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Ireland reaches target in Sinn Féin led EU campaign for global vaccine equity

Sinn Féin representatives David Cullinane TD, Colm Gildernew MLA and Chris MacManus MEP have welcomed Ireland’s success in reaching its national targets under the EU-wide No Profit on Pandemic campaign. The petition-based campaign was a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), which sought support from people across the EU for fair and affordable access to Covid-19 medicines for all. Upon the closure of the campaign on 1st August, 9373 Irish citizens had signed the initiative, with 259,930 signatures amassed in the EU as a whole.

The No Profit on Pandemic ECI was launched by 11 citizens in November 2020, calling on the European Commission to do everything in its power to make anti-pandemic vaccines and treatments a global public good, freely accessible to everyone. The 11 citizens, including Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin representing Ireland, were supported by left parties throughout Europe, with Sinn Féin coordinating the campaign in Ireland. 

“Back in 2020, Sinn Féin made this ECI an official party campaign because we were very aware that the current structure of the global pharmaceutical industry and intellectual property laws risked creating huge inequalities in access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments,” said David Cullinane TD. “Governments and the EU were putting huge amounts of public money into the development of vaccines without any guarantee that the resulting medicines would be accessible and affordable to all, particularly to people living in low-income countries. Unfortunately, our concerns have proved justified: the poorest countries are still struggling to get a first vaccine to the majority of their citizens, while pharmaceutical companies have raked in billions of euro in profits.”

The stark inequality in global vaccine access has worked to further exacerbate existing inequalities between high- and low-income countries, becoming a major global justice issue. The ECI was therefore supported by hundreds of NGOs and development organisations across Europe. In Ireland, Oxfam, Trócaire, GOAL, Amnesty, ActionAid, Access to Medicines Ireland, the Association of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, Cómhlamh, Dóchas, Misean Cara and the Irish Global Health Network all endorsed the campaign. The ECI also received the support of many trade unions and student unions who rallied their members to sign the petition.

“The strong civil society support for the initiative was mirrored in the support from the Irish people across the island, making Ireland one of the four countries that reached their national target,” said Colm Gildernew MLA. “As EU citizens living outside the EU can sign European Citizens’ Initiatives, the ECI was an important outlet for people in the six counties to continue engaging with EU affairs post-Brexit. Their voices join the hundreds of thousands who demand that the EU put the health of all people, no matter where they come from, above corporate profits.”

While the ECI did not meet its overall target of 1 million signatures, it serves to provide a clear mandate for the ongoing fight for vaccine equity as the Covid-19 pandemic rumbles on. The campaign mobilised NGOs, trade unions, political parties and healthcare associations across Europe, who are now organised and interconnected to continue to protect people’s right to healthcare. 

“The experience of this campaign has been a positive one, despite the continued refusal of the European Commission to listen to the voices of EU citizens, and the call of the European Parliament to support a full waiver of intellectual property laws to improve global access to affordable Covid-19 medicines,” said Chris MacManus MEP. “Ireland played our part in an EU-wide effort, driven by left and progressive groups, to stand in solidarity with those in low-income countries and to build a healthcare system based on people rather than corporations. Sinn Féin will continue to support the excellent work of our civil society comrades, particularly the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland, as the struggle continues.”  ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has said another hike in profits for a big energy company is a ‘kick in the teeth’ for workers and families who are struggling to heat their homes.

Speaking after BP announced that its profits have tripled, the North Belfast MP said the British government must do more to stop people being ripped off.

The North Belfast MP said:

“Workers and families woke up this morning to news that the profits of huge energy corporation BP have tripled as they struggle to pay to heat their homes.

“This is a real kick in the teeth given that the same energy corporations who are now lifting billions in profits are responsible for making people pay more for fuel.

“This cannot be allowed to continue. The British government must step in and ensure big corporations pay their way and call time on ordinary people being ripped off.

“People and businesses need support to pay their bills now as we approach a difficult winter with the rise in living costs and rise in inflation.

“Sinn Féin is ready to form an Executive today, to work with others, and start putting money in people’s pockets.

“The DUP’s boycott of government is increasingly cruel. They should get back to work now and put the interests of workers and families first.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said the British government should ‘call time’ on big energy companies and ensure they pay their way. 

And the finance minister said the DUP should end its boycott of the Executive and form a government to put money in people’s pockets. 

Conor Murphy said:

“We have repeatedly told the British government that they must act to support workers and families through the cost-of-living crisis as they struggle to pay their bills. 

