Sinn Féin spokesperson on Disability Rights and Carers Pauline Tully TD has called for immediate clarity to be provided for adult disability service users and their families, following evidence to the Dáil's Special Committee on Covid-19 this week that some services may not resume until 2021.
"Adult day care services for people with disabilities have been suspended since March and many service users and their families have not had any proper supports for four months. This has been an unbelievably challenging time for all of those involved.
"Many families have informed us that there have been cases of anger outbursts and of loved ones being withdrawn or frustrated because of a lack of routine. Many involved have high dependency needs and there are care packages in place for them but these are not being utilised at the moment.
"Despite earlier indications that services would begin to resume in the coming weeks, evidence to the Special Dáil Committee on Covid-19 this week has suggested that some services may not resume until 2021. This is entirely unacceptable.
"Everyone appreciates the difficulties involved in dealing with the challenges posed by Covid-19, but this is a prime example of people with disabilities being failed once again. I cannot imagine what this news must be like for people and their families.
"Sinn Féin intend to raise this issue in the Dáil next week and we will be seeking full answers from the Minister."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has extended her condolences on the passing of US Congressman John Lewis.
“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of Congressman John Lewis.
“John Lewis and the other leaders of the civil rights movement in America were an inspiration to a generation of civil rights leaders in Ireland. He remained a staunch defender of equality, rights and reconciliation, and he was a good friend to Ireland.
“Today the world has lost a powerful voice for good; a leader who courageously led from the front in the fight against racism. His legacy can be found in the peace that we now enjoy and wherever peoples stand together against inequality, repression and injustice.
“I want extend my condolences to his extended family and to his very wide circle of friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”
Dublin Airport Authority's insistence that taxi drivers renew their airport permits - despite the fact that the vast majority are on reduced or zero hours - is unreasonable and unacceptable, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O'Rourke TD has said.
He has called on the Authority to suspend the airport fee - which costs €440 per vehicle - until passenger numbers reach 2019 levels.
"Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the taxi industry leaving many without work or on severely reduced hours. State support has been minimal but many overheads have remained.
"In addition to the range of issues affecting the industry, and which need immediate address by government and the NTA; such as licensing, NCT and vehicle suitability bureaucracies, airport taxis are now faced with an ultimatum from the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).
"Their insistence that airport taxi drivers renew their airport permits by the end of August - at a cost of €440 per vehicle - and without the usual option of payment by instalment, is completely unrealistic and completely unacceptable.
"Passenger numbers at the airport are down in excess of 95%, meaning work for many taxi drivers has dried up. Drivers report an average four hour wait for a fare.
"The DAA must realise the financial strain that this has placed on taxi drivers. They should engage with industry representatives and, in response to the pandemic-induced circumstances, suspend the airport fee until passenger numbers have returned to 2019 levels.
"The taxi industry is in urgent need of dedicated support at this time. Government, the NTA and the DAA all have a role to play."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O’Rourke TD has said that checks in airports and seaports need to be dramatically scaled up to meet the expected rise in international travel as a result of the imminent publication of the government's travel ‘Green List’.
Teachta O’Rourke said;
“The current restrictions on people arriving to our shores are completely inadequate.
“The government have put no checks and restrictions in place to deter all non-essential travel and to try and detect passengers arriving at our airports and seaports who may have Covid-19.
“The Passenger Locator Form and possible follow up phone call currently in place are not good enough considering the huge risks. Neither prove if people are currently abiding by the fourteen day quarantine requirement.
“We believe there should be a graduated response to the re-opening of foreign travel at an appropriate time - subject to public health advice. It is essential that a comprehensive testing and tracing regime accompanies this.
“In addition to a ‘Green List’, we believe there should be a ‘Red List’ published to specify countries with high levels of Covid-19 where all travel to and from would incur significant additional checks upon arrival back into Ireland.
“We have repeatedly called for proper checks and restrictions to be put in place at our airports. These should include;
“In addition, all visitors arriving from high-risk ‘Red List’ areas should be required to pay for their Covid-19 testing and accommodation at designated isolation facilities, and only be permitted to enter the State after the isolation period has passed, or two negative Covid-19 tests have been recorded.
