Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has welcomed the launch of a new public consultation on proposals for a new joint Care and Justice Campus for children and young people in the north.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“The launch of the consultation is welcome. The proposed new campus would radically change how care and services are rolled out to children and young people with very complex needs.
“I met with the Justice Minister this week and have highlighted the need for more joint initiatives to support people with poor mental health who find themselves going through the justice system.
“This cross-departmental work must be expanded upon to meet the needs of people, of all ages, who are struggling with multiple issues of mental illness, addictions and trauma.
“The figures are stark – 51% of prisoners have an addiction and 57% have a history of suicide attempts and self-harm.
“I have urged the Minister to work closely with the Department of Health on the much-needed delivery of a dual-diagnosis service as a matter of urgency.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin has welcomed the new legal protections for renters but expressed concern that they will not be strong enough.
Speaking this evening after a detailed briefing by Department of Housing officials on the new legislation, Teachta Ó Broin said:
“I welcome that the new legislation that the Housing Committee was briefed on this evening will ban evictions during the new level five restrictions.
"This will mean that from this Saturday, evictions will be banned for six weeks and tenants will be given an additional ten days to look for somewhere else to live once the ban is lifted.
“However, I believe that the Bill as described is not strong enough and is in need of amendment.
“At the briefing today, we were told that the ban on evictions will be linked to the Minister for Health’s introduction of the 5km travel restrictions.
“If the current 5km is extended or reintroduced at a later stage, this will automatically trigger another eviction ban.
“There will be a number of exceptions to the eviction ban, including in cases of anti-social behaviour, damage to property and use of property for reasons other than what it was leased for.
“While any ban on evictions is welcome, this Bill is very weak and in need of amendment.
“There are two clear omissions in the Bill. There is no consideration of restrictions on people entering your home as grounds for triggering the eviction ban nor is consideration given to future county lockdowns, which according to the department would not trigger an eviction ban.
“I will be tabling a number of amendments this evening, once the Bill is published, to strengthen the Bill to ensure than renters get the maximum level of protection in these difficult times."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality, Integration and Law Reform, Pa Daly TD, has welcomed aspects of the recommendations contained in a Government report on the future of Direct Provision.
Teachta Daly said:
“It’s been clear for many years now that our country’s Direct Provision system simply isn’t fit for purpose. It often sees some of the most vulnerable members of our society treated in an inhumane way.
“I welcome aspects of this report as an opportunity to finally address the long running scandal of Direct Provision.
“This report recognises the reality that many of the current for-profit providers cannot provide humane and safe accommodation.
“The most significant recommendation of the report is for own-door accommodation to be provided by approved housing bodies for those in the protection process. While conditions in the centers have long been subject to claims of being substandard, the pandemic has exposed unacceptable issues such as over-crowding and lack of privacy, with many residents unable to self-isolate properly when they have symptoms of Covid-19.
“This was an issue during the outbreak in the Skellig Star in Cahersiveen, and in other centres, and there must not be any further delays on the matter. There are legally binding standards for providers coming into force in January 2021, and it is clear many existing centres will not meet these standards.
“This is a natural consequence of a for-profit model, which has seen some operators earn into the hundreds of millions of Euro. This is clearly a flawed approach.
“Replacing this inadequate and inhumane system will show more compassion to those seeking refuge here, save the state millions, up to €40 million per year, and enable it to comply with its moral and legal obligations.
“It’s now time for action. This report must transfer into real-life, meaningful change for people in Direct Provision as a matter of urgency.”
Speaking after today's meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts and Culture, Senator Fintan Warfield has said:
“Today, the Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts and Culture agreed its work programme for 2020 and 2021.
“I welcome the support from Committee members for my proposal to examine the work undertaken to achieve a gender balance in the traditional and contemporary arts, and the need to address issues of discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying in traditional and contemporary arts.
“It is almost five years since 'Waking the Feminists' began a year long, grassroots campaign to advance equality for women in Irish theatre.
“This year, allegations of sexual assault, harassment and coercion in the Irish traditional music scene came to light through the #misefosta movement on social media. I once again commend the women who have come forward to share their stories.
“It is imperative that the Committee hear from those campaigning for change as well as the people, organisations and festivals that are in a position to implement that change.”
