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Commenting on the appointment by the Policing Board of new Chief Constable Simon Byrne Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill said: 

“The Policing Board has completed its selection process to appoint the new Chief Constable.

“Sinn Féin looks forward to working with the new Chief Constable Simon Byrne.

“Action is required to rebuild and redevelop public confidence in policing.

"Sinn Féin urges the incoming Chief Constable to commit to policing with the community as the core principle and basis for progressing  modern policing.

“Sinn Féin has consistently called for the responsibility of dealing with legacy to be removed from the PSNI and handed over to the new proposed independent legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House.

“The delays in implementing the legacy structures agreed by the two governments and the political parties at Stormont House in 2014 must end.

“And the mechanisms should be given legislative effect, in a human rights compliant manner.

“There is also an onus on the incoming Chief Constable to ensure that significant failures of the PSNI to disclose information in a timely and acceptable manner to the courts and to families of victims of the conflict must end.

“There must be no more blocking or delays.”

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In response to a Dáil question from Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams last April, Minister of State at the Department of Health Jim Daly TD announced 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.”

The Sinn Féin Louth TD warned at the time that: “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.”

In a letter to Teachta Adams last Monday, the Minister made no mention of the new town centre location for CAMHS services. Instead, Minister Daly said that the Dundalk Primary Care Centre is only at the design stage and “until the new building is ready for occupation, community mental health services for North Louth will continue to be run from Ladywell and Ardee”.

Gerry Adams said:

“The Minister’s letter adds to the confusion around CAMHS services for the North Louth area. I have again written to him seeking clarification of HSE plans for mental health services in the Dundalk area. Specifically I have asked the Minister about his announcement in April of a new town centre location in Dundalk for CAMHS. Is this still part of the immediate plan for CAMHS services or has it been scrapped?

“The Primary Care Centre for Dundalk was first announced in 2008. In 2016, I was told that the Operational Lease Process should be completed by the start of 2017. Last August, the HSE said that a planning application would be submitted by the end of 2018 and the centre would be opened by 2020. And it did not feature at all on a list of Primary Care Centres, provided to my colleague Louise O’Reilly TD several weeks ago by the HSE, that is at advanced planning stage.

“According to the Minister’s letter this week, the Primary Care Centre is still only at Design Stage. The Minister wrote: ‘This means that a process is currently ongoing to agree what services will occupy the building and agreeing design layouts with those services. This stage can take several months to complete.’

“This would suggest that it is very unlikely that the Primary Care Centre will be opened by projected 2020 date. I have asked the Minister for the new projected timeline for the various stages that the construction of the Primary Care Centre must still complete and what is the expected completion and opening date?

“Finally, while some progress has been made in filling vacant posts for the new CAMHS team in Louth there are still several senior positions vacant, including a Senior Social Work post and a Staff Nurse.

“It is important that we remember that according to the most recent figures there are 345 young people in CHO 8, which covers Louth, waiting for CAMHS services. Of these over one third – 140 – have been waiting for more than three months. Last month CHO 8 only had just over half (54 per cent) of the number of staff which ‘Vision for Change’ – the Mental Health strategy first published in 2006 - said was necessary.

“As with the funding crisis around the National Children’s Hospital, the Broadband debacle, and the Housing and homelessness crisis, the policies of this Fine Gale government, in partnership with Fianna Fáil, are failing to deliver vital public services.”

Note: Please see the letter in question from Minister Daly attached

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Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan is traveling to Columbia this weekend as part of a trade union fact finding mission for Justice for Columbia. 

Senator Gavan said:  

“Justice for Columbia was set up by the British and Irish trade union movement to support Columbia civil society in its struggle for human rights, labour rights, peace, and social justice.

“Nearly three years after a peace deal was signed, there are real fears over the future of the peace process in Colombia, with an alarming number of social leaders, including many trade unionists, having been assassinated by right-wing paramilitaries. Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. The Colombian Government must adhere to its commitments under the peace agreement.

