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Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has called on the British and Irish governments to back the  Send My Friend to School campaign promoting access to education across the world. 

The West Tyrone MP said: 

“I met with two young campaign champions, Danielle and Amy from St Dominic’s Grammar School, who were at Westminster building support for the Send My Friend to School campaign which promotes greater access to quality education across the world. 

“These inspirational young people recognise the opportunities access to education has given them and, along with others, are determined to ensure others across the world experience the same. 

“Across the world 262 million young people do not have access to the basic human right to an education. That is unacceptable.

“Often it is children growing up in the most challenging environments and experiencing poverty, conflict or emergencies that are most impacted by the lack of access to education.

“Children and young people everywhere should have equal access to education, regardless of where they are from." 

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Climate Action Brian Stanley TD has today launched his Solar Panel (Climate Action) Bill 2019 to make it easier for households, schools and businesses to install solar panels.

The Bill would allow domestic dwellings, community buildings, schools and industrial buildings to install solar panels with planning permission exemption where the panel does not exceed 50% of the total roof area.

Speaking outside Leinster House this morning, Deputy Stanley said:

“This is a simple Bill which would make it easier for families, businesses and schools to put a solar panel on their roof.

“Our office has heard countless stories from households and community groups that the current regulations on solar panels are burdensome and turn people off the idea.

“Sinn Féin is putting forward this proposal as a solution to remove what are unnecessary obstructions in the law.

“We want to see schools across the country have solar panels on their roofs. We want to see businesses powered by solar. We want to see families save on electricity and fuel costs.

“Sinn Féin was glad to see that the Governments recent Climate Action Plan also adopted our Microgeneration Bill as a positive solution to address climate change.

“For any microgeneration scheme to work, however, we need to see a huge increase in solar panels across the island and they need to be installed across a variety of building types. This Bill would address that issue.

“We also need to ensure that it is affordable for households to retrofit their homes with solar panels. We need to ensure that Schools are provided with the state capital to do the same.

“People want to see tangible solutions to climate change. They want to see immediate action in which they can play a role whether it is through their local community GAA club or school board. This Bill would allow for that change to happen.

“Sinn Féin are calling on all parties to support this Bill, this is something which we should all agree upon.”

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Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has called on the government to engage with sporting organisations and work with them to roll out a problem gambling awareness campaign.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“As a society, we are more aware than ever of the damage caused by problem gambling.

“There are many organisations, journalists, advocates, and opposition politicians who have been highlighting the issue of problem gambling for some time now. However, there has been little by way of action from the government on this matter.

“The scale of the problem in this State is apparent; we have the highest online gambling losses in the world per capita and the third highest gambling losses overall per capita. 

“That is a fact that should scare politicians, but the reality is that it doesn’t.

“We need action on a number of fronts, particularly as regards treatment for problem gambling within the health services, regulation of the gambling industry, as well as raising awareness.

“As well as implementing legislative change to ensure regulation of the industry, the government should engage with sporting organisations such as Sport Ireland, the FAI, the GAA, the LGFA and the Camogie Association, the IRFU, and Athletics Ireland, to name but a few, and work with them in the rollout a problem gambling awareness campaign.” 

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has said the government is responsible for publishing statistics lacking in credibility on the public finances which conceal the true extent of Fine Gael’s mismanagement of taxpayer funds.

The Donegal TD was speaking following the publication of the ESRI’s latest Quarterly Commentary, which flatly contradicts government projections for running surpluses in 2019 and 2020.

Teachta Doherty said:

“The government’s own assessment of the public finances has now been openly contradicted twice in as many weeks by IFAC and now the ESRI.

“Once again singling out Fine Gael’s over-reliance on corporate tax to fund public service spending, the ESRI also warned that the waste and squander of Fianna Fáil’s boom and bust years not be repeated regarding capital projects.

“It appears as though the government is consciously publishing statistics lacking in credibility to conceal the true extent of their mismanagement of public finances.

“As families tackle ever-rising living costs, and as the economy faces into a number of significant risks, it is clear this state needs investment.

“Prioritising investment in childcare, in higher and further education, and in low-carbon housing and infrastructure would unlock significant economic potential while also lifting the cost of living burden from families.

“But all of this is made extremely difficult if the government continues to issue election pledges on the back of a narrow and increasingly volatile tax base.

“Indeed, just yesterday the government doubled down on their commitment to hollow out the tax base by a further €3bn for a tax cut promise made by Leo Varadkar that will impact only the top one fifth of earners.

“We know hundreds of millions of taxpayers money is being leaked away in tax breaks to banks and property developers. We know capital projects are set to overrun by hundreds of millions.

