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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 spokesperson on Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Maurice Quinlivan TD, today hit back at Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s coordinated attack on Sinn Féin’s enterprise policies. 

Deputy Quinlivan said that "the hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil in this area is staggering and Fine Gael are currently failing to support indigenous businesses on commercial rates and insurance costs".

Teachta Quinlivan said; 

“Today there was clearly a coordinated plan between Fine Gael and their government partners Fianna Fáil to attack Sinn Féin and our enterprise policies. 

“Fianna Fáil have some neck to lecture others on enterprise and economic policy considering their policies bankrupted the state, resulting in hundreds of thousands of job losses, business closures, mass emigration and a lost decade of investment in infrastructure, health and housing. Their hypocrisy is staggering. 

“Fine Gael on the other hand are currently not doing near enough to help indigenous businesses across Ireland who are struggling with commercial rates costs and escalating insurance premiums. 

“Sinn Féin’s enterprise policies aim to support our indigenous sector by tackling insurance costs and reforming the commercial rates system which are currently hampering SME’s growth. 

"We propose to maintain the 12.5% corporation tax rate, and we also want to ensure foreign direct investment is spread right across the state, to the benefit of all regions.

“We want to ensure businesses receive state support in order to prepare and deal with Brexit, something the current government is failing to do when you look at the worryingly low uptake of their Brexit supports to date. 

“We also want stricter corporate enforcement and compliance, something Fianna Fáil should follow our lead on considering their previous Wild West approach in this area which led to the banking collapse. 

“Sinn Féin have a broad range of enterprise policies that aim to help grow Irish businesses while also ensuring workers are treated fairly.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are clearly rattled at Sinn Féin’s growth in popularity and this was nothing more than throwing mud at Sinn Féin and seeing what sticks." 

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Táimid lán sásta bheith anseo ag céilúiradh ár Ard Fheis i mBéal Feiriste.

Cathair spesíalta, starúil.

Cathair ina bhfuil áit speisialta do gach uile duine.

Cathair ceannródaíoch, ach nach dhéannan dearmad faoin am atá chaite.

We meet here in the city of Belfast where for centuries history has been made and remade. 

A city that has boasted industrial might, that has endured poverty, exclusion and discrimination.

A city that bears the scars of conflict and division and that today carries the promise of full equality, of fraternity and liberty.

A city that never lost its sense of community or its sense of humour.

The cradle of the United Irishmen; Home to the great Mary Ann McCracken, to Winifred Carney, to Bobby Sands, to Gerry Adams.

Belfast is a shared city – where we all feel at home.

Belfast we are so happy to be here!!

Since we gathered in February, some dear friends have passed away.

I want in particular to pay tribute to Joe Reilly.

Joe epitomised what it meant to be an Irish Republican and he will be missed.

We have also lost other friends and our sympathies go out to each of their families.

We will not forget those who forged a path for Republicans in tough times. 

Céad míle fáilte to our international guests and supporters. 

Thank you for keeping faith with Ireland and with us.

Welcome to all our foreign dignitaries and diplomats.

A special message of Solidarity to the people of Palestine and Gaza – Sinn Féin stands with you.

Ireland cannot stand idly by as you endure another onslaught and as the Israeli government flouts international law.

The Irish Government must act, must recognise the state of Palestine – the time is now.

A new Ireland is possible

We are living through times of great change.

The old certainties are gone.

The perpetual Unionist majority in the North is no more.

The two and a half party system in the South has been consigned to history.

Leadership is shifting to a new generation.

We have the opportunity to reclaim Ireland for all our people, in all our diversity and difference.

Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible, until it is done”.

Nothing is impossible, no ambition too high for our new Ireland.

Realising our potential – 'getting it done' – that responsibility lies in our hands.

What we do today will make Ireland better tomorrow.

Building an open society, accountable government and a modern, progressive economy is work for today.

The new Ireland isn’t some far off aspiration, some unattainable dream, its foundations must be laid in the here and now.

Brexit

Brexit has put the issue of the border and partition at the centre of the political agenda.

We are now challenged, all of us, right across Ireland to work in common cause to protect Irish interests, north and south.

This challenge is as real for Unionism as it is for Republicans and Nationalists.

Treading water, fingers crossed and hoping for the best is not a strategy at this time.

Propping up a Tory government that glories in willful ignorance, and indifference to Ireland is not the way forward.

Allowing the Tories to dodge, equivocate and engage in fantasy non-solutions to the Irish question is most certainly not the answer.

If the architects of Brexit still can’t agree what Brexit looks like, that’s their problem.

It will not become Ireland’s problem.

The Tories need to know that. 

The DUP needs to know that.

The upcoming European Summit is crunch time.

If the British government don’t have a credible, acceptable proposal;

If they cannot demonstrate how they will avoid a hard border, protect the Good Friday Agreement and citizens’ rights then the Irish government must call them out.

There can be no question of progressing to the next phase of these negotiations in the absence of an answer to the Irish question.

This is one test that our government cannot fail!

A new Ireland

Our core objective is the reunification of Ireland.

The mechanism for achieving this is set out in the Good Friday Agreement, an agreement that is now twenty years old.

The work to achieve it must be driven by those of us – in Sinn Féin and beyond – who passionately believe that all of our lives can be so much better in a new Ireland.

The new Ireland that we seek honours each citizen equally; respects identity and culture, is rooted in civil and human rights,  respects all religious beliefs and none,

But does not impose the theology of any church;

Our new Ireland generates wealth and shares wealth; is driven by opportunity, ambition and sustainability; is defined by decency and compassion; respects privacy and celebrates community; allows us all to live in harmony under the one free sky in the place we call home.

Unionism & Reconciliation

A new Ireland must be home for Unionists.

We need to understand that.

We need to find ways to talk about the future.

We need to find ways of reconciling the past.

These aren’t easy things to do.

People suffered, were hurt, endured pain, inflicted pain.

We can’t make that go away but we can say sorry to each other.

I believe it is important that we do.

As the leader of Sinn Féin, I pledge that we will never forget.

That we will work tirelessly to ensure that we never return to the dark days of conflict.

