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Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has said that the mental health of women during and after pregnancy must be at the core of maternal care. 

The Cork East TD made his comments in support of a motion being debated in the Dáil tonight, which calls for improvements to maternity care.

Deputy Buckley said;

“For too long the mental health of pregnant women and new mothers was treated with very little concern. Whilst we recognise the problems, which about 11,000 Irish women experience every year, we have done little to provide supports and solutions for them.

"The biological, psychological and social impacts that pregnancy and child birth can have on women should be every bit as much of a concern for our health services as the physical and medical responses provided already.

"Women during and after pregnancy need diagnostic and treatment services which ensure their mental well-being. Depression and anxiety in particular during and after pregnancy cannot be trivialised.

"The restructuring of reproductive health care, as a woman centred model, is crucial to ensuring that depression related to pregnancy and childbirth is treated seriously.

"Screening and care should be provided to women during and after pregnancy to the standards of international best practice.

"We need to see the development of a peri and post natal mental health service which provides peri-natal screening for mental health, with a minimum of one screening per trimester.

"We need peri-natal mental health units working together, located north and south.

"The government must a post-natal screening model through GP’s and Paediatricians with bi-monthly screenings or alternatively in conjunction with the immunisation schedule.

"We also need to develop educational and supportive materials for the woman and her partner if applicable in order to better identify issues early on, and to prevent issues arising through self-care.

"Free counselling sessions should be provided to women after pregnancy and all women should receive a home visit from an appropriate professional within first 3 months after end of pregnancy.

"A policy that places the health of the woman as the primary consideration at all times in choosing any treatment.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education and Skills Kathleen Funchion said that the INTO were right to make the reduction of primary school class sizes a priority in their key demands for Budget 2020, stating that primary school classes here are the highest in the Eurozone, five above the EU average of 20 students per class.

Speaking today after attending the INTO’s briefing in Dublin on Budget 2020, Deputy Funchion said:

"Sinn Féin have consistently made the reduction of school class size a priority in pre-Budget submissions year upon year. Last year for Budget 2019 we proposed a reduction of pupil to teacher ratio by two points at primary level at an estimated full year cost of €26.8m.

"The INTO also highlighted today the critical need to increase funding for our primary level schools.  Capitation grants were cut by €30 in the recession and schools have been financially crippled as result with many relying on voluntary contributions which we in Sinn Féin believe are unfair on parents who already struggle to meet the standard  school costs.

"For our Alternative Budget 2019, we proposed to increase school capitation rates by 5% at an estimated €10m for the year. 

"A yearly increase in capitation is essential if we are working towards a full restoration of capitation grants. These are essential for everyday running costs of schools. 

"We support the INTO’s calls to focus on both primary school class size reduction and an increase in capitation rates at primary school level in Budget 2020."

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Speaking after the PSNI have called for a separate investigation into the murder of Jean Smyth-Campbell by the British Army in June 1972, Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said:

“The family of Jean Smyth-Campbell have been fighting for almost 50 years for truth and justice.

“Hopefully today’s decision will deliver on the family’s right to an independent investigation to access truth and justice and investigation which is human-rights compliant.

“Jean Smyth-Campbell’s family, like many others, are deeply hurt and frustrated at the continued delay by the British Government in accessing the truth.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support all families in their campaign for truth and justice.”

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Speaking after today’s launch of the 2019 Childcare Survey, Catherine Kelly MLA highlighted the negative impact of a lack of quality accessible and affordable childcare in the north. 

The West Tyrone MLA said:

“Properly resourced and supported childcare provision is vital to helping children with their development and allowing parents to continue in employment. 

“The latest survey launched today highlights a lack of proper childcare provision in the north - with 50% of families spending more than 20% of their overall household income on childcare. 

“It’s a reality that households in the north use significantly more hours of childcare than anywhere else on these islands. 

“The survey also found that 45% of female parents attributed the cost of childcare as the cause for a change in their work life. 

“A lack of accessible and affordable childcare is clearly impacting on parents across the north, particularly lone parents, women and those in rural or isolated areas. 

