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A chairde agus a chomrádaithe, 

It is great to see you all here today at this local commemoration where we gather to commemorate our republican patriots and our fallen dead who we honour and remember today, and over the course of this Easter weekend.

In January past, we commemorated the First Dáil and its adoption of the Democratic Programme – a seminal moment in Irish republican history.

Three years ago republicans the length and breadth of Ireland and internationally commemorated the centenary of the Easter Rising and 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

I am proud to say that here in Tyrone that history was brought to life.

We remembered then, as we do today, all those who dedicated their lives and gave themselves selflessly to the ideals of the Republic in every era over the past century of struggle – including the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na gCailíní, na Fianna, Cumann na mBan and Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Today we remember and we recommit to the cause of Irish freedom, the cause of equality and the cause of Irish unity. 

Ireland is again at a point of great change. 

The orange state is gone. 

The perpetual unionist majority in the north has ended. 

The forces of conservative Ireland no longer enjoy the unquestioning support of citizens. 

The old orange and green is now part of a rainbow of colours and identities. 

And a new Ireland is emerging.

We are a changing party, a growing party. 

We are a new leadership building on the legacy and work of all those who came before us.

Over the past two decades the entire island of Ireland has been transformed as a result of the Irish peace process, where we have emerged from decades of political conflict and towards a better, peaceful and democratic society.

The Good Friday Agreement provided an end to conflict and provided a peaceful, democratic alternative and a huge opportunity for us all to design a better society for ourselves and succeeding generations to live in.

It was, and remains a precious gift of peace to our young people and it is indispensable. 

At this time everyone knows that Theresa May’s Government is wholly reliant on the DUP to stay in power, and she is therefore prioritising this self-serving agenda over the peace and political processes.

All roads will lead back to the negotiating table and we stand ready to enter any Talks process that is serious and credible, which confronts the issues which need resolved in order to have proper power-sharing Government which commands public confidence.

This includes respect for our Irish national identity and citizenship, including our language, and other important matters.

This includes dealing with the past where they are attempting to protect British State forces and deny truth and justice to the many families who lost love ones at the hands of the British army and Crown forces during the conflict.

It is beyond time the British government implemented the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in a human rights compliant manner.

If we are serious about dealing with legacy then we must ensure that families no longer have to pursue due process in this long drawn-out manner.

It is a disgrace that families are still waiting on truth and justice.

Sinn Féin will continue to stand with all families in their pursuit of truth and justice for their loved ones.

When Martin McGuinness resigned he said that there will no going back to the status quo.

Sinn Féin is wholly determined to deliver on his word.

Despite the current political vacuum a new Assembly and new type of politics is possible.

The onus is squarely on both governments to remove the obstacles to restoring the Assembly.

There is no going back.  We must only go forward.

Let me take a moment to address what happened in Derry city in recent days with the brutal murder of a young woman and journalist, Lyra McKee.

The people who brought guns onto the street, and those who organised them do not represent any version of Irish republicanism.

They have no politics, no strategy, and no popular support amongst the vast number of ordinary people from Derry, or anywhere else in our country.

These groups should disband and end their futile acts of violence.

We extend today our sympathies and condolences to Lyra McKee’s family and partner, her friends and her colleagues.

Today I believe we are facing the greatest change in Irish politics since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, not least because of the unwanted Brexit being foisted upon us.

Brexit undermines our hard-won agreements, rights and prosperity of citizens. 

I have said that Brexit belongs to the British and if they wish to leave the EU good luck to them, but the Good Friday Agreement belongs to Ireland.

We will defend our national interests at every turn.

Sinn Féin has worked to protect the Good Friday Agreement, citizens’ right and to prevent any hardening of the border.

The Westminster parliament is complete chaos and Sinn Féin won’t send republican representatives to be part of that mess.

We are proud abstentionists.

Now is the time to look to the future and to begin to plan for a unity referendum in line with the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin has been clear that in the event of a no-deal crash-out Brexit then the two governments have the responsibility to call referenda on Irish Unity under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, thus providing a route back into Europe for the whole of the island.

The Local Government Elections on May 2nd come at a pivotal time in our political process.