“They should start by calling time on big energy companies – whose profits are through the roof – and ensure they pay their way and aren’t ripping off ordinary people. 

“Executive departments need more money to deal with the rise in inflation and the huge spike in living costs. The British government must step up and provide more money to ensure that can happen. 

“They have failed to help businesses under pressure with rising costs, they need action now to keep their doors open and protect jobs.

“This is the big challenge facing workers and families this winter. We need an Executive up and running immediately so we can start putting money in people’s pockets. 

“The DUP should end its boycott, rejoin the Executive and work with the rest of us to put the interests of workers and families first.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said the ongoing review of Invest NI provides a timely opportunity to ensure it’s fit to support businesses, create jobs and promote investment.

Speaking following after Invest NI's annual report showed it failed to deliver on its inward investment target, the party's economy spokesperson said:

"There has been significant interest from investors over the past year so it is concerning the target on inward investment has not been met.

"Sinn Féín has called for some time for reform of Invest NI. The ongoing review of Invest NI is a timely opportunity to ensure it’s fit to support businesses, create jobs and promote the north for investment.

"Invest NI has much more to do to support small local businesses, promote regional balance and maximise the potential of the all-island economy. It’s also imperative it promotes the opportunities of continued access to the EU market under the protocol.

“Invest NI’s efforts to attract jobs and investment is also being derailed by British government’s threats to break international law and its support for the DUP’s boycott of local democracy.

 “Businesses and investors need certainty. The British government needs to get back to the negotiating table with the EU and give businesses the stability they need to plan.”

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Sinn Féin First Minister-Designate Michelle O’Neill has written to the British Secretary of State today on his decision to approve a certificate which will conceal information on the death of Noah Donohoe.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“I have written to British Secretary of State Shailesh Vara today making it clear that the use of a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate to conceal information on the death of Noah Donohoe is totally unacceptable.

“We are talking about the tragic death of a 14-year-old child, his family deserves to have truth and transparency on what happened to this little boy.

“I previously raised my concerns on the matter with Chief Constable, Simon Byrne and Deputy Chief Constable, Mark Hamilton where the case has been put that any application for a PII certificate is wholly inappropriate and is adding significant distress to the Donohue family. 

“The application should be withdrawn immediately.

I will continue to support Noah’s mum and his family every step of the way in their search for truth, transparency and accountability.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has accused the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien of being "asleep at the wheel" as the latest Department of Housing homeless report shows homeless numbers surge upwards.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

"The latest report from the Department of Housing shows that in July there were 10,492 adults and children in emergency accommodation funded by the Department. This is an increase of 124 people since May.

"The number of children officially classified as homeless increased by 43 to 3,071. The most significant increase was amongst single adults - up 123 since May to 5,177.

"In July there were just 22 fewer people in emergency accommodation that at the October 2019 peak. There is little doubt that this high point has since been passed.

"The Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is asleep at the wheel as homeless numbers surge upwards.

"I have been calling for a number of months for an emergency response. Unfortunately the Minister is not listening.

"Social housing is way behind schedule. The private rental sector is shrinking. 

"Not a single emergency measure commensurate with the scale of the homeless crisis has been introduced to date. 

"We need an emergency ban on evictions into homelessness. We need an acceleration of social housing output. 

"We need the deployment of high quality modular homes to get people out of emergency accommodation. 

"We need a dramatic increase in the purchase of properties where HAP or RAS tenants have notices to quit. 

"If the Minister doesn't act in the days and weeks ahead, this crisis will continue to get worse."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said that it is now incumbent on the Minister for Agriculture to outline the additional measures that will deliver the agreed 25% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2030.

Teachta Carthy said:

“Ireland has never reached Climate Action targets under governments comprising of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens. This proves that setting targets without having a plan to implement them is pointless.

“While there has been much debate as to the precise sectoral emission ceiling for Agriculture, there has been little discussion as to how that ceiling will be met in a fair way that protects family farms and the rural communities that depend on them.

“Sinn Féin is absolutely committed to reach net zero to limit global temperatures as well as the interim 2030 target of 51% - our voting record in the Dáil on the Climate Bill and in relation to the carbon budgets reflect exactly that.

“In advance of sectoral targets being agreed, Sinn Féin sought and secured a meeting of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee with the Department of Climate and Agriculture in order to determine what steps would be required for each percentage point beyond the lower 22% limit.

“Both departments were entirely without answer.