“I will be joining a delegation of Irish and British trade unionists and politicians on a week long mission to meet with representatives of Government, Opposition, and Civil Society. We will hear directly from communities who are living constantly under threat from right-wing paramilitary groups. Sinn Féin has a longstanding commitment to the peace process and justice in Colombia, and I will do my best to shine a light on what is happening on the ground.” 

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Reacting to Theresa May’s resignation announcement the Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said:

“The chaos at Westminster cannot be allowed to distract from the very real threat that Brexit poses to Ireland. They also should not derail progress in the north talks.

“Irrespective of who leads, it is paramount that people’s rights and agreements are protected.

“Following the British General election Theresa May prioritised a deal with the DUP at Westminster over re-establishing the power-sharing institutions. 

“This Tory/DUP deal has had a negative influence on the political process

“Theresa May set unrealisable red lines in the Brexit negotiations and only eventually accepted the need for a Backstop as the bare minimum to avoid a hard border. 

“The people want and need a resolution to the impasse in the north to the issues which led to the collapse of the institutions. 

“An agreement can be reached and a deal can be done. But the process must not be derailed nor responsibility abdicated in respect of people’s rights and agreements.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has condemned those responsible for disturbances near a polling station in Derry last night. 

The Foyle MLA said: 

“The disturbances close to the polling station at St Paul’s Primary School which involved petrol bombs being thrown at police and a hoax bomb alert must be condemned. 

“Those behind these incidents were clearly trying to undermine the democratic process but they failed to do so. 

“They do not have the support of the local community who, despite the futile actions of those behind this trouble, continued to use the polling station.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the ‘People’s Housing Plan’ campaign by Uplift calling on European candidates to commit to rejecting the EU’s proposed Directive on non-performing loans, which encourages banks to offload their customers’ loans to vulture funds.

Speaking on the eve of polling in the European elections, Matt Carthy, the Sinn Féin candidate for the Midlands North West constituency, said:

“The activists promoting the People’s Housing Plan should be applauded for their campaign calling on EU candidates to pledge to reject the EU’s Vulture Fund Directive. I have proudly signed the candidates’ pledge and urge all EU candidates to do so.

“The People’s Housing Plan also includes a pledge for local council candidates to support public housing. Eoghan Murphy’s comments this week on ‘co-living’ – tenements in all but name – and ongoing mass evictions by vulture funds, have added momentum to this campaign. 

“In March, the United Nations wrote a scathing letter to the Fine Gael government, pointing out that homelessness has increased exponentially in the Irish state between 2015 and 2018 – increasing by nearly 96 per cent among adults and by 228 per cent among children over the same period. 

“They called the denial of the right to a home an ‘egregious and damaging violation’, which is known to be devastating to the lives and wellbeing of children in particular, including to their physical and mental development. 

“The UN report points to cuts to the public housing budget, and land hoarding by speculators who deliberately restrict supply in order to inflate rent and prices, and most importantly, the policies that have caused the financialisation of housing in Ireland.

“The EU’s current proposal to deal with non-performing loans aims to ‘deepen the secondary market’ for such loans. In reality, this proposal will give free rein to the vulture funds. It amounts to a second bailout for the banks, and is aimed at returning EU banks to making massive profits again.

“Sinn Féin MEPs are demanding that this proposal be withdrawn. We were able to procedurally delay this damaging package so it will have to be revisited by the incoming Parliament instead of being rammed through the Parliament in April, as was attempted by Fine Gael's political group. 

“This makes it vital to return the strongest Sinn Féin team possible to the European Parliament on Friday. I urge all EU candidates to commit to rejecting this damaging proposal.” 

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Sinn Fein TD for Sligo Leitrim North Roscommon and South Donegal Martin Kenny has described a new position for new Garda recruits by the Garda Commissioner as being "unfair and unworkable for many". 

