Speaking today after undercover reports by the Irish Independent reveal that medics and legal firms are encouraging patients to submit dubious insurance claims, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Louise O’Reilly TD has called on the Medical Council and the Law Society to appear before the Oireachtas.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
"The investigation and reports by Amy Molloy in the Irish Independent today raise serious questions for the medical and legal professions. The actions of those uncovered by this investigation do a huge disservice to doctors and solicitors as a whole.
"The reports that some doctors and solicitors are in cahoots in order to encourage and put forward possibly bogus claims is not only wrong, but it is possible fraud.
"If solicitors have asked doctors to change medical reports and if GPs did this, then that is fraud.
"I would compel anyone with information of such behaviour to contact the relevant authorities immediately.
"It is also important that this behaviour is investigated further and to do that I believe the Medical Council, the Law Society and the Central Bank should appear before the relevant Oireachtas Committees as a matter of urgency.
"This behaviour is abhorrent and it undermines trust doctors and solicitors, it also does a disservice to all those in these professions, and to patients who submit legitimate and genuine claims.
"The health service is in enough of a crisis without people conspiring against it in this way."
Following receipt of a Protected Disclosure from a whistleblower this week, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said that the Arts Council CEO Orla McBride, Chairperson Kevin Rafter and Minister Josepha Madigan must provide clarity in respect of plans to relocate the Arts Council Head Office.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:
"I am calling on the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, the Arts Council CEO Orla McBride and Chairperson Kevin Rafter to respond to points that I am highlighting today that have been made in a Protected Disclosure to me which alleges that the Arts Council is exposing the taxpayer to increased costs - or diverting monies better spent on the Arts - by contemplating a move to another building.
"This Protected Disclosure suggests that proper government purchasing/procurement guidelines have not been followed in the pursuit of this new premises, that the Minister and the Department have not been made aware of the move and that making minor alterations to the current premises to bring it up to the required standard represents a much cheaper option.
"I have forwarded copies of the Protected Disclosure to Minister Josepha Madigan and the Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD.”
Achieving pay justice and safe staffing levels in the health service is in the public interest, Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has said.
The Sinn Féin Vice President made her call after writing to the British Secretary of State Julian Smith and to the Head of the Civil Service David Sterling after meeting the leadership of health unions UNISON and the RCN with party colleague Pat Sheehan today.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“After ten years of Tory austerity our health service is at breaking point with much-needed finances stripped from the block grant and workers bearing the brunt of these cuts.
“Health workers are the backbone of our health and social care system.
“People working at all levels of the health service consistently deliver high-quality and compassionate care in extremely difficult situations. They are entitled to fair pay and safe staffing levels.
“Sinn Féin support the industrial action of the trade unions and their demand for pay parity.
“I am very clear that the Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly does have the authority to deliver pay parity.
“The Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions Act sponsored by the NIO provided Mr Pengelly with the authority to make decisions in the public interest.
“It is my strong belief that achieving pay justice and safe staffing levels in the HSC is in the public interest.
“I have expressed the view very clearly in writing to the Head of the Civil Service David Sterling and to the British Secretary of State Julian Smith that pay parity should be restored immediately.”
Sinn Féin's Paul Maskey has has said there is no such thing as a good Brexit for the north.
The West Belfast candidate said:
"Since the referendum and the ideological crusade the Tories and the DUP have embarked on, we have consistently said there is no such thin as a good Brexit.
"Brexit is particularly damaging for business and the DUP have to explain to the business community whether are supporting this reckless agenda.
"Sinn Féin have worked to secure unique arrangements for the north to offer some protection for the economy, to avoid any hardening of the border and to protect the Good Friday Agreement.
"We secured these protections not at Westminster but through our political strength and influence in Brussels, Dublin and in the United States."
Sinn Féin sports spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has said the publication of the FAI’s 2018 accounts showing net liabilities of €55million are absolutely shocking and worrying for the future of the organisation.
He said ordinary football fans across the country will also be gob-smacked at the severance package of €462,000 paid out for former CEO John Delaney.
Speaking this afternoon Teachta O’Brien said;
“The reality is that nobody was expecting good news today but what we have seen is absolutely shocking and worrying for the future of the organisation.
“The FAI now has financial liabilities of €55 million and was operating a negative cashflow at the end of 2018.
