Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has called on political leaders to stand against threats to UUP staff members by loyalist paramilitaries and call unequivocally for these groups to disband immediately.
The party’s policing spokesperson said:
“It’s been reported that threats against UUP staff members have been issued by elements within the UDA.
“This group has recently been involved in murder, extortion, threats and intimidation.
“This is a time for political leadership - people should be free to campaign politically without fear of intimidation.
“These dangerous and reckless threats are an attack on the whole democratic process and on freedom of expression.
“The DUP recently met with loyalist representatives - including the UDA.
“Instead of the DUP costing up to these group for electoral pacts, they should unequivocally condemn these threats and call for these groups to disband immediately.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has condemned a brutal attack on a several Belfast City Council workers in Ardoyne on Thursday.
The North Belfast MLA said:
“It’s deeply concerning that a number of Belfast City Council cleansing workers were attacked and badly beaten in Ardoyne today.
“I totally and utterly condemn this attack.
“It’s my understanding that the workers had to attend the Mater Hospital as a result of the incident. I hope they make a full and speedy recovery.
“This is a disgraceful attack against public service workers who do a great job in our local communities and the people of Ardoyne will continue to support them.
“If anyone has information on the attack, they should bring it forward to the Police.”
Sinn Féin's Mairéad Farrell has been selected by the party to contest the Galway West constituency in the next General Election.
Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill MLA was the main speaker at this evening's convention, which saw the former Galway city councillor selected to stand for the party.
Speaking at the event, Michelle O’Neill said:
“I am delighted that Mairéad Farrell has been selected as the Sinn Féin candidate for the Galway-West constituency.
“The people of Galway can count on Mairéad to be a fearless voice who will defend their interests in Leinster House.
“The problems facing Ireland in 2019 need real world solutions, in health, housing and public services to ensure that nobody is left behind, or allowed to fall through the cracks.
“People don’t need more of the same. They don’t need status quo politics, spin or empty rhetoric.
“A generation is being left behind by the politics of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. Families are being ripped off by rogue insurers and rack-renting landlords. The government treats hard-earned taxpayers’ money with contempt while Micheal Martin continues to facilitate weak government through confidence and supply.
“People need solutions, not stagnation.
“Sinn Fein are on the frontline campaigning and providing effective, progressive policy solutions north and south.
“Sinn Féin are offering the people of Galway West a strong republican and effective candidate in Mairéad Farrell, and I am asking for their support.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has criticised the decision of AIB to sell off an €850m loan portfolio to American vulture fund Cerberus at a discount rate of 21%.
The Donegal TD has described the sale as a continuation of the great sell-off of Irish assets to international speculators and shareholders.
Teachta Doherty has called for his 'No Consent, No Sale' Bill to be progressed immediately, which would ensure banks could not sell mortgage loans without the consent of the borrower.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Today’s announcement that AIB will sell off a loan portfolio of predominantly investment and commercial properties with a value of €850 million to American vulture fund Cerberus is a disgrace.
“It is reported that the vulture fund will be given the portfolio at a discount rate of 21%. A €150 million discount.
"This is happening while banks continue to sell off family homes to vulture funds without real attempts to find resolutions with those families.
“It is striking that a State-owned bank is offering a 21% per cent discount to a vulture fund but not to Irish families. If banks offered these discounts to Irish citizens, the housing crisis would look very different.
"This is a continuation of an economic strategy that is selling off Irish assets to international speculators and shareholders, either at knockdown prices or through the use of complex tax loopholes.
“It is unacceptable and must come to an end.
“Sinn Féin would ensure that our banks, especially State-owned banks, would serve the needs of our citizens, not international finance.”
Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane today slammed the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the HSE for the abject conditions at Waterford psychiatric unit, adding that it remains in a state of crisis despite repeated warnings and reports.
Deputy Cullinane said:
"I am utterly shocked by the photos that have emerged of the intolerable conditions of the psychiatric unit in Waterford, of beds made from chairs while other patients sleep on floors.
"Shocked, but sadly not surprised.
"The mental health commission recently published a report on the unit, and found that residents’ general health needs were not monitored and assessed in line with their specific needs.
"It also found that physical examinations were inadequate, that residents did not have access to a supply of appropriate emergency personal clothing, and that the centre was not clean, hygienic and free from offensive odours.
"Words are one thing; we now have photographic evidence revealing a unit that is operating under conditions that would make a Victorian workhouse blush.