The Garda Commissioner is to refuse new Garda recruits the option of making a welfare application to be allocated a station closer to their home, rather than were they originally assigned to, after passing out.

Deputy Kenny said;

“All regions of the country need new Garda recruits and I welcome the fact that 200 new Gardai will graduate on the 7th of June.  

"I am very concerned about the comments made by the Garda Commissioner and his refusal to allow new recruits make Welfare Applications to be assigned a station closer to their home and family.

“I understand that a number of new Gardai will be directly affected by this decision.  These are people who have already set up a life and home in various regions of the country. 

"Some have partners and young children and financial responsibilities such as mortgages. 

“It is unfair to expect these people to up root their families or separate from their families and take on further financial pressure such as finding rental accommodation in another part of the country. 

"These Gardai are not expecting to be stationed in their home towns but are looking for the opportunity to apply to be stationed somewhere that they can commute to.

“I also understand the substantial number of Gardai will be giving their resignations to a sergeant over the perceived treatment of the Garda Commissioner. 

"I am writing to the Justice Minister to ask him to intervene and ensure that the sensible approach of longstanding is maintained and I would ask the Commissioner to reconsider his position on Welfare Applications as I feel this is very unfair and unworkable for many Gardai.”

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Sinn Féin Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Siobhán Currie, has said she is looking forward to the challenges of the new role and representing everyone across the council area. 

Speaking after being elected as Chair last night, Councillor Currie said: 

“It is a great honour and a privilege to have been elected as chairperson of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. 

“In the year ahead I will represent everyone across the council area and be a passionate promoter of this district. 

“In particular I want to focus on protecting the environment so that locals and the growing number of tourists who visit our beautiful area can enjoy the stunning natural landscapes and scenery just as they are.

“And I want to reiterate our total opposition to fracking anywhere in this council area or throughout the island.

“I also want to promote rights and equality for all, including the Irish language community in the district, and to stand up for the interests of everyone. 

“There will no doubt be challenges in the year ahead, particularly as a result of Brexit, but I am looking forward to tackling those challenges and working with all parties on the council for the benefit of everyone in this area.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has described as “shocking and deeply disturbing” media reports of the findings of a National Review Panel investigation into the HSE and Tusla’s handling of a case of abuse at a foster home in Galway.

Reacting to the media reports, Deputy Mitchell said:

“We obviously have not seen this report. However, the reported findings of a catalogue of failures, which saw three children suffer grave and heinous sexual abuse – are deeply disturbing and shocking.

“There appears to have been a total and complete failure within the HSE and Tusla. Despite a statutory requirement, there appears to have been no review of the foster care setting after credible disclosures of abuse were made.

“The fact that children were permitted to remain at that home is simply outrageous. Immediately, a full risk assessment should have been carried out and any foster children present at that home should have been removed.

“The State is tasked with putting the welfare of children first. There appears to have been a complete and total failure in oversight and management within state agencies of these young, vulnerable children.  

“From the media reports, it appears that yet again a lack of social workers has contributed to the failures in this case. This is an ongoing issue of which there has been no progress in the last number of years.

“We need to see the publication of this report in full. Serious questions also need to be asked as to whether those who failed to act, despite such overwhelming evidence, are still in positions tasked with the safeguarding of children.” 

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For the second time during this election campaign The Irish Times has published a Stephen Collins polemic deliberately misrepresenting Sinn Féin’s position on the European Union.

The fact is that Stephen Collins has an agenda and its little wonder why. One of the EU’s principal problems is that elites in Brussels, as well as their cheerleaders in sections of the media - including in Ireland - fail to countenance any critique of the ‘European project’ and label anyone with a different vision for Europe a ‘Eurosceptic’.

The reality is that Sinn Féin believes that Ireland’s place is in Europe but that the direction of the EU has been, and is, misguided. That new position has been laid clear for the likes of Stephen Collins to absorb over many years. He deliberately chooses to ignore the facts and throws in the likes of Nigel Farage to compare with Sinn Féin. This comparison is, of course, an absolute fallacy but Stephen doesn’t let facts get in the way of a good yarn.

