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A return to singing and music lessons in schools has been welcomed by Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Pat Sheehan who challenged the Education Minister on the issue.

Pat Sheehan commented: 

“Schools had originally been told that no indoor singing could take place when pupils returned after the Easter break.

“Pupils were also banned from playing wind instruments, such as recorders or flutes, and brass instruments, such as trumpets, indoors.

“And while we all understand the need for Covid-19 protections within schools, this ban clearly had implications for music students and the assessments they were expected to take.

“Educationalists were making the case that other measures, such as social distancing were more appropriate precautions in these circumstances. 

“I raised the matter with Education Minister Peter Weir and asked him to detail what scientific or health advice informed his decision and what measures would be put in place to accommodate music students.

“I welcome that the minster has now responded to confirm that pupils taking a practical music assessment for GCSE, AS-level and A-level qualifications that require singing or the playing of a woodwind or brass instrument will be permitted, with immediate effect, to take these lessons as normal in suitable venues ie where mitigations, such as social distancing and in well-ventilated rooms, can take place.

“I believe that is a common-sense step that will enable these students to get on with their studies safely.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children Kathleen Funchion TD has welcomed the long overdue launch of the government's review and action plan for the provision of childminding in Ireland.

Teachta Funchion said:

“While I welcome that Minister O’Gorman and the Department for Children are attempting to bring about reform in this wholly unregulated sector, I would have serious reservations with incorporating childminders into the National Childcare Scheme (NCS).

“The NCS, as it stands, is fraught with problems. The system is overly complicated and, fundamentally, has not addressed the eye-watering fees that many parents face for their childcare.

“Towards the end of 2020, I conducted an online survey for parents, and fees were the number one issue. 

“If I conducted this survey today, I can guarantee that fees would remain the major issue. Sadly, such high costs are a major barrier for many women returning to the workforce.

“I acknowledge that this is an important first step, and as opposition spokesperson I will certainly contribute to this conversation constructively. 

“But it cannot be understated that this process must be in complete consultation with the sector. Childminders are an integral part of the wider childcare sector, and the service they provide for many families is invaluable.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing Thomas Gould has today written to the Minister for Justice seeking further training for Gardaí on how to implement the Novel Psychoactive Substances Act 2010. 

The Cork North Central TD added that members of the force are uncomfortable charging under that act due to its complexity, and that it is vital that they receive training on it to ensure that young people are protected from psychoactive substances which do not fall under other legislation.

Teachta Gould’s comments come following a response to a Parliamentary Question he submitted. The response states that the Gardaí received a HQ Directive in August 2010 stating that the Novel Psychoactive Substances Act became law on 14th July 2010.

Teachta Gould said:

“There are serious concerns around the state about the Gardaí’s ability to implement this vital act. The Novel Psychoactive Substances Act was brought in to prevent illicit substances skirting under the line of the law. 

“What I am hearing on the ground is that many Gardaí are not comfortable with charging under this Act. On the back of this, I contacted the Minister asking to confirm what training was provided to Gardaí in this complex piece of legislation.

“I am extremely disappointed to hear that the only training provided is by way of a HQ directive. This is an extremely difficult piece of legislation but it is vital to ensuring that young people are protected from psychoactive substances which do not fall under other legislation.

“We have a situation in Cork currently whereby Gardaí are failing to end the selling of a substance that should fall under this Act. This is greatly affecting the local community. With proper training, I believe Gardaí would be able to protect this community properly.

“I have written to the Minister for Justice today to ask that she seek clarity from the Garda Commissioner in relation to this. We cannot have a situation whereby legislation is not implemented because of a lack of training.”

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 Sinn Féin Nicola Brogan has welcomed today’s announcement that an additional £900,000 has been made available to early years provision. 

The party’s spokesperson on children and young people said: 

"Today’s announcement will be welcome news to the 169 settings that are currently supporting around 8,000 pre-school children facing disadvantage. 

“For children whose start in life has been more challenging than most, early intervention can help them to enter formal school with the developmental skills and confidence of their peers.  

“Educational inequalities of opportunity are unacceptable to those who want all of our children to achieve their full potential.   

“Covid-19 restrictions disrupted the financial viability of many Early Years settings and it’s important to secure their future so in turn they can secure the future of our most disadvantaged children.  