Fáilte curtha ag an Seanadóir Warfield roimh phlean oibre an Choiste cothromaíocht inscine agus ciapadh sna healaíona traidisiúnta agus comhaimseartha a chíoradh
Ag labhairt dó tar éis chruinniú an Chomhchoiste um Na Meáin, Turasóireacht, Ealaíona, Cultúr, Spórt agus Gaeltacht inniu dúirt An Seanadóir Fintan Warfield:
Inniu aontaíodh clár oibre an Chomhchoiste um Na Meáin, Turasóireacht, Ealaíona, Cultúr, Spórt agus Gaeltacht le haghaidh na tréimhse 2020 agus 2021.
Cuirim fáile roimh an tacaíocht a léirigh comhaltaí an Choiste don mholadh uaimse cíoradh a dhéanamh ar a bhfuil ar siúl maidir le cothromaíocht inscine a bhaint amach sna healaíona traidisiúnta agus comhaimseartha, agus ar líomhaintí maidir le leithcheal, ciapadh gnéis agus tromaíocht san earnáil.
Tá beagnach cúig bliana ann ó cuireadh tús le ‘Waking the Feminists’ le feachtas pobail a mhair bliain iomlán chun cothramaíocht do mhná i ndrámaíocht Éireannach a bhaint amach.
I mbliana tháinig líomhaintí maidir le ciapadh gnéis in earnáil an cheoil thraidisiúnta chun cinn a bhuíoch d’iarrachtaí an fheachtais #MiseFosta. Tréaslaím, in athuair, na mná a tháinig chun tosaigh lena scéal a roinnt.
Tá sé ríthábhachtach go gcloistear sa Chomhchoiste ó na daoine a bhfuil athrú suntasach uathu chomh maith leis na heagraíochtaí, na féilte agus na daoine a bhfuil ar a gcumas an t-athrú sin a fhíorú.
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has called on the Education Authority to address serious concerns on Special Educational Needs provision during the COVID pandemic.
Speaking following a sitting of the Education Committee, the Foyle MLA said:
“Today we heard harrowing testimony from representatives of the Evangelical Alliance and the National Autism Society on the lockdown experience for children with autism and other needs.
“Witnesses provided heart breaking evidence about the reality of the issues which children with profound special educational needs and their families faced throughout the initial wave of COVID19 and indeed continue to face.
“The situation has been exacerbated for these children and families by the failure of the Education Authority to provide the level of essential support that they require.
“This is unacceptable given that the Education Authority had seven months to prepare and put in place support for some of our most vulnerable children and from listening to the evidence today, it would suggest that this hasn’t happened.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Education Committee to hold the Education Authority to account on these failings and I will be following this up directly with the Minister.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has said that the Government cannot be observers while students get fleeced for accommodation they are prohibited from using because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said that students are struggling immensely emotionally, financially and socially, and that the anger and sense of injustice they rightly feel is palpable.
Addressing Minister Simon Harris in the Dáil, the Mayo TD said:
“Students followed the government assurances and paid for accommodation because they did not have their timetables finalised until it was too late. Now, many no longer need this accommodation but have already handed over thousands and thousands of euro.
“Students whom I have engaged with feel that much of the uncertainty that they have faced around their education was avoidable. They feel that the Department for Further and Higher Education overpromised on the feasibility of getting students back on campus.
“Students are in a uniquely vulnerable position in the rental market as they are often asked to pay rent months in advance. It is completely unreasonable for them to be charged for something they cannot now use.
“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, students and parents have had to fight to get refunds for unused accommodation. Many are still trying to get their money back from last semester.
“Minister Harris, when questioned, confirmed that five out of seven Education Institutes will give refunds for on-campus accommodation. I welcome this and the remaining two, TCD and UCD, need to follow suit.
"Requested refunds need to be processed as quickly as possible. However, more than 90 percent of student renters are off-campus in private accommodation.
“A memo has been brought to cabinet to investigate banning evictions as was done during the previous lockdown. This is sorely needed and should never have been removed, but where is the same urgency when it comes to students?
“When requesting refunds for unused accommodation, students are told that there is no protective legislation in place for renters and that they will not be entitled to their money back. This is not good enough.
"Successive governments have failed students and their families. These accommodation providers need to be able to access the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) if they let students out of lease and give refunds.
“We are asking students to adhere to Level 5 restrictions. We need to bring them with us. We need to show solidarity with them. Level 5 counts as ‘use prevention’. Surely that must mean that we put in place measures to ensure that they are given fair play.
