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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has slammed Minister Murphy's claims that the latest Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) data on rents is evidence of "rent stabilisation"

Deputy Ó Broin said:

"The latest quarterly data from the RTB on rents shows that rents are up 6.6 percent in Dublin and 8 percent across the State.

"The average rent in Dublin is now 1,762 a year, an increase of 6.6 percent. This is clearly in breach of the 4 percent cap yet Minister Murphy claims this shows rent stabilisation.

"The average rent across the rest of the State is now €1,243 per month, an increase of 8 percent. 

"The average rent is now over €1,000 euro in seven counties across the State.

"There is nothing stable about the private rented sector for most tenants and for the Minister with responsibility for the sector. To claim otherwise is delusional.

"Rent pressure zones are not working. Rents are too high and are continuing to rise.

"We need to reduce and freeze rents. The Sinn Féin bill that will do just that passed second stage in the Dail last Thursday with huge support and it must be progressed.

"We also need to see investment in affordable cost rental projects to offer renters a long term solution."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture Brian Stanley TD has congratulated Tim Cullinan on his election as the new Irish Farmer Association (IFA) President.

Speaking earlier, Deputy Stanley said:
 
“I want to congratulate Tim Cullinan on his appointment as the new President of the IFA.
 
“I hope to work on a constructive basis Mr Cullinan.
 
“It is essential that as we move forward, the IFA continues to fight for and protect the small family farm.
 
“We need to see beef farmers fully supported in their campaign for a fair price. We need to see the cartel-like beef sector tackled.
 
“There must be an emphasis by the IFA on transitioning our agriculture sector towards production that is less carbon intensive. That transition should also include an increase in on-farm afforestation.
 
“With regards to CAP, it’s vital that we see reform towards a fairer system which favours and supports the smaller farmer. We need to impose a ceiling on €60,000 on payments and level out the payments.
 
“Sinn Féin also hopes that the IFA will work with our party to investigate the potential for farmers to move into the renewable energy sector through Biogas and Biomass in order to provide new income streams for farmers.
 
“2020 will be a crucial year for the Agriculture sector and we wish the new IFA President all the best with the challenges which lie ahead.” 

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has said the decision by the British Secretary of State to refuse a meeting with the five party leaders on the health workers’ strike is ‘regrettable’. 

Michelle O’Neill was speaking after party leaders met with the Head of the Civil Service and the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health to discuss a solution which could avert tomorrow’s strike action by health workers.

Michelle O’Neill said: 

“We met with senior civil servants today to urge them to do the right thing and provide pay parity to health workers in order to avert tomorrow’s strike action.

“There is consensus among party leaders that a resolution can be found by the British Secretary of State Julian Smith and civil servants.

 “The pay and staffing issue must not be used as a political football within the talks.

“Party leaders restated there is consensus if the Executive is restored by 13 January that we will adopt a policy to award pay parity.

 “On this basis we invited the Secretary of State to come and meet with the five party leaders, where he would provide a commitment to deliver this in the event of no agreement by that date. 

“Regrettably he refused to meet the leaders.

“Sinn Féin remains in contact with Union leaders and party leaders and we will continue in our efforts to achieve pay parity for health and social care workers.”

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly called on the HSE to clarify the inclusion of the closure of long-term care beds in the HSE Service Plan published today as a cost reduction measure for the coming year.

Speaking this evening, Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The HSE Service Plan on the whole is a general regurgitation of service targets from the 2019 plan which were never achieved, but the finance section contains a curious inclusion for cost reduction – the proposed closure of long-term care beds at a number of locations.

“Within the Service Plan, under the heading of ‘Areas where cost reduction is required’, it states that there is a need for the 'Reconfiguration within the public long-term care bed stock to address value for money issues around the public cost of care in a number of locations. This will require significant internal focus and external support, up to and including the closure of beds, preferably temporarily, to deliver the 4-5% cost reduction required within 2020'.

“Effectively, this means the removal of valuable long-term care beds in 2020.

“Given the ‘Health Service Capacity Review 2018’ stated that there was a need for a 39% increase in the number of long-term care beds within the health service between now and 2031, any attempt by the HSE to close these beds is a contradiction to already existing policy.

“The CEO of the HSE and the Minister for Health need to clarify why the decision has been taken to close beds to achieve cost reduction and outline where the beds due to be closed are located.”