“In the 2017 accounts the FAI reported a profit of €2.8 million – that now, following these accounts, has become a loss of €2.9million.
“The auditors were unable determine whether adequate accounting records have been kept and were unable to report if, in their opinion, the disclosure of directors’ remuneration and transactions specified by law were made.
“All of this is an indictment of the former CEO John Delaney and makes a mockery of his repeated claims that the association would be debt free by 2020.
“Ordinary football fans across the country will also be gobsmacked at the severance package of €462,000 paid out to John Delaney.
“This is a bleak day for Irish football and all those fans who spend their hard-earned money to follow clubs and the National side year in, year out.
“If there are to be job losses at the association then it needs to begin with those who are responsible for this mess rather than those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to promote Irish football every day.”
Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman, Martin Kenny TD has said that the horrific situation of a brain-damaged, homeless man held in Mountjoy prison, on remand for more than a year, is not acceptable in any civilised society.
Deputy Kenny said:
“We have to ask what was the Inspector of Prisons doing for the past year, while this man was held in jail, in dire condition, seemingly because there was nowhere else to put him and without basic care to his hygiene.
“This man’s situation was only brought to the attention of the Minister for Justice because of the diligence and care of his solicitor, Danica Kinnane, who wrote to the High Court to try to get him made a ward.
“Meanwhile, he was in the care of consultant psychiatrists, doctors, nurses and prison officers, while his toenails were uncut, his bed linen unchanged and was clearly in a very vulnerable state.
“This appalling case begs the question: what happens to those vulnerable people in our prison system who have no one to advocate for them. In this case it was a conscientious solicitor, but how many more such people are within the system, with no one prepared to make representation on their behalf.
“Care must be given to vulnerable people in custody. It is a basic concept.
“Where is our compassion? Where is our human decency that this set of circumstances could go unnoticed or unattended to for over a year?
“I await with interest the report ordered by the Minister for Justice from the Irish Prison Service and hope that it will result in such cases never happening again.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the decision by Revenue to defer a decision end the flat rate expenses scheme for tens of thousands of workers.
Deputy Doherty said:
“I welcome this decision by Revenue, that will ensure that any implementation of changes to the flat rate expenses scheme will be deferred until January 2021.
“Abolition of the scheme would have meant an effective tax hike on up to 600,000 low and middle-income workers. This is welcome news for those workers today.
"Although these workers will not face a tax hike in January, a delayed decision will only delay uncertainty for them.
“Today’s news means the scheme may still be abolished in 2021.
“It is convenient for Fine Gael that Revenue have decided to defer this decision to the other side of the General Election.
“Revenue must make a decision quickly and end the uncertainty for these workers and their families.
“It is unacceptable that this area of tax policy, which could cut household incomes in an instant, can be decided by Revenue with so little transparency.
"I look forward to the outcome of the review of the Tax Strategy Group, which will inform any decision made by Revenue, and will continue to argue that the incomes of these workers should be protected.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams is in Foyle today campaigning with Elisha McCallion.
Gerry Adams was asked about the visit of Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin to Derry.
Gerry Adams said:
“Mícheál Martin is very welcome here and I hope he stays around long enough to listen to the voters and the very clear annoyance of people across the North at the way Fianna Fáil and Micheál Martin in particular use the North for very narrow partisan political purposes.”
Commenting on the issues affecting citizens Gerry Adams expressed solidarity with health workers:
“Health is a huge concern for citizens and for Sinn Féin. Michelle O’Neill, who will be the next Joint First Minister in a new Executive, and Bairbre de Brún were Ministers for Health. They were very good at responding to the needs of staff and patients.
“Sinn Féin took on this responsibility because we face up to these challenges. We know what affects people and you can see that in our record in the Executive – unlike the SDLP who walked out – who left the Executive.
“The Tory party is an austerity party and if Boris Johnson is returned we are doomed to another decade of austerity unless we change the game.
“Brexit is bad for us all. We need to reject it. The people of this island have to look at how we can rule ourselves, look after our own services, the needs of workers and workers’ families, instead of being ruled by a high Tory like Johnson.”
Commenting on the possibility of a deal Gerry Adams said:
“I believe we will have the power-sharing institutions back in place. We will do that as quickly as the basis for it can be established and we will tackle these issues, like health, urgently.
“We had a deal with the DUP in February 2018 which they walked away from.
