Sinn Féin - On Your Side

British government must step up to the plate

29 May, 2014 - by Gerry Adams TD


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD is in Washington today meeting with senior political figures on Capitol Hill and officials from both the State Department and White House.

The Sinn Féin leader is briefing them on the current difficulties in the peace process and the steps that are needed to resolve them.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD is in Washington today meeting with senior political figures on Capitol Hill and officials from both the State Department and White House.

The Sinn Féin leader is briefing them on the current difficulties in the peace process and the steps that are needed to resolve them.

Mr Adams said: “The Irish and British governments cannot sit back and place responsibility for progress on the Executive parties in the north. It is clear from the 20 years of the peace process that unless the British government signs up for progress unionism will refuse to move. In the weeks ahead the British government must step up to the plate and deliver on outstanding agreements and enhance the context for new agreements on legacy issues, parades and flags and emblems.”

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“The peace process is in difficulty. Much of this derives from the failure of the Irish and British governments, but especially the British government, to honour its obligations under the Good Friday and other agreements, and its refusal to support the Haass/O’Sullivan proposals.

Thus far the only contribution in recent times by the British government to the process has been to encourage unionist intransigence. Theresa Villiers, the British Secretary of State, has been explicitly partisan in championing a unionist agenda.

The effect of the British government’s mishandling of the situation has been to reinforce political logjams. As a consequence politics in the north are now defined by inertia, and public confidence in the political institutions have been being undermined. This situation is unacceptable and unsustainable.

If Mr Cameron is serious about reaching agreement on the issues of contention then he needs to demonstrate a willingness to make progress on those matters arising out of the various agreements on Good Friday 1998, at Weston Park, St Andrew’s and Hillsborough, which have still not been implemented.

These include the Bill of Rights, the all-Ireland Charter of Rights, Acht na Gaeilge, the North South Consultative Forum, the Civic Forum and the inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. These are not matters for negotiation. They are agreements made and are the responsibility of the British and Irish governments to implement.

Nor can the Irish and British governments sit back and try to place all of the responsibility for progress on the Executive parties in the north. It is clear from the 20 years of the peace process that unless the British government signs up for progress unionism will refuse to move.

There is therefore a huge onus on Mr Cameron to take positive decisions that enhance the political context for agreement. Persuading unionist leaders to move forward through an intensive process of discussions will only work if the British government constructively engages and provides those parties with clear and positive leadership.

There is a small window of opportunity between now and July which must be fully utilised to negotiate agreements on outstanding issues, including legacy issues, parades, and flags and emblems.

The peace process is in trouble.  It cannot be allowed to meander.  The road has too many pitfalls.  There are too many powerful elements on the fringes of nationalism, within unionism and the British system, which want to derail the process and build obstacles to it.  For all the issues pressing down upon people’s lives every single day, the people of this island, the diaspora and the international community believe in the peace process. Our efforts in the time ahead must be to ensure continuing progress and the full implementation of outstanding issues.”ENDS/CRÍOCH

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.