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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that serious questions remain unanswered with respect to the fiasco of the National Broadband Plan.

Teachta McDonald criticised the Taoiseach’s “spin and excuses as the Broadband Plan descends into farce.”

The Dublin Central TD said:

“People in rural Ireland have been left completely in the dark and without clarity as to when they will have access to high-speed broadband.

“They now have to listen to the Taoiseach using Brexit as an excuse as to why he won’t give them any answers. This whole process is descending into farce and is becoming more and more reminiscent of the National Children’s Hospital debacle.

“The tendering model chosen for the Broadband Plan was supposed to ensure a competitive process but there is now just one bidder remaining, leaving the government completely exposed.

“We have no date for commencement and the commitment to deliver high-speed broadband to every home by 2020 is not going to be delivered.

“Despite the Taoiseach’s ‘personal crusade’, serious questions remain unanswered: when will we get a proper costing for the plan? When will we know whether the plan is proceeding or not? Crucially, when will people who desperately need broadband access in rural Ireland have some clarity as to what is happening and when they will finally have access?” 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has described as ‘shocking and disturbing’ the 5th Interim Report by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, which was published today.

The Dublin Bay North TD said:

“The findings of this report are deeply disturbing and shocking. While the causes of deaths of children who died in Mother and Baby homes do not form part of this report, the disregard and inappropriate way in which many of these children were buried exposes a disturbing and sinister attitude from some of the religious orders towards what they termed ‘illegitimate’ children and their mothers.

“In terms of Bessborough, the clear inability of the religious order who ran that institution to provide worthwhile information or details as to where the bodies of more than 830 infants who died in their care are located is nothing short of disgraceful. The further provision of what the Commission describes as ‘inaccurate and misleading’ information by those same religious orders is deeply shameful.

“The Report also raises very serious questions about the role of local authorities in these institutions and what knowledge they had about the burial of bodies in grounds and unmarked burial sites – particularly at the Tuam institution.

“I would echo the calls of the Commission and the Minister for anybody with any information on the burial arrangements at these institutions to contact the Commission of Investigation in order to assist them in their investigation.” 

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD today met with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the US Congressional Delegation.

In the meeting, Speaker Pelosi reaffirmed her strong support for the Good Friday Agreement and for the protection of Irish interests in the face of Brexit.

Speaking following the meeting, the Sinn Féin President said:

“I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and the Congressional Delegation for their strong support for Ireland as Brexit looms.

“The delegation reiterated their commitment to stability and progress in our country and shared our analysis of the clear dangers that exist should there be any diminution of our rights and agreements.

“Successive US administrations were instrumental in the building of peace on our island and in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement over twenty years ago. Those who seek to undermine our agreements, our peace and our rights would do well to hear what Speaker Pelosi and colleagues have so clearly stated during their time in Ireland this week.

“Speaker Pelosi’s explicit statement that there will be no trade agreement between the US and Britain should damage be done to the GFA shows the seriousness with which this threat is being taken.

“The protection of the GFA in all its parts is the bottom line and is non-negotiable.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has called for an effective anti-poverty and social inclusion policy that addresses the multiple causes, discrimination and social exclusion that lead to poverty.

Speaking at the launch of the party’s anti-poverty document, Alex Maskey said:

“There are numerous causes of poverty and deprivation - including the cruel austerity agenda imposed on people by the Tory government, underinvestment and the legacy of the past. 

“Eradicating poverty is possible but it does require fresh thinking and a government which delivers improvements to people’s lives and act as an effective bulwark against the impact of Tory cuts and austerity.

“It’s time for an effective anti-poverty and social inclusion policy that addresses the causes, discrimination and social exclusion that lead to poverty, as well as the necessary financial support to deliver it. 

“This document sets out firm proposals including reforming the way government departments target resources at those in need, the introduction of social tariffs to tackle fuel poverty, employability programmes, community development and the introduction of a Living wage.

