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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has welcomed the decision by Department for Communities to consult the public on betting, gaming and lotteries legislation.

The party’s culture, arts and sports spokesperson said:

“The Department for Communities is hoping to launch a consultation on betting, gaming and lotteries legislation in mid-November.

“The consultation will run for approximately ten weeks.

“I would encourage members of the public, but in particular sports clubs and societies, to respond with their view.

“In my opinion the current legislation is not fit for purpose and its restrictive nature is a threat to lifeline of our clubs and societies who rely on revenue raising through lotteries and draws.

“If legislation is not reformed and clubs are limited in their ability to raise additional funds the responsibility for fund raising will fall back on families and parents who already pay membership fees and buy relevant equipment.

“Because of the outdated nature of the legalisation bad practice has become the norm, in order for clubs to be complaint there should be a review on the permitted stakes and prices.

“Hopefully this consultation process will lead to our betting, gaming and lotteries legislation being updated.”

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Sinn Féin victims and legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon today met with the Interim Advocate for Victims and Survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse.

Linda Dillon said:

“I met with Brendan McAllister today to discuss the next steps regarding redress for victims and survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse.

“I welcome the fact that a proposed Bill setting up a redress board to compensate HIA victims is to be brought forward. However, victims need some reassurance about what will happen if an election is called.

“The victims have waited too long for justice or redress for an awful wrongdoing. 

“What is needed is clarification on this to ensure victims receive the redress they are long entitled to.”

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“Injunctions on farmers must be dropped immediately” – Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called on Meat industry Ireland (MII) to fulfil its commitments by ensuring that all outstanding injunctions against farmers are lifted immediately.  This includes injunctions relating to the protests at the C&D plant at Edgeworthstown.

Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agricultural & Rural Development Committee, was responding to Monday’s suspension of the Beef taskforce meeting due to protest.

Carthy commented:

“Farmers lifted their protests despite the fact that all issues had not been fully resolved.  This was a gesture of goodwill that has yet to receive an adequate response from factories in the form of improved prices.  It is hoped that the Beef taskforce will allow this fundamental issue to be addressed.

“But, immediately, one of the commitments that must be fulfilled is that to drop all remaining injunctions against farmers involved in protests.  This was a key element of the deal struck between Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the farming organisations.  It is disingenuous to suggest that the C&D injunctions stand apart from the rest.  That protest was clearly part of the wider mobilisations against the actions of the factories and the ownership of C&D rests with a major player in MII.

“Unless and until all remaining injunctions are lifted it will be impossible to develop good faith in order to resolve the more substantive issues.

“The Beef Task Force has been established to deal with transparency and low prices in the sector.  We all want to see the Task Force get to work on these issues that affect the sector but it is unreasonable to ask farmers to begin negations while these injunctions remain in place.

“We are also still waiting for the introduction of the Beef Price Index, a measure that had a deadline for implementation of the 16th of September.

“Minister Creed needs to play a more active role in this process.  He was always been extremely quick in condemning actions of farmers but has consistently failed to stand up to the factories.  He must issue a statement demanding that all legal threats are lifted without delay.

“For our part, we in Sinn Féin will continue to stand alongside the family farmers of Ireland in demanding that all outstanding issues in the beef sector, including the base price, are addressed in order to secure the future of rural communities.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said the British government is trampling over the Good Friday Agreement following today’s judgement against Emma DeSouza. 

The Sinn Féin President said:  

"This decision from the court today in the Emma de Souza case is a disgracefully retrograde step. 

"The Good Friday Agreement is crystal clear on this in terms of citizenship. Emma De Souza is an Irish citizen and it is disgraceful that she should have to go to court to prove it. 

"The British government is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement but yet it is trampling all over it. 

“This is the same British government that continually claims to be upholding the Good Friday Agreement yet its actions give lie to that claim. 

"While this is a failure first and foremost of the British government, the Irish government also have a key role to play as co-guarantors of that agreement. 

"Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told us that Irish citizens in the north will never again be left behind by an Irish government. The Irish government now needs to step up and defend the rights of all Irish citizens. 

"I want to commend Emma De Souza for her efforts to date and we will continue to stand by her as she continues to take this campaign forward.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has spoke to the PSNI Chief Constable today to raise the treatment of John Downey at Omagh Court House on Saturday.

The party’s Policing spokesperson said:

“I have spoken to the PSNI Chief Constable today to raise the treatment of John Downey at Omagh Court House on Saturday.

“It’s unacceptable that despite voluntarily presenting himself to the Gardaí for extradition, John Downey was handcuffed and literally manhandled out of Omagh Court House.  

“I also challenged the PSNI’s contention that Mr Downey posed a ‘flight risk’ despite the fact he had met all his previous bail conditions and turned up to all court appearances in Ireland and in London.

"The British authorities publicly stated John Downey was not wanted in connection with any offence.

“That assertion was tested in the courts and he was subsequently released. That judgement should be respected by the British authorities."

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Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has encouraged victims of domestic abuse to continue to speak out and report it. 

The Mid Ulster MLA was speaking after figures released from the PSNI revealed the highest number of domestic violence crimes in the north.

Linda Dillon said: 

“Between July 2018 and June 2019, there were 16,575 domestic abuse crimes recorded and more must be done to combat the rate of domestic violence crimes.

“While the reporting of domestic abuse has increased the reality is that it is still an underreported crime and more is needed to support victims through the judicial process. 

"The recommendations of Judge Gillen’s report need to be implemented to ensure victims are adequately supported.

"Domestic abuse is a terrifying and impactful crime and can take many forms, including financial and psychological abuse as well as physical and sexual violence.

“It is vitally important that anyone suffering from abuse whether physical or emotional knows that there are organisations, including the PSNI, Women’s Aid and Men’s Aid who are just a phone call away and ready to help. No one should suffer in silence.” 

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Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has condemned the Spanish Supreme Court’s decision to sentence 9 Catalan political leaders to between 9 and 13 years in prison over their alleged roles in the 1 October 2017 Catalan independence referendum.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“I am absolutely outraged at the jailing of these 9 Catalan political and civil society leaders. I want to send my solidarity to each one of them and their families at this extremely emotional and difficult time.

“The jailing of these political prisoners is an affront to democratic values and should be of huge concern to democrats and all those who believe in freedom of expression around the world.

“On October 1st 2017, millions of Catalans came out to vote and to democratically decide on their future. It should have been an expression and a triumph for democracy, no matter what the outcome.

“Sadly, the world witnessed through social media and other media outlets the horrific and shocking scenes of Spanish police brutality in various parts of Catalonia that day. Peaceful citizens who were protecting the integrity of polling stations were struck down and beaten by elements of the Spanish police.

“These political and civil society leaders should not have been facing charges for their alleged role in establishing and running that referendum. Facilitating people to vote should not be a crime, but preventing them by force should be.

“From the beginning of this process, I have called for dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities, for the 9 political and civic society leaders to be released from their pre-trial detention, and for the politically motivated charges against them to be dropped.

“In March this year I travelled to Madrid for two days and attended the trial of the Catalan political prisoners. Sadly it had all the trappings of a political show trial. 

“I have continued to correspond with the political prisoners and extend Sinn Féin's solidarity with them on their long detention.

“This should be a political issue, not the dubious legal one that it has become. The Spanish Government needs to stop using the police and the legal system to attack and undermine the Catalan independence movement, which is a legitimate political movement. 

“The political way forward has to involve meaningful dialogue and engagement, not the suppression and arbitrary jailing of political and social leaders.

“For democrats this has to be one of the most pressing political issues in Europe. We cannot ignore or dismiss this latest development and the central issue of citizens being prosecuted for pursing purely peaceful and democratic means in defence of self-determination.

