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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane said tonight that the Westminster Legacy Bill is about denying truth and justice to victims of the conflict and is the action of a rogue state which fears what the legal process will deliver for families.

John Finucane was speaking at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the killings of six unarmed men on the New Lodge Road by the British army on the night of February 3rd and 4th 1973. The North Belfast MP said:

“The British government’s Legacy Bill is about: amnesties for state forces; denying investigation; avoiding accountability and cover-up.

“This Bill will in law deny any family their legal right to an investigation in line with human rights law, or an inquest, public inquiry, or ability to pursue a civil action. It is a full-frontal assault on the administration of justice.

“It will deny the New Lodge Families their right to an inquest. This is beyond cruel and callous.

“The Legacy Bill is unworkable, it will not deliver for victims and survivors, it is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, and it is incompatible with international human rights obligations.

“These are the actions of a rogue state who fears the truth that basic legal process will deliver for families.”

And he called on the British Prime Minister to withdraw the Bill.

“The British government fear families who speak truth to power.  They fear families seeking truth and justice. 

“So again, to Rishi Sunak I say that neither we nor the families here tonight - will accept the denial of our basic legal rights and that this flawed legacy legislation should be withdrawn without further delay.”

John Finucane said the British government will not succeed in preventing the truth emerging.

A success for one family is a success for us all, and a challenge or an obstacle to one family is a challenge to us all.

“Every single success a family has had in exposing the role of the British state here, in fighting for truth and justice, has come about in spite of, never because of, the actions of the British government. So we should not be surprised when they use crude methods to cover up their role. 

“But they will ultimately not be successful. 

“And the reason for this is very simple, it’s because of the families like the New Lodge Six we are remembering tonight, and many others. 

“As we leave tonight, we carry the names of Jim McCann, Jim Sloan, Tony ‘TC’ Campbell, Brendan ‘Fat’ Maguire, John Loughran and Ambrose Hardy with us.

“And we say to the families we will always stand with you until truth and justice has been achieved.

“We are not giving up.”

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MacManus to highlight “alarming” decline of Northern & Western Region with EU Commission
 
Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus will hold a series of high-level engagements in the European Commission and Parliament in Brussels next week. These will include meetings with Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, and Chair of the European Parliament’s Regional Development Committee, Younous Omarjee. 
 
The meetings will focus on addressing the decline of the Northern and Western region, comprised of Connacht, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan. The Midlands Northwest MEP has been meeting with key regional stakeholders in recent weeks and intends to bring their proposals to the decision makers in Europe.
 
MEP MacManus said:
 
“Next week I will hold a series of engagements in Brussels focused on addressing the decline of the Northern and Western region.”
 
“The decline of our region in recent years has been alarming and points to a lack of understanding of the challenges we face, both at Government and EU level.”
 
“The Northern and Western region is unique as the only region in Ireland downgraded to being a region in transition and a moderate innovator region. Furthermore a recent report carried out by the European Parliament confirmed that the region is stuck in a development trap, and has been for many years.”
 
“These are very worrying indicators and I have organised a series of high-level engagements to highlight these issues with key decision-makers in Brussels and stress the need for urgent action to ensure that this decline is reversed.”
 
MacManus held many preparatory meetings with various regional representatives ahead of the meeting with the Commission. “In recent weeks I have met with a number of regional stakeholders, including the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, Western Development Commission, Ireland West Airport, Atlantic Economic Corridor Business Forum, University of Galway and the recently established Atlantic Technological University, to hear their views on how these challenges can be addressed.”
 
“Many of the same themes emerged from these meetings – the need to address infrastructural deficits, in particular public transport, broadband and renewable energy; the exclusion of the West from the TEN-T Core Network; the lack of autonomy for regional decision making and finance; Government’s failure to adequately utilise EU funding as well as a number of other specific issues.”
 
“Addressing these issues would bring investment, opportunity and high value jobs to our region and ensure it can thrive. I will be stressing the urgency of the situation and the need for positive discrimination in favour of our region to European officials over the coming days.”
 
MacManus concluded, “Balanced regional development and a thriving Northern and Western region benefits the whole country, not just the region itself, and it’s time that this was recognised and delivered on.” ENDS

Chris MacManus MEP meeting key regional stakeholders ahead of Commission engagements

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said the Department of Infrastructure must work to ensure the A6 road is opened as quickly as possible. 

