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Responding to comments from the DUP Leader today, Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill said she remains committed to working towards a new Assembly and a new kind of politics in the New Year.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“Sinn Féin remains fully invested and committed to the Good Friday Agreement.

“The Agreement also requires, an Assembly, that works for everyone from all traditions and communities.

“The current political impasse is unsustainable and unacceptable.

“Three years after the RHI scandal brought the assembly down, people deserve a functioning government and genuine power-sharing.

“An agreement was reached in February last year, however, the DUP regrettably walked off the pitch. 

“That position is untenable.

“The delivery of rights cannot be avoided.

“Sinn Féin stands ready to form a credible, sustainable and inclusive executive.

“The Sinn Féin leadership met British Secretary of State Julian Smith last week to set out our position. We will meet Tánaiste Simon Coveney this week to do the same.

“If the Executive is to be credible, then it must deliver on issues such as public sector pay, safe staffing levels in the health service, economic policies that delivers prosperity for all and that invests in rural communities, and a mitigation package that protects people from Tory welfare reform.”

Michelle O’Neill added: “To be credible allthe outstanding issues must be dealt with including an Irish Language Act and reform of the Petition of Concern and we need to tackle the failure by the British government to implement the Stormont House Agreement and deal with the issue of legacy.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor JJ Magee has condemned a shooting in the New Lodge area of Belfast. 

JJ Magee said: 

“Shots were fired through the window of a house in the New Lodge on Saturday evening. 

“Luckily no one was hurt in this reckless attack, but it could have been much worse. 

“There is no place for guns on our streets.

“Anyone with information on this attack should bring it forward to the Police.” 

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Sinn Féin Seanadóir, Niall Ó Donnghaile, has today called a decision by a British Upper Tribunal, that the Good Friday Agreement is not a constitutional document, as 'extraordinary and concerning'.

Seanadóir Ó Donnghaille said: 

"Over time the DeSouza case has revealed extraordinary and concerning tendencies of the British judiciary to roll back the status of Irish citizenship in the north, and that of the Good Friday Agreement which underpins it.

"The latest claim by a British Upper Tribunal on the status of the Good Friday Agreement is yet another unacceptable denigration of the agreement and the basic rights of Irish citizens in the north.

"The Good Friday Agreement is an internationally recognised and legally binding treaty, overwhelmingly endorsed by people across the island of Ireland, and guaranteed in law by both the Irish and British governments.

"I urge Tánaiste Simon Coveney to step up his efforts on this issue, and make immediate contact with the British government for clarity on this matter.

"Sinn Féin stand unequivocally behind the DeSouzas in their efforts to assert and protect their right to Irish citizenship in law." 

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD wrote to the Governor of Central Bank on Wednesday 20th November requesting an investigation into the practice of dual pricing in the mortgage market, and has called on the practice to be banned. 

This comes after Deputy Doherty drew attention to the practice in the insurance market, with the Central Bank since agreeing to investigate the practice and its impact on loyal and vulnerable consumers.

Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:

“On Wednesday 20th November I wrote to the Governor of the Central Bank requesting an investigation into price discrimination in the mortgage market.

“This comes after I drew attention to the practice in the insurance market, requesting that the Central Bank investigate the practice after meeting the Governor and submitting a 130-page complaint on the practice. I welcome the fact that the Central Bank have since agreed to my request. 

“The Deputy Governor of the Central Bank recently acknowledged that Irish banks have recognised they can be profitable while charging new customers mortgage interest rates of between 2 and 3 percent, but persist in charging existing customers in the region of 4.5 percent.

“This is dual pricing in action, or as I have called it, price discrimination.

“It should be noted that interest rates in the Irish mortgage market are twice the EU average. 

“Dual pricing is unacceptable in insurance, or any other market.

“Over 21,000 mortgage-holders aged over 60 still owe more than €150,000 in mortgage debt, with as much as 15,000 mortgage-holders over the age of 50 on interest-only mortgages.

“Current debt levels for those approaching retirement are unsustainable, and this practice makes it worse.

“In my letter, I asked the bank what action it will take to tackle this discriminatory practice, and requested an investigation into its impact and compatibility with the Consumer Protection Code.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking in Clondalkin, Dublin today has said that Sinn Féin are fighting to win in the four Dáil by-elections being held on Friday.

Teachta McDonald said:

"This Friday there are by-elections being held in Cork North Central, Dublin Mid-West, Dublin Fingal and Wexford and I am calling on voters in these constituencies to support Sinn Féin, not least here in Dublin Mid-West where we have an excellent candidate in Cllr. Mark Ward.

"By-elections are an important part of our democracy, and whilst it is high time that this government was put out of office and a general election called, these contests are important.

"Sinn Féin want to give workers and families a break and that is the basis on which we are seeking a mandate in these by-elections.

"We are the only party with real solutions to the housing crisis that will get us back to a position where the State and local Councils build houses on a mass scale once again, and are the only party who will reduce rents by up to €1,500 per year for tenants.