“I will be urgently raising this issue in the Dáil and calling on the Irish government to speak out and to condemn this outrageous decision.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has criticised moves by the Spanish authorities to jail nine Catalan Government officials for their role in the 2017 independence referendum.

Martina Anderson said:

“The jailing of nine Catalan officials is a dark day in Spanish judicial history and an attack on Catalan democracy.

“Exercising the right to democracy and self-determination is not a crime – over two million people voted in the Catalan independence referendum. It is completely legitimate.

“The Spanish authorities have acted disgracefully throughout this entire process – including the brutalising of voters and upholding politically motivated charges against elected leaders and blocking democratically elected MEPs from entering the EU Parliament.

“It’s time the European Union broke the silence and acted in the interests of the Catalan people and stood against this attack on the democratic process.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for communications David Cullinane TD has called on all political parties within the Dáil to support his bill to prohibit the blacklisting of journalists by any Irish broadcaster, adding that the practice is an assault on journalistic freedom.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“We heard many fine speeches in the Dáil recently on the need to tackle the banning of certain journalists from the airwaves of Communicorp, but very little by way of actual legislation.

“It is time to tackle this issue head on and so in the coming weeks I will be moving a bill in the Dáil that will do just that.

“It will amend the Broadcast Act 2009 to make it a breach of contract under the Act to prohibit a member of the National Union of Journalists from communications media for reason or reasons of occupation, employer, company, or employment status.

“This is to ensure that journalists are not discriminated against whilst doing their job simply for reasons of professional affiliation.

“I call on all parties and independents in the Dáil to support this bill when it comes before the house and to speed it to committee as quickly as possible.

“This practice needs to be made illegal as a matter of urgency."

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said this morning that the imprisonment of nine Catalan leaders, including the former Vice President of Catalonia Oriol Junqueras, is an “affront to democracy”.

Teachta McDonald said:

“The referendum on Catalan independence in October 2017 should have been a triumph for democracy, no matter what the result was. Sadly, in its aftermath the world witnessed shocking scenes of Spanish police brutality in various parts of Catalonia that day.

“Peaceful citizens who were protecting the integrity of polling stations were struck down and savagely beaten, with over 900 people injured.

“Since then, the Spanish State has behaved disgracefully and in the most anti-democratic manner possible by pursuing political leaders on trumped up, politically motivated charges for their alleged role in facilitating that referendum.

“We now have a situation today where nine of those individuals have been imprisoned on charges of rebellion and sedition for up to thirteen years for pursuing purely peaceful and democratic means in pursuit of Catalan self-determination.

“The Catalan independence movement is a legitimate political movement and must be respected by the Spanish state.

“What has happened today is an affront to democracy and should be condemned by all democrats and political leaders throughout Europe.

“It’s time to end the wall of silence on Catalonia.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Ciarán Beattie has branded the actions of a loyalist flute band parading around Belfast City Hall ‘disgraceful’ after videos emerged on social media. 

Councillor Ciarán Beattie said his party has been in touch with the Chief Executive of Belfast City Council and will be demanding answers.

“Video footage posted on social media of a loyalist flute band parading around the corridors and reception of Belfast City Hall on Sunday is disgraceful.

“This sends out the wrong message of the changing Belfast and City Hall which is supposed to be a shared space and open to all.

“I have contacted the Chief Executive to raise serious concerns and demand answers as to how and why this was allowed to happen.

“A Council investigation is now underway to identify a possible breach of protocol and into the conduct of this flute band.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald headed a Sinn Féin leadership delegation which met African National Congress (ANC) leader Cyril Ramaphosa today. 

Speaking after the bilateral meeting in London, the Sinn Féin President said:

“I led a Sinn Féin leadership delegation today, including our National Party Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA, and Chris Hazzard MP, which met with ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa in recognition of the deep and historic links between our two Parties.

“Sinn Féin has a long history of fraternal relations and solidarity with the ANC, and this was a welcome and important opportunity to meet its Party President.

“Cyril Ramaphosa has a very deep personal investment in the Irish peace process.