“We also now know the government is publishing statistics which lack any credibility to cover themselves and hide their record of mismanagement.

“The economy and our public finances are not the PR tools of the Fine Gael strategists.

“It’s time for Fine Gael to get real and get it’s house in order, and the coming Summer Economic Statement is a chance to do so honestly and accurately.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Shauneen Baker has condemned those behind a security alert at Roseleigh Street in North Belfast.

Cllr Baker said:

“The ongoing security alert on Roseleigh Street has caused significant disruption to local residents this afternoon with a number of properties being evacuated and the streets closed after a viable device was found. 

“The Sacred Heart Parish Centre at Glenview Street is open at present and available for residents as an Emergency Rest Centre.

"Those responsible for this disruption have shown complete disregard for the lives of people in the local area.

"There can be no justification for this type of reckless activity." 

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Speaking on a motion on maternity services in the Dáil this evening, Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly used the opportunity to call for the government to stop playing fast-and-loose with maternity services and deliver on commitments made to improve the service.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“There are areas of our maternity services where we need to see substantial change and solutions.

“Women are still being denied a basic 20-week anomaly scan used to identify anomalies in the development of the baby. Such scans allow the mother as well as medical professionals to make necessary medical plans.

“The health service needs to address the equipment or the staffing deficits which obstruct the ability to deliver this service.

“We also need to expand the new-born screening programme to guarantee that every child born in this State has the right to be screened at birth for any disease for which there is a viable treatment – not only would this be relatively cheap to do, but it would save families a lot of suffering and it would save the health service millions in the long run.

“Staffing levels are another huge barrier to improving maternity services – we have just two midwifery-led units in place, we are 200 midwives below the recommended safety-levels in the National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026, while also having the third lowest number of obstetricians per capita in the OECD.

“There are many aspects of our maternity services which work very well, but there are also significant areas where we need to see change.

"Delivering this change is non-negotiable and we need to see the political will and the necessary funding from the government to deliver this change to ensure we have a maternity service that is worthy of our women."

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has strongly criticised the Minister for Health, the HSE and the Department of Health providing “contradictory, confused, and conflicting” information about the Dundalk Primary Care Centre.

Deputy Adams said:

“Incompetence has been a mark of this government. Such incompetence leaves the most vulnerable in our society behind. The lack of Child and Adolescent Mental Health services CAMHS for the young people of north Louth is totally unacceptable”.

In correspondence last week the HSE told Mr. Adams that the provision of Dundalk Primary Care Centre is under review and has consequently been delayed. 

Teachta Adams said:

“There are no Child and Adolescent Mental Health services in North Louth. Children who need CAMHS have to travel to Drogheda for services. I have visited the Day Care Centre at Ladywell in Dundalk and despite the best efforts of the staff the facilities are not fit for purpose.

"It is impossible to deliver proper, effective community mental health services from a facility which is old and decrepit and not fit for purpose.

"A new Primary Care Centre for Dundalk was first announced in 2008 when the HSE advertised for expressions of interest to develop a centre. Ten years later not a brick has been laid. 

"In November 2016 I was told that the operational lease process for the primary care centre would be completed in the first quarter of 2017. 

"In August 2018, the HSE stated that the planning application would be submitted by the end of 2018; that work would commence in 2019; and the centre would be open early in 2020. 

"Last week I was told by David Walsh, the National Director of Community Operations, that Disability Services are now “seeking space in the Primary Care Centre”.

"While I welcome this why on earth was it not part of the original plan?

Mr. Walsh added: “This has resulted in a requirement to review the project … this has resulted in a delay … the new updated proposal will require additional approval from the HSE Property Resource Group”.

"Last Friday, two days later, I received a letter from Minister Harris which makes no mention of disability services. Nor does he mention the need to review the project. Nor does he state that the project will be delayed.

"It would appear that Minister Harris does not know what is happening with Dundalk Primary Care Centre. Incompetence has been a mark of this government. Such incompetence leaves the most vulnerable in our society behind. The lack of lack of Child and Adolescent Mental Health services CAMHS for the young people of north Louth is totally unacceptable”.

Teachta Adams asked Minister Byrne what is the current timeline for the design stage of Dundalk Primary Care Centre; how long will the review take; what are the cost implications; will a new letter of intent be required and does this mean that a new process of identifying a preferred applicant must be undertaken; when will construction commence and what is the expected opening date now for Dundalk Primary Care Centre?

Minister Byrne accepted that she should have simply said that she doesn’t know. She said she would raise the matter with Minister Harris.