“I know for a fact that Mary Lou and Michelle have been trying to work with the DUP to get these neuralgic issues dealt with.
“So there is a need for the DUP to face up to their responsibilities. We want to see the DUP accepting once and for all that people have rights. A deal can be done. There was a huge distraction for two years when the DUP stepped out of northern politics. They let their Westminster team dictate the pace, did a confidence and supply deal with the Tories – which I said at the time would end in tears – and it has ended in tears.
“I would like to think that ordinary working class unionists will look at the scourge of Brexit, at the fact that the DUP has rejected those who voted remain, and will make sensible judgements in this election.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD will move the Rent Freeze (Fair Rent) Bill 2019 during Private Members time on Tuesday.
The bill, if enacted, would freeze all rents on existing and new tenancies for a period of three years. The legislation also calls on the Minister for Finance to introduce a refundable tax credit for renters, equivalent to one month’s rent.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Rents in this State are too high and are continuing to rise. It is time to freeze rents and put money back into the pockets of families and workers.
“The Rent Pressure Zones are not working. Even if they were people can no longer afford any level of rent increase.
“This Government has given tax breaks to developers, landlords and first-time buyers. It is time to give renters a break.
“Sinn Féin has been tabling proposals to deal with spiralling rents since 2016. Unfortunately, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have blocked them.
“We Introduced the Rent Certainty Bill in June 2016. If this had been enacted new rents today would be €5,000 less expensive a year and in Dublin €7,500.
“On the 12th of November 2019, during leaders’ questions, Micheál Martin said ‘It is time for the government to consider imposing a rent freeze, given the exorbitant levels of rent people are facing’.
“Next Tuesday Micheál Martin has a chance to put his money where his mouth is and decide if his party is willing to support renters.
“Renters deserve better. All TDs have a chance next Tuesday to give renters a break.
“This Sinn Féin Bill, if passed, would ensure that renters would be protected from further rent hikes and that they would get a month rent back into their pockets."
Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has welcomed additional provisions from the Education Authority Youth Service for the Colin Area.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“My party colleagues and I met with the EA a number of weeks ago regarding provisions for the Colin Area in terms of additional support and help for young people in our community who may be feeling down or experiencing poor mental health.
“I welcome news that there will be an increase in the number of detached workers which will ensure two teams are operational on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
“The Mobile Youth Unit will also give young people in the Colin area direct access and contact with youth workers in the vicinity of the transport Hub. This facility will start tonight (Thursday 5th December) from 6.30pm to 9.30pm and will be available throughout December and January.
“Young people who are engaged through youth services and who are identified as being in need can be referred by EA staff and will be able to avail of a counsellor who will be available two evenings per week.
“Promoting positive mental health and proper services is a priority for Sinn Féin and we will continue to meet with the EA to ensure young people of the Colin area receive vital services.
“This will support our existing services which are already under so much pressure in early intervention and suicide prevention.”
Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady has today slammed Rondo Foods in Arklow for their refusal to engage with the Workplace Relations Commission. He called on the Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation to direct the owners at Rondo Food in Arklow to engage with the Workplace Relations Commission to help put in place a fair redundancy package.
The Wicklow TD also asked for an Employment Taskforce to be put in place. This follows the announcement by Rondo Foods of 157 potential job losses in November.
Speaking having met with Rondo Food workers last night, Teachta Brady raised the matter in the Dáil today;
"On the 8th November Rondo Foods announced that the 157 Arklow jobs were at serious risk and that they were entering a 30-day consultation process with staff representatives.
"Unfortunately, it is very apparent that Rondo didn’t enter that process in good faith. They have dismissed any cost saving proposals that have been put forward and have ruled out the prospect of the business being sold as a going concern.
"In fact, at the same time proposals were being put forward to save the company Rondo had engineers over from Germany in Arklow measuring up machinery to be stripped out and moved to Germany.
“I believe that Rondo never had any desire to stay in Ireland and I think their actions back that up. It's apparent that the only reason Rondo engaged in the 30-day consultation process is because they had to. It was their intention from the outset to cut and run back to Germany.
“During the four meetings that have now taken place between senior management of Rondo and staff representatives, there has been a disagreement on the terms of a fair redundancy package for the workers. The workers have asked the Workplace Relations Commission to intervene in the dispute. They are the body tasked with dealing with any industrial disputes. Rondo unfortunately are refusing to engage with the WRC.