“I will be contacting the Minister of Education to discover when applications will be made available and payments delivered.”  

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Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has welcomed extra money for mental health, cancer and carers but said that support funds must not be left to plug holes left by Trusts. 

The party’s spokesperson for mental health said: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected many who use and rely on health services. 

“The additional monies for the various support funds will be greatly welcomed by patients, families and carers. However, lasting support is needed, and this cannot be left to the community and voluntary sector organisation alone to provide. 

“Just last week the Minister of Health conceded that increasing demand for mental health beds was not being met and was down to a lack of specially trained staff. 

“Increasing staff numbers, increasing inpatient beds, supporting traumatised staff and improving access to counselling must be the Minister's priority.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Seán Lynch has said the launch of a new translation hub by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey is a historic day for the Irish language in the north. 

Seán Lynch said: 

"The launch of a translation hub for Irish and Ulster Scots is a historic step for language and identity in the north. 

"This will not only help who use the Irish language and Ulster Scots on a daily basis in a very practical way, it is also an important signal of respect for language and identity. 

"It is also an outworking of a commitment made in the New Decade, New Approach agreement. 

"We now need to see other commitments delivered on, including the delivery of Acht na Gaeilge and all outstanding commitments of the agreement."

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has said the appearance of sinister loyalist posters targeting police across the north raise serious questions for political unionism. 

The North Antrim MLA said: 

"The appearance of sinister anti-PSNI posters put up in loyalist areas across the north is very concerning. 

"These posters raise serious questions for political unionism and, in particular, the DUP.

"The DUP need to state clearly whether they support the PSNI and the rule of law. 

"They need to answer these questions so those responsible for putting up these sinister posters can claim no cover for their actions."

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has welcomed the move to allow 35-39 year-olds to book a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Colm Gildernew said: 

"I welcome today's move from the Department of Health to extend the COVID-19 vaccine booking process to 35-39 year-olds. 

"From today, people in this age group will be able to book a vaccine online. 

"The vaccination programme, together with an effective find, test, trace, isolate and support system, offers the best chance in our fight against the pandemic. 

"I would encourage everyone in this age group to apply online to get their vaccine."

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has said there is a place for everyone in the discussion on the future of the island of Ireland. 

The MP for North Belfast was speaking after the results of a IpsosMORI poll show that a majority of people think that the union will not be in place within ten years.

John Finucane MP said: 

"The debate on the future of this island and these islands is growing every day. 

"The results of the latest poll from IpsosMORI shows that a majority of people across these islands think the current constitutional arrangements will not be in place in 20 years. 

"This is yet another indication of the willingness of more and more people to consider a new future. 

"There is a place for everyone in the conversation on a new agreed and united Ireland and no one has anything to fear from it. 

"Nor has anyone anything to fear from the people having the opportunity to have their say on their future. 

“I welcome the contribution to the debate on a new Ireland published by Fine Gael at the weekend. 

"The people are taking the lead on this conversation and are clearly ahead of the political establishment and the Taoiseach in particular.

“The Taoiseach needs to catch up and take the future of the island seriously by setting up a citizens’ convention inclusive of the whole island and by beginning serious preparations for Irish unity and constitutional change.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has commented ahead of the Minister Darragh O'Brien's first appearance at the Housing Committee tomorrow evening to provide an update on the Programme for Government commitments on housing.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“Nine months after he took office, Minister Darragh O’Brien is finally coming before the Oireachtas Housing committee to provide an update on his housing plans.

“The committee has been asking him to attend for some time, as his predecessors Eoghan Murphy and Simon Coveney attended at least four times a year to take questions and provide quarterly updates.

“Unfortunately, Minster O’Brien has developed a reputation for avoiding scrutiny.  He has by-passed pre-legislative scrutiny with two renters’ bills and the Land Development Agency Bill.

“The committee session tomorrow evening and the upcoming questions in the Dáil on the 5th May will provide opposition TDs with an opportunity to examine what the Minister’s housing policy plan is.

“The housing dysfunction hasn’t gone away. Rents are still too high, house prices are continuing to rise, social housing output is struggling; and current government schemes are failing to deliver any genuinely affordable homes.

“For example, the latest CSO Residential Property Price Index report shows that in the last eight years, house prices in Dublin have increased by 95%.

