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Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly has said the cost of childcare must be affordable and accessible for families.  

The party’s Children and Young People spokesperson was commenting on reports by trade unions that childcare bills in the north are 50% higher than England, Scotland and Wales.  

Catherine Kelly said:

“Rising costs in childcare are leaving many parents who work full time significantly short of being able to afford a basic acceptable standard of living.

“Childcare is central to facilitating experienced workers, particularly women, to continue working after a child is born. 

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

“To meet this reality, workers should be paid a living wage to allow families access to quality childcare which is beneficial to a child’s development. 

“Childcare must also be affordable and accessible for families and in the short term available resources must be prioritised for those in need.”

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Deputy Louise O’Reilly, has said that Dr Gabriel Scally’s latest report into the CervicalCheck scandal must establish the full facts into the outsourcing of smear tests to labs not inspected by HSE.

Speaking this morning, Deputy O’Reilly said:

“The latest report into the CervicalCheck scandal will reveal that thousands of smear tests from women in Ireland were outsourced to labs across the United States despite the centres not being inspected by CervicalCheck.

“I hope that the full publication of Dr Gabriel Scally’s report can clarify if this outsourcing to non-inspected labs had an impact on testing and if any mistakes were made. 

“I really hope this has not been the case, because there has been too much suffering for affected women and their families, and confidence in the screening programme has been so badly hit.

“However, I must state that the HSE needs to stop making a rod for its own back through actions like this.

“Running a health service is incredibly complex, and nobody is saying for a moment that a health service can be run without mistake or human error, but the HSE has a duty to make sure that it is protecting patients through oversight of outsourced services and that it is protecting the public purse by making sure these services are up to scratch and are not going to result in mistakes and therefore court cases.

“Finally, I genuinely hope this report restores confidence in the CervicalCheck programme - the programme has limitations, but it is invaluable, and it saves lives and will continue to save lives."

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Sinn Féin TD for Carlow/Kilkenny Kathleen Funchion has called upon Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to support a Sinn Féin Bill which aims to give hospitality workers a legal right to their tips when it is debated at Report and Final Stage in the Seanad, this Wednesday.

Teachta Funchion said:

“The Protection of Employee Tips Bill, introduced by Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan would make it illegal for an employer to withhold, deduct, or demand the return of a tip from an employee without a lawful excuse. The Bill would also require employers to display their tipping policy either on their menu or in another suitable manner so that customers have transparency with regard to whom and how their tip is distributed.

“The Bill has received cross-party support to date and Sinn Féin are pushing for the Bill to be enacted in both Houses of the Oireachtas by the Autumn of this year.

“This is a simple Bill which would give protection to employees who work in a hospitality sector dominated by low pay and precarious work. Most people are surprised to hear that workers do not, in fact, have a legal right to their tips. Research produced in 2017 highlights that one-third of all tips are stolen by employers on a regular basis.

“The Bill already has full support from Labour, the Civic Engagement group, and many Independents.  If this cross-party support extends to Fianna Fáil & Fine Gael, we can pass this short and simple Bill through both Houses of the Oireachtas by the Autumn which would ensure that workers’ Tips are finally given legal protection.

“The Sinn Féin Bill has also received tremendous support from the trade union movement, particularly from ICTU and the OneGalway and One Cork organisations. These groups understand that this Bill is all about fairness and decency.” 

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Confirmation of progress towards holding legacy inquests is a welcome step forward for families seeking truth and justice, Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has said. 

The party’s legacy spokesperson was commenting after families received notification that Justice Keegan will hold a listing in September to set out a timeline to begin legacy inquests.

Linda Dillon said:

“This is a welcome step forward for all families seeking the truth of what happened to their loved ones during the conflict. 

“Families have been waiting far too long - many up to 50 years - for the basic right to a coroners inquest and are relieved to see movement on their journey to achieving the truth. 

“We now need to see the full implementation and proper funding for the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in 2014.

“The British government must stop dragging its heels and bring forward the legislation that will allow grieving families to access due process.”

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Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has criticised British government plans to end free TV licences for over 75s. 

The Newry and Armagh MP said: 

"This is yet another example of the Tories penalising large sections of our society. 

"This move could put the price of a TV licence beyond some pensioners which would increase isolation and have a negative impact on their mental health. 

"Older people who are in receipt of pension credits will still be able to avail of free TV licences so I would encourage pensions to check if they are eligible."

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Sinn Féin Councillor for Waterford City South Breda Brennan has been elected mayor of Waterford City Metropolitan District.