It’s your opportunity to stand against Brexit and the DUP/Tory toxic pact which is poisoning our politics locally and continues to deny people their rights.

A strengthened Sinn Féin vote is the best way of combating this destructive agenda.

Integrity and genuine power-sharing are not negotiable. They are essential. 

Sinn Féin want a new Ireland based on equal treatment and rights for all citizens.

Sinn Féin is the only party capable of delivering this future.

We are building it every day. 

In every corner of Ireland. 

In communities, in council chambers where we deliver for all citizens and all communities.

On 2nd May the people across the North have an opportunity to come out and vote for this new Ireland.

Here in Coalisland Sinn Féin will stand 4 candidates – Niamh Doris, Joe O’Neill, Ronan McGinley and Mickey Gillespie.  

Despite all of the political challenges, this is an exciting time for republican politics.

Irish unity is now a mainstream debate.

We’ve seen in recent weeks prominent voices coming out including Jarlath Burns, Mary McAleese and others who are saying that Brexit has now opened up the debate on reunification.

The political landscape is rapidly changing North and South and it is a time to be part of this change.

We have an opportunity to end the union, to end partition and build a new and united Ireland.  

We are for a New Ireland, a fairer Ireland, and a united Ireland.

If you want unity you need a credible vehicle to get there.  

Sinn Féin is that vehicle. 

We want more people to come on board and join us and be part of this change.

A Unity Referendum is coming and we are preparing for it.

We have to build Sinn Féin into a mass movement and build alliances with other progressives in the trade union movement, civic society and other parties.

We must be a credible political party which is fit for purpose who can organise and deliver such change – and which the people of Ireland want to give their support to.

We must sell our vision.

Political organising and campaigning has been the bread and butter of Sinn Fein since its inception in 1905 and a century of struggle.

The party is standing 400 candidates in the local elections across Ireland in May.

We are a party on the move.

I not only appeal to you to help us win more support and get people voting Sinn Féin, I want to invite you to join us. Become a member of the party and give whatever you can.

Irish unity is within our grasp.

We are making history.

This is a time for confidence.

To push ourselves and challenge ourselves.

A time for us to be generous.

This is a time for Irish Unity.

And we use this Easter weekend to recommit ourselves to build a new and United Ireland which is a fitting tribute and honour to our patriot dead and those who have struggled for freedom.

Beirigí Bua.

Míle buíochas agus go raibh mile maith agaibh go leor.

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Speaking today Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

“Easter weekend will see republicans gather to remember the patriot dead and look towards the new and united Ireland.

“In 1998 the vast majority of citizens voted for the Good Friday Agreement, for rights and equality, for power-sharing and for a peaceful and democratic way forward.

“There are some that opposed the Good Friday Agreement. They have sought to undermine the peace process, the agreements and to drag Ireland back to conflict.

“They have attacked the peace process and the people for over twenty one years. They have failed and they will not succeed.

“In the latest of their outrages they killed a young journalist and activist Lyra McKee.

“Their actions serve no cause and their continued existence only bring hardship, injury and death. The war is over, the future is in the hands of all who share this island.

“A new and united Ireland will not come from conflict, but by dialogue, agreement and democracy.

“It is time for these gangs, masquerading as republicans to end their futile actions and let the community get on with building a future of all the people.

“Now is the time for political leaders and the community to stand in defence of our agreements, to stand for power-sharing and rights.  

“That is the only fitting tribute we can pay to Lyra.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for health Pat Sheehan has voiced his frustration at the lack of response from the Department of Health to concerns raised about the Breast Assessment consultation process.

Mr Sheehan said: "I wrote to the department over two weeks ago raising a number of concerns with the Breast Assessment services consultation and as yet I have not received answers to my questions.

"We are now three weeks into the consultation process and the department have failed to provide the clarity needed, particularly with regard to the evidence underpinning their proposal, to reduce breast assessment services from five sites to three.

 "It was only after being challenged by Sinn Féin that the Department published an Equality Screening and Rural Impact Assessment.

"There are genuine concerns that the department have pre-determined the configuration of breast assessment services by putting forward only one option in the consultation and that this could have future implications for other breast cancer services such as treatment and surgery. 

