Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, has today commented on the fourth and final instalment of the sixth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and warned of the dangers of a failure to accelerate Ireland’s pathway towards renewables.
The Meath East TD said
“This critical report from the IPCC makes for some stark reading. Drawing together the key findings from six previous reports, it reinforces the urgent and critical efforts that must be made to tackle climate change.
“Despite the rapidly shrinking window to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all, the report makes clear that there are multiple, feasible and effective actions that governments can take.
“What is required now is real leadership on the issue. Instead, what we have here is a government that has been painfully slow to act.
“Over recent weeks, an increasing number of voices have raised concerns that current government measures to meet 2030 targets lack in scale and ambition and that we have little to no hope of reaching them if things continue at their current pace. If it wasn’t clear to them already, today’s IPCC report makes clear that the government can’t continue their business-as-usual approach of slow progress and delays in progressing towards renewables.
“The government has multiple options available to them to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We can achieve the climate resilient development the report calls for, combining efforts to tackle climate change with actions that provide wider benefits.
“For example, with our offshore wind potential, Ireland is uniquely placed to become a world leader in this field and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Yet there remains a lack of clarity around and inaction on government plans to harness this potential.
“We know the steps that are necessary that are needed to deliver the major changes in the energy sector that are necessary in order to achieve a just transition. We have the tools to achieve them. What we are currently lacking is the political will, determination and drive to deliver real progress.
“Sinn Féin is ready to deliver this change.”
MacManus calls for emergency mind-set to tackle energy poverty
Chris MacManus, MEP for the Midlands Northwest, has called for an emergency mind-set to tackle energy poverty. MacManus made his comments after a meeting with Karina Timothy, Regional Coordinator, and John Toolan, Information Support Officer, from the West Regional Office of the St Vincent de Paul in Galway, alongside his Sinn Féin colleague Mairéad Farrell TD. “SVP’s team explained the staggering increases in demand for their services; a 19% increase in calls for service altogether, and a 24% increase in first-time callers. A lot more working families now need support from SVP, and requests for help are getting larger. This on-the-ground experience shows how the cost of living crisis is pushing more and more people into poverty - this is a scandal in one the supposedly wealthiest countries in the EU.”
“Following up on SVP’s recent report revealing the extent of energy poverty in Ireland, I asked John and Karina about their experiences of the energy crisis when offering their services. SVP has managed to get support from energy companies to help maintain people’s energy supply, but the costs of this solution are significant. On top of this, they highlighted problems that people have with switching their energy provider online, and moving away from more expensive prepay meters. People are losing heat through energy inefficient housing and the SEAI grants are not effective in addressing this for low-income households.”
“SVP are calling for the benchmarking of social welfare payments to keep up with the cost of living. A Sinn Féin government would increase social welfare rates to the Minimum Essential Standard of Living and implement a Living Wage to ensure that work pays. SVP also recommends measures to protect those struggling to pay their energy bills, such as a social energy tariff, better measures to avoid disconnection and support for households that have accumulated debt on their bills. The government needs to make sure that these and other tools are at their disposal to tackle the full extent of this emergency.”
“For example, this week the European Commission proposed some reforms of the EU’s electricity market in an effort to better control prices in the future. These include measures to protect vulnerable customers, such as disconnection bans and fixed price rates. However, the EU’ Electricity Directive leaves it up to national governments to decide who falls under the definition of ‘vulnerable customer’, and in Ireland this only applies to the elderly and those with specific medical needs. A clear first step would be to expand this definition to include low-income households and those at risk of energy poverty, in order to increase the protections offered to these groups.”
MacManus concluded, “We need an emergency mind-set to tackle energy poverty and the cost-of-living crisis. During the pandemic, we saw what can be done when the political will exists to take public control of essential services, provide emergency supports to those struggling and to implement measures that stand in the way of corporate profits. This emergency approach must be applied to ensure the right to energy for all.”
See attached photo of (L-R): Chris MacManus MEP, John Toolan, Karina Timothy and Mairéad Farrell TD at the SVP Office in Galway
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has called for the immediate restoration of the Executive and said huge opportunities to strengthen the economy and create better jobs must be seized.
The North Belfast MP said:
“The negotiation between the EU and the British government has concluded. It’s now time to move forward.
“We need the Assembly and Executive restored and parties working together to tackle the problems in our health service and deliver for workers, families and businesses.
“Ten months ago, the people voted in a democratic Assembly election, yet no power-sharing coalition government has yet been formed.
“The democratic outcome of that election must be respected.