“Such stringent checks on those coming from Covid-19 hot spots will help deter all non-essential travel and reduce the chance of the virus being imported from these areas.
“The publishing of the ‘Green List’ will inevitably see a rise in international travel. It is imperative that we have robust checks in place at our ports of entry to try and detect those carrying Covid-19.
“The progress made to date has come at a huge cost and we cannot let this be undone now.”
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay South Chris Andrews TD and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Louise O’Reilly TD have criticised the government’s mismanagement of the rates waiver, which has left countless Dublin City businesses unable to avail of the rates payments break because the responsible Department haven’t issued a circular to Dublin City Council on enacting the waiver.
Teachta Andrews said;
“Last week in the Dáil I raised serious concerns over the lack of government communication with Dublin City Council on the rates waiver scheme
“The failure to issue a circular to DCC about the rates waiver and how to implement it has left countless businesses without access to this much needed payment break.
“These supports are essential to small and medium businesses so they can reduce huge non-payroll expenses at this difficult time.
“Last week I asked the Minister of State for Employment Affairs and Retail Businesses Damien English why - two months on - the government has still not informed Dublin City Council of the three-month rates waiver for SMEs or updated them on the scheme.
“It is very frustrating that this matter hasn’t been addressed and many businesses have contacted me to say they have not been able to avail of the rates payment break, and they are now worried that the government will row back on the rates waiver.
“Since then I have been in contact with the Chief Executive of Dublin City Council on the matter, the Chief Executive stated very clearly to me that 'The introduction of the Rates Waiver Scheme is awaiting decisions by the Department on the actual details of the scheme. Despite intensive pressure from the local authority sector no circular has been issued with details of the scheme.'
“This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency so businesses can avail of the promised rates waiver.”
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“SMEs across the city are crying out for help in reducing non-payroll expenses through measures such as rates waivers. It is astonishing that these businesses have been let down in this way.
“We have a government that jumps to the defence of multinational companies worth billions, but they won’t even do the bare minimum to help SMEs, the backbone of our economy, here in the capital city.
“The Minister needs to resolve this matter with DCC urgently, and ensure the Council implements the Rates Waiver Scheme for SMEs.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has criticised the government for blocking insurance reform, after the Minister for Finance confirmed he would block the commencement of sections of the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act until September 2021.
This is despite the fact that the legislation, introduced by Deputy Doherty in 2017, was signed into law by President Higgins in December 2019 after passing all stages of the Dáil by an overwhelming majority.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Yesterday, the Minister for Finance confirmed he would be blocking crucial sections of the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act until September 2021, nearly two years after it was signed into law by President Higgins.
“This is a huge blow to consumers and small businesses, and is further evidence of a government that has been captured by the interests of the insurance industry.
“I introduced the Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill to the Dáil in January 2017, more than three years ago. It passed all stages of the Dáil at the end of 2019 with overwhelming support and was signed into law by President Higgins in December.
“This legislation shifted the balance of power away from insurers in favour of consumers. It was described as a game-changer by the Alliance for Insurance Reform and has been supported by ISME and small businesses across the State.
“Indeed, an online petition for this legislation to be given immediate effect has been signed by more than 9,500 people.
“The government plan to block parts of this legislation which form a crucial part of reforming insurance contracts and strengthening consumer rights
“These include making it harder for insurance companies to wriggle out of paying valid claims on spurious grounds, and increasing transparency on premium costs on renewal.
“The insurance industry has had three years to prepare for this legislation. It is clear that the government has bowed to the demands of the industry by blocking sections of this legislation for another thirteen months.
“Insurance reform cannot wait. Neither can consumers.”
Sinn Féin Party Group Leader on Belfast City Council Ciaran Beattie has condemned the erection of a sectarian banner at Roselawn Cemetery.
Speaking Councillor Beattie said:
“In the early hours of this morning a sectarian banner was erected at the entrance to Roselawn cemetery with an apparent gloating reference to the death of our friend and party colleague, Bobby Storey.
“This latest incident follows on from a series of repugnant banners which were placed on loyalist bonfires mocking his death.