"The staff are not to blame here; they are operating under incredible stress and distress.
"Both the Minister and the HSE know that is about funding and resources.
"Yet, despite this, they refuse to do anything about it.
"I have constantly raised the level of care at the unit, and quite frankly at this stage I am sick to the teeth of the Minister's excuses.
"I will be putting down a motion on this issue next week. We need answers, and solutions, once and for all."
Statement from Sinn Féin leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill MLA on the death of Dr Patrick Fahy, Sinn Féin activist and lawyer, Co Tyrone.
“It is with deep sadness and regret that we have learned of the death of long-standing Sinn Féin activist and lawyer Dr Patrick Fahy, Drumquin, Co Tyrone after a short illness.
“Pat Fahy was a long-standing republican and Sinn Féin activist going back many years. He served as election agent for Pat Doherty, former Sinn Féin MP and was central to building and developing the Sinn Féin party organisation in West Tyrone.
“Pat was a long established and respected lawyer in both Tyrone and Fermanagh conducting an extensive legal practice for the past 50 years. He was actively involved in leading the Civil Rights campaign from 1967.
“He provided legal representation to many nationalists and republicans throughout the conflict and campaigned for truth and justice in many legacy cases since.
“Pat graduated from Queens University in 1967 and founded his own practice in 1970. He was principal of Fahy & co solicitors in Omagh and Enniskillen.
“As a patriot and Gael Pat was actively involved in the Gaelic Athletic Association over many years having served as chairman of his local GAA Club and also as Secretary of Tyrone GAA County Board.
“He was passionate and committed to his community and was involved in various community enterprises in his local area Drumquin, Co Tyrone.
“As a fluent Gaelgeoir Pat was passionate about the promotion of the Irish Language throughout his life.
“His contribution to republican politics and community life will be sorely missed.
“On behalf of the Sinn Féin leadership I wish to offer our sincere sympathy, condolences and solidarity at this time to Pat’s family, and his many friends throughout Tyrone and across Ireland.
“Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has said that in order for Auto Enrolment to be a success, the State must be a key player in its implementation.
Sinn Féin made this point as part of its submission to the consultation process last year.
Teachta Brady said:
“While some elements of the new Auto Enrolment pension scheme have been agreed by Government, crucial decisions are yet to be made, including the rate of the Government’s contribution to an employee’s pension pot.
“Further clarification is also needed on some of the elements agreed by Cabinet and the rationale for such decisions for the new scheme. For example, the age limit set at 60 does not reflect the fact that people are working longer and therefore, for new entrants this age limit should be re-examined rather than just on an opt in basis.
“I am also concerned that there is no mention of the self-employed when it comes to opting in to such a scheme. It is unclear whether those who are self-employed with no employees can opt in just as those earning under €20,000 will be able to.
“The decision to establish a Central Processing Authority to source and provide the employee with a “limited number” of pension providers ignores the fact that most people find pensions extremely complex and struggle to differentiate what different pension plans will mean for them.
“Instead this could be avoided by having one provider, a public fund such as the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) as put forward in our submission to the consultation process, to manage the scheme on behalf of the State. This would ensure certainty and security for all employees paying into their pension pot.
“If the Government plan to hand this new pension scheme over to private interests rather than it being a State scheme, today’s workers will not benefit as they should at retirement.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has extended his condolences to the family of civil rights leader and human rights lawyer Pat Fahy.
Gerry Adams described Pat Fahy as a “unique and exceptional Tyrone man who in difficult times stood up to the injustices of the Stormont regime and of British militarism, and promoted the values of human rights.”
Teachta Adams said;
“Ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a dhéanamh le teaglach Fahy ag an uair millteanach brónach i saol bhur gclann.
"As a young man Pat was one of the foremost civil rights leaders in the North. He was the chair of his local Civil Rights Association and in April 1969 he was one of those who led a civil rights march in Omagh that was confronted by a large number of RUC and Paisleyite counter demonstrators.
"When the march was blocked Pat and others, including Michael Farrell and Ivan Cooper, addressed the civil rights marchers. Speaking directly to those a short distance away who were opposing civil rights and blocking their route Pat said that it was not the intention of the civil rights campaigners to 'replace one system of discrimination by another, the rights of all would be secure'.
"In 1977 Pat was one of those who founded the Irish Independence Party which he led for its eight years of existence.