"We are also the only party that are seriously committed to Irish unity, and whilst some others may pay lip service to a United Ireland, we want action and to begin the preparation for Irish unity now.

"I make the appeal today to the people of Cork North Central, Dublin Mid-West, Dublin Fingal and Wexford to vote for Sinn Féin on Friday."

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has sought an urgent meeting with the Minister of State for Disability Issues, the HSE and the Irish Wheelchair Association to discuss the impending closure of the Cuisle respite resort.

Speaking ahead of today’s rally in Roscommon town against the closure of Cuisle the teachta McDonald said:

“Cuisle provides an invaluable service to people with a disability and their families from across Ireland. I’ve been contacted by so many people who are heartbroken at the thought of losing the resort. 

“Last week service users, workers from Cuisle and families affected by the closure of Cuisle outside protested the Dáil calling on the HSE and IWA to keep the centre open.

“It’s important to acknowledge the wider use of the resort by a number of organisations including Ataxia Foundation Ireland, CanTeen Ireland, Enable Ireland, Irish Heart Foundation and Headway Ireland as well as local GAA clubs, Rugby club and other local organisations.

“In addition to the loss of services there are 48 workers at Cuisle who could lose their jobs if the resort closes.

“Responses from the HSE and the Minister of State for Disability Issues to my concerns have been deeply unsatisfactory. Neither have recognised the unique and valued services Cuisle provides to people with a disability. Critically they have not listened to those with a disability who rely on the resort.

“I have written to the HSE, the Minister of State and the Irish Wheelchair Association seeking an urgent meeting to set out in no uncertain terms service users and their family’s opposition to the closure.

“The proposed private hotel model of respite that is to replace Cuisle is not appropriate for service users’ needs and ignores the highly positive outcomes from the services provided at the resort.

“Cuisle is not a typical congregated setting for people with a disability as claimed by the Minister.

“Government has not provided the capital investment needed to maintain services at Cuisle for the long term and instead is pursuing a private operator model for what is an essential and much-loved public service.”

ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that the Government must ensure that Teachers and other Educational professionals, among countless low and middle income earners, must not be the subject of an effective Tax Hike, through the removal of flat-rate expenses.

Deputy Ó Laoghaire was speaking as concern grows among many teachers and other education professionals as to whether some of their classroom expenditure is deemed to be a professional expense.

The Cork South Central TD said:

"In the Budget 2018 Sinn Féin successfully put pressure on the Government to  defer any abolition of the flat rate expenses scheme for tens of thousands of ordinary low and middle income earners. 

"This decision deferred what would have effectively been a tax hike for workers such from Nurses, Brick Layers and Bus Drivers, and to Teachers and Educational Professionals.

"However, the Government did not rule out the idea altogether, putting it to a Revenue Commission review, which is due to report in the coming weeks.

"There is growing concern among teachers, principals, lecturers, Guidance Counsellors and others, at the effect that this will have on them. For example, full time teachers will be down €518 per annum.

"Most teachers pay for legitimate educational expenses such as stationary, art supplies, and so on out of their own pocket. The flat rate expenses regime is intended to reflect that fact. Getting rid of this would be an extraordinary statement of a lack of goodwill to teachers.

"It would also be a tax hike, and a substantial hit to their income. This at a time that the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil Government are talking about, and delivering, tax cuts and reliefs for the very highest earners.

"The Government has kicked this to touch in the past, instead of simply dumping the idea. Fianna Fáil may be talking about this now, however, they had ample warning from last year, when Sinn Féin & the Trade Unions led the charge on it, and it was entirely open to them to make this an issue during budget negotiations.

"We believe that implementing such a tax hike would be disrespectful to teachers who are plainly already paying for items from their own pocket, and would be an unwarranted hit to their incomes, as well to tens of thousands of workers in other sectors. Such as approach as this is not reflected in the treatment of higher earners.

"The Government need to drop this idea, and to prevent this tax hike for low and middle income earners."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport, Jonathan O’Brien TD has welcomed comments from Minister Shane Ross in which he says he sees serious merit in an all-island soccer league and his encouragement of both the FAI and the IFA to facilitate cross-border cooperation and competition.

Teachta O’Brien was reacting to a PQ response from Minister Ross on the creation of an all-island soccer league.

He said;

“Proposals for an all-island soccer league where brought forward earlier this year by a group led by Kieran Lucid.

“They are serious, well researched proposals which promised increased prize money for clubs along with increased television revenues.

“The proposals merit serious consideration by clubs across the island and, while the IFA has poured some cold water on the proposals, the group is determined to continue promoting the idea and to establish a new league as soon as possible.

“A new all-island league also has the potential to seriously improve the standard of Irish soccer at all levels while beginning the process of retaining on the island much of the millions of euros that are spent in Britain every year by Irish soccer fans.

“In that context I welcome comments from Minister Shane Ross in which he accepts the serious merit in these proposals and his encouragement of both football associations to facilitate cross-border opportunities and competition.”

