Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has this today published the general scheme of the Fair Rent and Protection of Renters Bill 2020, which would prohibit rent increases for three years and make it illegal to evict tenants in buy-to-let properties on the grounds that the property is to be sold.
“The scheme of the Fair Rent and Protection of Renters Bill 2020 that I have published today will prohibit rent increases for three years and is an update to legislation we published last year.
“Under the new Bill, current rents in existing tenancies will be capped at their rate on the date the new legislation is enacted and new tenancies will be set according to the Residential Tenancies Board rent index.
“The prohibition on rent increases will run for three years and can be extended by the Oireachtas. There will also be an annual review mechanism built into the legislation.
“The Bill also recognises that one of the leading causes of family homelessness is eviction from homes when landlords decide to sell up and issue a vacant possession notice to quit to tenants.
“Our Bill amends the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to give greater protection to households renting from buy-to-let landlords and it would no longer be legal to evict tenants in buy-to-let properties on the grounds that the property is to be sold. A sale could take place, however, with the current tenant and any remaining portion of the tenancy agreement remaining in place.
“We saw this week that Dublin ranked as one of the most expensive places to live and to rent in Europe. High rental costs are not limited to Dublin, however, as urban centres across the State have unsustainably high rents.
“We also see that despite the government knowing that high rents are crippling workers and families, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail failed to deliver a single affordable home to rent despite the cost rental model being government policy.
“The prohibition on rent increases proposed in our Bill will give renters some breathing space.
“The ban on the issuing of notices to quit in buy-to-let homes is a measure that was proposed by Focus Ireland and put forward in the Dáil by Sinn Féin in the Dáil last year, however Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil failed to support it.
“Sinn Féin in government will also prioritise the delivery of affordable homes to buy and to rent on public land to tackle the affordability crisis.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has written to the Infrastructure Minister asking for guidance on pavement café licences to support hospitality businesses to reopen and make use of outdoor space to implement social distancing guidance.
The party’s economy spokesperson said:
“As lockdown measures are lifted, and businesses begin to reopen there will be challenges for them to operate while implementing social distancing.
“This will be a particular issue for hospitality businesses including cafés, bars and restaurants.
“Legislation allows for pavement cafés with temporary furniture on public areas to supply food or drink, licensed by councils.
“In awarding these licences councils must have due regard to all current disability discrimination legislation.
"The Department for Infrastructure has responsibility for the guidance in relation to the 'highway considerations' of pavement café licences including access.
“I have therefore written to the Infrastructure Minister asking that she bring forward this guidance as a matter of urgency to facilitate businesses operating in this way where it is appropriate, so they can reopen more safely, implementing the social distancing obligations.”
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has welcomed the decision from two Derry schools to suspend academic selection for the upcoming year.
The Foyle MLA said:
“I welcome the decision by Thornhill College and St Columb’s College to suspend the use of unregulated transfer tests for the 2021 school year.
“Our teachers, school staff and children should be focussing on preparations for returning to school, rather than the stress of a high-level exam.
“It’s disappointing that some schools are still using the test, but I would urge other local schools who haven’t yet suspended the transfer tests to follow this leadership and example.
“I welcome recent calls from across society for the suspension of these unregulated exams, including Archbishop Eamonn Martin who described testing in the current circumstances as ‘cruel’.
“Academic selection is wrong, unnecessary and places undue pressure on children. It should be scrapped altogether.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has welcomed the arrival of the first shipment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worth more than £60 million.
The party’s health spokesperson said:
“I welcome the news that a major shipment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has arrived in the north from China.
“This equipment is worth more than £60m and includes 1.5m respirator masks, 63m other masks and more than 50m pairs of gloves.
“This delivery came about through a joint order from my party colleague, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and the health minister.
“Not only is this PPE essential in our hospitals, care homes and other health and social care settings, but it will also be necessary as we move to the next phase of easing restrictions.
“This will also put our health and social care services in a better place to cope with any resurgence in COVID-19 which may occur.
“Our priority has always been to save lives and keep people safe in the face of this pandemic.”
This afternoon Sinn Féin MPs met with the British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis on Brexit, British Government financial commitments and legacy mechanisms.
Speaking following the meeting, Chris Hazzard MP said:
“We told British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis this afternoon that the clock continues to tick on Brexit and that his government must fulfil its commitments and legal obligations contained in the Irish Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement.
“Giving the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of progress in Brexit talks, it is our view that the Brexit deadline is extended to ensure there is no crash out from the EU.