“All higher-level accommodation providers must be instructed and enabled to allow for leases to be terminated without incurring fees or penalties and full refunds to be issued to those who request them. If this means emergency legislation, then this is what must be done.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Rural and Community Development, Claire Kerrane TD, has urged the Taoiseach to address the issue of how poor broadband is impacting on online Livestock Marts.
Raising the issue with the Taoiseach in the Dáil this afternoon, Kerrane said:
“In line with the new Covid-19 regulations, all Livestock Marts are expected to trade online and online only.
“We need to support farmers and farm families now more than ever and therefore, I have asked for there to be limited access for buyers in our Marts.
“The move online for Marts is welcome and for some farmers, it suits them and it worked well previously. However, the reality is many farmers have no access to a computer let alone broadband.
“There has to be due consideration for farmers who are in rural areas where the broadband infrastructure is simply not there.
“There is a huge issue with broadband infrastructure. I spoke to one Mart manager yesterday, their internet is extremely poor. Furthermore, farmers at home and buyers simply do not have the broadband to participate.
“I appreciate we can’t have concessions for everything in relation to these new restrictions, but we are talking about farmers’ livelihoods. We need to support them and their families at this most difficult time.
“Marts have gone above and beyond to ensure that social distancing is in place and so I would ask that you look at this and that this issue is reconsidered.”
Teachta Kerrane has also written to the Minister for Agriculture seeking some leeway for farmers at socially distanced and reduced numbers where they cannot access online sales.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the decision of the Finance Committee to agree to his request to hold a meeting with the CEO of Ulster Bank regarding its future in the banking sector.
This comes after speculation that Ulster Bank is planning to leave the Southern market and sell its entire loan book to vulture fund Cerberus.
The Donegal TD will call on Ulster Bank to guarantee that it will not sell its loan book, including family mortgages, to US vulture fund Cerberus.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Ulster Bank plays a key role in our communities, supporting business, enabling investment and providing local jobs for 3,000 people in towns and cities throughout the state.
“Its 88-strong branch network provide essential services to communities and businesses in their locality, along with ATM services, which are especially vital for the retail economy.
“The closure of Ulster Bank would be bad for its customers, its employees, our communities and the Irish banking sector.
“It has also been reported that the US vulture fund Cerberus is planning to buy Ulster Bank’s entire €20.5 billion loan book.
“Cerberus is one of the most aggressive vulture funds in the Irish market; known for its aggressive repossession strategies against borrowers who have their loans sold to the vulture fund.
“For Ulster Bank to sell off its mortgage loans, and those mortgage-holders, to a vulture fund like Cerberus is totally unacceptable.
“Had my 'No Consent, No Sale Bill' not been blocked by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the sale of Ulster Bank loans to Cerberus would not even be an option.
“Cerberus has no long-term interest in Ireland, and no interest whatsoever in the welfare of mortgage-holders.
“The Minister for Finance must now ensure that Ulster Bank customers are not the next victims of vulture funds in Ireland.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD today called on the Minister for Justice to intervene to address the dilemma faced by Venezuelan citizens in Ireland.
Speaking today, Teachta Brady said:
“The situation has arisen where Venezuelans living in Ireland are unable to renew their visas to remain here after their passports have expired, due to the fact that the Venezuelan government have all but ceased to issue new passports due to capacity issues.
"It is acknowledged that immigration services in Venezuela have stopped operating at anything like a functional level. This leaves it almost impossible for Venezuelan citizens here in Ireland to obtain extension stamps on their passports, with waiting lists of up to two years.
"At present there is no Venezuelan Consulate in Ireland. This means that Venezuelans living here are forced to travel abroad to obtain extension stamps on their passports.
"However, that option is impossible to do if your passport is out of date, never mind the fact that we are entering a second lockdown and want to curb all unnecessary travel within and from the state.
“We have a group of people here, although relatively small, nonetheless make a very positive contribution to our country, who run the risk of being classified as illegals here in the near future, if nothing is done.
"I believe that with a little good will, that this problem can be easily resolved.
"I would ask that the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney reach out to the Venezuelan Community here in Ireland and take the necessary measures to avoid undue hardship for this community."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Education and the Minister for Health to deliver school specific tracing as a matter of urgency.
Speaking today from Leinster House, the Cork South Central TD has said;
“The situation regarding tracing in schools is simply not good enough. The INTO has described it as shambolic and it is undermining the faith of school staff and parents in the safety of schools. I am anxious to see these concerns dispelled, but we need significant action to address that. Tracing is a key element of this.
