bill.

“It is completely unacceptable for voters to be left without effective Dáil representation for months on end while a Government refuses to call a by election. In my own case the last Government left the people of Donegal South West with insufficient representation for more than 500 days.

“Following Sinn Féin’s high court victory on this matter last November, the then Government initiated an appeal to the Supreme Court which is being pursued by the current government.

“On the basis that the new Government is now legislating for the change that I secured in the high court they must now withdraw this farcical and costly appeal as it is nothing more than a waste of taxpayers money.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today in response to questions from Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD has confirmed the Government’s intention to press ahead with changes that will undermine the operation and wage rates of the JLCs and REAs.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Last night on Vincent Browne Minister Bruton confirmed that promised legislation on undermining the Joint Labour Committees and Registered Employment Agreements will end Sunday premiums for new workers and result in a substantial reduction in take home pay for new employees of at least 5%.

“The official position of the Minister is that existing workers covered by the JLC’s will be protected from these wage cuts by their contracts of employment.

“However when pressed in the Dáil today the Minister refused to explain how he would prevent unscrupulous employers from firing existing workers and rehiring new workers under the lower terms.

“Across the country there are tens of thousands of workers who are now living with a great deal of uncertainty as a result of the Government’s failure to come clean on the content of its proposals for the future of the JLCs and REAs.

“Again when pressed today in the Dáil Minister Bruton was unwilling to indicate the detail of the Governments proposals or provide a date when the necessary legislation will be published.

“The 300,000 people covered by these wage agreements have a right to know what the Government’s intentions are. The Minister needs tell us whether it is going to be Bruton’s way or Burton’s way.” ENDS

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Speaking after a meeting this week between Sport NI, Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust and St George's ABC in the Market, South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey called for greater investment in boxing clubs across the North — and in particular in St George's boxing club and Sandy Row boxing club in South Belfast."I am an enthusiastic supporter of the plans by the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust and St George's boxing club to find a way in which their present listed premises in the badly dilapidated former Convent of Mercy school at Sussex Place can be renovated to provide city centre offices and a permanent home for the young boxers of St George's ABC."In February, I was delighted to join the Rev Jesse Jackson at the club to hear of the preservation plans and to witness the commitment and passion of boxers and coaches alike. "Now we need to ensure both the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust, which has boldly stepped into save this building, and St George's, get the funding and support to deliver their ambitious plans. I would also be keen to find a way in which the Sandy Row ABC, again operating from Dickensian premises in my constituency of South Belfast, could similarly be helped."However, there's an opportunity also to make a substantial investment in boxing clubs which are very often the backbone of our working class districts. I have written to Minister Carál Ní Chuilín to look at ways in which funds could be allocated for the urgent task of upgrading our boxing clubs, not only for their sporting worth but in light of the contribution they make to community wellbeing and community spirit. A comprehensive programme of support for boxing clubs would be an excellent way to invest in our communities."As the recent European championships show, our boxers are great sporting ambassadors. Indeed, they have won more medals on the world stage than all our other sport disciplines combined. It's time now that we matched their courage with a programme of investment which will ensure every young boxer is enjoying 21st Century facilities."

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Following reports from the crew of the MV Saoirse that the Irish aid ship to Gaza has been sabotaged, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has called for the Irish government to urgently raise this matter with the Israeli authorities and to ask the Turkish authorities to carry out a full and thorough investigation into what occurred.

Mr. Adams said:

“The Israeli government’s antipathy toward the international aid flotilla to Gaza was most evident in the disgraceful accusation from the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that those taking part in the flotilla were ‘terror activists, seeking to create provocation and looking for blood.’

“The fact that another of the ships in the flotilla apparently suffered the same damage while in port in Greece strongly suggests dirty tricks by Israeli elements.

“The Irish government has a responsibility to protect Irish citizens abroad and must demand answers from the Israeli government on this matter.

“I would also urge the government to ask the Turkish authorities to carry out a full and thorough investigation into what has occurred.”
The Sinn Féin leader added: “I want to commend the courage and dedication of the crew and international observers who were due to sail on the MV Saoirse. Despite the Israeli assault last year on the previous flotilla in which 9 aid workers were killed and the threats from official Israeli sources, they have refused to be intimidated and are determined to highlight the illegal and inhumane siege by Israel of Gaza.”

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Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has challenged the Government on the need for a long overdue national carer’s strategy. He pointed out that the latest census figures show that there are 148,754 carers in this state with 40,526 full time family carers. He reiterated his party’s long standing call for the publication of a comprehensive strategy for carers.

Senator Cullinane also criticised the Minister for Social Protection who said that the framing and implementation of a strategy needs to 'take into account our IMF and EU Commitments'.

Speaking in the Seanad Senator Cullinane said

“Over 148,000 people in this state are carers. They provide over 3 million hours of work a year and save the state over €2billion annually. They provide high levels of care in the home for children with severe disabilities, adults with special needs, frail older people and people who are terminally ill. There is an urgent need for a support system for carers which takes account of today’s realities for families.

