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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD, speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, has called on the government to urgently implement an emergency response to the growing crisis of deaths among those experiencing homelessness.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“Yesterday, we learnt of two more tragic deaths in our capital city.

“Two men, one living in a tent in the shadow of Leinster House was found dead and another man died in accommodation run by a charity.

“We don’t yet know the full circumstances of both tragic deaths, but it appears they were both homeless.

“These latest tragic deaths bring the number of reported deaths of people accessing homeless services in this city to 52 so far this year.

“This is a significant increase in the number of deaths of people sleeping rough and in emergency accommodation compared to last year.

“The Minister for Housing has announced a review of the dramatic rise in deaths this year, this is welcome but is it enough?

“We need to see an emergency response put in place. The supports for those experiencing long term homelessness must be increased.

“This response must also include increased funding for mental health and addiction supports, an end to dorm style emergency accommodation, a dramatic increase in Housing First tenancies, and Adult Safeguarding Reviews to ensure we learn the lessons of past mistakes.”

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Senator Paul Gavan today spoke to the Minster in the Seanad about outstanding claims of the survivors of institutional abuse being supported by Caranua, an organisation which is winding down at the end of the year.

Senator Gavan said:

“In the Seanad today, I raised with the Minster the issue of institutional abuse survivors as funding for some remaining survivors unfortunately is now in doubt.

“Set up by Government, Caranua was established to provide help to survivors of institutional abuse. Grants would have for example been provided across housing adaptation and to address health needs of survivors.

“However Caranua is ceasing funding to survivors and is winding down its operation at the end of the year. There is a risk now it will not have completed its caseload by the time the fund closes.

“I explained to the Minster that questions remain, such as to what will happen now to the outstanding applications following Caranua closure and once Caranua closes, what supports will be available to survivors of historical institutional child abuse, many of whom may not have received any financial assistance?

“The widespread abuse in industrial schools in the State, taking decades to be exposed, is now well known, with thousands being held, and many having suffered horrendous abuse.  

"It is entirely correct that the State takes on its responsibility here to help remaining survivors.

“We should ensure that the remaining survivors of abuse do not slip through the net and the Minister needs to act so that as Caranua closes at the end of December, that remaining survivors are still protected and provided with adequate funding.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has today raised the future of Ulster Bank with the Minister for Finance in the Dáil.

Ulster Bank currently operates five branches in County Donegal in Killybegs, Donegal Town, Ballybofey, Letterkenny and Buncrana.

Teachta Doherty said that Ulster Bank plays a key role in our communities, supporting businesses and provides local jobs to 3,000 people in towns and cities across the State, with an 88-strong branch network.

It has been confirmed that NatWest, the parent company of Ulster Bank, is undertaking a Strategic Review of the Ulster Bank’s operations and future in the State. Amid growing fears that a full withdrawal of Ulster Bank from the State is on the cards, Deputy Doherty raised the issue with the Minister for Finance and told the Minister that the closure of Ulster Bank would be bad for its customers, its staff and the Irish banking sector.

Teachta Doherty said:

“This is a worrying time for customers and staff of Ulster Bank in Donegal and across the State.

“In 2019, Ulster Bank provided €3.1 billion in new lending in the Southern economy. It provides 20 percent of lending to our SMEs. With deposits of €22 billion, Ulster Bank is the third largest mortgage lender in the State. Its withdrawal would lead to a duopoly in the mortgage market, stifling competition and leaving all of us vulnerable to higher interest rates.

“There is speculation that Cerberus, one of the most aggressive vulture funds in this State, are considering buying up Ulster Bank’s entire €20.5 billion loan book. This would be a very worrying development for those customers.

“The news relating to Ulster Bank’s future has been worrying for quite some time. Today, I specifically asked the Minister to intervene, to redouble his efforts in engaging with the bank and stakeholders to give certainty to customers and staff.

“I have also written to the Governor of the Central Bank regarding the possible withdrawal of Ulster Bank, and its impact on customers and competition within the banking market.