Gerry Adams TD has now written to the Minister.

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has today said Fine Gael are wilfully ignoring warnings about their handling of the public finances.

The Donegal TD was speaking following an exchange in the Dáil today in which Minister Paschal Donohoe once again confirmed his intention to introduce a tax cut costing the state around €3bn in the years ahead.

Teachta Doherty said:

“2019 has been a very embarrassing year for Fine Gael and their reputation as a party capable of managing the public finances.

“This reputation took another hit today as Minister Donohoe once again pledged to hollow out the public finances with another tax cut election pledge which ignores the cost of living pressures for almost 80% of taxpayers.

“Amazingly, this comes just a week after the government’s fiscal watchdog hit out at the government’s inability to reduce overreliance on corporate tax receipts.

“The Minister isn’t stupid – he clearly understands IFAC’s warnings about his handling of the public finances.

“However, today is confirmation that he has decided to ignore them and instead plough ahead with a tax pledge that does nothing for four out of five taxpayers.

“This was originally a pledge made by Leo Varadkar at his party’s Ard Fheis, who succeeded in giving us all flashbacks to the Bertie Ahern stunt politics that defined the worst days Fianna Fáil’s boom-bust economic record.

“It would cost the state some €3bn. That’s €3bn diverted from higher education, housing, childcare, or from investing in the just transition to a low-carbon economy.

“Indeed, to even make the policy possible it will require raising the upper joint income tax threshold by an average of €6,000 per year in each of the next five years.

“The sheer scale and scope of this pledge points to a Fine Gael vision for the public finances which isn’t remotely credible.

“It also shows that in order to afford a tax cut for some, Fine Gael are prepared to let the cost of living continue to spiral for everyone else.

“The people of Ireland need a break, and Sinn Féin pledge to introduce a living wage and prioritise investment in services that will bring down the cost of living which is making day-to-day life here completely unaffordable.

“Our public finances are not the election and PR tools of Fine Gael party strategists.

“We need to broaden the tax base and prioritise spending in areas that will prepare us for a down turn – in affordable childcare to allow more people to enter into work, in further and higher education to address the skills gap, and in the opportunities presented by the climate transition.

“Minister Donohoe’s repeated commitment today shows that Fine Gael continue to remain tone deaf to Sinn Féin’s, and others, warnings on the economy.”

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Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has said that the mental health of women during and after pregnancy must be at the core of maternal care. 

The Cork East TD made his comments in support of a motion being debated in the Dáil tonight, which calls for improvements to maternity care.

Deputy Buckley said;

“For too long the mental health of pregnant women and new mothers was treated with very little concern. Whilst we recognise the problems, which about 11,000 Irish women experience every year, we have done little to provide supports and solutions for them.

"The biological, psychological and social impacts that pregnancy and child birth can have on women should be every bit as much of a concern for our health services as the physical and medical responses provided already.

"Women during and after pregnancy need diagnostic and treatment services which ensure their mental well-being. Depression and anxiety in particular during and after pregnancy cannot be trivialised.

"The restructuring of reproductive health care, as a woman centred model, is crucial to ensuring that depression related to pregnancy and childbirth is treated seriously.

"Screening and care should be provided to women during and after pregnancy to the standards of international best practice.

"We need to see the development of a peri and post natal mental health service which provides peri-natal screening for mental health, with a minimum of one screening per trimester.

"We need peri-natal mental health units working together, located north and south.

"The government must a post-natal screening model through GP’s and Paediatricians with bi-monthly screenings or alternatively in conjunction with the immunisation schedule.

"We also need to develop educational and supportive materials for the woman and her partner if applicable in order to better identify issues early on, and to prevent issues arising through self-care.

"Free counselling sessions should be provided to women after pregnancy and all women should receive a home visit from an appropriate professional within first 3 months after end of pregnancy.

"A policy that places the health of the woman as the primary consideration at all times in choosing any treatment.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education and Skills Kathleen Funchion said that the INTO were right to make the reduction of primary school class sizes a priority in their key demands for Budget 2020, stating that primary school classes here are the highest in the Eurozone, five above the EU average of 20 students per class.

Speaking today after attending the INTO’s briefing in Dublin on Budget 2020, Deputy Funchion said:

"Sinn Féin have consistently made the reduction of school class size a priority in pre-Budget submissions year upon year. Last year for Budget 2019 we proposed a reduction of pupil to teacher ratio by two points at primary level at an estimated full year cost of €26.8m.