“I think it is wrong for the Minister to suggest that provision of such services needs to be seen in the context of our commitments to the IMF. The tens of thousands of people who provide care in the home made no such commitments. The IMF deal was signed by failed politicians and was rejected by the people of this state in the General Election. The rights and needs of carers should not be subject to the whims of international money men or financiers. The state has a responsibility to deliver for its citizens.

“I am calling on the Government to stop hiding behind the failures of the previous Government or demands sets by the IMF. It is high time that this state gives formal recognition to the societal importance of the work that carers do. They must bring forward a strategy for carers but go further and deliver on the many needs that carers have.”

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources, Martin Ferris, has welcomed a call by SIPTU for a moratorium on all oil and gas exploration licenses pending a promised Oireachtas review.

Deputy Ferris was speaking following the launch of a report by SIPTU this afternoon by Jack O’Connor.

Deputy Ferris said:

“I very much welcome this report. Sinn Féin has been calling for all licenses to be suspended pending such a review and I would hope that the Government responds positively.

“Minister Pat Rabbitte did promise such a review during the course of the debate on our private members motion on oil and gas and I will be pressing this as a matter of urgency at meetings of the Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“This report confirms that more and more people are coming to the view that the current generous terms being offered to the multi nationals, and the lack of state input combined with the low tax rate, are unsustainable in light of the current financial crisis and the IMF/EU imposed bailout. We have a potentially massive resource that could provide the answers to many of our problems if properly managed.”

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Sinn Féin’s Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has today written to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources calling on him to publish the Cahill/Frontier Economics Report which contains a strong argument against the Government’s plans to break-up the assets of the ESB.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Over the last number of weeks I have repeatedly asked the Minister to publish the Cahill/Frontier Economics Report which has been sitting on the Ministers desk for a number of months now. The report makes a strong economic argument against the Government’s intention to unbundle the ESB’s transmission and distribution assets, a move that could cost the State 1.6 billion euro.

“As the Cahill/Frontier Economic Report contains a view contrary to the Government’s commitment to breaking up the ESB’s key assets it is my concern that it is for this very reason it has not been published to date.

“Perhaps of more immediate concern is the increasingly negative effect the threat of unbundling is having on the ESB’s international financing position. It’s worth noting that the ESB has been self-financing since its inception and has paid out 1.2 billion euro in dividends to the State over the last 9 years. Unlike the Government the ESB continues to secure funding from the international markets such is its reputation and strength.

“The Government’s commitment in the Programme for Government to break up the ESB has created uncertainty around the future of the ESB and this in turn will undermine the company’s ability to invest in planned capital projects that not only create new jobs but, as importantly, retain existing positions.

“ESB’s networks can play an extended role in the State’s development, particularly in the area of telecommunications with the roll out of broadband. Breaking up the ESB’s assets makes no economic sense whatsoever.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh called for an investigation into the deaths of at least 219 children in Bethany Home in Dublin between 1922 and 1949.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the government failed to consider amending the 2002 Redress Act to give recognition to children who suffered unnecessary illness, neglect and death at the home.

“There is a need to investigate the fact that at least 219 children died in the years 1922-49 in Bethany Home in Dublin, and to further acknowledge the state's failure to save the children and especially the remaining survivors from the cruelty perpetrated against them.

“This Government failed to consider amending the 2002 Redress act to give recognition to the children who suffered unnecessary illness, neglect and death, due to indifference, incompetence, sectarianism, complicity of the state.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has today called for the Ministers for the Environment and Communications to come before the Seanad to address outstanding issues relating to the North/South Interconnector.

Senator Reilly said:

“Earlier this week I spoke about how semi-state bodies like Eirgrid paid bonuses last year. The chief executive of Eirgrid Dermot Byrne was paid a bonus of €23,000 for 2010 according to the company’s annual report. This year they will pay no bonus.

“A bonus was given for the year that Eirgrid had to sensationally withdraw planning application for the North/South Interconnector.

“But while the CEO was given a handsome reward, this blunder by Eirgrid about the height of the electricity pylons has left local communities across Cavan, Monaghan and Meath with a huge legal bill.

“It seems there is one rule for some people and another for everyone else.

“I am asking that the Minister for the Environment come to this House to discuss the ratification of the Aarhus Convention and how these costs will be reimbursed.

“Unless the Aarhus Convention is ratified and unless the legitimate costs of groups like the Co Monaghan Anti-Pylon Group and North East Pylon Pressure are reimbursed for their costs, the people of this State will be denied the opportunity to meaningfully participate in Oral Hearings on Environmental matters of deep public concern.”

Senator Reilly also asked for further details on the independent international expert commission that is to be set up:

“The Programme for Government commits to the establishment of an independent international expert commission to review within six months the case for, and cost of, undergrounding all or part of the Meath-Tyrone line.

“We are 2 months out from this deadline. Yet the Minister has announced nothing.

“While EirGrid has already finished a first round of non-statutory public consultation in preparation of submitting a formal new application to An Bord Pleanála.

“If this expert commission is to inform the process, it needs to be set up, with terms of reference as soon as possible. So I ask the Leader that the Minister for Communications be brought into this House before the recess to discuss this issue.”

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