“We reminded Brandon Lewis also that the British government made a series of commitments in the New Decade, New Approach document, including financial commitments, and that these must also be fulfilled.
“The failure of the British government to fully implement the legacy mechanisms agreed by the five main parties, as well as the two governments in the Stormont House Agreement, was also raised during the meeting.
“It is long past the time all of those mechanisms were implemented in full, including the need to support victims.
"We made it clear that no victims of the conflict should be left behind and in particular that his government needs to commit to providing funding for a pension to address the needs of victims and stand as a recognition of their hurt and suffering.”
Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly today raised the progress on the Strule Shared Education Campus in Omagh with Education Minister Peter Weir.
The West Tyrone MLA was speaking after a meeting with the Minister alongside party colleagues Karen Mullan MLA and John Finucane MP.
Catherine Kelly MLA said:
“I once again raised the importance of the Strule Shared Education Campus in Omagh with Education Minister Peter Weir.
“I pressed for progress on the construction of this important project given the minister had stated previously that delivering the campus is one of his top priorities as it is a pioneering project of regional significance.
“The Strule Shared Education Campus will be a ground-breaking project which will see the schools having state-of-the-art facilities while also enabling pupils to benefit from the opportunities provided through enhanced collaboration and sharing.
“It will also help regenerate Omagh town and the wider district by bringing social, economic and most importantly educational benefits for our young people.
“Sinn Féin will continue to press Minister Weir to ensure there are no unnecessary delays.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said the Health Minister must demonstrate political leadership in overseeing the rebuilding of the health service.
The party’s health spokesperson said:
“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis the health service has stepped up in protecting the public.
“It is vital in rebuilding health and social care services that the Health Minister demonstrates leadership rather than delegating it to his permanent secretary.
“It is essential that the minister works with trade unions, service users and stakeholders in order to transform and rebuild services in a sustainable manner.
“There are many who have been significantly impacted by the closure of services and when key services are reopened, they should be reopened across the north and accessible to all.”
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that children with special educational needs and their parents need clarity from Minister Joe McHugh as well as extra supports as a lot of details regarding the July or summer provision continue to remain unclear.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“Children with special educational needs are among those who have been worst affected by the Covid-19 lockdown. Their lives and supports have been greatly interrupted, leaving them in cases sad and finding it hard to understand why this all is.
“In many instances, despite best efforts from parents, teachers and SNAs, these children are still falling behind.
“Despite raising this with the Government repeatedly and calls from the sector, there still remains a lack of clarity of what supports will be made available to them.
“Huge questions remain unanswered about the July or summer provision, and I will be raising these concerns with the Minister for Education tomorrow in the Dáil chamber.
“This includes the deployment of SNAs, who for the most part have been disrespected by the Government since the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as what additional supports will be available when schools reopen or who will be eligible.
“Children with special education needs and their families urgently need our support. I will continue to hold the Government to account on their shortcomings so far in this regard and the lack of clarity they have provided to date.”
Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has said that the recently established Tourism Recovery task force must include representatives of tourism workers through their trade unions if it aims to deliver a fair and effective recovery for all stakeholders in the industry.
Ministers Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin appointed Irish Hotels Federation CEO Elaina Fitzgerald Kane to head up the task force. The task force will include industry representatives as well as agencies such as Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.
Senator Paul Gavan said;
“While I welcome the formation of a task force, I am deeply disappointed that the Ministers responsible have failed to include representatives of the 300,000+ tourism workers. These are the very people most able to provide the insight and ideas to guide innovation.
"The exclusion of a voice for tourism workers is clearly antithetical to the aim of delivering a recovery for the tourism sector. The best placed people in the industry to guide innovation are those who work every day on the frontline.
“The tourism workforce is the single biggest group of stakeholders in the industry, it is baffling that they have been overlooked on the task force.
“Despite being a €6 billion a year industry and one of the most important sectors in the Irish economy, the tourism sector has long been characterised by precarious, low-paid employment for the workers. It’s a clear inequity that needs to be addressed.
“Fair representation on the recovery task force is a basic courtesy for the workers who form the backbone of this industry. I’m calling on Ministers Ross and Griffin to urgently include representatives of tourism workers, through the relevant trade unions organisations SIPTU and Congress involved in the sector. The task force can only be enriched by the experience and expertise of this workforce.”
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has warned that students who have lost summer work due to the pandemic may struggle to afford the cost of continuing their studies if they continue to be forgotten about by the government.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“Major concerns were raised today by USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick about how the lack of summer work due to the pandemic will impact on students’ finances.
