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Speaking in response to the publication of the latest ESRI and Health and Safety Authority research on farm accidents, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Martin Kenny TD said the findings were indicative of the pressure under which farmers are operating now.

The TD for Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan, and South Donegal said:

“Farming is the occupation with the highest risk of fatalities in Ireland, with a rate nearly ten times the average across occupations between 2009 and 2015 according to the report, which also finds that getting help with difficult tasks is key to improving safety. 

“Farmers being able to help each other out, like they used to, is a thing of the past in rural Ireland because farm incomes have dropped to such an extent that most farmers are part-time and the possibility of neighbours helping each other is gone.

“It used to be the norm that neighbours would help each other out for cattle tests, dipping sheep or other labour intensive or dangerous tasks on the farm. Very often, it is the thing that you get away with a thousand times, especially when working with machinery, that goes wrong once with tragic results.

“Having proper protective guards on machinery is essential, particularly around PTO shafts and hydraulic pipes and above all, being aware of your own safety and taking all precautions. Working alone with machinery is always a risk.” 

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A Bill from Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has passed final stage in the Dáil this evening.

The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2014 removes the six year rule which prevents the Financial Services Ombudsman from hearing complaints about financial products that have been sold more than six years from the date of complaint.

This is the first opposition Bill to pass all stages in the Dáil for some time.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I am delighted my Bill has passed all stages in the Dáil.

“It is estimated that over a thousand complaints annually are either not made or not heard as a result of the six year rule.

“Between 2011 and 2016 over 3,000 people were excluded from the Financial Services Ombudsman system because of the six year rule.  Many others may not have even applied because they knew six years had elapsed.

“My Bill will allow many of these people to have their cases heard by the Ombudsman. I know of many cases of families waiting for this legislation to be passed so they can make a complaint about a bank or insurance provider, have it heard by the Ombudsman, seek redress and be compensated.

“In recent years we have witnessed the tracker mortgage scandal and the mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurance.

“This is the first opposition Bill to be passed through all stages in the Dáil for some time and it is a Bill that will have an immediate impact for the 3000 people who have been prevented from having their cases heard and the many more who simply haven’t made complaints as a result of this rule.

“I look forward to the Bill becoming law and presenting consumers with a level playing field when dealing with financial institutions.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane said today that he is shocked, but not surprised, at the latest figures from the CSO showing the South East has the highest unemployment figures in the state.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“Unemployment in the South East is at crisis point.

“The region been neglected for decades by several Governments. A recently published report by Mr Ray Griffin of WIT clearly demonstrated that Waterford and the South East was losing out in investment.

“The social and business infrastructure of the region has been put on the back burner.

“We have seen repeated attempts by the HSE to downgrade University Hospital Waterford from a regional to a local hospital.

“The planned merger of Waterford and Carlow ITs has been put on hold.

“Waterford City and County Council recently submitted an application for €5.5m funding to complete the Waterford Greenway. 

“This has been refused due to a lack of funding. 

“The region needs investment in infrastructure and jobs creation in order to sustain itself, but the political will is simply not there at the moment.

“Waterford needs strong and decisive leadership. We need the Government to deliver. I will do all that I can to make this happen.” 

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Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy has announced that outgoing Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan is to be called to appear before a hearing of the European Parliament's Panama Papers inquiry committee (PANA). The mandate of the inquiry is broader than the Panama Papers leak itself and is to examine contravention or maladministration of EU law in money-laundering, tax evasion and tax avoidance.

In an email to PANA political group coordinators this afternoon, it was confirmed that at a hearing of a selection of finance ministers to be held on July 10-11, the ministers to be requested to appear are from Ireland, Germany, Romania, Italy and Estonia (in Estonia's capacity as holding the incoming Council presidency). Carthy is now the coordinator for GUE/NGL on the PANA inquiry committee.

Speaking today, Carthy said: "I welcome the decision by the PANA committee to invite Minister Noonan to address the Panama Papers inquiry committee, a proposal I made at the beginning of the inquiry's mandate. I urge the Minister to respond positively to the request and to engage with the committee.

"While the Irish government has taken limited steps in the last budget to address some of the problems identified by the Panama Papers leak, which I have supported, the mandate of the PANA inquiry is also to examine cases of tax avoidance facilitated by EU Member States, which was my focus in making this proposal.