“There is an onus on all of us to ensure the affordability and accessibility of childcare for parents to access and for providers to deliver.

“I commend Employers for Childcare on the launch of the 2019 Childcare Survey today on what marks a 10-year milestone in their research series.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams today attended the National Showcase in the Mansion House in Dublin, organised by the National Youth Council of Ireland.

The Youth Work Changes Lives showcase brings together over 300 young people, from a range of youth organisations and from every constituency, to meet their local TDs and Seanadóirí and to share with them first-hand what they do, what they learn and the benefits of youth work for them and their communities.

Teachta Adams said:

“I want to commend all of those young people who participated today in the Youth Work Changes Lives showcase in the Mansion House and especially those from Louth, including Outcomers, AsIAm, and Louth and Meath Girl Guides.

“The Mansion House was packed to capacity with hundreds of enthusiastic young people eager to talk about and promote their projects and interests. It was a hugely impressive event and well done to all of those from Louth and across the state who participated.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has criticised the government for their inaction in the face of the planned hospital support staff strike tomorrow.

Deputy McDonald called on the government to keep their word with respect to the pay increases mandated by the job evaluation scheme in 2017.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“The government cannot act as spectators in the face of significant strike action tomorrow at 38 hospitals throughout the state.

"They must keep their word and ensure that the pay rises mandated by the job evaluation scheme are implemented.

“Hospital support staff are vital to our health services. They are the porters, healthcare assistants, chefs and surgical instrument technicians who provide essential services in our hospitals on often very low wages.

"They will strike tomorrow as a last resort due to sustained inaction on the part of government.

“The job evaluation scheme found that these workers are underpaid for the roles they carry out, with their pay failing to match their skill levels.

"The government’s failure to honour the recommendation of the scheme is what has led to the strike action tomorrow.

“The threat of strike action can be ended. Not by third parties or by the Labour Court or WRC. It can be ended by a government who keep their word and do not stand by and comment from the sidelines.”

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill MLA has asked the Head of the Civil Service to detail the potential implications for other government departments following the Court of Appeal Ruling on the backdated holiday pay for PSNI staff.

Speaking after the Department of Finance confirmed it was in discussions with unions following the ruling that PSNI staff were owed backpay totalling up to an estimated £40 million over 20 years.

Michelle O’Neill commented: 

“Clearly this case has potential implications right across the public sector and it is important that workers receive the correct pay to which they are entitled.

“In relation to the possible and significant budgetary impact on the wider public sector, it’s crucial we are fully aware as soon as possible of the current legal position and the potential future implications.

“I have written to the Head of the Civil Service on that basis.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has accused Minister Eoghan Murphy of being disingenuous in the response he gave when he was questioned on the provision of free Leap cards for homeless families during the summer break.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“My colleague Denise Mitchell, our spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, and I today questioned why Ministers Zappone and Murphy are unwilling to fund leap cards for homeless families during the school holidays.

“We have both raised this issue consistently with the Ministers responsible trying to get an answer on something which would have a positive impact on the day to day lives of families in emergency accommodation and little impact on the State’s purse.

“Recent reports from the Ombudsman for Children, The Children’s Rights Alliance, and academics have highlighted the negative developmental impacts both physically and emotionally on children and teenagers who are living in emergency accommodation.

“In his response to us today, the Minister for Housing gave the misleading impression that the government was providing temporary free Leap cards to homeless families while they sought a more permanent solution.

“However, when my office sought clarification on this from the National Transport Authority, it became clear that Minister Murphy was being disingenuous in response.

“The 2019 Kids go Free scheme that runs for the month of July will allow all children under the age of 15 free Leap card travel. This is similar to the NTA’s 2018 Kids go Free scheme.

“This initiative is in no way related to the Minister for Housing nor the Rebuilding Ireland commitment to ensure access to free public transport for homeless families.

“Minister Murphy should stop hiding behind the positive initiatives from other State agencies and sit down with Minister Zappone to offer a genuine travel solution for these families.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has welcomed moves by the Department of Health to extend the consultation on proposals to reshape stroke and breast assessment services to  August 2nd.

The Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA said:

“I welcome that the Department of Health have now extended the public consultation on proposals to reshape stroke and breast assessment services to August 2nd. 

“From the start, we have challenged the department to provide the public with the relevant information in terms of its processes and the evidence base for its proposals.

“Transformation of health and social care is needed if we are to achieve better health outcomes - but changes to services must be done in partnership with staff, service users and communities. 

“There has been huge public interest in this consultation and it’s welcome that the Department will host an extra public information session in Enniskillen allowing the community to have their say. 

“Sinn Féin will continue to seek answers on the proposals and would encourage members of the public to attend upcoming public engagements.”

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said the claims made by the not-for-profit sector that they are routinely coerced into signing service agreements which hide their deficits must be immediately investigated.

Speaking this morning, Deputy O’Reilly said:

“This morning the Oireachtas Health Committee heard from representatives from the not-for-profit sector and their role in the delivery of health and social services.

“The representatives from organisations who provide home help services, disability services, respite services, and many other health services raised serious concerns regarding organisations being coerced by the HSE into signing service arrangements which hide deficits caused by the HSEs failure to properly fund the organisations.

“It was explained to the committee that organisations who refused to hide these defects were punished, with the HSE withholding 20% of their funding until they agreed to sign a service arrangement essentially known to be false.

“This is incredibly coercive and manipulative behaviour by the HSE and warrants immediate investigation by the government."

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Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has reiterated his call for the Irish government to invest in improving passport office services across Ireland.

Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile was speaking after figures released today show that over half a million people have applied for Irish passports already this year.

Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said:

"March was yet another record-breaking month for Irish passport applications, with one-in-three applications coming from the North and Britain.

"In the first three months of this year, 58,000 passport applications came from the Six Counties.

"Figures released show that the Passport Office has received more than 100,000 applications each month.

“Since Brexit hundreds of thousands of people in the North have applied for Irish passports with the demand from Britain also up.

"Thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for the location of Passport Office facilities in the North.

“It’s time the Irish government finally took their heads out of the sand, accept the reality of this growing demand and plan for adequate provision, services and infrastructure across all of Ireland.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has called on the British government to compensate those impacted by the NHS contaminated blood scandal. 

Speaking after meeting with local families who have been affected in Derry, the Foyle MP said: 

“The contaminated blood scandal has to count alongside the worst medical injustices of all time. 

“The stories of what these people went through under the care of medical professionals are harrowing. 

“I welcome the Public Inquiry which is now underway and I hope it will uncover the truth of what happened during the scandal and the subsequent cover up.

“However the British government has a responsibility in the interim to ensure that those both infected and affected by the scandal receive the care and support they deserve. 

“I have written to Theresa May and called on her to ensure that victims of the scandal are supported.

“Theresa May has said there will be an uplift in compensation for victims in England but Karen Bradley has said she is not able to announce the same for the North. 

“Once again Karen Bradley, instead of doing right by victims, has attempted to use them as political pawns. 

“This scandal was carried out under the watch of the British Government. 

“They should do what is right and ensure the victims are looked after in the interim and that parity of financial support is implemented. They cannot wait until the conclusion of the inquiry. 

“I will continue to work with those affected by the contaminated blood scandal to ensure they receive the truth, justice and support they deserve.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has called for the removal of an offensive banner referring to a former British soldier accused of murder on Bloody Sunday close to Coleraine Railway Station to be removed. 

Caoimhe Archibald said:

“The appearance of a banner in support of Soldier F, the former British soldier accused of murder in relation to Bloody Sunday, at the Railway Station in Coleraine is concerning. 

“This is close to shopping centres, car parks and other amenities which are used by people from across the community and visitors to the north coast.

“We are due to welcome thousands of visitors to The Open which is due to be held in Portrush next month and this is not the inclusive welcoming image we want to be projecting.

“This banner will cause distress not only to the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday and those killed by the parachute regiment in Ballymurphy but also other victims of state violence. 

“It should be removed immediately.” 

