Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking as the Sinn Féin new team arrived at Leinster House this morning, said that the “the eyes of the people are on Leinster House today; the overwhelming majority of people voted for change, they voted for a new government and that is what they expect to be delivered.”
Ms. McDonald said:
“The eyes of the people are on Leinster House today.
“The overwhelming majority of people voted for change, they voted for a new government and that is what they expect to be delivered.
“They want a government that will build homes, cut rents and freeze them, reduce the pension age to 65, give workers and families a break and that will advance Irish Unity.
“There is a clear choice facing all of those elected to the Dáil.
“That choice is between a Government for Change, or a grand coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
“I will be standing for the position of Taoiseach today because I want to stand up for all of those who voted for real change and I want to deliver for all those that voted for change.
“I want to congratulate all of our TDs on their election, particularly our seventeen new TDs and their families on what is a very important day for them.
“We are going in there to represent the hopes of over half a million people who voted for our party and the hundreds of thousands of others who voted for change.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on Minister Murphy to follow through with his promise to introduce use it or lose it planning permission before he leaves office. The call comes as it emerges that a 10-acre site with planning permission in Temple Hill, Blackrock is being flipped.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“After it emerged in October last year that the government’s Strategic Housing Development (SHD) legislation was not working, Minister Murphy said he would bring proposals for use it or lose it planning permission to cabinet.
“Some developers are utilising the SHD legislation to get planning permission and then sitting on the sites as the value increases waiting to flip them.
“In Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown we see a ten-acre site in Temple Hill, Blackrock that was granted planning through the SHD legislation for 291 apartments being put up for sale.
“I echo the calls of our local area representative Shane O’ Brien who is calling for the council to acquire the site as the council currently has no sites throughout Dún Laoghaire with planning permission.
“I have written to the CEO and the Housing Manger in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown calling on them to take action on this site.”
Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has said comments by an Ulster Unionist Party MLA on the A5 road upgrade project are an insult to those who have lost loved ones in road collisions and to road safety campaigners.
The West Tyrone MP said:
"The comments from UUP MLA Roy Beggs dismissing the A5 road upgrade project as a 'pet scheme' are ludicrous.
"The A5 upgrade project is essential to improve road safety and save lives.
“These crass and insensitive remarks are an insult to all those who have lost loved ones as a result of collisions and accidents on the A5 as well as road safety campaigners.
"His comments are also dismissive of the need to regenerate the economy west of the Bann and ignore the fact that the A5 is included as a priority in the New Decade, New Approach document.
"For our part, we will continue to push for work to begin on the A5, including lobbying the Irish government to fulfil its financial commitments to the project, to ensure it is completed as soon as possible."
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has condemned those responsible for leaving a crude explosive device outside the home of Martin Finucane, a justice and human rights campaigner, and brother of the murdered solicitor, Pat Finucane in Lenadoon, West Belfast.
The West Belfast MP said:
“A crude explosive device has been left outside the West Belfast home of a brother of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane early this morning
“This is wrong and I unreservedly condemn it.
“This attack is reckless and shows a callous disregard for the Finucane family and the local community.
“This is an attack on a justice and human rights campaigner and as such is an attack on the whole community.
“Those behind this device have nothing to offer society
“I would call on anyone with any information on those responsible for this attack on a home to bring it forward to the police.” Críoch/Ends
Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan has condemned those responsible for graffiti targeting a local UUP councillor.
The South Down MLA said:
“I unreservedly condemn those responsible for graffiti in South Down last night targeting unionist councillor Alan Lewis who lives in our local community.
“Everyone must be able to do their work free from intimidation, harassment and death threats.
“Those behind this threat have nothing to offer the people of this community and their reckless attempts will not succeed.”
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has condemned an attack on the home of a relative of Quinn’s Industrial Holdings director.
Speaking following the weekend attack, Michelle Gildernew said:
“I was horrified to learn of another attack on a family with connections to QIH at the weekend.
“There has been an unacceptable criminal campaign of intimidation against management and staff at QIH over recent years.
“After last years brutal attack on Director Kevin Lunney, the local community had hoped that these senseless attacks had ceased.
“If those involved in these attacks do not stop someone will lose their life.
“It is time for action by the police services on both sides of the border to end this outrageous campaign against people who are going about their business and greatly benefitting the community in this area.