“This will understandably cause concern in rural communities who have seen limited underlying documentation that simply outline broad punitive measures. 

"The best way to deliver emission reductions in agriculture is through assessing the current carbon sequestration, storage and emissions on a farm-by-farm basis. 

"This will allow us to incentivise farmers to reduce emissions, increase sequestration measures such as forestry, land restoration, the use mixed species swards; and engage in other important carbon reduction measures such as renewable energy generation. 

"That means, if necessary, any interventions are directed at those who don’t engage in these positive practices rather than broad sweeping schemes that target everyone.

“The Government has additional reports, data, and models that informed their deliberations in advance of the sectoral targets being set – they must now immediately publish these in-full.

“With all available information it will be possible to have an informed discussion involving all stakeholders, bringing the opposition, environmental bodies and farming organisations fully to the table; and attempting to unite broader Irish society behind a pathway that can actually achieve the climate action desperately needed, in a manner that will not be to the detriment of to ordinary workers families and communities.

“The approach by the current parties of government to Climate Action has too often been punitive, divisive and counter-productive. This has resulted in Ireland missing all Climate Action targets to date. Clearly a sea-change is required.

“Sinn Féin stands ready to work with government to bring forward proposals in the aim of achieving climate objectives. For agriculture, this requires a comprehensive plan outlining the measures proposed. 

"The Minister for Agriculture now has an obligation to produce this plan without delay and to engage with opposition and the sectors on its implementation."

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has called on the British government to take action on ‘scandalous profiteering’ by energy companies who are making a fortune, while ordinary workers and families are struggling to pay their bills.

The North Belfast MP said:

“It’s unacceptable that profits lifted by big energy corporations can go through the roof while ordinary workers and families struggle to heat their homes.

“The same energy corporations have delivered hike after hike to the price of gas and fuel in recent months, resulting in low and middle income families being forced to make difficult decisions just to afford their household bills.

“It is scandalous and can’t continue. I am calling on the British government to take action now to ensure that big corporations pay their fair share and are not ripping people off.

“They should do more to support people, this includes providing more money for Executive departments to meet the demands of inflation and the rising cost of living.

“Sinn Féin are ready to form an Executive today, to work with others and play our part to put money in people’s pockets and address this crisis. The DUP should end its boycott and get back to work now. People can’t wait.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has called on the insurance industry to slash premiums as figures released by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) show a large drop in personal injuries awards.

The Donegal TD called on the government to support his Judicial Council (Amendment) Bill which will hold insurance companies to account and pressure them to reduce prices in line with the reduced cost of claims.

Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:

“I welcome the annual report from the PIAB and the confirmation that average levels of awards have reduced since the introduction of Personal Injuries Guidelines in April 2021.

“The report shows that since their introduction, the average value of personal injury awards has fallen in all claim categories – including motor, public and employer liability.

“This will have led to a significant reduction in the cost of claims for insurance companies.

“This should also lead to a reduction in legal fees over time.

“These developments must now be met with an immediate reduction in insurance premiums that reflects, euro for euro, the reduction in personal injury awards.

“These guidelines were not introduced to prop up the profit margins of insurance companies but to drive down the insurance costs of motorists and businesses.

“My Judicial Council (Amendment) Bill would require the insurance industry to report to the Central Bank detailing how it has or hasn’t passed on these savings to customers. This would allow the Dáil to hold the industry to account and apply downward pressure on prices.

“While these recent figures from the PIAB show that the Personal Injuries Guidelines have driven down award levels, we need legislation such as this to ensure these savings are passed onto consumers. 

"This is what we must now see and I would urge the government to get behind this without further delay.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Fisheries and the Marine, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD has described today's news that the European Commission has approved an €80 million decommissioning scheme to reduce the size of the Irish fishing fleet by another 60 vessels as a "tragic blow".

This will take the size of the offshore fleet over 18 metres to about one third of what it was in 2006 (280 down to 100).

Teachta Mac Lochlainn said:

“Today’s announcement is another tragic blow to our fishing and coastal communities. The intentional and managed collapse of our fishing industry is truly shocking for an island nation that should be maximising the immense and precious resource for our people from the seas around us.

"Reducing the size of the Irish fishing fleet to one third of what it was 15 years ago is a damning indictment of successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael led Irish Governments that have allowed our precious fishing resource to be taken from our people.

“Every single day our fishermen have to sit back and watch the hoovering up of massive volumes of fish from our own waters and then transported back to various European fishing ports.