"Unfortunately, the Irish state has been identified as a corporate tax haven by numerous reputable academic and development agencies. In December Oxfam identified Ireland as the sixth worst corporate tax haven in the world, following a report in October last year by US-based Citizens for Tax Justice which also cited the Irish state as being the sixth worst tax haven globally for Fortune 500 companies.

"An academic study commissioned by the PANA inquiry itself, which was published this year, identifies Ireland as one of the top conduit offshore centres in the world – which means that while multinationals may not hold all their profits in the Irish state, they are allowed to use Ireland to divert their profits to sink offshore centres such as Bermuda.

"Leaked notes from EU Council tax discussions in September last year showed the Irish government opposing the use of a 'base erosion test' to assesses to what extent company ownership correlates with a corporation’s presence in a state – one of many initiatives aimed at tackling tax avoidance opposed by the Irish government in the Council. The government's appeal against the Commission's verdict in the Apple case has caused further damage to  Ireland's reputation on corporate tax.

“I hope we can examine some of these issues before the inquiry hearing in July.

“The Irish government needs to respond to domestic and international pressure to change its tax-haven strategy – a strategy which is unsustainable, unjust and damaging to the Irish people, our reputation and our economy.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson and TD for Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan and South Donegal Martin Kenny raised the issue of farmers being penalised under the Basic Payment Scheme for claiming for burnt lands.

Deputy Kenny said:

“I am relieved that the Taoiseach, today in the Dáil, agreed with me that it would be unfair to penalise farmers, under the BPS, whose land has been burnt as a result of wildfires. I hope he will do as he said and consider it very carefully. I believe that if he does, he will agree that the decision of Minister Doyle must be reconsidered.”

In response to my question, the Taoiseach said:

“I agree that farmers went out of their way to attempt to deal with the consequences of these fires.  I deplore the actions of whoever started these fires in the first place.  They were obviously unable to contain what happened afterwards, with resulting massive destruction to property, assets and value, and also in terms of the impact on wildlife and nature in so many ways. 

“For those who have been victimised by these acts of arson, if that is what they be, we cannot expect them to have the State suddenly say, ‘You are responsible for this yourself’. 

“If the land is blackened and the trees burned, and if people’s assets are decimated, I think it is an issue that needs to be looked at with some degree of compassion and consideration.  It is a valid point and we will consider it very carefully.” 

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Cllr. Larry O'Toole speaks out against use of warehouses to house homeless

Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O'Toole at today's Dublin City Council Housing Committee spoke against the proposed use of the former Bargaintown warehouse in Coolock for homeless families.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr. O'Toole said:

“This proposal to take homeless families out of hotel accommodation and place them into disused warehouses as a solution to the homeless crisis cannot be considered, either long or short term.

“Dublin City Council and the Minister for Housing, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney need to review this decision immediately and start providing actual homes for people.”

Cllr. O'Toole can be contacted at 0868541940.

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Sinn Féin’s Childcare spokesperson Kathleen Funchion TD held an open meeting in Longford on Monday, 22nd May to discuss pay and working conditions in the Early Years sector.


The Sinn Féin TD is compiling a report for the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, on the working conditions of professionals in the Early Childhood Care and Education sector.

Speaking after her visit to Longford athleen Funchion said:


“It was informative to meet early years workers in Longford and I will ensure that their views are heard regarding pay and working conditions in the Early Years sector.


“This was an important opportunity to hear the voice of a rural areas so that it is included in the Oireachtas report, to highlight gender inequality issues regarding pay, and the sustainability of the infrastructure in every county.


During my visit to Longford, I also took the opportunity visit Longford Women’s Link and view their acility.


Longford Women's Link does fantastic work in training and education around domestic violence, providing counselling, and community childcare, childcare relief and community employment.


“I also visited the Attic House Foroige youth project and met youth workers and young people there who are also doing great work and providing a vitally important service.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey travelled to London this morning with the Ballymurphy Massacre families to serve letters on the British Ministry of Defence and Theresa May.

The party’s West Belfast Westminster candidate said:

“I want to commend the Ballymurphy families who have been tireless in their campaign for justice for their loved ones.

“They served letters on the British Military of Defence and British Prime Minister Theresa May in London today and I was privileged to accompany them on the trip.

