The Special Committee on Covid-19 will write to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly about private hospital covid tests at the request of Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson David Cullinane TD.
The Waterford TD has said Minister Donnelly must tackle private hospitals on charging for covid tests.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“Today I proposed that the Covid Committee write to Minister Donnelly and the Department of Health about private hospitals charging for covid tests.
“The committee will act on my request and will now write to Minister Donnelly and the Department.
“We are calling on Minister Donnelly to step up to the plate here. He must tackle private hospitals on charging for covid tests.
“Private hospitals, which benefitted from a very lucrative deal with the state, are seeking to push the entire burden of the pandemic onto the consumer and the public system.
“They are charging up to €275 for covid tests, and private health insurance won’t cover the cost of it. This is unfair and unjust.
“It is a disgrace that we have a system that forces people to pay for much needed healthcare.
“It is a kick in the teeth for those who work hard to have access to the private system to now have to pay an additional cost. This is causing much distress, especially for older people and vulnerable patients.
“This underlines the problems with private healthcare – it is not about service delivery it is about profit. This behaviour has to stop."
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to scrap his plans to privatise the provision of social housing.
The call was made in response to the new Minister’s proposal for 100 year private sector leases for social housing and a report published by commercial real estate firm CBRE promoting the investment potential from such leases.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Last week during an interview with Ivan Yates on Newstalk the new Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said he was considering a scheme to lease private sector properties for 100 years for use as social housing.
“Yesterday a report published by real estate firm CBRE highlights how domestic and international investors are keen to acquire residential units and let them to local authorities on long-term leases.
“Long term leases for social housing are the height of economic illiteracy. The longer the lease the crazier they are.
“Compared with the cost of building new social housing, 100 year leases would be 3.5 times more expensive outside of Dublin and 5 times more expensive in Dublin.
“This is based on the Department of Housing’s current long term leasing scheme and the Department of Public Expenditure and reforms guidelines for calculating the cost if long term lease projects.
“At a time when the cost of Government borrowing is almost zero And market rents are at their peak why would anyone lease a private property for 100 years.
“Long term leasing makes no sense economically. It is a windfall gain for the developer while the taxpayer and the State loses out.
“Of course it shouldn't surprise us that Fianna Fáil are considering such an option. When last in Government their housing policy was developer led. In 1997, when they took office, the annual cost of rent subsidies was €90m. By the end of 2011 when they left office it had increased to €620m. An increase of 588%.
“Any return to the bad old bays of Bertienomics must be resisted. The best way to meet social and affordable housing need is by building public housing on public land and prices that working people can genuinely afford.”
Note to editors: Tables with long term leasing costings based on Department of Public Expenditure and Reform rules for calculating the Net Present Value of long term leases and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government’s rules for standard long term leases.https://mcusercontent.com/ffc5ff2fa2294c89d2ff7598e/files/4877ff0e-9915-4be1-9695-d4faf7e00fe5/Table_2.xlsx
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane has today published a motion calling for the extension of paid maternity leave by an additional 12 weeks for women whose maternity leave is due to expire.
This is to address how the Covid-19 pandemic has made many women’s experiences of maternity leave during lockdown particularly challenging and due to on-going difficulties in securing childcare for young infants.
Speaking as she published the motion today, Teachta Kerrane said: “I have been contacted by many mothers who have been deeply anxious about returning from maternity leave during this uniquely difficult time.
“Many have felt robbed of support that they desperately wanted but couldn’t have while raising a newborn during the lockdown. They have missed medical check-ups which were postponed due to the lockdown, as well as being denied support from family and friends.
“Now, due to childcare shortages, many are struggling to find any childcare facilities willing to take a young baby. They are anxiously watching the date that they are due to return to work inch closer, without having appropriate arrangements in place for their baby to be looked after.
“This needs to be changed so that families can get the support they need and deserve.
“Today I have published a motion calling for the extension of paid maternity leave by an additional 12 weeks for women who choose to avail of it. This will be for women whose claim is due to expire between the start of March and the end of November.
“These women have worked hard, paid their taxes and are now asking the Government to do right by them at a time when they and their families need support.
“I am calling on all TDs to do the right thing and back this in the interest of fairness for families.”
Notes to editors:
1. The additional leave would be optional and would apply to women whose leave is due to expire between the start of March and end of November.