Speaking after meeting the Department for Infrastructure with Cllr Kathleen McGurk, the East Derry MLA said: 

“We met with the Department of Infrastructure today for clarity on whether the A6 and Dungiven Bypass will open by the reported end of April date.

"We had a constructive and frank discussion about what is required for that date to be met. 

"We were told that DfI now expects the street lighting to be done later in February and the signage to be in place before the end of March and necessary safety checks have started and will continue alongside that. 

"We also conveyed the growing frustration of community and road users at the delay in the completion of the project, and in particular the lack of communication around it.

“Sinn Féin will continue working to ensure this essential link for the wider North West area is completed as quickly as possible.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, said energy supports announced by the government in Budget 2023 are failing to properly support business.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“There was much fanfare from government as regards the energy supports for business contained within Budget 2023.

“Five headline schemes delivering grants and loans totalling over €3 billion were announced.

“However, since the announcement on Budget Day these schemes have been delayed, have not commenced, or have had derisory levels of applications due to the complexities of the application process.

“To date, across the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS), the Ukraine Enterprise Crisis Scheme (UECS), the Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme, the Small Firms investment in energy efficiency scheme, Ukraine Credit Guarantee Scheme, only €24.3 million in support has been issued to businesses.

“Indeed, the Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme and the Small Firms investment in energy efficiency scheme have not yet gone live, and the Ukraine Credit Guarantee Scheme was only launched on Monday.

“It is clear there are significant issues, especially in terms of the TBESS and the UECS schemes.

“There have only been 17,740 applications for support under the TBESS scheme and €20.4 million issued from a €1.25bn scheme. While the UECS, a €200 million scheme, has only seen €3.8 million issued under Stream 1 of the scheme and no monies issued under Stream 2.

“If applied correctly in an accessible and streamlined manner the TBESS and UECS schemes can offer effective support for businesses, but as it stands both are failing enterprise.

“The government must not only give businesses more time to submit claims, but they must make the TBESS and UECS schemes more accessible and impactful.”

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Sinn Féin Leas-Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has said there is no time to waste on forming an Executive that will deliver for people and urgently work to fix the health service.

Speaking after meeting the Tánaiste Micheál Martin in Belfast today, Michelle O’Neill said:

“I welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Tánaiste today on the current political situation and the serious work that needs to be done to restore the Executive now.

“Today marks one year from the DUP crashed the political institutions, they have since blocked an Executive being formed and are punishing the public at a time of huge financial difficulty. 

“Blocking a government is having no impact on the Protocol talks, but instead has left our public services at the mercy of savage Tory cuts from London and is now holding up progress on Dáithí’s Law, life-saving legislation on organ donation.  

“This is serious business and there is no time to waste. People are struggling to heat their homes as energy costs continue to rise. Our health service is at breaking point and workers are forced to take strike action for fair pay.

“Since day one, I have been ready to form an Executive to work with other parties and the two governments to get the job done and deliver the change that people voted for in May. 

“I again appeal to the DUP to get back round the Executive table with the rest of us to get on with the important work of investing in our health service and supporting people. 

“There has been progress in the Protocol talks between the EU and British Government and that must continue in the spirit of cooperation to reach an agreement and give certainty to local businesses. 

“We reminded the Tánaiste that as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish government must prioritise getting the Executive back up and running quickly.”

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The scandal of the strategy of successive governments to deny repayments to eligible nursing home residents under the long-term repayment scheme deepened as a third strand of the ‘cover-up’ was revealed at the Public Accounts Committee by Sinn Féin Deputy Matt Carthy.

 While there has been much focus on the residents who were medical card holders in public nursing homes and those who were in private nursing homes, notes in C&AG reports and HSE financial statements from 2009 to 2016, and a secret 2011 memo, show that there was a third cohort comprising of people living in residential disability services operated by state-funded Section 38 and 39 organisations.

Deputy Carthy told the PAC that the appeals officer for the long-stay repayments scheme had adjudicated that these residents were eligible for compensation but the Minister sought to block their payments by appealing to the High Court.

Speaking afterwards, Teachta Carthy said:

“People in Section 38/39 long term residential disability services were informed by the HSE that they were not eligible for compensation under the long-stay repayments scheme. Many did not apply for that reason. A secret government memo in 2011 acknowledges this.