"Decommissioning will be accepted by some in the industry that have been broken by bureaucracy, inequality and unfairness from the unjust Common Fisheries Policy, and facilitated by a Department of Marine and successive Irish Governments that have been unwilling to stand up and fight Ireland’s corner. 

"We are paying the political and practical price of many years of weak representation at the negotiating table in the EU.

“Even at this late stage, I would appeal to the Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and his Department to seek to amend this scheme to one where retirees could pass on their entitlements, (tonnage and horsepower) to young fishermen.

"To do anything else is to just wave the white flag of surrender rather than to fight for what is right, a fair share of the fish in Irish waters for our own fishing communities."

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Responding to reports that agreement has been reached by cabinet on Sectoral Emissions Ceilings, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O'Rourke TD, has said that the government needs to move away from the divisive, punitive approach to climate action to have any hope of achieving emissions reductions.

The Meath East TD also called on government to honour its commitment to publish all of the analysis which informed the ceilings negotiations.

Teachta O’Rourke said:

“I note the reports that agreement has been reached on the sectoral emissions ceilings. 

“Sinn Féin has consistently said the ceilings must reach the 51% national objective and that every sector must do its fair share. 

“Government should now publish the models and all of the analysis which informed these ceilings negotiations in order to show the range of options considered and the trade-offs and compromises that have been agreed. 

“They must also set out, in Budget 2023 and Climate Action Plan 2022, policy proposals and a clear pathway to achieve these emissions reductions.

“While there is much focus on targets, we have been here before. Targets have been set and, on every occasion, targets have been missed. 

“It is clear that this government's divisive, punitive approach to climate action is not working. The EPA report last week confirming an almost 5% increase in overall emissions in 2021 is proof positive of that.

“Sinn Féin has consistently advocated for a just and fair transition to be at the heart of climate action. The necessary public support for emissions reductions measures will not be achieved in any other way.

“To actually achieve, rather than just set targets or talk about emissions reductions like the current government do, Sinn Féin in government would ensure the planning system is fully equipped to address existing delays and to realise the extraordinary potential of our off-shore wind resource - for energy independence and jobs and economic opportunity in rural and regional Ireland. 

“We would transform rural public transport. We would deliver an area-based national retrofit scheme that prioritises based on need not ability to pay. We would give good examples to our young people by making schools ‘centres of climate action’. We would fund solar panels for every school - to reduce electricity costs and to introduce children to the benefits of renewable energy. 

“We would transform the school commute by adding 10,000 extra places on the school transport scheme -  eliminating the need for >40,000 car journeys per day and getting children into the habit of using public transport - and we would also eliminate fees over two years.

"These are the types of ambitious, transformative measures that are needed to empower sectors and communities, and to deliver emissions reductions. 

“If government does not change its approach, it will continue to fail.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Deirdre Hargey has branded huge profits made by big energy companies “scandalous” while workers and families are struggling to feed their families and heat their homes. And she said the British government must act now to curb further energy rises which will pile more misery on to working families.

Speaking after it was revealed that profits made by the owners of British Gas reached £1.34 billion, the South Belfast MLA said: 

“It’s an absolute scandal that while ordinary workers and families are struggling to pay their bills, the big energy companies who are hiking up their prices, continue to make a fortune in profits. 

“It’s predicted that gas prices will rise again as we approach the winter. People simply cannot cope with another hike to their household bills. 

“The British Chancellor needs to act now to ensure big corporations pay their way and are not ripping off ordinary people. 

“The British government should also provide more money so that budgets for executive departments here are increased to reflect the spike in living costs and to help give fair pay to workers.

"The Tory government has also failed to help businesses under pressure with rising costs, businesses need action now to keep their doors open and protect jobs

“We are facing a difficult winter. We need an Executive up and running now so that we can start putting money in people’s pockets and deal with the rising cost of living, people can’t wait any longer for support. 

“I am calling on the DUP to end its boycott, form an Executive today and work with the rest of us to put the interests of workers and families first.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has said it’s deeply concerning that one of the first actions by the new British Secretary of State was signing off on a certificate to conceal information on the death of 14-year-old Noah Donohoe. 

The North Belfast MLA also called on the PSNI to withdraw the application for a Public Interest Immunity certificate (PII) to give ‘truth and transparency’ to the Donohoe family. 

Gerry Kelly said:

“One of the first actions of the new British Secretary of State, who has only been office for a number of weeks is signing off an application for the PSNI to conceal information related to the Noah Donohoe case. 