2. Sinn Féin continues to advocate for its manifesto pledge to extend maternity leave to 12 months, as well as extending paternity leave rights for fathers
3. The measure would cost an estimated €78 million
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Louise O’Reilly has welcomed the news that the government will remove the 50% portfolio cap for Covid-19 credit guarantee scheme for SMEs, saying it is a clear sign that the government has taken on board Sinn Féin policy as outlined in our 13th May letter to the Minister for Finance and the then Minister for Business.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The removal of the 50% portfolio cap for Covid-19 credit guarantee scheme is a welcome move by the government. The removal of the cap negates a problem of the scheme whereby banks were refusing to lend to small businesses in dire need of affordable credit.
“This aspect of the credit guarantee scheme was a problem Sinn Féin identified many months ago and we outlined this in a letter on 13th May to the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Business.
“We stated that the design of the scheme was not fit for purpose and had resulted in negligible take-up from businesses and negligible loans issued from banks.
“The portfolio cap meant that banks saw it as unattractive to loan monies through the scheme to SMEs, and that it also resulted in extremely high interest rates where it did loan monies.
“The removal of this cap should make it easier and more attractive for banks to lend to SMEs.
“However, in addition to the removal of the caps, the government should really be looking at 90% - 100% State-guaranteed loans, no repayments paid by businesses over the first 12 months and the State covering the cost of interest over that period, and severely reduced interest rates thereafter.
“Such measures would make the credit guarantee scheme much more attractive to business during this unprecedented and extremely difficult period.
“The removal of the portfolio cap by the government shows they are willing to listen to Sinn Féin’s economic proposals. Therefore, I would ask them to go further and consider the full suite of measures laid down in our letter to the Minister for Finance on 13th May.”
Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister in the northern power sharing Executive Declan Kearney has said the newly published report by the NI Affairs Committee confirms his previously stated concerns about the British Government’s failure to provide either clarity or certainty to the business community in the north.
Reacting to publication of the new report, the South Antrim MLA said:
“It has been increasingly obvious that this British government is neither properly focussed upon, or concerned about, addressing the lack of detail required by local businesses to continue trading under the new procedures governing the EU and British Government Withdrawal Agreement.
“I am not surprised this British parliamentary affairs committee remains to be convinced the current British government fully understands its political approach provides neither the clarity nor the detail required by the business community in the north. This has been apparent for some time and is a damning indictment of the Tories’ Brexit agenda, and failure to deliver on the terms of the Irish Protocol.
“I have previously raised concerns about lack of preparation regarding implementation of the Protocol, and lack of proper engagement between British officials and local business leaders. I have repeatedly said in recent weeks that time is now running out.
“The refusal in June by the British to seek an extension of the transition period under the Withdrawal Agreement was absolutely wrongheaded. The stupidity of that decision brings into stark focus the lack of preparation on behalf of the Tory government. It is beyond belief that the Tories refuse to accept the economic repercussions of the Coronavirus health emergency have changed everything.
“That decision is further evidence the British government is preparing for a ‘no deal Brexit’. Such an outcome would be a catastrophe for our local businesses, and the regional and island economies.”
The South Antrim MLA criticised the lack of serious engagement by the British government serious in negotiations with the European Commission. He said:
“During the last Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee meeting the European Commission Vice President voiced concerns about deficiencies in the recent British government Command Paper. Those assertions have now been borne out by this parliamentary Affairs Committee report.
“The fact is this British government has indeed been gambling with the future of businesses, workers, and livelihoods of our wider community in the north. It must stop playing reckless ideological games with the economic and social future of people in this region.
“The time for messing about is long over. The British should start negotiating seriously with the European Community and engage properly with local business and trade union leaders in the north of Ireland.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD has called for the extension of paid maternity leave by an additional 12 weeks for women who have had their babies during the Covid-19 pandemic and whose maternity leave is due to expire.
Responding to the announcement this evening that parent's leave will be extended for three weeks from next year, she said that the extension of parent's leave by three weeks was always intended to happen - as made clear during debate last year on the Parents Leave and Benefit Act. She said this does not deal with the immediate crisis facing mothers.
"Tomorrow, Sinn Féin will bring a motion to the Dáil calling for paid maternity leave to be extended from six to nine months for mothers whose maternity benefit claim expires during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"This extension is necessary because of the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic and the difficulties faced by new mothers in securing adequate childcare.
"Right now new mothers need the support of TDs and the government. Many are struggling to find suitable childcare for young babies and are deeply anxious about being forced to return to work without appropriate arrangements in place.
"Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald raised this issue in the Dáil last week, yet the government still hasn’t acted and time is running out.
"This is about fairness for families. I am calling on all TDs to do the right thing and support this motion.
