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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has called on the Minister for Social Development to champion the cause of home-owners who have seen the condition of their property deteriorate since the means-tested grants ceased some years ago.
 
The West Belfast MLA and Sinn Féin spokesperson on housing said:

“I have dealt with home owners, many of them elderly, who are not in a financial position to have urgent repairs or works carried out to their homes. They have old and broken heating systems, dampness, leaking roofs, rotten windows and a lot of other problems.

“They can’t even avail of the boiler replacement scheme because they can not afford it. We are looking at thousands of people who are suffering because of the shortsighted decision to end means-tested grants, a decision which has had far reaching consequences for the people who own them. 

“Given the current stress on housing stock there is an onus on the minister to maintain a high standard of housing whether it be in the private or rented sector.
 

“Major investment is required and the minister needs to go to the Executive and press for action. The work will not only improve peoples lives but will provide thousands of jobs in the construction sector and ensure that these homes are brought up to the most environmentally friendly standards.”

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Sinn Féin’s Chief  Whip at the Assembly, Caitriona Ruane MLA, has reiterated the party’s call for increased transparency within the political system. 

Speaking today Ms Ruane said: 

“Elected representatives have a duty to maintain high standards in carrying out their roles and responsibilities.    

"There is a clear need for increased transparency right across the political spectrum with respect to payments to and by politicians, party funding in general including donations to parties.    

"Anything less undermines trust in the political process and the credibility of the political institutions. 

"The use of public funds by MLA's to employ family members or commission services from companies in which they or family members have an interest is unacceptable and should cease.

"If parties or individual MLA's are not prepared to abide by the correct standards then the rules which govern party financing should be strengthened to make it mandatory that they do so.

"And the rules on transparency should also be amended to require parties to declare who party donors are. There should be no secret donations.

"A refusal by some within the political process to adhere to proper standards tarnishes the entire political process and feeds mistrust.  

"We need to confront this refusal if we are to restore and protect the integrity of the political process."

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Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann has called on the Executive to do more to tackle the rise in child poverty levels in the North.

The West Belfast MLA said:

“A number of recent reports have indicated that poverty levels here are on the increase.

“Average income levels have decreased overall in the past three years and when poverty levels are measured against this you would normally expect there to be a narrowing of the gap but it has in fact widened.

“There are particular sectors where the increase in poverty levels are more marked and this is the case in child poverty levels which witnessed a 4% increase over a one year period.

“Child poverty cannot be seen in isolation of the overall poverty that affects families. We all know the impact that poverty can have on a child’s life chances and there will never be equality of opportunity for all children unless we tackle poverty and disadvantage. 

“It is clear that while there is good work being done it isn't enough and there needs to be a fresh look at how we can tackle the problem.”

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Welcoming the launch of the new £7million Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC) at Jordanstown, Health Committee Member, Maeve McLaughlin, Sinn Fein MLA (Foyle) has called on the DETI and Health Ministers to show the same level of commitment to the already existing facilities available in Derry and the North West.

Maeve McLaughlin said:

“A North West Connected Health Innovation Corridor (NWHIC) seminar held in Derry in May of this year attracted great interest from a broad spectrum of contributors and attendees. Among those in attendance were Professor Tony Bjourson, Director of the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute of University of Ulster, Frank Cunninham, International Policy Officer at the EU Directorate on Communications, Content and Technologies as well as Andrew McCormack, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health. Special guest was Senator Therese Murray, President of the Masssachusetts State Senate.

“All of these eminent speakers were agreed that Derry and the North West was perfectly located and had available all of the facilities required for the development of a NWHIC.

“Derry’s One Plan also recognised health innovation as a means of addressing inequalities and incorporated the development of the sector into the Plan under the catalyst programmes for 'Growing the Digital Economy and Health for All'.

“Given the demonstrated commitment by Health Minister, Edwin Poots to cooperation on health matters with his Dublin counterpart, Minister James Reilly I would urge them both to recognise the opportunities available to this sector in the North West.

Already the Northwest has assembled many of the building blocks required to lead the way in this sector, for example C-TRIC, the ISRC, the Biomedical Science Research Institute, Sligo Institute of Technology, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, CoLab, CAWT, Donegal Clinical and Research Academy, Psychology Research Institute, Nursing Research Institute, Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Well-being, regional hospitals located in Derry, Letterkenny and Sligo, with a new radiotherapy unit imminent in Derry, Kelvin telecommunications link which provides the fastest and most reliable high capacity link between Europe and the US, not to mention a thriving private sector stretching from Sligo to Coleraine. All of this makes us extremely well-placed to take advantage of the trend towards increased technology adoption within healthcare.

