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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that the Taoiseach is 'out if ideas and increasingly desperate to cling to power'.

Teachta McDonald said:

"The Taoiseach leads a government that is stumbling from one crisis to the next in respect of housing, healthcare and the rising cost of living.

“Fine Gael, aided and abetted by Fianna Fáil, have proven that they are incapable of delivering for ordinary citizens. They have driven up the price of rents and left thousands of families without a home. Homelessness is at record levels.

"We have a Taoiseach that is failing workers and families, is out of ideas and increasingly desperate to cling to power.

"Instead of focusing on delivering for workers and families, he has chosen to attack Sinn Féin in comments unworthy of the office of Taoiseach.

"Joining the DUP leader Arlene Foster in comparing Republicans and nationalists to animals is hardly a badge of honour. In the face of Brexit gratuitous insults are no substitute for thoughtful leadership.

"The Taoiseach should remember that it is the people who decide who will be in government, not Leo Varadkar." ENDS

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In an historic first, the Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald today delivered a keynote address to the activists of Plaid Cymru at their party conference in Swansea.

Speaking at the conference McDonald called for a “pan-Celtic political culture to defeat Toryism”. She said:

“The futures of Ireland and Wales must be shaped by the hopes and aspirations of our peoples. Not by Boris Johnson and his band of Eton elitists in London.

“Toryism is a political culture that has always been a clear and present threat to our well-being. 

“We need a counter political culture; a pan-Celtic, anti-Tory political culture that respects each other’s sovereignty and right to nationhood.”

The Sinn Féin President also used her speech to send a message to The British Prime Minister:

“If Boris Johnson cannot put forward proposals that maintain the guarantees in the Backstop, then the ultimate solution of Irish Unity should be put on the table.

“Boris, we will not allow you to vandalise our country, ruin our economy and destroy our peace. We will not allow you to bully Ireland. Those days are over”.

Please see below full text of Mary Lou McDonald’s speech to the Plaid Cymru conference

Address by Mary Lou McDonald TD to Plaid Cymru Conference

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Grand Theatre

Swansea

Wales

Greeting

Friends,

We gather here today in the spirit of togetherness.

That I am here today is an echo of the bonds of kinship and friendship between our two nations.

It is great to meet under the flag of common purpose, of optimism and of hope.

The future is yet to be won.

Let us win it together. 

Introduction

Friends,

I am the President of Sinn Féin.

I am also a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a sister.

I am a woman playing my part in trying to make my country and the world a better place.

Sinn Féin is an Irish Republican Party.

We are a party of the left - progressive and socialist.

We are a party of activism, deeply rooted in the communities we represent, striving to be agents for change and equality.

We have a significant mandate.

We are the only party substantially organised across the entire island of Ireland - north and south.

Sinn Féin is opposed to the partition of Ireland.

We are a United Ireland party that wants an end to the involvement of the British government in Irish affairs.

We are working for the unity of all the people of Ireland based on equality, respect and reconciliation.

We believe absolutely in the core values of equality, liberty and fraternity.

With others, Sinn Féin has played a central role in the development of the peace process and in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.

We helped to create, and we were part of, the national and international efforts which brought an end to conflict in Ireland.

The European Union

Sinn Féin is an EU critical party.

A perspective born out of the philosopy of left republicanism where democracy is close to the people and government serves their interests.

I think that is a good approach.

I think it is basic common sense.

We know that the European project has gone down the wrong road.

Too far down the wrong road.

The economic dogma of ‘the market above all else’ and the alienation of ordinary citizens,

the increasing militarisation of the EU through PESCO, the democratic deficit which often sees the voices of smaller members squeezed out.

These are legitimate criticisms and concerns.

It is important that we all acknowledge them.

However, Brexit is not the answer.

The Tory Brexit is definitely not the answer.

Instead, our job is to change the European Union by working together.

It is our responsibility to challenge and defeat the political agenda at the heart of power in the European Union.

I happen to believe that such an effort is worth it

The European project has the potential to transform the lives of citizens for the better.

It can do so with the social agenda as its driving force

We will not concede the European project to free marketeers and corporate interests. Neither will we accept the Tory wrecking agenda which seeks to divide and dominate.

We are up for the fight to create a better European Union, A social European Union

It was on this basis that we campaigned for Remain in the North of Ireland during the Brexit referendum.

 

Internationalism

Sinn Féin is also an internationalist party.

We are deeply aware of our interconnectedness with the humanity of the world.

We are proactive in reaching out to progressive movements throughout the  world, movements that share our politics, our values and our goals.

That is what has brought me to Swansea this weekend.

To reach out the hand of friendship to the activists of Plaid Cymru 

To listen to and learn to from each other.

Ireland and Wales – A shared Story

There is kinship and a connectedness between our nations.

A common spirit and a common experience.

RS Thomas said the Welsh were “a people bred on legends”.