"The announcement of a three week extension of parent's benefit this evening by the Minister for Children is welcome, but this was always intended to happen next year.
"This is a reannouncement of old policy and three weeks extra leave next year does not deal with the immediacy of the issues facing workers and families who cannot access childcare right now."
Sinn Féin TD for Kerry Pa Daly TD has called for greater controls over arrivals into Ireland to ensure the hard work everyone has contributed to since March is not undone in a matter of days or weeks.
Teachta Daly said:
“The government has failed to put adequate controls in place to ensure that people arriving into Ireland follow an effective quarantine process.
“Covid-19 is out of control in certain countries, such as the United States, and yet I am being told of tourists and business visitors, as well as Irish people returning home to visit family, being able to move freely without self-isolating for the required fourteen days.
“People in Kerry are extremely upset that our huge efforts to contain the virus will be in vain due to weak government controls.
"Local tour operators have had to cancel bookings at the last minute because they became aware customers had not quarantined. This places even more uncertainty on tour operators who are already struggling. I commend them for taking a stand.
“Many visitors believe that quarantine is optional and need not be taken seriously. I am calling on government to provide clarity without further delay. We cannot consider relaxing through “air bridges” or other means, until we have absolute certainty over quarantine obligations and enforcement of these.
“All visitors should be crystal clear, from the moment they book their ticket, that they will need to adhere to strict protocols and that they will be required to check-in with authorities. We should go further by insisting on temperature checks and rapid Covid-19 testing from high-risk areas.
“I was particularly disappointed to learn that a visitor arriving from overseas was apparently unable to avail of the Covid-19 tracker as they are not an Irish resident, and do not hold an Irish credit card on the app store. This has the potential to be part of the solution for visitors to the island and I hope it is amended.
“The extent to which we appear willing to allow visitors to roam the island unchecked is going to cost us heavily I fear.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O’Rourke TD has said it is reckless to allow international visitors arrive into the State from Covid-19 hotspots without any proper checks or restrictions.
Teachta O’Rourke said:
“Covid-19 remains out of control in the United States and it is reckless to allow tourists from the US arrive into Ireland with no Covid-19 checks or restrictions.
“People here have given up their foreign holidays abroad this year - some at a huge financial loss - and so are rightly angered at seeing tourists now arriving into Ireland unrestricted.
"The government is naive in the extreme if they believe all tourists are going to self-isolate here for 14 days during their holidays.
“While some countries have gone to extraordinary measures to prevent Covid-19 arriving through their ports and airports, the sum total of the efforts here has been to hand out a piece of paper and make a phone call. Neither of which can actually confirm whether people are abiding by the rules.
“This is ridiculously lax given the risks involved.
“We have repeatedly called for better checks and controls to be put in place, such as mandatory face coverings in airports, temperature screening, testing from high risk areas and designated isolation facilities.
“While the government now plan to announce a green list of countries to permit foreign travel to and from, we believe a red list should also be published, which would see arrivals from high risk areas face more stringent restrictions and checks before entry into the State is permitted.
“We need a graduated response to foreign travel going forward, based on specific Covid-19 country profiles.
“If visitors from high-risk countries then wish to fly in, they should be required to pay for their Covid-19 testing and isolate in a designated quarantine facility until they are determined to be Covid free.
“The progress made to date has come at a huge cost, and we cannot let this be undone now. The government need to address these issues urgently.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Louise O’Reilly, has said the government’s July Stimulus package needs to be expansive and imaginative- with a definitive focus on stimulating micro business as well as small and medium enterprises.
Teachta O’Reilly said: “It is clear that current government measures to support businesses have failed to provide adequate liquidity to ensure the survival of micro business and SMEs in affected sectors. The July stimulus package must contain measures to finally give these businesses the support they need and deserve.
“Across Europe we are seeing countries unveiling significant economic stimulus packages. “In Britain, we have seen a package of around £30 billion announced to invest in the economy and try to save sectors and recover them to something like their pre-Covid19 state.
“Countries like Germany and Denmark have gone even bigger and are investing huge sums of money in targeted and imaginative ways to stimulate their economies.
“Germany have launched a €130 billion stimulus package, while Denmark are aiming to ensure their stimulus package will deliver a severely reduced economic contraction that will be lower than the European average.
“While the Tánaiste should look at the positive aspects of the British stimulus package, it is our European Union counterparts' economic stimulus packages that we should be focusing on.
“Affected micro business and SMEs do not want to take on additional debt. What they need is immediate injections of liquidity, such as through grants. This will allow them to recover, reinvest, and reemploy.
