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Sinn Féin has selected John Gormley for co-option to replace Deirdre Hargey as Councillor for the Botanic area on Belfast City Council.

Speaking after being selected at a selection convention in South Belfast, John Gormley said: 

“I am proud and honoured to have been selected for co-option to the Belfast City Council to replace Deirdre Hargey, who is taking on the role of MLA for South Belfast.

“I have worked closely with Deirdre over many years and know the great work she has done for the people of Botanic and wider South Belfast.

“Having been active in community politics for a number of years, I will continue to stand up for the people of South Belfast and play my part in building the new Belfast for all.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking following the announcement of a deferral of the government's planned commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary, has said that "deferring this is a step in the right direction, but it's not enough. This event needs to be cancelled".

Teachta McDonald said:

"Over the past number of days we have gotten a flavour of the extent of Fine Gael's revisionism, during which they have repeatedly defended their decision to commemorate the DMP and the RIC.

"These forces were part of the British apparatus of occupation and acted to suppress the democratic demand for independence as expressed overwhelming by the people in the 1918 General Election. 

"For any Irish government for advocate commemorating these organisations is shameful and it has rightly drawn much criticism.

"Deferral of this planned commemoration is a step in the right direction, but it's not enough. This event needs to be cancelled." 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has urged groups to take part in a consultation process that will help shape the future EU programme ‘PEACE Plus’ that will run from 2021-2027.

Speaking after the launch of the survey Martina Anderson MEP said:

“I would encourage groups to take part in a new survey with the survey and information events which will setting out funding and delivery of new PEACE Plus Programme.

“Sinn Féin have worked tirelessly in the European Parliament, and elsewhere, to ensure that EU funding streams to the north are protected.

“In 2016, Sinn Féin convinced 541 MEPs of the need to protect PEACE funding, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

“The new PEACE Plus programme has the potential to mitigate some of the impact that Brexit and the border has on our border communities, but this fund is not a miracle cure.

“The reality of Brexit will still mean that the north will be cut off from other vital European funding programmes worth hundreds of millions of euro.

“On the 31st of January, the north will be dragged out of the EU. Sinn Féin will continue fighting to ensure that the budget for this PEACE Plus Programme, and the regulations, covering it are secured.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the government’s health strategy as “a shambles which is failing patients.”

The Louth TD described the record numbers of patients on hospital waiting lists and on trolleys and in wards waiting on admission as “a scandal” and “evidence that after 9 years of Fine Gael governments there has been an absolute failure to get to grips with the crisis in the health service.”

Teachta Adams pointed to the growing numbers of over 75’s forced to spend more than 24 hours on trolleys.

Gerry Adams said:

“In a PQ response from the Department of Health it was revealed that between January and November of last year, 349 citizens aged over 75 years spent more than 24 hours on a hospital trolley in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. In November alone the figure was 53.

"The most recent figures from the outpatient waiting lists reveal that over half a million citizens are waiting appointments. Last November Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda had 12,829 citizens awaiting their first appointment and of these over two thirds have been waiting for more than three months. Louth County Hospital has 2133 patients on its waiting list. Over half of these have been waiting for more than three months.

"This week there were record numbers of patients in our overcrowded Accident and Emergency departments across the State. The hard work of a dedicated staff cannot compensate for the lack of adequate staffing levels and capacity within our acute hospital system. According to the INMO there are 411 fewer inpatient beds in our hospitals today than a decade ago, despite a larger, older population.

"This crisis in waiting lists and trolley numbers did not happen out of the blue or because of the latest flu outbreak. It is part and parcel of the absence of a coherent government health strategy, and inadequate resources. Last year there were almost one hundred and twenty thousand patients stuck in overcrowded Emergency departments.

"Behind these statistics are citizens, human beings, who are often frightened and concerned about their health and yet are forced to endure lengthy waits for hospital appointments or on hospital trolleys.

"While Minister Harris in Health, like Minister Murphy in Housing, are responsible for the crises in these two essential public services, both Ministers are implementing government policy – housing and health policies that are supported by Fianna Fáil.

"Urgent action is needed by Minister Harris to end the trolley crisis. This requires a crisis intervention package of measures, including increasing staff and bed capacity, lifting the recruitment embargo on frontline staff, expanding community care and moving ahead speedily with the Sláintecare reforms.”

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has extended condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of BBC radio presenter Stephen Clements.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Stephen Clements today.