“Given that massive amounts of tax payers money have been given to Rondo Foods in Grant aid through Enterprise Ireland, this is a disgraceful position they have adopted.
"The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys must directly intervene and direct the owners at Rondo Food to engage with the industrial machinery of the State. They should do so in respect of their workers who have given so much for many years. It is a disgrace that they have to be forced into engaging with their workers through this process.
"Workers at Rondo Food have been left in a nightmare situation, potentially losing their jobs just before Christmas. At the very least they deserve Rondo Food to come to the table.
"In the Dáil today I also called on Minister Humphreys to establish an employment taskforce in Arklow given the fact that the town is an unemployment blackspot and the impact that such major job losses will have on the town. This needs to happen immediately."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has written to all party leaders seeking cross party support for Sinn Féin’s domestic violence leave legislation introduced in the Dáil earlier this week.
Speaking after today’s Oireachtas Briefing on Sinn Féin’s legislation at which Ethel Buckley Deputy General Secretary of SIPTU, Anne Clarke Manager of the Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service and Emma Murphy domestic violence advocate spoke, the Sinn Féin leader said:
“Deputy Maurice Quinlivan and I introduced legislation this week that provides for a statutory entitlement of up to ten days domestic violence paid leave.
“This provision is already in place in a number of jurisdictions. Vodafone recently introduced domestic violence leave and wrap around supports for its staff globally.
“There is a growing recognition that domestic violence is a workplace issue.
“For the first time violence and harassment in the world of work is now provided for in new international labour standards. Convention 190 was adopted at the Centenary International Labour Conference this year.
“Specifically, Convention 190 states that domestic violence can affect employment, productivity and health and safety, and that governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations and labour market institutions can help to recognize, respond to and address the impacts of domestic violence.
“Domestic violence often follows victims into their place of work. In the absence of workplace polices colleagues and managers are not equipped to support victims and ensure they are safe.
“Domestic violence leave would enable victims seek support, organise alternative accommodation or attend court dates without fear of losing their jobs. This provision would also benefit employers as it would address loss of productivity and high absenteeism rates.
“Sinn Féin’s legislation supported by a workplace awareness information campaign and guidelines would support and protect victims of domestic violence.
“Enactment of the Bill will also ensure Ireland meets its international obligations to ensure the world of work is free from harassment and violence.
“Deputy Quinlivan and I have today written to all political leaders seeking cross party support for this legislation. This Bill is for victims of domestic abuse and it is my strong view that this is a Bill that will unite the Oireachtas.” ENDS / CRIOCH
Notes to Editor:
Link to legislation: Organisation of Working Time ( Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2019 introduced in the Dáil on Tuesday 3 December 2019 https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2019/96/
Newly elected Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward has moved his first piece of legislation in the Dáil today.
Teachta Ward co-sponsored the Waste Management Regulator Bill at first stage in the Dáil this afternoon.
He has described the bill as the first step in bringing waste collection services back under public control.
Speaking in the Dáil he said;
“I’m delighted to co-sponsor this bill which is a continuation of a campaign I started during my time on South Dublin County Council.
“In June of 2016 I reported the waste management companies to the Competition and Consumer Protection Agency when waste management companies raised their prices in unison after the proposed pay by weight scheme.
“A conservative estimate on the increases saw customers expected to pay an additional 43% more for waste disposal than they had previously. This would have been another stealth tax imposed on ordinary workers and families.
“Constituents who decided to shop around and try get a cheaper rate from an alternative waste management companies were dismayed to find that any company they contacted had increased their prices too.
“The waste management companies were operating a cartel.
“The privatisation of domestic waste collection services has failed with poorer quality of service, increased costs for households, negative environmental impacts and increased illegal dumping.
“I grew up in North Clondalkin, an area with many socio-economic problems but it was clean in comparison to today.
“Areas that could be used for football and dog walking are full of litter and remains of fires from the burning of domestic waste. The impact of the few is having a detrimental impact on the many.
“Just yesterday a Sinn Fein amendment to a Private Members Motion, that calls for the return of waste management into council control, got cross party support, and today’s bill from Sinn Féin sets us off on the legislative path.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has welcomed the commitment from Minister English that the government would accept in full the expert group recommendations on Traveller accommodation.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Minister English confirmed to the Housing Committee this morning that they were accepting, in principle, all the recommendations of the report of the expert group on traveller accommodation.