To every family that seeks truth, that still waits, decades on, for an inquest into the death of a loved one,

I promise that we will stand with you.

We will stand with the family of Pat Finucane and with everyone who seeks truth and justice.

And we will respect the rights of every section of our people to remember and honour their dead.

There is much to be done to address the legacy of the past;

For a start, the funding for legacy inquests must be released without any further delay.

The foot dragging by the British government is outrageous, unacceptable and must end.

Sinn Féin in Government

Sinn Féin has worked in government in the north for a decade, in very challenging circumstances and with a most unlikely partner.

We made it work.

Martin McGuinness made it work.

We made it work, not because it was easy but because it was the right thing to do.

In the collective, national interest.

Let me be clear – a power-sharing executive and assembly in the North is still the right thing.

And we are up for that.

Michelle O’Neill stands ready to lead our team into Government.

We need partners who will legislate for the common good, not on the basis on personal prejudice or religious fundamentalism.

Partners who place respect, reconciliation, and the rights of citizens,  above all else. 

Partners with a real commitment to power-sharing – to sharing power, to mutual recognition, to rights.

These are the things the DUP must embrace.

Regrettably, the DUP remain in a fixed, negative space, more interested in facilitating the Tory Brexit than protecting the rights and livelihoods of people in the North.

And so the two governments must act now to deliver on Marriage Equality, to address the legacy of the past and to deliver Acht na Gaeilge.

Seo í Bliain na Gaeilge.

Ba cheart agus ba chóir go n-éisteofar le glór phobal na Gaeilge – ar fud an oileáin.

Tá an Ghaeilge ann dóibh siúd ar mhaith leo a labhairt, ach is le gach duine í.

Ó thaobh Sinn Féin, táimid tiomanta don dúshlán a thug an pobal dúinn anuraidh a shárú – sin chun Acht na Gaeilge a bhaint amach. 

Agus bainfimid amach é a chairde. 

Bígí cinnte faoi sin.

Acht Gaeilge anois!

People in the North cannot wait while the DUP play political games and go into hiding at Westminster.

The two Governments must act to convene the Intergovernmental Conference without further delay. 

Unionism cannot and will not hold back the tide of change and equality.

Government in the South

Neither can the political establishment in the south.

A lot has been said about the prospect of Sinn Féin entering government in the South.

A lot of noise as our political competitors vie with one another to come up with the best reason to keep us out of government.

Let me set a few things straight.

We are already a party of government.

I want to lead this party into a progressive government in the south.

I want to do that from a position of strength, a strength derived from the support of the people.

After the next election, Sinn Féin will talk to all political parties and the independents.

In those discussions we will stand on the side of ordinary people.

The people that government has forgotten, disregarded, left behind.

We will stand on the side of inclusion, accountability, and modern government.

We will stand for shared prosperity and decent work.

We will stand for a new, united Ireland.

We will see then if it is possible to agree a programme for government on that basis.

That is the objective.

Good government.  Delivering for the people.

To those who are on an agenda to exclude us,

I invite them to wake up and smell the coffee.

To realise that Irish political life is no longer dictated by them, it is no longer their way or the highway.

We are here, we are equal.

Our democratic mandate and more importantly the people who vote for Sinn Féin will be respected.

It is not for Leo Varadkar or Micheál Martin to decide whether or not we enter government.

That decision will be made, in the first instance by the people.

At the election the people are in control, we will ask them to back us, to give us the opportunity, the chance to make big changes.

Health, Housing & Shared Prosperity

We are the party to end the crises in health and housing.

We have the policies, we have the people and we have the political will.

Health

Our health service can be fixed.

To address the scandal of people lying on hospital trolleys, we will immediately reopen hospital beds closed by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

We will prioritise the retention of staff, and we will deliver a better pay deal for our nurses.

We will prioritise and invest in Mental Health services and supports.

It is a matter of great disgrace that Simon Harris now presides over seven hundred and seven thousand people on hospital waiting lists.

We will tackle this crisis by introducing an integrated management system to reduce waiting times.

I want to pay tribute to Vicky Phelan, Emma Mhic Mhathuna, Irene Teap and so many other women and families who were misled, failed, who were subjected to a cover up by the HSE and Cervical Check.

They are people of courage, of principle.  They now set the standard for the system.

Many people believe that in Ireland no-one in authority is ever held to account;

They’ve good reason for thinking this.

I want to make it clear that we will hold people to account, that we will not tolerate the HSE, or any other agency of the state, playing games with people’s lives.

Housing

The housing crisis is a national emergency.

We have had four Housing Ministers since Fine Gael came to power.

Eoghan Murphy has failed dismally to turn the tide because he is simply the latest proponent of disastrous Fine Gael policy.

The housing emergency is a whole of government issue.

The buck stops with Leo Varadkar.

His government has failed:

To house our citizens,

To tackle crisis rents,

To get a grip of homelessness,

A government with Sinn Féin would take the responsibility that the Taoiseach refuses to take. 

I know that for many, home ownership has become a pipe dream.

This can only be addressed by an ambitious affordable housing programme.

We'll build social housing and build communities, we'll end the distress of renters by introducing real rent certainty and security of tenure.

Sinn Féin in government will work so that no child calls a hotel room 'home'.

We are Irish republicans and we believe that housing is a right.

Shared Prosperity

Prosperity is of no value if it is just for the few.

Prosperity must be for all.

Our agenda in government is a shared prosperity fueled by ambition and driven by opportunity.

Sinn Féin will deliver for those who struggle to make ends meet, despite getting up early and working hard every day.

For those who do everything possible to better their lives, and the lives of their families, yet the wolf remains all too close to their door.

A visit to the doctor, the car breaking down, or back to school costs should not be a financial disaster.

No parent should have to pay the equivalent of a second mortgage for childcare.

Sinn Féin in government will replace this vulnerability with prosperity, certainty and the ability to plan for the future.

Shared prosperity is also good for business, for enterprise, for innovation and for productivity.

To achieve these things, business requires workers who are secure in their lives.

Workers require affordable homes, healthcare and childcare.

If business is to succeed we must invest in our people and in our infrastructure.

A decade of under investment, cutbacks and austerity has left deep scars.