"Meaningful partnership working with those who use and those who deliver services is fundamental to any transformation of health services and requires the evidence underpinning proposed changes to be made available.

"The department needs to demonstrate fully how its proposal reflects meaningful partnership working and provide the clarity I and others have been seeking. 

"The department needs to stop running down the clock on this consultation and address the genuine concerns that are being raised. 

"Failure to be open and transparent undermines confidence in the Breast Assessment consultation process and transformation more broadly." 

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Carthy: Fine Gael complicity for EU army is a betrayal of Irish people that will cost us millions

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has slammed the Irish government for its continued complicity in the relentless EU drive to create an EU army.  The Midlands North West MEP was speaking following the final voting session of this parliamentary mandate, in which MEPs voted to establish a European Defence Fund and finance it with €13billion of taxpayers’ money.  One Fine Gael MEP voted in favour and while others abstained on this dangerous proposal.

Carthy said: “We often hear that the European Union’s greatest achievement is that it has been a successful ‘project of peace’.  Peace projects don’t need armies!

“It is astonishing that EU elected representatives would sign up to providing €13billion to set up a new European Defence Fund, a key staging post in the development of an EU army.  That they would do so while simultaneously reducing funding to key funding programmes such as CAP and the Cohesion programme and at a time when public services are at breaking point is mind-boggling.

“All the while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are complicit in this aggressive militarisation drive.

“Despite Sinn Féin MEPs warning for years of the dangers of this agenda, and the threat it poses to Irish military neutrality, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have remained, at best silent, and often openly complicit.  The fact the Fine Gael MEPs have either voted for or abstained on this latest proposal is truly a disgrace and a betrayal of the Irish people and our constitution.

“Europe is still exporting weapons of war on a mass scale to Saudi Arabia, responsible for the ongoing starvation of the people of Yemen. Britain and France top the export list among EU states but many other EU member states, including Ireland, are also selling weapons or dual-use items to arm Saudi Arabia – despite the European Parliament's repeated demands for an EU arms embargo on this pariah state.

“Sinn Féin’s group in the European Parliament, GUE/NGL, tabled a minority report completely rejecting the proposal - on the grounds that it advocates the rapid further militarisation of the EU and Member States; promotes an arms race; and subsidises investments in defence and military research and development, in spite of the social crisis and environmental impact of these activities.

“I have raised the illegality of the EDF directly with the Commission, as it breaches Article 41(2) of the Treaty, which clearly prohibits defence-related funding measures being taken from the general budget of the EU. I based these questions on an important legal study carried out by the University of Bremen, which concluded that EU funding of such an instrument breaches EU law.

“In the Orwellian double-speak of the Commission, it responded to me by claiming ‘the EDF would foster the competitiveness and innovativeness of the Union’s defence technological and industrial base by supporting defence-oriented research and development activities, without providing any funding to operations having military or defence implications’.

“This is pure nonsense. The establishment of the EDF, and its funding by the general EU budget is illegal.  Full stop.

"The election of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil MEPs next month will accelerate the drive to an EU army, with all of the costs, risks and dangers that this entails for the Irish people.

“Sinn Féin representatives are needed at European level to demand that our country does not contribute increased sums to an EU budget that prioritises military expansion ahead of delivering public services, creating sustainable jobs and securing EU funding where it is needed most."

ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA Declan Kearney has strongly condemned the latest theft of two ATMs which was carried out at Tesco in Crumlin last night.

Declan Kearney said:

“The latest ATM theft carried out at Tesco in Crumlin last night will have serious repercussions for the people of Crumlin and the wider community.

“This is not a victimless crime. Those behind this criminality have demonstrated absolute contempt for the residents of Crumlin and the wider rural community, which depends on these ATMs for everyday needs. As a result the local Tesco store will remain closed today. 

“Those responsible are criminals. Their actions represent a criminal attack upon this local community. They must be put before the courts and held accountable for these actions.

 “Anyone with information relating to this theft which will assist the PSNI inquiry should contact police or Crimestoppers and ensure the criminals involved are brought before the courts and put off our streets.”

Speaking from the scene of the theft this morning, Sinn Féin Councillor and election candidate for the area, Anne Marie Logue, also appealed for help to apprehend the criminals.

