Scores of justice and security arrangements- including sensitive areas such as family law - could be undermined by a failure to secure a post Brexit agreement, Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said.
Addressing the Stormont justice committee today, Martina Anderson commented:
“Because of Brexit, Britain will lose more than 750 international agreements, 42 of which relate to policing and justice including cross border cooperation, data-sharing arrangements, cybercrime and human trafficking.
“Any failure to agree new arrangements will also have an impact on civil justice matters, including sensitive areas such as family law.
“All of this has the potential to have an extremely damaging impact on the courts and justice system here in the North. It is appalling that this has been forced on us against our will by a Brexit agenda that is opposed by the majority of citizens here.
“Nevertheless there is an onus on the Department of Justice to provide clarity about how legal services will continue to function and what impact a failure by the British Government to agree a new deal will have on the justice system here in the north.
“I also call on the Justice Minister and department to outline what kind of assessment has been undertaken and what mitigation measures are in place to deal with the potential fall out of the Brexit mess.”
Sinn Féin MLA and Minister in the Executive Office Declan Kearney has said regional and local government have a responsibility to share a strategic vision on how to improve the lives of citizens in the north.
Speaking at the NILGA/Solace conference in Belfast this morning, Declan Kearney said:
“Regional and local government should share a strategic vision on how we can improve the lives of all our citizens.
“Lateral thinking and partnership working are essential to such a process. Today’s conference is an important example of how that should be addressed.
“This event brings together all tiers of government with other stakeholders to share ideas and strategies; to discuss key issues first-hand; and, importantly to develop a shared emphasis on the future.”
Speaking about the newly restored power sharing government; the South Antrim MLA said:
“Our power sharing Executive wants the north to be a place which prospers through a strong, competitive, regionally balanced economy.
“Our society needs to have the support, services and capacity in place to ensure our community can fulfil its potential.
“We want to see more people working in better jobs and with decent pay and good conditions.
“And, we want to have a more equal society where diversity is respected.
“But overshadowing this work, Brexit presents enormous strategic challenges for all sectors and sections of our economy and society.
Turning to the role of leadership, Declan Kearney added:
“The overarching societal priorities and outcomes we are all working towards will not be easily delivered. But our responsibility in regional and local government is to ensure we are successful.
“We all, as leaders in the public and private sectors, and in community and voluntary organisations, need to take responsibility for making sustainable change on behalf of our citizens.
“A new opportunity to do just that now stems from the requirement on our power sharing, five party government to deepen civic engagement in relation to the co-design of public policy and the implementation of outcomes-based programmes for government which make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said that insurance companies must guarantee that customer policies will be respected and will remain effective for drivers who have been issued failure certificates by the NCT as a result of the ongoing lift debacle
Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:
“A number of concerned drivers have contacted my offices over the past number of days to explain the ridiculous situation that they are faced with, where their vehicles have failed the NCT because of the unavailability of the lifts needed to test the vehicles and their insurance companies are now refusing to stand-over their policies in the absence of a valid NCT certificate.
"I have written to Insurance Ireland calling on them to immediately ensure that insurance companies guarantee a grace period will be given to drivers who find themselves without a valid NCT certificate as a result of the unavailability of the lift system during their tests.
"The unavailability of lifts is in no way the fault of the driver and the insurance companies must understand this and be pragmatic in how they deal with it.
"Furthermore, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Road Safety Authority and Applus Auto must liaise with the insurance industry to ensure that there is a joint approach to the issue which causes the least amount of hassle for drivers.
"I have also written to the relevant Department officials today requesting a meeting to discuss this issue and to make sure that they are taking appropriate measures to protect consumers caught up in this chaos.
"Drivers need to know that they are validly insured at this time and must not be penalised for the mess created by those who manage the NCT centres or those insurance companies who see an opportunity to take advantage.”
Sinn Féin MLA and transport spokesperson Seán Lynch has said implementing a community bus permit scheme could help strengthen transport services.
The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA said:
"Public and community transport is currently under a lot of strain and this is a time when we should be investing in sustainable transport and expanding the network, instead of having to fight just to maintain our current service.
“Community bus permits are issued to organisations or groups that want to start a local bus service on a not-for-profit basis.
“They would then provide a local routine service that would be available to the public.
“Community bus services don’t compete with commercial bus services, instead they can fill in gaps in the network.
“This scheme has the potential to allow communities greater access to vital services and opportunities without having to depend on a private car.
“A Community Bus Service Permit should be introduced as a low cost, grassroots method to enhancing our transport services in the north."
Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny is calling on Waterways Ireland to call a halt to its new policy of requesting €1,000 from businesses and individuals to apply for licence to use the Shannon Navigation System.
Deputy Kenny said:
“Constituents have told me that since September 2019, Waterways Ireland have been requesting businesses operating on the Shannon Navigation to apply for a licence to continue operating on the river.
“Prior to this, businesses had to seek permission from Waterways Ireland under the Shannon Navigation Bye Laws 1992. All business on the Shannon Navigation must still comply with these Bye Laws.
“This new Licence agreement seem to be just a revenue gathering exercise by Waterways Ireland with a new charge of €1,000 per annum being levied on all business. From one Licence Agreement I have seen, it looks like Waterways Ireland have gone overboard with the conditions they have inserted.
“For example, they are requesting a list of all personnel who will work for the business and that they have the right to veto the appointment of any new personnel.
“Businesses have been operating on the Shannon Navigation for years and have complied with Bye Laws during that time. The number of boats on the Shannon Navigation has been declining over the last number of years and to add new charge to these struggling businesses is unfair and unjustified.