“This will require the State to borrow, however, the cost of not investing in affected sectors will be far greater and will cost the State more in both the short and long term.
“The Tánaiste needs to follow our European counterparts and deliver an economic stimulus package, specifically targeting micro business and SMEs in affected sectors, that is expansive and imaginative and can allow businesses to recover, reinvest, and reemploy.”
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson David Cullinane has expressed disbelief at the Health Minister’s u-turn on the existence of private clinics in public hospitals.
Teachta Cullinane said:
"I am deeply concerned by the Health Minister’s u-turn on this important issue. Private clinics have no place in public hospitals, especially not our new National Children’s Hospital.
"There is no obligation on the state to facilitate private practice in public hospitals. The private practice aspect of consultant contracts can be facilitated outside of public hospitals.
"We have just experienced a major health crisis that laid bare the need for a fully functioning public healthcare system.
"Every single public resource must be used wholly and solely for the purpose of providing public healthcare, not for-profit healthcare.
"This undermines the very premise of Sláintecare. If we are to move to a universal, single tier public healthcare system, why are we building private healthcare into its future?
"I would seriously doubt Minister Donnelly's commitment to Sláintecare if he allows this to go ahead, especially considering how he questioned this practice himself when in opposition.
“He must clarify this and tell us how he can reconcile this with his comments and commitments made before he was Minister.
"To continue the practice of facilitating private healthcare in the national children's hospital is a step back and will only result in the flaws in our healthcare system continuing."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has urged the Government to immediately extend the ban on evictions, notices to quit and rent increases in order to protect thousands of renters from sudden homelessness.
Teachta Ó Broin said: “The emergency ban on evictions, notices to quit and rent increases runs out in seven days. Tens of thousands of renters are covered by the ban. The Government must extend it immediately and ensure the extension lasts until the end of this year.
“Failure to do so could put tens of thousands of renters at risk of homelessness. It also has the potential to destabilise whole sections of the private rental market.
“I do not believe that it is impossible to craft constitutionally sound legislation to address this issue. Property rights are not absolute. So long at the legislation is proportionate and provides landlord and tenants with due process I believe it can meet the requirements of the Constitution.
“If the Government has contrary legal advice then they should publish it. However, Sinn Féin makes no apology for standing by renters. In Government we would be willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to ensure renters are protected.
“In addition to extending the ban, Government must introduce a rent arrears debt resolution process including the option of partial and full arrears debt write downs.
“The Government must also do more to ensure that banks provide interest free mortgage payment breaks to landlords whose tenants are affected by Covid-19 income loss. Good landlords must not be victim to reckless profiteering by lenders during the pandemic.”
Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has expressed his condolences following the death of a man in a road collision in Cookstown.
The Mid Ulster MP said:
“The local community has been shocked and saddened by the death of a man in a road collision on the Lough Fea Road.
“Any death on our roads is a tragedy.
“My thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of the man who has lost his life.”
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigian has condemned those responsible for a terrifying burglary in Ballintoy in the early hours of this morning.
A woman in her 60s has been tied up and assaulted by two masked men during a burglary on Whitepark Road in Ballintoy.
The North Antrim MLA said:
“This must have been a terrifying experience for the woman.
“This is a close knit and quiet area and it will be left in a state of shock at this entire incident.
“I would call on anybody who saw anything suspicious or has any information to bring it to the police.
“Those behind this attack must be taken off our streets to ensure there can be no repeat of this.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has filed a complaint with the PSNI following the erection of a vile banner targeting Bobby Storey on a bonfire in South Belfast.
The West Belfast MP said:
“A vile banner was erected on a bonfire in South Belfast this evening targeting Bobby Storey.
“I have contacted the PSNI and filed a complaint.
“This banner is one of a series of blatant and unacceptable displays of sectarian hatred on bonfires yet again.
“It is absolutely disgraceful that the Storey family who are grieving the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and brother, are having their hurt compounded by sectarian thugs.
“I am reiterating my call for all parties to unite in condemnation of this particularly vile kind of hate crime and call for an immediate end to these sickening displays.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has said that waiting list figures released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund show the urgent need for a healthcare catch-up programme.
Speaking this morning, Teachta Cullinane said: “The latest waiting list figures released by the NTPF show that up until the end of June, 84,223 patients were waiting for an appointment for inpatient or day case treatment.
“35,878 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for their GI Endoscopy, while a staggering 584,398 patients were waiting for a first hospital outpatient consultation.