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Speaking after meeting with An Tánaiste Simon Coveney along with Emma and Jake DeSouza as well as representatives from the Alliance and SDLP in Belfast today, Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile said:

“I welcome today’s opportunity to meet with An Tánaiste on the DeSouza case and the wider issue of Irish citizenship rights; these are matters I have raised with him consistently in the Oireachtas.

“ It was encouraging that Minister Coveney remained resolute and clear in his agreement with us that these issues needed to be resolved comprehensively and satisfactorily for the benefit of all.  

“In 2017, Leo Varadkar made a very clear promise that people in the north would never again be left behind; the Irish government must prove that and continue to actively support Emma and Jake during this traumatic and prolonged ordeal.

 “This issue is not going away – this couple should never have been dragged through the courts in the first place.

“I accept the Irish government are not responsible for this problem; the responsibility for that rests firmly with the British government and their Home Office, who have failed to implement the citizenship provision of the agreement within their own domestic law.

“There is no doubting that the current talks process can be an opportunity to politically resolve the outstanding citizenship rights issues, which have been highlighted so starkly by Emma’s case. 

“The Irish government must continue to stand up for everyone on these islands by ensuring citizenship is both protected and upheld in law.” 

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Sinn Féin group leader on Belfast City Council, Councillor Ciaran Beattie, has said the party will nominate Councillor Daniel Baker to replace newly elected MP for North Belfast John Finucane as the next Ard Mhéara of Belfast. 

Councillor Beattie said:

"Sinn Féin will nominate Councillor Daniel Baker for the position of Ard Mhéara following the election of John Finucane as MP for North Belfast.

“I am delighted that Daniel Baker will be nominated as the next Ard Mhéara of Belfast.

“Daniel is a well-respected community activist in the Collin area of West Belfast, in May’s Council election Daniel topped the poll in the Collin area with over 2,100 votes.

“He has also been a vocal campaigner for LGBT and Irish language rights, climate action, community empowerment and for mental health awareness.

“Daniel will take this grass-root style of representation into the role of Mayor and ensure that all the needs of the citizens of this city are reflected in City Council.

"I want to also pay tribute and to thank outgoing Ard Mhéara John Finucane.

“John has worked tirelessly for all citizens of this city as Mayor. He placed human rights, social justice, environmentalism and defending Belfast against Brexit at the heart of his term.

“He will be a first class MP for all the community in North Belfast.

Speaking ahead of the nomination, Councillor Baker said:

"I am honoured to have been selected by Sinn Féin for nomination to be the next Ard Mhéara of Belfast.

"I am grateful to those who have nominated me for this position.

“Belfast is the rainbow city – it is made up of a diverse and vibrant population. It is a city on the rise and one that I am immensely proud to be a citizen. As Mayor, I will strive to represent all citizens equally.

“I will champion the need for improvements to our mental health services.

“I will fight for stronger action against climate breakdown.

“I will work with young people to ensure that they are included in decision making and that they have a bright future and better quality of life.

“I will be the Mayor of all communities, particularly those that are disadvantaged through poverty and unemployment.”

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Rt. Hon Julian Smith MP 

Secretary of State for NI 

Northern Ireland Office 

Stormont House

Belfast BT4 3SH

17th December 2019

Dear Julian,

RE:  PAY PARITY FOR HEALTH WORKERS

We the undersigned wish to make clear our collective frustration at the failure to resolve the pay dispute affecting workers in the Health Service, and our collective support for the restoration of pay parity.

In our view this statement, making clear that any Health and Finance Ministers in any future Northern Ireland Executive formed before 13 January 2020 would restore pay parity, provides cover for you as Secretary of State to intervene to ensure that pay parity is restored independently of the ongoing talks to restore the Executive. Given the range of issues involved it would be neither fair nor right to make resolution of this pay dispute, affecting not only workers but also patients, subject to separate ongoing talks aimed at restoring the devolved institutions.

Therefore, we collectively urge you to state that you now have the flexibility to intervene and to state clearly and publicly that, regardless of the position on 13 January 2020, pay parity will be restored and the pay dispute thus resolved. This will provide assurance both to health workers about how much they are valued and also to patients awaiting vital treatment that there will be no further strike action.