It is time to build the schools, hospitals and communications network needed for a modern Ireland.

Part of this must be the state taking ownership of the rollout of essential broadband infrastructure.

This means getting rural broadband done and getting it right.

The Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment has been repealed.

This Ard Fheis has voted to decide party policy and we now move forward together, united in our determination to see the necessary legislation passed without delay.

That is our duty to all the women of Ireland.

Change is coming.

There is nothing to fear in that change.

And let me say this loud and clear – the North is next.

No woman will be left behind.

Every woman who calls this island home must have access to compassionate medical care at home.

A new Ireland for women

In the new Ireland we are building women will finally have our place as equals.

We need a step-change in how society views and treats women.

Not half measures or concessions.

I am talking about full equality.

I am talking about a new Ireland in which women are no longer forced to the side-lines.

An Ireland where women are on the pitch and leading the team.

Repeal of the Eighth Amendment was only the start.

We must continue this work by achieving justice for the victims of the Cervical Check scandal.

For those affected by the illegal adoption scandal.

For the Magdalene women.

The opportunities of a new Ireland must belong to our daughters as much as they belong to our sons.

One hundred years ago, women secured the right to vote.

A century on, we carry their torch as we work for:

 A new Ireland where women are safe.

A new Ireland where women are trusted.

A new Ireland where women are equally paid.

So sisters of Ireland, Mná na hEireann;

Let’s keep our expectations high.

Dream big and plan for success.

Because progressive women and men, working together, are transforming our nation; creating an open, tolerant society that is better for women, better for men – better for us all.

Conclusion

A chairde,

Fifty years ago people took a stand for civil rights.

People challenged, defied and faced down discrimination.

We salute them today.

Republicans have never sat around waiting.

Republicans get things done.

Not only do we dream of a better, modern, and united Ireland; we are building it today.

There is a place for everybody on this journey.

There is an equal place for everybody in a new Ireland.

Ireland is no longer simply orange and green.

Ireland is a rainbow of identities and cultures.

A place where diversity and difference can be embraced.

Ireland is changing.

A new and better Ireland is emerging.

To those who are impatient for equality and progress I say, this is your time.

This is your home.

This is your Ireland.

Sinn Féin is your party.

Let us seize the day.

Together, let us build a new and united Ireland.

Go raibh maith agaibh, a chairde.

 Up the Republic.

 An Phoblacht Abú.

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The decision taken by the Sinn Féin membership at today’s Ard Fheis to amend the party’s policy on the provision of women’s health care services is the compassionate thing to do, Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

Endorsing the Ard Chomhairle motion which brings Sinn Féin policy into line with the Oireachtas committee recommendations in the South, Michelle O’Neill commented: “We recognise that there are sincere strongly held views but we must face the reality that the lives of some women are placed at a real and substantial risk due to their pregnancy.“During the recent referendum campaign I was struck by the scores of women who came out to tell their personal stories.“One of the most powerful messages of the Together for Yes campaign was that, ‘a woman in your life, needs your Yes’.“It is so powerful because it is so true.“Not one of us in this hall today can predict if we, or our sisters, daughters or friends will ever find ourselves in that situation.“But if we ever did, we need to have a compassionate, health care service to be available to help us.“This is not about opening floodgates.“It is not about Pro-life or Pro-choice.“We are all pro-life.“It is not about labels or rhetoric. “It is about very real and very tragic scenarios. “It is about providing care and compassion and trusting the women in our lives to make the best decisions for them and their families.”And the Sinn Féin Deputy Leader said that legislators have a responsibility to make law for everyone.  “It is not right that I, or any section of Irish opinion, should seek to impose our outlook, or will, on society generally.“It is possible for individual members to have their own views on this issue but it is also important that the party has a position, that people know what it is and as legislators that it is something that we vote for together.   “The buck stops when our legislators go to act on this in the Dáil and the Assembly.“We must speak with one voice and implement the will of the people. “We are unique amongst the parties in that our members decide our policy. 

“We must respect that and recognise that we are not independents - we are Sinn Féin elected representatives first and foremost.”

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The need for political unionism to embrace power-sharing and engage in the debate around the future of Ireland has been magnified by the consequences of Brexit, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has told the party’s Ard Fheis in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.

Addressing 3,000 delegates and guests from across Ireland and internationally, the Sinn Féin Vice President also urged republicans to continue building the process of reconciliation.

“I have absolutely no doubt that there are many, many within the unionist community who look at Brexit with the same fear and trepidation as nationalists and republicans,” she said.

“I see no contradiction in declaring and delivering on our firm commitment to power sharing with unionism and a functioning Assembly while also initiating a mature and inclusive debate about new political arrangements which better serve all of us who share this island.

“Similarly, there is no contradiction in unionism working the existing constitutional arrangements while taking its rightful place in the conversation about what a New Ireland would look like.

“Central to this debate is the essential process of reconciliation. Indeed, if we are to build a reconciled society collectively we need to be receptive to all voices and new ideas.”

Describing the need to nurture peace and promote reconcilliation as “a call to action”, Michelle O’Neill added: “It means that each and every one of us here today accepts and understands our responsibility to reach out.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.

“Republicans must show example to others within and between our communities.

“This requires leadership. It means stretching ourselves today, tomorrow and the day after.

“Because the prize is a better, more prosperous and peaceful and rights based society for all of our young people – the Good Friday generation.”

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Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has welcomed confirmation that the British Home Office has finally agreed to return Billy Caldwell’s cannabis oil medication.

The 12-year-old from Castlederg is currently hospitalised in London and the West Tyrone MP described the Home Office decision as ‘life-saving’.

“Billy should never have been put in that position. The treatment was clearly working for him and he deteriorated badly once it ended, yet it still took intense lobbying to get the Home Office to reverse this cruel decision.

“I have been working with Billy’s mother Charlotte for several weeks to try and find a solution so we are all delighted and relieved that I have today received confirmation from the Home Office that they have finally relented and agreed to allow Billy to have his medication after accepting the recommendation of medical professionals that cannabis oil was appropriate in his case.