“The onus is now on the British and Irish governments, the Stormont parties, not least the DUP, to get back to business and form a government which will support families and workers
“The Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee formally meets in London on 24 March to adopt the deal into EU law, and as we move to implementation stage it is imperative that the Good Friday Agreement institutions are fully restored.”
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has said health workers are entitled to a fair pay rise and safe working conditions.
Linda Dillon said:
“Health and social care workers are entitled to a fair pay rise and safe working conditions and I commend their determination and solidarity to achieve progress on these issues.
“They should never have had to take to the streets on picket lines in the depth of winter for fair pay and safe working conditions, particularly with the huge pressure they have faced over recent years.
“Any agreed outcome to negotiations in the absence of an Executive must include health and social care staff here.
“The British Government should have engaged with these workers and their unions months ago and they now need to invest more money in health and social care to tackle the crises right across our health service.
“This is also a clear onus on parties here to get back around the Executive table and work together to prevent a collapse in our health service. Our health workers can’t wait any longer.”
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan said cuts to the Happy Healthy Minds school counselling service are ‘hugely disappointing’ and will negatively impact young people.
The party’s education spokesperson said:
“Cuts to the Happy Healthy Minds school counselling service are hugely disappointing.
“The loss of this important service will have a negative impact on children and remove vital mental health support for young people in our schools.
“Sinn Féin has made that clear to the Department of Education and highlighted the need for more investment in young people's mental health.”
It is great to see you all here at the National Press Club in Washington this afternoon.
I am delighted to be here in Washington for the annual St Patrick’s celebrations at the White House to mark Ireland’s national day, and our close bonds of friendship, heritage and crucially our partnership for peace and prosperity with the United States of America.
In the coming weeks we will mark 25 years of peace and the signing of the Good Friday Peace Accord of 1998.
This historic peace accord which was painstakingly negotiated at that time was made possible due to the vast and substantial contribution from the United States under the administration of President Clinton.
President Bill Clinton at that time had appointed Senator George Mitchell as Special Envoy to specifically aid and support the Irish peace process and everyone, from across the community who took risks for peace.
They held a strong belief that peace was achievable, but also that peace, stability and economic prosperity were inter-connected, and there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the island of Ireland over a quarter century on has been truly transformed.
The Good Friday Peace Accord is one of the Clinton Administrations foreign policy successes, and we are thankful for the continued support from then until now where the United States remain a critical partner for peace.
This has been reaffirmed with the recent appointment of another US Special Envoy by the Biden administration in Joe Kennedy III. I was delighted to meet with him yesterday, and I really look forward to working with him now to deepen further US investment and economic growth to the benefit of all our communities at home.
We have developed close economic ties with US companies over the past two decades who have chosen the North of Ireland as their gateway to Europe, with FinTech, Cybersecurity, legal and other sectors all flourishing and providing a great return on investment which draws on our young, educated, high-skilled and dedicated workforce.
Twenty-five years ago the US property and liability insurance corporation, All-State were the first Foreign Direct investors to come to Belfast and Derry in the aftermath of the signing of the Good Friday Peace Accord, and thankfully remained now employing 2,500 people.
They also spurred on others to come too, including Citi, Baker MacKenzie, Liberty Mutual’s technology division, Liberty IT, Insurance Office of America and CME Group amongst many others.
As we look back with pride at just how far we have all come, and all that has been achieved, we also look forward with hope, ambition, and opportunity for the next twenty-five years.
In recent weeks we have seen agreement secured between the European Union and the British Government on the Irish Protocol. This mitigates against the worst impacts of Brexit on our island. It does so by;
Protecting the Good Friday Peace Accord.
Gives us access to the EU single market.
Enhances the All-Ireland economy and supply chains;
And crucially, avoids a hard land border on the island.
The new deal between Brussels and London gives us huge competitive advantage as a gateway to Europe for the sale of goods to two of the world’s largest markets unimpeded.
It is something we want to now seize and grab with both hands to build economic growth and help create thousands of new jobs in the coming years for our people.
This week has really started well with the terrific news that President Joe Biden will come to Ireland.
This sends a hugely strong message of support from the USA that we enjoy continued support for peace, stability, and economic prosperity in Ireland.
And I would be delighted to welcome President Joe Biden to Belfast as we celebrate twenty-five years of peace and the signing of the historic Good Friday Peace Accord in only a few weeks’ time.
Nine months ago, the people voted in an democratic Assembly election, yet no power-sharing coalition Government has yet been formed.
The democratic outcome of that election must be respected.
The onus is now on the British and Irish Governments, the Stormont parties, not least the DUP, to get back to business and form a Government which will support families and workers.