Cllr Logue said:

“The Crumlin community are devastated to find that they are now the latest victims of this spate of ATM thefts. 

“This is not only an act of wanton theft and destruction of property, it is an attack on the whole community who rely on the ATM services which are now no longer available to them.

“The fact it has happened in the run up to Easter will be an added inconvenience and source of huge disruption to the people of Crumlin and the surrounding areas.

“I would ask the public to pass any information about this theft directly to the police by ringing their incident line 101, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.” 

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Carthy forces ECB to reveal it profited by 73 billion from eurozone misery

 

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the increased transparency at the ECB that he was instrumental in achieving, but condemned the organisation for making massive profits from the peripheral economies during the darkest days of the Eurozone crisis. 

 

Carthy successfully amended a European Parliament report responding to the ECB’s Annual Report 2017, demanding the the ECB “disclose the full amounts of profits made by the Eurosystem through ANFAs and SMP from 2010 until the full expiration of he programme, with a specific breakdown per countries which have been subject to SMP purchases (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy)”. He tabled the amendment jointly with Belgian Green MEP Philippe Lamberts.

 

Speaking today, Friday, Carthy said: “After years of fighting in the European Parliament for increased transparency over ECB decisions and policies, strongly supported by civil society organisations – particularly Positive Money – we now have access to the figures the ECB previously kept secret.

 

“What was long suspected – that the ECB has been profiting from the Securities Market Programme (SMP) it used to purchase 218 billion euros of bonds from the peripheral economies at the height of the sovereign debt crisis – has now been confirmed. 

 

“The shocking figures in the new data from the ECB reveal that from 2010, the ECB has made 73 billions euros in profits on debt lent to Spain, Ireland, Italy, Ireland and Greece at the height of the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis – a crisis that the ECB in fact played a major role in creating. 

 

“This includes the ECB making profits of almost 6 billion euros from Ireland under the SMP. The supposed ‘rescue mission’ of the ECB in purchasing country’s bonds turned into a massive profit-making venture.

 

“The ECB was bound to provide this data under its obligation to provide ‘feedback’ to the European Parliament’s annual report on the ECB. I welcome the fact that the majority of MEPs backed my amendment demanding the release of this information, and that the ECB actually provided it. 

 

“But it is the totally unaccountable Eurogroup, which does not even have any basis in EU law, that makes decisions on any refunds to Member States of these funds. The Eurogroup is notorious for its point-blank refusal to be subjected to any form of public scrutiny and has refused to provide any information on this whatsoever.

 

“I and other progressive MEPs have been backing the WeMoveEU and Eurodad campaign – supported by almost 150,000 EU citizens – demanding the full return of the profits made out of the SMP and ANFA programmes to Greece, after its fiscal waterboarding by the Troika.

 

“Every cent of profit that the ECB has sucked from the countries worst affected by the crisis, in their hour of need, must be returned to those countries in full and without delay.” ENDS

 

Note to editors: 

The ECB's feedback document is here: https://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/other/ecb.20190401_feedback_on_the_input_provided_by_the_european_parliament~4bb38cfab0.en.pdf?8a3e7a59fb072f5f3c6d4054cf8372fc

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“We want to express our condemnation in the strongest terms possible at the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

"The murder of Lyra McKee is first and foremost a devastating loss for her grieving partner, family and friends, and our thoughts are with them at this awful time.

"Lyra’s murder was also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes.  

"It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere.  

"We are united in rejecting those responsible for this heinous crime.

"They have no support in the community, must be brought to justice and should disband immediately. 

"We reiterate our support for the PSNI, who while carrying out their duties were also the target of last night’s attack. We call on anyone with any information to bring that forward to the police and assist their inquiries.

"This is a time for calm heads.” 

Michelle O'Neill  (Sinn Féin) 

Arlene Foster  (DUP) 

Robin Swann  (UUP) 

Colum Eastwood (SDLP) 

Naomi Long  (Alliance) 

Clare Bailey  (Green Party) 


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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has urged people to attend a community-led vigil in response to last night’s events where a young woman was shot dead in Creggan. 