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Sinn Féin Dublin Bay North TD Denise Mitchell has said a Sinn Féin Bill which aims to give hospitality workers a legal entitlement to their tips will prevent owners from picking the pockets of their staff.
 
Speaking in the Dáil on the Protection of Employee Tips Bill on Tuesday evening, Deputy Mitchell said:
 
“The situation in Ireland at the moment is that if you or I go out to a restaurant or a café, and you leave a tip for the staff who served you, there is no guarantee that the tip will actually go to the staff. That tip could end up in the business owner’s pocket. That is totally wrong.
 
“We know that hospitality workers are some of the lowest paid in the country and they are in an industry where workers rights are trod all over by a significant number of employers every day.

"All this Bill is doing is giving transparency to customers so they know where their tips go; and ensuring that business owners cannot pick the pockets of their staff,” she said.
 
Deputy Mitchell also hit out at the Government which she accused of attempting to sow confusion by announcing it is working on a similar but as of yet unseen Bill:
 
“The Government’s alternative proposals only prohibit employers from putting tips towards their employees’ wages. That doesn’t stop them from stealing the tips and putting them in their own pocket, or using them to pay for breakages or stock or whatever else.
 
“Instead, our Bill gives employees a legal entitlement to their tips, and that is a much stronger protection for workers.”
 

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Sinn Féin Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has said that the €668,571,000 flood relief scheme announced by Minister Kevin Boxer Moran this morning is a hugely necessary piece of work.

Councillor Ó Murchú said;

“The drainage works at Balmer’s Bog announced by Minister Moran this morning will have a hugely positive impact on people living in the Ardee Road area and across Dundalk.

“This was one of the areas which I had previously brought to the attention of the Minister

“I also asked Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran if there was any possibility of Government overspend on projects such as the National Broadband Plan and National Children’s Hospital impacting on the delivery of CFRAM projects in Louth and across the State.

“I am delighted that the Minister confirmed explicitly that these cost overruns would have no impact on any proposed anti flooding works.

“At this morning’s meeting with the Minister, Louth County Council Chief Executive Joan Martin confirmed that there are currently 1800 properties in Dundalk at risk of flooding.

“Any work to reduce this number and provide certainty for families is most welcome.

“I have queried the proposed timeframe on this project and Louth County Council staff have indicated that they will now enter negotiations with affected landowners.

“Once this is complete the Council will issue tenders for the works.”

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams added;

“In January 2016 I visited homes in Mounthamilton on the Ardee Road which were very badly flooded.

“The residents couldn’t get insurance for their properties due to the high level of flood risk.

“Some families living in this area have been flooded numerous times and the severity of the flooding has meant that families have had to move out for substantial periods of time.

“Since 2016 I have been liaising with Louth County Council to ensure these vital works are undertaken

“I welcome the announcement today and I know that this will be a huge relief to the families I have been working with and all of the residents in the area.”

Cllr Ó Murchú with Minister Moran

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald spoke in the Dáil this evening in support of her party's Bill which gives workers in the hospitality sector a legal right to the tips they earn.

Ms McDonald said:

“This is a simple but important piece of legislation and an important step forward in strengthening workers’ rights.

“Hospitality workers are often on low pay and suffer disproportionate levels of exploitation in the workplace.

“Most people are surprised to learn that workers don’t have a legal right to the tips they earn. This is a huge problem that can be fixed easily and quickly.

“Sinn Féin’s Bill ensures that workers’ tips are given legal protection by making it illegal for an employer to withhold or deduct them.

"It also requires businesses to display their tipping policy so that customers know how tips are distributed.

“Workers deserve their dues, they deserve fair treatment, they deserve their wages and they deserve their tips. I am calling on all parties and none to support this Bill and make this happen.”
 

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Tomorrow morning will see the Land & Conveyancing Bill come before the Justice Committee. Sinn Fein Justice spokesperson will be tabling amendments in order to strengthen the Bill with the aim of further protecting mortgage holders.

Speaking this evening Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: 

“I have tabled a number of amendments to the Land & Conveyancing Bill which I hope will strengthen the Bill further. This follows consultation with the Free Legal Advice Centre.