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For Oral Answer on : 21/11/2019Question Number(s)25 Question Reference(s): 48177/19Department: Transport, Tourism and SportAsked by: Jonathan O'Brien T.D.______________________________________________

QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport his views on the creation of an all-island soccer league; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The organisation and delivery of sport in Ireland is mainly a matter for National Governing Bodies of Sport.  The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Irish Football Association (IFA) are the respective Governing Bodies for soccer on the island.  They are independent and autonomous bodies and any proposals regarding an all-island soccer league would be a matter for those two bodies.
The organisation of sport on an all-island basis has worked very successfully for a number of sports, most notably in the cases of rugby and hockey.  I am very supportive of cross-border sporting initiatives and collaborations between sporting organisations.  Such approaches have excellent potential to enhance relationships on both parts of the island of Ireland.  In that regard, the Unite the Union Cup was a very welcome addition to the sporting calendar on the island of Ireland this year. 
I am aware that proposals for an all-island league were presented in recent months and that, thus far, it has not been possible to progress such proposals.  It is important to respect the autonomy and positions of the National Governing Bodies in this matter however personally, I believe there is serious merit in such proposals.  I would encourage the bodies to continue to facilitate opportunities for cross-border cooperation and competition.

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Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has called on the Minister for Health and the government to consider a Compulsory Purchase Order of the land at St Vincent’s Hospital for the new National Maternity Hospital, to counter the attempts of the Vatican and the Catholic Church to influence and interfere with the project.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“It is over two years now since the Dáil passed a Sinn Féin motion calling for the new National Maternity Hospital to remain entirely within public ownership with legally guaranteed independence from all non-medical influence in its clinical operations.

“It is ridiculous that we now face the possibility that the building of the hospital or its operations could be influenced and interfered with by the Catholic Church.

“It is the position of the Dáil that the National Maternity Hospital be owned and operated by the State and will be shaped only by modern medical standards and principles and that needs to be upheld.

“Religious faith is important for many, many people across this State, and it is an important factor for them in our society. However, there is no space for religious influence from any quarter in our healthcare policy, especially women’s healthcare.

“If it is a case that the Vatican blocks the transfer of land at St Vincent's for the new National Maternity Hospital, or if there is attempted religious interference with the project, then the government must consider a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of the land in order to proceed with the construction of the hospital.”

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Sinn Féin Cllr Mark Ward from the North Clondalkin/Lucan/Palmerstown LEA has reiterated his demand that Irish Water immediately switch the supply of water to residents in South County Dublin back to the Ballymore Eustace water treatment plan.

This comes on the back of concerns from residents after two recent boil water notices and also from correspondence Cllr Ward received from Irish Water that stated 'following network reconfiguration, areas in South Dublin are now supplied by Ballymore Eustace'.

Cllr Ward has also questioned why the public were not notified of this change.
 
Cllr Ward said:
 
“In the aftermath of Storm Emma in March 2018, Irish Water switched the supply of water to parts of Clondalkin and Lucan from Ballymore Eustace to Leixlip water treatment plant.

"This decision was made after the cold snap led to burst pipes due to poor investment in water infrastructure. This led to a loss of supply to these areas and  we were told that this was just a temporary measure.

"Twenty months later and this temporary measure is now permanent.
 
“Since then residents in Clondalkin/Lucan have had concerns about the change in quality of water. Ballymore is a soft water supply, Leixlip is a hard water supply.

"This has led to complaints in increased turbidity. Turbidity is a measure of the total suspended solids in the water, the murkier it seems, the higher the turbidity is”
 
“In addition to changing how the water looks there has also been numerous reports of grit particles and a change of taste to the water, with scum like substances in cups of tea.

"The hard water has also damaged electrical appliances such as kettles and showers. The reality is that some residents were buying bottled water well before the boil water notices were announced.
 
“During the two recent boiled water notices it is my understanding from correspondence from Irish Water that the areas affected in Clondalkin/Lucan was switched back to Ballymore Eustace on a temporary basis following a network reconfiguration. The public were not notified of this change?”
 
“There is enough water in Ballymore Eustace which is supplied by Poulaphouca hydro station to supply the whole of South County Dublin, if seasonally adjusted. I would like Irish Water to clarify this.”
 
“I also question if Irish Water changed back the supply to Ballymore Eustace during the latest boil water notice, why were the people of Clondalkin/Lucan not informed?
 
“I demand that this switch is made permanent, that the decision made during Storm Emma to change water supply from Ballymore Eustace to Leixlip without public consultation is reversed, and that the people in Clondalkin/Lucan can return to the quality of water that they originally enjoyed.
 
“I call on a immediate response from Irish Water to the calls I have made and the questions that I have asked, the people of Clondalkin/Lucan deserve better.”
 
Ends

Editor's Note:
 
Below correspondence received from Irish Water:
 
Dear Councillor Ward,
 
Thank you for your recent communication querying whether the Irish Water supply to residents in South County Dublin is no longer originating from Leixlip Water Treatment Plant.
 
The water supply in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) comes from a number of different Water Treatment Plants, primarily the Liffey plants at Leixlip Water Treatment Plant (WTP) and Ballymore Eustace (BME) WTP.
 