“Many students rely on income earned during the summer to be able to pay their tuition fees and rent for private accommodation.
“The pandemic has effectively ended any prospect of taking on summer work this year. As a result, many students will be pushed into a financially impossible situation.
“That should not be the case, but because of the inadequacy of other supports, it is an unavoidable fact.
“Students may not qualify for jobseekers’ payments and many also do not qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. In addition, we know that among those who do qualify for PUP, a considerable number are seasonal workers who may be put on the reduced rate due to working part-time during the year despite the fact that they would have worked full-time during the summer.
“SUSI is calculated based on 2019 income, meaning that recent drop in income incurred by the pandemic will not be factored in. This may delay may mean some students are put in the upsetting and unfair position of having to defer for a year, to receive the financial support which reflects the reality of their family's finances.
“There is an urgent need to support students throughout the coming months to ensure that they can continue to go to college. No one should have their studies unfairly cut short because they have been forgotten about amid the financial fall out of the pandemic.
“To this end, we are seeking a contribution to the Covid committee next week from the USI so that we can address this with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has criticised the government for bowing to pressure from the insurance industry and refusing to commence the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act despite it passing all stages of the Oireachtas six months ago.
The Donegal TD has called on Fine Gael and all other parties to commit to commencing the legislation, which offers increased protection to consumers and SMEs in their insurance contracts.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Six months ago the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act passed all stages of the Oireachtas and was signed into law by President Higgins.
“This legislation would shift the balance in favour of consumers and away from insurers by increasing transparency and strengthening the hand of the policyholder. It has been described as the most radical change in consumer law in centuries and as a game-changer by the Alliance for Insurance Reform.
“Amongst its many provisions includes the requirement that where there is any ambiguity or uncertainty in a contract, the interpretation in favour of the consumer must prevail.
“At a time when insurance companies are dragging SMEs through the courts by refusing to pay out claims for business interruption, the benefits of this legislation to SMEs could not be clearer.
“Despite this and the fact that it passed into law, the government has bowed to the demands of the insurance lobby and blocked the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act by refusing to commence it.
“The Minister for Finance confirmed on 20th May that he would not commence the legislation after meeting with major insurance companies. The Minister should stand up for consumers instead of acting as a puppet of the industry. The insurance industry is being allowed to override the will of the Dáil.
“This is a clear victory for the insurance lobby and a blow to consumers and SMEs who have been ripped off by high insurance costs and bad practice by insurers. Once again, Fine Gael have put the interests of big business before the needs of our SME sector.
“There is no excuse for delaying this legislation any longer and I am calling on all parties to commit to commencing this legislation immediately whatever shape the next government takes.”
Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd has called on the Economy Minister to act decisively to help save 500 jobs at the Thompson's Aero Seating in Banbridge and Portadown.
John O'Dowd was speaking after tabling an Urgent Oral Written Question to the minister in the Assembly today.
The Upper Bann continued :
“I think many workers and their families from Thompson's will be deeply disappointed by the minister's lack of a definitive response about how she plans to help avoid these job losses.
“Action is needed now, the minister is ideally placed to champion these workers and engage directly with the Chancellor Rishi Sunak about extending the furlough scheme closure date beyond the 10th of June.
“Tea and sympathy is not the solution, action and leadership is expected and required at this time.”
Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Matt Carthy TD has said that if the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed spent as much time tackling the unfair practices of meat factories as he does in attacking Sinn Féin then farmers would be in a much better position.
Responding to Minister Creed's latest attack on Sinn Féin, Teachta Carthy said:
“Michael Creed has allowed beef processors to tighten their stranglehold on Irish agriculture during his tenure as Minister. Never slow to condemn farmers on the picket lines, he has consistently refused to face down the uncompetitive practices of the factories.
“He stands over a system that allows a Sheikh from the United Arab Emirates to draw down €216,000 in Irish CAP payments, where farms associated with Larry Goodman receive almost €400,000, while most family farmers find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
“Instead of tackling these inequalities or facing down the processors, Minister Creed has spent more time attacking Sinn Féin. He has become the Minister for Meat Factories.
“Minister Creed and Fine Gael know that Sinn Féin is committed to delivering a policy platform that will revitalise family farming and our rural communities. These attacks on our party are just pathetic attempts to distract from his own failings.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has criticised the government’s failure to meet its own deadline to give childcare providers information about funding supports.