“Last Saturday, I expressed my concern at reports in the Irish Examiner that children who were being supported by an SNA, and who were not wearing masks, were not deemed close contacts.
“I am regularly made aware of situations where school staff who are close contacts are only being informed several days after a positive test arrives. They are concerned that in the interim - because they have been kept in the dark - they have not been able to limit their movements.
“There are also concerns about who is a close contact and a casual contact. Some have raised with me their fear that a different approach is being taken to who is a close contact in schools.
“I would hope very much that that fear can be dispelled, but that can only be done by bringing a rigorous and comprehensive approach to testing and tracing in schools.
“The Minister for Education yesterday said that there will be specific tracing teams for schools. I welcome that and it is necessary. However, so far we have no further information on this, beyond a comment from the Minister on RTÉ radio.
“We need to know what is meant by this, how this will be delivered, when it will be delivered and what it will look like. This is vital."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, today expressed his concern following reports of Nigerian Security Forces opening fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.
He has written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to ask what response the Irish government is taking in light of the deteriorating situation.
Teachta Brady said:
“The full details of what took place yesterday are still to coming to light. However, the images which have emerged already are deeply concerning. Furthermore, Amnesty International are on record that they have ‘credible reports’ of deaths.
“What we do know is that Nigerian Security Forces opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos when the crowd refused to disperse following the declaration of a 24 hours curfew.
“The protest was part of the End SARS campaign. SARS is a covert unit, formed in 1992, within the Nigerian police. Over the last three years, Amnesty International has documented 82 cases of torture, abuse, and extrajudicial executions conducted by SARS officers.
“As a force it has been characterised by its deployment of beatings and arbitrary arrest. It has also faced accusations of torture, mock executions, and sexual violence.
“The Nigerian Government’s announcement that SARS will be disbanded is welcome but there are many reports of it still operating in unmarked vehicles at protests.
“Ultimately, however, ending SARS can only be considered the first step towards extensive reform and disbandment of police and state security apparatus in Nigeria.
“It is a cause of considerable concern that the Nigerian Army has already dismissed reports of what took place in Lagos as ‘fake news’.
“The scenes from the Lekki toll gate cannot help but bring to mind images of Soweto in 1976 or indeed, closer to home, the Bogside in Derry in 1972.
“The Nigerian Government must cease its repression of peaceful protesters.
“I have written today to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to ask what response the Irish government is taking in light of this deteriorating situation.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport Darren O’Rourke TD has today called on the government to commit to a Public Service Obligation to secure the future of the post office network.
Teachta O'Rourke said;
“Despite the crucial role post offices provide in our local communities, the network has suffered from years of neglect by successive governments; with hundreds of closures and the loss of vital outlets right across rural Ireland.
“Last month, the Irish Postmasters’ Union commissioned a report which recommended that a Public Service Obligation be introduced to secure the future of the network and to allow post offices to continue to provide their excellent and important services, which are particularly important in rural Ireland.
“During a debate on a Sinn Féin motion on post offices in 2018, Fianna Fáil brought forward an amendment calling for a PSO to be introduced. With Fianna Fáil now the lead party in government, will they follow through on this commitment which can secure the post office network, or will it be another broken promise?
“In addition to a PSO, Sinn Féin want to see more services delivered through our local post offices.
“The 2016 Kerr report made a number of recommendations in this area, including increasing the financial and government services available through our post offices.
“In addition, we would like to see the role of post offices in providing information and assistance for green initiatives further expanded.
“Grants from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, for example, provide financial assistance for people to upgrade their homes or cars to more environmentally friendly alternatives.
“These grants will be crucial going forward, but older people may not be able to access these through online portals, so our local post offices can become engagement hubs for green initiatives, where people can access information about these grants and get help in applying for them.
“This can be a win-win; increasing the uptake of these grants and also providing our post offices with a new avenue of business.
“We need creativity from the government in this area. Post offices are a critical piece of State infrastructure across our island and they need proper investment, ambition and attention from this government.”
Sinn Fein spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD has written to the Minister for Health to ask what rationale and evidence was used to decide to close gyms under the current restrictions.
The Dublin Mid West TD has argued that the closure of gyms will have a detrimental impact on people's mental and physical health.
“When restrictions were imposed in April, one of the first things to be impacted was people’s mental health. We heard from numerous experts and mental health service providers how people’s wellbeing was adversely affected.