The water balance between the two is a function of the supply demand balance from time to time and is managed on a daily basis. Following network reconfiguration, areas in South Dublin County Council are now being supplied from BME.
 
The management of the network is under constant review and reconfigurations of the network can be required to sustain supply.
 
Irish Water’s drinking water and operational experts worked with our colleagues in Fingal County Council and in consultation with the HSE and the EPA to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and lift the Boil Water Notice.
 
Irish Water's primary focus is and always will be the protection of public health and the Boil Water Notice was lifted as soon as it was safe to do so.
 
The Boil Water Notice was lifted on Tuesday 12 November. Irish Water recognises the significant impact this Boil Water Notice had on your constituents, and would again like to apologise.
 
Should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Oliver McCreesh
Local Representative Support Desk

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams is in Newcastle this evening campaigning with Chris Hazzard. 

Speaking tonight, Gerry Adams said:

“Brexit has created a new dynamic – a new context – in which there is the potential for significant political change across the North. It presents many challenges, but also opportunities. The historic constituency of South Down is at the heart of this. Chris Hazzard has been an exemplary MP. He has lead from the front. Against Brexit. For genuine power sharing and against the abuse of power.

In 2016 this constituency voted against Brexit by a margin of two to one. 67% voted to remain.

In recent years South Down has witnessed significant growth in the Sinn Féin vote. The 2017 Westminster result, and Chris Hazzard’s election, is evidence that nationalist and republican voters recognise that the political centre of gravity is now on the island of Ireland. The recent chaos and confusion at Westminster has confirmed the wisdom of this view.

Commenting on the issue of Irish Unity which is now centre stage Gerry Adams said:

“The Irish government has a duty and a constitutional obligation to make preparations for unity.

To examine the economic arguments.

The cultural and social dimensions.

The political dynamics.

To take account of the significant shifts in population and identity demographics in the North in recent decades.

To open this process up, and in consultation with, and through a process of inclusive dialogue, to persuade those – unionists, nationalists and others – who have reservations about unity - that Irish unity makes sense for them, for their families and for the future.

All of this needs to be planned for now.

That is the one big lesson of Brexit.

A referendum without a plan is stupid.

So a referendum on unity must be set in a thoughtful inclusive process which includes a programme of sustainable options.

A future power sharing government will have a central role in this.

That is if the power sharing government at Stormont can be restored – and this is very dependent on political unionism being prepared to embrace a new dispensation based on the rights foundation set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

The issue of a referendum on unity is now centre stage.

No other generation of Irish republicans has had this opportunity to end the union and partition.

The men and women of 1916 had no such mechanism.

Neither did Bobby Sands or Mairead Farrell and their contemporaries. 

Despite resistance from both governments and the main unionist parties a referendum WILL be held.

Irish Unity is no longer an aspiration.

Irish Unity is a project – a winnable, doable project.

Finally, I appeal to working class unionists or loyalists who may read these remarks - to farmers, business people and civic unionists. The DUP say Theresa May and Boris Johnson betrayed them. Ask yourselves who is betraying who? Those unionists who voted against Brexit are being disrespected, ignored and betrayed. Not by Sinn Féin. You know where you stand with us. No it is the unionist political elites – MPs and others - on their fat salaries and big expenses who are letting you down.

They may huff and puff about Johnson and the English betrayers.  But it’s all bluster. It is they who are betraying you. As they have for generations. As they do now with Brexit; as they do by voting against nurses pay increases, by divisive sectarian actions; by refusing to tackle poverty, disadvantage and divisions. By opposing basic and modest rights. Ask yourselves this my friends - who is fooling who?”

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Writing in his most recent blog, Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Declan Kearney, has said:

“In the north, unionism has whipped up a toxic, sectarian electoral frenzy, and have used it to maximise sectarian polarisation.

“Candidates and their families, and, particularly, Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast and North Belfast candidate, John Finucane, are being disgracefully vilified and demonised.

“Those within political unionism and the various paramilitary crime gangs who are driving this poisonous agenda are trying to increase communal tensions, heighten fears and deepen sectarian segregation.

“We must not let them succeed.

“Those of us committed to a better society need to rise above their sectarianism and bigotry, and continue to promote inclusion, anti-sectarianism and, most importantly, a positive vision of hope.”

Referring to the newly adopted Sinn Féin policy on reconciliation and anti-sectarianism, the South Antrim MLA said:

“This is the third such policy position on reconciliation and anti-sectarianism to be brought before an Ard Fheis in recent years.

“Partition and sectarianism are the biggest barriers to achieving a new, inclusive, national constitutional democracy.

“For as long as we fail to successfully tackle sectarianism and division, then intolerance, bigotry and fear will continue. 

“The potential for more instability and conflict will be ever present.

“As republicans in the tradition of the United Irishmen and women, of Connolly and Mellows, we must be driven by an absolute commitment to anti-sectarianism now and in the future.

“We demand a zero tolerance towards sectarianism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, or misogyny in society.  