“There is nothing natural or inevitable about poverty. It can and should be eradicated from society and that is Sinn Féin’s vision as outlined in the ‘Prosperity and Opportunity’ document.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Minister Michael D’Arcy must act to bring transparency on insurance premiums for small business. He said those campaigning for a fair insurance system are deeply frustrated at the lack of progress and at an actual reduction in transparency in insurance pricing. He cited insurers’ refusal to agree to notify insurance holders of claims against them as an example of this resistance to transparency from insurers.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I note the Minister today called the insurers ‘unhelpful’ in how they provide data. This is a mild description given the attitude of insurers. This is summed up best by their refusal to put in place a protocol to notify insurance holders when there is a claim against them. The Minister is now being forced to amend my Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill to achieve this. I have been in discussion with Minister D’Arcy and am happy to accept the amendments but had hoped that a more urgent approach would have been adopted.

“He has the power to work with the Central Bank to restore transparency by reintroducing the ‘Blue Book’ and Private Motor Insurance Statistics. That would be a helpful step.

“Two and half years ago, on my request, the Finance Committee published a report on insurance which focused in relentlessly on transparency as the key to tackling this crisis. Yet, two and a half years on, many small businesses still facing these massive increases are telling us that there is now less transparency, not more.

“Last week’s National Competiveness Council report on the Costs of Doing Business showed how inadequate the State’s knowledge of this problem is when it stated: ‘The Council is also constrained in terms of the availability of metrics and their impact on enterprises of different sizes and sectors, and across several important areas such as …. commercial insurance..’

“The complete lack of transparency favours only one group of people- insurers. As long as transparency is delayed, they will have an excuse to act irresponsibly and unaccountably.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has condemned those responsible for last night’s security alert in Rasharkin.

The North Antrim MLA was speaking after a security alert caused residents to be evacuated from their homes and two viable pipebombs were found in the village.

Phillp McGuigan said:

"Those responsible for last night’s disruption have shown complete disregard for the local area.

“I’m relieved that no one has been hurt and these lethal weapons have now being taken off the streets.  

“I would urge anyone with information to bring it forward to the PSNI.” 

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Sinn Féin candidate for the Glens Oliver McMullan has called on the public to be vigilant in light of a spate of ATM robberies around the country.

Oliver McMullan said: "There have been numerous ATM robberies in recent weeks across the country and particularly in the north.

"This week an ATM robbery brought concern closer to home with the attack on an ATM just up the coast in Bushmills.

"ATMs are a vital resource to the local community, businesses and visitors.

"This is particularly so in the case of the Glens where which has seen the closure of local bank branches.

"I would call on public to remain vigilant particularly in regard to the movement of heavy machinery at tight and to report anything suspicious to the PSNI."

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has condemned a pipe bomb attack on a house in the Windmill Avenue area of Armagh last night.

Cathal Boylan said:

“Two pipe bombs exploded at a house in Windmill Avenue while three people were in it.

“These devices put residents’ lives at risk.

“I’m relieved that no one has been hurt.

"I would appeal to anyone with information to contact the police.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for LGBTQI Rights Senator Fintan Warfield today is holding a briefing in Leinster House with Love Equality NI – the campaign for civil marriage equality in the North. The briefing is being held for politicians and staff from all parties and none to receive an update on the campaign and how they can support it as a TD or Senator.

The briefing is co-sponsored by Senators David Norris and Jerry Buttimer.

Senator Warfield said:

“I am delighted to invite Love Equality NI to the Oireachtas and look forward to the event.

“Civil marriage equality is about protecting our families, neighbours, and friends. It is about two people making a commitment to share in the ups and downs of life. It is also about ensuring that the state recognises all of our relationships equally.

“These are rights enjoyed by Irish and British citizens in all other jurisdictions. It is an injustice that we continue to see efforts toward equality being blocked in the north.

“I hope to see a broad representation from all parties and none and that the Oireachtas plays its role in ensuring all island civil marriage equality.” 

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Sinn Féin’s Joe Duffy has branded the burning of his election posters on Tuesday night ‘despicable’ and an attack on the democratic process. 