“I believe that the withdrawal of Ulster Bank from the Irish market would threaten competition in the Irish market, with no clarity and no certainty for thousands of staff, customers, mortgage holders and small businesses. This is a grave situation.”

A clip from today's Dáil contribution will be available at: https://www.facebook.com/PearseDohertyTD/ 

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Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast, John Finucane, has welcomed the unanimous backing of a motion at the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in support of a full public inquiry into the murder of his father Pat Finucane.

Speaking this morning at Leinster House, after addressing the committee, John Finucane MP said:

“The motion at the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement calling for a full public inquiry into the murder of my father Pat Finucane has received unanimous support.

“I welcome this clear and unambiguous support for my family’s fight for justice. It comes at a crucial time, as the British Secretary of State is due to make a decision on the holding of a public inquiry by next Monday.

“I welcome the continuing momentum for our campaign for the truth.

“This morning’s committee vote follows a motion in the Seanad last night calling on the British government to immediately establish a public inquiry.

“Despite evidence that British state agents were directly involved in authorising and planning the murder of my father and acknowledgement of collusion by the former British Prime Minister David Cameron, successive British governments have refused to establish a public inquiry into his killing.

“In February 2019, the British Supreme Court ruled that all previous investigations were incapable of establishing the full facts and failed to meet human rights standards.

“My family deserves answers. I want to thank all the parties who have supported our campaign so far.

"The onus is now on the British government to establish a public inquiry that is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights."

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has condemned those responsible for three security alerts in the Dervock area and called on the PSNI to tackle ongoing UDA and loyalist criminality in the area. 

The North Antrim MLA said: 

"I condemn those responsible for three security alerts in the Dervock and DerryKeighan areas following the discovery of three devices this morning. 

"Families have had to be evacuated from their homes on a cold winter morning as a result of these security alerts. 

"Those responsible for these devices have nothing to offer and this is an attack on the entire community at a time when we should all be working together in the face of the public health crisis caused by COVID. 

"This is the latest in a series of incidents in recent days, including a shooting incident in Coleraine and other attacks which bear all the hallmarks of the involvement of loyalist criminal gangs. 

"It is time the PSNI took action to tackle the ongoing loyalist criminality of the UDA in the north Antrim and wider areas in order to keep the whole community safe.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Ciaran Beattie has slammed those responsible for the robbery of a cash delivery van in West Belfast this morning.

Councillor Beattie said:

"The robbery of a cash delivery van this morning in Beechmount Avenue is a direct attack on the community of West Belfast.

"This reckless attack had occurred as children were making their way to school.

“Those responsible must get off the backs of our community.

“This is a time of a public health emergency, our frontline services are working tirelessly to protect the health and well-being of citizens - they should not be distracted by the activities of these criminals.

“I would appeal for anyone with information to contact the PSNI.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, following representations from an envoy from the North Pole, sought and received assurances from Minister Simon Coveney in the Dáil today, that Santa would be allowed free and unfettered access to Irish airspace this Christmas.

Teachta Brady said:

“I know that this was an issue of concern for many of our little people across the country. And one that garners particular focus this week as families prepare to watch the Late Late Christmas Toy Show, with trees starting to go up in homes in readiness. 

"Sinn Féin enjoys very good relations with Santa’s diplomatic envoy’s from the North Pole, and I think that although they are quite shy and tend to avoid the normal run of the mill diplomatic events, they felt that it was important at this Christmas like no other, that they get the go ahead at an early stage for the big man’s journey.

"So, I raised the issue with Minister during Question time in the Dáil this morning. And he confirmed to me that the Department of Foreign Affairs have been working on this for a number of weeks and everything is all set to go.

"I can also confirm that following discussions with Santa’s representatives that although there are reports that there are a number of deputies in the house on the naughty list, at the time of writing, this is not the case, although I believe that in a few instances, it was quite a close run thing – there are still a few weeks to go though.

The Wicklow TD continued:

“I want to thank Minister Coveney for his cooperation on this matter. As it is important, perhaps even more so than on Brexit, that we have an all-party approach on this important issue.