“Some did apply and were again informed that they did not qualify. However, appeals were made in respect of 515 residents of three such homes (St Michael’s House, Cheeverstown House and Daughters of Charity).

“The appeals officer sampled three of these appeals and found that they were, in fact, eligible for compensation under the scheme. Bizarrely, the then government decided to appeal that decision to the High Court.  

“We now know, due to the secret 2011 memo issued to government, that the high court proceedings were discontinued when legal advice was clear that the case would be lost.  Essentially, this meant that medical card holders in all similar Section 38 and 39 nursing homes were in fact eligible for payments and should have received compensation through the scheme. 

“This deepens the scandal of the nursing home repayments. Unlike the case for residents of private nursing homes, whereby government has stated that they were legally permitted to deny payments, in this case the legal position was agreed by government.  

“While it seems that payments were eventually made to the 515 appellants, thousands of other people who should have received payments were denied them due to this cover-up and policy of secrecy by government.

“The Public Accounts Committee has sought from the HSE the total numbers affected, including the number of those who applied for the scheme but didn’t appeal, and we will be pursuing this in the coming weeks.

“But, successive Health Ministers and Taoisigh must now clarify the extent of their knowledge of this aspect of the nursing homes scandal and their respective actions in this regard.”

The full Public Accounts Committee engagement can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/z6b-lFYSeNs

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has expressed deep concern that the recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces is approaching a tipping point from which they will be unable to recover. 

The Wicklow TD said:

“Last week we were given the news that the government had taken the decision to put two naval vessels, the LE Niamh and the LE Róisín, into storage, effectively taking them out of service.

“This leaves the naval service with just four vessels to defend one of the largest maritime patrol areas in Europe, at a time of international crisis.

“Figures released to me indicate that the current strength of the permanent defence forces (PDF) has now fallen below 8,000 for the first time, to 7,987. This is a staggering 1,543 below the established strength of the PDF.

“We are rapidly approaching the point of no return.

“The tipping point from which the PDF cannot recover. These are not just bland figures representing individual military personnel. They represent the institutional memory of the Irish defence forces. These are the veterans, with decades of experience, they are simply irreplaceable.

“The government talks about cultural transformation. The most important element in cultural transformation of any organisation, are the cultural architects. The individuals who embody the values, the learning, and the professionalism of an organisation.

“With veterans leaving the PDF at twice the rate of recruits coming in, this is a crisis of a whole other order.

“The failure of this government to address the recruitment and retention crisis has decimated the PDF to the point that it now represents the single biggest security threat to the state.

“The crisis is affecting all branches of the PDF. The army is down to 6478, which is 1042 below the establishment figure. The Air Corp is reduced to 709, which is 177 below the establishment figure. While the Naval Service is now reduced to 800, which is 294 below the establishment figure.

“From January 1st to 26th, less than four weeks, the naval service was forced to cancel 12 scheduled patrols.

“The understaffing of the PDF is placing incredible strains on remaining members. One member of the naval service has reported that in one year alone they spent 320 days onboard ship.

“It is almost routine now for PDF members to regularly work 70 hours a week.

“The government knows what needs to be done to address these issues - they have accepted the recommendations contained in the report from the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces. Yet they have refused to act on them.

“In fact, they have deferred the majority of recommendations that deal with pay and allowances for further evaluation – in other words they kicked them down the road. 

“Six months later, we are still waiting to see the implementation of the Working Time Directive.

“The government needs to act, and to act urgently, to stem the exodus from the defence forces. Time is running out. If they continue with their current approach, the point where the defence forces are no longer capable of performing their assigned role in guaranteeing the security of the state will soon be reached.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has called on the British government to do more to support homeowners struggling with rising mortgage repayments.

The party's economy spokesperson said:

"Today the Bank of England hiked its interest rate for the 10th time in a row.

"Some home-owners, who have already been squeezed over recent months, will be facing further increases to their mortgages.

“Workers and families are now paying hundreds of pounds more than this time last year in mortgage payments each month in a cost living crisis when energy, food and fuel bills are also soaring.

"The British government needs to do more to support homeowners with rising mortgage repayments by providing targeted support to those whose mortgage interest rates have risen over the past year.

"As energy giants announce obscene record profits, it is clear much more could be done to provide targeted relief with the cost of living paid for through a proper windfall tax.

"I have written to the British Chancellor urging him to act to help homeowners.