"As a human rights lawyer he represented many of those in Tyrone who were victim of the RUC and UDR, as well as the families of those murdered by unionist death squads operating often in collusion with the British state forces.
"He was always very supportive of Sinn Féin and acted as Pat Doherty’s election agent when Pat successfully stood for the west Tyrone Westminster seat.
"In 2010 Pat Fahy set out his vision for the future."
“Since the Civil Rights campaign of the 60's we have been involved in an ongoing campaign to achieve basic human rights in the North of Ireland. Foremost in our demands then was the right to exercise the basic democratic right to vote and to elect our representatives.
"Gradually that right was achieved but not without great sacrifice on the part of ordinary people. Many of those people are no longer with us, but the struggle of the Irish people for the equally basic right to self determination is still very much to the forefront; the battle to end external oppression and the injustice which has been the inevitable result of the partition of our country is still to be won.
"The prize if we can achieve all of this will be a just and open society in which human rights and social justice will be our emblems. For we are striving to create a society where all sections of our people will be treated equally, but the vulnerable, especially the old, the disabled, women and children will be given special respect and care. Our task is no easy one but together we can achieve success."
Deputy Adams concluded;
"To his wife Robyn, sons, daughters and wider family circle and his many friends I want to extend my sincerest condolences on their loss.
Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Matt Carthy MEP slams 2021 CAP cut proposal
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has hit out at European Commission proposals to slash the CAP budget in 2021.
Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, has called on the Irish Government to reject this move and to clarify that it will not support any EU long term budget proposal that includes a reduced provision for the Common Agriculture Policy.
“The European Commission is proposing that the current CAP roll over until 2022 but with a reduced budget in line with their stated long-term proposals.
“This is unacceptable. The Commission is attempting to use the transition period to clear the ground for long term cuts to direct payments and rural development schemes. Essentially, they suggest a continuation of the current CAP programme for an extra year but with the budgetary reductions they are proposing for the next CAP programming period of 2021-2027.
“This will see Irish Farmers lose €97 million in payments and will impact severely on the rural communities that depend on them. Every farm family will be affected and every rural community will pay the price.
“This proposal must be rejected by the Irish government. This is currently only a draft proposal but it will become a reality very quickly if the Irish Government fail to apply sufficient pressure in the European Council.
“This is labelled as a transition budget but it actually means that farmers will be punished one year earlier than expected.
“Leo Varadkar previously committed to the EU that Ireland would increase payments to the next European budget; he did this without securing any guarantee on the programmes that are essential for Ireland such as the CAP. The Commission in return proposed an increased overall EU budget for the period 2021-2027 but with a 15% cut to CAP in order to allow for massive increases in military expenditure.
“The Irish government must reject this transition budget proposed and clarify that it will reject any long term budget proposal from the EU that fails to include an increase in the CAP budget.
“Anything less will be a devastating sell-out of our rural communities and will be resisted by Sinn Féin”.
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has described today’s new regulations for the insurance market by the Central Bank as a long wait for very little.
Deputy Doherty called on parties to support his Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill which will be coming before the Dáil in the coming weeks. It would strengthen consumer protections, increase transparency from the industry and go much further than today’s reforms.
The Donegal TD said:
“While I welcome the fact that some reform of the insurance market has taken place, it is worrying for consumers and businesses that it has taken 3 years to push through what are very modest reforms.
“Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that motor insurance customers will be provided the previous year’s premium with their renewal notice, but this doesn’t go far enough. It won’t even apply to public liability of home insurance customers.
“The insurance industry have fought even this modest reform. No time should be wasted indulging them any further.
“Consumers and businesses are being ripped off by an insurance industry that lacks transparency and is quickly losing credibility.
“On November 13th Sinn Féin’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill will reach Report Stage in the Dáil, one step closer to becoming law.
“It would require all insurers to provide 3 years of premium and claims history to customers when they receive their renewal notice, going much further than today’s new regulations.
“It would make it harder for insurance companies to cancel contracts with policyholders and would ensure that when they do, they would pay out the remaining balance of the customer’s premium.
“This Bill would go further still, strengthening consumer protections and increasing transparency.
“Since 2016, premiums have continued to rise and the industry has become more opposed to reform than ever. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have failed to tackle insurance costs.
“Sinn Féin want to take on the industry and end the rip off. Our plan for insurance reform would stamp out fraud, protect consumers, ban price discrimination by the industry and reduce premiums for everyone.