“His radio shows on BBC Radio Ulster and Q Radio brought his legion of listeners joy through his music and humour.  

“I would like to extend my deepest condolences to his wife, children and family, and his colleagues at this very sad and difficult time.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that Minister Josepha Madigan should appear before the Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to explain the debacle that is the government's planned State commemoration for the RIC on the 17th January.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

"This commemoration is wholly insensitive and inappropriate, and it beggars belief that taxpayers money is being spent on a commemoration for those who suppressed the will of the Irish people for self-determination and national independence.

"In December, officials from the Minister Madigan's Department appeared before the Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to discuss the Decade of Centenaries commemorative programme and there was no mention of this commemoration.

"I am very concerned that the Minister did not refer this planned commemoration at any stage to the All-Party Consultation Group on Commemorations.

"This is likely because it would have been dismissed out of hand and this is not the way that sensitive issues like this should be handled and it flies in the face of trying to commemorate the Decade of Centenaries in an inclusive manner.

 "I have issued an invite to the Minister this afternoon to appear before the Committee urgently and I hope that this can happen as soon as possible."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has dismissed Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan’s statement that commemoration of the RIC is not a commemoration of the Black and Tans or the Auxiliaries.

He has said: ‘What the Minister for Justice, the Taoiseach and the government have conveniently chosen to ignore is that the Black and Tans - or the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve - and the Auxiliaries were an integral part of the RIC’.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:

“The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has issued a lengthy statement in which he has attempted to assert that those who served in the RIC were police officers whose job it was to uphold the rule of law.

“What he, the Taoiseach and the government have conveniently chosen to ignore is that the Black and Tans - or the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve - and the Auxiliaries were an integral part of the RIC and were actively involved in the British effort to suppress and defeat the Irish freedom struggle.

“It was RIC officers that carried out the summary execution of the Lord Mayor of Cork Tomás Mac Curtain, and it was the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries that burned towns and villages and terrorised ordinary people the length and breadth of the country.

“Their role was not to act as a police force but to instill terror in the population to break the will of the Irish people for freedom and independence.

“Yet the government believes that these were the upholders of law and order and that we should afford them a State commemoration?

“Such folly is historic revisionism at its finest and it has rightly drawn massive criticism.

“This commemoration must be cancelled, and I am calling on the government to do that without delay.”

ENDS//

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan has encouraged parents to complete applications for pre-school places and primary school places for September 2020 in advance of the January 30th deadline.

Karen Mullan said:

“It’s time to apply for pre-school places and primary school places for September 2020.

“I would encourage all parents to complete their application ahead of deadline which is the 30th of January at 12 noon.”

Details of the digital registration process as well as further information on the admissions process can be accessed at the following link: https://www.eani.org.uk/parents/admissions 

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Sinn Féin MEP calls on government to cancel RIC commemoration

 

The government plan to ‘commemorate’ the RIC on January 17 is ‘an insult to those who fought for Irish freedom’ and should be cancelled according to MEP Matt Carthy.

 

The event, which is due to be held at Dublin Castle, is planned as part of the government’s programme marking a decade of centenaries.

 

The Midlands North West MEP said the All Party Consultation Group on Commemorations were not consulted on this event and would likely have ‘dismissed it out of hand’ if they had been because ‘it is an insult to those who fought for Irish freedom’.

 

Matt Carthy said: “Since the plans for this event were first revealed last week public opposition has intensified and several elected representatives, from various shades of political opinion, have publicly stated they will not attend the event.

 

“The role of the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) was not merely, as indicated by senior Fine Gael representatives, to act as normal police services.  Instead, they had a specific role of upholding British rule in Ireland, which often manifested itself through instilling terror in the populace particularly in their attempts to break the democratic will of the Irish people for independence.

 

“In no other State that has emerged from anti-colonial struggle would they celebrate the deeds of the oppressors.

 

“This is Fine Gael revisionism in action - this has been evident at several points during these commemorative years.  The commemorations have often been partitionist and more concerned with commemorating those who tried to suppress the Irish Freedom struggle than those who fought for their own country.  They have been almost apologetic of the Easter Rising and the subsequent armed struggle despite the fact that these events were responses to British aggression in Ireland.

 

“Fine Gael, by being more interested in commemorating the enforcers of British rule in Ireland than ordinary citizens who bore the brunt of British forces, have drastically misjudged the public mood.