"Even more worrying is that 131,134 patients are waiting 18 months or more simply to see a consultant.
“Covid-19 has exposed the deep crisis and lack of capacity in our acute hospital settings. The additional frontline staff brought in to the public system to help fight the virus must be retained and offered full-time contracts.
“There is also an urgent need for a roadmap to reopen all forms of healthcare. This must involve restarting all screening services, a catch-up programme for missed care, mental health services, and a plan for each acute hospital.
“Longer term, there is a need for a fresh plan for healthcare. No more can we tolerate a recruitment and retention embargo for frontline staff or long delays for capital projects. No more can we tolerate long wait times due to Government inaction.
“Our frontline staff have been tremendous in combating this virus and keeping patients safe. It is vital that in the short term we put in place a plan that is mindful of the pressures healthcare professionals are under as well as preparing for a potential second wave of Covid-19 or a winter surge.
“Minister Stephen Donnelly needs to step up to the plate. We need to urgently see his plan and roadmap for reopening our healthcare system and how he plans addressing the issue of missed care due to Covid-19. I will be raising these matters in the Dáil next week directly with Minister Donnelly."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O'Rourke has expressed concern about the arrival of flights from the United States given how out of control Covid-19 is in that country.
The Meath East TD described the inaction of government as 'reckless' and urged them to implement additional checks and precautions at our airports and ports as a matter or urgency.
Speaking today, Teachta O'Rourke said: "We are extremely concerned about flights arriving into Ireland from the United States.
"The government has failed to put proper checks and controls in place at our airports, such as mandatory face coverings, temperature screening and testing from high risk areas.
"Covid-19 is out of control in the United States. It is reckless that flights are permitted to land here with no additional checks or precautions.
"The government is naive in the extreme if they believe all the passengers are going to self-isolate for 14 days.
"This is a serious health concern that needs to be urgently addressed. It also flies in the face of government commitments to develop and publish a green list of safe travel areas based on Covid-19 profile.
"Flights from high risk areas should not be arriving into the state if we don't have proper checks and restrictions in place at our ports and airports. Handing out a piece of paper to fill in is a joke considering the risks involved.
"The government has had ample time to address this issue. It is absolutely unacceptable that they haven't."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has said that the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar must correct the Dáil record having given a different account of his meeting with senior bankers in May on RTÉ radio this morning than he gave to the Dáil on Thursday.
Teachta Doherty said:
"In response to questions from me in the Dáil on Thursday, the Tánaiste said 'Banks never claimed that they couldn’t waive interest [in respect of Covid-19 mortgage breaks]… They did say it would be possible to waive interest for that period.'
"This account contradicted the minutes of a meeting with senior bankers the former Taoiseach had on 11th May.
"Today on RTÉ radio, the Tánaiste has now given a different version of events; saying that he was told by bankers that they had to charge interest on Covid-19 mortgage breaks.
"Only one version of these events is true. The Tánaiste needs to correct the Dáil record.
"The reality is that banks have been giving a naive government the runaround on this issue.
"They have been caught red handed and they cannot be allowed to profiteer on the back of this pandemic by imposing a Covid penalty on workers and families who have availed of a mortgage break."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport Chris Andrews TD has extended his deepest sympathies to the family of former Irish international soccer manager Jack Charlton, who passed away last night.
Teachta Andrews said:
"Like all Irish soccer fans, I have learned this morning of the passing of Jack Charlton with great sadness.
"We remember in particular the unprecedented success of the senior international team under his stewardship, reaching Euro '88 and two world cups in 1990 and 1994. They were days of great joy and national pride, and Jack Charlton's role in these successes was unquantifiable.
"His career as a player was equally impressive, winning a World Cup with England in 1966 and - to this day - holding a record number of appearances for Leeds United.
"I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Pat, his children John, Deborah and Peter, his grandchildren, his extended family and friends.
"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has appealed for calm following disturbances in North Belfast after a Loyalist bonfire was erected near an interface.
The North Belfast MLA said:
“For eight weeks now we have seen a rise in attacks on homes, cars and sectarian abuse in local parks coinciding with wood collecting and the building of a loyalist bonfire at the interface.
“The erection of this bonfire - for the first time in eight years - is clearly an orchestrated attempt to intimidate residents and damage long-standing community relations.
“We have met with multiple statutory agencies and community leaders from all sides of the community to warn them of the potential for escalation and to attempt to defuse this situation.
“The people of North Belfast do not want this type of activity on their streets.
“I am appealing for calm in the area tonight. People should not be living in fear in their homes.”