 “I thank all those who have supported Billy and his family throughout this difficult time. This is a life-saving intervention for Billy and he can now concentrate on his recovery and hopefully being discharged from hospital in the near future.

“I will continue to engage with the Home Office and the health authorities to ensure he can access his medication in the longer term so there is no repeat of the trauma he has suffered over recent weeks.”

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Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney has welcomed the PSNI’s response to road safety concerns on the Barnish Road, Randalstown.

 Following a site meeting with PSNI officers at Whitehill on the Barnish Road, Mr Kearney said,

“I want to commend the PSNI for their swift response to road safety concerns on the Barnish Road at Whitehill which I raised during a meeting with the area commander and senior officers last week. 

"As a result local police officers and I met twice this week on Barnish Road to assess the situation and observe first hand instances of speeding traffic.

“For the past year, Sinn Féin has maintained a consistent focus on rural road safety throughout the South Antrim area. Our campaign has sought to raise awareness and encourage safe and responsible attitudes on the part of all road users. This has proved very successful with the assistance of the PSNI and the Department for Infrastructure, in consultation with local communities.

“Despite our efforts to discourage excessive speeding by some motorists on the Barnish Road, including the introduction of a 40mph zone from above Tír Na nÓg club to the 30mph zone before Whelan's Brae, on the outskirts of Randalstown, this continues to be a very dangerous stretch of road.

“As a result of my discussions with senior PSNI officers, we have agreed that there will be an increased policing profile on the Barnish Road, to help encourage compliance with the speed restriction.  This will include regular speed detection operations.

"I want the Barnish Road to become a 'no go' area for dangerous driving and excessive speeding, and a safer place for both road users and local people

“I have also contacted the Department for Infrastructure to seek improvements to sight lines in the area which currently impede motorists' view when emerging from side roads, such as Ballylurgan Road, onto the Barnish Road.

“In the meantime I would appeal to all road users, especially motorists travelling through the Whitehill, to show respect for the local community by demonstrating due care, and especially in the vicinity of the Tír na nÓg GAC grounds.”

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Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley is calling for an urgent intervention by the British Home Office to enable Billy Caldwell to access to medication that has been so effective in treating his condition.

The West Tyrone MP was speaking after it emerged that Billy has been admitted to hospital.

“Along with Billy’s mother, I met with Nick Hurd the British Minister for Policing and the Fire Service to ask the British Government to find a way to allow Billy the medication which will ease his suffering.

“The situation has now become all the more urgent following Billy’s admission to hospital and it simply isn’t good enough for the cruel denial of his medication to continue.

“The Home Office say he can have access to the medicinal cannabis that has been so effective provided a clinician can advise that this is appropriate in his case.

“Given the seriousness of the current situation, they must make now make this an urgent priority and intervene to ensure that is done and Billy is allowed to resume his medication.”

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As Mayor of Belfast, I am delighted to welcome you all to Belfast and to one of the city’s iconic buildings, the Waterfront for this year’s Sinn Féin Ard Fheis.

Belfast is a diverse city with a history of division and conflict.

The conflict is over but the divisions remain amidst a growing diversity of people and cultures.

As mayor I am mindful that I represent all the people of this city at official engagements.

And this is an official engagement.

But let me also take this opportunity to reassure the unionist people, in particular. That I am a mayor for them as well and I will endeavour to represent their interests, as I am tonight, representing the interests of those gathered here for Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis.

My office in the City Hall is open to the unionist people and their representatives.

It is open to the many ethnic communities who now live in this city.

It is open to the Travelling community and to the LGBT community as well.

It is open to people who disagree with the Council or me on for example LGBT rights or a woman’s right to choose.

I make no distinction in terms of helping people to those who say YES or those who say NO.

You are all welcome in the mayor’s office.

A chairde, you are here at a time of great change across Ireland and great change in this city.

Belfast City Council, which elected me as Sinn Fein’s first female Mayor, now has a majority of Councillors who are progressive, inclusive and look to the future, mindful of our past but not paralysed by it.

And let me say at the outset of my speech that we are mindful of all the relatives of those who lost loved ones in the conflict or were injured.

As mayor I support the many relatives-led campaigns for truth and for justice and for the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement to end the heart-break and uncertainty that the conflict and its legacy has caused, for all those affected irrespective of the circumstances.

I am very proud to say that I represent a council that is at the cutting edge of progressive thinking and inclusion of all citizens.

Belfast City Council is for marriage equality just as the rest of the people of this island.

I would like to commend those who voted for marriage equality in the south’s referendum a few years ago.

And I would like to reassure the LGBT community in the north, despite the opposition from unionist parties and the British government, you too will live in a society which does not fear who you love or wish to marry.

Belfast City Council is also opposed to Brexit. The Council stands with the overwhelming majority of people across this island who are also opposed to Brexit.

The north voted to Remain inside the EU and the people’s wish should be respected by the British government and the DUP.

Brexit is bad news for the people of Ireland for the people of Belfast and for the people of Europe.

And it is particularly bad for business and for business people who have been to the fore in this city in generating employment and wealth which the Council has been able to use in its investment programmes across Belfast.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say thanks to all those who voted Yes in the ‘Repeal the Eight’ referendum.

It was a result, beyond people’s expectations.

And I know how difficult an issue this was for all involved: for those who voted YES and NO.

I would like to pay a special tribute to Sinn Fein President, Marylou McDonald, for the outstanding leadership she displayed throughout the campaign.

Mary Lou, you were a champion for the women of Ireland, for Irish society and for Sinn Féin.

The referendum result was a compassionate response to a very difficult situation.

People voted out of respect for women and a desire to place women’s needs and health at the centre of a just society.

And it is that same desire of respect and trust that is motivating the women of the north and their supporters in their campaign to remove the restrictive abortion laws.

As Mayor of Belfast you have my support and I am confident that you too will live in a society that supports the right of women to choose.

In my year in office I have chosen to sponsor a ‘Rights Charter’ for the people of this city.

I am keen for those various and varied communities to find a platform in the Mayor’s office.

The doors to the Mayor’s office are open; the doors of the City Hall are open.

The City Hall is a warm and welcoming home for all its citizens.

And on their behalf let me wish all the delegates here a successful weekend of debate.