The government had previously said that they would inform childcare providers by 5th June about the financial subsidies and grants which will be made available to them. Four days on from this deadline, childcare providers say they still have not received this information.Teachta McDonald said:
Childcare providers need urgent clarity about how they can open their doors again in a way that is safe for staff and children alike.
“Childcare providers have been warning for months that they worry they may be unable to reopen their facilities due to ongoing lack of support from the government. Clarity and support is needed, not empty talk and broken promises.
“Providers had been told that by 5th June they would be informed about what support they would receive. This deadline has come and gone, with childcare providers still in the dark.
“Without knowing what funding supports they will have, many are unclear how many children they will be able to have on their premises, how they will pay their staff or what fees they will need to charge parents.
“Childcare providers and families are understandably growing increasingly frustrated and disappointed by this response, which has failed time and time again to acknowledge how important childcare will be as the lockdown restrictions ease.
“We are now just weeks away from the date that creches are due to open, yet many vital questions remain unanswered.
“Childcare is a fundamental service that should have been hardwired into the public health strategy to ease the lockdown as it is essential for many parents as they return to work. Workers and families are rapidly losing confidence in the government’s ability to grasp this fundamental fact.”
Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has encouraged charities under financial pressure as a result of COVID-19 to apply to the new COVID-19 Charities fund which will open on Monday 15 June.
Speaking the North Belfast MLA said:
“I welcome the announcement today by the Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey that the £15.5 million fund to support local charities during this pandemic will be open from Monday the 15th of June.
“Many in the charity sector provide invaluable services and support to those most in need within our communities all year round.
"Throughout this pandemic, many charities have continued to deliver services. They have been working tirelessly on the frontline to ensure that support continued within communities.
“I want to commend those in the charity sector for their efforts over recent months and also the Minister for Communities for establishing this fund to support charities that are in need of financial assistance.
“This fund could be the lifeline for many of those in the sector and I want to encourage charities that are under financial pressure to apply to this fund."
Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan has written to the Minister for Infrastructure to ask what preparations are being made for the phased reopening of MOT centres.
Speaking the South Down MLA said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on all sections of our society and economy.
“The closure of MOT centres has placed additional strain on many businesses, including delivery and taxi drivers.
“I have been engaging with many taxi drivers who cannot apply for a PSV licence for a new vehicle and also cannot avail of an exemption, stopping them from working entirely.
“These drivers deserve clarity about when they can get their vehicle tested and acquire this licence.
“In the South, it has been announced that there will be a phased reopening of NCT centres from this week.
“I have written to the Infrastructure Minister to ask what preparations are now being made for the phased reopening of MOT centres in the North.
“Core to the reopening process must be dialogue with MOT centre workers and Trade Unions to ensure maximum protection for both workers and the general public.”
Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson MLA has today called for stronger and more coordinated environmental monitoring to better prevent environmental crime in the River Faughan area.
The Foyle MLA said:
"The River Faughan has been subjected to repeated incidents of pollution and eco-crime that have resulted in mass fish kills and other damage to the biodiversity and environmental health of the region.
"As a Special Area of Conservation, it must be protected from all real and present threats of further pollution.
"I am aware of a planning enforcement notice issued on environmental grounds in the surrounding area that, if unfulfilled, may result in further damage to the River Faughan.
"Councils, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), and the NI Environmental Agency, must all work together to improve monitoring of environmental enforcement notices over time, and not just at the notice deadline.
"We must ensure the conditions of this enforcement notice are being acted upon in good time, to prevent any further extensions or a situation arising where the notice can't be fulfilled.
"This is especially important when viewed alongside the unfortunate history of dumping and eco-criminality in the River Faughan area."
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has sent her condolences following the death of the former auxiliary Bishop of Derry, Francis Lagan.
The Foyle MLA said:
“I was sorry to hear about the death of the former Auxiliary Bishop of Derry, Francis Lagan.
“Many people across Derry and Donegal will have been saddened by this news.
“He was the Auxiliary Bishop of Derry diocese for many years and was involved in many important times in people’s lives, including confirmations, christenings and other events.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and all who knew Bishop Lagan at this time.”
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said the local community has been shocked and saddened by the death of a man on a farm on the outskirts of Derry.
The Foyle MLA said:
“The local community were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of a man on a farm at Coshquin on the outskirts of Derry.
“An investigation into the cause of the man’s death is now underway.
“My thoughts are with the family, friends and loved ones of the man who lost his life at this sad and difficult time.”