"There is also an onus on financial institutions to support people who have seen significant increases in repayments over the past year – no family should be losing their home due to inflexible banks or lenders. 

"The regressive economic policies of the Tories have contributed to driving up interest rates and a reversal in policy is urgently needed; rather than giving tax breaks to banks the Tory government should ensure public services are properly funded and workers receive fair pay." 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD, has called on the government to introduce timely, targeted and temporary mortgage interest relief to support borrowers with rising interest rates.

The Donegal TD was speaking after raising the issue with the Tánaiste in the Dáil today.

Teachta Doherty said:

“Today the ECB has once again increased its interest rate, the fifth rate hike since July.

“This further rate hike will immediately impact the almost 200,000 borrowers on a tracker rate, with many seeing their monthly repayments increase by hundreds of euros since last June.

“There are also tens of thousands of borrowers who have had their mortgages sold to vulture funds - many of whom are now being charged interest rates of more than seven percent – with no option to fix and vulture funds refusing to engage.

“Borrowers will be paying thousands of euros more in interest this year in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

“Others are likely to see their interest rates increase in the coming period.

“It is now clear that timely, targeted and temporary mortgage interest relief must be introduced to support hard-pressed borrowers.

“This relief could absorb a portion of borrowers’ increased interest costs as a result of rate hikes since June.

“This measure is sensible, affordable and necessary.

“Today, I have also written to the Central Bank to ask what measures they are taking to step up their supervision of vulture funds who are now charging extortionate interest rates to borrowers who are facing serious financial difficulties.

“It is clear that the Central Bank must step up its supervision of vulture funds in the interests of struggling borrowers.”

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West Tyrone MP Órfhlaith Begley said the campaign by the Omagh families for the full truth about the killings of their loved ones has taken a big step forward today with the announcement of an independent statutory inquiry.   

And she called again on the British government to scrap its flawed and cruel legacy bill.

Sinn Féin said: 

“My first thoughts are with the Omagh families who have campaigned for almost 25 years with dignity and determination.

“They have faced many barriers in their efforts to uncover the full truth of what happened that day.

“The High Court ruling was clear in July 2021 on the need for investigations north and south. This ruling must be respected.

“Sinn Féin fully supports the demand of the families of the victims of the 1998 Omagh Bomb for a full cross-border public inquiry.

“The families deserve full transparency and full disclosure about the events which led to the killing of their loved ones.

“There should be no more delays and no more hold-ups preventing the families from finding out the truth.

“Today’s announcement of an inquiry also points up the sheer folly of the British government’s cruel and callous Legacy Bill this is about denying families access to the courts and due process.

“I am reiterating Sinn Féin’s call for an urgent summit involving the British and Irish governments and political parties on the issue of legacy.    

“If the British government is serious about upholding the legal right of victims and families to truth and justice, they will stop the passage of the Legacy Bill to allow for dialogue. 

“The legacy mechanisms were agreed by the main political parties, the Irish government and the British government at Stormont House in 2014, they must be implemented in a human rights compliant manner.”

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“EU Committee vote a step in the right direction towards protections for Irish farmers” - Chris MacManus MEP

Sinn Féin MEP’s improvements voted through at Agriculture Committee

Chris MacManus, Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands Northwest, has welcomed the efforts of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee to endorse a number of recommendations to addresses the problems of availability and affordability of fertilisers in the European Union. MacManus and a majority of MEPs from the Committee voted in favour of MacManus’s amendments to the European Parliament’s position.

 
“The MEPs’ proposed changes to the draft recommendations contain many improvements on the Commission’s original communication on the affordability and availability of fertilisers,” said MacManus. 

“These are the right steps towards the development of long-term, sustainable, fertiliser and soil nutrient strategies. The increase of input costs is having a detrimental impact on Irish agriculture and is undermining Irish farmers.”

Despite the recent fall in the price of natural gas, fertiliser companies are continuing to charge farmers extortionate prices. Improvements in the market have simply not filtered down to farmers.

“Make no mistake, corporate greed is responsible for this, and Irish farmers are suffering for it. This was one of the main reasons I tabled amendments to support the use and supply of organic fertilisers. Where possible, organic alternatives should help facilitate a domestic supply particularly to reduce dependency on the chemical fertiliser companies and imports.”