And while you are here enjoy all that Belfast has to offer in terms of its hospitality and warmth.

Fáilte romhaibh uilig.

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Three weeks ago the people of the Twenty Six Counties announced to the world that they were up for radical change as they voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

This change had seemed unimaginable only a short time ago.

People working together made it happen. 

Women made it happen.

Young people made it happen. 

Léríodh gur féidir athrú a bhaint amach. Sa tír seo ina bhfuil daoine tinn tuirseach de ghealltanais bhriste agus polaitíocht ar an tseanstíl, ábhar dóchais dúinn a thuigeann an géarghá atá ann maidir le hathrú in Éirinn

Young citizens who were at the centre of this change, knew all too well of the social shackles which bore down on their families and neighbours for generations.

In one decisive vote, they cast them off.

They now yearn for a new beginning in a nation which will embrace their place in society, and cherish their potential.

But how can they, in a state that has raised young people for export for generations?

Where are they to start a family in the midst of a housing crisis, where thousands are condemned to homelessness?

Rents are at runaway levels and childcare costs are the highest in Europe.

What is their place in an economy which too often offers them only low-paid, insecure work?

Sinn Féin will cherish our hard-won social rights and freedoms.

But this is not enough. The people of Ireland deserve more.

It’s time to build a new economy for a changing Ireland.

Sinn Féin offer economic transformation. We offer a vision of a society underpinned by stable and shared prosperity.

In today’s Ard Fheis, we will endorse this vision, laid out in motions 17 & 20.

We offer a programme to create a modern economy across our island, for the first time guaranteeing world-class services as your birthright, from cradle to grave.

We see signs that our economy is recovering. But we hear those who tell us that they don’t feel any better off. 

Fine Gael tell us they offer stability. But they have cast a cloud of fear and insecurity in homes all across the state.

They will never understand the anxiety of being one pay check away from financial distress, they will never understand the ‘what ifs?’.

How will we cope if the car breaks down or if they cut my hours this week or if a loved one falls ill?

We hear you when you tell us that you work all the hours you can, you pay your taxes and all of your bills, and at the end of the week you still struggle to make ends meet.

I hear you, and I say to you if I am Minister for Finance I will have your back. Sinn Féin will have your back.

We don’t just want change – we need transformation.

Transformation to end the human tragedy of 10,000 homeless citizens, over 700,000 on hospital waiting lists, and hundreds each day on hospital trollies.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are attempting to normalise these crises. We will not allow that to happen.

We will invest to finally end this chapter of permanent crisis and instability, and we will bring this transformation to government.

We will introduce a living wage, to free families from the unrelenting burden of worry and insecurity.

In government, we will bring Fine Gael’s homelessness crisis to an end.

We will begin implementing our plan for universal healthcare, free for every citizen as a birthright.

We will abolish all student fees, create thousands of apprenticeships, and unleash the potential of our young people.

They will once again see their future on our island.

We will end Fine Gael’s tax breaks for those who seek to profiteer from your hardship and from our nation’s housing crisis.

We hear you when you say you’re sick and tired of the culture of never-ending scandal and corruption - where those accountable for mistakes walk into another glittering career, and where we all pay their price.

Not anymore.

From the persecution of whistleblowers, to rampant white-collar crime. From the back-slapping, to the gold-plated pensions, cosy contracts and revolving door boys-clubs.

Sinn Féin sees it all.

So let it ring in the ears of those pacing the gilded halls of power across this state – in government, Sinn Féin will Stamp. It. Out.

This is our vision, and people hear it. The citizens of this island will not wait for their rights any longer.

Together we deserve, and we will build, an economy and a society based on rights, security and wellbeing for every citizen on our island.

This is also a vision for an agreed and united Ireland. A transformation that must be owned by all backgrounds and cultures. ó Beal Feirste go Baile Átha Cliath ó Baile Bhuirne go dtí An Bhun Bhig

Sochaí dár saoránaigh nua a thagann anseo le saol úr a bhaint amach. Dár mná, óige, agus iad siúd ar doiligh dóibh greim  choinneáil faoin bhfiacail.

 The Irish people are ready for change –

Ready to tear down the structures of elitism and gross inequality.

Ready to bring stability and a life of dignity to every home on our island.

 Ready for Sinn Féin’s vision for a new, transformed, and modern economy for a changing island.

So whenever Leo and Micheál decide the love-in is over, and an election is called, they will know - Sinn Féin is ready. The people of Ireland are ready.

We represent, and we are, people from all over this country – our activists and representatives live with, work with, and give voice to, citizens from all walks of life. 

We hear the growing cries for change, because we live it every single day.

We’ve seen this passion shatter the foundations of elitism on which southern state was built – when LGBTQ citizens demanded their human rights, when Irish women sent shockwaves around the world only 3 weeks ago.

We are ready and we are eager to bring this same passion to government.

A new Ireland is coming. It needs new leadership and big ideas, to have your back and to deliver real economic and social transformation. Sinn Féin is that leadership – for all of us.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

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A chomrádaithe;

Dia daoibh agus fáilte go dtí Béal Feirste.

Thank you for the warm welcome. 

I’m very honoured to be welcomed onto the stage by a formidable Belfast woman, the first female Sinn Féin Mayor of this great city, Deirdre Hargey.

Deirdre will be a champion of this city in her year ahead and we wish her well.

I think it’s poignant - that in the year that marks 100 years since partial suffrage - that a woman is at the helm of this city. 

Belfast has that long tradition of female activism from Winnie Carney to Mairead Farrell and now today to Deirdre Hargey. 

We’ve a packed weekend ahead of us as we discuss and debate how we will advance our ideas and vision for a New Ireland.

Sinn Féin is working the length and breadth of the country - in London, Europe and North America - to bring about and influence much needed change across Irish society.

Rooted in the communities from which we come, it is through our organising, campaigning and leadership within the institutions, and most importantly, on the ground, that we are delivering real change.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our activists, our public representatives and your families for your passion, hard work and dedication to this party, to those who we represent and the New Ireland you are helping build.

SINN FÉIN MOVEMENT

We are a party on the move.