“I urge the Health Ministers, North and South to support the potential of these resources to develop a North West Connected Health Corridor that would deliver undoubted health and economic benefits to the whole island."

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Commenting on the HIQA report on hygiene and infection control in Beaumont Hospital, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, said:

“This report clearly demonstrates the need for continuing vigilance in the enforcement of hospital hygiene and infection controls. It is welcome and important that HIQA continually monitors implementation of these standards which are vital for the health and safety of patients.

“Concerns raised regarding Beaumont and other hospitals must be addressed by management with effective quality improvement plans and I am confident that they will be so addressed.

“We must also remember that public hospitals are under huge pressure trying to provide services with reduced staff, reduced beds and reduced budgets as a result of government cutbacks. This is currently the biggest single threat to patient safety in our hospitals.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has accused the bailed-out pillar banks of playing the people for fools.

Deputy Doherty was speaking after a frustrating Finance Committee engagement with the CEOs of AIB and Bank of Ireland.

Deputy Doherty said:

“These committee meetings were specially scheduled to discuss what the banks have done to meet the Central Bank’s targets for dealing with mortgage arrears. The banks have sent these figures to the Central Bank at the end of June.

“Yesterday it took over an hour of questions from members of the committee for David Duffy, CEO of AIB, to come clean on the details of these figures. By including repossession letters as sustainable offers he is fiddling the figures and clearly AIB are not on board with the plan to deal with mortgage arrears in a sustainable way.

“Even more frustrating today Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher came to the committee without the relevant figures. Even after a grilling from the committee he failed to produce the figures showing how Bank of Ireland is proposing solutions to mortgage holders.

“Both these two pillar banks, which the people bailed out to the tune of billions, are playing the Dáil and the people for fools.

“It is unsurprising that they feel they can deal with the public and their representatives in this way given that the government has caved into their demands on every issue. We have heard that over two thirds of the AIB’s so-called solutions and up to half of Bank of Ireland’s involve legal letters. The government’s actions have empowered them to do this.”

ENDS

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Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has criticised the increase in gas prices by Bord Gáis.

Speaking following an announcement that Bord Gáis are to increase gas bills by over 2%, Deputy Colreavy said:

“As we approach winter this is not good news for those who are already struggling to meet domestic bills.

“The elderly, unemployed, lone parent families and others on the margins are certain to feel the brunt of this price increase.

“Fuel poverty is an issue that must be taken seriously in Ireland and this price increase will do nothing to alleviate the problems that many people face, especially during the winter months.

“It is an issue that the government must take action on and must engage with volunteer and non-profit organisations.

“Government must also tackle the continuously increasing gas prices.

“The price increase does not make sense, especially in a time when Bord Gáis is a profitable company.

“The company’s annual financial report for 2012 outlined that they are performing well despite the recession.

“More must be done by Bord Gáis to relieve the burden from households and struggling families.”

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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha has called on Environment Minister Phiul Hogan to immediately meet the Priory Hall residents.

Councillor Mac Donncha said;

“Minister Phil Hogan's comments on Priory Hall on Seán O'Rourke's programme this morning raise more questions than answers.

“Firstly, Minister Hogan is wrong to say he is legally prevented from meeting the residents.

“Secondly, what does he mean that the government would be ‘open’ to the demolition and rebuilding of the apartments? Will the government fund the complete rebuilding of these people's homes? Will it require the banks to stop piling up their mortgage debt?

“Minister Hogan also seemed to be saying that the completion of Judge Finnegan’s ‘resolution process’ is also somehow dependent on the conclusion of court proceedings. Again, what does this mean? The only way these questions can be satisfactorily answered is face to face with the residents and Minister Hogan should meet them now, before the second anniversary of the Priory Hall evacuation.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has condemned those who dumped more than 500 tonnes of hazardous waste from illegal fuel laundering in a quarry in north Louth and he has called for the maximum effort to identify those responsible and to bring them before the courts.

Teachta Adams said:

“The dumping of toxic sludge left from fuel laundering is a major environmental and health threat, as well as a huge cost to the taxpayer.

“This particular dump was identified over two years ago by local Sinn Féin Councillor Tomás Sharkey and residents who then pushed for an investigation of the site by the council and environmental agencies.