“Gyms were closed then, but people adapted and exercised outdoors in the fine weather. That fine weather is gone now, and the dark nights are settling in.
“When restrictions were eased, gyms could open as long as they put in place stringent public health measures.
“Gym owners have put in place regimental structures to not only make their business safe, but to have contact tracing measures in place also. Gym users have been compliant to these.
“Physical health and mental health go hand in hand. I have been contacted by a numerous constituents who are concerned about the closure of gyms and other restrictive measures which will negatively affect people’s mental health.
“Isolation, lack of human contact, financial difficulties, loss of jobs, loss of business, lethargy and fear of the unknown are just some of the accompanying issues that run parallel with COVID-19 restrictions.
“Unfortunately, Sinn Féin have not been included in the discussions and decision making on restrictions and have not received briefings on this from NPHET and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
“Transparency is important for everyone’s understanding of the restrictions and compliance with them. People deserve the truth.
“I have written to the Minister to ask that he outline the rationale and evidence used to close gyms based on his discussions with NPHET and the CMO.
“I would also ask the Minister to outline what, if any, discussions he had on mental health and how mental health experts were included in this process.
“Its time for common sensed to prevail."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Kathleen Funchion TD, has urged Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman to respect survivors' wishes and ensure the Mother and Baby Homes records are not sealed for thirty years.
Speaking this morning ahead of a Dáil debate on the issue later today, Teachta Funchion said:
“The way that this Government has attempted to rush through the Mother and Baby Homes Bill is nothing short of disgraceful.
“Survivors, their families, their legal representatives and their advocates have been understandably deeply distressed by the appalling way in which their wishes have been disregarded.
“It is not right for their testimonies to be sealed for thirty years. They have been brave to speak out and share their stories. We must ensure their stories are heard.
“I am once again urging the Minister to do the right thing and put a stop to this unfair and indefensible Bill today.
“The amendments submitted go nowhere near far enough and they fail to address the major issues at the heart of this injustice.
“I am sure that the Minister could not in good conscience see survivors’ distress and trauma added to in this way. It is not too late for him to do the right thing.
“Today I am urging him to ensure that survivors’ voices are at the centre of his approach. He must listen to their objections in a respectful and compassionate way.”
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has welcomed confirmation that a Climate Change Bill will be brought before the Assembly.
The North Antrim MLA said:
“I welcome confirmation from the Climate Coalition that a Climate Change Bill will be brought before the Assembly and will receive cross-party support.
“It’s now over three months since MLAs backed our motion calling on Environment Minster Edwin Poots to stop stalling and bring forward climate change legislation.
“By failing to do so, he is ignoring the wishes of the majority of MLAs and citizens who want real, meaningful action to tackle climate change and protect our future.
“The north is currently the only place without climate legislation – this bill will change that and set targets to meet zero carbon emissions by 2045.
“We are living through a climate emergency with disastrous effects on the natural world, our society, and our economy, Sinn Féin will work to ensure this bill becomes law.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has described as "extremely concerning" a report by the Irish Times tonight that between 2,000 and 2,500 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 will be sent a text message tomorrow asking them to tell inform their close contacts to seek a test for Covid-19.
Teachta Cullinane said:
"The report tonight by the Irish Times that up to 2,500 people will be asked to contact their own close contacts represents a fundamental breakdown in the tracing system. The system is overwhelmed and this is a direct result of rising cases and underinvestment. It is extremely concerning.
"Sinn Féin have been calling for some time for an enhanced tracing system and for additional tracers to be recruited. There are constant reports coming from tracers about staff being overworked and a lack of training. Such reports have been met by denial from government.
"The government promised 1,200 additional tracing staff recently and that target has not been achieved. They have not in fact, spelled out how many tracers have been recruited - despite being repeatedly asked for this information.
"The time for talking and for promises by the Minister for Health is over. This is a serious situation that has happened on his watch.
"As workers, families and businesses face into weeks of level 5 restrictions, we cannot waste the next number of weeks. The Minister must deliver additional capacity."
“Radical reform of CAP must not be further delayed” – Chris MacManus MEP
Chris MacManus, Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands Northwest, has said the CAP proposals must be sent back to the Commission for revision, as the only way to deliver a progressive reform for Irish family farmers.
MacManus said “The current proposals are insufficient and only serve to delay a fair distribution of CAP until 2027 or later. We need to see a fair distribution of the CAP now to ensure a future for our young farmers.”