That holds true for the Irish. Inspired and proud of our heritage and our independence.

The songs that played in the Halls of Tara were echoed in the Valleys of Wales.

The story of  Saint Patrick symbolises the links of the Celtic nations of Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

A bond that remains today.

Our shared history has taken many turns.

Following the Easter Rising in 1916, Irish Republican prisoners were interned at Frongoch.

A thousand rebels imprisoned and isolated in Wales.

They did what revolutionaries do.

They looked beyond the confines of the present, they looked to the future.

They planned, they debated and they educated themselves.

Frongoch gained its place in Irish republican history as the University of Revolution.

The prisoners returned from Wales as leaders and led our fight for independence from 1919 to 1921

A counter-revolution, partition, discrimination and the denial of the right to self-determination led to decades of conflict in Ireland.

A  conflict that ended with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

The legacy of conflict remains.

It is felt across Ireland and in homes in Wales.

Families have been bereaved and injured.

No words I can say can undo the past.

We must find a way to reconcile the past with our shared history and find a common ground.

An acceptance, an understanding of our complex past and a commitment to the truth that the conflict is over and must never return.

It will not return, not on our watch.

Brexit

We have to be leaders for today and for the future.

I am speaking to you today as history unfolds around us.

The Tory Brexit is shaping our present.

However, I am here to say that we cannot allow the Tory Brexit to determine our futures.

The futures of Ireland and Wales must be shaped by the hopes and aspirations of our peoples.

Not by Boris Johnson and his band of Eton elitists in London.

Make no mistake, the Tory Brexit is chiefly the product of a dangerous Little Englander ideology run amok.

Little Englanders certainly do not care about the consequences of Brexit for either of our countries.

It would be naïve to believe that the Tory view of Ireland and Wales has shifted in any significant way since the days of Thatcherism.

Just as Margaret Thatcher brutalised and criminalised the nationalist communities of the North of Ireland,

Just as she tried to crush the mining communities of Wales during the strike of 1984, the current British Prime Minister is all too willing to run roughshod over Irish and Welsh national interests.

Mr Johnson does so in pursuit of his dangerous and stupid agenda – a Brexit that satisfies the post-imperial insecurities of toxic English nationalism.

Tory ignorance and malevolence towards Ireland has been absolutely breath-taking.

It is not simply a case of ignorance.

It is a case of blatant hostility.

At its very core, is the Tory government’s refusal to recognise the democratic decision taken by the people of the North of Ireland.

People in the North of Ireland voted to remain.

To remain part of the European Union.

There is no democratic consent for Brexit in Ireland.

Yet, Mr Johnson is intent on dragging the North out of the European Union despite the result of the vote.

Not once has the Tory government shown any appreciation or concern of the consequences for Ireland of such recklessness.

The hardening of the border.

Economic chaos.

Endangering the Good Friday Agreement and our peace.

That is what the Tories propose for my country.

They have gone more than three years without proposing one workable set of solutions for the border.

In the absence of such proposals, the Backstop was conceived.

It was agreed by the EU and the British Government in order to avoid the hardening of the border in the event of a crash Brexit.

Though imperfect, it is vital to protect our economy, our peace agreements and our prosperity.

It is the bottomline.

What the British Prime Minister presented this week as a ‘Good solution’ to the border is far from it.

It sought to dismantle the guarantees contained in the Backstop.

What Mr Johnson proposed is not about the interests of Ireland.

It was a political ploy.

A power play to rally his Brexiteer allies.

To deliver a sop to the Democratic Unionist Party ahead of the next British General Election.

The proposal to give the Assembly in Belfast the authority to decide either the type of Brexit arrangements that are put in place, or how long they will last, will afford the DUP a veto.

Sinn Féin will never accept this.

Maybe Mr Johnson wants a deal, maybe he doesn’t.

In either event, let me say this clearly:

There can be no return to a hard border in Ireland.

There can be no return to customs checks.

The Good Friday Agreement must be upheld and protected.

If  Boris Johnson, cannot put forward proposals that maintain the guarantees in the Backstop, then the ultimate solution of Irish Unity should be put on the table without delay.

If you would indulge me, I want to use the Plaid Crymu Conference to send the British Prime Minister a message 

Boris, we will not allow you to endanger our future.

Boris, we will not allow you to vandalise our country, ruin our economy and destroy our peace.

Boris, we will not allow you to bully Ireland.

Those.days.are.over.

A Shared Political Culture

Jingoism, a pyschology of supremacy and blatant aggression are the main characteristics of the Tory Brexit.

It may now sit in a new context but the consequences of Toryism are not new to the peoples of Ireland and Wales.

Toryism is a political culture that has always been a clear and present threat to our well-being.

We need a counter political culture.

We need a pan-celtic anti-Tory political culture.

A shared political culture that respects each other’s sovereignty and right to nationhood.

A shared political culture grounded in principles of common interest and common purpose.