As the eyes of the world turn to Belfast once more, let’s take this opportunity to attract investment, create jobs for our young people, and together deliver the change people demand and rightfully deserve.
As incoming First Minister I am absolutely determined to work across party lines to co-operate with others, and to serve everyone as a First Minister for All.
MacManus praises generosity of Martin Neary following visit to Martin Neary Woodland Park
Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus recently met with Martin Neary at his Woodland Park outside Charlestown alongside Cllr Gerry Murray. The Midlands Northwest representative praised Martin’s generosity for leaving his land to be developed as a Woodland Park for the local community.
Speaking afterwards, MEP MacManus said:
“I was delighted to visit Martin Neary Woodland Park with Martin and Cllr Gerry Murray on a recent visit to Charlestown.”
“Martin has left 36 acres of his own land to Mayo County Council to be used as a community woodland. This was an incredible act of generosity from Martin, who has also won the right to be buried in the woodland, only the third person in Ireland to win that right.”
“Generations to come will benefit from this and Martin deserves huge praise for this fantastic gesture to the local community.” ENDS
Pictured at the Woodland Park are (L-R): Cllr Gerry Murray, Martin Neary, Chris MacManus MEP
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has called for the ban on evictions to be extended.
His call comes as figures from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and Central Statistics Office (CSO) show rents and house prices continuing to spiral upwards further fuelling record levels of homelessness.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“The latest figures from the RTB and CSO show rents and house prices continuing to spiral upwards.
“Combined with the government’s failure to deliver an adequate supply of social and affordable homes, these rises are fuelling record levels of homelessness.
“Meanwhile our homeless emergency accommodation system is at breaking point with a large number of Local Authorities reporting no extra capacity for new homeless presentations.
“Despite all of this, the government intends to end the ban on no-fault evictions in two weeks' time. The consequence of that decision will be unprecedented levels of homelessness.
“The case for extending the emergency ban on evictions is strengthening every single day. The government must reverse their decision, extend the ban, and put in place an emergency package of measures to relieve the pressure on the system.
“They must also revise their social and affordable housing targets to deliver at least 20,000 public homes a year to meet social and affordable housing need.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD, has again called on government to introduce targeted and temporary mortgage interest relief to support borrowers with rising interest costs.
The Donegal TD was speaking as the ECB are expected to raise interest rates today for the sixth time since July.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Today the ECB is widely expected to increase its interest rate again – this will be the sixth rate hike since July.
“This further rate hike will immediately impact more than 250,000 borrowers who have seen their monthly repayments increase by hundreds of euros since June.
“It will also hit the pockets of thousands of borrowers whose mortgages were sold to vulture funds without their consent.
“Despite false promises by the Taoiseach and government ministers, these mortgage holders are worse off as a result of these sales, with no option to switch or fix their rates, and will face interest rates as high as eight percent in the next few weeks.
“Mortgage-holders will be paying thousands of euros more in interest this year – households that are already struggling under the cost of living crisis.
“Others will see their interest rates increase in the coming period.
“Already, Irish mortgage-holders are charged interest rates that are 50 percent higher than the European average.
“In the grip of a cost of living crisis, it is now time to introduce targeted and temporary mortgage interest relief to cushion the blow of these rising interest costs – this relief could absorb a portion of these interest costs.
“Already the government allows landlords to claim tax relief against 100 percent of their mortgage interest with further tax cuts reported to be on the way.
“As the ECB prepares to increase interest rates again today, the time has come to introduce this temporary and sensible measure to support those who are really struggling under the cost of rising interest costs.”
Sinn Féin MLA Maolíosa McHugh has called on local energy companies to improve communication with the public.
Speaking after the Utility Regulator highlighted ‘far from acceptable’ customer service levels within some local energy companies, the West Tyrone MLA said:
“My office has received several reports from people who have not yet received their £600 payment and many of them finding it extremely difficult to contact their energy supplier.
“Elected representatives have also had difficulty in contacting energy companies to get clarity for constituents on when they will receive the money.
“There is an onus on energy companies to improve communication with people and elected representatives on issues to avoid the uncertainty and anxiety that people have been left with when they didn’t receive their payment.
“People have already waited too long for this payment. We need an Executive up and running and a minister in place to represent the interests of local people on issues like this.”
Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said more must be done to cut childcare costs for families and remove barriers to employment.
Speaking from Washington today the party’s economy spokesperson renewed calls for a restored Executive to support families with childcare.
Conor Murphy said:
“Childcare is a huge issue for workers and families and can act as a barrier to parents going to work or advancing a career as often childcare costs eat up much of their pay.