“There is a growing body of evidence that Irish farmers can benefit from moving in this direction. Some suckler farms who have started transitioning to organic fertiliser, in the wake of rising costs have already made savings of up to €50/ac, so there are real alternatives.”

 
MacManus also highlighted some shortcomings of the proposals adopted by the Committee. “Whilst I am pleased that MEPs voted in favour of improving supports to farmers, there were aspects missing that I intend to seek rectification on in the plenary session on biogas deployment” ENDS
 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport, Chris Andrews TD, has called for the government to engage with the GAA to find a solution to hosting Katie Taylor’s homecoming fight in Croke Park.

Teachta Andrews said:

"The cancelling of Katie Taylor’s homecoming fight in Croke Park is a major step backwards for both Irish boxing and the promotion of women in sport.

"Katie Taylor has gone above and beyond in representing Ireland in boxing, winning a staggering eighteen gold medals on the international stage.

"She is an outstanding role model for young women in the sporting community.

"The government should engage with the GAA and ensure that a solution is found.

"If this homecoming fight is moved to a much smaller venue, it will only serve to ensure that a whole section of sports fans will be priced out of attending this historic event.

"A solution must be found that will ensure Katie Taylor gets the homecoming fight she deserves - a homecoming in Croke Park, in front of 80,000 fans."

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has said victims and families need to continue to have access to truth and justice through the courts.

Following the sentencing of a British soldier for the 1988 killing of Aidan McAnespie, Michelle Gildernew said:

“For over 34 years, Aidan McAnespie’s family have faced down delays, lies and cover-up by the British state, and his mother and father, and his sister Eilish, have died without ever seeing justice.   

“They have campaigned with strength, dignity and determination.

“Aidan McAnespie was brutally shot dead by a British soldier while walking to his local Aghaloo Gaelic ground in Aughnacloy in 1988.

“A High Court judge acknowledged in November that the soldier had given a ‘deliberately false account’ of what happened on that day and was guilty of Aidan’s manslaughter.

“This case offers hope to other families that accountability is possible, and the door needs to be left open to access truth and justice through the courts.

“Sinn Féin backs the family’s call for the British government’s cruel and callous Legacy Bill to be scrapped and mechanisms to give truth and justice to families agreed at Stormont House in 2014 to be implemented.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support victims and families on their ongoing campaigns for truth and justice.”

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has called on the Tories to hike taxes on energy companies and redirect the cash into the pockets of struggling workers and families.

Speaking after Shell announced £32 billion in profits, the North Belfast MP said:

“Shell is the latest energy giant to announce eye-watering profits of over £32 billion in another body blow for people who cannot afford to turn the heating on.

“Workers and families are not getting a fair deal; they are struggling to pay crippling energy bills and the companies responsible for these prices are pocketing their highest ever profits.

“It’s time to end the energy rip-off that is forcing people into hardship by slashing the profits of the big corporations who are doing very well from this crisis.

“I will be writing to the British Chancellor urging him to place another Windfall Tax on these companies to cut these obscene profits. They cannot sit on their hands any longer.

“They money raised from this extra tax should be redirected into the pockets of hardworking families who are at breaking point and away from mega-rich shareholders.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Martin Kenny TD, has responded to allegations of a comprehensive state strategy of withholding payment for nursing homes and disability allowance. 

Teachta Kenny said:

“We have seen this time and again, the state and the State Claims Agency forcing people through the courts to simply have their rights vindicated. This week it is nursing home costs and disability allowance supplements, last week it was failure in children’s mental health service, before that the scandal of the day was CervicalCheck.

“There is a deeply disturbing pattern of behaviour on behalf of the state where some state bodies actively work to conceal the truth from people, either related to their care or the cost of their care, in order to protect state coffers. This week we have seen the fallout from the active campaign to cover up the liability faced by the state for providing nursing home care. 

“The plan devised by senior staff was to tirelessly fight people’s claims related to nursing homes, and effectively walk families to the steps of the court before they would settle, all the while knowing they were in the wrong. The intention of the state has been to send out the message that ‘there is no easy money to be gotten here’.

“This was the same strategy we saw employed by the state when the CervicalCheck scandal broke, and indeed it is still a strategy they continue to use with the families affected by that screening failure. 

“The introduction of class-party or multi-party legal actions would have brought cases such as these to a conclusion much quicker, and spared families the heartache and financial stress of going through an adversarial court system one by one with state bodies who were prepared to go to great lengths to avoid admitting any wrongdoing. 