The party’s candidate for Lisburn and Castlereagh said:

“I was contacted by a local resident tonight letting me know that my election posters had been set alight in the Cutts area. 

“This is a blatant attack on the democratic process and those behind this despicable act will fail. 

“I will continue to work on behalf of everyone in North Lisburn and promote our message of equality, rights and Irish unity. 

“Sinn Féin will not be silenced by these attacks which will only increase our determination to bring our progressive politics to voters in this council area.”

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Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd has called on authorities to remove a banner from Portadown town centre which is designed to cause hurt to the victims of Bloody Sunday and cause community division.

John O’Dowd said:

“The banner proclaiming support for a murder suspect is not appropriate.

“The victims of Bloody Sunday deserve the truth just as much as any victim of the conflict.

“The banner should be removed immediately.” 

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Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has said the true story of what happened in the Loughinisland massacre must be made public after hosting a briefing in Leinster House with journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey involved in making the film ‘No Stone Unturned’. 

The film shone a light on collusion between the loyalist gang which murdered six men in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down, in 1994 and British intelligence services.

 The two journalists are currently on bail after they were arrested by police who accused them of possessing confidential documents.  

Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said:

“The Police Ombudsman found that there were serious failings in the investigation into those responsible for the Loughinisland massacre and found that there had been collusion.

“The film ‘No Stone Unturned’ exposes the depth of collusion between the UVF killers of the six men in Loughinisland and the RUC and British intelligence agencies.

“However, instead of the PSNI  following up on the evidence laid out in this documentary they have attempted to silence the journalists who have tried to uncover the truth.  

“The arrests of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey are an attack on free speech and are an insult to the Loughinisland Families who are still waiting, not only for justice, but a proper investigation into the murder of their loved ones.

“An Taoiseach must ensure the Irish State will do all it can to help protect press freedom investigating such matters and families that are still seeking justice for their loved ones.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support press freedom and families in their quest for justice.

“No one should be above the law, all victims and survivors should have the same access to processes of truth and justice.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on the government to adopt more credible and realistic presentation of the public finances.

The Donegal TD was speaking following the publication of the Stability Programme Update by the Department of Finance, which assesses the Irish economy and public finances in the time ahead.

Teachta Doherty said:

“Once again the government have published a Stability Programme Update that is based on unrealistic projections of the public finances which lack credibility.

“Brexit-related forecasts depend on a rosy picture of the British economy in which growth and sterling maintain their current strength.

"There is only €1.45bn of a spending increase projected for next year, but already €1.2bn of it pre-committed. This in no way provides for the investment our society sorely needs, and is simply a wildly unrealistic assumption.

“What we do know from this SPU is that a modest general government surplus in 2020 provides a real opportunity to tackle the serious risks facing the Irish economy, at home and abroad.

“Brexit threatens tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade, and will stunt our economic growth. Moreover, global economic growth is weakening.

“Sinn Féin would take this opportunity to invest in public services that will lower the cost of living for families across the island. We must invest now in public infrastructure to prepare for the uncertain times ahead and to lower our carbon emissions.

“Otherwise, it is public money that will be as vulnerable as the rest of the State’s finances to Fine Gael’s track record of flagrant waste and plunder to private interests.

“Well over €1bn of public funds will be lost in the time ahead as the government allows it to leak into the coffers of private bidders for the National Children’s Hospital.

“Today the Taoiseach confirmed that the excessive cost of the National Broadband Plan would be in the region of €3bn, all going to private coffers.

“On top of this, Fine Gael fork out hundreds of millions a year of taxpayer's money in handouts to booming banks, landlords, super-rich property moguls and Vulture Funds leeching off families in financial distress.

“In light of today’s update, the coming Budget must be about an end to the unacceptable and flagrant waste and plunder of public resources to shore up private interests.”