We’re bringing people and generations together from all backgrounds in common cause.

We are fortunate to have a wealth of experience from representatives and activists who, over many years, have helped build the party to where we are today.

A huge welcome to all of you.

I want, in particular, to welcome the families of our Patriot Dead to this year’s Ard Fheis.

There is a place for everyone in the Sinn Féin movement.

We are a modern, progressive, Republican Party who stands with the people in defending and advancing Irish national interests.

And Sinn Féin stands ready.

We stand ready to;

▪      Be in Government North and South;

▪      To assert and deliver rights for all;

▪      To continue the fight against Brexit;

▪      To oppose austerity at every turn.

▪      To deliver high quality public services.

▪      To take on the vested interests, putting an end to cronyism and making Government accountable to the people and the law,

▪     To deliver real prosperity, encourage entrepreneurship, decent jobs, and fair pay for a fair day’s work!

WOMEN

Sinn Féin stands with women.

The recent repeal result was for all women.

For the forgotten women of the mother and baby homes.

For the women that were being failed in crisis.

For the mothers forced to give their babies up against their will.

It was a vote for compassion.

It was a vote to say loud and clear… women will never be left behind again.

Women’s position has improved in Irish society; glass ceilings have been shattered but there is still plenty to do. 

We now need to;

▪      Close the gender pay gap;

▪      Bring new laws to provide access to healthcare North and South;

▪      Live free from violence;

▪      Provide affordable childcare;

▪      End economic inequality;

▪      Bring more women into public life and politics.

A chairde, surely you agree, it’s time for a woman Taoiseach to lead the next Government.

Surely, that woman is, Mary Lou McDonald

YOUTH

I am so proud of the huge numbers of young people who are active in this party.

A whole new generation of young Shinners!

A whole new generation of emerging young leaders – new voices, with big ideas - who symbolise a bright and hopeful future.

You are the future leaders and you will achieve, make your mark, and make a difference in shaping a prosperous Ireland of the future.

Thig leat agus beidh leat. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.

BREXIT                                                                                          

You join this movement at a truly defining period in Irish history, not least in the context of Brexit.

Brexit represents the greatest economic threat to the island of Ireland in a generation.

And I fully respect the right of the British people to leave the EU and I wish them well.

However, I am absolutely opposed to the British Government dragging us out of the EU against our will.

Sinn Féin wants the whole of Ireland to remain within the EU just like the people voted.

We have influenced and made our case to the EU27 in the Dáil and the European Parliament.

We will continue to make our voices heard and to build a progressive coalition around our national interest.

Myself and the leaders of the SDLP, Alliance and Greens presented two joint statements in recent weeks where we made clear that:

▪      Human Rights and equality provisions must be protected.

▪      We cannot withstand exclusion from the single market or customs union;

▪      We must protect the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts,

▪      The backstop agreed by both the British Government and the EU27 is the bottom line in order to safeguard our political and economic stability now and for the future.

The four party leaders speak for the majority of the people in the north.

The DUP do not speak for all of the people of the North.

They are putting their self-serving pact with the Tory party at Westminster before people’s interests here.

They’re living in a fool’s paradise.

They blindly prop up Theresa May who is preoccupied with negotiating with her own cabinet rather than the EU.

Britain is divided! But in Ireland We are united!

We will not be collateral damage as a result of the reckless Tory/DUP Brexit agenda.

There will be no border in Ireland.

Sin é!

PEACE & RECONCILIATION

In April we marked the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

This gave us all space to reflect on how far we have come, and reminded us that nothing can be taken for granted.

And despite our ongoing political challenges, the island of Ireland has been transformed as a result of the peace process.

The Good Friday Agreement is the centrepiece of a more prosperous, peaceful and democratic society

The agreement defines the new relationships that now exist within, and between Ireland and Britain.

And yesterday evening both Mary Lou and I met with Prince Charles in the rebel county, Cork, where we talked about the necessary work of reconciliation. 

Much pain and hurt has been caused over the years to many people. 

We must attempt to heal that pain, to recognise each other’s loss and to find ways to trust each other.

We must build bridges that we can cross. 

We must rid our society of sectarianism.

We must choose to live together.

We must continue to build on the reconciliation work of Martin McGuinness over many years and we will do so because it is the right thing to do.

So instead of refighting the battles of the past we all – unionists and nationalists - need to have the humility to accept that we have conflicting narratives, conflicting histories and conflicting allegiances.

 We must reach a sustainable compromise through dialogue and agreement.

Create a future where everyone feels they belong.

Where our culture and identity is respected.

Where we recognise each other’s right to express being Irish, British, both, or neither.

TALKS PROCESS

The abandonment of those principles by both the British Government and the DUP has led to a situation in which for the last 18 months, the people of the North have had no Government.

That is not acceptable. 

It is not tolerable. 

It is not good enough.

No Assembly and no Executive is the price of the Tory/DUP pact.

We set out to restore the Executive on the basis of equality, rights and respect. 

In February, we reached an agreement that created the conditions for the Executive to be re-stablished

However, the DUP walked away.

The issues which require resolution are not going away.And all roads will lead back to the negotiating table.

In the meantime, there can be no justifiable excuse for refusing to afford citizens here their civil, social and cultural rights.

Whether that be Irish language rights;

Access to Coroner’s inquests;

Equal marriage rights or,

Women’s right to healthcare;

Fifty years after the civil rights campaign, rights will not be denied.

There is a clear requirement under the Good Friday Agreement on the part of both governments, to ensure the equivalent standards of protection of rights which exist in all other parts of these islands, must be delivered here too.

Over recent months I have met with all sections of our business community and trade unions including the CBI, the Chamber of Commerce, local industry leaders, and Intertrade Ireland.

They all want local institutions to deliver economic progress.

So do I!

For a successful, competitive economy we need a skilled workforce and a new Economic Strategy.

But we also need political certainty and stability.

None of this can be delivered if the institutions do not command the confidence of local people.

It is not an either/or situation.

We need both.

And so the message from this Ard Fhéis to both governments is loud and clear;

You must convene the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference without delay, and determine how you, as the joint stewards of the peace process, will remove the obstacles to power-sharing.