Yours sincerely,

Naomi Long MEP, Leader of the Alliance Party

Colum Eastwood MP, Leader of the SDLP

Steve Aiken OBE MLA, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

Michelle O’Neill MLA, Leas Uachtarán Shinn Féin

Rt Hon Arlene Foster MLA, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

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Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed the publication of a call for evidence in the development of a new energy strategy by the Department for the Economy.

The party's climate, energy and sustainability spokesperson said:

"The publication today by the Department for the Economy of a call for evidence in the development of a new energy strategy is an important step in tackling the climate emergency and sustainably meeting our energy needs into the future.

"It is important to identify and commit to ambitious targets to achieving net zero carbon.  

"We need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre industrial temperatures to prevent catastrophic consequences for the planet.

"The science is clear, to do this requires radically reducing emissions, particularly of carbon dioxide.

"We need a strategy that will urgently end our dependence on fossil fuels, provide the investment and infrastructure for renewables and storage technologies, alongside other actions including investment and promotion of public and active transport and planting more trees to offset the emissions as we target ambitious reductions.

"Sinn Féin believes that climate legislation is necessary to place emission targets and other actions on a statutory basis."

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Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady has welcomed news that young Bray boy Eric Zhi Ying Xue has had the threat of deportation lifted and has his future in Ireland assured.

Speaking having heard the good news, Teachta Brady said:

“I welcome news this afternoon that Eric is no longer facing the threat of deportation and has had his future in Ireland secured.

“I am in no doubt that the threat to Eric’s future in Ireland, the place he was born and in fact, has never left, has been an extremely worrying time for his family. It has been a nightmare for him, for his family and for the community in Bray, and especially all at St. Cronan’s Primary School.

“All of this came about due to the 2004 referendum which ended the automatic right of babies born in Ireland to claim citizenship. Sinn Féin were one of few political parties to oppose this at the time.

"However, the result of that referendum, or any referendum should not blind us from common sense. His family have suffered immeasurably as a result.

“Today is a good day for Eric, for his mother and for all at St. Cronan’s Primary School who sprang into action when the deportation order was first served. They are due huge credit for that.”

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“Homelessness is as a result of political choices”

Carthy addresses EU Housing conference

The Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands, North-West, Matt Carthy, has said that the levels of homelessness experienced throughout Ireland and in many EU states are a direct result of the political choices taking by governments and EU institutions.

Carthy was invited to deliver the opening address at a conference hosted by FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless, in Brussels last week.  The conference saw the launch by the Housing Solutions Platform of a compendium document detailing some of the most innovative and daring examples of housing solutions for the locked out in Europe.

The selected projects in the paper entitled “50m Out-of-the-box Solutions for the Locked-Out” focus on providing safe, decent, and affordable housing through many different means including innovative construction, novel legal mechanisms, new forms of inter-agency collaboration, and more.  The innovative housing solutions selected in the paper also provide ways to overcome financial and political barriers within the European housing market.

 

During his opening remarks at the conference held in European Parliament organised Matt Carthy said:

“In the past decade homelessness has increased throughout the EU by 70%.

“In Ireland, the number of those homeless has trebled in the past five years alone.  Many families, who during any other generation would be purchasing their own home, instead find that they cannot even find affordable rental accomodation.

“All of this is as a result of political choices.

“The scandalous rise in homelessness is not accidental.  Governments were told by parties like Sinn Féin that the implementation of austerity policies, their privatization agenda and the de-financing of public bodies would lead us to where we are today.

“In particular, the retreat from public housing provision by governments such as those lead by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the drive to allow ‘the market’ to played the key role in house building are the route causes of the crisis we see in Ireland and elsewhere”.

Carthy asserted that it is only through the delivery of public housing provision that the current crisis will be addressed.

He said:

“The good news is the solutions are there, and they are simple.  They have been adopted before, indeed my own family was a beneficiary.  They revolve around local-authority led house building programmes and supports for first-time buyers in the private market.

“Just as the problems were caused by political choices so too will the solutions be found.  In Ireland, only Sinn Féin articulates these solutions and only Sinn Féin will have the political guts to implement them.

“So, those who want to resolve the current crisis and ensure that their own children can ever live in their own home need to get behind the policies that will deliver” he concluded.

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Sport Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has said the FAI’s refusal to attend tomorrow’s Oireachtas Committee to answer questions on what is going on at the organisation “is an insult to every football fan in the country”.