The Foyle MP said:

“There is shock and sadness in the community following the reprehensible killing of young journalist, Lyra McKee. 

“The so-called dissidents responsible for this senseless killing offer nothing to our community or the people of Creggan. 

“The murder of Lyra McKee is an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace process and on the Good Friday Agreement.  

“We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who have claimed another life on our streets last night. 

“Community leaders will hold a vigil today at 2pm at Fanad Drive - I am calling on people to come out, stand together and send a clear message that this killing is not in our name.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has extended her condolences to the family of Lyra McKee who was killed in Derry last night.

Teachta McDonald, who is travelling to Derry today, condemned those responsible for Ms McKee’s killing and called on anyone with information to bring it forward to the PSNI.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

“It was with great horror and sadness that I learned of the killing of Lyra McKee on the streets of Derry last night.

“Ms McKee will be remembered as kind, caring and passionate journalist and advocate. 

“Her contribution to society stands in marked contrast to those who brutally took her life

“I extend my condolences to her grieving family. 

“These so-called dissident groups who took her life offer nothing only hardship and suffering. 

“As a society and a nation we are looking to a peaceful future. A future that has no place for violence.

“They do not represent the community, the people of Derry or wider opinion. 

“The murder of Lyra McKee is an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace process and on the Good Friday Agreement.  

“It is well past time for these groups to go, to end their actions and let the society get on with building a peaceful future.

“I will be travelling to Derry today to stand by the people of the city and to reject those who brought death onto its streets last night.

“This is a time for calm heads and for the community to unite in opposition to those responsible for this act and I urge anyone with any information on this murder to bring it forward to the police.”

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has said her thoughts are with the family of a 29-year-old woman shot dead by so-called dissidents in Derry tonight.

And the Sinn Féin Deputy Leader condemned those responsible for the killing saying it was an attack on all the community, an attack on the peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement. 

Michelle O'Neill said:

“I am shocked and saddened at the tragic news that a young woman has been shot dead by so-called dissidents in the Creggan estate tonight.

“My first thoughts and that of my party are with the family of the woman killed. This is a senseless loss of life.

“The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement.

“I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman.

“We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who care nothing for the people of Derry.

“We remain united in our determination to building a better and peaceful future for all.

“Those responsible should listen to the people, they should disband immediately and end their pointless actions against the community which tonight has tragically claimed the life of a young woman.

“I have spoken with the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton tonight. 

“I am appealing for calm and I urge anyone with any information about this killing to bring it forward immediately to the police and assist their inquiries.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has accused the government of “rolling out the red carpet for vulture funds”.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Teachta Doherty said:

“Last year, Ulster Bank sold a portfolio of loans known as Project Scariff - worth €1.6 billion - to a vulture fund called Promontoria Scariff.

“A company called ‘Cabot Financial Ireland’ is now administering these loans and has written to all buy-to-let mortgage holders who are behind in their payments, demanding that all arrears are cleared within 30 days.

“It is telling borrowers to clear their arrears within 30 days or a fixed asset receiver will be appointed. 

“That means they are taking the asset whether there is negative or positive equity. 

“For those in positive equity, they will quickly see this disappear as receiver and legal fees clock up. 

“This is a direct consequence of government policy and Minister Donohoe’s rolling out of the red carpet to vulture funds. 

“And it is precisely because of the actions of Cabot here that people fear vulture funds and fear for their homes. 

“Moving to the final option without any genuine engagement with borrowers is absolutely unacceptable. 

“People live in these properties. They are people’s homes, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.

“It is now time to clip the wings of these vultures once and for all.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Education and Skills Kathleen Funchion TD said that the Minister for Housing was “completely out of touch” with the realities facing children living in homelessness or the impact it has on children’s’ educations.

Speaking today during Statements on Youth Homelessness in the Dáil Deputy Funchion said:
“The difficult day to day circumstances encountered by children living in emergency accommodation has an effect on every aspect of their lives, particularly their education.

“Two main challenges facing children accessing their education is problems with transportation, and no suitable place to study once having left school for the day.
 
“It can’t be guaranteed that emergency accommodation will be located near a student’s school. This often results in students spending large parts of their days travelling to and from school – time which could be spent focusing on homework or study. 