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has commented on the publication of the Department of Housing’s official homeless figures for September, which show for the 8th month in a row the number of people in homeless accommodation is over 10,000.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“For the 8th month in row the number of people officially living in emergency accommodation is over 10,000.
“In September 2019 10,397 men, women and children were living in hotels, hubs and B&Bs.
“This is an increase of 59 on the previous month with 34 more adults and 25 more children living in emergency accommodation in September.
“Minister Murphy’s’ failure to deal with this crisis is normalising homelessness.
“His time would be better spent addressing his own policy failures rather than going on the News at One to lash out at opposition politicians.
“Cheap political point scoring by the Minister responsible for Housing is not helpful.
“We are talking about more than figures here. It is 10,397 men, women and children and their daily lives.
“Separately, figures received by my office today show an increase in the number of families accessing one night only emergency accommodation in Dublin, which rose from 54 in July this year to 63 at the end of October.”
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said that inaction from Health Minister Simon Harris to invest in our health service has left vulnerable patients lying on trolleys, and that the service will face an even greater strain over the coming winter months.
The comments come as the INMO published figures showing there were not enough beds for 11,452 patients in Irish hospitals this October.
Teachta O’Reilly said;
“The current situation across the health service is abysmal. This past October has been the second worst month for patient overcrowding since INMO records began.
“The thousands of people forced onto hospital trolleys month after month are a direct result of the policy choices of Minister Harris and his Fine Gael colleagues.
“We cannot tolerate a health service dragged into a constant state of crisis by bad policies and inaction. The solutions are there. It’s time to start implementing them.
“Fine Gael are destroying our health service. They have had almost a decade to address this crisis, but it has only gotten worse under their tenure.
“In our alternative budget, we showed the immediate steps needed to tackle this ongoing problem, including recruiting extra nurses, doctors and staff and opening an additional 500 beds.
“Minister Harris needs to stop sitting idly by and begin real investment in directly employed staff into our health service if its to stay afloat through the winter.”
Carthy calls for BEAM scheme reopening to cater for farmers trading cross-border
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called for the BEAM scheme to be extended and reopened to allow farmers who sold animals in the North to receive compensation.
Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said that the exclusion of farms who sent animals north for slaughter was nonsensical considering the scheme was secured as a mechanism to support those impacted by the Brexit process. He further stated that he believed the criteria could breech the principles of the EU Single Market.
“I have written to the relevant European Commissioners and Minister Creed to request that the BEAM scheme be reopened for those farmers that have been excluded because they operate on a cross border basis. It is ludicrous to suggest that the farmers most likely to be impacted by any Brexit shocks, namely those in the border region, are the ones who are denied access to the scheme designed to protect against those same shocks.
“The rationale behind the restriction is, according to the Department of Agriculture, purely technical. The exclusion of farmers who trade cross border is because the proof of slaughter is not available on the AIMs system.
“However, it would be perfectly feasible for a manual application process to be utilised to allow these farmers to provide proof of slaughter dockets from establishments north of the border. The Department must therefore establish a new timeframe to allow these farmers time to apply for aid.
“The failure of Minister Creed to facilitate the provision of aid to these farmers can only be regarded as callous disregard towards those who operate on an all-island basis. It was the reality of life for these farmers, and the communities from which they come, that allowed Irish concerns to become central to the Brexit process and secure support for this Beef Aid scheme at EU level. That those same farmers have been excluded from the process is inexcusable and must now be resolved”.
Limerick City TD Maurice Quinlivan, today criticised the Minister for Health’s handling of the trolley crisis at University Hospital Limerick, as figures show October has seen the highest number of patients on trolleys in a single month since records began.
Speaking from Limerick City today, Teachta Quinlivan said;
“Enda Kenny infamously said “I’ll end the scandal of patients on trolleys.”
“What a lie that turned out to be.
“After eight very unsuccessful years in government, Fine Gael have managed to escalate the trolley crisis to levels never seen before.
“This month an incredible 1,450 patients were forced to lie on trolleys at University Hospital Limerick, the highest number ever recorded in one hospital, in a single month.
“This crisis has been ongoing in Limerick for years now, and the government haven’t bothered to do anything to address it.
“Fine Gael have stood by and watched this situation get completely out of control at UHL.
“They have promised more beds and more wards, but these are years down the line, and by the time they are completed they won’t even accommodate the number of patients on trolleys today, let alone the number of patients attending in a few years’ time.