“This ongoing campaign being orchestrated by faceless trolls and thugs targeting a grieving family must cease immediately.
“I am calling on Unionist political and community leaders to show leadership and to condemn those involved in these reprehensible actions.
“The Storey family, like all other families, deserve to grieve the loss of their loved one in peace.
“This banner has been reported to the PSNI as a hate crime.”
Speaking after the Covid-19 Committee this afternoon, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson David Cullinane TD has called for an urgent review of cancer care capacity, and for the HSE and Department of Health to urgently accelerate the return of cancer screening services.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“There is an urgent need to accelerate the return of cancer screening services.
“We heard this morning from the Irish Cancer Society that there are likely nearly 500 missed diagnoses of cancer already due to the suspension of these services.
“There was a lack of timely access to diagnostics pre-Covid. This has been compounded by the pandemic.
“We must have zero tolerance for missed diagnoses in cancer care. Worse service delivery leads to more complex problems, more costly solutions, and higher mortality rates.
“The Minister must urgently intervene and conduct a review of cancer care capacity. These services must be fully funded to catch-up on delayed screening and retain capacity to address need as it arises.
“Early diagnosis of cancer is critical to survival rates, and those with cancer cannot afford delay.”
Sinn Féin MLA and Infrastructure spokesperson Cathal Boylan has said that with the resumption of the North South Ministerial Council, progress on key cross border road projects must follow.
The Newry and Armagh MLA said:
“The North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) is the main body for all-Ireland co-operation between Dublin and Belfast .
“The NSMC provides an important opportunity to put and added focus on some key cross border projects.
“There are a number of projects that need to be progressed in the time ahead for example Narrow Water Bridge, improving the Dublin to Belfast rail line, Ulster Canal, and the A5 road upgrade.
“These projects are vital to improving connectivity and facilitating balanced economic growth on this island.
“At the last Infrastructure Committee meeting I inquired into the preparations made by the Infrastructure minister to ensure these projects are raised at the NSMC.
“Its vital that these projects are delivered and the NSMC has an important role to play in realising this."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has called on the Department of Finance and Revenue to set up an online tax calculator for employees in receipt of payments through the Wage Subsidy Scheme.
He has said that this will help to provide clarity to PAYE workers; many of whom could face a significant tax liability at the end of the year.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Almost 568,000 workers have received payments through the Wage Subsidy Scheme since it was put in place.
“These payments are subject to income tax and to USC. Since this tax is not being paid in real-time, Revenue has said that these workers will be liable for tax by way of review at the end of the year.
“Revenue has said that this liability will be offset against any unused tax credits for 2020, but for a worker receiving subsidy payments of €410 per week for twenty-two weeks, they are likely to have a tax liability in excess of €1,900, but unused tax credits of less than €1,400.
“Workers on the scheme need certainty in relation to their total tax liability and how it will be collected. At present, workers don’t know whether they will be required to make a lump sum payment at the end of the year.
“Any tax liability in excess of unused tax credits should be spread out over a sufficient length of time to provide certainty to workers.
“I have suggested that Revenue set up an online tax calculator for workers on the Wage Subsidy Scheme, providing their tax liability for subsidy payments, the amount of tax that will be offset by unused tax credits and how any excess liability will be treated in the year ahead.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, in response to an interview by the Minister for Education Norma Foley on RTÉ radio this morning, has said that there remain lots of unanswered questions for Leaving Cert students that deserve clarification.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
"Yesterday evening's announcement that this year’s Leaving Cert results will not be released until the 7th September is a massive blow to students and to their families.
"I find it astonishing that the Minister Foley said on RTÉ radio this morning that she didn’t answer questions in Dáil on this because she wanted to tell stakeholders first. If that was the case, she doesn’t seem to have discussed the matter with the key stakeholders in all of this - students themselves - and I note the statement of the Irish Second-Level Students' Union in this regard.
"While the Minister says that CAO and UCAS applications will be facilitated, there remains a lack of clarity for students who may be considering studies in other jurisdictions. We also need real clarity on how the results appeals process will work; especially with a very tight timeline in terms of CAO offers and the beginning of the academic year.