“The Ombudsman for Children’s report ‘No Place Like Home’ launched today depicted a very bleak picture of what children living in hubs face. 

“Dr. Niall Muldoon is calling for an independent evaluation of family hubs and I fully support that call.

“All of these factors created by homelessness create a hugely challenging situation for any child who is homeless to access their right to a fair education and equal start in life.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Deirdre Hargey has urged people to support this weekend’s rally in support of the rights of Irish citizens.

Cllr Hargey said:

“As the Brexit chaos at Westminster continues, so does the threat to our rights as Irish citizens.

“The Good Friday Agreement provides an important framework for rights. Rights that will be lost to Irish citizens in the north.

“The recent declaration made by the British migration minister Caroline Nokes who stated that “as a matter of law” everyone in the north of Ireland is British shows the complete disregard the British government has for the Good Friday Agreement.

“By refusing to even recognise Irish citizens in the north of Ireland, the British government is disregarding the Good Friday Agreement in a reckless fashion.

“The Good Friday Agreement was clear, people born in the north have the right to be British, Irish, neither or both.

“It is time the Irish government as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement stood up for the rights of Irish citizens in the north.

“I would like to commend all those who are fighting for the rights for all Irish citizens who could potentially be caught by this inept and tone-deaf British government.

“Sinn Féin is urging as many people as possible to come out and support this event at 12noon on Saturday at Belfast City Hall.”

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Sinn Féin’s deputy spokesperson for Public Expenditure & Reform, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to change the Development Board of the National Children’s Hospital.

Deputy O'Brien also said that Minister Harris must ensure quarterly progress reports are audited by DPER to ensure the project does not suffer further cost escalations.

Speaking this afternoon, the Cork North-Central TD said:

“The recent PwC report, at a cost of €4,500 per page, revealed little new information beyond confirming what was already known - poor oversight by the Development Board and other governance structures, a flawed procurement strategy and a total disengagement from Government.

“The report was highly critical of the Development Board which has been responsible for overseeing the project for several years, and includes the Chief Procurement Officer in this State.

"It recommended strengthening the Board to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated.

“Last week at the Health Committee I questioned the ability of the Minister for Health to strengthen the Board without removing current members.

"While the Minister had said he could strengthen the Board without removing members, he last night accepted that current legislation prohibits him from doing so.

“The Minister can only strengthen the Board by removing current members.

“I therefore call on the Minister to announce which members he will be removing from the Board to ensure it has the adequate expertise to ensure it is completed on time and without any further cost escalation.

“Further to this, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed that his department has failed to audit any of the quarterly progress reports of the National Children’s Hospital, despite being recommended to do so by the IMF nearly two years ago.

“His Department must ensure that this project is audited from now until completion, and reform its procurement policies to ensure this fiasco is never repeated.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill MLA attended the ceremony to confer an Honorary Degree on Congressman Richard Neal at Ulster University, Magee today. 

Speaking from Derry city she said:

“It is very significant that the US House of Congressional Delegation is visiting Ireland this week to see and hear at first hand the impact Brexit uncertainty is already having on our people, businesses and peace.

“US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has again stated strongly and unequivocally her support for the Good Friday Agreement and for the protection of Irish interests in the face of Brexit.

“I welcome the strength of support from the Congressional delegation, including Chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Richie Neal who we are honouring today in Derry.

“He and 22 other members of Congress recently wrote to British prime minister Theresa May calling on her government to honour the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I welcome his clear support and that of the delegation who have warned that any future free-trade agreement between the US and Britain is not on the cards if there was a return to a hard border on our island.

“Successive US administrations provided critical support to aid our peace process and in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement twenty one years ago.

“Those who seek to undermine our agreements, our peace and our rights would do well to take on board what the visiting Congressional delegation have so clearly stated during their time in Ireland this week.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has welcomed the publication of the report by the Ombudsman for Children’s office on children’s experiences of living in family hubs.

Speaking today after the launch of the report, Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The ‘No Place like Home’ report published today by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office is hugely moving and incredibly important.

“The report uniquely gives a voice to the children and teenagers living in the family hubs across the State. 