“The need for a reconciliation process is beyond doubt.  But its achievement cannot be taken for granted.

“We believe a new phase of our peace process, based upon reconciliation and healing is required more urgently than ever.

“Sinn Féin’s new policy is premised upon the position that healing the divisions in Irish society is inseparable from the growing momentum for Irish unity.

“The current discourse on constitutional change should also address the challenge of developing a reconciliation and healing process.

"This policy is a major contribution from Sinn Féin on how that can be done by presenting concrete proposals on tackling sectarianism; sectarian segregation; commemoration and remembrance; legacy; the role of political institutions and political leadership; public policy; and civic and community life.”

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Last weekend, Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis (Annual Conference) took place in Derry City.

It convened two weeks out from four important by elections in the southern state, and in the middle of a Westminster general election across the north.

The chaos within British politics has brought that about.

Still no one knows, what is likely to happen next – will Boris Johnson get a majority and honour his deal with the EU27?

Everything is up in the air.

declan speaking

In the north, unionism has whipped up a toxic, sectarian electoral frenzy, and have used it to maximise sectarian polarisation.

Candidates and their families, and, particularly, Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast and North Belfast candidate, John Finucane, are being disgracefully vilified and demonised.

Those within political unionism and the various paramilitary crime gangs who are driving this poisonous agenda are trying to increase communal tensions, heighten fears and deepen sectarian segregation.

We must not let them succeed.

Those of us committed to a better society need to rise above their sectarianism and bigotry, and continue to promote inclusion, anti-sectarianism and, most importantly, a positive vision of hope.

This was the consistent tone used by speaker after speaker at the Ard Fheis as they discussed the prospect of Irish unity.

Each contributor expressed a positive vision of inclusivity and generosity.

Against that backdrop, it was even more important that delegates to the Ard Fheis adopted as national policy the new document ‘Inclusion and Reconciliation in a new Ireland’.

This is the third such policy position on reconciliation and anti-sectarianism to be brought before an Ard Fheis in recent years. I commended this latest substantive document to our party delegates and began by reminding them of the collapse of the Berlin Wall just over 30 years ago and how that gave way to the reunification of Germany shortly afterwards. 

Next February we will mark another historic milestone in the 30th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison.

mandela

By 1994 national democracy was established in South Africa.

Few of us could have predicted such epoch making events 35 or 40 years ago.

But as Mandela said himself; 

"It always seems impossible until it's done".

Those words have relevance for today's Ireland.

British state policy towards Ireland has for centuries adversely affected the development of democratic politics and social progress.

British government interference in Irish affairs is at the root of conflict and instability throughout our country's history.

It is an important fact to acknowledge that no reconciliation process was ever put in place after the 1922/’23 civil war, or the preceding Tan war.

Our most recent and devastating phase of conflict has yet to be reconciled or healed.

Britain's partition of Ireland is the central fault-line at the heart of Irish politics and society.

It has been a disaster for all our people.

Partition created two conservative states.

In the south a theocracy emerged and existed for decades.

The northern state institutionalised sectarianism in every fabric of society to maintain the dominance of a conservative unionist elite.

civil rights

Sectarian discrimination in employment, sectarian segregation, inequality and division became the hallmarks of that state.

Today the sectarianism which defined the nature of the northern state after partition still exists.

However, the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) drew a line under political conflict, and also set forth a vision of a rights based, non-sectarian future.

And, in spite of unchanged opposition from within political unionism, and a failure by both the British and Irish governments to fulfil their obligations as co-guarantors to implement the Agreement, it still represents a transformational road map.

Today the political landscape is changing rapidly across this island.

Brexit has changed everything.

The Brexit hurricane has swept away all the established constitutional, political and economic assumptions about the status quo.

unity

Brexit, demographic changes, the demise of the unionist electoral majority, and refusal of political unionism to support proper power sharing and a rights-based society, have changed the context of the north.

Partition is rapidly running out of road.

Brexit has brought the prospect of Irish unity into stark focus.

As a result, a debate on constitutional change is now centre stage.

Significant figures within political and civic unionism are reflecting publicly on Irish reunification.

Hugely significant academic studies and economic modelling have been published on Irish unity.

New voices within Irish civic society are becoming involved in the discussion.

The reality is, Britain's partition of Ireland is now a European issue.

A watershed has opened up in the politics of Ireland, and in political relations between Ireland, Britain and Europe.

This potential for constitutional and political realignment gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to collectively shape a new society which is influenced by every citizen. 

The GFA makes provision for a unity referendum to enable constitutional change and bring about Irish unity.

Irish reunification is a reasonable and achievable democratic outcome, but it needs to be strategically planned.

The failure to ensure that Britain's Brexit referendum campaign was properly informed, and then the failure to plan for its aftermath, should serve as a lesson on how not to prepare for constitutional change in Ireland.

The consequence for Britain has been constitutional chaos in its political system and massive polarisation in society.

Creating the positive conditions in which a unity referendum is held will be as important as the result.