"So, just to confirm for all the kids out there – Santa is coming, he will be allowed to visit every household, and he will not be subject to the two-week self-isolation that other visitors to our country have to abide by.

"So, as safely as we all can, we should continue to prepare for Christmas, within the guidelines, to ensure that all of us, have a very safe and happy Christmas."

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has welcomed a bipartisan letter to the British Prime Minster from members of the US congress supporting a public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. 

 

The North Belfast MP said: 

“On the 12th of February 1989, my father and human rights lawyer Pat Finucane was murdered by a loyalist death squad who acted in collusion with the British State. 

“Since my father’s killing, my family have campaigned in Ireland and indeed across the world for truth and justice. 

“During that time, the support from the USA for my family’s demand for a public inquiry has been clear and consistent. 

“I welcome the latest bipartisan letter from members of the US congress today calling on the British Government to urgently establish a public inquiry. 

“British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has committed to making a decision on the holding of a public inquiry by the end of this month.   

“Former British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged the 'shocking levels of collusion' into the killing. It is now time for a public inquiry that allows my family to access the truth and justice which we have been denied for too long.

“The British Government must stop concealing the truth, fulfil their previous commitments and hold a public inquiry into the killing of my father.” 

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Sinn Féin Seanad group leader Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed the passage of a Sinn Féin motion (co-signed by opposition groups) which calls on the British government to immediately establish a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, in the Seanad this evening.  

Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said:

“Despite evidence that British state agents were directly involved in authorising and planning the murder of Pat Finucane and acknowledgement of collusion by the former British Prime Minister David Cameron, successive British governments have refused to establish a public inquiry into his killing.

“In February 2019, the British Supreme Court ruled that all previous investigations were incapable of establishing the full facts and failed to meet human rights standards.

“In response, the British Secretary of State is due to make a decision on the holding of a public inquiry by next Monday (30th November).  

“The Finucane family have spoken truth to power for over thirty years and they have been an inspiration to many who seek the truth and justice. They have not been and will not be silenced, and their questions deserve answers. 

"I welcome the fact that all parties and groups in the Seanad have supported the Sinn Féin motion which calls on the British government to establish a full, independent judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. 

"The onus is now on the British government to respond to the judgement of the British Supreme Court in February 2019 and to establish a public inquiry that is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights."

CRÍOCH/ENDS

Note to Editor:
 

A copy of the motion is available here.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD has this afternoon introduced a piece of legislation that would be transformative for social welfare recipients.

The Social Welfare Commission Bill would establish a Commission to research and make recommendations annually ahead of the Budget to ensure social welfare rates are adequate by providing a minimum essential standard of living and protection from poverty.

Speaking while introducing the Bill in the Dáil, Teachta Kerrane said:

“This Bill, if enacted would be transformative for some of our most vulnerable citizens, including Carers, Persons with a Disability, Lone Parents, Widows and Jobseekers, as well as young Jobseekers currently living on €112 per week.

“The Bill seeks the establishment of a Social Welfare Commission which would examine the Minimum Essential Standard of Living for various household types who rely on social welfare supports and make recommendations to Government annually ahead of the Budget. This would remove the political football out of decisions made on increases in social welfare payments at Budget time.

“By setting rates at the Minimum Essential Standard of Living, we are ensuring that people are protected from poverty. Currently, weekly social welfare payments are set below the poverty line. This needs to change.

“The Bill allows includes provision for a Poverty Impact Assessment on Government policy decisions before they are implemented.

“One of the first lessons learned from a Social Protection perspective when Covid hit was the fact that nobody who lost their job could live on €203 per week. Yet, this is the maximum rate for many social welfare payments.

“The current rates also fail to recognise the cost of disability and care giving.

“At the very least what I am seeking in introducing this Bill is that social welfare payments are adequate and that recipients are protected from poverty. These are very basic aims that any social protection system should meet.”