“It highlights the challenges they face on the daily basis from a lack of privacy to the stigma associated with living in emergency accommodation.

“It is crucial that all those in authority read the report and act on its recommendations. Sinn Féin fully support the recommendations.

“The children and teens in the report called for the government to address the housing crisis and provide more homes and provide more support to renters.

“The Ombudsman for Children’s Office called for the government to make the necessary legislative changes including creating a legal right to housing.

“They also called for timelines to be put in place to end the practice of self-accommodation and an independent statutory inspection of homeless accommodation is urgently needed.

“While these children wait for proper homes it is important that the hubs they are sleeping in are up to the highest possible standards.” 

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The first Easter Lily launch was hosted by Sinn Féin Mayor Brenda Chivers in the Causeway Coast and Glens Council last night.

Speaking at the event which was attended by Sinn Féin’s council candidates, MLAs, as well as republican activists and family members of the patriot dead from the area, Brenda Chivers said:

"It was an honour to host the first Lily launch in the Causeway Coast and Glens Council.  

"Easter is the most important date in the Republican calendar; it is a time when we gather right across Ireland and beyond, to remember and commemorate those men and women, throughout the generations, who gave their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom and independence.

“The 1916 Proclamation remains the mission statement for Irish republicans today.

“It is a freedom charter for all the people of this island which guarantees religious and civil liberty and promotes equal rights and opportunities for all citizens.

“2019 despite the political challenges of Brexit also presents an opportunity to see how we can make the United, independent Ireland envisaged in 1916 a reality.

“There was never a better time to plan and deliver on an all-Ireland basis.

“Sinn Féin is committed to safeguarding the rights enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, including the commitment to parity of esteem and citizenship.

“Sinn Féin want a reconciled and united Ireland where everyone's rights and identity are respected.

“The upcoming local government elections are a chance for the people of the Causeway Coast and Glens to help return a stronger Sinn Féin team to forward the progressive politics of equality, rights and Irish unity.” 

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has written to Jim Daly TD, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, for more information on the announcement today that “Louth/Meath Mental Health Services are currently looking at a new town centre location in Dundalk with a view to providing improved CAMHS to North Louth. The HSE is hopeful that this will come on stream toward the end of the year.”

Teachta Adams said:

“This is the latest of a long list of unfulfilled promises. The Minister and the HSE need to provide greater clarity about this latest proposed new arrangement.”

The announcement came in response to a Topical Issues question in the Dáil on Wednesday evening from Teachta Adams in which the Louth TD criticised the current state of CAMHS in North Louth and condemned the government’s failure to plan for the construction of a Primary Care Centre for the North Louth region.

Speaking in the Dáil, Gerry Adams said:

“There has been a consistent failure by the government to deliver adequate and effective community mental health services in North Louth, in particular Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

“13 years after the publication of ‘A Vision for Change,’ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are in crisis in my constituency.

“Figures released last week show that 345 young people in CHO 8, which covers Louth, are waiting for CAMHS services. Of these, over one third – 140 – have been waiting for more than three months. Other figures released to my colleague Louise O’Reilly show that the staffing deficit in CAMHS needs at least €40 million just to address existing staff shortages.

“Today, CHO 8 only has just over half (54 per cent) of the number of staff which ‘Vision for Change’ said was necessary. Currently, this area does not have a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist; five Senior Medical Social Workers; two Senior psychologists and a range of other senior positions are unfilled.

“This means that hundreds of children and young people in Louth are not receiving the mental health supports they need within the appropriate timeframes.

“13 years ago under ‘A Vision for Change’, Louth mental health services were allocated additional staff.  However, there was no building in North Louth for them to operate out of. Consequently, we have people from the North of the County, Carlingford, Omeath, Faughart, Shelagh, Dundalk, Dromiskin, and many other places, having to travel to Ardee or Drogheda to access community mental health services.

“This places an unfair burden of travel on vulnerable individuals and their families. Community services should be delivered in the community.

“In August 2018, when I asked about the lack of suitable premises, I was told that community mental health services for North Louth were to be provided within a new Primary Care Centre located in Dundalk. This was first advertised in 2008. In November 2016, I was advised in a PQ response that it was hoped the Operational Lease Process for the Primary Care Centre should be completed in the first quarter of 2017.