“We provided him with a detailed briefing on the political crisis in the north, the threat to the Good Friday Agreement, as well as the repercussions posed by Brexit for the entire island.

“In particular, we discussed the need for international political and diplomatic support for Irish unity, and the relevance of South Africa's transition to national democracy for managing future constitutional change in Ireland.

“We also had useful discussions on areas of mutual cooperation between our Parties, particularly on issues of progressive international solidarity. 

“We agreed to continue engaging at a party leadership level on how Sinn Féin and the ANC can continue to work constructively together in the future.”

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Máire Drumm was born 100 years ago on October 22 1919. 

On October 28th 1976 she was shot and killed by a unionist death squad while in hospital for an eye operation.

On Tuesday 22 October a commemoration will be held at Kelly Roads, close to her family home, at a monument erected in her memory.

A wreath laying and re-enactment of some of her most famous speeches will take place, and later Gerry Adams will launch a new book on Máire which he has written.

Gerry Adams said:

“In the years since her death Máire Drumm has become an iconic figure in Irish republicanism. She was an extraordinary, larger than life leader who was a woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a political activist and visionary. She was a gifted leader and organiser, and an inspirational public speaker.

"Máire is best remembered for her leadership in the years following the pogroms of August 1969 when nationalist areas of Belfast were attacked by unionist mobs, the RUC and B Specials. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands of men, women and children became refugees in their own city. And citizens died.

"It was a time for courage and leadership and Máire Drumm stepped up to the plate. Despite harassment, death threats, imprisonment and a vicious and scurrilous campaign of hate by the British media, whipped up by the NIO, Máire refused to be bowed or broken and led from the front.

"Her leadership qualities and her enormous courage led to her being elected as Sinn Féin’s Vice President. I met her many times including when I was on the run in Belfast. She was always genuinely concerned about how everyone was doing. When the politics was discussed it was like meeting your Mammy.

"Well-known for her defiant speeches at rallies and in courtrooms, she told a judge on one occasion: 'Interning or putting a middle-aged woman in jail will not quench the flame of the Irish people because nothing but the destruction of the Irish people will ever quench that flame. Long live the IRA! God save Ireland!'

In October 1976, just days before her 57th birthday she was in the Mater hospital for an eye operation. A Unionist gunman, clearly acting in collusion with British forces, entered Máire’s room and shot and killed her.

Four decades later she remains an inspirational figure for today’s generation of activists.”

Note to Editor:

Assemble: McKevitt’s Petrol station at 7.30pm

Walk to the Kelly’s Road monument for wreath laying and re-enactment.

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Sinn Féin President, Mary Lou McDonald, spoke by phone with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this Sunday lunchtime.

Ms McDonald reminded the British Prime Minister of his obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and told Mr Johnson that there could be no unionist veto on protections for Ireland.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

“Ireland did not consent to Brexit.  The people of the north voted to remain. This afternoon I reminded the British Prime Minister of this and of his obligations under the Good Friday Agreement to ensure no hardening of the border.

“I told the Prime Minister that any deal agreed must have legal and enduring guarantees that deliver for Ireland. There can be no customs border on our island. Our livelihoods, our economy and our peace must be protected.

“I also sought confirmation that there would be no veto gifted to DUP Brexiteers on protections for Ireland - such a position would be intolerable.

“The next week will be critical. Ultimately we need a deal that delivers for Ireland. Prime Minister Johnson and I agreed to stay in contact and continue to engage on these and other important issues.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said her party will continue to support John Downey and his family after he was extradited to the North and remanded in custody to face historical charges relating to the conflict in the North.

Speaking today Teachta McDonald said;

“Our friend and colleague John Downey has been extradited to the North to face historic charges relating to the conflict.  He has been denied bail as the judge ruled he is a flight risk despite the fact that John handed himself in to Letterkenny Garda Station yesterday to be extradited to face trial.

“The allegations against John Downey have been dealt with previously and the British Government has publicly stated that he is not wanted in connection with any offence.