Speaking this evening, Cllr Brennan said;

"I am honoured and privileged to be elected Mayor of the Waterford City Metropolitan District. 

"I want to thank my council colleagues for putting me forward and those who voted for me. I will work tirelessly over the coming year to serve the people of my proud city.

"Waterford City is a splendid place to work, play and live. 

"I intend to use my term to promote all of Waterford and all that it has to offer. Our city is surrounded by a beautiful coastline, world class public gardens and of course the new Greenway.

“However, Waterford’s successes are matched by many challenges. High levels of unemployment, the need for a University for the region, the development of the Airport, the expansion of the North Quays and the vital requirement for 24/7 emergency cardiac care at University Hospital Waterford must be delivered by all of us working together.

“We must refocus, regroup and work together for the betterment of all of the people of the South East. The addition of the second Cath Lab represents progress but it cannot stop there. I will champion all of these issues and more in the year ahead. 

“I intend to put young people front and centre in my year as Mayor. Young people are our future. They must have a stake in the development of our City. We must listen to our young people more and especially in the content of formulating development plans. 

“There are many more groups I intend to work with over the coming year. From those who advocate for carers, community and voluntary groups and sporting groups from across the city - I will do my best to be a voice for you all.

“Lastly, I want to thank my party Sinn Féin for putting me forward. We are Irish republicans. We strive for a new united all island society based upon the ideals of the 1916 proclamation which remains undelivered. We wish for fairness, social justice and equality to be at the heart of decision making to deliver rights automatically.

“I look forward to the challenges the time ahead will bring."

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New information published by the Department of Health on proposals to reshape stroke and breast assessment services does little more than acknowledge the concerns raised so far, Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has said.

The party’s health spokesperson was commenting after supplementary information on the proposals was published today.

He commented: “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.

“Everyone agrees that transformation of health and social care is needed if we are to achieve better health outcomes. Service transformation must be done in a process along with staff, service users and the communities they serve.

“The questions that need to be addressed on the reshaping of stroke and breast assessment services, remain unanswered.

“In the upcoming public engagements, Sinn Féin will be seeking answers and we would encourage members of the public to attend.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said the announcement from the Department for Economy that students from EU states beginning courses in the 2020 academic year will be guaranteed home status fees and supports to study in the north for the duration of their courses is welcome but added that further clarity is needed.   

The party's further and higher education spokesperson said:  "The news that EU students beginning courses in 2020 will continue to have access to home status fees and support for the duration of their course will provide some reassurance to students currently considering their university applications, particularly for students in the south considering studying in the north. “However, the fact this clarification is even necessary once again highlights the utter absurdity of Brexit and the entirely negative impact it will have. "Brexit limits opportunities for young people and puts up barriers where currently there are none in terms of the ability for young people north and south to study, work and gain experience in other EU states. "While this clarity is welcome, it is of course only for the 2020 academic year and the future of fees and supports for students north and south remains unknown. “Students currently making important decisions on their future need certainty and should not be punished by Tory Brexiteers and their DUP allies." 

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Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has called on everyone involved in farming to take heed of safety warnings on mixing slurry. 

The Mid Ulster MP said: 

"Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the north and unfortunately we have had a number of tragic deaths on farms in recent years. 

"In the last two weeks four deaths have been narrowly avoided in incidents involving slurry mixing, prompting the Health and Safety Executive to issue a warning to farmers. 

"I would urge all those involved in farming to take heed of this warning and to show extreme care and caution while mixing slurry. 

"We don't want to see any more death on our farms across the north."

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Sinn Féin MLA Phillip McGuigan has encouraged people to take part in cycling to help the environment and also improve physical and mental health.

The party’s Infrastructure spokesperson was commenting at the beginning of Cycle Week which runs until 16 June. 

“Bike Week is about participating in everyday cycling and experiencing how it can fit into and improve your daily life. 

“Cycling is not only beneficial to the environment through reducing greenhouse gasses and air pollution by opting to use your bike instead of a car but there are also enormous physical and mental health benefits to cycling and it is also fun. 

“I would encourage people to use this week to protect the environment, raise awareness of the many benefits of cycling and urge friends and family to jump on their bikes.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Kenny TD has said that Irish fishers have been fishing off Rockall for centuries and that diplomatic moves must be made urgently and the fisheries community protected.

Deputy Kenny said:

“The government must defend the rights and interests of our fishing community who are trying to earn a living, as they have done for centuries.

“Diplomatic moves must be made urgently and the fisheries community protected. Sinn Féin will fully support the government to do this.