“I would appeal to anyone with information on these attacks to contact the authorities.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has labelled the An Bord Pleanála decision to grant Bartra Capital permission to build a seven-storey 98-unit development on Ardee Road as bad for Rathmines.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The decision by An Bord Pleanála to overturn a Dublin City Council decision and to grant permission for a seven storey, 98 bed development in Rathmines is bad for the local area.
“Units of only 16 sq m metres for tenants are the bedsits of the future.
“I also take issue with the comments of the An Bord Pleanala inspector which state that the co-living development will contribute to realisation of the development plan housing targets.
“Are we now describing what is the provision of incredibly expensive bed spaces as hitting housing targets?
“Sinn Féin in government would ban co-living. We published legislation in the Dáil that would do so and we made a commitment to this in our election manifesto.
“Co-living does not create sustainable apartment living. We need to see instead affordable cost rental homes, not 16 sqm closets.”
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has called for an end to British Tory austerity cuts after a representative of Translink told the Assembly’s Infrastructure that the company’s budgets were in crisis.
The Foyle MLA said:
“British Tory governments have cut the block grant to the North year on year for almost a decade now.
“These Tory cuts have devastated our public services, creating a crisis in health, mental health and education but it has also affected infrastructure and public transport.
“Translink which provides much of our public transport services, and in particular those between rural and urban areas, is now under increased pressure as a result of the continued Tory cuts to public services.
“Public transport is a fundamental service that many people, both young and old, depend on. It is an essential pillar of Sinn Féin’s goal of encouraging sustainable and active travel.
“The British Government must end its austerity cuts and fulfil its financial obligations made in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement to ensure proper investment in infrastructure and public services.”
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has welcomed the opening of the Irish Government’s Reconciliation Fund, and has encouraged organisations across the island to apply.
Speaking following the opening of the fund, Declan Kearney said:
“Since the inception of The Reconciliation Fund, a wide variety of organisations North and South have benefited.
““The fund has helped to finance various educational, sporting and cultural projects that promote respect, tolerance and cross-border links.
“In the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document the Irish Government committed to an increased level of funding for The Reconciliation Fund.
“This increased funding is welcome and I would encourage non-governmental organisations, community groups and voluntary organisations across the island to apply.
“Various projects funded by The Reconciliation Fund have done good work in breaking down stereotypes, promoting mutual understanding, and promoting reconciliation.
“Applications to the fund will remain open until the 10th March”.
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has called on the Audit Office to look into loans made by InvestNI to Wrightbus.
Caoimhe Archibald said:
“The ongoing revelations about Wrightbus, its donations to Green Pastures Church and the use of public money from InvestNI raises serious questions.
“I raised this matter today at a meeting of the Assembly’s Economy Committee and the committee agreed to write to the Audit Office to ask that it look into the £2.5m loan made to Wrightbus.
“Sinn Féin has also tabled questions to the Department for the Economy, the Department for Communities and the Charities’ Commission in relation to this case.
“The public must have confidence in the use of public money; there must be full transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.
"There are serious questions that need answered on this matter.”
Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on Education, Karen Mullan, has reiterated the party’s calls for the ending of transfer tests and academic selection.
The party’s Education spokesperson said:
“There has been a long list of studies from a variety of organisations that have shown that school transfer tests have a hugely negative impact on our children.
“One of the most recent isa report produced by the Right to Education (R2E) group in June 2019. This report found that 92% of teachers felt that transfer testing had a ‘significant negative impact’ on the health of children.
“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Equality Commission, Human Rights Commission, Children’s Commissioner, OECD, the trade union movement and the Catholic Church hierarchy have all called for an end to academic selection and these calls should be heeded.
“There is no other area of public policy that has so much academic evidence stacked against where it would be acceptable for a Minister to defend its continued use and not to be vigorously challenged.
“There is an onus on school board of governors to acknowledge the extent of this evidence and to now prioritise the mental wellbeing and academic development of pupils.
“I reiterate the consistent calls of Sinn Féin for the creation of a fully inclusive and non-selective education system."
Sinn Féin’s Brexit Spokesperson Chris Hazzard MP has slammed British Government Immigration proposals as “unpopular, unworkable and a direct threat to the north’s economic viability”.
The South Down MP was responding to Home Office proposals announced this morning that would overhaul immigration policy in the north of Ireland from 2021.
Mr Hazzard said:
“Far from strengthening the economic wellbeing of our society, these proposals are a direct threat to local industry - including our local hospitality, tourism, retail, and agri-food sectors.