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Matt Carthy MEP to host “Stop the Vultures!” public meeting in Cavan this Thursday

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy will host a “Stop the Vultures! Time to Protect Homes” public meeting in the Hotel Kilmore in Cavan this Thursday the 18th of April at 8pm.

The Midlands Northwest MEP has been central to the campaign against the EU directive on non-performing loans which he says will strengthen the free rein giving to the banks and vulture funds and will force more families out of their homes. Ahead of the event in Cavan town Carthy spoke of the government’s lack of action on Ireland’s housing crisis.

“Sinn Féin is standing with communities and campaigning for policies that will benefit the Irish people and not the banks and vultures at the local, state and EU level.

“I’ve seen first-hand how this has affected families in the Cavan / Monaghan area. In Brussels we are fighting tooth and nail against a new proposal on mortgage loans, which would allow the banks to throw their customers to the wolves and give further free rein to the debt vultures across the EU.  I encourage the people of County Cavan to join us this Thursday to hear our analysis on how we can resolve this issues and also to share their own views as to how we can deliver a change in housing policy at an EU and national level.”

Local Sinn Féin representatives Noel Connell and Geraldine Harten will also address the meeting.

ENDS

Matt Cavan Event April 2019

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Broadband fiasco exposes Fine Gael’s utter disregard for rural Ireland – Carthy

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said Fine Gael’s mismanagement of the National Broadband Plan exposes Fine Gael’s utter disregard for people in rural Ireland.


Matt Carthy said:

“Leo Varadkar has stated that the cost of broadband rollout will now be many multiples of the original estimate.

“His government’s mismanagement of provision of a vital infrastructure for rural Ireland, once again exposes Fine Gael’s utter disregard for people living in rural areas.

“The entire approach to broadband rollout has been chaotic and farcical and the government has now left itself and taxpayers at the mercy of one private company, bidding for the contract to provide this service.


“The government needs to explain to half a million households across the state why they are still without broadband and when they will get it.

“Taxpayers also need to be given clarity on the final cost of this project.

They also need to be told what the government’s Plan B is, in the event of it abandoning the current process.

“This Fine Gael Government needs to stop treating the people of rural Ireland as second class citizens.”

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Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan has called on the Government to take immediate steps towards implementing a Labour Court Recommendation to provide pensions for Community Employment (CE) scheme supervisors.
 
The recommendation, which would apply to 1250 workers, has been outstanding for 11 years.

Senator Gavan joined over 200 SIPTU members for a lunchtime protest over the issue today outside of the Oireachtas.
 
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Gavan said:
 
“These CE workers have been treated with contempt by successive governments since 2008. Their union SIPTU has been tireless in pursuing this issue throughout this time.

"In the 2015 Landsdowne Road Agreement, SIPTU secured the setting up a High Level Forum to deal with the issue of pensions for CE Supervisors once and for all.

"However since then the Government has refused to engage properly with the Forum.
 
“Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of this issue is the outright refusal to date of the Government to engage in any way with SIPTU.

"The union has written to the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue requesting a meeting on the issue but have yet to receive even an acknowledgement of this request.
 
“I am calling on Minister Donohue to show respect to these 1250 workers and also to show respect for the Industrial Relations Court of this State.
 
“Minister Donohue should immediately agree to meet with SIPTU and engage constructively to deal with this issue. 

"What message does this Government send to rogue employers when it refuses for 11 years to implement a recommendation from the Labour Court?
 
“These workers have reluctantly resolved as a last resort to begin industrial action from Monday 13th May. This action will impact on thousands of CE workers and schemes across the state. "It’s time for Minister Donoghue to get off his high horse and deal with the workers and their union.”