“What we need to see in January is an action plan as to how these recommendations will be implemented.
“I welcome Minister English’s commitment to move quickly, however he must ensure that the spirit and the letter of the recommendations are implemented in full.
“The scandal of the underspend on Traveller accommodation must end.
“Sinn Féin fully supports the measures even though some of them go against the grain of our broader approach to local government.
“However there has been a failure to deliver appropriate Traveller specific accommodation and urgent measures are needed.
“Sinn Féin will work constructively with Minister English and the Traveller accommodation groups to ensure that the Travelling community have access to good quality, culturally appropriate accommodation to meet their needs.”
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay North Denise Mitchell has called on the Government to give serious consideration to bring domestic waste collection back under the control of local authorities as a means to combat illegal dumping and the operation of rogue waste collection companies.
Speaking in the Dáil last night, the Sinn Féin Dublin spokesperson said:
“Illegal dumping is a scourge in many communities. In my own constituency, illegal dumping has spiralled out of control. Local residents are at their wits' end as they see rubbish appearing daily on their greens, in alleyways and beside public bins. No one is held accountable. Illegal operators act with near impunity and it is the local residents who suffer the sight of their green spaces being covered in domestic waste while their children have nowhere to play.
“The local Sinn Féin councillors and Dublin City Council staff are doing all they can in the area, but they are fighting a losing battle. There is an illegal dump in my constituency. This dump, in Moatview, is a matter of concern. I wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, last year to request its assistance urgently in cleaning up this site as the council was struggling to contain this dump, where domestic and industrial waste had been disposed of. The local gardaí were unable to divert resources to assist in the stamping out of dumping because they were already too stretched in the area. We need the Government to treat this issue seriously.
“Local authorities across the State successfully managed waste collection for decades before it was privatised. This has resulted in a race to the bottom. We have seen an upsurge in illegal dumping and illegal landfill sites run by rogue operators. Costs are increasing and dumping is getting worse. Bringing waste collection back under council control is a straightforward and progressive solution that would have a significant impact on people and communities.”
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Martin Kenny TD has said he is delighted that an amendment he proposed in the Dáil this evening has resolved the issues surrounding the Gaming and Lotteries Bill.
The Ceann Comhairle allowed Deputy Kenny to propose a verbal amendment to the bill and it was accepted by and the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, David Stanton TD.
It will now progress to the Seanad.
Deputy Kenny said:
“There was a very organised lobby by the commercial bingo operators against this bill, but the main objection being put forward was that there was a cap of 50% of takings at any licenced bingo game being allocated to prizes.
“My simple amendment changed that 50% to 75%, leaving it at the discretion of the operators as to how much they give as prizes.
"The original figure of 25% of the takings going to the charitable cause remains the same.
“The Minister made the point that commercial bingo in this state is illegal and all operators must contribute to charity as a condition of their permit (under €5,000) or licence (up to €30,000 weekly).
“The previous legislation did not specify how much should go to the charitable cause, but this sets it at a quarter of takings.
“The vast majority of smaller, community-run bingo games will not be affected by this legislation at all.
“While there was a lot of confusion about the possible repercussions of this bill, the debate tonight brought clarity and a sensible solution to the situation.
“I am delighted that this Sinn Féin amendment has ensured that bingo games and operators can continue as normal, and that the situation, which had caused concern to many bingo goers around the country, has been resolved.”
Sinn Féin’s Declan Kearney has said the removal of election posters will not deter his election campaign in South Antrim.
The South Antrim candidate said:
"Over the last number of days Sinn Féin election posters have been cut down and removed in Mallusk and Hightown.
"This is an attempt to subvert the democratic process but it will not succeed nor will it deter Sinn Féin in this election campaign.
"Sinn Féin in South Antrim is running a positive political campaign and engaging extensively with voters on the doorsteps.
"The response to my campaign has been positive as people recognise the need to stand up against Brexit and the negative politics of both the DUP and Tory government. Every vote for Sinn Féin in this election is a vote against Brexit and sectarianism, and a positive vote for progressive politics and Irish solutions to Westminster’s Brexit agenda.
"I have reported the theft of these posters to the PSNI and a criminal inquiry will commence."
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South-Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that Fine Gael are continuing their efforts to normalise homelessness by refusing to change their failing policies.