A community of neighbours driven by progressive politics and by a genuine concern for each other’s people.

We need to become allies not only in words, but also in actions.

Let’s meet and speak more often.

Let’s get behind each other.

Lets us share ideas for the advancement of Irish Unity and Welsh Independence – nations where economic justice and social equality are hardwired in everything that we do.

Beyond Brexit

Just as the prisoners at Frongoch looked beyond the confines of the present to build a vision for the future.

So must we all.

To look beyond Brexit and to build for the future.

Westminster has not and never will act in the best interests of the people of Ireland.

It governs in its own self-interest.

The people in the north of Ireland are looking beyond Westminster.

A debate on Unity is growing.

The Unionist majority, the very basis of the state, is gone.

The challenge for this generation of leaders is to build a new and united Ireland. 

An Ireland that is a home for all that share our island. A prosperous and sustainable Ireland.

An Ireland that takes its place with the other nations of the world.

The Good Friday Agreement provides for a peaceful and democratic pathway for Irish Unity.

Sinn Féin believes in national self-determination. 

We believe in the rights of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh Nations to determine their own futures.

That is the right thing, it is the democratic thing to do.

I believe we will secure and that we win an Irish unity referendum at some time in near future.

I do not take it for granted.

We have much work to do to build a new and united Ireland in the best interest of all the people who share our island.

To replace partition and division with unity and the common interest of all.

Only a new and United Ireland will provide the basis of a new relationship with Britain, with England Scotland and Wales.

A relationship liberated from the divisions of the past.

The Good Friday Agreement provides for a British Irish Council for co-ordination and co-operation.

I believe that there is merit in continuing this process when Ireland is united.

We are neighbours, we are kin and we share a common interest.

I look forward to the day when Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England take seats at the table as sovereign and independent nations.

Conclusion

Friends,

I was six years-old when the existence of your beautiful country first came into my consciousness.

It is actually one of the clearest memories from my childhood.

My older brother Bernard had been left out of his rugby team for a match against Llanelli 

I remember two things vividly – Bernard’s absolute devastation and also feeling that ‘Llanelli’ sounded quite exotic!

To a six year-old child, it had the ring of Narnia to it.

The episode had a happy ending, however.

Before the team was to travel, Bernard received a phone call from one of his coaches to say that he was needed after all.

Queue unbridled joy and excitement.

I remember feeling so happy for my brother.

That same bother is now married to a woman from Llanelli.

Though it may be somewhat less exotic now than it was in the mind of a little girl, Wales has always conjured feelings of warmth – a place where good things happen.

Activists of Plaid Cyrmu,

I wish you good things.

I wish you a future that matches the hopes and aspirations of the Welsh people.

Prosperity, equality, Independence.

I can feel the energy in this room that will make it happen.

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney today lead a party delegation, including South Belfast Cllr Deirdre Hargey to meet the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Infrastructure to address the illegal erection of flags and other emblems on Departmental street furniture in Antrim town and South Belfast. 

The Party delegation also raised the use of Departmental land for the construction of illegal bonfires.

The South Antrim MLA said: 

“This meeting was held with the Permanent Secretary arising from ongoing concerns that the Department for Infrastructure continues to default on its legal obligations to address the illegal erection of flags in communally mixed neighbourhoods in Antrim town and South Belfast.

“However this problem is not confined to these areas alone. Unionist and paramilitary flags, and other provocative sectarian emblems are erected with impunity across the north.

“These are designed to intimidate, provoke and cause further segregation within our society. That is unacceptable and the opposite to what is required to build a shared future.

“The illegal erection of flags and emblems on Departmental property is a deeply contentious and divisive issue. This has resulted in legal action against the Department for Infrastructure as a result of its inaction and failure to address these situations.

“In the absence of any other initiatives, Sinn Féin put the Department for Infrastructure on notice today that it carries primary responsibility for bringing forward robust proposals to ensure that Departmental property no longer continues to be used for the illegal and intimidatary erection of flags and emblems.

“Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the Department for Infrastructure in the coming months on all of these issues.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has described the Government’s announcement that no revenue will be going into the Rainy Day Fund as a “complete reversal in policy”, and welcomed their decision to adopt Sinn Féin’s position.

Deputy Doherty said that today’s announcement that €450 million in overruns will be again funded by unexpected tax windfalls is further sign of a Government that is underfunding public services and has no control of the public finances.

The Donegal TD said:

“Today the Minister for Finance has announced that his party and Fianna Fáil’s flagship policy of a Rainy Day Fund has finished before it even started. No money will be going into the Fund from this year’s revenue.

“Sinn Féin have repeatedly called the Rainy Day Fund out as a badly designed policy. The legislation that underpinned the fund allowed it to be used only in exceptional circumstances and to bail out the banks.

“I welcome the Minister’s decision today to adopt the Sinn Féin position on the fund.