“More needs to be done to cut the cost of childcare and make it affordable for parents and families. Developing a strategy to deliver this is essential and requires additional funding.
“While the British government’s budget does not address the continued financial pressures on our public services, there will be additional money for childcare. But without an Executive we cannot decide how this will be spent.
“Parents and children can’t wait. Childcare providers can’t wait. We need the Executive now. We need ministers in place and working together to deliver better public services, better childcare and to cut childcare costs for hard pressed families.”
Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has said that confirmation that the majority of local authorities across the state have no capacity for emergency accommodation is further evidence that the government must reverse its decision to end the eviction ban.
Deputy Carthy was speaking following engagements made by Sinn Féin representatives, which confirmed that at least 17 local authorities have no emergency accommodation capacity remaining.
Seven local authorities are yet to provide updated figures, suggesting the final figure is likely to be higher.
Speaking at Leinster House this afternoon, Teachta Carthy said:
“Sinn Féin elected representatives - TDs, senators and councillors - have been in contact with local authorities across the state in advance of the government lifting the eviction ban at the end of the month.
“The information we continue to receive is very stark. Right across our cities, towns and rural communities, local authorities are telling us they have no provision whatsoever for emergency accommodation.
“As of today, 17 local authorities say they have no capacity whatsoever to provide emergency accommodation. This includes the cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.
“There are 3000 eviction notices that will fall due in April, and the stark reality for people who will be made homeless next month is that they will have nowhere to go.
“That is the question that has to be put to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Housing: where will they tell people to go?
“That is also a question government backbenchers and independents must consider when Sinn Féin's motion to extend the eviction ban is voted on next week.
“The government has yet to answer it because they are completely removed from the lived realities of working families.
“Sinn Féin representatives are dealing with a dramatic increase in constituents coming to us in desperation and seeking assistance to find emergency accommodation.
“This is an incredibly traumatic time for so many working people who never envisaged finding themselves in such a situation, a situation that no other generation in the history of this state were in.
“That is the legacy of Fine Gael in government, now propped up by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.
“Since 2011, Fine Gael has refused to provide the necessary levels of social and affordable housing. They outsourced their responsibilities and that has led us to the catastrophe we find ourselves in today.
“Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan lead the first Irish government to make a conscious decision to increase the number of families made homeless.
“They must see sense and extend the ban on evictions, and put in place an ambitious series of emergency measures in the months ahead to reduce the number of people becoming homeless and to increase and accelerate the supply of social and affordable homes.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, has welcomed today’s ‘Still Left Out in the Cold’ report by Friends of the Earth.
The Meath East TD said the report "exposes the glaring inadequacy of the Government's energy policies" and "echoes a need for a fundamental overhaul of the national retrofit plan".
Teachta O’Rourke said:
“The Government’s plan is lacking in scale and ambition.
"It fails to come close to addressing the urgent issue of energy poverty, which is at its highest level ever recorded, occurring in a context of rising polluting emissions in Ireland and of high household reliance on fossil fuels.
“Today’s report from Friends of the Earth Ireland is welcome."It puts forward 49 recommendations to address rising energy poverty and to increase energy efficiency in Irish homes, many of which both echo the views of the Climate Change Advisory Council and furthermore align with existing Sinn Féin policies, for example our ‘A Fairer Retrofit Plan’ launched last year.
“The report stressed that there are significant barriers for low income households to access the retrofitting scheme either due to high cost or lack of eligibility.
"Rather than being a top priority that the report recommends, the less well-off are currently left out in the cold from the current government scheme.
“Similarly, the report also found that tenants renting from private landlords are at most risk of energy poverty; these properties are more likely to be older, lower energy buildings. Sinn Féin has been critical of government silence on renters, arguing that they have been left behind.
“Importantly, it highlights the fact that a combination of high energy costs, inadequate incomes and inefficient housing are the key driving factors for households falling into energy poverty, reinforcing the point that the Government's current plans fail to incorporate those in greatest need.
"Instead, what we have is a socially regressive, deeply inequitable approach that is both inefficient and inadequately targeted and regulated.
“Sinn Féin has presented a real alternative in our policy document ‘A Fairer Retrofit Plan’. We commit to significantly increase the retrofitting budget, targeting the funding at the poorest, coldest and most carbon intensive homes.
“Our plan is to spend more where it matters - it is an ambitious costed proposal to move all households to a B2 BER insulation standard for a tiered, area-targeted, scheme aimed at low and middle income households.
"We proposed a tiered plan targeting those most in need. Directing scarce labour resources to the coldest homes is the best use of public money, is socially equitable and will show the best return on public investment in achieving climate targets.