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MacManus welcomes Irish whiskey brand protection

Sinn Féin MEP, Chris MacManus, has welcomed the protection of the Irish whiskey brand on the Chinese market. MacManus commented:

“I think it’s an important protection for this sector. I voted in favour of giving content for the signing of a deal between the European Union and China, on the recognition of geographic indicators. This deal means China will ensure no product is sold which attempts to imitate the Irish whiskey brand.”

The Midlands Northwest MEP said the protection would go some way to ensure the viability of Irish distilleries. “This may not seem like a big issue to European consumers, but product imitation in countries where legislation does not exist costs millions of euros in lost revenue for the recognised brand.”

“Our world renowned reputation for whiskey production is as a result of centuries of tradition and fine-tuned techniques in crafting a superior product to global competition. That rich heritage of quality must be protected. Consumers pay a premium for Irish whiskey because of its reputation for quality, and we have a responsibility to protect that reputation. China is a market of over one billion consumers and growing. In light of Brexit, we must do all we can to boost the export of Irish products beyond markets like Britain.”

“Chinese consumers will now be assured that the product on the shelf is indeed from Ireland, which we’re confident will lead to an increasing demand. Studies have shown that the average value of products with a geographical indicator is twice as high as that of products without such a label.”

MacManus concluded by addressing the need for all-island protection, “The remaining battle is to ensure this recognition will apply to whiskey produced on the island where many of the ingredients originate in the north, which will be considered non-EU territory after Brexit. Many of our finest distilleries in Ireland are in the six counties so they should be guaranteed the same protections afforded to businesses south of the border.”

“I am currently working on securing commitments that the all island economy will be protected, no matter what the outcome of the final Brexit negotiations.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Justice, Lynn Boylan has welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘State of the Environment’ Report, warning that the publication should come as a much-needed wake-up call.

Speaking today, Senator Boylan said:

“This report should come as yet another wake-up call. We’ve already lost so much – hundreds of pristine rivers, acres and acres of wetland, and continuing high emissions.

“The report tells us what we already knew. Successive governments have failed to rise to the challenges facing us. The approach to environmental issues is inadequate and incoherent.

“We need a holistic, whole-of-government approach. Sadly, this government is failing to implement that and are failing to give these crises the attention they demand.

“Where there have been positive environmental stories, the report highlights the role of community-led initiatives. While the work communities do is highly commendable, it also points to a wider issue. 

“The burden to protect the environment falls to communities when the state doesn’t step in.

“It’s time the government start acting like we’re in a climate and biodiversity emergency. We need nothing short of a radical change in our approach.

“Covid-19 has thrown up incredible challenges, but it also gives us the opportunity to hit reset. We should be looking to try new ways to build back better.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has launched an Assembly bill to ban single use plastics in the north.

The North Antrim MLA said:

“Today, I’m launching my bill to ban single use plastics. 

“This legislation would be a positive step towards a healthier, cleaner, greener Ireland, both on the island and in our waters.

“Every year eight million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in our seas and unless we act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. 

“Plastic pollution is causing serious harm to our marine wildlife who ingest or become entangled in plastics. 

“We need legislation to change that and that’s why I’m bringing forward this bill. 

“Our consultation survey on this proposed legislation is now live and can be filled in here: surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NGQWBL8.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has called on the Infrastructure Minister to amend the criteria for financial support grants for taxi drivers so that all drivers can get the support they need. 

The Infrastructure spokesperson said: 

“Today at the Committee for Infrastructure members raised the issues some taxi drivers have been facing when trying to access the taxi drivers' financial assistance scheme.

“For instance, some drivers had taken an insurance holiday during lockdown when business plummeted and are now being denied eligibility for the scheme.

“The Committee agreed to meet with a number of taxi drivers next week to discuss these issues and I have asked the Minister for Infrastructure to look at amending this criteria so that all drivers who badly need this support can access it.

“As the Scheme ends on Friday 27th I would urge all taxi drivers who have not applied for the scheme to do so." 