“This is deeply concerning and I am again calling on the PSNI to withdraw this application, because the Donohoe family deserve answers, not secrecy and cover up. 

“Public Interest Immunity certificates (PII) are used to conceal information. They were and are extensively used to hold back information in conflict legacy cases. 

“This inquest is about the death of a 14-year-old child. It is not conflict related.

“We will continue to stand with the Donohoe family in their campaign for truth, transparency and accountability.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has welcomed the publication of the Report of the Working Group to Examine Defects in Housing. 

The Dublin Mid-West TD has called on government to move quickly to establish a Celtic Tiger era defects redress scheme.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“I welcome the publication of the Report of the Working Group to Examine Defects in Housing. It makes for sobering reading.

“It is 11 years since the residents of Priory Hall were evacuated from their homes on foot of a court order due to fire safety defects.

“For 11 long years, owners of defective properties have lived with fire safety, water ingress and other structural defects.

“Many of those homeowners have been left paying huge bills to fix defects they did not create.

“Others, unable to afford to remediate their property have had years of sleepless nights wondering how safe the home they are sleeping in is.

“The detailed report published today estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 properties could have some category of Celtic Tiger era defect. The possible cost could range from €1.5bn to €2.5bn.

“Government must move quickly to establish a Celtic Tiger era building defects redress scheme. The details of the scheme must be included in September's budget announcement.

“The quickest and most effective way to do this would be to repurpose the Pyrite Resolution Board to deal with structural defects. This would mean a scheme would be open for applications from owners’ management companies in 2023.

“It should also ensure that any scheme is open to both retrospective and future remediation claims. Additional funding must be provided in Budget 2023 for this beyond the €20m allocated for the Pyrite Resolution Board.

“The remediation scheme must also include houses, as well as apartments and duplexes and properties owned by Approved Housing Bodies.

“Minister O’Brien now has a unique opportunity to undo a decade-long wrong committed against homeowners who bought their homes in good faith, and who should never have been subjected to the emotional and financial stress and trauma that they have endured to date.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Jemma Dolan MLA has extended solidarity to BT and Openreach workers due to take strike action for fair pay.

Speaking ahead of the industrial action on Friday, the party’s workers’ rights spokesperson said:

“Workers are entitled to fair pay and conditions for the work they do.

“The rising cost of living is having a huge impact on workers and families in the north and right across Ireland, while some companies are making huge profits.

“Sinn Féin recently emphasised to BT directly that, as a company posting £2 billion profits, they should be supporting their workers, particularly the lowest paid, by delivering a fair pay offer to their staff.

“These companies need to engage directly and meaningfully with trade union representatives to resolve the dispute.

“We also need an Executive up and running immediately so that we can progress legislation that strengthens protections for workers.

“Sinn Féin extends solidarity to workers and trade union representatives seeking fair pay in the midst of the cost of living and inflation crises.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has commended the courage and dignity of victims and families impacted by the neurology scandal.

Speaking after meeting families impacted by the Neueology scandal along with First Minister Elect Michelle O’Neill today, the North Belfast MLA said:

“Today, myself and Michelle O’Neill met with families impacted by the neurology scandal, victims that suffered significant trauma caused by misdiagnosis and the wrong treatment.

“This led to the biggest recall of patients ever in the north and exposed unacceptable failures in our health system.

“Opportunities were missed and they failed to protect patients who put their trust in them.

“The strength and dignity of the families in their pursuit of truth and justice is to be commended.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support their campaign for the accountability and redress they deserve.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has called on the British government to ‘get real’ on tackling the cost-of-living crisis.

The party's economy spokesperson said: 

"The British government must get real on the impact of the soaring cost of living and take action to help struggling workers, families and businesses. 

"Inflation is at a 40-year high and workers and families are struggling with ongoing rises to the price of food, fuel and electricity.

“Sinn Féin has continuously called on the British government to cut taxes on fuel, to reverse the National Insurance hike and to reinstate the red diesel rebate. The reduced rate of VAT should also be reintroduced for businesses that had it reduced during the pandemic, including bars and restaurants. 

"It is quite incredulous to listen to Tory leadership candidates now talk about taking some of these actions, which in some instances would be u-turns on things they themselves have implemented, when they've sat on their hands for months.

"Regardless of who becomes the next British Prime Minister, people are facing a difficult autumn and winter and we need to see action and not empty promises." 

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has said that there is growing evidence of continued momentum for Irish unity, with increasing support for a unity referendum and the need for meaningful discussion about constitutional change according to the latest published opinion poll from the Irish Studies - University of Liverpool/Irish News. 