“The latest Employment Conditions Abroad International report confirms that Dublin is the fifth most expensive city in which to rent in Europe, with the recent Daft.ie rent prices report shows that average new rents in Dublin are €1,951. 

“RTB data published last month shows that rents are still rising across the state, with Dublin commuter belt counties seeing a 5% rent increase in the last 12 months.

“These unsustainable prices, coupled with the lifting of the eviction ban this Thursday, mean there is now a very real concern among NGOs that this could all lead to an increase in family homeless presentations.

“After nine months in office Minister O’Brien has had a more generous grace period than those who went before him.  He must now outline what plan his government has in place to tackle the housing crisis."

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Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, has welcomed news that Clare County Council has passed a motion endorsing the Community Wealth Building model.

This announcement follows the launch of Sinn Féin’s Community Wealth Building policy proposal which called for councils across the country to endorse the model. 

Teachta Stanley said:

“It is fantastic news that Clare County Council has passed a motion to endorse the Community Wealth Building model.

“The motion was proposed by Sinn Féin Councillor Donna McGettigan and passed by the whole Council.

“This marks significant progress for the Community Wealth Building movement in Ireland, and the first step in an exciting process.

“We want to give economic power back to local communities and to make sure that our economy works for everyone.

“Community Wealth Building has proven itself in Scotland, England and America to be a successful alternative grassroots model to economic development that can keep economic power in our community’s hands and work to everyone’s benefit.

“I am very interested to see where Clare County Council goes from here and I hope to see motions passed in other councils across the country.”

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Agus deireadh tagtha le Céim an Choiste ar Bhille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2021 ag Roghchoiste Dála na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus Phobail Labhartha na Gaeilge inniu tar éis dá seachtain déag ag plé ós cionn 300 leasuithe, thréaslaigh Cathaoirleach an Choiste, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, an Aire Stáit Gaeltachta Jack Chambers as an mBille a bheith curtha ar aghaidh go Céim na Tuarascála anois, ach d’fhógair sé nach bhfuil an Bille mar atá láidir go leor ar chor ar bith.

Dúirt urlabhraí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta Shinn Féin:

“Mar atá sé, tá an Bille beagnach díreach focal ar fhocal mar an gcéanna leis an mBille mar a fhoilsíodh i 2019, agus d’aontaigh Fianna Fáil agus na Glasaigh linn ag an am go raibh sé sin thar a bheith lochtach.

“Gheall an tAire leasuithe i dtaobh sprioc earcaíochta 20% le Gaeilge a bhaint amach roimh 2030 a chur isteach sa Bhille, agus níl sé sin ann go fóill fiú. Níl na cumhachtaí breise go léir a bhí á lorg ag an gCoimisinéir Teanga tugtha dó ach oiread.

“Ní dhéanann an Bille freastal ar éilimh bunúsacha phobail na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta, go háirithe go gcuirfear seirbhísí stáit trí Ghaeilge ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht faoi 2025, agus go mbeadh spriocdhátaí daingne ag baint le spriocanna earcaíochta, pleananna agus caighdeáin nua an stáit.

“Níl cosaint ar bith sa Bhille áfach don cheart atá ceaptha a bheith ag gach duine Gaeilge a úsáid san ionad oibre nó in aon áit eile.

“I gcomhthéacs gach rud a tharla le seachtain anuas - comhlacht maonaithe ag an stát a bheith ag cur cosc ar úsáid na Gaeilge in ionad oibre Gaeltachta, cosc ar iarratas a chur isteach trí Ghaeilge ar phost sinsearach sa Roinn Gaeltachta, agus cosc ar vacsaín Covid fiú a fháil gan iompú ar an mBéarla - is léir go bhfuil géarghá le foráil sa Bhille chun cearta a chosaint do Ghaeilgeoirí sa stát seo.

“Bhí sé seafóideach nár ceadaigh Oifig na mBillí aon trian de na leasuithe a bhí curtha isteach ar an mBille seo, agus tá sé truamhéalach freisin nár ghlac an Aire le leasú amháin fiú ón bhfreasúra nó ó chúlbhinseoirí an rialtais le linn don díospóireacht.

“Táimid buíoch áfach gur gheall an tAire Stáit go ndéanfaidh sé machnamh ar leasuithe faoi leith a mhol Sinn Féin agus go dtiocfaidh sé ar ais ag Céim na Tuarascála lena chuid leasuithe féin chun deileáil leis na fadhbanna go léir a chur muid in iúl dó.