“The amount uncovered in north Louth in this one dump is evidence of the scale of these criminal operations and highlights the importance of a co-ordinated local and all-Ireland approach to tackling this problem.

“Already this year there have been 67 recorded incidents of toxic sludge relating to washed diesel in the Louth area alone. This is a huge drain on the existing resources of the council and the Gardaí.

“However, more resources should be provided to the Gardaí and PSNI; and the Irish government and the northern executive should urgently review how they can maximise co-operation between policing, customs, justice and environmental agencies.”

ENDS

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Commenting on the junior hospital doctors’ vote for industrial action, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said it is a symptom of this and previous governments’ failure to reform hospital staffing and medical training.

He said:

“This dispute was inevitable given the failure of Health Minister James Reilly to implement the European Working Time directive and reduce the unacceptable long hours of non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs).

“It has been known and widely recognised for years that the hospital system is totally over-reliant on NCHDs. Successive governments have failed to address this over-reliance and this inappropriate staffing and it led to the crisis situation we faced with the supply of NCHDs in 2011.

“The Bill passed at that time facilitated the continuation – for the time being – of the current system or, at least prevented its collapse and the consequent loss of services. I asked then and ask again – how long will this ramshackle structure stand before it collapses or is replaced by a proper system of medical training and hospital staffing?

“The system was flawed enough without having to bear the brunt of austerity measures and the widespread budget cutbacks currently being imposed.

“The Irish Medical Organisation told the Oireachtas Health Committee last March that patient care is being jeopardised and that ‘an accident will happen as result of the working regime and it will have serious and perhaps even fatal consequences’ and there is ‘consistent and dangerous flouting of the law every day in hospitals around the country’.

“While everything possible should be done to avoid any action that will affect patient care, these issues will not be resolved until hospital staffing and medical training are reformed. This will require more consultants and new grades of consultants and NCHDs to work in our public hospitals, and clear career paths. This cannot be done without also tackling the excessive pay of existing consultants and eliminating double-jobbing in the public-private system.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Chris Hazzard has welcomed the news that children attending independent schools will for the first time be eligible to apply for free school meals.

 Mr. Hazzard said,

 “There are about 700 pupils who attend independent schools that are not funded through the Education Department.  I welcome the fact that the Education Minister John O’Dowd has now announced that these pupils will now be eligible to apply for free school meals.

 “Many parents especially those with several children attending school are finding it difficult to finance their children’s education so this announcement will bring some financial relief to those parents.

“It is important in creating an education system based upon equality that every parent has the opportunity to apply for free school meals and this announcement today bringing independent schools into line with mainstream education is an important step in ensuring all of our children are treated equally.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor for the Poleglass area Stephen Magennis has stated that a number of people could lose their jobs as a result of the arson attack on the Colin Centre on the Pembroke Loop Road last night.

Speaking today Cllr Magennis said:

“Last night’s arson attack can only be attributed to anti-social elements in this area

“As a result of this wanton vandalism over 30 people may be made redundant.

"Local residents are extremely angry about this attack. They have been suffering with ongoing anti-social problems and this really has been the final straw.

"They are looking action taken, they want these people arrested and brought before the courts.

“I would urge anyone with information or who saw anything suspicious to report it to the PSNI.”

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Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty has today launched his party's campaign for the abolition of the Seanad. Speaking at the launch in Dublin this morning Deputy Doherty said fairness, democracy and equality of citizenship demand that the current Seanad be abolished.

He said;

"The cronyism and the elitism that are synonymous with the Seanad has fostered the type of politics that has brought this state to its knees.

"In the last two-and-a-half years, the Seanad has supported the government on every single occasion, including the introduction of the property tax, cuts to disability payments and the promissory note deal which is costing the tax payer €30 billion.

"The Seanad has promoted political cronies and allies rather than ideas or visions. And Fianna Fáil, who now seek to preserve the Seanad, is the party which has done the most to reinforce the perception of the Seanad as a hot house of cronyism.

"The system of Taoiseach’s nominees in particular during the Bertie Ahern era was used to promote close political allies and cronies rather than doing anything to bring more diversity into the political system.

"It was not used to increase the number of women in the Oireachtas or to ensure minorities were represented. In the main it has been a safety net for those who failed to get elected to the Dáil.

"The most damning feature of the Seanad is the elitism, inequality and discrimination that is at its core. There can be no place in a real republic, based on equality, for an elected office to which only a tiny percentage of the population have the right to vote.