The process which guided the Scottish government's approach to its independence referendum offers a template for the type of informed national dialogue which is required in Ireland.

That means addressing sectarianism in all its forms; promoting reconciliation; and dealing with the legacy of the past.

It means a process of discussion including the broadest cross section of political and civic stakeholders, and citizens.

I believe we should be discussing how to guarantee economic justice in a new Ireland; how to fund universal health care; let's ensure a progressive labour agenda is put at the heart of constitutional change; and, let's engage on how to harmonise a rights-based framework within a new constitutional democracy.

lettertaoiseach

A national citizens' assembly convened by the Irish government, as over 1,000 Irish citizens recently called for in a public appeal to An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, should set the context for eventual negotiations about our collective future on the island, and the thoughtful compromises which need to be explored and agreed with our unionist neighbours.

The British state has never cared about the welfare of citizens in the north of Ireland.

It does not even care about those citizens who to date have given allegiance to the union and the British state.

Unionists living in Ireland will always have more influence in any negotiation with Irish republicans about the future of this space we share, than with any English politicians.

Sinn Féin has prepared detailed thinking for a unity referendum as a next step in the transition to unity.

We do not own, or claim to own the process of constitutional change. 

But we do have a clear vision, of a new and agreed Ireland which guarantees the rights of all citizens; and which affirms, values, and respects diversity and difference.

Partition and sectarianism are the biggest barriers to achieving a new, inclusive, national constitutional democracy.

For as long as we fail to successfully tackle sectarianism and division, then intolerance, bigotry and fear will continue. 

The potential for more instability and conflict will be ever present.

As republicans in the tradition of the United Irishmen and women, of Connolly and Mellows, we must be driven by an absolute commitment to anti-sectarianism now and in the future.

We demand a zero tolerance towards sectarianism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, or misogyny in society.  

The outworking of Brexit has sharpened existing deep divisions in the north and the DUP and Tory approach to this election will exasperate these.

The complex social and political fault-lines in our society have to be addressed.

The need for a reconciliation process is beyond doubt.  But its achievement cannot be taken for granted.

We believe a new phase of our peace process, based upon reconciliation and healing is required more urgently than ever.

This will demand an entirely new strategic focus to address the reality of sectarianism and sectarian segregation.

sectarianism logo

Sinn Féin’s new policy is premised upon the position that healing the divisions in Irish society is inseparable from the growing momentum for Irish unity.

So the current discourse on constitutional change should also address the challenge of developing a reconciliation and healing process.

This policy is a major contribution from Sinn Féin on how that can be done by presenting concrete proposals on tackling sectarianism; sectarian segregation; commemoration and remembrance; legacy; the role of political institutions and political leadership; public policy; and civic and community life.

new document

The reality is that, the past cannot be changed or undone, nor can the suffering or pain experienced in our society be disowned - by any side.

It is essential that all participants in the conflict, including British state forces, make a positive contribution to acknowledgement, reconciliation and healing.

There are victims and survivors on all sides.

There must be no hierarchy of victimhood when it comes to acknowledging the loss experienced by so many families.

For our part, Sinn Féin acknowledges the grief associated with all lives lost, and on every side.

Everyone deserves acknowledgement as a first step towards the healing process.

And while our party's preferred option for dealing with the past remains an Independent International Truth Commission, we fully support the implementation of all Stormont House Agreement legacy mechanisms.

But for those mechanisms to be implemented the British state and political unionism need to stop weaponising the past.

Some powerful sections of the British military establishment and security services are still politically and psychologically at war with the Sinn Féin leadership.

They are continuing to fight out old battles which remain locked in their own heads.  

These elements of the British state should finally embrace the peace process, and stop denying their responsibility to deal with the past.

There should be an initiative of common acknowledgement by all sides, as one way to introduce a powerful new dynamic into the peace process.

During the Ard Fheis, our party restated our view that a national reconciliation strategy should be developed and implemented under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council.

A new national conversation has grown organically about the character of that change.

Sinn Féin believes that reconciliation and healing should be central to that discussion and institutionalised within the political and civic structures of any new constitutional settlement.  

However, that also places an immediate strategic imperative on the Irish government to facilitate and structure this discussion.

These are momentous times in Irish society.

AF 2019

Change is in the air.

The constant theme running through last weekend’s Ard Fheis was that our generation has an unprecedented opportunity to build a future which matches the vision of the Proclamation.

Irish unity is the defining issue of our generation, the reconciliation of our people must become its lasting legacy.

Challenging as it may be, none of this is impossible.

It’s time for Irish unity - Let's seize the moment - Tapaidh an deis.

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Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn MLA is heralding today’s Australian court ruling as a significant victory for women affected by mesh.


Speaking after today's ruling the West Belfast MLA said:
“I welcome Judge Katzmann's ruling which found mesh companies had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, as well as guilty of negligence by rushing products on to the market despite knowing the risks. 
"This ruling also found testing of the products was ‘deficient’ and found a failure to investigate complaints from doctors and patients. She also rejected the claim that complications are rare.
“I commend those who brought the joint legal action, involving more than 1,250 women.
"Thousands more cases have been filed in North America, Europe and Middle East. Johnson & Johnson currently facing almost 20,000 lawsuits having paid out more than $240m in damage awards and it is believed to have paid out around $240m to settle cases out of court.