“Today’s news that the Minister will be funding €450 million worth of supplementary estimates through corporation tax revenue is yet more evidence that this Government has no control of the public finances.

“Year after year the Government underprovide for our public services, and then announces overruns at each year’s end. 

“This makes a mockery of the budgetary process and is a dangerous way to manage our public finances.

“We have seen no improvement in our public services. At the same time their funding is becoming increasingly reliant on unsustainable corporation tax revenue rather than a sustainable tax base.

“At this stage it is difficult to believe any forecasts that come from this Government. 

“Brexit will influence this Budget but it shouldn’t define it. Our public finances can be protected while delivering real results for the challenges our people face. But only if the right choices are made.

“Next week’s budget is set to be another failure by Fine Gael to and Fianna Fáil to give workers and families a break.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Central Mary Lou McDonald and North Inner City Councillor Janice Boylan met with residents across the community today to discuss Dublin City Council managements recently published plan for the redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens.

Dublin City Councillors will vote on the proposed redevelopment of the land during the Council’s next meeting on Monday (7th October).

Sinn Féin is calling on all Councillors from across the political spectrum to work together to deliver a development for O’Devaney Gardens that meets the community’s needs and delivers truly affordable homes for local families.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“Fine Gael is yet again failing on its commitment to deliver affordable homes for working families. The financing model imposed on Dublin City Council by government has created a cash cow for the developer and placed the so-called affordable allocation of homes out of reach for ordinary families.

“Sinn Féin fought hard for the redevelopment of O’Devaney. We were prepared to compromise but management’s plan published last month is a compromise too far. I’m calling on Councillors from all political parties and none to work with Sinn Féin to deliver the development that meets the needs of the community and delivers genuinely affordable homes for them.”

North Inner City Cllr Janice Boylan said:

“Since my election in 2014 I have worked hard to deliver the redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens. I was reared in this community so my commitment to the area and its people runs deep. We have lived with the harsh realities from decades of neglect by governments including Fine Gael. Sinn Féin supported the redevelopment plan on the basis that it would deliver decent homes for families trapped in O’Devaney’s dilapidated flats and affordable homes for the wider community.

“We only have one chance to get the redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens right. As a Councillor for this area I cannot stand over a plan that will profit a private developer to the tune of millions of euro and push local working families out of the community.

"My family, friends and neighbours deserve better.

“Sinn Féin supports the plan to redevelop O’Devaney but this proposal is a kick in a teeth for a community that has endured historic neglect. Dublin City Councillors must now work together to deliver a better deal for the people of the north inner city.

Housing SPC member Cllr Daithí Doolan said:

“Sinn Féin has highlighted time and again the shortcomings of using private developers to build social and affordable homes. Dublin City Council managements proposal for O’Devaney Gardens only serves to line the pockets of the developer.

“Dublin City Councillors need to rally together to urgently develop a new pathway to deliver social, affordable & cost rental homes for this community. The St. Michaels Estate funding model demonstrates that Dublin City Council can deliver a redevelopment project that meets the needs of the north inner city.”

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Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan has raised the case of the Catalan political prisoners in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Speaking in the Assembly in Strasbourg, Senator Gavan highlighted the second anniversary of the Catalan vote for Independence on the 1st October 2017.
 
“That referendum should have been a triumph for democracy, no matter what the result was.
 
“Sadly, the world witnessed shocking scenes of Spanish police brutality in various parts of Catalonia that day.
 
“Peaceful citizens who were protecting the integrity of polling stations were struck down and savagely beaten, with over 900 people being injured.”

Senator Gavan went on to raise the case of 12 Catalan political and civil leaders, who are currently imprisoned in Madrid awaiting judgement on politically motivated charges for their alleged role in facilitating this referendum. 
 
“This is one of the most pressing political issues in Europe. We cannot ignore this important issue of citizens being prosecuted for pursuing purely peaceful and democratic means in determining their future.
 
“Some of them have been imprisoned for nearly two years on pre-trial detention.
 
“They include 2 civil society leaders, the former Catalan Vice-President, the former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, and 8 former Ministers.
 
“The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) carried out a report into the detention of 3 of the prisoners and concluded that their detention is arbitrary and called for their immediate release. 
 
“This UN report is a clear condemnation of Spain’s breach of fundamental human rights.
 
“The former Catalan President and other Ministers have been forced into exile.
 
“The Spanish State has tried to have them arrested and extradited but they keep losing these cases because the charges they are facing have no basis.”
 
“They are being prosecuted on ludicrous charges of rebellion and sedition.
 
“The former Speaker is facing 15 years in jail for allowing a debate on Catalan independence in Parliament.
 
“The Vice-President is facing up to 25 years for facilitating a democratic vote on self-determination. Their prosecution is politically motivated and they are political prisoners. 

"Facilitating people to vote is not a crime, but preventing them by force should be.

“This is a political issue, not a legal one. 
 