"The INTO also highlighted today the critical need to increase funding for our primary level schools.  Capitation grants were cut by €30 in the recession and schools have been financially crippled as result with many relying on voluntary contributions which we in Sinn Féin believe are unfair on parents who already struggle to meet the standard  school costs.

"For our Alternative Budget 2019, we proposed to increase school capitation rates by 5% at an estimated €10m for the year. 

"A yearly increase in capitation is essential if we are working towards a full restoration of capitation grants. These are essential for everyday running costs of schools. 

"We support the INTO’s calls to focus on both primary school class size reduction and an increase in capitation rates at primary school level in Budget 2020."

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Speaking after the PSNI have called for a separate investigation into the murder of Jean Smyth-Campbell by the British Army in June 1972, Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said:

“The family of Jean Smyth-Campbell have been fighting for almost 50 years for truth and justice.

“Hopefully today’s decision will deliver on the family’s right to an independent investigation to access truth and justice and investigation which is human-rights compliant.

“Jean Smyth-Campbell’s family, like many others, are deeply hurt and frustrated at the continued delay by the British Government in accessing the truth.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support all families in their campaign for truth and justice.”

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Speaking after today’s launch of the 2019 Childcare Survey, Catherine Kelly MLA highlighted the negative impact of a lack of quality accessible and affordable childcare in the north. 

The West Tyrone MLA said:

“Properly resourced and supported childcare provision is vital to helping children with their development and allowing parents to continue in employment. 

“The latest survey launched today highlights a lack of proper childcare provision in the north - with 50% of families spending more than 20% of their overall household income on childcare. 

“It’s a reality that households in the north use significantly more hours of childcare than anywhere else on these islands. 

“The survey also found that 45% of female parents attributed the cost of childcare as the cause for a change in their work life. 

“A lack of accessible and affordable childcare is clearly impacting on parents across the north, particularly lone parents, women and those in rural or isolated areas. 

“There is an onus on all of us to ensure the affordability and accessibility of childcare for parents to access and for providers to deliver.

“I commend Employers for Childcare on the launch of the 2019 Childcare Survey today on what marks a 10-year milestone in their research series.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams today attended the National Showcase in the Mansion House in Dublin, organised by the National Youth Council of Ireland.

The Youth Work Changes Lives showcase brings together over 300 young people, from a range of youth organisations and from every constituency, to meet their local TDs and Seanadóirí and to share with them first-hand what they do, what they learn and the benefits of youth work for them and their communities.

Teachta Adams said:

“I want to commend all of those young people who participated today in the Youth Work Changes Lives showcase in the Mansion House and especially those from Louth, including Outcomers, AsIAm, and Louth and Meath Girl Guides.

“The Mansion House was packed to capacity with hundreds of enthusiastic young people eager to talk about and promote their projects and interests. It was a hugely impressive event and well done to all of those from Louth and across the state who participated.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has criticised the government for their inaction in the face of the planned hospital support staff strike tomorrow.

Deputy McDonald called on the government to keep their word with respect to the pay increases mandated by the job evaluation scheme in 2017.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“The government cannot act as spectators in the face of significant strike action tomorrow at 38 hospitals throughout the state.

"They must keep their word and ensure that the pay rises mandated by the job evaluation scheme are implemented.

“Hospital support staff are vital to our health services. They are the porters, healthcare assistants, chefs and surgical instrument technicians who provide essential services in our hospitals on often very low wages.

"They will strike tomorrow as a last resort due to sustained inaction on the part of government.

“The job evaluation scheme found that these workers are underpaid for the roles they carry out, with their pay failing to match their skill levels.

"The government’s failure to honour the recommendation of the scheme is what has led to the strike action tomorrow.

“The threat of strike action can be ended. Not by third parties or by the Labour Court or WRC. It can be ended by a government who keep their word and do not stand by and comment from the sidelines.”

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill MLA has asked the Head of the Civil Service to detail the potential implications for other government departments following the Court of Appeal Ruling on the backdated holiday pay for PSNI staff.

Speaking after the Department of Finance confirmed it was in discussions with unions following the ruling that PSNI staff were owed backpay totalling up to an estimated £40 million over 20 years.

Michelle O’Neill commented: 

“Clearly this case has potential implications right across the public sector and it is important that workers receive the correct pay to which they are entitled.

“In relation to the possible and significant budgetary impact on the wider public sector, it’s crucial we are fully aware as soon as possible of the current legal position and the potential future implications.

“I have written to the Head of the Civil Service on that basis.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has accused Minister Eoghan Murphy of being disingenuous in the response he gave when he was questioned on the provision of free Leap cards for homeless families during the summer break.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“My colleague Denise Mitchell, our spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, and I today questioned why Ministers Zappone and Murphy are unwilling to fund leap cards for homeless families during the school holidays.