“Scotland’s actions are hostile and unprovoked and more to do with internal Scottish politics than any contrived outrage at a practice which has continued without problem or comment for centuries.

“We cannot allow any situation to develop where Irish boats are impounded by the Scottish authorities. Both Ireland and Scotland operate under the Common Fisheries Policy and trying to create an exclusion zone around a rock in the ocean flies in the face of international law.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has called on the Irish government to provide funding to support the economic regeneration of the north west. 

The Foyle MP said:

“It is now more than a month since the British government announced a £105m funding package for the city deal and inclusive growth deal for the north west. 

“This was a welcome first step towards proper funding for the inclusive growth deal for the wider north west but more is needed. 

“In particular, we need to see the Irish government providing financial support, as promised, to support the redevelopment of the north west region as a whole. 

“I have had a number of meetings with An Taoiseach and An Tánaiste to discuss the need for this funding to help unlock the economic potential of this region. 

“The Irish government have an important part to play. I am urging them to now make a significant contribution to the inclusive growth deal package.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Minister for Housing to conduct an immediate review of co-living planning regulations.

The review must also consider the impact of high-end student and co-living accommodation on land prices, residential prices and on development projects. 
 
Deputy Ó Broin said:
 
“Minister Murphy amended the planning law to facilitate co-living and high-end student accommodation developments without thinking through the consequences of these changes.
 
“Unfortunately, the developers of these projects did think it through and are already looking to exploit loopholes to deliver small, expensive, bedsit style accommodation to young professionals.
 
“A story by Killian Woods in the Sunday Business Post yesterday highlighted how a company that was originally providing high end student accommodation has been granted permission to lease almost two thirds of the 966 beds to non-students.
 
“There is nothing be excited about in terms of promoting of this kind of living at the expense of affordable homes.
 
“An article by Mel Reynolds, a housing policy analyst, in The Journal.ie today highlights how developers are choosing to build this kind of accommodation over traditional apartment units due the scale of profit that can be made by squeezing more units into a site.
 
“This in turn increases the cost of land and makes the delivery of residential units for workers and families more expensive to deliver.
 
“The Minister must now review the planning regulations that have gotten us here.

"The proliferation of high-end student accommodation on sites across the city and the build to rent market are not adding to the affordable housing supply and is pricing workers and students out of the city.”

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Speaking today, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD said that any restriction of home help hours will have “a devastating impact on older people and their families”.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The news that the HSE are curtailing home help hours represents a backward step and this decision will not only result in a loss of more money for the HSE, but it could also mean families will end up having to pay for private care for their loved ones. 

“Every single day, we are hearing from patients who are in hospital but cannot be discharged because the HSE are not providing enough home support hours.

“Home help, in particular directly employed home help, is exceptional value for money and it enables elderly people to remain in their home or be safely discharged from hospital. 

“Without enough home help being provided, patients have to remain in hospital which is a huge cost to the HSE, or else families are forced to pay privately for home help – both these situations are unacceptable.

“Funding for home support should have been increased in last year’s budget by at least 10%, as Sinn Féin called for, this would have cost in the region of €40m and would have ensured that anyone who needed home help received that support.

“This government talk a lot about value for money, but when it comes to action they fall short.” 

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Speaking after attending today’s Time for Truth March Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill said:

“I was proud to march with the families here today demanding truth and justice.“Those attending today’s march did so with common cause. Did so to have their voices heard loud and clear that they demand access to truth and justice. “Some of these families have been campaigning for decades and the Ballymurphy families are only having an inquest 48 years on from the killings of their loved ones.“It is wrong and unacceptable that families have to take to the streets once again to get access to the truth five years after the two governments agreed legacy mechanisms at Stormont House.“Since then the British government has stalled and delayed the legislation to give effect to these mechanisms.“That stalling must end, the cover up on the British state’s role in the conflict must end.“The British government has a responsibility to implement the Stormont House Agreement, fund the legacy inquests and ensure the Police Ombudsman’s office has adequate resources.“The families of the victims deserve no less.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Donegal Pearse Doherty has said that we cannot abandon Irish fishermen when they are going about their business under threat from Scottish and British authorities in the waters that do not belong to Britain.

Teachta Doherty said:

“The first priority here is the Government needs to defend the interests of the Irish fishing community. The escalation of developments over the past week by the Scottish authorities is seriously unhelpful. It also puts the future of fishing communities at serious risk.

“The situation needs to be resolved and we are calling on the Government to escalate diplomatic discussions with the Scottish authorities and British authorities to make sure that the interests of our fishing community is defended and they will have the full support of Sinn Féin in doing that.