Mary-Lou and I will be in London on Wednesday and this is the message that we will be delivering directly to Theresa May.

IRISH UNITY

The Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful democratic pathway to Irish Unity.

The issue of Irish Unity has taken on a new dynamic because of Brexit.

Demographics are changing and so too is the political landscape.

This cannot be ignored.

Peter Robinson’s recent remarks at Queen’ University acknowledge this.

The Good Friday Agreement gives people the opportunity and choice to decide our future together.

How we live together.

How we work together.

How we share this island together.

The political momentum of change is moving in that direction.

Sinn Féin wants a New Ireland, a fairer Ireland, and a united Ireland.

But we do not own the debate. 

I have absolutely no doubt that there are many, many within the unionist community who look at Brexit with the same fear and trepidation as nationalists and republicans.

A Unity Referendum is coming and we need to be prepared for it.

There is no contradiction in declaring and delivering on our firm commitment to power sharing with unionism and a functioning Assembly, while also initiating a mature and inclusive debate about new political arrangements which better serve all of us who share this island.

Similarly, there is no contradiction in unionism working the existing constitutional arrangements while taking its rightful place in the conversation about what a New Ireland would look like.

CONCLUSION

This is a defining period in our history.

The opportunities for real change are within our grasp.

It is a time to hear all voices within this debate. 

We must continue our journey of dialogue, of listening, of sharing ideas because in the New Ireland, there can only be a victory for us all.

It is our task to persuade people why it’s in their economic, cultural and political interests to share power not only at Stormont – but on an All-Ireland basis together.

To assure people that all identities will be protected. 

That there will be guaranteed rights and entitlements for all in the New Ireland. 

As republicans, we are about transforming and uniting our country for everyone, not ourselves alone. 

Let’s push ourselves, challenge ourselves, be confident in ourselves.

Let’s lead the change, let’s bring people with us.

Let’s shape our future together.

As Margaret Mead said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’

Comrades, we are that group of people…..

Míle buíochas agus go raibh mile maith agaibh go leor.

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Universal Credit should be halted following a 'damning' report by the Audit Office, Sinn Féin Welfare spokesperson Alex Maskey MLA has said.

The West Belfast MLA was commenting after an Audit Office report published today warned that the Universal Credit system is causing hardship, has been too slow to roll out and could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing

“This is a damning report,” he commented. “However, it is not unexpected given that we have been raising these and a number of other issues for some time now.

“While the mitigation measures here have went some way to alleviating some of the worst aspects of Universal Credit, it remains clear that this system is not fit for purpose.

“It is a policy that is riddled with faults, complications and delays.

“It is a policy that was supposedly designed to simplify the benefits system, but as this report highlights, it causes more hardship and increases poverty.

“The very fact that Universal Credit continues to roll out despite the IT system not being fully built is also shocking and we are again calling it to be halted before more people are pushed into poverty.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has criticised Minister Regina Doherty for ignoring all of the evidence in relation to the difficulties faced by the most vulnerable in society.

Later today the Irish Human Rights Commission and the ESRI will launch a report showing that lone parents, young people and people with a disability are among those facing the highest levels of discrimination and inequality when it comes to accessing housing.

Teachta Brady said:

“This is yet another report and further evidence that lone parents, young people and people with a disability are experiencing barriers when it comes to accessing supports, and in this case, housing.

“In the last year we have had the Survey on Income & Living Conditions and an ESRI report into deprivation across the EU concluding that lone parents and people of working age with a disability are among the most deprived in the EU.

"These are the cohorts of people who are hugely disadvantaged and Government inaction, despite all of the evidence is failing these people.

"The report being published today shows that more than 1 in 4 homeless people have a disability and young people experience higher levels of overcrowding and are at a higher risk of becoming homeless.

“I have put it to Minister Doherty time and time again that the reduced Jobseekers payments for 18-25 year olds is having a detrimental impact on their ability to source and retain housing.

"Sinn Féin along with many organisations has called on Minister Doherty to remove the age discrimination in jobseekers payments. The findings of this report are another reason why this needs to happen.

“Minister Doherty needs to start listening to the experts and taking heed of the findings of reports such as the one being launched today.

"Budget 2019 needs to focus on lone parents, young people, and people with a disability. If it doesn’t then the Government will continue to leave more and more people behind.”

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Speaking following a private meeting with Prince Charles in Cork this evening, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said she was glad to avail of the opportunity to extend the hand of friendship of those in Ireland who identify as British.

Deputy McDonald was accompanied by Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill MLA.

Teachta McDonald said:

“Today’s meeting was an opportunity to extend the hand of friendship, not just to Prince Charles or to the British Royal family - whose efforts to promote reconciliation I want to acknowledge - but to those on our island who identify as British, and who are British.

"As I have stated previously, the Ireland I want to be part of building is a county where one can comfortably be Irish or British, both or neither.

“All identities and traditions on our island must be respected.

“This is about building on the courageous work of Martin McGuinness and others.

“The conflict in our country caused great suffering and pain.

“The past has fostered distrust on all sides of political discourse across the island.

“That is the reality, but in extending the hand of friendship we can help to build a better future for all. We are on an ongoing journey of building trust.

“The past may inform who we are, but it cannot define where we are going.

“Acknowledging the loss of victims and families on the basis of equality and respect for each other is essential.

“Reconciling difference, dealing with the past, challenging sectarian attitudes and working together to find common ground are how we move our society forward.

“As a political leaders Michelle O'Neill and I are committed to playing our parts in that work and I want to extend the hand of friendship to our Unionist brothers and sisters this evening.” 

ENDS//

Note: Ms McDonald and Ms O'Neill had a private meeting with Prince Charles which lasted over thirty minutes.

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has said that the education of children, parents and teachers is key to keeping children safe online.

Speaking in the Dáil where the Report on Cyber Security for Children and Young Adults was being discussed, Deputy Mitchell said the creation of an Office of the Digital Safety Commissioner must be a top priority:

“We need an office which young people, parents, industry and legislators can rely on to advise on best practice when it comes to digital safety. It should be properly resourced to conduct research, produce statutory codes of practice, oversee take-down procedures and provide and produce educational material.