Deputy O'Brien said:

“I am deeply frustrated at the attitude of the FAI in once again refusing to attend and answer the many, many questions that need to be asked and answered. It is an insult to every football fan in the country to hide away at this critical time.

"People have legitimate and urgent questions including the workers at the FAI and the thousands of volunteers. The questions must be publicly answered. The FAI’s reply stated they will attend when issues have been sorted out. That is an undefined period and is unacceptable.

"Anger is growing and understandably so. The future of Irish football is in the balance and the so-called leaders are hiding behind excuses. It is time for answers not excuses.”

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Sinn Féin Children and Youth Affairs Spokesperson Kathleen Funchion has said that the continued revelations of creches failing to register with Túsla highlights the need to address the fractured nature of the childcare sector and called for the establishment of a single agency responsible for management of inspections, funding, quality and curriculum. 

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD also criticised the government over a lack of urgency to address the childcare insurance crisis which could force many childcare providers to close their doors permanently this Christmas.

Deputy Funchion said:

“Reports of creches operating without registering with Túsla, the employment of staff who are not appropriately qualified and insurance premiums threatening services are very worrying for the hundreds of thousands of families who rely on childcare services across the state and the government needs to ensure that this issue is a priority going forward.

“The fractured nature of the childcare system must be addressed immediately. There is little to no cohesion across the several different agencies and departments responsible for the sector.

“A crucial first step to solving this crisis must be to establish a single agency for the sector. This could be done relatively quickly if the political will was there.

“This single agency should be responsible for the management of inspections, funding, quality, curriculum and an expert-led rapid intervention team to take immediate remedial action when critical concerns are raised about a service.

“The lack of urgency from both the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Minister Pascal Donohoe in dealing with the insurance crisis for childcare providers is a tinder box waiting to erupt in the New Year.

“Creche managers have told me they will be closing for good before Christmas as a direct result of not being able to find reasonably priced insurance for their services. 

“Both Ministers Zappone and Donohoe must intervene immediately to find a suitable solution for the large number of service providers who cannot afford to keep their doors open.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin for what she described as their "phoney stand-off regarding the date of the forthcoming general election."

Ms McDonald said that both should be focused on delivering solutions for families and workers.

The Sinn Féin President said;

"Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin should be more concerned with delivering solutions for workers and families. Where is the date for the start of a massive public housing programme? Where is the date for ending overcrowding in our hospitals?

"Right now, we need to see the passage of Sinn Féin's legislation to reduce and freeze rents through the Oireachtas to ensure that renters get the break they so badly need. However, the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil Leader are more concerned with their phoney standoff.

"This spat is just the latest round in the sham fight between the Taoiseach and the Leader of Fianna Fáil. The truth is they are political partners. They are on the same page when it comes to the major issues facing workers and families.

“As co-architects of the crises in housing and healthcare, Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin have used the alibi of Brexit to sit on their hands as people continue to suffer. The coalition government of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail has been dominated by a lack of action and by failure to solve the problems facing ordinary people.

"It is incredible that Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin think it appropriate to engage in another tiff designed for PR when the disastrous consequences of their partnership are writ large in terms of unprecedented homelessness, hundreds of thousands on hospital waiting list and a year-round trolley crisis

"Frankly, they need to cop-on. People want solutions and leadership, not self-indulgent play-acting."

ENDS

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“Big Supermarket chains are fleecing Irish farmers” - Matt Carthy MEP

Big supermarkets are fleecing profits from Irish beef while farmers have to protest to receive even a few every extra cent for their produce, MEP Matt Carthy has said.

The Midlands North West EU Parliament representative made his comments after it was revealed that supermarkets are taking up to 50% of all profits made on fresh meat.

The revelation which was highlighted in Leinster House last week by Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley, and which came after several days of protests by the IFA outside a number of high-profile retailers, will come as little surprise to farmers, Carthy said adding that “it is not only factories taking advantage of beef farmers but also large supermarket chains”.

The Sinn Féin MEP said: “This leaked information, that reveals supermarkets are pocketing between 33% and 45% of the retail price of meat, is further damning evidence that beef farmers are being fleeced.

“Three large supermarket chains make up 75% of the retail market in Ireland and they dominate the industry by taking advantage of a lack of price transparency in the supply chain.

“Thanks to these documents, farmers now know exactly how much of the retail price supermarkets are taking for themselves and it is almost half in some cases; while many farmers are losing 60 to 70 cents on every kilo produced”.