Let me spell it out for him in the clearest terms possible. Instead of a Europe of deeper concentration of power in a centre that is unaccountable and fails to respect national sovereignty, Sinn Féin wants to see a social Europe that place citizens at the centre and acts in their interests.

It is not a case of more Europe - as those in hock to the EU as it stands would have us believe - it is a case of better Europe. What Stephen Collins omits from his assessment is that this is a view shared by the Irish people. Irish support for membership of the EU is strong, but that support does not translate to unconditional approval for the EU’s direction of travel and in numerous referenda (à la Nice I and Lisbon I) the Irish electorate have proved that they are not afraid to voice their concerns.

It is very clear that Stephen Collins cares less about Sinn Féin’s different vision for the EU and representing that in an accurate way than he does about promoting the ideological hegemony of the European elites - and their allies in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - that says the EU is flawless.

That may be Stephen’s prerogative, but he should at least be honest about it, because when honesty and the facts is disregarded you get gutter journalism. I'll let you join the dots.

Lynn Boylan MEP.

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Sinn Féin TD and Director of the 2019 Local Elections Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on voters to send a clear message to the Fine Gael government tomorrow that there is an appetite for change in this country.

The Cork South-Central TD said:

“Tomorrow is your chance to send a clear message to the Fine Gael government that their direction is not in the best interests of the Irish people.

“No more than when they rejected water charges, the Irish people will not accept their ludicrous proposals to bring back tenements and charge young people hundreds of euro a month for the privilege of sharing a kitchen with 40 other people.

“Nor will the Irish people stand by while Fine Gael wastes billions of taxpayers’ money while stripping local amenities and refusing to build social and affordable housing.

“A strong Sinn Féin team in local government will send the best message to Fine Gael that there is an appetite for change in this country.

“Don’t allow your vote to be used on Friday as an endorsement of the incompetence of this government.

“Sinn Féin will stand up for you. Sinn Féin will deliver locally and in Europe. Sinn Féin will make a difference. Vótáil Sinn Féin.” 

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“Campaign by Tara workers' against Revenue plans to remove allowances will have Sinn Féin’s full support” – Matt Carthy MEP

 

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has met with workers’ representatives in the Tara Mines in county Meath to discuss the impact of a proposal from Revenue to abolish existing tax allowances.  Carthy, who met with the Tara workers alongside Navan Councillor Sinéad Burke, heard how revenue is carrying out a review of the flat rate expense allowances.

 

He said: “Revenue is carrying out a review of flat rate expense allowances that cover the cost of equipment needed for work, including things like tools, uniforms and stationery.  The review is expected to be completed by the end of this year and it is proposed that many of the allowances will be abolished.  This will have the immediate impact of significantly reducing the pay of the workers affected.

 

“Workers in Tara Mines are organising against the current Revenue proposal to phase out the uniform allowance, other workers will undoubtedly be following suit.

 

“This suggestion from Revenue is simply a mechanism to take more money out of the pocket of hard-pressed workers and it should be rejected.  Revenue should listen to the voice of the Tara Mines employees on this issue and provide assurances that it does not intend to get rid of this uniform allowance which is clearly necessary for these workers.  

 

“Along with Pearse Doherty in the Dáil, who I have been already liaising with, and our local Navan representatives, Sinéad Burke and Eddie Fennessy, Sinn Féin will be leading the opposition to this suggestion from Revenue at political level.  The Minister for Finance should immediately intervene to put a halt to this proposal and we will be demanding that he does so.”

ENDS

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Fianna Fáil want more economic powers transferred to Brussels – Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has criticised the proposal from Fianna Fáil European election candidates to transfer even more economic decision-making powers from Dublin to Brussels.

Carthy, representative for Midlands North West, said: “It beggars belief that after the experience we went through with Troika-imposed austerity that any Irish party would be calling for a further transfer of our economic decision-making powers to Brussels.