“We all know that digital technology will continue to play an increasing role in the lives of young people. So we need to be sure that we have the tools in place to educate young people on how to use this technology in a respectful and safe way."

Deputy Mitchell also welcomed recommendations in the Report regarding the inclusion of Cyber Security modules in primary and secondary schools:

“It is my belief that the best way to ensure that young people are safe online is by educating them on how to use the internet in a respectful way, to make sure they are aware of the dangers posed and, crucially, that they are informed about their rights when it comes to personal data and privacy.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said he is not surprised at the news that Ulster Bank overcharged SMEs €36 million.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I am not surprised at the news that 18,000 customers of Ulster Bank have been overcharged, resulting in a total overcharging of €36m.

"Just a number of weeks ago I raised the issue of Ulster Bank overcharging their business customers with the Minister for Finance.

"Today's announcement by Ulster Bank adds to a series of overcharging scandals by the bank.

"Each year for the last 4 years, financial institutions have had to return on average €40 million to their business customers as a result of overcharging. 

"Today's announcement is just a continuation of that trend of overcharging.

"The constant in these scandals is that these so-called 'errors' always benefit the bank, never the customer.

"The other constant is that nobody is ever held accountable. As long as the law does not promote individual accountability these scandals will continue.”

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Following the launch of today’s Postcard campaign which calls on the Attorney General to to grant a fresh inquest into the Stardust fire, Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has called for communities across Ireland to support the campaign.

Speaking at the launch, the Sinn Féin Dublin MEP stated:

“There is huge amount of public and political support for the families of the Stardust campaign.  

"This is a tangible way that they can show their support so I would urge local communities to get involved. 

"The campaign will now be rolled-out across Dublin and then nationwide. 

"The postcard calls on the Attorney General to exercise his right under Section 24 of the Coroners Act 1962 to grant a fresh Inquest as soon as possible."

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Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has said that the situation facing teaching principals is getting worse and may result in posts being vacated if nothing is done to alleviate the administrative burden on them.

Speaking in the Seanad today the Mayo Senator said:

"Many small schools in rural areas rely on Principals teaching at the same time. In many cases they teach several different classes in the one setting.

"Added to this they have to function as Principal of the school with all the daily unexpected challenges that brings.

"They then must fulfill administrative duties which involve regular contact with the Department of Education and a host of other statutory and voluntary bodies.

"Currently these principals are only given 15 administration days a year to do all this. They have asked for one day a week.

"This is a reasonable request to enable them balance the role of teacher and principal. This issue has been highlighted for the past 10 years with little or no positive outcomes.

We are fast approaching crisis point with many of these principals reassessing their future where administration duties increase yet supports do not follow suit.

"I have asked Minister Bruton to come to the Seanad to debate the issue and to arrive at workable solutions.

"He needs to hear the reality of the situation and understand that this simply cannot continue. These principals already take up the slack for Government and the least they deserve is enough time and resources to do this."

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has welcomed the publication of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Report on New Dwelling Completions, stating that this is an opportunity for greater transparency on the delivery of new homes.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“We have been calling for the Department of Housing to abandon its misleading data source of ESB meter connection data to officially count new homes.

“The CSO data shows that 14,446 new dwellings were completed in 2017, this is contrary to Paschal Donohoe’s claim earlier this year that 17,000 new homes were completed.

“While we welcome the publication of the data it is clear that supply is still chronically low.

“Over 5,000 of these homes were social houses so less than 9,000 new homes came on the private market last year.

“The delivery of 3,526 new dwellings for the first quarter of 2018 looks promising, however increasing supply itself does not guarantee affordability.

“Not one of the new dwellings delivered either in 2017 or the first quarter of 2018 is an affordable home because the government has no affordable housing scheme in place.

“Having access to a more accurate data source is an important first step in tracking the true delivery of some much needed new homes.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has welcomed EU proposals for a new maritime channel linking Ireland and Europe post Brexit. 

Liadh Ní Riada said: 

"I welcome this proposal coming from the EU Commission as part of its no deal Brexit contingency plans for the creation of a new maritime channel between Ireland and Europe. 

"It shows the willingness of the EU to ensure trade with Ireland is not hindered by the disastrous Tory Brexit agenda. 

"This would not only provide a solution to the trade problems of Brexit but would also be a boost to tourism and the construction industry. 

"While no port has yet been identified it would make sense for it to be located at the existing deep water ports of Rosslare, Cork or Waterford. 

"Such a facility is much needed and long overdue should go ahead regardless of the Brexit outcome and there is funding available through the Connected Europe Fund to make it happen. 

"It would also compliment and enhance existing trade routes across the island, all of which we want to see protected from Brexit. 

"It is clear the political will exists in the EU to create this new maritime channel and we now need to see the Irish government stepping up and ensure it comes to fruition." 

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed the launch today of the campaign by the Movement of Asylum Seekers in support of the right to work.

Teachta Adams said:

“Last year the Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition on asylum seekers to work was unconstitutional. 11 months ago the Minister for Justice established an Inter-Departmental Taskforce to examine the implications and to make proposals to bring the system in line with the Supreme Court judgement. Almost a year later the Taskforce has still not reported.

"In addition, the indications emerging from it indicate a determination on the part of the government to adopt a minimalist approach which will in effect circumvent and undermine the Supreme Court ruling.

"This is evident in the imposition of strict bans on asylum seekers seeking employment in over 60 sectors, including retail and hospitality.

"They have to pay one thousand euro for an employment permit – an impossible objective given the €21.60 they are expected to live on weekly. Also, an asylum seeker is restricted to jobs with a minimum salary of thirty thousand euro. Those conditions would rule many citizens out of work.

"The government’s restrictions are rigid, unworkable and unfair to asylum seekers.

"Sinn Féin supports the right of asylum seekers to immediate access to the labour market; to the same labour rights as EU and Irish citizens; and to access to enterprise supports and training courses.

“The Direct Provision system is shameful and unacceptable. It reflects an attitude which in previous years created the dreadful Magdalene laundries and the industrial schools. It should be dismantled and a new, more humane, transparent and accountable system, based on best international practice, should be put in place."

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