"What is most disappointing is the Minister's failure to acknowledge the complications that students and their families face in trying to start a third level course; like trying to find accommodation - this is not a paper exercise and there is a financial element to all of this too. A stressful time for many families has been made a lot more stressful because of this revised timeline.
"We need the Minister to come before the Dáil on all of these matters as soon as possible, and I will be making a request to the Ceann Comhairle today in this regard."
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has condemned the vandalism of a grave of in Milltown Cemetery.
The West Belfast MP said:
“In the early hours of this morning the grave of Warren Crossan was vandalised in Milltown Cemetery with the headstone and other family tributes destroyed.
“Those involved in this attack must be unreservedly condemned.
“Many grieving families find great comfort in visiting cemeteries, they are places of peace and reflection.
“The desecration of a grave is very distressing for any family.
“Those involved in this criminality should stop this activity and allow this family to grieve in peace.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has strongly criticised the announcement this evening that the Department of Education will not release Leaving Cert results until the 7th September.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“The announcement this evening that this year’s Leaving Cert results will not be released until the 7th September is a massive blow to students and to their families. They have been left high and dry.
“This is yet another example of a Department stumbling from crisis to crisis.
“This is a hugely disappointing turn of events for students and it adds to the uncertainty, stress and anxiety they have had to face during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Not only that, it raises serious questions about how the new third level year will work and when it will commence.
“We need real clarity now on how this announcement is going to impact on the beginning of the new third level year and what this means for students who have applied for third level places in other jurisdictions; many of whom have been offered a course and are awaiting their results to secure their place.
“We also need clarity on what this will mean for the results appeals process.
“All of these questions need to be answered without delay.
“This is not the fault of schools and teachers, who have held up their end of the bargain and submitted calculated grades on time.
“The responsibility for this debacle lies squarely at the door of the Department”.
Speaking the MP for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy said:
"We have written to both the Dublin and London Governments to express our concerns surrounding the cases of Mr Ramadhan and Mr Moosa, and in particular the allegations of torture in their supposed confessions.
“Mr Ramadhan and Mr Moosa were sentenced to death in 2014 for the killing of a policeman.
“However, Mr Ramadhan has continuously denied any involvement in the killing and said he has been subjected to beatings and electrocution.
“Meanwhile, Mr Moosa has said he was coerced into his ‘confession’ and the incrimination of Mohamed Ramadhan after being suspended by his limbs and beaten for several days.
“In recent months we have seen the emergence of evidence from the Bahraini government itself supporting these reports of torture.
“Despite this acknowledgement of torture to secure confessions, the court system has upheld the decision to put them to death.
“We are writing to ask for diplomatic intervention and condemnation on behalf of all Bahraini torture victims.
“The international community cannot stand by and allow for violations of due process and justice.
“Reports of torture and the noted rise in death penalty sentences since 2017 in Bahrain are cause for considerable concern. It also sets a disturbing new precedent.
“As Irish Republicans, we have seen the horrific impact that forced 'confessions' and miscarriages of justice can have; from the Hooded Men, to the Guilford Four, to the Birmingham Six and other cases.
“We hope that both the Irish and British Governments will utilise whatever influence they might have to ensure that these torture allegations are independently investigated and that they are granted a fair trial."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD has expressed disappointment that TDs have turned their backs on women by voting against extending maternity leave by 3 months for women whose leave has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Teachta Kerrane had submitted a motion to grant this three month extension and give mothers much needed support amid the unique challenges of having a newborn baby during lockdown.
She said: “I know that so many mothers and in particular
those who are part of the Extend Maternity Leave 2020 Campaign Group will be
bitterly disappointed with the vote this evening.
“They worked so hard reaching out to their elected representatives, sharing their stories and their difficulties. Despite their efforts, their pleas for help have been ignored by this Government.
“TDs had a clear choice to make in this vote this evening -
some chose to stand with those mothers, others turned their back on them.
“The Government’s amendment which passed in the House this evening offers no solution to the issues facing mothers and families - it does nothing for mothers whose maternity leave is coming to an end and who have no-one to look after their baby.