“It’s a total joke, people in Limerick are fed up of being treated as second class citizens when it comes to healthcare.
“People are being packed into UHL like sardines, and it has created a very dangerous situation.
“How do we expect nurses and doctors to work effectively in such overcrowded conditions, which can see over 80 patients on trolleys at the hospital on some days.
“In 2011, when Fine Gael entered government, the number of patients on trolleys in UHL in October was 367.
“Now after almost a decade of incompetence, the number of patients on trolleys in UHL in the month of October has quadrupled, to 1,450.
“What a shameful situation to have presided over.
“The Minister for Health has utterly failed in his brief and it’s time for him to go.
“He would be doing us all a favour if he brought his Fine Gael cabinet colleagues with him out the door of government buildings."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Water Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on Minister Murphy to state what information he had in relation to the failure of Irish water and Fingal County Council to fully implement the recommendations of the March 2019 Drinking Water Audit Report in the Leixlip Water Treatment Plant.
Commenting on the publication of the EPA drinking Water October Audit report on the Leixlip plant published yesterday, Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The latest EPA audit on the Leixlip plant conducted after the Boil Water notice was issued concludes that the primary cause of the failure at the plant was a blockage in one of the treatment processes.
“The failure of Irish Water and Fingal County Council to implement the recommendations of the previous EPA audit of the plant in March was a contributory factor in the failure of the plant.
“In particular the failure to install, as recommended, an automatic shutdown system when plant alarms are not answered.
“The EPA report is welcome, but many questions remain unanswered by Irish Water and Minister Murphy.
“Why were March 2019 audit recommendations not implemented?
“Who is responsible for this failure Irish Water or Fingal County Council or both?
“Is the failure to implement the recommendations due to a lack of funding and resources?
“Was the Department aware of the failure to implement the March 2019 recommendations and what action will Minister Murphy now take?
“These are just some of the questions I will be putting to Irish Water, Fingal County Council and the Department when they appear in front of the Committee for Housing next Tuesday.”
Following reports that the Police Ombudsman is to further delay publication of three reports on loyalist murders after the emergence of additional documentation from the PSNI, Sinn Féin victims and legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon said:
“The revelations that three reports relating to killings by loyalist death squads will be delayed after the emergence of additional documentation is appalling and unacceptable.
“It’s important to remember it is the families of victims who are being let down once again.
“These families, many of whose loved ones were killed by loyalist death squads in collusion with the British state, have been waiting decades for truth and justice. Justice delayed is justice denied.
“Many people will see this as further evidence that the cover-up of the role of British State forces in the conflict in Ireland is systemic.
“Sinn Féin will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable of the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman to discuss this latest failure to disclose information to his investigations and will be raising this at the Policing Board.”
Sinn Féin victims and legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon has called on the British government to clarify what impact the upcoming election will have on victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.
Linda Dillon said:
“The victims need some reassurance about what will happen now an election has been called.
“Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has written to the British secretary of state regarding redress for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.
“She has told him this issue needs to be progressed without delay and that the legislation goes through before the Westminster parliament dissolves.
“The victims are absolutely distraught at the prospect there might be any delays on getting legislation implemented and redress for victims resolved.
“These victims and survivors many of whom are in poor health both physically and mentally cannot be the collateral damage in a chaotic parliament.
“Their hopes have been dashed on so many occasions and we all thought they were finally going to be able to get long-awaited redress for the terrible abuses they suffered at the hands of state and religious institutions.
“Clarification is needed urgently on this to ensure victims receive the redress they are long entitled to.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has accused the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy of ‘giving developers a licence to hoard’ by extending so-called fast track planning.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“It is no surprise that Minister Murphy will today extend the so-called fast track planning for Strategic Housing Developments (SHD) by two years.
“The SHD extension now comes with permission for developers to do nothing on the site for 18 months after being granted planning.
“While Minister Murphy is presenting this as a ‘use it or lose it’ clause that will speed up the delivery of homes it make like a ‘licence to hoard’ for developers ensuring that they can continue to delay new developments by 18 months.
“Once again Minister Murphy has demonstrated his total incompetence when it comes to his brief.
“The SHD legislation is not working. We know this thanks to the data and research undertaken by Killian Woods from the Sunday Business Post.
“Again, Minister Murphy chooses to ignore available evidence and pursues a policy that only benefits land hoarders and developers hoping to flip sites.
“It will not lead to an increase in the delivery of affordable homes.”