“Fianna Fáil is clueless when it comes to the EU’s economic governance framework. In the party’s election manifesto they call for a Eurozone budget and joint bond issues as a step towards a full fiscal and transfer union in the EU. In practice, this means they are supporting the call by their EU political group (ALDE) and Fine Gael’s group (EPP) for the creation of an EU Finance Minister to control the budgets and spending of the member states.

“There is a persistent drive by the political groups of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to make any and all EU spending conditional and dependent on Member States implementing so-called structural reforms. These structural reforms are invariably bad for working people and the environment and usually involve privatisation, cuts to public spending and frontline services, and attacks on workers’ rights.

“Proposals for an EU Finance Minister and an increased EU Budget are part of the this drive for the Commission technocrats to be able to exert even more power than they already have when it comes to the surveillance and control of the spending decisions of democratically elected governments.

“Fianna Fail’s ALDE group's election manifesto cals calls for cohesion policy to be ‘linked’ to the European Semester and the implementation of structural reforms. This means they want to see EU funds for the most disadvantaged and underdeveloped regions to be dependent on those areas selling off their publicly owned utilities and services and scrapping laws that aim to counter the exploitation of workers.

“Fianna Fáil, ALDE and the EPP group are also supporting the transformation of the existing intergovernmental bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, into a European Monetary Fund. This would potentially leave the Irish government without a vote in the fund’s decision-making process.

“The call in Fianna Fáil’s manifesto for a review of the fiscal rules, after urging Irish voters to support the Fiscal Compact being inserted into our Constitution, is hypocrisy of the highest order. 

"Their candidates should have the decency to admit to Irish voters that they have got it wrong, time and again, when it comes to the EU’s economic governance system.” ENDS

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The People’s Climate Case, a litigation action against the EU challenging it’s low-ambition climate policies, has been deemed 'inadmissible' by the European Courts. 

As a vocal supporter of this court case, Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan, MEP for Dublin and Climate Change spokesperson for the Left in Europe said:

“It is completely wrong that this court case has been deemed inadmissible because, according to the courts, the plaintiffs have not been affected by climate change directly. 

“Everybody is affected by climate change directly. These plaintiffs do have a legal standing. This decision to dismiss the case highlights the need for a legal basis for climate justice. 

“When I met the plaintiffs they shared their stories about how their livelihoods have been turned upside down by the effects of climate change.  I pledged my support and will continue to do so.

“I, along with my political group, have been arguing for climate justice to be a fundamental principle of the EU. Disappointingly, the Fine Gael MEPs chose not to support this call in the most recent climate change resolution.

“We need MEPs like myself who are willing to take the strong, necessary measures on climate change.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Jonathan O'Brien has said that a vote for Liadh Ní Riada on Friday is a vote "for somebody who is standing up for Irish neutrality at EU level".

Deputy O'Brien continued;

"It is crucial on the 24th May that we elect Irish MEPs who are going to Europe to fight for Ireland and to fight for ordinary people.

"We don't want MEPs who will go to cheerlead for the European militarisation agenda and lead us down a path that brings about the establishment of an EU Army. 

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael say they support neutrality but every single thing they have done for decades proves the exact opposite.  

"It is clear that an EU Army is being created and they are putting an EU defence fund of €13 billion in place to help bring it about.  

"We already know this will lead to major cuts to Agricultural funding and Cohesion funding.

"Liadh Ní Riada will not stand by and allow Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to jettison our neutrality.

"She will not stand by while billions of public money is handed over to wealthy military industrialists to detriment of ordinary citizens.

"I am asking everybody who opposes an EU army and who values Irish neutrality to come out and vote Liadh Ní Riada No.1 on Friday."

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Climate Action Brian Stanley TD has called for Ireland to immediately implement a ‘Just Transition’ framework towards a green economy, following information from the Government that no such strategy has yet to be published, let alone implemented.