“Coinneoidh muid súil ar na leasuithe a thagann uaidh ag an gCéim sin, ach tá riachtanais phobail na Gaeilge agus cearta na Gaeltachta ag brath ar an Aire anois. Ní mór dó leasuithe cuimsitheacha a chur chun Bille i bhfad Éirinn níos fearr a achtú sa deireadh má tá sé dáiríre faoi chur chun cinn na Gaeilge agus tarrtháil na Gaeltachta.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said so-called conversion therapies and anti-equality views should be consigned to history. 

Carál Ní Chuilín said: 

“So-called conversion therapies need to be banned. 

“I welcome the UUP motion seeking to ban this cruel and unjust practise.

“The DUP amendment to the motion, however, is an insult to the LGBT+ community and exposes the antiquated and anti-equality views that party still holds. 

“I would appeal to MLAs to reject this amendment and consign these cruel so-called therapies, and the discriminatory views of the DUP to history.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said this morning that she is very concerned about the shooting of a vulnerable individual by the PSNI in an incident in the Top of the Hill area of the Waterside in the early hours of this morning. A police officer was also injured during the incident.

Martina Anderson said:

“I am shocked that a vulnerable man has been shot and wounded by police following a call-out to a home in the Waterside after midnight.

“The man is in intensive care in hospital and my first thoughts are that I hope he will survive his injuries.

“A police officer also suffered a stab wound during the incident. Thankfully the officer has been released from hospital and I hope he too makes a full recovery.

“I am deeply shocked that a vulnerable man has been shot by police. I have contacted senior police and the Police Ombudsman to convey my grave concerns that lethal force has been used in this incident.

“The PSNI needs to be provide the public with a full explanation about this shooting of a vulnerable man.” 

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Sinn Féin will bring a motion to the Assembly on Monday on stopping the Brexit credit card rip-off. 

Speaking ahead of the Assembly debate, Caoimhe Archibald MLA said:

“Credit and debit card companies are using Brexit to push up transaction fees on purchases from EU based companies. 

“This move would see more money going to big banks while ordinary people and small businesses pay the price. 

“If this goes ahead, people in the north could end up paying more for hotels and events in the south. It’s absolutely ridiculous. 

“Sinn Féin’s motion is about standing against this rip-off and ensuring that workers, families and businesses don’t pay the price of Brexit.

“I would encourage MLAs to back Sinn Féin’s motion on Monday and help stop the credit card rip-off in its tracks.” 

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“Lack of competition extremely concerning” - MacManus to raise Irish banking sector at EU level following KBC withdrawal 

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has described today’s announcement that KBC plans to withdraw from the Irish market following an approach from Bank Of Ireland as another devastating blow for the Irish banking sector. The Midlands North West MEP argues that KBC’s withdrawal further highlights the need for a new, alternative public banking system in Ireland. He has called for a Future of Banking Forum’ to be established to examine the issue.

MacManus said:

“Today’s announcement that KBC intends to withdraw from the Irish market following an approach from Bank Of Ireland is yet another devastating blow for the Irish banking sector. It comes only weeks after the announcement of Ulster Bank’s withdrawal from the Irish Market and the closure of Bank of Ireland branches across the country.

“KBC’s withdrawal will lead to an even more concentrated banking market which is more bad news for workers, communities, mortgage holders and small businesses. Less competition will strengthen the virtual duopoly between AIB and Bank of Ireland and mean higher loan and mortgage interest rates and weaker credit availability for Irish consumers, who already pay the second highest mortgage interest rates in Europe. This loss of competition is extremely concerning and I will be raising it at an EU level.

“Now more than ever Ireland needs a new, alternative public banking system that serves the needs of customers rather than shareholders. Public banking exists all over the world, and the German Sparkasse Bank and the New Zealand KiwiBank are two such examples which have proven to be very successful. The main focus of these banks isn’t on maximizing shareholder profits but rather benefiting the communities that they serve.

“In recent times the Government have dismissed calls for public banking, pointing to the Indecon Report of 2019 which found that there was not a compelling case for the establishment of a state-owned public banking network because commercial banks were fulfilling the role. That is clearly no longer the case following KBC and Ulster Bank’s withdrawal and the closure of Bank of Ireland branches across the country, and it is time for public banking to be explored once more.