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Darren O RourkeSinn Féin spokesperson on Communications Darren O’Rourke TD today challenged Eir’s CEO at the Oireachtas Communications Committee and said they must urgently address their atrocious customer service and work to regain the trust of consumers.

The Meath East TD said:

“I simply do not accept Eir’s excuse of blaming Covid-19 today for the failings in their customer service.

“Eir has a dreadful reputation in relation to the service it provides, and that well predates the pandemic this year.

“The CEO apologised to the Committee today, but there is no point apologising in Leinster House, they need to apologise to the customers they have let down.

“I asked the CEO directly if they would consider putting their money where their mouth is. I called on them to make a gesture of goodwill, such as offering a one-month waiver to their pensioner customers, to acknowledge the frustration and anger felt by customers who have been let down.

“Unsurprisingly there was a blunt rejection of this. The company is hugely underestimating the level of anger out there. I have never seen the scale of frustration experienced by Eir customers.

“Eir is a hugely profitable company. They reported operating profits of €222m in the three months tor September. They have a massive job of work to improve their customer service, their reputation and to regain the trust of consumers.

“Eir highlighted the number of staff they lost this year due to Covid, which has increased customer service wait times.

"But they need to look in the mirror. They need to examine the low wages they are offering staff and consider how this is impacting on staff turnover. They need to ask themselves how other companies have managed so much better during Covid.

“I have no confidence that the problems raised today at the Committee will be addressed by Eir themselves. It is imperative ComReg are given the powers of enforcement they need to resolve the problems in this sector. I fear we will be a lifetime waiting for Eir to do it.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has warned that violence against women is at ‘epidemic levels’.

Speaking in the Dáil today, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Teachta McDonald warned the Taoiseach that victims and survivors deserve more than just words on the issue and must see action from this Government.

Teachta McDonald told the Taoiseach:

“Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It marks the start of the sixteen-day campaign against domestic and gender-based violence. It is an annual campaign, as you know.

“I, and others, stand up in this chamber year after year and we recite the statistics that attempt to capture the horrific abuse and violence to which so many women and children are subjected.

“I have no doubt that everybody in this house gets angry when we hear the heart-breaking stories of women who have been battered and emotionally broken by the violence inflicted upon them.

“Taoiseach, it is time to face up to the fact that we have a real problem with domestic and gender-based violence in Ireland. 

“It is time for the political system and government to move past whatever uneasiness it has about admitting it.

“Violence against women - abuse happening behind closed doors and drawn curtains - is at epidemic levels.

“The truth is that successive governments have failed women and children who have been caught up in the horror of this abuse.

“Until a government confronts this problem with the honesty and the determination it demands, too many of the cries for help from abused women will go unanswered and unheard.

"I have to say that I am struggling to find the words to express my anger about how this issue has been swept under the carpet for years.”

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Pearse DohertySinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has called on the Minister for Finance to proactively engage with the Ulster Bank and its parent group NatWest over the future of its branches and operations in the state.

This comes after the unusual and premature resignation of its chairman less than two months into the job, the involvement of Goldman Sachs in the bank’s strategic review, and reports of its loan book being sold off to an aggressive vulture fund.

Teachta Doherty said:

“Ulster Bank plays a key role in our communities, supporting businesses and providing local jobs to 3,000 people in towns and cities and with an 88-strong branch network throughout the State.

“The closure of Ulster Bank would be bad for its customers, its employees and the Irish banking sector.

“Last month it was reported that the aggressive US vulture fund Cerberus was planning to buy Ulster Bank’s entire €20.5 billion loan book.

“This is one of the most aggressive vulture funds in the Irish market; known for ruthless repossession strategies.

“This month we had the unusual and premature resignation of its chairperson Ruairí O’Flynn less than two months after taking the role.

“This week there were reports that Goldman Sachs are advising NatWest on the future of Ulster Bank in this state, despite claims that the Strategic Review underway was an internal one.

“It should be lost on no one that Goldman Sachs has itself set up vulture funds in the Irish market to snap up distressed loans. Such a conflict of interest only adds to our concerns.