Speaking from Leinster House this morning, Deputy Stanley said:

“The Government has no plan whatsoever for implementing a ‘Just Transition’ framework to ensure that we move towards a sustainable, green economy.

“Only a few weeks ago, we heard the news that 200 Bord na Móna workers have been made redundant, with a further 240 workers also set to lose their jobs by the end of the year.

“In what way does this reflect any sort of a just transition?

“I asked the Minister what his plans were for Bord na Móna and the workers and families connected and his response today lacked any sort of vision or ambition.

“How are we going to transition away from our reliance upon carbon towards a greener economy if we can’t bring ordinary working people with us?

“It doesn’t have to be this way.

“Sinn Féin has been calling for a radical just transition away from carbon towards renewable energy such as Biomass and Biogas.

"Bord na Móna is at the heart of that plan.

“A recent report published by ICTU outlines that a €1b investment by the State into Climate Action would lead to the creation of 35k net green jobs – many of which would be in the Midlands.

“There is huge potential in the Midlands for workers and communities if this Government could just put together a credible ‘Just Transition’ strategy.

“We should not see Climate Action as a burden; we should see it as an opportunity to create a stronger, more sustainable economy for everyone.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane today lambasted the terms of reference for the review of mortuary services in University Hospital Waterford (UHW), saying that they are designed to evade the issues, not address them.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“I am standing here today shocked and dismayed that after all the scandals that have befallen this government, they have still learnt nothing about transparency.

“The Minister and his office must take us for fools.

“The terms of reference for the review of mortuary services do not deal with the concerns raised by the four pathologists in their letter last year.

“They do not deal with the hospital group and what it knew and how it responded.

“There is no lookback element to the review – even though issues were first raised in 2004 and were ignored consistently ever since.

“Given all of that I simply do not believe that this review will establish the facts or the truth.

“After it is over we will still be none the wiser regarding the concerns raised over the way the bodies of the deceased were handled at the mortuary.

“All it does is look at the way the mortuary is run today, and whether improvements need to be made.

“This has already been established. The Minister’s announcement of funding for a new mortuary is proof of that.

“Minister Harris asked the TDs of Waterford to send in what they saw as terms of reference. I did this and the Minister has’nt taken any of it on board.

“It is hard not to see the Department’s  terms of reference as two-fingers to the people of Waterford, that they need to shut up and stop complaining,  and I for one will not be standing for it.”

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Speaking following a meeting between Sinn Féin representatives and Queen's University on equality issues, Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said: 

"We had a positive discussion on the university's new draft Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy; and on issues such as visibility of the Irish Language.

"It is welcome to see the progress and positive steps towards inclusion in terms of accessibility for those with disabilities, linguistic diversity and support for minority groups.

"University campuses should be inclusive and reflect all of society, their students and staff.

"Queen's has extended the consultation on its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy for 12 weeks until 9th August.

"This gives people the opportunity to add their views to the previous consultation."

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said that Friday is an opportunity to pass judgment on an out of touch and incompetent government and to elect Sinn Féin candidates who will stand up for ordinary people and deliver.

Speaking as she canvassed in Dublin City centre this afternoon, Teachta McDonald said:

“This government is out of touch and incompetent.  They are wasting billions of euro of your money.  The answers are there – the problem is the government won’t take them. They refuse to build affordable homes, they refuse to get rent under control and nobody is every held to account.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael should not be rewarded for leaving a generation with no prospect of owning their own home, they should not be rewarded for 21st century tenements where 42 people are expected to share a kitchen.  They should not be rewarded for children growing up in B&Bs.

“On Friday, you can give your verdict.  Don't let them use your vote to endorse Eoghan Murphy's record in housing.

“I am asking you to vote Sinn Féin in the local government and European elections. 

“Sinn Féin will stand up for you. Sinn Féin will deliver locally and in Europe. Sinn Féin will make a difference. Vótáil Sinn Féin.” 