“Therefore, the Government must establish a ‘Future of Banking Forum’ involving all relevant stakeholders to examine possible solutions to the current issues facing the banking sector, including exploring a new public banking model. Credit Unions and Post Offices would have an important role to play in this and the possibility of utilizing their existing infrastructure for a new public banking system should also be explored. The Kiwibank model, where banks and post offices share the same building, is an example of how existing infrastructure can be used for banking purposes.

“Sinn Féin have consistently called for such a forum to be established and today’s announcement further highlights the need for one. I am calling on the Government to act on this as a matter of urgency.” ENDS

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“Digital Euro could be with us in 5 years” - MacManus

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has this week questioned the ECB about the proposed Digital Euro and what it would mean for the real economy and the all-island Irish economy.

MEP MacManus who is a member of the Parliament’s Financial Technology (FinTech) working group said:

“At the Parliament’s Economic Committee meeting I quizzed ECB Executive Board Member Fabio Panetta on the ECB's plans for the Digital Euro. Mr. Panetta stated that the Digital Euro could be with us within five years.

“The question now becomes what type of Digital Euro will we have. I put it to the ECB today that the advantages that the Digital Euro could bring must be relevant to workers and the real economy. While financial stability has to be ensured, the banking lobby cannot be allowed to dictate the terms of how the Digital Euro will work. The ECB and others involved must consider the global impact of the Digital Euro and not just how it impacts banks and their interests.”

“I also quizzed the ECB on the need to make sure the Digital Euro doesn’t become yet another obstacle to the all-island economy. The decision as to whether people outside the Eurozone can hold Digital Euro and whether their access should be limited is up for discussion. I made it clear today that protecting and developing the all-Ireland economy must be a factor they consider. Mr. Panetta committed to taking this on board.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said the British government need to get on with fully implementing the protocol. 

Chris Hazzard said: 

"I welcome the comments from the European Commission's Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič following his meeting with the British government in which he reiterated the EU's unwavering support for the Good Friday Agreement and the full implementation of the protocol. 

"He made it clear the implementation of the protocol is the only way to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to protect the peace process and to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. 

"It is high time the British government finally realised that and get on with implementing the protocol and its agreements. 

"The British government has committed to the protocol and now need to end the delays and frustrations and implement it in full."

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said the ongoing investigation into Muckamore Abbey Hospital has been a ‘long and harrowing’ ordeal for patients and families. 

The party’s Health Spokesperson said: 

“Patients and families at Muckamore Abbey Hospital have come through a long and harrowing ordeal and we must focus our thoughts on them at this time. 

“The long and detailed investigation into serious abuses must continue. 

“It is vital that those with the responsibility for delivering care are held to the highest standards with transparency and accountability.

“I welcome the public inquiry into Muckamore Abbey Hospital, and I am calling on the Health Minister to ensure that patients and families are fully involved in drafting the terms of reference.

“It is also vital to consider that regional services continue to be provided within Muckamore Abbey Hospital – staff are working under considerable pressure to provide much needed services to patients, families and carers.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has said the Government is continuing to fail on affordable housing.

Teachta Ó Broin's comments come following the latest CSO Residential Property Price Index report, which shows that house prices have continued to rise.

The Dublin Mid-West TD said:

"The latest CSO Residential Property Price Index report makes for depressing reading. In the last 12 months house prices have increased by 3% across the state and 5% outside Dublin.

"The report also shows that in the last 8 years, house prices in Dublin have increased a staggering 95%.

"This is why so many people can not access affordable homes to rent or buy.

"The continued rise in house prices is a direct result of failed Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil housing policies. This has to change.

"Government must start to invest in the large scale delivery of affordable homes to rent and buy. 

"This will require a significant increase in funding for Councils and Approved Housing Bodies (AHB's). It will also require the setting of ambitious yearly targets for the delivery of affordable homes for working people.

"Supply side policies like Help-to-Buy and Shared Equity Loan schemes will only push prices up further.

"Likewise, underinvestment in affordable homes will do little to meet the growing need.

"With just 90 affordable homes-to-purchase to be delivered this year, it is clear this Government does not understand what is required to deliver the volume of genuinely affordable homes that working people need and deserve."

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