“Women in countries all over the world are coming together to challenge the arrogance and greed of global corporations who thought they were too powerful to be held to account.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams is in Newcastle this evening campaigning with Chris Hazzard.

Speaking to a packed hall on Gerry Adams said:

“Brexit has created a new dynamic – a new context – in which there is the potential for significant political change across the North. 

"It presents many challenges, but also opportunities. The historic constituency of South Down is at the heart of this. 

"Chris Hazzard has been an exemplary MP. He has lead from the front. Against Brexit. For genuine power sharing and against the abuse of power. 

"In 2016 this constituency voted against Brexit by a margin of two to one. 67% voted to remain.

"In recent years South Down has witnessed significant growth in the Sinn Féin vote. The 2017 Westminster result, and Chris Hazzard’s election, is evidence that nationalist and republican voters recognise that the political centre of gravity is now on the island of Ireland. 

"The recent chaos and confusion at Westminster has confirmed the wisdom of this view. "

Commenting on the issue of Irish Unity which is now centre stage Gerry Adams said:

“The Irish government has a duty and a constitutional obligation to make preparations for unity.

"To examine the economic arguments.

"The cultural and social dimensions.

"The political dynamics.

"To take account of the significant shifts in population and identity demographics in the North in recent decades.

"To open this process up, and in consultation with, and through a process of inclusive dialogue, to persuade those – unionists, nationalists and others – who have reservations about unity - that Irish unity makes sense for them, for their families and for the future.

"All of this needs to be planned for now.

"That is the one big lesson of Brexit.

"A referendum without a plan is stupid.

"So a referendum on unity must be set in a thoughtful inclusive process which includes a programme of sustainable options.

"A future power sharing government will have a central role in this.

"That is if the power sharing government at Stormont can be restored – and this is very dependent on political unionism being prepared to embrace a new dispensation based on the rights foundation set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

"The issue of a referendum on unity is now centre stage.

"No other generation of Irish republicans has had this opportunity to end the union and partition.

"The men and women of 1916 had no such mechanism.

"Neither did Bobby Sands or Mairead Farrell and their contemporaries. 

"Despite resistance from both governments and the main unionist parties a referendum WILL be held.

"Irish Unity is no longer an aspiration.

"Irish Unity is a project – a winnable, doable project.

"Finally, I appeal to working class unionists or loyalists who may read these remarks - to farmers, business people and civic unionists. 

"The DUP say Theresa May and Boris Johnson betrayed them. Ask yourselves who is betraying who? Those unionists who voted against Brexit are being disrespected, ignored and betrayed. Not by Sinn Féin. 

"You know where you stand with us. No it is the unionist political elites – MPs and others - on their fat salaries and big expenses who are letting you down.

"They may huff and puff about Johnson and the English betrayers.  But it’s all bluster. It is they who are betraying you. As they have for generations. 

"As they do now with Brexit; as they do by voting against nurses pay increases, by divisive sectarian actions; by refusing to tackle poverty, disadvantage and divisions. By opposing basic and modest rights. Ask yourselves this my friends - who is fooling who?”

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Dublin Denise Mitchell has strongly criticised the Government for utterly failing to address the scale of child homelessness in Ireland.

Teachta Mitchell said that “we are actively harming children by denying them a home of their own.”

The Dublin Bay North TD said:

“There are almost four thousand children homeless in this State. Four thousand. In 2019, that is the Ireland that this government has created in its image. Where the better off prosper and those without suffer.

“This of course does not account for homeless families who are self-accommodating or doubling up with family and friends. Thousands of children are sleeping two to a bed or sleeping in box rooms as their parents crash on the floor.

“No one can say what effect this will have on our young people as they get older. We are stealing these developmental years from thousands of children. We are stunting their growth in ways that may not become apparent for years to come.

“Homeless children are fair more likely to have poor school attendance, poor diet, inadequate rest, and poor living conditions.

“Numerous studies have shown the detrimental impact that homelessness has on children in terms of physical, mental, and emotional health.

“We are actively harming children by denying them a home of their own. This much cannot be argued.

“The Minister will stand in here and say that the Government understands.

“He will mournfully say that they are doing all they can and that no child should experience such terrible circumstances.

“That is all well and good, but what are they doing about it? Not a damn thing.

“The homelessness numbers have only been going one way since Fine Gael took office and that is up. Month on month, year and year, more and more people are entering emergency accommodation.

“My party put down a motion of no confidence in Minister Eoghan Murphy in September of last year. He survived thanks to the inaction of Fianna Fáil.

“Fianna Fáil are directly supporting this government and shameful record on addressing the housing crisis that is plaguing this State.