 

“Yes, all those who died in conflict should be remembered and we should acknowledge all who were killed during the pivotal period from 1914.

 

“But there should be no tolerance for any attempt to equate those who died for Irish freedom with the ones who were paid to oppress it.  The RIC commemoration must be cancelled” he concluded.

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has welcomed the opening of 199 temporary hospital beds to tackle the current overcrowding crisis but has said that a permanent solution from government must be forthcoming.

Speaking today Teachta O’Reilly said;

“Nine years ago Fine Gael came to office with a promise to end the scandal of trolleys in our Accident and Emergency departments yet last year was the worst year on record and this year has started out even worse again with yesterday recorded as the worst day in the history of the state for hospital overcrowding with 760 patients on trolleys.

“Looking at the list of the 199 beds to be opened up to deal with the current crisis it’s hard to see that the government are looking past an election date.  The beds are very welcome but they will be closed again in March and the government has not come forward with a permanent solution.

“That is not acceptable after nine years in office.  Minister Harris has said he is proud of his achievements after three years in the health portfolio showing no respect for patients on trolleys.

“Since Fine Gael came to office in 2011 Sinn Féin has been telling them that the solution to the overcrowding crisis is more capacity and more staff.

“Unfortunately the government is damaging capital projects across the state due to the Children’s Hospital overspend, they have implemented a recruitment ban across the health service, they have consistently failed to properly implement a health service winter plan and they appear to have no interest in implementing Sláintecare.

“Fine Gael has shown that it is not up to the challenges in the health services. They have had nine years to tackle the trolley crisis and it has got worse.  It is time for change.”

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Unprecedented hospital waiting lists the inevitable outcome of FF & FG policies - Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin rep says removal of services from hospitals like Monaghan ‘key component’ of current crisis

Fine Gael this week achieved a new record when, on Monday, 760 patients were awaiting admission to hospitals across the state, the highest number ever.  This has been described by local Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, as the “inevitable outcome of the health policies pursued by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over the past two decades”.

Carthy said that the removal of services from centres such as Monaghan Hospital was a key component in the dangerous situation that has regularly emerged in other hospitals that have been expected to pick up the pieces.

The Trolley Watch figures, complied by the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’  Organisation (INMO) revealed on Monday that the record 760 people waiting on admission to a hospital bed included 15 in Cavan General and 13 at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

The Midlands North West MEP said the figures, which are the highest since the nursing union started compiling them in 2004, ‘laid bare the utter inability of Fine Gael, along with the HSE, to properly manage the State’s health service’.

Carthy said: “Behind all these figures are individual patients, waiting and suffering because of a lack of beds being available in almost every hospital across the State.

“Just last month, the INMO figures revealed that 10,003 admitted patients waited to get a bed in hospitals in December and that 231 of these were children. Last Friday January, there were 620 people waiting for a bed in the State’s hospitals before this figure jumped again to a record-breaking 760 on Monday.

“The government and the HSE know there is a bigger demand on ED services at this time of the year, but instead of properly planning for it, they choose to put their heads in the sand, only for government spokespeople to act dumbfounded.

“In addition, there are very worrying reports about ambulances being held up at emergency departments for between three and seven hours because they are waiting to safely hand over patients to nursing staff.  

“People in counties like Monaghan have to rely on already over-stretched nurses and doctors in Cavan and Drogheda, after successive governments have spent nearly 20 years decimating services at Monaghan General.  These record-breaking patient waiting figures are what happens when services are stripped from local hospitals and are the inevitable outcome of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael health policies.

“The cause of this most recent crisis is the failure of Health Minister Simon Harris to get to grips with his job.  He is only there because Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs keep him in situ.

“In the short term the Minister needs to look beyond his own propaganda and begin an immediate crisis intervention package that will alleviate the pressure on services.  This means lifting the recruitment embargo on frontline staff and expanding capacity in our hospitals.

“In the longer term though we require a radical overhaul of the health system as advocated by Sinn Féin.  This must mean the restoration and development of services at hospitals such as Monaghan in order to ease the pressures on other centres”.

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has paid tribute to the late Dr James Mehaffey, former Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, following his death. 

The Foyle MLA said: 

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of the former Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Dr James Mehaffey. 

“Bishop Mehaffey was a well known figure in Derry and further afield for many years. 