“The Spanish Government needs to enter into meaningful dialogue with the Catalan Government to find a political solution. 
 
“It needs to stop using the police and the legal system to attack the Catalan independence movement, which is a legitimate political movement.
 
“It’s time to end the wall of silence on Catalonia. Justice and Human Rights for the Catalan People.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has again called on the Central Bank and Competition & Consumer Protection Commission to open investigations into the use of dual pricing by the insurance industry. This comes after Aviva admitted in yesterday’s Finance Committee that they use dual pricing to hike the renewal premiums of a third of their customers above the average price.

Speaking today after the publication of a report by the Financial Conduct Authority in Britain into the use of dual pricing, Deputy Doherty called for the practice to be investigated and said that Sinn Féin will act to protect consumers and take on the industry.

The Donegal TD said:

“Today the Financial Conduct Authority published its interim report on the issue of unfair pricing in the British insurance market. The findings are clear.

“The report has found that the insurance market is not working for consumers, with companies using dual pricing to artificially hike premiums for renewing customers. The report estimates that if these customers had paid the genuine price that reflected their risk, they would have said a total of £1.2 billion.

“The report also found that consumers do not know that this is happening, and that disproportionately affects vulnerable groups who are from low-income households or are less likely to understand how renewal affects their premiums.

“We know that this practice is happening in Ireland. Many of the insurance companies that operate here do so in Britain also. Only yesterday at the Finance Committee, Aviva, who also operate in Britain, admitted to using dual pricing to hike premiums on loyal and unsuspecting customers.

“Price discrimination is wrong, anti-consumer, and targets vulnerable groups.

“Last week the Finance Committee accepted my request to begin an investigation into this issue. I have called on the Central Bank to begin an investigation into the practice and will be meeting the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to make a similar case.

“Sinn Féin are acting to protect consumers and put an end to unfair pricing by the insurance industry.

"In the coming months I will be moving my Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill to final stage in the Dáil, and Sinn Féin will be bringing forward recommendations to end the unfair practice of dual pricing by the industry.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has commented on the findings of the Local Authority Performance Indicator Report 2018 published by the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC).

The report indicated that the private rental inspection processes currently used by local authorities is unacceptably low, varies greatly from area to area and does not provide tenants with consistency.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The private rental inspection rate contained in the report is based on data from 2018 which indicated that there were 322,230 registered tenancies at time and out of these 23, 824 homes were inspected, just 7% of properties.

“The report worryingly shows a variance in the level of inspections and compliance from local authority to local authority.

“For example, in Carlow, 10% of the private rented homes were inspected and 95% of these homes were found to be non-compliant with standards regulations.

“However, in Cavan 20% of the rental stock was inspected and only 29.5% of these homes were found not to be compliant with standards.

“Galway City only inspected 1.8% of registered rental properties and 99% of these were non-compliant with standards.

“The report also indicates that in all of the nine local authorities with more than 10,000 tenancies only two local authorities, Fingal and South Dublin, reached inspections rates of over 10%.

 “The low level of inspections across most local authorities is not surprising when you consider the lack of resources provided to local authorities.

“The government must prioritise the allocation of greater resources for Local Authorities, so they can move towards inspecting at a minimum 25% of rental properties per year.

“€4.5m in funding was allocated by central government for this purpose for 2019 and in the first months of the year €1.8m, for 40% of the funding available, was paid to local authorities.

“Sinn Féin in our Alternative Budget for 2020 has allocated an additional €5m in funding to help local authorities to move towards the 25% target more quickly than the government’s proposed timeline of 2021.

“More and more people are living in the private rented sector and we need to ensure that these home meet minimum standards. Local authorities must be adequately resourced to conduct these duties.

ENDS//

Link to NOAC report where details of inspections are on p 50 and link to PQ response detailing 2019 spend.
http://noac.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/NOAC-Performance-Indicator-Report-2018.pdf
https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2019-09-24a.1386&s=section%3Awrans+speaker%3A407#g1387.q

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Sinn Fein TD Kathleen Funchion TD has congratulated students who received their junior cert results.
 
Teachta Funchion said:
 
“I wish to congratulate all students who received their Junior Certificate results this morning.
 
“I know some will be delighted, and some will be more disappointed than others, but they must take the positives from results, and not get too caught up in the negativities.
 
“It is regrettable that results were received 3 weeks later than expected and the Dept of Education must act to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
 
“It undermines the seriousness of state examinations and is unfair to all affected.
 
“Many students put a lot of time and effort into their state exams, and that must be respected.
 
“I encourage any of those celebrating their results to stay safe and enjoy their day.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has again called on the Central Bank and Competition & Consumer Protection Commission to open investigations into the use of dual pricing by the insurance industry. This comes after Aviva admitted in yesterday’s Finance Committee that they use dual pricing to hike the renewal premiums of a third of their customers above the average price.