“Throughout the state there are tens of thousands of people in mortgage arrears who are worried about repossessions, despite their best efforts to make payments.

“The Government, backed by Fianna Fáil, has been far too slow to protect people, and prevent evictions. They have been more interested in making room for vulture funds.

“While the bill is welcome, it has several shortfalls and we have tabled a couple of amendments to further protect and benefit those in mortgage arrears.  

“Firstly, I have put forward two amendments which seek to allow the Bill apply to homeowners who are already in arrears - which it doesn’t allow for at present. This would provide protections for the thousands of ongoing cases that currently have none.

“We are also calling for the expansion of access to Civil Legal Aid for those facing legal cases in relation to mortgage arrears.

“Finally, I have submitted an amendment which would increase the powers of the Circuit Courts in allowing them to refuse repossession orders in particular circumstances - a safeguard which I feel could significantly benefit mortgage holders.

“I have yet to receive confirmation from the Minister as to whether or not he is happy to support any of these amendments, but I will be impressing upon him the significant deficit that exists in the legislation as it stands currently, and the impact which these amendments could have.

“I would hope that, in line with his comments to date these amendments will be warmly received.”

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The Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has called on former Minister for Justice Michael Noonan to make a statement on the Majella Moynihan case.

Ms Moynihan said on Monday that she spoke with Mr Noonan ten years ago, and he said her case represented an “internal Garda matter”

Ms McDonald also called on the Taoiseach to apologise to Ms Moynihan on behalf of the State and for an investigation to establish all facts surrounding this and similar cases.

Speaking in the Dáil she said:

“I was moved and saddened listening to Majella’s story this week. Those of us who grew up during that time were transported back to an Ireland of oppression and misogyny where women were vilified, isolated and damaged at the hands of church and State.

“I welcome the apology from the Garda Commissioner and the current Minister for Justice Flanagan. I would now call on the Taoiseach to formally apologise to Ms Moynihan on behalf of the State.

“There is an onus now to establish the full facts. We have heard anecdotal evidence that this was not an isolated case. More women have come forward to tell their stories. They should be heard and an investigation should take place.

“There is also a need to hear from former Minister for Justice Michael Noonan. Ms Moynihan states that she spoke with the Minister ten years ago who said that her case was an ‘internal matter’. 

"Mr Flanagan needs to clarify these remarks and make a statement. The Taoiseach should facilitate this at the earliest opportunity."

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed the launch of a new report which promotes the human rights and the right to housing of refugees and asylum seekers. 

Commenting after Participation & Practice Of Rights (PPR) and Housing 4 All launched a report on Refugee Week, the party's Housing Spokesperson said: 

“This week marks Refugee Week and an opportunity to raise the plight of refugees - but also to highlight the vital contribution they make to our communities. 

“Thousands of people are displaced daily by the horrors of war, persecution and poverty.

“It’s absolutely vital that people fleeing war and persecution have a welcoming, safe and secure environment in which to live. We all have a part to play in achieving this. 

“The launch of a new report by PPR and Housing 4 All is welcome in highlighting many of the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers including poverty, poor housing conditions and health issues. 

“In a housing survey, 31% of respondents stated that their home was not safe, liveable or secure. These are damning figures.

“Everyone has a right to proper living conditions. I will continue to raise these issues at future meetings with the Housing Executive and the Department for Communities."

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Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has welcomed the news that Technology company Futrli will create up to 80 jobs in Belfast with a £5.5m investment in the city.


Máirtín Ó Muilleoir commented:

“These jobs, which will be created over three years, are in software engineering and operations with average salaries of over £30,000, equating to a combined payroll of £2.5 million a year. 

“At a time when the uncertainties of a Tory Brexit looms over business, job creation at this level will provide a much-welcome boost for the local economy.

“It is also welcome news that Invest NI has offered £440,000 towards the new posts with the Department for the Economy providing £406,000 for training.


“These jobs will provide much-needed employment for the local area and enhance the region’s reputation and technology capability. It will also expand the skills base and I look forward to seeing them come to fruition.” 

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