Carthy said there was “no fairness” in a system wherein farmers rear animals for two years “while the supermarkets have it for two to three days yet bank the bulk of proft”.

“Full transparency throughout the supply chain is the only way in which farmers and consumers could see exactly what the supermarkets are paying factories and what factories are paying farmers” he said “which is why Sinn Féin have prioritised our proposal for a Beef Transparency bill in the Dáil”.

He added: “We also need retailers to be active members of the Beef Taskforce - these leaked documents show the dominance they have on the industry and they must be present at talks to resolve the crisis that faces the Irish beef sector”.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has again called on the Taoiseach to immediately set up and lead a taskforce with key Ministers to deal with the impending insurance crisis that is affecting various sectors including childcare.  

On 9th December, the Donegal TD called on the Government to establish a taskforce involving key Ministers which would immediately engage with the insurance industry and affected sectors, in addition to taking real action to save businesses and childcare providers that face closure unless action is taken.

This comes after Ironshore Europe, one of the biggest insurers in the childcare sector, withdrew from the Irish market.

Last week, in response to a Parliamentary Question asked by Deputy Doherty, the Minister for Finance confirmed he had not met with either the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs or any childcare providers in 2019 despite the impending crisis.

Speaking this morning, Deputy Doherty said:

“Last Monday I called on the Taoiseach to set up and lead a Ministerial taskforce to address the insurance crisis; not to act as another talking shop but to take immediate action. This taskforce would include the Minister for Finance, Minister for Business, Enterprise  and Innovation and Ministers representing the most affected sectors, including the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

“Last week we heard that one of the biggest insurers in the childcare sector, Ironshore Europe, is pulling out of the Irish market. This will mean the threat of closure for thousands of providers and even higher childcare costs for parents.

“Ironshore Europe were one of two leading insurance providers in the sector. They are now set to withdraw from several Irish markets after being taken over by Hamilton Insurance of Liberty Mutual.

"With the policies of thousands of childcare providers due to expire in January, this will mean one of two things. Either these childcare providers will be unable to get alternative cover and close, or the lack of competition will increase their premiums further, leading to higher childcare costs for parents.

“This has become a grave threat to business and communities across several sectors, not just childcare, but community and voluntary groups, the leisure sector and small businesses as well.

“The Government have failed to take the failure of the insurance market - and its impact on businesses - seriously. The Minister responsible for the insurance sector doesn’t even sit at the Cabinet table.

“Last week I received a reply from Minister Paschal Donohoe to a Parliamentary Question that I asked in which he confirmed that he hasn’t had one meeting with either the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs or with any childcare organisation or provider.

“The fact that the Minister has not engaged with the Minister Zappone or the sector, while thousands of childcare providers will now struggle to get insurance cover to stay open, is unacceptable.

"Despite a Programme for Government and four budgets, Fianna Fáil and the Government have failed to take this issue seriously or address it as a priority.

“It can’t be ignored any longer. Insurance must be a priority at Cabinet level.

“I am calling on the Minister to wake up, set up a Ministerial taskforce and engage with affected sectors immediately. In addition, the Government must provide the necessary emergency funding to ensure childcare providers can access insurance cover to stay open without unaffordable costs being passed onto families. Otherwise, communities, parents and children will pay the price.”

ENDS//

Note to Editor: The relevant Parliamentary Questions are available at the following link: www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2019-12-12/53/#pq_53

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Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald has thanked both Megan Fearon and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir as they step down from the Assembly. 

The Sinn Féin President said: 

“I would like to thank Megan and Máirtín for their many years of hard work and service on behalf of Sinn Féin. 

"Both were excellent MLAs providing first class representation in their constituencies and also on the Executive where both served with distinction as ministers. 

"I have known both for many years and they are hardworking and dedicated representatives, committed to improving the quality of life for all. 

“I wish both of them well in the future and I’m confident they will continue working to build a new and united Ireland. 

“I’m sure whoever is selected to replace them will provide the same high standard of representation for the people they represent.”

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ECB review must learn from lessons of Austerity failure – Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has commented on the announcement by new European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde that she is to organise the first strategic review of ECB policy since 2003 in the new year.

Carthy, a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, was speaking during a parliamentary debate on the appointment of two new members of the ECB’s executive council. 