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In his weekly column in the Andersonstown News this week Sinn Fein Louth TD Gerry Adams critiques former SDLP Deputy Leader Seamus Mallon’s recent proposal that the Good Friday Agreement should be rewritten and a United Ireland should now be contingent on the agreement of a majority of Unionists.

Summary:

· Mallon’s claim that a “united Ireland by numbers won’t work” ignores the clear provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and undermines the equal and democratic value which should be given to every vote.

· Mr Mallon is saying that a unionist majority can maintain partition, and the Union with Britain, but a majority which favours a United Ireland cannot achieve this without the agreement of a majority of Unionists.

· Seamus Mallon’s proposal would make the task of progressing a rights-based agenda in the North even more difficult than it already is. Where is the sense of “belonging” in his “shared home place” if the first thing he argues for is the relegation of the rights of Irish language speakers and our LGBTQ+ citizens in the current negotiations?

· He wants nationalists and republicans to “stop pushing for unity”. We should set aside our legitimate desire for unity until “there is a wider and deeper acceptance of it among the unionist community.” How will we achieve that acceptance if we don’t encourage a conversation about the benefits of unity?

· Of course every sensible United Irelander wants the biggest majority possible for unity… Being aware, sensitive and committed to winning as many unionists as possible to an agreed future in a new Ireland, and being generous and imaginative about this is the only way forward. But it does not include inventing a new veto.

· United Irelanders should continue to raise that objective wherever and whenever we can… Irish Unity is now firmly fixed on the political agenda. We will not take it off that agenda nor will we acquiesce to a new unionist veto.

THE NUMBERS GAME.

Seamus Mallon was never a big fan of the Hume-Adams talks. In 1985 Fr Alex Reid – the Sagart - tried on at least three occasions to organise a meeting between me and Mr Mallon. He delayed and delayed. Despite further efforts by Fr Reid after the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in November 1985, Mr Mallon finally said no to a meeting in March 1986.

On May 19th 1986 Fr Alec wrote to John Hume. John phoned Clonard Monastery the next day and the following day he met the Sagart. John and I met shortly afterwards. The Hume

Adams initiative was a product of those talks. While there were other element and many more contributors the Peace Process grew out of them. So did the Good Friday Agreement.

In my opinion Seamus Mallon is not a big fan of the Good Friday Agreement. He wrongly blames it and the two governments on the decline of the SDLP and ignores other factors including his own role in this development. So his recent claim that a “united Ireland by numbers won’t work” comes as no surprise. It ignores the clear provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and undermines the equal and democratic value which should be given to every vote. Mr Mallon’s proposition also seeks to rewrite the principle of consent contained within the Good Friday Agreement.

His latest position gives an unintended insight into his role in the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement. John Hume had a much more progressive and realistic position which did not accept an internal – that is a six county- settlement. That is one of the issues which we agreed on early in our talks in 1986. It was also an important element in talks between the SDLP and Sinn Féin in 1988 and in the first Hume Adams statement in April 1993. It is a central part of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Mallon is now proposing that the constitutional and political landscape should be rewritten to provide unionism with an entrenched veto over the issue of rights, and in particular the right to self-determination and independence subverted by partition almost 100 years ago.

He does acknowledge the failure of partition when the rights of nationalists and republicans were trampled on. How could he do otherwise? But he repeats that mistake by raising the democratic bar on unity in favour of unionism. He hasn’t moved beyond the deeply flawed Sunningdale Agreement.

In short Mr Mallon is saying that a unionist majority can maintain partition, and the Union with Britain, but a majority which favours a United Ireland cannot achieve this without the agreement of a majority of Unionists.

As well as being at odds with the Good Friday Agreement, this stance is also in stark contrast to other majority decisions of significance taken in recent years. That is how EU treaties were decided in the South. Two recent referendums there on marriage equality and a woman’s reproductive rights were determined by a majority. The right of nationalists in the north to vote in an election for the Presidency of Ireland will be determined by a majority referendum vote later this year. If Scotland holds a referendum on the Union it too will be determined by a majority. If majorities are acceptable in those circumstances, why should a vote on Irish Unity be any different?