“It is hard not to view these proposals as an elitist, xenophobic attack on overseas and low-paid workers – the vast majority of whom we simply can not live without.
“Indeed most worryingly, these proposals are a cruel attack on our care sector – the wonderful, selfless heroes who we all rely on to take care of us and our families in our hour of need.
“It is abundantly clear that the Home Office have completely ignored our unique and special circumstances and have again shown nothing but contempt for local business and industry leaders who have engaged constructively with British Government officials in recent years.
“Sinn Féin will be raising these concerns directly with the British Government in the weeks to come.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has called for the modernisation of current gambling laws to protect young people and the most vulnerable in society from problem gambling.
The South Down MLA was commenting after submitting the party’s response to the Department for Communities consultation on gambling law.
Sinéad Ennis said:
“The current gambling laws in the north are out of date.
“I have submitted our party proposals to modernise the law to bring it in to line with changes in technology and new forms of gambling, such as online, fixed term betting odds and casinos.
“The reality is, online betting has no closing time. Smartphones are a casino open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We need legislation which is properly equipped to regulate these websites and help protect the most vulnerable.
“Our recommendations include; the establishment of an Independent Gambling Regulator and an immediate age verification process for online gambling.
“Problem gambling does not only affect the gambler; it has wider implications for society and lasting impacts on relationships with family and friends.
“Sinn Féin is committed to tackling problem gambling north and south. The most effective way to do that is through modernised and fit for purpose legislation.”
Infrastructure spokesperson Cathal Boylan MLA has welcomed a review into legislation that has put a disproportionate financial burden on road running events.
“A law brought in three years ago on road closures has meant that a number of road running events cannot keep up with the costs of traffic management.
“Fewer events are applying for permits as a result of this change.
“Most recently this has affected the Dark Hedges half marathon in Antrim.”
The Newry and Armagh MLA continued:
“At the Infrastructure Committee I raised the need for the legislation to be amended so this burden can be lifted from the organisers, and particularly for smaller events.
“This one sized fits all approach for road racing traffic management is impacting local communities.
“I welcome a review initiated by the Department for Infrastructure to look at the impact of this legislation.
“I look forward to taking part in this review and encourage others affected by it to do so as well.
“We need to amend this legislation so that events like the Dark Hedges half marathon can thrive once again.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has stated that the roll out of affordable cost rental homes must form a central plank of the incoming government's housing policy.
His comments come as two different reports published this morning by Bank for International Settlements and by the EU agency Eurofound, indicate that housing in this State is the second most expensive in advanced economies and that the number of Irish people aged 25-29 living with the parents grew at one of the highest rates in Europe.
Deputy Ó Broin said;
"A study by the Bank for International Settlements, Property price dynamics: domestic and international drivers indicate that property prices in this State have risen more than other advanced economy since the end of 2015.
“The study also acknowledges that there is preliminary evidence which shows that international investors are having an impact on local property prices.
“This is further evidenced by, as reported in the Irish Times, according to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), investment funds bought 95% of the 3,644 apartments completed in 2019.
“This makes the findings of the Eurofound report published in the Irish Times today less surprising.
“The report shows that the number of Irish people aged 25-29 living at home grew at one of the highest rates in Europe in the decade between 2007 and 2017. Just over 47% of people in this age group were living at home, a rise of just over 11% over ten years compared to an average rise of 2% across the rest of Europe.
“There are solutions. The next government must commit to ambitious targets and the required funding in order to roll out affordable cost rental.
“This has been government policy since 2014, yet not one affordable cost rental home has been delivered. There are 50 under construction in Dublin but at €1,200 per month these are not affordable.
“We need affordable cost rental homes to rent in Dublin at between €700 and €900 per month and lower in areas outside the Capital.
“There is public land available for these projects. Clonburris in my own constituency, St. Michael’s Estate in Inchicore, Oscar Traynor Road in Dublin City, Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines and Broadstone Bus Depot in Phibsboro.
“Additional sites in Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick could also be readily identified.
“People can’t wait any longer. The policy is there, the sites are there, we just need a commitment from all parties that the funding and plan will be a priority as part of a government for change.
There can be no backsliding on EU regulations regarding cross-border haulage following Brexit, Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said.
The former MEP also warned that hauliers need clarity about the extent of the post-Brexit checks they will face between here and Britain.
Martina Anderson was speaking after meeting with the Freight Transport Association of Ireland.
She commented: “The association has a number of serious concerns about how their industry could be affected and it is my intention to reflect these concerns at the Stormont Infrastructure committee.