"By restricting votes to an elite of those educated in a number of select colleges and City and County Councillors, the Seanad is anomaly in a modern democracy. It runs in the face of the core principal that all citizens are equal. It is obviously wrong to most people that a house of parliament would discriminate against citizens based on where they were educated.

"Sinn Féin seeks to build a New Republic on this island based on equality for all citizens. We want to see an end to privilege and elitism, and to the cronyism and influence of vested interests that have so damaged politics in this country.

"Fairness, democracy and equality of citizenship demand that the current Seanad be abolished. Sinn Féin is appealing to voters to get out and vote in this referendum on October 4th and to Vote Yes."

ENDS

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Pupils at independent schools across the north will be eligible to receive free school meals for the first time this year.

The extension of entitlement will ensure pupils at 15 local independent schools can avail of the support alongside pupils at grant-aided schools.

Announcing the move, Education Minister, John O’Dowd said:

“The provision of free school meals plays a key role in raising educational standards. Not only does it provide the health benefits of a nutritious meal during the school day, supporting children’s growth and development; it also aids learning in the classroom and targets support to those who most need it – low income households.

“That is why, since I took up post as Education Minister, I have allocated additional money for the provision of free school meals. In the final year of Direct Rule, 27,800 children locally were eligible for free school meals. By last year that figure stood at almost 78,000. Furthermore, I recently announced an extension to the criteria that will see an estimated 15,000 additional children receive this assistance from next year.

“Indeed, in 2013/14 I have allocated almost £40million to provide free school meals to pupils from low income households.

“Today’s announcement takes this support further meaning that, for the first time, pupils at independent schools will be able to receive free school meals.”

There are 15 independent schools across the north which, last year, accommodated almost 700 children. The schools, which educate pupils from two years old to 18, do not receive any funding from the Department.

The Minister continued: “I have written to each independent school making them aware of my decision and I have instructed the Education and Library Boards to put the necessary arrangements in place to ensure this support is provided as soon as possible.”

It is anticipated that pupils at these schools will begin receiving free school meals in the coming weeks. Parents who think they may be eligible should contact their local Education and Library Board as soon as possible for further information and an application form.

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Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann has called for equality, tolerance and respect for all at Newry Pride Festival,

 Speaking after the event, which took place on Saturday, Ms. McCann said,

 “Events like this encourage people to take pride in who they are and they help lesbian, gay and bisexual people, as well as transgender people, become more visible in our society. We need to foster this pride and visibility so that young LGBT people don’t feel alienated or frightened in school or in their local community. We want to make sure all people, young or old, should be proud of their sexuality, and gender, and don’t think they have to hide it from the people around them, including their colleagues and neighbours.”

  “OFMDFM have committed to publishing a Sexual Orientation Strategy. The Strategy will promote equality of opportunity for people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual by addressing the specific inequalities they face. We want to engage with as many people as possible in order to make sure that our strategy takes full account of the actual experiences and needs of people here. As soon as consultation begins, I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to get their views across.  That is the only way that we can make sure that the Sexual Orientation Strategy will make a positive impact on people’s lives and create an equal and diverse society.”

 “Pride is a celebration of the hard work and the achievements of the LGBT Community.  It makes a positive contribution through breaking down barriers and stereotypes and promoting community cohesion.  Festivals such as this put into practice the idea that diversity should be celebrated. It helps communities to flourish and makes us proud to be a part of them.”

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Speaking at the Washington Ireland Programme (WIP) on Friday evening in Derry’s Magee University Great Hall on the issue of Ethnic Minorities in Ireland Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:

“Given that People from ethnic Minorities enrich our society, intellectually, culturally and economically it is important that we welcome them and appreciate the positive contribution that this diversity brings to our society.

“It is also important that we are aware of the difficulties that some encounter in settling into a new society. Unable to establish themselves in the new country, some immigrants become isolated and despondent at times with serious consequences. In extreme cases this sense of isolation and desolation can have fatal outcomes. A case in point and one it would be remiss of me not to mention in the context of this contribution, is that of homeless Polish man, Henryk Piotrowski who was killed in Dublin last week as a result of sleeping in a rubbish skip which was emptied as he slept. It is a sad reflection on our society that any human being should die in this manner.

“When I heard the news I also thought of the Polish Community living in the North and how 28 families had been attacked in Antrim in racist incidents and the 70 Roma families forced to flee South Belfast in recent years because of racist attacks.