“We have both raised this issue consistently with the Ministers responsible trying to get an answer on something which would have a positive impact on the day to day lives of families in emergency accommodation and little impact on the State’s purse.

“Recent reports from the Ombudsman for Children, The Children’s Rights Alliance, and academics have highlighted the negative developmental impacts both physically and emotionally on children and teenagers who are living in emergency accommodation.

“In his response to us today, the Minister for Housing gave the misleading impression that the government was providing temporary free Leap cards to homeless families while they sought a more permanent solution.

“However, when my office sought clarification on this from the National Transport Authority, it became clear that Minister Murphy was being disingenuous in response.

“The 2019 Kids go Free scheme that runs for the month of July will allow all children under the age of 15 free Leap card travel. This is similar to the NTA’s 2018 Kids go Free scheme.

“This initiative is in no way related to the Minister for Housing nor the Rebuilding Ireland commitment to ensure access to free public transport for homeless families.

“Minister Murphy should stop hiding behind the positive initiatives from other State agencies and sit down with Minister Zappone to offer a genuine travel solution for these families.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has welcomed moves by the Department of Health to extend the consultation on proposals to reshape stroke and breast assessment services to  August 2nd.

The Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA said:

“I welcome that the Department of Health have now extended the public consultation on proposals to reshape stroke and breast assessment services to August 2nd. 

“From the start, we have challenged the department to provide the public with the relevant information in terms of its processes and the evidence base for its proposals.

“Transformation of health and social care is needed if we are to achieve better health outcomes - but changes to services must be done in partnership with staff, service users and communities. 

“There has been huge public interest in this consultation and it’s welcome that the Department will host an extra public information session in Enniskillen allowing the community to have their say. 

“Sinn Féin will continue to seek answers on the proposals and would encourage members of the public to attend upcoming public engagements.”

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said the claims made by the not-for-profit sector that they are routinely coerced into signing service agreements which hide their deficits must be immediately investigated.

Speaking this morning, Deputy O’Reilly said:

“This morning the Oireachtas Health Committee heard from representatives from the not-for-profit sector and their role in the delivery of health and social services.

“The representatives from organisations who provide home help services, disability services, respite services, and many other health services raised serious concerns regarding organisations being coerced by the HSE into signing service arrangements which hide deficits caused by the HSEs failure to properly fund the organisations.

“It was explained to the committee that organisations who refused to hide these defects were punished, with the HSE withholding 20% of their funding until they agreed to sign a service arrangement essentially known to be false.

“This is incredibly coercive and manipulative behaviour by the HSE and warrants immediate investigation by the government."

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Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has reiterated his call for the Irish government to invest in improving passport office services across Ireland.

Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile was speaking after figures released today show that over half a million people have applied for Irish passports already this year.

Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said:

"March was yet another record-breaking month for Irish passport applications, with one-in-three applications coming from the North and Britain.

"In the first three months of this year, 58,000 passport applications came from the Six Counties.

"Figures released show that the Passport Office has received more than 100,000 applications each month.

“Since Brexit hundreds of thousands of people in the North have applied for Irish passports with the demand from Britain also up.

"Thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for the location of Passport Office facilities in the North.

“It’s time the Irish government finally took their heads out of the sand, accept the reality of this growing demand and plan for adequate provision, services and infrastructure across all of Ireland.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has called on the British government to compensate those impacted by the NHS contaminated blood scandal. 

Speaking after meeting with local families who have been affected in Derry, the Foyle MP said: 

“The contaminated blood scandal has to count alongside the worst medical injustices of all time. 

“The stories of what these people went through under the care of medical professionals are harrowing. 

“I welcome the Public Inquiry which is now underway and I hope it will uncover the truth of what happened during the scandal and the subsequent cover up.

“However the British government has a responsibility in the interim to ensure that those both infected and affected by the scandal receive the care and support they deserve. 

“I have written to Theresa May and called on her to ensure that victims of the scandal are supported.

“Theresa May has said there will be an uplift in compensation for victims in England but Karen Bradley has said she is not able to announce the same for the North. 

“Once again Karen Bradley, instead of doing right by victims, has attempted to use them as political pawns. 

“This scandal was carried out under the watch of the British Government. 

“They should do what is right and ensure the victims are looked after in the interim and that parity of financial support is implemented. They cannot wait until the conclusion of the inquiry. 

“I will continue to work with those affected by the contaminated blood scandal to ensure they receive the truth, justice and support they deserve.”

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