“I want to reassure these mothers that we will not give up. The campaign will increase and intensify in the coming days and weeks.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health Mark Ward TD has called on an end to the practice of admitting children to adult psychiatric hospitals after figures released by the Health Research Board(HRB) show there was also a 20% increase in the number of children admitted to psychiatric hospitals.
Teachta Ward said:
“We need to get rid of this draconian practice which sees some of our most vulnerable children with acute mental health needs admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals. It is a very frightening experience for any child to be admitted to a hospital for mental health reasons, but this is exasperated for those children who are placed into adult units.
“In 2019 there were 54 children admitted to adult units. A child or adolescent's first introduction to mental health care should not be through a service that is not specifically equipped to deal with their needs.
“Children and young people who are placed in these facilities are already in an incredibly difficult place with their mental health and this is unacceptable.
“These admissions happen due to capacity issues and staffing deficits in the health service.These failures are the responsibility of the management of the health service at the very top.
"This practice needs to be overhauled and tackled with urgency and has no place in a 2020 health service.
“According to figures from the Health Research Board (HRB) we have seen an increase in the number of under 18-year-olds admitted to psychiatric units and hospitals in Ireland. Admissions have increased by 20% from 408 admissions in 2018 to 497 in 2019
“There are only six Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) in the country and only two of them take out-of-hours admissions. These services are already at full capacity
“For too long mental health services have not had the same parity of esteem as other sections of the health service. This Government needs to ring fence funding to provide comprehensive mental health services across the board.
"Time will tell if this Government is serious about tackling the crises in mental health, but these children do not have this time; they need appropriate treatment now."
Sinn Féin MLA and chair of the Assembly’s Agriculture committee Declan McAleer has said suckler farmers are deeply disappointed they are unlikely to receive support from the £25 million COVID scheme.
Mr McAleer said
“Since Minister Poots released details of the scheme I have been inundated with calls from farmers with suckler herds who are angry that the criteria will effectively exclude them from the scheme.
“These farmers have also suffered as a result of COVID brought about by the lockdown of the food service sector, the closure of marts in April, and increasing inputs costs. I have spoken to farmers who contracted COVID themselves and could not work for weeks, which had a detrimental impact on their farm businesses.
“It has been pointed out that a higher threshold has been set for farm businesses accessing COVID funding compared to non-farm businesses. For instance, the application process for the Department for the Economy £10k small business grant and £25k business grants were relatively straightforward and there was a justifiable acceptance that all business had been impacted by the pandemic and as such, deserved support.
“However, in relation to farm businesses a different approach appears to have been taken. There has been an exceptionally high burden of proof placed on farmers and this has had a particularly devastating impact on suckler farmers who don’t have the receipts from meat factories or milk processors to demonstrate a loss but who have suffered greatly due to increased input costs and the closure of marts which forced them to sell livestock farm to farm at huge losses.
“I raised these issues directly with the Minister when he came before the committee a few weeks ago. I told him there were many disappointed beef and sheep farmers and I lobbied him to include these farmers in the £7m funding he has retained and in any additional funding his department receives from the Executive.
“This £25m support is very welcome but we also know that it will not address the multitude of challenges faced by farmers. At the outset, Sinn Féin proposed a blended approach to allocating this funding with a sizeable proportion distributed using entitlements.
“By taking this approach, every farmer would have got something but in the current scheme, suckler farmers will get nothing. Minister Poots needs to seriously consider how his department will support our primary sheep and beef producers going forward.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has described the statement issued by the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on the extension of the eviction ban as “a complete shambles”.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“The statement issued by the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on the extension of the eviction ban is a complete shambles.
“It beggars belief that this matter couldn’t have been satisfactorily resolved in advance of the deadline expiring on Monday. Renters need support and clarity now.
“It appears the government is blaming a restrictive interpretation of the Constitution by the Attorney General for its failure to provide real protections for renters. They cannot hide behind this as an excuse for not doing the right thing.
“At a minimum, they should have extended the ban until October. However, in reality, many renters need this protection until at least the end of the year.
“This is further evidence that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cannot be trusted to give adequate protection to renters.
“Their actions are not surprising and are adding to the uncertainty and stress experienced by many renters due to Covid-19."