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Sinn Féin launch proposals on Diaspora

11 March, 2014 - by Gerry Adams TD, Seán Crowe TD


Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, approximately 300,000 Irish people have emigrated, leaving them with no voice in the Dáil.   The current inequality of citizenship, which punishes Irish citizens living outside the State must be ended.

Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD today launched new Sinn Féin policy proposals on the Irish Diaspora.

Joined by Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD, Mr Adams outlined seven key proposals to improve the relationship between the state and Irish citizens overseas.

Later today Mr Adams will also move Sinn Féin's Constitutional Amendment Bill 2014.

The Bill seeks to amend the Constitution to allow the voting age be lowered to 16 and to introduce votes in Presidential elections for citizens in the north and for the Irish diaspora, as recommended by the Constitutional Convention.

Speaking at today's launch, Gerry Adams said:

“Sinn Féin is committed to real, participatory democracy, based on equality and inclusivity.

“We advocate extending the right to vote in Dáil and Presidential elections to all adults of voting age and legally resident in the country for at least five years, a reformed Seanad and proper representation for the the diaspora in the Oireachtas.

"The diaspora is an important part of the Irish nation.

“Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, approximately 300,000 Irish people have emigrated, leaving them with no voice in the Dáil.

"The current inequality of citizenship, which punishes Irish citizens living outside the State must be ended.

“The creation of a new Minister of State for the Irish Overseas and Irish Diaspora would provide permanent representation for those forced to leave our shores.

"This Minister of State would be tasked with working with Irish community groups, helping to improve the relationship between Ireland and its diaspora.

“Last year the Constitutional Convention took a significant step forward in its recognition of the equal rights of all Irish citizens by recommending voting rights in Presidential elections for citizens living in the north and those abroad.

"This was a significant contribution to the peace process and an important decision for all democrats, but particularly for citizens in the north.

"Sinn Féin urges the government to consider our recommendations and also to accept the Sinn Féin Bill, allowing time for its transition through the Houses of the Oireachtas, thereby triggering a referendum on an issue of huge importance for the Irish people."

Sinn Féin Proposals Include:

  1. Extending the right to vote in Presidential elections to Irish citizens living and working outside the State.
  2. Extending the right to vote in Dáil and Presidential elections to all adults of voting age and legally resident in the country for at least 5 years.
  3. Introducing appropriate diaspora representation in the Dail by way of reserved constituency, with voting rights subject to a valid passport and regular registration requirement.
  4. Reform of the Seanad and provide diaspora representation.
  5. Appointing a Minister of State for Diaspora Overseas.
  6. Establishing a Government taskforce on emigration.
  7. Providing permanent provision for diaspora representation on the Council of State

Change Cannot Be Stopped

The story of change is only beginning.

Sinn Féin will not allow Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to waste the potential, the possibilities and the aspirations of our people.

A government led by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil together does not represent the change that people voted for in February. In fact, it is an attempt to deny change, to protect the status quo and to continue with the same broken politics that has so badly failed workers and families

Sinn Féin will defend the change that the people voted for. We will continue to stand up for workers and families.

North and south, Sinn Féin is that change for a fairer, stronger and united Ireland.

Fully Supporting our Health Service and Frontline Workers

We need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds, and that our frontline workers are protected.  We need more testing and tracing and we need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds. 

The lack of protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, carers and others is causing a lot of concern – with frontline workers taking to the internet looking for resources and the government have stated that homehelp workers don’t need PPE. 

We need to see delivery of more testing across the island to tackle COVID-19 in line with the advice of WHO and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Income Support - Protecting Workers & Families

Sinn Féin’s proposals in the south would have guaranteed 100% of income up to €525 a week for workers and the self-employed who are laid off due to this crisis.  The Irish government’s proposal comes nowhere close to that and does not go far enough. €350 is not enough for people who have lost their jobs. 

While we are supportive of the wage subsidy scheme we believe that it must be targeted and not open to abuse - employers should have to make up the rest of the 30% of the salary – under the Irish government proposal employers could put in just one cent towards their employees pay.

There are also outstanding issues including: will workers have to pay tax on this income, now or at the end of the tax year; can workers who reside in the north but pay tax in the south be able to access the PUP payment?

Protecting Workers, Families and Businesses in the North

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has introduced protections for workers, small businesses and is lobbying the British Treasury to support the self-employed. He has brought in rate relief, including a three month rate holiday for all businesses and grants to support SMEs.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has streamlined the benefit system to make it easy for those affected by COVID-19 to access benefits, including sick pay for workers.  She has also introduced support measures for the community and voluntary sector.

Affordable Housing

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cannot be trusted to deliver on housing. Their records speak for themselves.

Sinn Féin is committed to delivering the largest housing build in the history of the State.

Sinn Féin's "Fair Rent and Protection of Renters Bill" would prohibit rent increases on existing and new tenancies for three years and end the practice of tenants being evicted from buy-to-let properties on the grounds that a property is to be sold. These are vital protections that people need now more than ever.

In the north, Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has introduced measures to support those in the public housing sector and we have called for mortgage relief for homeowners and businesses.

Banks and the Insurance industry

It is outrageous that many people with a €200,000 mortgage will pay close to €2,000 more over the lifetime of their mortgage because the banks are not only charging interest but interest on the interest.  This is how the banks are intending to profit out of this crisis and it is outrageous. We want the Central Bank and the banks called in by the government and this to be stopped. We have been in touch with the Minister, the Central Bank and the banks on this. The fact is that they already charge twice the average EU interest rates for mortgage  - they need to waive all interest during the period of the emergency and not profit on it.

The behaviour of the insurance industry also needs to be tackled – they are failing to respond properly to this crisis.

The insurance industry is trying to find ways of avoiding providing coverage to businesses who pay very high insurance premiums and have been forced to close as a result of the crisis.  They need to be reined in by the Central Bank and taken to task over this behaviour. Nothing less than this is approach is required.