“Sinn Féin has a bill within the Dáil which would allow for class actions. The Multi Party Actions Bill 2017 would allow families to join together where the same wrong has been committed repeatedly and hold the relevant state body or private company responsible. 

“The families involved in holding the state rightly to account here are not people with endless means to employ large legal teams through an expensive High Court process. They are ordinary, decent people oftentimes taking these cases on behalf of a vulnerable or terminally ill loved one. This is in contrast to the State Claims Agency which has the power and means to fight these families all the way to a courtroom, where cost seems to be immaterial. 

“Fine Gael has held justice for over a decade and have yet to make any move towards making the justice system more accessible for those who have been failed by state bodies. I am urging the Minister to engage with our bill immediately, and offer a solution to those who have been denied accountability.”

The Multi Party Actions Bill can be read here

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Coillte sale by Irish government is another failure for rural Ireland says MacManus

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has slammed the Irish government in an address to European parliamentarians for failing to support Sinn Féin’s motion demanding the end to the deal between Coillte, Ireland’s state-owned forestry service, and the British investment fund Gresham House.

MacManus criticised the sale of our natural assets by Coillte and the Irish government as a deal that only lines the pockets of corporations with no regard for Ireland’s resources or citizens. The Sinn Féin MEP described the deal as “insult to injury” at a time when Ireland’s government is enabling cuckoo, vulture and investment funds to profit off Irish resources, workers and families.

During his remarks, the Sinn Féin representative also told EU leaders that the Irish government is failing rural Ireland, forestry and biodiversity.

MacManus told parliament: 

“The use of our natural assets in a deal with foreign investment funds adds insult to injury. Again another example of an Irish government standing idly by as cuckoo, vulture and investment funds profit off the backs of Irish workers and families.” 

“This deal won´t benefit the environment. It won´t help Ireland reach our climate goals. This deal only lines the pockets of corporations with no regards for our resources or citizens.”

“As shareholders on behalf of the Irish people, I am calling on the Irish government to abandon this deal which flies in the face of real and meaningful climate action.”

“If the Irish government fails on this they fail rural Ireland, they fail forestry and will fail biodiversity.”

“The Irish public, farmers and environmentalists alike are united in their indignation.”

“The deal between Coillte and this British investment fund must be halted.” ENDS
Photo: Chris MacManus MEP addressing the European Parliament regarding Coillte/Gresham House Deal

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First Minister-Designate Michelle O’Neill has said delivering the A5 is a ‘priority’ and said work to build the road should begin quickly once legal challenges are overcome.

Welcoming a recommitment from the Irish Government to delivering the project, Michelle O’Neill said:

“I wrote recently to An Taoiseach about my concerns about the high casualty rate on the A5 because of delays in getting the road built.

“An Taoiseach shared my concerns and recommitted to the delivery of the A5 road and the need to quickly conclude the ongoing public inquiry. I welcome this continued commitment.

“Delivering the A5 will save lives and transform one of Ireland’s most dangerous roads that has been the scene of heartbreak for too many families.

“This project will cut journey times and also have huge economic benefits, creating jobs and connecting the north west to the rest of the island.

“Legal challenges and public inquiries have held up this project now for too long. These obstructions must stop and building the road must begin without delay.

 

“Sinn Féin will continue to prioritise the delivery of the A5 road.”

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“EU & Irish authorities must stand firm against Norwegian Fishery demands” – Chris MacManus MEP

Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands Northwest, Chris MacManus, today met with Irish fishing representatives and organisations in Brussels. MacManus has urged the Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue and his department officials to not accept any deal that gives the Norwegian government unfettered access to Irish fishing grounds. 

The Midlands Northwest MEP said: 

“The insistence by the Norwegian government and fishing industry to gain unfettered access to Ireland’s territorial waters is intolerable. It is completely unacceptable and Irish authorities and the EU need to hold firm.”

 “Not only does Norway have a track record of overfishing mackerel, but it also has an inflated 25% of the total catch for blue whiting, while Ireland only has 3%.”

MacManus said the culture of repeatedly relinquishing our fishing rights must end. “The historic legacy of Irish authorities and senior department officials giving away Irish fishing stocks for nothing is reprehensible and worthy of further scrutiny. The welfare of Irish coastal communities always seems to be bottom of the government’s priorities list. Even lower than the Commission’s it would too often appear.”