Speaking today after the publication of a report by the Financial Conduct Authority in Britain into the use of dual pricing, Deputy Doherty called for the practice to be investigated and said that Sinn Féin will act to protect consumers and take on the industry.

The Donegal TD said:

“Today the Financial Conduct Authority published its interim report on the issue of unfair pricing in the British insurance market. The findings are clear.

“The report has found that the insurance market is not working for consumers, with companies using dual pricing to artificially hike premiums for renewing customers. The report estimates that if these customers had paid the genuine price that reflected their risk, they would have said a total of £1.2 billion.

“The report also found that consumers do not know that this is happening, and that disproportionately affects vulnerable groups who are from low-income households or are less likely to understand how renewal affects their premiums.

“We know that this practice is happening in Ireland. Many of the insurance companies that operate here do so in Britain also. Only yesterday at the Finance Committee, Aviva, who also operate in Britain, admitted to using dual pricing to hike premiums on loyal and unsuspecting customers.

“Price discrimination is wrong, anti-consumer, and targets vulnerable groups.

“Last week the Finance Committee accepted my request to begin an investigation into this issue. I have called on the Central Bank to begin an investigation into the practice and will be meeting the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to make a similar case.

“Sinn Féin are acting to protect consumers and put an end to unfair pricing by the insurance industry.

"In the coming months I will be moving my Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill to final stage in the Dáil, and Sinn Féin will be bringing forward recommendations to end the unfair practice of dual pricing by the industry.”

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has said the British Government has abandoned all pretence of the ‘rigorous impartiality’ demanded by the Good Friday Agreement.

The Foyle MP was responding to comments by British Secretary of State Julian Smith in defence of Boris Johnson’s reckless Brexit proposals.  

Elisha McCallion said:

“Any notion that the DUP would have a veto on this island’s future arrangements with the EU is a non-runner - it drives a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement.

“The British government’s proposals to bring back customs checks and create a harder border on the island of Ireland is dangerous and reckless and are a huge setback for our peace and political processes. 

“It’s clear that Julian Smith and the British government no longer even pretends to act with the rigorous impartiality demanded by the Good Friday Agreement.

“Instead, they are wedded to a self-serving pact with the DUP to drive through a catastrophic Brexit which will drive our economy over the cliff.” 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said border communities will suffer the dire impact of a crash out Tory/DUP Brexit.  

Speaking following events held in border regions between Monaghan/Tyrone, with MPs Michelle Gildernew and Mickey Brady, Martina Anderson said:

“On the tour of the Monaghan/Tyrone border we have heard the dire impact any hardening of the border would have on the lives of people living in border communities.

“Boris Johnson's proposals to bring back customs checks on the island of Ireland is dangerous and reckless and represents a huge setback for our peace process.

“The Tories are wedded to a self-serving pact with the DUP to drive through a catastrophic Brexit which will drive our economy over the cliff.

“It’s important that we continue to hear the voices of business, traders, manufacturers and people who cross the border everyday in opposing this reckless agenda and any hardening of the border in Ireland.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture Brian Stanley TD has called for an increase in Agro-Forestry through a re-structuring of afforestation grants.

The Laois TD launched the proposal as part of Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget 2020.

Speaking in the Dáil last evening, Stanley said:

“Sinn Féin is committed to an increase in afforestation, as are many farmers.

“Which is why in our Alternative Budget 2020 we have allocated an additional €2m in funding for afforestation grants targeted towards small and medium sized farmers.

“What we want to see is an afforestation strategy committed to long-term thinking.

“Farmers, young farmers in particular, want to commit to an Agro-forestry scheme over a 30 to 40-year period right throughout the planting, thinning and the management process.

“Unfortunately, however, the current ‘Forestry scheme’ as it is structured simply doesn’t work for farmers.

“The first problem with the current scheme is that it is tailored towards farmers in their 50’s or 60’s who are taking up the scheme as a retirement plan. Why? Because the premiums only last for 15 years.

“Why would a young farmer in his 30’s or 40’s convert his land into forestry when it won’t bring in any income after 15 years?

“Secondly, the current scheme is having a detrimental impact on many rural locations through the de-population of farming and an increase in corporate forestry.

“What Sinn Féin wants to see is a forestry policy that doesn’t replace farmers but one that compliments farming with forestry.

“Agro-forestry works best when you have tillage and livestock combined with afforestation.

“This provides increased production, increased carbon sequestration, as well as providing an additional source of income for the farmer.

“Thirdly, farmers should not be penalised for protecting hedgerows, which is what currently happens under the CAP rules.

“Livestock Farmers are incentivised to remove hedgerows in order to increase their hectares under Pillar 1.

“This must be addressed through CAP reform because we all know the positive environmental impact which hedgerows can provide through carbon storage and land drainage.

“Overall, What we want to see is a scheme that works for farmers, that is long term thinking and one that is committed to continuous sustainable broadleaf cover.” 