“During his tenure as Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and throughout his retirement he struck up lasting friendships from across society and was an inspiration to everyone. 

“His commitment to promoting peace and reconciliation in the city won him many friends and admirers and he will be sadly missed by all. 

“My thoughts are with his family and friends and all who knew him at this sad time.”

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Sinn Féin Newry Armagh MLA, Conor Murphy, has today called on the PSNI Chief Constable to review its approach to policing in south Armagh, following a meeting with Simon Byrne this afternoon.

Conor Murphy MLA said:

"Today in a meeting with PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, I urged him to urgently change the PSNI approach to policing in south Armagh.

"The Christmas Day photo stunt in Crossmaglen made headlines, but is only symptomatic of a much wider problem with policing in the area.

"Over 20 years after Patten and the Good Friday Agreement, the police approach to the community in south Armagh has barely changed.

"In the wake of yet another paramilitary murder in East Antrim, it is completely unacceptable that south Armagh is described as 'unique'. 

"The leadership in the PSNI still seem to be in a mindset of imposing policing on the local community, as opposed to policing with the community.

"Simon Byrne is a new Chief Constable, and he has an opportunity to set a new standard to give the local community policing they need and deserve."

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on the new Chief Executive of Insurance Ireland, Moyagh Murdock, to defend the interests of insurance consumers instead of the profits and the spin of the industry.

Speaking as the current chief executive of the Road Safety Authority took up her position with the main lobby group of the insurance industry, Deputy Doherty said:

“The insurance industry has engaged in a public disinformation campaign to distract the public and media from their own pricing practices and profits.

“Unfortunately Insurance Ireland, and some political parties, have been too happy to peddle their spin instead of holding them to account.

“Sinn Féin are under no illusion that the role of Insurance Ireland is to defend and lobby on behalf of the insurance industry. 

"I hope Moyagh Murdock will think of consumers who have been ripped off by insurance companies as she takes up her new role, and will be less quick to peddle the spin propagated by the industry.

“While I have continually called out the industry and representatives from Insurance Ireland for exaggerating the extent of fraud and the cost of claims, while highlighting the rising cost of premiums despite the falling cost of claims, some in Government, the media and Fianna Fáil have regurgitated their spin.

“The recent Central Bank report showed that despite the falling cost of claims in the past decade, the average motor insurance premium rose 42 percent.

“I would hope that the new CEO would focus on the rip-off costs faced by consumers and the practice of price discrimination by insurance companies. 

"I would also hope that she focusses on ensuring the industry complies fully with Sinn Féin’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Act which was signed into law last month.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, responding to the government's plan to hold a State commemoration for the Royal Irish Constabulary on the 17th January has said "those who resisted British rule in Ireland during the Tan War, and citizens who suffered at the hands of those that enforced British rule in Ireland are those who we should be commemorating, not the RIC or the Black and Tans".

Teachta McDonald said:

"The Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police were not merely police forces - as the Minister for Justice seems to think - but they had a specific role in upholding what was oftentimes martial law and suppressing the will of the Irish people for self-determination and national independence.

"In no other State would those who facilitated the suppression of national freedom be commemorated by the State and I am calling on the government to cancel this proposed State commemoration. 

"It is those who resisted British rule in Ireland during the Tan War and citizens that suffered at the hands of the those that maintained British rule who the State should be commemorating, not the RIC or the Black and Tans."

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Sinn Féin Climate Action spokesperson David Cullinane TD has said today that the government and the State needs to put serious investment behind its words, adding that without an increase in public transport infrastructure the proposed legislation on fossil fuel cars will amount to nothing.

Speaking today, Deputy Cullinane said:

“The government’s proposal to ban all fossil fuel cars by 2030 cannot happen in an investment vacuum.

“We need a significant increase in public transport capacity and availability if we are to reach any of our climate action targets.

“The Minister for Climate Action’s announcement today of a new bill is sadly lacking on these details.

“We also need to invest in renewable energy in order to reach our 2030 targets.

“For this reason, Sinn Féin will be tabling a number of amendments to the government’s bill, including one to put into law a target of at least 80 percent renewable energy production by 2030.

“The transfer of private and road haulage transport onto the national grid will have to lead to a re-evaluation of the government’s current obsession to energy-guzzling data centres.

“Eirgrid estimates that these centres alone will consume up to 28 percent of our national energy. This is madness and completely unsustainable in terms of our targets.