“The current CAP will run until 2023, therefore, there is no reason why the Commission cannot quickly address the necessary changes and return to parliament and council for a fast tracked process.”
The Midlands Northwest MEP said a lack of ambition now would hurt farmers in the long run. “Let’s be very clear, this is only the start of a lengthy process. The next step is to take what parliament has agreed and start negotiations with the European Council. The Council have always taken an approach of minimal reform and ambition. This is why starting such negotiations with a weak position is likely to result in the bare minimum changing. Setting a high bar at this stage is crucial.”
“The CAP is the most important legislative proposal the EU parliament will deal with this year. However, the establishment parties have attempted to rush it through parliament and block any substantial amendments at the plenary vote.”
“Irish family farmers are facing an incredibly difficult situation, due to Brexit, COVID and cartel like behaviour in the beef-processing sector. This CAP reform presented an opportunity to support them through this time and ensure the family farm model is protected for years to come. It also was an opportunity to end the situation where 80% of CAP payments go to 20% of recipients.”
“Instead of the radical reform that was needed, the parliament was presented with a tweaking of the status quo and MEPs were told to take it or leave it. Sinn Féin approached the text by measuring whether it did two things; did it provide sufficient funds for small to medium farmers, and did it reward farmers fairly for their work preserving our landscapes. The answer to both questions was a resounding no.
The proposals failed to:
· set an upper payment limit of €60,000, which would have made extra funds available for redistribution
· ring fence at least 5% of the funds for our young farmers, who are in dire need of a greater incentive to stay on the land
· allocate at least 30% of pillar I to the top-up payment, designed to boost payments on all hectares declared below the national average
· set aside at least 35% of pillar I for ECO schemes, which are designed to make looking after the environment not only cost neutral but profitable for our farmers
MacManus concluded by saying “Large enterprises, who receive hundreds of thousands of euros, will be the only winners from the EU parliament pushing through these bad proposals currently on offer.”
“Sinn Féin understands the importance of the network of family farms, which underpin our rural communities, and we will not allow them to be sold out in the interest of not rocking the boat at EU level.” ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has asked the Oireachtas Health Committee to write to the Health Ministers in the north and the south regarding the status of the memorandum of understanding signed earlier this year about all-Ireland co-ordination during the pandemic.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“I have said from the very start that our attempts to battle Covid-19 must be on an all-Ireland basis. The virus does not recognise borders. We must approach this as a single epidemiological unit.
“We are at a crucial stage in efforts to suppress this virus and we must do everything we can to maximise all-island co-ordination and co-operation.
“I have asked the Oireachtas Health Committee to write to the Health Ministers in both the north and the south about the current status of the memorandum of understanding which was signed earlier this year.
“This should outline what progress has been made so far, as well as the ways in which co-ordination could be strengthened. This should also include information about how the collecting and sharing of data can be better aligned.
“I will continue to work to maximise areas of co-operation and to enhance our all-island approach. The island needs to respond to this pandemic as one.”
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has welcomed today’s announcement that the Justice Minister will bring forward legislation to protect children from sexual exploitation and to introduce a new offence of upskirting but is disappointed that some key proposals have been left out.
The party’s Justice Spokesperson said:
“Today’s announcement that the Justice Minister will bring forward legislation to tackle child sexual exploitation and upskirting is welcome.
“Upskirting violates a person’s rights to privacy and bodily integrity and can be a deeply invasive, traumatic and distressing experience, and the new criminal offence of upskirting is hugely welcomed.
“Likewise, child sexual exploitation is a horrific form of abuse which can have long and lasting physical, psychological and emotional damage for the victim.
“The proposals in today’s announcement are very welcome, but I am concerned that a number of proposals that were consulted on were not included in today’s announcement despite having the potential to improve safeguards for children.
“Sinn Féin responded to DOJ’s consultation in April 2019 and recommended reversing the burden of proof so that, if a defendant wishes to rely on a defence of ‘reasonable belief’ for sexual offences, the onus would be on the defendant to prove that he or she reasonably believed that the child was over the legal age.
“We also recommended extending ‘abuse of trust’ laws to include any adult who holds a position of trust over 16 or 17-year-olds and criminalising the possession of a so-called ‘child sex doll’.
“We are disappointed and concerned at the absence of these recommendations from today’s announcement which, in their absence, only scratches the surface of these issues and I will be engaging with the Minister to discuss these matters."