“The families have travelled near and far to highlight their case and today is another step on that journey.

“They are determined to get justice for their loved ones and today shows their strength and determination to keep the pressure on the British government to achieve their goal.”

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Rates Bill must overhaul antiquated system - Ó Broin

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Local Government Eoin Ó Broin TD has stated that the upcoming Commercial Rates Bill must overhaul an antiquated system that is “deeply unfair and no longer fit for purpose".

Deputy Ó Broin raised the matter directly with the Taoiseach this afternoon during promised legislation.

Speaking today, Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Rate revaluations are currently taking place in local authority areas across the State. This laborious process commenced in 2001 and is not due to be completed until 2020.

“As a result of this process, some small businesses have been hit with rate increases of between 50 and 100%. These are local businesses that weathered the recession and are just about to consider hiring new staff or restoring wage cuts suffered during that difficult time.

“Instead these businesses are being hit with large and unjustified rate increases. The truth is this current rates system is deeply unfair and it contains huge anomalies which is bad for workers, employers and the local economy.

"The valuation process is opaque and deeply unfair. The decisions at times defy logic. The time lapse between valuations is too long.

“The government must seize the opportunity of the upcoming Rates Bill to undertake a comprehensive overhaul of this antiquated system that clearly isn’t fit for purpose. They must bring forward a new system that provides local authorities with revenue security while ensuring fairness in the treatment of rate payers.”

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Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has today raised with an Taoiseach Enda Kenny the lack of accommodation for mental health services in north County Louth.

Speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dáil, the Sinn Féin President said:

“On Friday, along with my Louth Sinn Féin colleague Teachta Imelda Munster, I visited the Department of Psychiatry acute in-patient unit in Drogheda.

“This is a world class, state of the art facility which provides intensive short term treatment.

“Patients are then discharged to the community mental health staff for follow up care.

“However, in North Louth, community based psychiatric services are practically non-existent and all provision is delivered from a 60 year old building at Ladywell, Louth Hospital, Dundalk.

“Due to issues of damp and the lack of suitable space, much of Ladywell is unusable.

“This means that there is no Child and Adolescent Mental Health provision and no Psychiatry of Old Age in North Louth. 

“Additional staff have been allocated to the area, and I welcome that, but there is no accommodation for them in Dundalk.

“Unacceptably patients must travel, sometimes up to 60 kilometres, to Ardee or Drogheda to access these basic mental health services.

“There is a longstanding promise of a Primary Care Centre with a facility for community mental health for Dundalk.

“However, there is no start date, nothing but a worthless promise which is used to excuse the refusal to upgrade Ladywell.

“I presented the Taoiseach with a choice, either deliver the Primary Care Centre as soon as possible or upgrade the building at Ladywell.

“I have asked both the Taoiseach and the Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee to visit Ladywell to see first-hand how unsuitable the premises are.

“I will continue to raise this issue until the citizens of North Louth have access to necessary services in suitable premises in their own area.” 

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State incompetence at fault for collapse of Seán Fitzpatrick trial - Doherty

Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the State must develop proper infrastructure to tackle white collar crime.

Speaking after the collapse of the Seán Fitzpatrick trial today, Teachta Doherty said the State has never prioritised white collar crime instead preferring to go after welfare fraud.

Teachta Doherty said;

“I, like most citizens, am very disappointed that the jury won’t get a chance to deliver a verdict in this case. The litany of failings pointed to by the judge amount to a damning indictment of those who are supposed to be prosecuting cases of white collar crime in the State.

“Those bodies are simply not up to the task. The legislative framework is in need of an overhaul to bring it up to what is needed, for example reckless lending is still not a crime in this State. The culture and infrastructure needed to tackle white collar crime has never been developed in this State.

“The lack of resources in this area was highlighted by a senior barrister in 2014 when in highlighting the fact that there was only one forensic accountant working in the principal law enforcement regulatory authority he said ‘it’s enough to make the tin-pot dictator of a banana republic blush’.

“That is a damning indictment of the state from someone who specialises in white collar crime.

“It is clear that the state prioritises tackling welfare fraud over tackling white collar crime despite the fact that white collar crime is a far bigger issue and costs the state far more each year.

“As long as we continue to under resource and under prioritise this type of criminal activity cases will continue to be thrown out before they even get to a jury and that is if they even reach the courts.