Addressing the Taoiseach at Leaders’ Questions today, Deputy Ó Laoghaire said;
“Taoiseach, Conor Lynch of Threshold told of the experience of one renter in Cork.
“She was six months pregnant when she explained the situation to her landlady.
“The landlady told her that she would have to leave before the baby arrived. Her excuse was that the neighbours in the apartments ‘wouldn’t like the crying’.
“She waited until late in her pregnancy to tell the landlady because she was afraid of what the reaction might be.
“Can you even begin to imagine the stress that such heartlessness would have on that woman?
“She is far from alone.
“She ended up moving into homeless accommodation with her new-born baby.
“This is not an isolated case, and another incident of a pregnant woman who was living in private rental accommodation where a new baby was not wanted has been recounted.
“Taoiseach, does this not illustrate the depths of the crisis facing renters under your Governments housing policies?
“I think that the ten and a half thousand people who are now homeless, deserve better than what we saw on the floor of the Dáil last night.
“Last night was an opportunity to start from scratch and do the right thing; accept the system is broken, the policy isn’t working and to start fresh.
“But you didn’t. You wasted that opportunity. You backed your man to the hilt. Your normalisation of homelessness continues.
“To add insult to injury, you even bussed in the absentee TD for Cork North Central – for one night only mind you, as we hear this morning that Deputy Daragh Murphy has resigned his seat directly after casting his vote of confidence in Minister Murphy.
“Fianna Fáil and Mícheál Martin have now clearly shown they also are on the side of Fine Gael instead of homeless families.
“10,514 people are homeless, including nearly 4,000 children. Record numbers all the time.
“These are children who will have to wait for Santa in B&Bs and family hubs.
“In light of last night’s figures and the swathe of evidence in front of us, you must change the direction of your housing policies.
“It’s time for you to get your head out of the sand and to heed the solutions put forward by Sinn Féin and implement an immediate 3-year rent freeze.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the governments housing policy and in particular its homelessness strategy has “an absolute failure”.
Teachta Adams said:
“The narrow vote in support of the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy in the Dáil this week was only possible because Fianna Fáil chose to abstain on the spurious claim that a successful motion of no confidence would have resulted in a general election.
"Fianna Fáil’s decision to shadow-box – to sit on their hands and support this Fine Gael government – on this important issue is disgraceful. Fianna Fáil’s decision to side with the landlords and property speculators at the expense of homeless children, families struggling to pay rent, or get on the housing ladder, is culpable in condemning tens of thousands of citizens to a perpetual and personal crisis in housing.
"The facts are that rents have reached new heights in Louth and elsewhere across this state, families are spending longer on waiting lists, and 47 children and 131 adults from Louth – will spend Christmas living in hotels and bed and breakfasts. That should not be acceptable in one of the wealthiest states in the world today.
"The Homelessness Report for October, released this week, revealed that there are over 10,500 citizens suffering homelessness. Of these almost four thousand – 3,826 – are children. The personal and developmental impact of homelessness on children was set out starkly in a report by the Royal College of Physicians last month.
"It found that children in ‘homelessness suffer higher rates of asthma, respiratory illness and infectious diseases; have poor nutrition and more obesity; less access to developmental opportunities, play, recreation and social activities; poorer emotional and mental health, and increased behavioural difficulties; less access to preventive health care and lower rates of childhood immunisation’.
"The government has failed by any measure to provide a housing strategy to combat the housing and homelessness crisis. It has proven itself incapable of providing public and affordable housing or to tackle the massive rent hikes imposed by greedy landlords.
"Its Rebuilding Ireland programme was launched in July 2016. Three and a half years later, homelessness is up by 67% and child homelessness has increased by a shocking 81%.
"Social housing output remains glacial. Just over 7,000 real social homes were added to the stock in 2018. In the same year, more than twice that number of families joined a waiting list held by Councils which numbers over 70,000.
"What is clearly needed is a radical plan of home building both in respect of council and affordable homes to buy and rent. Sinn Féin is proposing the biggest public house building programme that this state has ever hand. In the short term, we would reduce rents by €1,500 per year using a rent freeze and tax credit for renters.
"Sinn Féin would also introduce a redress scheme for homeowners living in defective properties built during the celtic tiger days and we would increase investment in local authority housing for retrofitting to ensure sustainability of our housing stock.
"This is the kind of focussed action needed. Our common sense proposals will help people."