“Scotland’s actions are unwarranted and such hostile statements and threat of action are in stark contrast to a nation has signed up to the EU common fishery policy has said that it wished to remain in the European Union.

“Should all diplomatic avenues fail and Scottish authorities are prepared to carry out their threats, then we need to deploy our Sea Fisheries Protections Agency vessels to protect Irish fishermen and their livelihoods. We cannot allow any situation where Scottish authorities are seizing or impounding Irish registered vessels or equipment.

“This must only be an option of utter last resort and would represent a major failure of diplomacy, but we cannot abandon our fishermen when they are going about their business under threat from Scottish and British authorities in waters that do not belong to Britain.” 

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Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty has called on the Government to stand up for the Irish fishing community saying Sinn Féin will stand full square behind them.

Speaking after Scotland warned the government that it will take action against Irish fishing vessels that are fishing around Rockall, Teachta Doherty said this is a worrying development which threatens the livelihood of our fishing community.

Teachta Doherty said;

“The intervention by the Scottish authorities is deeply unhelpful.

“Despite Britain laying claim to Rockall back in 1972, this has been disputed by this state and rightly so.

"This is a serious and worrying intervention that could threaten the livelihood of our fishing community. It could lead to boats being impounded, nets being impounded and other materials.

"It needs to be resolved and we’re calling on the Government to escalate diplomatic conversations with the Scottish authorities and with the British authorities to ensure that the interests of our fishing communities are defended and protected and they will have the support of Sinn Féin in doing that.”

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Speaking after a meeting of her party’s Ard Chomhairle today Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said Sinn Féín is still a very considerable political force right across the island of Ireland with policies and solutions on offer to the Irish people.

Teachta McDonald said there is a job of work to be done by the party to set out our alternatives to the big issues affecting ordinary people such as housing, health and the cost of living.

Speaking this afternoon she said;

“The Ard Chomhairle has met today and it is very clear that there is a job of work to be done to set out alternatives to the very big issues of housing, health and the cost of living.

“We are determined to move forward in a very positive way to represent working people and families right across the land.

“Not withstanding the very difficult election that we have just come through, we are still a very considerable political force right across the island and we have a responsibility to use that strength in a very positive way.

“We will make it clear to people that all of the big dilemmas that face Irish society do have solutions and do have answers.

“Politics will always be full of challenges but we have a set of policies and solutions to offer the Irish people, we will set them out in a very positive way, offering leadership and direction at a time of very great challenge to people and communities across the island.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed the decision of the Garda Commissioner to allocate 25 new Gardaí recruits to Drogheda, adding to the frontline services so urgently needed to respond to the ongoing drug related crimes in the County.

Teachta Adams said:

“The significant and ongoing escalation in violence and intimidation by drug gangs demands a robust response from adequately resourced Garda services in Louth.

“I therefore welcome the announcement of additional Garda resources. 

“However, the drug crisis and the associated violence it brings from gangs extends beyond Drogheda. 

“In order to tackle the crisis effectively, it needs to be adequately resourced in a holistic way.

“It must include support services for drug addiction and mental health services.

“In recent months, my colleagues on Louth County Council and I have dealt with a number of families in the north Louth area that have been the victims of threats and attacks from these drug gangs.

“We have also been working closely with the Louth Garda Division who have bluntly told us that Louth needs more Gardaí and support services.

“I have recently urged An Taoiseach to commit to providing a significant increase in additional Gardaí resources from the upcoming Budget.

“Additional resources must be allocated fairly across the constituency.”

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The Department of Health is undermining public confidence by running flawed consultation processes on the future of stroke and breast assessment services, Sinn Féin has said. 

The party’s Health spokespersons Pat Sheehan and Colm Gildernew made the claim after challenging departmental officials on the issue at a cross-party briefing yesterday.

Pat Sheehan said: "Everyone agrees that transformation of health and social care is needed if we are to achieve better health outcomes for the public.

"But this can only be achieved by involving service users and staff from the very beginning of the process and providing them, and the broader public, with the full evidence base.

"To date the department has not been sufficiently transparent as to how certain proposals and positions were arrived at and that is eroding public confidence.

"We challenged officials on a number of issues including how the scoring matrix developed by the Project Board for Breast Assessment Services scored a four site model highest but was not included as an option in the consultation.

"Going into the public consultation events next week the department needs to provide the public with the relevant information in terms of its processes and the evidence base for its proposals.

"More importantly they need to listen.

"I would encourage all those interested in stroke services and breast assessment services to attend the public consultation events.”

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