“The ban on fossil fuel cars does not only mean more electric cars, but more public transport electric buses, more rail, and greater capacity on, and expansion of, the existing network.

“We will look to amend the role and composition of the Climate Action Council to ensure it is democratic and genuinely representative of all communities.

“We cannot have a situation whereby un-elected and self-declared experts gets to decide the direction of climate action policy, over the heads of local communities, trade unions, and workers.

“We need to learn from the fiasco that is the Just Transition task force and ensure that all voices are not only heard but listened to."

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Responding to news from the INMO that today is the worst day on record for trolley overcrowding since records began, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Louise O'Reilly TD has said that today's figures highlight Simon Harris' failed tenure as Minister for Health.

Deputy O'Reilly said;

"The news that 760 patients went without beds in our hospitals this morning - the highest figure since records began - is not the way our health service should be starting out the New Year.

"Behind each and every statistic is a real person who is seriously unwell waiting on a hospital bed.

"Emergency Departments are packed to the rafters and this creates an unsafe environment for both staff and patients alike.

"There is a very real possibility that we could even see over 800 patients waiting on hospital beds if this worrying trend continues.

"This is the latest addition to the failed tenure of Minister for Health Simon Harris.

"He needs to look beyond his own propaganda and begin an immediate crisis intervention package that will alleviate the pressure on services.

"This means lifting the recruitment embargo on frontline staff and expanding capacity in our hospitals.

"I will be seeking a meeting with frontline health workers in the coming weeks to discuss how we can best push for these urgently needed changes."

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Sinn Féin TD for Limerick Maurice Quinlivan has challenged Minister for Health Simon Harris to travel to Limerick to meet some of the thousands of people affected by the worst hospital overcrowding in the state at UHL.

Deputy Quinlivan’s call comes as 92 people lay on trolleys at University Hospital Limerick this morning, an all-time record high for any hospital in the State.

Speaking from Limerick City today, Teachta Quinlivan said;

“This morning 92 people have been recorded on hospital trolleys in University Hospital Limerick alone.

“This is the highest number ever recorded in the state and it is a damning indictment of Fine Gael’s health policies.

“For perspective, that’s the same number of people packed into UHL on trolleys, as there are beds in Croom and Ennis hospitals combined. It’s absolutely scandalous.

“We literally have two extra hospitals on trolleys in UHL, but without the staff or resources to mind and care for the patients.

“These aren’t just statistics, these are real people in need of urgent medical care.

“The personal stories I am hearing every day from patients, and from families of loved ones are absolutely heart-breaking.

“Minister Harris needs to get his head out of the sand, and travel to Limerick to meet with these people.

“The Minister needs to hear first-hand the desperate and tragic stories of people in Limerick who are really suffering due to this outrageous overcrowding.

“Fine Gael have been in government for nine years now. We have had three Fine Gael Ministers for Health in this time, each worse than the last. This situation is entirely of their making, and the buck stops with them.

“We need urgent action now, not the usual spin and empty words from the Minister.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has encouraged people to apply for the 2020 Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme. 

The South Down MLA said: 

“Applications for the 2020 Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme opened today and I would encourage anyone wanting to improve their Irish to apply. 

“These bursaries provide a great opportunity for people to immerse themselves in Irish language, music and culture by visiting and studying in the Gaeltacht.

“The scheme is open to adult learners who receive qualifying benefits and students whose parents are in receipt of a means-tested benefit.

“Hundreds of people across the north have already availed of these bursaries to improve their Irish.

“I would encourage anyone interested in visiting the Gaeltacht who qualifies for these bursaries to get their applications in now.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Oliver McMullan has called on the PSNI to take action against the criminal activity of loyalist criminal gangs following the death of a man in Carrickfergus on Sunday night.  

Cllr Oliver McMullan said: 

“There is shock in the community at the killing of a man in Carrickfergus on Sunday night. 

“While an investigation is underway and must be allowed to continue – it’s been reported that this killing was ordered by the South East Antrim UDA. 

“It’s long past time the PSNI finally cracked down on the criminal activity of the UDA and other loyalist paramilitaries. 

“Those responsible for this latest killing must be brought before the courts.

“I appeal to the community to bring forward any information that will assist the police investigation.

“There is also a responsibility on everyone, especially those in leadership positions of political unionism, to face down these criminal gangs and bring to an end once and for all the cosy relationship between unionism and loyalist gangs." 

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