“Throughout this process, Ulster Bank have failed to adequately engage with the Financial Services Union, and have this week refused to appear before the Finance Committee.

“Ulster Bank and NatWest have refused to even share the terms of reference of its Strategic Review.

“The Minister for Finance must confront this issue with the seriousness it deserves. The Chairperson of the bank he recently met has now resigned and uncertainty for customers and employees has only increased.

“I have written to the Central Bank regarding competition concerns I have as a result of any withdrawal by Ulster Bank, and will be raising this issue with Minister Donohoe in the Dáil on Thursday.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Martin Kenny TD, has said today that figures show a disturbingly low rate of detection and sanction of sexual offences and other forms of gender-based violence.

Speaking on the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, Teachta Kenny said the state must do more to support victims of abuse and gendered violence.

Teachta Kenny said:

“Today is the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. I want to commend all those working on this crucial issue, from campaigners, to volunteers and workers in the sector.

“Domestic abuse is a horrendous crime. As a society we must send the clear and unequivocal message that abuse is never ok and that victims will be believed and supported when they seek help.

“A key part of this is that the Garda Siochána leadership has to ask why it is the case that while nearly 90% of drug related offences are detected and sanctioned, just 12% of sexual offences are.

“Sexual offences are more commonly reported to the Gardaí, rather than detected, and the question must be asked if reports are being taken seriously when these stark statistics are published.

“Meanwhile, Women’s Aid has launched its Too Into You campaign and reported on research indicating a high level of abuse suffered by young women in relationships.

“They have published research today which finds as many as one in five women aged 18-25 have experienced abuse from a current or former partner. This is very concerning.

“It is clear that much more needs to be done to send the message to abusers that their behaviour is unacceptable and has no place in our society.

“There is an undeniable need for education, support and resources to back up the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, which allows for barring and protection orders against partners or former partners.

“We also need to see the urgent enactment of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 to prevent intimate images being disseminated on the internet. I and my Sinn Féin colleagues are committed to working constructively with all parties to ensure that this important legislation is progressed urgently to provide much-needed protections for victims.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has said it is "deplorable" that workers in meat plants are forced to survive on poor pay, poor conditions and little access to representation.
 
Commenting on a report issued today by the Migrant Rights Centre on meat plant workers, Senator Gavan said:
 
“The report today from the Migrants Rights Centre is damning of the conditions workers in meat plants have to endure in this State.

"It highlights dangerous working conditions 'with many employers putting profit before the health and safety of workers'.
 
“Some of the findings in the report were that 28% of the workers on the lowest salaries (€12.00 and below) have been working for between 4 to 15 years, and that 90% of workers are not covered by occupational sick pay schemes in the event of injury or illness.
 
“I have raised the working conditions in meat plants frequently in the Seanad. Alongside poor working conditions, pay is poor and little access to sick pay, there is often resistance to trade union representation.
 
“The Covid19 crisis has exposed what has been known for many years in terms of meat plant workers. This is back breaking work in a massive, profitable industry, where even sick pay is denied.
 
“The Migrants Rights Centre have recommended that government take this seriously and to act in the interests of workers not just big business.

"Attention needs to focus on this industry and workers must be provided with better pay and conditions urgently."

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Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has extended his solidarity and sympathy to the family of former New York Mayor David Dinkins who died on Monday.

Gerry Adams said:

“I had the great pleasure to meet David during some of my visits to New York. He was always very welcoming and during his years as Mayor of New York. David was critical of British government policy in Ireland.

“In 1989 he supported Joe Doherty’s application for political asylum in the USA and three years later Mayor Dinkins was one of those who supported Joe Doherty’s legal battle against eventual extradition.

“His philosophy and commitment to equality is best summed up in his statement shortly after taking office when he said: “I intend to be the mayor of all of the people of New York. This administration will never lead by dividing, by setting some of us against the rest of us or by favouring one group over others…”

“To his family, and many friends and colleagues I extend my deepest condolences. Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

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