“Almost a decade after the banking crash one of the few cases taken as a result has failed because of the State’s incompetence. The Irish people need and deserve a better system - one which actually takes white collar crime seriously.”

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said this morning that the Ombudsman for Children’s Office Annual Report for the year 2016 launched by Dr Niall Muldoon in the Alexander Hotel painted a stark pictures of how government policy has failed children, particularly those suffering family homelessness.

Of the complaints made to the Office in relation to Housing, 78% related to the access to suitable accommodation for Children.

Speaking after the launch, Deputy Ó Laoghaire said:

“While not surprising, the number of complaints received last year by the OCO is indicative of a succession of failed policies on behalf of the Minister for Housing and his Government.

“The Ombudsman received close to 300 complaints on Housing last year alone. There are roughly 7,500 homeless people in the state, with over 2,000 of those being children. 

“The Government has failed some of our most vulnerable in our society for quite some time now. 

“Homelessness, and particularly homeless families have reached record levels under this Government; numbers have increased steadily since Minister Coveney’s appointment one year ago, on May 6th 2016, when there were 913 families, with 1,847 children homeless in Dublin. There are 15 vacant properties for every homeless person in emergency accommodation in Cork.

“I know the Minister has recently reaffirmed his commitment to end the practices of children languishing in emergency accommodation by July of this year. That cannot merely be a cosmetic exercise, moving families into refurbished hotel rooms and calling them ‘family hubs’.” 

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Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis has called on the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten to intervene to stop bin companies charging extra for bins which is outside their agreement with the government.

The Dublin North West TD said:

“Certain bin companies are starting to charge customers for black bins over a certain weight. They are doing this outside of the agreement with the Government after the pay-by-weight bin charges system was delayed last year. I have been dealing with the confusion and the fear that the pay-by-weight bin charges have raised in households since last summer.

“The nature of the waste charges structure meant that some customers have to pay twice in one calendar year for a yearly contract and now if you skip a week and not put out your bin to save money, you are penalised with an extra charge. This directly affects the people who are struggling financially.

“The introduction of pay by weight has been shambolic from the start with bin companies gouging customers and the government just kicking the can down the road by deferring the decision.

“Last June, I said that only by annulling the new legislation, which has forced price hikes on waste collection, can fairer systems be established and put into place. The only real solution to any further issues that will arise around bin charges, the Minister needs to put waste management back into the hands of the Local Authorities.” 

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Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that the HSE needs to immediately acquiesce to the calls in the Maternity Clinical Complaints Review and apologise to fourteen families over the handling of births, including eight in which a baby died.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“I start by offering my deepest sympathy to those families who have suffered a loss and who this report states are owed an apology from the HSE into the handling of births at the hospitals covered by the review.

“It is imperative that the HSE immediately apologise to those fourteen families outlined in the review for issues which ranged from care that was not consistent with best clinical practice to cases of poor communications and lost or delayed healthcare records, and other substantial failings as well.

“No family should have to go through the suffering and waiting that these families have gone through, especially when the review stated that for many of the complainants, compassion, sensitivity and understanding in the provision of expert clinical care was not always demonstrated.

“To the great shame of the HSE and the Governments who have continuously underfunded spending on health, resultantly, there have been many shortcomings in recent years in maternity services which have directly led to heartrending incidents involving mothers and children, including the tragic deaths of some. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that lessons are learned from the Maternity Clinical Complaints Review, by HSE medical staff, by HSE senior management, and by the Department of Health.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills Carol Nolan TD has said that the number of education complaints to the Ombudsman’s office shows that there is a clear need for additional oversight within the sector.

Speaking after the launch of the Ombudsman for Children Annual Report in Dublin today, Teachta Nolan said:

“The fact that such a high proportion of complaints to the Ombudsman for Children relate to education shows that additional oversight in the sector is clearly needed.

“This report highlights the fact that complaints management procedures in schools are often difficult to navigate for parents and pupils or not accessible whatsoever.

“Procedures for the management of bullying complaints in schools and online were identified as issues that need specific attention.

“The report clearly shows that there is need for a simplified mechanism for parents and pupils to raise complaints and grievances in relation to a local school.

“Unfortunately, the lack of action by successive governments on this matter has meant that many students have suffered unnecessarily.