The South Antrim MLA said:

"The most recent polling on Irish unity shows an increasing trajectory in support for the reunification of Ireland. 

"There has never been a greater interest in discussing and planning for future constitutional change. Sinn Féin believes there must be an informed, reasoned and inclusive conversation on how Irish unity will deliver a new constitutional framework which guarantees rights, protections and equality for every citizen across this island. 

"The current situation in post-Brexit Britain and the resultant chaos, confirms the dominance of neo-Thatcherite ideology within the Tory party. 

“This Tory government has played a consistently destructive role in relation to both our peace and political processes and their recklessness has increasingly isolated Britain within the international community. 

"By contrast, Ireland is on the cusp of an historic opportunity to unravel the  generational political, social and economic trauma which partition has brought about.

"The planning for change which needs to be taken forward must be inclusive and sympathetic to every culture and tradition on our island. This latest opinion poll provides new vindication of the need for the Irish government to establish an all island Citizens Assembly to advance that process.

"In the meantime, the newly announced Commission on the Future of Ireland by Sinn Féin, provides a positive opportunity for everyone to share their views on how a new Ireland can emerge. 

"The Commission is a forum within which we can begin to deepen a dialogue and understanding about the future; and which seek to address existing fears and insecurities, as well as new opportunities integral to a new and agreed Ireland.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has called on the DUP to get back to work so that plans to eradicate Bovine TB can be progressed.

The party's agriculture spokesperson said:

“Bovine TB in livestock is a serious animal welfare issue that must be addressed urgently.

“It also places a huge emotional and financial strain on farmers and their families and action is needed to protect our family farms from the threat of this disease.

“The strategy for eradicating Bovine TB requires Executive approval so I am urging the DUP to get back to work with the other parties so that we can support our family farms and address this issue now.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, today called for a full explanation from Minister Catherine Martin as to why the long-awaited basic income for the arts has been delayed for the third time since applications closed.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:

“Minister Martin has spent over a year promising artists whose livelihoods were destroyed by pandemic restrictions that a basic income was on the way.

"The Minister provided hope to many when she committed €25 million to it in the Budget last year on the basis that applications would open in early Q1 2022, with the first payments promised for April.

“Instead, applications did not open until April, and now we know it will be after Budget 2023 before any funding actually reaches artists’ pockets.

"Applicants were then emailed in May to say that the high level of applicants – 9,000 – meant they applicants would have to wait until June to find out if they were successful. Then they were emailed in June to say the same high level of applicants meant they had to delay until July.

"Now as July draws to a close, they received a third email, with the same excuse about the high level of applicants being used to justify delaying selection until September.

“Given that there has been no change in the number of applicants since May, why the repeated delays? This comes after the opening of applications was delayed, as a result of the consultation with stakeholders being delayed from last year.

“This effectively means that the €25 million promised for the scheme in Budget 2022 was a phantom figure, and won’t in fact be spent this year.

“To the many artists who have been forced to sell equipment, leave the sector, or even emigrate to make ends meet in the meantime, a €25 million underspend for vital arts supports at a time when the sector is on its knees would be a total betrayal.

“Minister Martin has proven utterly incapable of keeping her word to our artistic community and cultural workers. How many more months can they face being strung along with the promise of getting supports, if they’re lucky enough to be picked at all?

“It was a shameful decision to begin with for the Minister to turn what was originally proposed by the Taskforce as a recovery programme for all artists and arts workers into what is now essentially a lottery system for the lucky few, based on pure chance rather than need, that won’t reach anybody until far too late to aid recovery.

“Minister Martin must explain how her Department ended up blindsided by 9,000 applications to begin with, when the very report where the basic income was first proposed itself identified a potential 55,000 directly employed in the wider arts sector.

"What sort of numbers had been expected and planned for, and what work went into setting deadlines and making sure they were realistic before making promises they could not keep?

“Had she been honest from the start about timelines, Minister Martin could have put in place a robust system of temporary immediate supports at the same time as this pilot was being developed – like Sinn Féin’s proposal for a Hardship Fund to help those struggling most – instead of rejecting them on the basis that this basic income would be up and running within no time.

“Instead of unachievable deadlines and phoney excuses, it’s time for government to give artists some respect. The 9,000 applicants need a cast iron guarantee from Minister Martin that they won’t get another last-minute email in September telling them they’ll just have to wait another few months.”

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