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Opening remarks by Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill at tonight’s panel discussion on ‘Brexit and Irish Unity’ in the Carrickdale Hotel.

“Today marks German unity day marking 29 years since reunification.

“Next month marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the night of 9-10 November 1989 which symbolised the end of the Cold War and set in motion a chain of events that would forever change the face of Europe.

“As the unification of Germany is being celebrated by its citizens, the unification of Ireland has now also entered to the fore of political discourse in Ireland and Europe.

“The vast number of people on the island of Ireland are against the artificial divisions which exist in our country – whether visible or invisible, partition has failed.

“A growing number of people on the island believe that Irish unity is the democratic alternative to the unwanted Brexit being foisted upon citizens here.

“The EU has declared that in the future, and in the event of Irish reunification the North would automatically re-join the EU. 

“The declaration by the EU states, ‘The European Council acknowledges that, in accordance with international law, the entire territory of such a united Ireland would thus be part of the European Union in the event of Irish reunification.’

“Those of a British unionist identity are starting to assess what this means, not because they wish to become Irish nationalists, but simply remain Europeans.

“The people on the island of Ireland should have a choice between Brexit and independence.

“Everyone is being challenged to rethink their economic future.

“There is an onus on the Irish Government to engage in this debate and to begin such preparatory work now in parallel with the conversations which have started in civil society.

“Long-term policies and resilient economic calculations, potential savings and synergies of the cost of reunification need to be developed by the Taoiseach and by the Dublin government.

“At this point, their short-sightedness if not addressed will lead to serious future economic problems.

“We need a national dialogue about the constitutional future, and what the political administrative and symbolic expression a New Ireland will take, including our economic model.” 

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called again for an immediate investigation by the Central Bank into the practice of dual pricing by the insurance industry. This comes after Aviva Ireland admitted in the Finance Committee that they used dual pricing to increase the premiums of existing customers on renewal.

Speaking at the Finance Committee, Deputy Doherty said this practice was designed to identify customers who are likely to renew and then punish their loyalty with higher premiums.

The Donegal TD said:

“Today at the Finance Committee Aviva admitted it employs dual pricing, or price discrimination, to target one third of loyal customers with higher premiums at renewal.

“This is the first time an insurance company in Ireland has admitted to using dual pricing, a practice which is known to harm vulnerable consumers.

“Insurance companies are using data analytics and complex algorithms to target customers who are viewed as being less ‘price-sensitive’ or more likely to renew, and then hiking their premiums on renewal.

“This practice is known to harm vulnerable customers, particularly those who are older or from lower-income households.

“Today at Committee, representatives from AIG admitted that dual pricing was about identifying customers who were more likely to renew their policies and then punishing them with higher premiums.

“This is a startling admission that the industry is employing pricing methods that target vulnerable consumers without them knowing it is even taking place.

“That is why I have asked the Finance Committee to begin an investigation into this issue.

“Today Aviva admitted to using price discrimination, but I have evidence that is a practice being carried out by several insurance companies in the State.

“I will be meeting with the Consumer and Competition Commission in the coming weeks to make the case for a market investigation into this aggressive pricing strategy that targets loyal and vulnerable customers.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster has today criticised the Minister for Housing for his failure to recognise the total, and predictable, failure of Strategic Housing developments, or the “fast track” residential planning process.

Speaking at a meeting of Public Accounts Committee where Department Officials and An Bord Pleanála appeared as witnesses, Deputy Munster questioned how a statutory policy introduced to fast-track large-scale residential developments has allowed a situation where two thirds of those units have not commenced construction.

Teachta Munster said:

“We now know that the policy was written by developers, for developers. To add insult to injury, the Housing Minister at that time, Tánaiste Simon Coveney invited developers’ lobbyists to write the policy and legislation on his behalf.

“Now we have a situation where developers can get planning permission for large housing developments, with essentially no interference from the democratic process.

“Bureaucrats are making these decisions with no accountability to local authorities, the electorate or democratically mandated county development plans.

“The Sunday Business Post laid out the extend of the problem last weekend. Of 15,000 units granted permission under the SHD scheme, 10,000 have not commenced construction yet.

“The lack of checks and balances in this process is very troubling. The planning process is wide open to abuse.

“Developers are getting planning permission but there is no onus on them to build anything. Meanwhile we have 10,000 people homeless and tens of thousands of people on the housing list.

“Developers are still up to their own tricks – sitting on land, flipping it, speculating. And all of this is mandated by government.

“At today’s meeting of the Public Accounts Committee it was clear that there are serious issues with this policy.

“Sinn Féin’s view is that a statutory time frame should be put in place for pre-planning and requests for further information and An Bord Pleanála appeals, which would significantly shorten the turnaround time for planning decisions through local authorities.

“If these changes were made the developer led fast track planning proposal would be redundant and could be scrapped once it expires at the end of the year.”