“The upcoming debate on the Parent and Student Charter Bill offers an opportunity to ensure appropriate and accessible complaints procedures and Sinn Féin will advocate strongly for this to happen.”

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Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on the Government to ensure that the recommendations made recently by the Moore Street Consultative Group are implemented without any further delay. The Dublin Central TD was speaking last night as she hosted a public meeting near Moore Street. The meeting was also addressed by James Connolly-Heron from the ‘Save Moore Street Campaign’.

Speaking at the meeting, Deputy McDonald said:

“The Moore Street Consultative Group reported back in March outlining several recommendations which will preserve this historic battlefield site and establish an historic cultural quarter in the heart of our city. The report also acknowledges the important role played by the Moore Street traders and the need to radically improve their working conditions.

“It is important that this report is now implemented and the project taken to the next stage. While the newly established Advisory Oversight Group will meet later this week, I am calling on the Government to ensure a focus is maintained on Moore Street. Community activists and local republicans have played a vital role to date in ensuring that this iconic area of our city doesn’t become another casualty of extravagant development projects.” 

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Speaking this morning Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Minister for Health and the Junior Mental Health Minister to intervene in order to stop the closure of beds at the Linn Dara Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service facility at Cherry Orchard Hospital.

Deputy McDonald  said:

“Due to the staffing crisis in our Health Service the Linn Dara Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service facility is due to lose half its beds from Friday. Eleven of twenty-two beds will close at this facility which does extraordinary and life-saving work with young people with psychiatric disorders, who are struggling with their mental health, or are finding it hard to cope with everyday life.

“The situation at Linn Dara, where half the nursing posts are vacant, is a symptom of the broader crisis in the Health Service, and in particular the crisis of recruitment and retention of nurses because of poor planning, and in equal measure, the failures to address the issue of pay and conditions for nurses. In order to now deal with their abject failure to recruit and retain staff for the unit the HSE has decided to compromise the care and safety of those who may need the facility by closing fifty per cent of the unit’s inpatient capacity.

“In a broader context the government’s failure to those with mental health difficulties is evidenced in that the Vision for Change mental health strategy, published in 2006, outlined Ireland would need 100 inpatient mental health beds for child and adolescents to meet patient demand, the closure of these 11 beds now brings the national number of psychiatric beds for children and teenagers down to a derisory 52.

“I am calling on Minister Harris and Junior Minister McEntee to immediately intervene to ensure this unit does not see half its capacity lost and safeguard the lives of those young people who may need this facility.”

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Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O'Neill has condemned the Manchester attack and expressed sympathy with the families of those killed and injured. 

Michelle O'Neill said: 

"The attack at the Manchester arena which has left 22 dead and injured so many others was horrific and I condemn it. 

"I, like many others, watched with shock and horror as the events unfolded overnight and the scale of this terrible attack became known. 

"For something like that to happen while young people are out enjoying themselves is unthinkable. 

"My thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who have lost loved ones and those who were injured, as well as the emergency services who attended the scene of this tragedy.

"Sinn Féin has cancelled all election campaigning for the day."

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Sinn Féin has suspended its election campaign for today out of respect for those killed and injured in the bomb attack in Manchester. 

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: 

"This was a shocking and horrendous attack on children and young people enjoying a concert. 

"Our thoughts are with those killed and with all those who are injured." 

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Sinn Féin MLA for Upper Bann, John O’Dowd, has said the intimidation by loyalists in Portadown tonight of Sinn Féin election workers is an attack on democracy and has called on unionist politicians to stand squarely with Sinn Féin against such acts. 

John O'Dowd was speaking following the intimidation of two Sinn Féin election workers by a group of men this evening. 

 John O’Dowd said: 

 “The intimidation of two Sinn Féin election workers by loyalists tonight is completely unacceptable and an attack on the democratic process. 

 “The two workers were confronted by a group of men in Portadown and told to “get out of town”. They were shaken by the incident and left the area having to return later for one of their cars. 

“The PSNI have been informed and we are told that they are following a line of enquiry. 

“I am calling on all those involved in the election in Upper Bann to come out and stand squarely with Sinn Féin and those who were intimidated and condemn what happened in the strongest possible way.

 “These is a clear onus on unionist politicians to show leadership in this situation and condemn those behind this intimidation and call for it to end."


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