“The Department here should be ensuring that EU transport regulations continue to be applied so that the 13,000 lorries that cross the border every day are able to do so seamlessly.
“This will also ensure we have the same levels of emission and drivers standards across the island as the industry could not cope with two different sets of regulations operating north and south.
“Britain is leaving the EU but the North is continuing to align with European standards so there can be no backsliding on EU regulations regarding vehicle safety and drivers’ welfare.
“A further problem for hauliers is the status of EU nationals working in the trade and the lack of clarity about the extent of the checks they will face when travelling between here and Britain.
“And while the EU has taken steps to improve the sea links, travelling through Britain is still the quickest way to access Europe so such issues need to be addressed urgently.”
Commenting on the latest revelations on the Electoral Office's handling of the voter registration process, Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy said:
“These latest revelations raise further and very serious questions about the Electoral Office’s handling of the voter registration process.
“The reality is that people have lost their democratic right to vote as a result of being denied the opportunity to register.
“This goes way beyond human error and is totally unacceptable.
“We have been consistently raising concern about the Electoral Office’s capacity following their decision to close down regional offices.
“It’s clear from the last number of elections that they do not have the capacity to ensure that electoral registration, postal and proxy applications and electoral events are properly carried out.
“There doesn't appear to be any effective scrutiny or accountability mechanism in relation to the Electoral Office. This is very concerning and totally unacceptable."
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Ruairí Ó Murchú has said that the family of Seamus Ludlow deserve to know the truth about the circumstances of his death and the persistent failure of the State to investigate it properly.
Speaking from the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin earlier today, Teachta Ó Murchú said,
“This family has been denied the truth for over 40 years.
“It is outrageous that they have been forced to take legal action in an effort to establish the two Commissions of Investigation recommended by the Barron Report in 2006.
“I attended today to support the family of Seamus Ludlow and I will be raising this case with the next Minister for Justice to urge the establishment of these commissions of investigation which would remove the necessity for litigation by the family and end their ongoing torment.
“Judgement on today’s hearing will be delivered at a later date and I hope it will be a positive result for this family.
“I also urge the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to fulfil the commitments he made to this family in December when he told them he would examine all possible investigative opportunities in this case.”
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty has said that Sinn Féin are stepping up preparations to bring about a Government of Change.
“Yesterday, Mary Lou McDonald met with the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach and a follow up meeting will be held today with our negotiations team.
“That will be followed up by meetings with individual government Departments to begin the process of planning how Sinn Féin’s manifesto is turned into a Programme for Government.
“We are absolutely serious about bringing about a Government of Change, giving workers and families a break and we are serious about preparing for government.
“Our first stage of engagements with government Departments will focus on the critical areas of housing, health and climate action.
“In addition to engaging with Departments, tomorrow we will step up our contacts with other parties and independents, and those conversations will continue over the coming days.
“Sinn Féin want to ensure that our policies are implemented in government.
“We want a government that builds homes, cuts rents and freezes them; reduces the pension age to 65; gives workers and families a break and advances Irish Unity.”
Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has met with Education Minister Peter Weir to discuss progress on the Strule Shared Education Campus in Omagh.
The West Tyrone MP met with the Education Minister alongside MLAs Catherine Kelly and Declan McAleer.
Órfhlaith Begley said:
“We sought this meeting to press the minister to progress the construction of this important project. We were re-assured by the minister that delivering the campus is one of his top priorities given that it is a pioneering project of regional significance.
"I reiterated that the continued delays are extremely frustrating and there is an onus on the department to maintain the current school sites so that they do not fall into a state of disrepair.
“Unfortunately due to delays forced by procurement issues, projected costs of the entire project are now estimated at £215m which has required an addendum to the business case.
“However, the minister says he is confident he will be in a position to sign off on this within a few weeks and is hopeful construction work will begin next year with a final completion target for 2024.
"Given the anticipated completion date has been delayed there is an onus on the council and the Executive to take this into consideration for the future planning for Omagh town centre.
“The delivery of this ground-breaking project will see the schools having state-of-the-art facilities while also enabling pupils to benefit from the opportunities provided through enhanced collaboration and sharing.
“The Strule Shared Education Campus will bring social, economic and most importantly educational benefits for our young people. This will also help regenerate Omagh town and the wider district.
“Sinn Féin will continue to press Minister Weir to ensure there are no unnecessary delays.”