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Sinn Féin’s Justice spokesperson Martin Kenny TD said that he has heard from Gardaí that neither civilian staff or the appropriate IT solutions have been put in place to resource the reorganisation of the Garda Siochána.

Speaking during questions to the Minister for Justice and Equality this morning, Deputy Kenny said

“The level of new equipment that is supposed to be rolled out with this new plan is central to the new plan working. 

“There is no point in rearranging how management operates unless we ensure the resources are in place to make the arrangements efficient and effective. 

"The impression I am getting, which is a reflection of the reality of what is happening in the real experience of members of An Garda Síochána and community police, is that they do not have access to the level of equipment and structures they need to be in place to deliver this the way they want to deliver it. 

“In fairness, for a long time the case has been made that there needs to be change and I welcome this change. Nobody here is saying we are opposed to it but we must understand that the change must be adequately resourced. 

“For instance, if we go through the streets of Dublin and meet security staff at a doorway they are wearing body cameras. Gardaí do not have these. 

"Gardaí should be leading and on the cutting edge of new technology and not lagging behind. 

“Last week, I spoke to somebody who told me four gardaí are at a particular Garda station that has one patrol car. 

"When the car is out two of them sit in the station and if a call comes in or they are needed they have no patrol car to go anywhere. 

“This is the reality in many places in rural Ireland, in particular in my very rural constituency where people are very concerned that the level of resources required is not being put in place.”

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Sinn Féin Cllr Daithí Doolan has said that waste collection bills are a rip-off and the service should be brought back into public ownership.

Speaking at the launch of his party’s “Take Back the Bins” campaign in Dublin this afternoon, Cllr Doolan said:

“Bin collection was once a core service provided by local councils, but now it has been moulded into a lucrative industry run by private profiteers, with customers paying through the nose for it.

“Today we are launching our ‘Take Back the Bins’ campaign in which we propose to put waste collection back under the control of local authorities.

“We also want to end the side by side waste collection system which is clogging up our neighbourhoods, alongside increasing the number of recycling centres and the range of items accepted.

“We are the only state in Europe with a completely privatised waste collection service, and this has led to massive illegal dumping.

“The current service is expensive, bad for the environment and lacking in regulation – it is time to take bin services back into public ownership."


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Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil this afternoon, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality Martin Kenny TD has said that Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposals are 'neither viable nor acceptable’.

He said that the so-called ‘workable alternative’ to the backstop presented by the British government amounts to a set of proposals that are “dangerous and reckless” and “play fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement”.

Teachta Kenny said:

“Yesterday, Boris Johnson presented his so-called ‘workable alternative’ to the ‘backstop’, but the reality is that his proposals amount to a set of dangerous and reckless propositions that play fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement.

“What we need on this island - north and south - is to ensure that there is no hard border, that our all-island economy is protected and that the Good Friday Agreement is defended.

"What’s now on the table does none of those things and there is cross-community, cross-party consensus on this matter across the island; with the exception of the DUP.

“The reality is that what Boris Johnson has presented is unworkable.

“These are time-limited arrangements that are subject to a DUP veto, which they will exercise. Make no doubt about that.

“It’s ironic that the British government would choose to use the phrase ‘renewable democratic consent’ to describe the role of the Assembly in these proposals, given that no part of Ireland has consented to Brexit. The people of the north voted to remain and that can’t be stressed enough.

“The proposal to give the Assembly the power to decide the type of arrangements that are put in place - and how long they will last - will afford the DUP a veto through abusing the mechanism of the Petition of Concern, as they have done on countless occasions previously.  "This is entirely unacceptable and a flagrant abuse of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Any arrangement that can be vetoed, blocked or stalled by the DUP is a non-runner and Sinn Féin will never agree to this.

“I would challenge the Irish government to make it clear this afternoon that Boris Johnson’s proposals, as currently constituted, are neither viable nor acceptable.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane today welcomed the announcement that the Minister for Health expects that the full allocation of €4.8m for staff for the South East Palliative Care Centre in Waterford will be made in this year’s budget, with partial opening in February.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“Today I met with the Minister for Health, along with the other public representatives for Waterford,  regarding funding for the South East Palliative Care Centre.

"This is a meeting I had called for, having spent the past year doggedly raising this issue both in the Dáil and with the Minister himself.

"The Minister was able to tell us that he expects that the full allocation of €4.8m in the budget for staff and costs to open and maintain the centre will be made in this year’s budget, with partial opening of the centre in February.

“This is to be welcomed if the Minister’s expectations are realised, but we must also make sure there are no more delays.

“The Waterford Hospice Movement and the South East CHO need certainty going forward, and this announcement should give it.

“It is therefore extremely important that the relevant staff are hired as a matter of urgency upon the official announcement and that the Centre is up and running as soon as possible.

“I will continue to keep up pressure on this and other health matters for Waterford and the South East, to ensure that the people I represent get the services they need and deserve."

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