“Last August, the HSE stated that a planning application for the Primary Care Centre would be submitted by the end of 2018; that work would commence in 2019 and the centre would be opened early in 2020.

“None of these deadlines have or will be met. Dundalk Primary Care Centre did not even feature on a list of centres at advanced planning provided to Deputy Louise O’Reilly three weeks ago. This is an intolerable situation. The government is failing the citizens of Louth.”

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Cancelled vote on vulture Directive makes Sinn Féin MEPs’ presence in Parliament more necessary than ever – Carthy

 

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the fact that the vote on the EU’s Directive on non-performing loans scheduled for the final plenary session in Strasbourg this week has been cancelled. This means that the vote will not be voted on by the European Parliament during this mandate and will need to be revisited by the incoming Parliament. Carthy explained that his actions significantly contributed to the delay of the vote.

 

He said: “Sinn Féin have led the way in opposing the EU's proposed Directive on non-performing loans, which will give free rein to vulture funds and debt collectors across the EU.

 

“There are two key reasons why this vote has been postponed and will now be dealt with by the incoming Parliament. The first is the fact that I initiated the one limited procedural mechanism available to me, and was supported in this by the Greens, in forcing the postponement of the vote and inter-institutional negotiations on the Regulation part of this package in December. This meant the adoption of the Regulation was postponed by several months and the whole process was delayed.

 

“The second reason the vote on the Directive is being postponed is because the social-democrats clearly fear the verdict of their constituents in the European elections if they endorse such an appalling piece of legislation before the vote. 

 

“It is my firm view that this proposed Directive needs to be withdrawn. It was proposed on the basis of an impact assessment that took absolutely no regard of the rights of EU citizens such as the right to housing assistance under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

 

“It will lead to more evictions, more harassment of homeowners by debt collectors, and more housing stress and homelessness.  It is grossly unfair because it puts the blame and the punishment for the 2008 crisis on the shoulders of ordinary families and homeowners instead of the financial institutions that caused the crisis.

 

“The process by which this package – the Regulation and Directive – have been dealt with in the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee has been extremely disappointing, with the two largest groups, the EPP and S&D, colluding to prevent the smaller groups from having a meaningful say in shaping the reports. It has been an appalling and anti-democratic approach to such a crucial proposal – another reason why I welcome the cancellation of the vote.

 

“Now that the Parliament cannot adopt its position on this file until the incoming mandate, I will continue to work with consumer protection groups and housing campaigners in the coming months to call for the total withdrawal of this extremely damaging proposal. 

 

“This makes the return of the strongest team of Sinn Féin MEPs to the European Parliament in the elections in May all the more important for the Irish people.” ENDS

 

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster has hit out at the government over their continued underfunding of Housing Adaptation Grants for older people and people with a disability in Co. Louth, despite the fact that there are currently 460 applications outstanding.

Deputy Munster said it was a “damning indictment” of the previous Labour and Fine Gael government’s decision to remove long stay and respite beds from the Cottage Hospital, as the government is now not making adequate provision for people to live independently in their own homes.

Deputy Munster said:

“Louth County Council are currently dealing with 460 applications for Housing Adaptation Grants. This includes 138 rollovers from last year that they could not process because of lack of funding.

“76 of these were deemed to be highest priority.

“Louth County Council recently received this year’s funding allocation, and it is totally inadequate.

“The excuse given by Labour and Fine Gael when they removed long stay and respite beds for the Cottage Hospital was that they would allow older people and people living with disabilities to live independently  at home with the supports they need.

“These waiting lists prove otherwise.

“Seriously ill patients cannot get basics like wet rooms, or stair-lifts.

“The government must increase this funding to allow people to live with dignity in their own homes, with supports appropriate to their needs. This is the responsibility of government.

“The government’s response yesterday was wholly inadequate. It’s simply not good enough, given the dire need for housing adaptations for people who are seriously ill.

“It’s hypocritical of government to say that they want to support independent living for older people, and yet refuse to adequately fund the very basics, such as wet rooms or stair-lifts to enable people to do exactly that.”

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