“This was tested in the courts and John was subsequently released. That judgement should be respected by the British authorities.

“The extradition request from the British Authorities is vindictive and bad faith and is an attempt to overturn due process.

“It follows a campaign to introduce an amnesty for British soldiers at a time when the spotlight is on them for their actions.

“John Downey is a supporter of the peace process over many years.  He should be at home with his family in Donegal.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support John and his family through this distressing time.”

ENDS

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“European Commission admits €1 billion Mercosur farm fund does not currently exist” – Matt Carthy MEP

The European Commissioned has confirmed that it has not set aside any funds or designed a compensation payment for EU farmers affected by the Mercosur deal. The confirmation, which came in a response to a written question submitted by Matt Carthy MEP, will come as a surprise to many considering EU Agricultural Commissioner, Phil Hogan, had previously claimed his department had secured €1 billion worth of funds to assist farmers in the event the deal is signed.

Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament Agricultural Committee, commented:

“The European Commission has confirmed to me that, at this time, it has no details or concreate measures in place to provide supports to farmers adversely impacted by the Mercosur trade deal.  In fact no decision has even been made on where the financing would come from.

“Four months ago, Commissioner Hogan announced that he had secured compensation support for farmers for the certain market disruption that would be caused by the enaction of this trade agreement.  This was in response to the backlash from farmers and rural communities who had been sold out in the trade deal negotiations.

“The next European budget has not yet been agreed and the current commission proposal would result in a 15% cut to the CAP, in real terms.  It is therefore completely untenable to suggest that the compensation fund would from within the CAP budget.  So, where these funds could originate remains a mystery.  

“It appears that Commissioner Hogan has also backtracked in recent weeks by stating that any aid would be delayed until the European Commission decides the impact of the deal.  

“Mercosur is a bad deal for farmers, it is a bad deal for the Irish economy and it is a bad deal for the environment.  It should not be supported under any circumstances.  A once off compensation package of €1 billion would not offset the damage that Mercosur and other EU trade deals will cause vulnerable agriculture sectors such as beef.  However, this confirmation reinforces my view that it is questionable whether farmers would ever see a cent of these supposedly ‘secured’ funds.

“This is simply the latest development that undermines any tenuous argument in favour of the EU Mercosur trade agreement.  The Irish Government now needs to formally declare it’s rejection of its ratification and kill this dangerous deal right now”.

ENDS

Question for written answer E-002496/2019

to the Commission

Rule 138

Matt Carthy (GUE/NGL)

Subject:Financial support for market disturbance caused by the Mercosur deal

On 29 June 2019, the Commission stated that EUR 1 billion of financial support would be made available to European farmers in the event of market disturbance following the EUMercosur trade deal.

Can the Commission clarify which budget line will be used in the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) for this new fund, which the Commission has indicated has been ‘secured’?

ENE-002496/2019Answer given by Mr Hoganon behalf of the European Commission(9.10.2019)

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) legislation provides the Commission the legal basis to take exceptional market support measures where need be. In the case that this need would emerge following market disturbances attributable to the Mercosur Agreement the EU is ready to support the concerned sectors financially. All the details about the concrete measures and their financing would be decided and described in due time.

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Speaking after a meeting on Suicide Prevention in North Belfast, Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said:

“Today my colleagues councillors JJ Magee, Taylor McGrann and Michael Goodman and I met with groups including the PSNI, Department for Infrastructure, the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety and the Public Health Agency to discuss suicide prevention measures in North Belfast.

“Like most communities across the North, North Belfast has lost too many people to suicide. 

“One of the major concerns which keeps arising is that over a period of years people have ended their lives using bridges.

“We discussed what improvements could be made in relation to raising and changing the physical infrastructure of the bridges at Glengormley, Hightown, Arthur Bridge and the Westlink.

“We all have a part to play and everyone gave a commitment to look at how best we can support better physical and mental health outcomes for all citizens who live here, to bring positive change to keep people safe and alive.