“Perhaps they will reflect on that.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called for the establishment of a stand-alone insurance fraud unit within An Garda Síochana to investigate insurance fraud if and when it occurs, including a clamp-down on ‘ghost brokers’ that are taking out fraudulent policies on behalf of unsuspected customers.

Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:

“The activities of so-called ‘ghost brokers’, who take out policies with false information for unsuspected consumers, only for the cover to then be cancelled by insurance companies, must be tackled immediately.

“It is reported that these ghost brokers have taken out more than 10 thousand insurance policies, with hundreds of these policies being cancelled for consumers who are then left without cover when accidents occur.

“These criminals are offering unsuspecting consumers low premiums by providing false information to insurance companies, and taking commission from the sale.

“When companies then discover that these policies were bought on the basis of false information, sometimes using stolen credit cards, the policies are cancelled, leaving innocent consumers out of pocket and without any cover.

“These so-called ghost brokers engaged in organised crime must be stopped, and I commend the unit heading up this investigation.

“However, it is clear that criminal activities in the insurance market are becoming more sophisticated. As a result, Garda operations must become more sophisticated and better resourced.

“That is why Sinn Féin want to set up a stand-alone and specialist Garda Insurance Fraud Unit made of detectives, Garda staff and financial investigators. This unit would be initially funded with reserves built up by the Personal Injury Assessment Board and supplemented with additional public resources as required.

“It would create a hostile environment for organised criminality engaged in fraud, including ghost brokers, and ensure that insurance companies comply with Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act by reporting all suspected fraud.

“Only Sinn Féin have the policies and political will to take on the industry, stamp out fraud, reduce insurance costs and end the rip-off.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane has said that proposed cuts to local councils and increases in council rents, tolls and commercial rates must be resisted as they will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable in our society.

Speaking at Leaders’ Questions today, Deputy Cullinane said;

“€18.4 million in cuts to Dublin and Waterford councils are on the way due to this government and Irish Water.

“This is because the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will no longer fund the commercial rate compensation scheme.

“Because of this, Waterford City and County Council will see a 13.5% drop in rates at €3.3 million; proportionally the highest cut made.

“These are government cuts plain and simple - cuts that are unsustainable and place a burden on local authorities that cannot be met.

“The compensation by DPER that was in place is now being abolished, leaving councils high and dry.

“Dublin city councillors on Monday night refused to pass a budget because of these cuts - a budget that proposed to increase council rents, increase commercial rates on small businesses and increase toll charges.

“Local authority tenants cannot afford a rent increase. Funding for roads, supports for older people in their homes, and housing maintenance should not be cut to save the government’s blushes.

“The chief executive of Dublin City Council said this had to be done because the council was not being compensated by central government, despite promises made.

“In Waterford there are similar proposals to increase rates and cut services.

“This will cut funding for housing maintenance, roads, festivals and local communities.

“The compensation for local authorities affected must be reinstated.

“It is the only way to protect households, families and businesses.”

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has called on the government and the HSE to look at adopting the Scottish Patient and Clinician Engagement process for medicines approval in order to reduce waiting times for patients to access medicines.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) have reported that patients in this State are waiting three times as long for the same medicines as patients in other European countries.

“I know from speaking with many patients and patient groups that these waiting times and a lack of consultation and engagement in the medicines approval process is incredibly frustrating.

“For some time now, we have known that the medicines approval process is broken and needs to be fixed. It is also clear that the level of funding levels for new medicines is well below other European countries and needs to be increased.

“Scotland faced similar problems regarding difficulties with their medicines approval for policy before they implemented the successful Patient and Clinician Engagement (PACE) process which gives patient groups and clinicians a stronger voice in decision making around medicines.

“A medicines approval process like PACE allows for the consideration of additional aspects of value beyond cost-effectiveness.

“This is not to say that the cost of medicines being submitted by pharmaceutical companies is not a problem, more often than not it is the root cause of the problem.

"It is of the utmost importance that patient considerations are put front and centre by the HSE, the government, and pharmaceutical companies when it comes to drug purchasing policy. 

“We need to re-evaluate our medicines approval and purchasing process and we also need to deepen our co-operation with other EU countries for the bulk purchasing of medicines in order to counter large pharmaceutical companies who seek to profiteer off the illnesses and difficulties of vulnerable people.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has described as “totally unacceptable” that only one third of the €13m in funding available for traveller accommodation has been drawn down to date in 2019. He has called on Minister Damien English to press ahead with recommendations of the expert group as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Figures released to me in response to a parliamentary question indicated that just €4m out of a budget of €13m was draw down for Traveller Accommodation to date in 2019.

“This means that nearly 70% of the €13m remains to be drawn down over the next six weeks before the end of the year.

“Some local authorities are continuing to underspend on traveller accommodation, with 14 local authorities failing to draw down any funding yet this year.

“2019 is currently on track to be the greatest underspend since I started tracking this.

“In 2018 there was 48% underspend in traveller accommodation budget by local authorities.

“It was a similar story in 2017 where only €4.8m was drawn down out of a budget of €8.7m.

“Minister English must implement the recommendations of the expert group on Traveller accommodation as a matter of urgency."

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