Lagarde has indicated she intends to continue her predecessor Mario Draghi's dovish position on monetary policy. She has directly called on the governments who have the fiscal space – meaning Germany, the Netherlands and other northern states – to use it, including by investing in infrastructure projects.

Addressing MEPs in the Strasbourg plenary on Monday evening, Carthy said: “We know that the ECB, going into next year’s strategic review, is a house divided.

 

“I welcome the new president’s call for fiscal stimulus to be used to complement monetary policy. But the irony is not lost on any of us who’ve been on the receiving end of its threats and blackmail that the ECB has been the chief enforcer of austerity over the past decade.

“Now that the manufacturing base in the northern states, and particularly in Germany, is threatened, the tune is changing.

“The Commission is considering ‘reviewing’ the Stability and Growth Pact. The simple fact is these crude and destructive rules should be binned, full stop.

“The ECB review needs to be more than a bun-fight between hawks and doves.

“We need a serious analysis of the consequences of ECB policy and its impact on people across the Eurozone, including the dangerous housing bubbles pricing a generation out of the market.

“Above all, the ECB needs to face the fact that its policies have helped massively inflate the wealth of a tiny minority, while doing nothing for the poorest.

“All options must be on the table going forward, including direct payments to households and direct green investment." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLAs Megan Fearon and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir have announced they will step down from the Assembly. 

Megan Fearon said: 

"After seven years I have decided to step down as an MLA for Newry and Armagh. 

“Representing Sinn Féin and the people of South Armagh has been an honour and one that I never took lightly. 

“I want to thank every single activist and voter for their support and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve 

“It’s been a pleasure to be part of the Sinn Féin team, both locally and nationally both as an MLA and on the Executive. I want to wish my colleagues well in the future and thank them for their friendship. 

“Over the years this role has allowed me to meet the most inspiring people, make friends for life and have many unforgettable experiences. 

“Working towards a new Ireland based on fairness and equality is a huge part of who I am. I will always be an activist, but my time in electoral politics has ended. 

“I am excited to begin a new chapter in life and I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey." 

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: 

"It has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent the people of South and West Belfast for Sinn Féin in both City Hall and Stormont. 

"But it is now time for me to hand over to a representative of a newer generation of republican activists.

"I want to thank all of those who have given me their support and assure them that I will remain a determined advocate of a better Belfast and a new and united Ireland."

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Speaking tonight on the issue of pay justice for health and social care workers, Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill said:

“Health and social care workers are the biggest asset of the health service.

“They face unprecedented pressure as a result of swingeing financial cuts to the health budget by the Tory party over the last ten years.

“They have been denied pay justice and the ability to work within safe staffing levels.

“Failure to resolve these issues has meant that they are being forced to take industrial action this Wednesday as a last resort.

“These issues can and need to be resolved now.

“The department needs to stop playing a very dangerous game of chicken with health and social care workers and their representatives. 

“Today I have continued my engagement with the Head of the Civil Service David Sterling and with the British Secretary of State Julian Smith on these issues. 

“I have once again made the case that the Civil Service has the authority on the grounds of public interest to resolve the pay issue and defuse the impasse.

“I welcome the acceptance of the public interest argument.

“The necessary funds can be made available to meet the demands of the HSC workers for this year and avoid the imminent industrial action.

“Pay parity for health workers will be a priority for me which I will put to the first meeting of any restored Executive.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said today that the restoration of the Assembly on a sustainable basis is possible if leaders demonstrate the political will.

Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

“Sinn Féin enters these negotiations in a spirit of optimism and determination to restore the political institutions on the basis of equality and respect.

“These talks are primarily a test of political will and of political leadership.

“For almost three years, we have worked to achieve an agreement to deliver solutions for people, solutions that ensure every citizen is treated with dignity, with parity of esteem and with respect.

“These objectives are in everyone’s interest.

“We understand the frustrations of people at the failure of previous efforts to restore the Assembly, particularly when so much progress towards a deal was made in February 2018.

“If political leaders demonstrate the political will to restore Stormont on a sustainable and credible basis that guarantees rights, equality and respect for all, then I believe we can have a successful resolution.

“We need an inclusive Executive that brings together parties who are truly committed to delivering good government.

“And after a decade of austerity and underinvestment that has stifled economic growth, public services and communities in the north we need adequate financial commitments from the British government.

“All of this is achievable - it’s time for party leaders and both governments to show their political will to deliver on good government for all.” 

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