“Sinn Féin will be holding follow-up meetings to see how these proposals can be taken forward with the statutory agencies.” 

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Jobs, Workers’ Rights and Pay Equality, Maurice Quinlivan TD, has said Sinn Féin will table a Dáil motion on Tuesday evening, condemning the government’s decision not to increase the minimum wage.

The motion will also call for the introduction of a Living Wage for workers.

Speaking today the Limerick City TD said;

“The government’s decision not to increase the national minimum wage in budget 2020 was a slap in the face to the 137,000 workers who currently earn the minimum wage.

“There will be no postponement of rising rents, no stop to huge insurance costs or no delay to the carbon tax, but it seems Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil simply don’t care if people can afford this or not.

“To scrap the minimum wage increase is a nasty move, and to blame it on Brexit won’t fool anybody.

“There are legal protections currently in place for those companies who can show they cannot afford to pay the national minimum wage. Brexit is not the issue here, Fine Gael’s disregard for lower paid workers is.

“The very wealthiest workers were of course rewarded in this budget, with the extension of the Special Assignee Relief Programme, helping rich executives pay less tax. The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

“In our Alternative Budget, Sinn Féin showed how a Living Wage could be introduced, whilst also protecting financially vulnerable businesses.

“Our motion calls on the Dáil to recognise the huge contribution lower paid workers make to our economy and calls on the government to introduce a Living Wage of €12.30 per hour.

“An exemption for businesses who can prove to the Labour Court they genuinely cannot afford to pay a Living Wage, would protect financially vulnerable businesses and the jobs they provide.

“Last week Fianna Fáil hosted a briefing in Leinster House calling for a Living Wage for early years educators. This week they voted through a Fine Gael budget that doesn’t even include an increase to the minimum wage.

“Our motion will give Fianna Fáil an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is.

“Workers and families deserve a break and introducing a level of pay that ensures workers are not living at risk of poverty, is not too much to ask.”

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Reacting to the meeting between the British Prime Minister and An Taoiseach, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said:

“Now is the time for steadiness, unity of purpose and calm heads. Negotiations are at a very sensitive point. Any deal must have legal and enduring guarantees that deliver for Ireland.

“We’re seeing very little detail from the meeting. What we do know is that there is no Brexit scenario that is good for the people of this island, but we’ve always said that a deal can be done.

“There is a viable option on the table in the form of the Withdrawal Agreement which all parties support, with the exception of the DUP.

“The next week will be critical. Any deal should include the backstop as the bottom line in protecting Ireland and protecting the Good Friday Agreement. 

“No veto can be given to unionism on protections for Ireland. It would be unthinkable to place Irish livelihoods, our economy and our peace at the hands of DUP Brexiteers.

“Ultimately we need a deal that delivers for Ireland."

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has met the newly appointed principal of Crumlin Integrated College during a visit to the school.

The local MLA said he was delighted to welcome Mr Niall O’Hara into his new post and pledged his support for the school.

The South Antrim MLA said:

"Niall O’Hara is joining a very dedicated teaching staff at Crumlin Integrated College. A committed Board of Governors is also in place. Together they have a very positive vision for the future of this great school.

"During our meeting we discussed the needs of the school and the importance of new investment in, and enhancement of the current school estate. An official from the Education Authority also participated in this discussion.

"It is clear that several schemes of work are urgently needed to improve structural aspects of the school estate, and enhance health & safety for the school community.

"While Crumlin Integrated College has been a very important part of the village and surrounding area for many years, I am concerned that the actual potential of the school has been restricted in recent years due to a lack of investment over a protracted period.

"I believe that the future of Crumlin Integrated will be optimised if a joined up approach is adopted, and good will is demonstrated by all stakeholders. I have now written to the Chief Executive of the Education Authority on these specific issues.

"Niall O Hara is coming into his post with great enthusiasm and a desire to ensure the local school community is properly served. I look forward to working with him, his colleagues, and the College Board of Governors in the coming period.”

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