“As Junior Minister during my time in the Assembly, I launched an excellent booklet in Omagh for Ethnic Minority Groups called ‘Awakening the Silent Voices’ and I was also able to give continuing support through the Ethnic Minority Development Fund.

“Without doubt prejudice is prevalent in some sections of our society and needs to be challenged to change views of "the other" which manifests itself in sectarian and racist attacks.In this City (Derry) we have a young man, Paul McAuley who was left in a vegetated state after a violent sectarian attack inflicted by bigots as he enjoyed a celebratory BBQ with a group of cross community and ethnic minority friends prior to one of them emmigrating

“By adopting a zero tolerance to sectarianism/racism we will bring about attitudinal change that will help us build a society of equals.

“I would recommend WIP support the demand for a Bill of Rights for the North of Ireland so that no group - ethnic minorities, women, LGB&T or those from any religious denomination etc., experience violation of social and economic rights.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said that he is concerned over reports that the Unionist paramilitaries warned several bars in Larne not to serve Catholics.

 Mr. McMullan said,

 “We was approached by a bar owner who told me that a mob of men who purportedly were representing Unionist paramilitaries visited several pubs in Larne on Saturday afternoon warning them not to serve Catholics.

 “I am concerned that the ongoing tensions between Unionist paramilitaries in the Larne area is now manifesting itself in a sectarian campaign against local Catholics.

“Some of the pubs are now considering introducing buzzer style entrances to protect their premises.  This would be a retrograde step back into the days of the conflict and the bar owners should not be put under this pressure.

 “At a time when people are attempting to promote Larne we see that Unionist paramilitaries are determined to put their stamp on the town making it an unwelcome place for many people

 “It is important that these threats are lifted immediately so that we can create a town that is welcoming to everyone.  I would call on anyone who is facing this sort of intimidation to contact the PSNI so that these criminals can be arrested.”

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Sinn Féin will propose an emergency motion at the monthly meeting of Dublin City Council this evening (Monday), opposing the cuts to services for people with disabilities in St. Michael's House facilities across Dublin. Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha, who is tabling the motion, called on Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn to allow debate on the motion.

Cllr. Mac Donncha said:

"The St. Michael's House organisation provides services for over 1,600 people with disabilities in the city and county of Dublin and in Navan but its funding has been cut by €12.3 million since 2008 and the Fine Gael/Labour Government is imposing a further €1 million cut this year.

“Last week service users, families, carers and staff received notification of the cuts, with staff posts and services to clients under threat. The small weekly allowance for participants in day centres has been cut, as well as transport services and other cuts have been signalled. Our motion is calling for these cuts to be reversed."

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 Sinn Féin MP for Newry/Armagh Conor Murphy has heavily criticised an article in today's Sunday Independent newspaper which blamed a recent mortar discovery in South Armagh on the IRA.Conor Murphy said:

"The story by Jim Cusack in today's Sunday Independent regarding the recent Cullyhanna mortar bomb is highly irresponsible and based purely on fantasy.

"Instead of dealing with a dangerous attack by one of the tiny, unrepresentative militarist factions, in which a recognised code word was given to the PSNI, the Sunday Independent has made utterly outlandish allegations about IRA involvement, which have no foundation whatsoever.

"Such a nonsensical story will be seen for what it is in the south Armagh area but it raises serious questions about the standard of journalism at the Sunday independent.

"The IRA decommissioned, stood down its structures and left the stage many years ago. Anyone with any credibility in politics or journalism knows this.

“Fifteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and almost 20 years after the first IRA ceasefire such allegations are ludicrous.

“However by publishing such baseless articles, the Sunday Independent is ignoring the sinister agendas at work behind them and the danger of damaging a hard won peace.”


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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has expressed his ‘deep sense of sadness’ at the news of the death of David Frost and has extended his sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of the broadcaster.

Mr Adams said:

“I have heard of the death of David Frost with a deep sense of sadness. I was interviewed by David many times. He was always courteous, good humoured, well researched and keenly interested in Ireland and the peace process. There was always a depth to his interviews that is frequently missing in others.

“David’s style of interview was unique and effective. He once explained to me that there are two types of interview. One in which the interviewer attacks like a blizzard, a storm, and the response of the guest is to button up, put on the big overcoat and go into protective mode. The other is to come at the guest like a sunny day. This encourages the guest to take off their jacket and relax. In this way you get the more informed and interesting interview. Consequently he was the master of the great interview.

To his family and friends I want to extend my sincere sympathies and condolences.

ends

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