“In addition, we’ve also called on the government to accelerate shallow retrofits to help cut carbon emissions, as figures from the SEAI show the number of attics and cavity walls insulated in 2022 was 88% lower than the number completed in 2011.
"The insulation of roof space and cavity walls has fallen off over a cliff over the past decade despite being a simple, quick measure that can immediately help reduce heat loss from a home, cut household energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.
“The calls on Government to change tack are getting louder and more numerous. Minister Eamon Ryan should heed those calls.”
Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has backed calls on the British Government to negotiate with unions and deliver a fair pay settlement for public sector and civil service workers.
Speaking as Public and Communication Services Unions (PCS) workers staged a picket line outside the NIO offices at Erskine House today, the party spokesperson on workers’ rights said:
“Sinn Féin extends solidarity to all the public service workers on the picket line for fair pay and better working conditions.
“The British Chancellor should bring forward financial proposals in today’s budget to invest in public services and to ensure these workers receive a fair pay settlement.
“Sinn Féin made it clear to the British Government that the decision to freeze pay and its refusal to negotiate a deal with these workers was totally unacceptable.
“These civil servants played a vital role during the pandemic - they are essential workers. As a result of the rising cost of living and crippling energy bills, these workers and their families are having to endure unsustainable financial pressures simply to make ends meet. Sinn Féin supports their demand for fair pay.
“The Tories should negotiate with union representatives now, and ensure these essential workers get a fair pay deal without any more delays.”
MacManus inviting submissions from Irish stakeholders on new EU Protein Strategy
“The new draft strategy can be accessed at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/AGRI-PR-742624_EN.pdf and I invite staeholders to email their submissions to [email protected] by 12 noon on the 28th March.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has said the health service urgently needs an Executive formed to address the worsening crisis in our hospitals and. In front-line care.
Speaking after a stark joint statement from Royal Colleges representing thousands of health workers, the party’s health spokesperson said:
“This is a stark warning from health worker representatives about the dire, and worsening, situation in our hospitals, GP services and across health and social care.
“Our health workers are burnt out and under huge pressure. They shouldn’t be forced onto the streets for fair pay and safe working conditions.
“Over 12 years of savage Tory cuts have decimated our health service and stripped money out of already underfunded and understaffed frontline services.
“Health workers need political leadership. They need an Executive formed immediately to fix the problems in our health service and to invest extra money to hire more doctors and nurses.
“The real priority for now is for all parties to get back around the Executive table and work together to prevent a collapse in our health service. Our health workers don’t have the luxury to wait any longer.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has warned the Minister and the Department for Social Protection to avoid changing the payment model for EmployAbility under the upcoming tender.
Teachta Kerrane made the call ahead of a forthcoming tender process, which is due to be published in April. The process will see EmployAbility service contracts put out to tender, in a similar way to the tendering of Local Employment Services (LES) and Job Clubs services over the past two years.
EmployAbility services provide sustainable employment opportunities for people with a long term illness, injury or disability and support them into that employment.
Teachta Kerrane said:
“We know that Minister Humphreys intends to put EmployAbility out to tender, but the details of the tender process and any proposed changes to the current service are not yet known.
“It is crucial that the Department learn lessons from the previous tender process, which saw community based, not-for-profit employment services dismantled and the commodification of people seeking employment through the implementation of a profit-focused model.
“Sinn Féin stood against the privatisation of those employment services, and we continue to oppose a payment by results model for job activation and employment supports.
“In particular, EmployAbility services support people with longer-term illness, injury and disabilities, and it is simply not appropriate to implement a model which seeks to place them in any job role, which payment by results is all about.
“These are some of our most vulnerable citizens.
“The community-based, wrap-around services that EmployAbility provides across the State offer must be protected as part of the forthcoming tender process.
“The Minister and her Department must also ensure there is intensive engagement on any suggested changes, and that the tender when published reflects those engagements.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has called on the British government to include support for workers, families and businesses in Wednesday’s budget.
The party’s finance spokesperson said:
“The British Chancellor must bring forward clear proposals and money to protect jobs and support local businesses who are struggling with increased overheads and costs.
“The VAT rate for hotels and tourism businesses should be cut to 12.5% to cut costs for businesses, but also bring tourism VAT rates into line with the rest of the island.
“A scheme to cut sky-high energy bills should also be introduced for businesses, especially those who rely on high energy usage while running their business.
“Likewise, the cut to fuel duty that is helping to keep travel costs down for workers and families must continue. People simply cannot afford any more hikes to fuel prices.”