Seamus Mallon’s proposal would also make the task of progressing a rights-based agenda in the North even more difficult than it already is. Where is the sense of “belonging” in his “shared home place” if the first thing he argues for is the relegation of the rights of Irish language speakers and our LGBTQ+ citizens in the current negotiations? How can “safety, security and comfort” be achieved if not through the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement – equality and parity of esteem?

And in case Mr Mallon has forgotten, the collapse of the Assembly and Executive in 2017, and of the talks last year, was about more than language and marriage equality rights and the crass bigotry of some in the DUP. The British government and the DUP also refused to honour agreements, particularly around the issue of legacy. And then there was the scandal of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money squandered amid allegations of misconduct and corruption of DUP officials.

As the political momentum and demand for unity is growing as a result of demographic and political changes, greater public politicisation, and the Brexit debacle, Mr Mallon chooses this time to propose changing the Good Friday Agreement. He must know such a change will not be agreed.

He wants nationalists and republicans to “stop pushing for unity”. We should set aside our legitimate desire for unity until “there is a wider and deeper acceptance of it among the unionist community.” How will we achieve that acceptance if we don’t encourage a conversation about the benefits of unity?

Political change, and especially around such a vexed issue as partition, is only possible if the arguments for and against are debated publicly. We need a public discourse in which all of the claims and counterclaims; pros and cons can be discussed.

Mr. Mallon’s proposition also misses the main achievement of the Good Friday Agreement. That Agreement is not a constitutional settlement. It never claimed to be one. By making consent a requirement for both the Union and Irish Unity it removes the constitutional veto once enjoyed by unionism. The Good Friday Agreement was and is an agreement based on equality and parity of esteem.

Of course every sensible United Irelander wants the biggest majority possible for unity. That is the most desirable outcome of a referendum on unity. By dint of their numbers unionists have a very strong position. We cannot be blind to that. Persuading enough of them to take control of their own affairs in a new agreed Ireland is a historical challenge. Being aware, sensitive and committed to winning as many unionists as possible to an agreed future in a new Ireland, and being generous and imaginative about this is the only way forward.

But it does not include inventing a new veto. Where in the tortured history of the northern state is there evidence to support the view that nationalists acquiescing to unionism ever worked? On the contrary – from the civil rights movement through the peace process, and the many periods of negotiations _ progress has only been achieved when nationalists and republicans stood up for and asserted our rights alongside the rights of everyone else. It’s equality Stupid!

The thrust of Mr Mallon’s argument is that a United Ireland born out of a unity referendum, with a narrow majority, risks a rerun of the past with the boot placed on the other foot. That nationalists and republicans would do to unionism what was done to us for generations. His argument is spurious and offensive. I know of no republican or nationalist who believes for one instance that we are so stupid, so narrow minded, so bigoted, so driven by hatred, as to do that. Nor do I believe that there is any popular support for a

return to the conflict of the past. The last two decades have seen positive societal change. Citizens want that progress to continue.

Seamus Mallon’s willingness to change the Good Friday Agreement and reintroduce the unionist veto threatens that progress and ignores the lessons and failures of partition.

Finally, United Irelanders should continue to raise that objective wherever and whenever we can. In recent years there has been significant progress. Irish Unity is now firmly fixed on the political agenda. We will not take it off that agenda nor will we acquiesce to a new unionist veto. My preference is for a unitary state but as republicans have said many times we are open to agreeing transitional arrangements. In fact, transitional arrangements are a necessary part of our journey as an island people. As republicans we are working for a shared space – a new harmonious dispensation – in which sectarianism is a thing of the past and where people of every political persuasion and none can live, work and socialise together on the basis of equality. That’s the way forward.

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