“Minister McConalogue and the European Commission must not cave in to the Norwegians’ demands. Ireland is a Member State, Norway is not, and so the onus is on Brussels and the Member States to stand with and act in solidarity with Ireland in these negotiations.”

“The North-western Waters Advisory Council and Europech must also commit their support to Ireland’s fishing and coastal communities in this regard.”

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Sinn Féin TD for Donegal and party spokesperson for fisheries added: ”Minister McConalogue must stand firm in the current negotiations between the EU and Norway and ensure that the sheer injustice of how Irish fishing communities ended up shouldering 40% of the entire loss of income from fish in the European Union due to Brexit is not repeated again.”

Deputy Mac Lochlainn concluded, “Myself, MEP MacManus and indeed the wider Sinn Féin team will be reminding Minister McConalogue and the European Commission’s Virginijus Sinkevičius that their full support is necessary in defending our native industry.” ENDS
From Left to Right: Aodh O Donnell (CEO of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation), Chris MacManus MEP (Sinn Féin), Patrick Murphy (CEO· Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation) and Brendan Byrne (CEO, Irish Fish Processors & Exporters Association)

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Speaking this morning in the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Senator Paul Gavan, criticised the government’s failure to legislate to ban tactical liquidations by closing off loopholes in company law.

Senator Gavan said:

“It is nearly seven years since the publication of the Duffy-Cahill Report into legal protections for workers where a company engages in a tactical liquidation to avoid its obligations to its employees.

“This report was commissioned following the tactical liquidation of Clerys department store, which made nearly 500 workers immediately redundant and denied them their collective redundancy entitlements.

“Despite a host of recommendations being made by the Duffy-Cahill Report as to how loopholes could be closed and workers protected, successive governments have failed to act and protect workers.

“As a result, nearly a year to the day five years later Debenhams was liquidated in similar circumstances with over a thousand workers losing their jobs and their collective redundancy entitlements.

“Time and time again we have seen tactical liquidations used by companies to make workers immediately redundant and deny them their collective redundancy entitlements, however, time and time again we have seen successive governments do virtually nothing about it.

“The reality is companies can only engage in this behaviour because successive governments have let them do so through their failure to legislate to protect workers.

“Workers and trade unions have been seeking legislative protections for many years, but every time they seek legislative protection, they have been told they must wait. 

“Wait for a report – wait for another investigation – wait for the Minister to read the report – wait for implementation.

“The time for workers waiting is over.

“Workers need protection and they need the loopholes in company law, which allow immoral and unethical tactical liquidations, closed off so that they and their entitlements are protected.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has called on the government to fully implement the successful Sinn Féin motion that would reform and resource Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Speaking after the government did not oppose his motion, Teachta Ward said:

“The government has a tactic of not opposing opposition motions as they simply do not want the political fallout of having to vote against improving Children’s Mental Health Services.

“But by not opposing our motion, the Minister has admitted that the government has failed.

“They failed the 4000 children who are waiting on an initial assessment for CAMHS. When this government came into power, the figure was just over 2000. This represents an 86 percent increase under this government.

“They have failed the over 13,000 children waiting on primary care psychology appointments. This was at 7,700 in 2020 when the Minister was appointed. This is a 71% increase under their watch.

“They have failed the children and young people who are reliant on a postcode lottery of treatment. 

“For example, there is a four-week waiting time for appointments with Jigsaw if you live in Wicklow. But if you are a child or young person with a mental health difficulty living in Cork, you will have to wait for 30 weeks before you are seen by Jigsaw.

“They are failing the 741 children who were admitted to hospital for mental health difficulties after presenting A&E.

“They are also failing the GPs that the report outlined have had no choice but to refer children to emergency departments as this was the best option in getting a psychiatric evaluation.

“They are failing the Children who are waiting to be admitted into specialist inpatient care. There are fewer CAMHS inpatient beds available now than when this government came into place. 

“Only 51 out of the 72 CAMHS beds are currently operational, with 16 further beds in danger of closing in Cork.

“Sinn Féin’s motion had a raft of solutions that would dramatically improve children and young persons' access to mental health treatment.

“I will be holding the government to account on this - they must not play politics with our children's futures.

“Every child must have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

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