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Invest NI, Belfast City Council and the Departments for the Economy and Communities must explain why official discussions were facilitated with a major DUP donor linked to so called Brexit ‘Dark Money’, Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has said.The party’s Brexit spokesperson was commenting after it was revealed that Richard Cook, a former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservatives, was involved in a series of senior meetings to discuss ‘potential investment opportunities’ in the months following the EU referendum. Mr. Cook chairs the shadowy Constitutional Research Council (CRC) that donated almost £450,000 in ‘Dark Money’ to the DUP to help fund the pro-Brexit campaign.“Unanswered questions remain about the source of those funds and why they were funnelled through the DUP,” Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said.“All we know for sure is that the DUP took the money but we are all paying the price in terms of the disastrous Brexit agenda they are attempting to force upon us.“Now it has emerged that Mr. Cook was involved in a series of official meetings with two DUP-controlled ministries, the Department for the Economy and the Department for Communities. He was also in discussions with Invest NI and Belfast City Council officials.“Given the secrecy and controversy surrounding Mr. Cook, the CRC and its role in the Brexit campaign, I think it’s understandable that questions are now being asked about these meetings.  “I have written to the Head of the Civil Service, Invest NI and the council to ask what exactly was discussed at these meetings, who requested them and on what basis were they agreed to.

“The full story about the Brexit Dark Money scandal and the DUP’s involvement in it has still not been established so the very least the public deserves is some openness and transparency from publicly funded bodies about the content and nature of these meetings with Mr. Cook.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has said it is essential that laws are kept up to date to ensure children and young people are protected from sexual exploitation. 

The Sinn Féin justice spokesperson said:

"Today we submitted our party’s response to the consultation on Child Sexual Exploitation, which is designed to ensure that the law is kept up to date and modern to ensure the protection of children against sexual exploitation.

“Whilst we welcome the consultation, the proposals could go further to safeguard children from the horrors of sexual exploitation and we have made a series of recommendations for improvements. 

"We have recommended reversing the burden of proof from child victims to the defendant for some sexual offences; extending ‘abuse of trust’ laws to include any adult who holds a position of power or trust over 16 or 17 year olds; making ‘up-skirting’ a criminal offence and criminalising the possession of a ‘child sex doll.’

“The Lanzarote Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child should be embedded in every aspect of the law on sexual offences against children.

“We will continue to engage with stakeholders and lobby the Department to ensure that the law is robust and sufficient to protect children from this horrific abuse which often leaves long and lasting physical, psychological and emotional damage on the victim.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has criticised the Government’s management of the National Broadband Plan, branding the process “farcical”.

Speaking in the Dáil at Leaders’ Questions, Teachta McDonald said:

“The Taoiseach said that the cost of the rollout of the National Broadband Plan will be many multiples of what was originally estimated.

“As with the scandalous cost overrun of the National Children’s Hospital, an absolutely vital piece of infrastructure that is desperately needed in much of rural Ireland, this project has gone way over budget and has been left at the mercy of a contractor.

“There is now just one bidder remaining for the contract. This leaves the government, and the taxpayer in turn, in an extremely precarious position.

“The entire process has been chaotic and quite frankly farcical.

“Over half a million homes are still without access to broadband and they want answers. When will these homes get the access they need? When will we be given clarity on the final cost of the project?

“We also need answers on the tendering process; if this process fails, or if the government decide to ditch it, what is Plan B?

“People need certainty. Leaving households and businesses in the lurch is not an option.” 

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has welcomed comments from US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in which she ruled out any post-Brexit trade deal with Britain if it weakens the Good Friday Agreement.

The Sinn Féin Vice President, who will meet with US delegation led by Pelosi in Dublin on Thursday, said the comments were a welcome reminder that there can be no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement as a result of Brexit.

Michelle O’Neill said: “Nancy Pelosi’s comments are welcome and reinforce the US commitment to our peace agreements.

“Brexit undermines our hard won agreements and the right and prosperity of citizens while also risking devastating damage to our economy.

“The people of the north rejected Brexit, but it is being forced upon us against our will by the Tories and their partners in the DUP.

“There is no good Brexit for Ireland but the Withdrawal Agreement and the Backstop are the bottom line in terms of safeguarding Irish interests. It is the least worst option and must be implemented.

“I will meet with Nancy Pelosi and the US delegation this week to reaffirm the need for continued US support to protect our peace agreements from the chaos of Brexit.”

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