“Waterways Ireland must call a halt to this or else many of these businesses will sink.”
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has noted comments made by former British secretary of state to the north Julian Smith.
Julian Smith, speaking with the spectator magazine said "a PM does not sign off a key government deal without reading it first”.
Speaking following Smith’s comments, Linda Dillon said:
“I note the comments made by former British Secretary of State Julian Smith that Boris Johnson was aware of the details contained within the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document.
“This is in contrast to briefings to the media that Boris Johnson was not privy to key aspects of the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document.
“Of course, a core component of the document was a commitment by the British government to ‘publish and introduce legislation to implement the Stormont House Agreement’ within 100 days.
“It is now entirely unacceptable that there are indications that the British Government is backtracking on commitments made just weeks ago.
“In the recent Queen’s Speech which sets out the British Government legislative intent, reference was made to amending the Human Rights Act and legislating to deter ‘vexatious litigation’ to protect British armed forces, both of which run counter to the policy intent of the Stormont House Agreement.
“The implementation of the outstanding legacy mechanisms within the Stormont House Agreement in a human rights compliant manner is crucial.
“Some victims have been waiting up to five decades for truth and disclosure.
“The British government must honour the commitments made in the 'new decade, new approach' document, this includes both legacy and financial commitments.
“The British Government has yet to respond to our party’s request for an urgent meeting on these issues, despite committing to ‘an intensive process’ with the parties and the Irish Government.
“Sinn Féin along with the legacy campaign groups will monitor these developments intently.”Críoch/Ends
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has said EU and other overseas workers are the backbone of the agriculture and agri-food industries in the north.
The agriculture spokesperson said:
"Over ten thousand people from EU and overseas work in the farming and food sectors in the north, and many more are seasonal migrant workers who come here during harvest times.
"A high percentage of those who work in the food processing sector are new nationals who have come to make their home there.
“They are the backbone of the sector and much of our food and drink and, in turn, our hospitality sector is dependent on their labour.
"Tory plans to label them as 'low-skilled' workers are an insult to these workers who bring many skills with them and make an essential contribution to our economy.
“It is crystal clear that the British government’s new Immigration policy has completely ignored our unique and special circumstances.
“They have shown nothing but contempt for local business and industry leaders.
"I raised this issue this morning at the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee to show our support for these workers and Sinn Féin will continue to raise these concerns directly with the British government in the weeks to come.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking as the Sinn Féin new team arrived at Leinster House this morning, said that the “the eyes of the people are on Leinster House today; the overwhelming majority of people voted for change, they voted for a new government and that is what they expect to be delivered.”
Ms. McDonald said:
“The eyes of the people are on Leinster House today.
“The overwhelming majority of people voted for change, they voted for a new government and that is what they expect to be delivered.
“They want a government that will build homes, cut rents and freeze them, reduce the pension age to 65, give workers and families a break and that will advance Irish Unity.
“There is a clear choice facing all of those elected to the Dáil.
“That choice is between a Government for Change, or a grand coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
“I will be standing for the position of Taoiseach today because I want to stand up for all of those who voted for real change and I want to deliver for all those that voted for change.
“I want to congratulate all of our TDs on their election, particularly our seventeen new TDs and their families on what is a very important day for them.
“We are going in there to represent the hopes of over half a million people who voted for our party and the hundreds of thousands of others who voted for change.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on Minister Murphy to follow through with his promise to introduce use it or lose it planning permission before he leaves office. The call comes as it emerges that a 10-acre site with planning permission in Temple Hill, Blackrock is being flipped.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“After it emerged in October last year that the government’s Strategic Housing Development (SHD) legislation was not working, Minister Murphy said he would bring proposals for use it or lose it planning permission to cabinet.
“Some developers are utilising the SHD legislation to get planning permission and then sitting on the sites as the value increases waiting to flip them.
“In Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown we see a ten-acre site in Temple Hill, Blackrock that was granted planning through the SHD legislation for 291 apartments being put up for sale.
“I echo the calls of our local area representative Shane O’ Brien who is calling for the council to acquire the site as the council currently has no sites throughout Dún Laoghaire with planning permission.
“I have written to the CEO and the Housing Manger in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown calling on them to take action on this site.”
Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has said comments by an Ulster Unionist Party MLA on the A5 road upgrade project are an insult to those who have lost loved ones in road collisions and to road safety campaigners.
The West Tyrone MP said:
"The comments from UUP MLA Roy Beggs dismissing the A5 road upgrade project as a 'pet scheme' are ludicrous.
"The A5 upgrade project is essential to improve road safety and save lives.
“These crass and insensitive remarks are an insult to all those who have lost loved ones as a result of collisions and accidents on the A5 as well as road safety campaigners.
"His comments are also dismissive of the need to regenerate the economy west of the Bann and ignore the fact that the A5 is included as a priority in the New Decade, New Approach document.
"For our part, we will continue to push for work to begin on the A5, including lobbying the Irish government to fulfil its financial commitments to the project, to ensure it is completed as soon as possible."
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has condemned those responsible for leaving a crude explosive device outside the home of Martin Finucane, a justice and human rights campaigner, and brother of the murdered solicitor, Pat Finucane in Lenadoon, West Belfast.
The West Belfast MP said:
“A crude explosive device has been left outside the West Belfast home of a brother of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane early this morning
“This is wrong and I unreservedly condemn it.
“This attack is reckless and shows a callous disregard for the Finucane family and the local community.
“This is an attack on a justice and human rights campaigner and as such is an attack on the whole community.
“Those behind this device have nothing to offer society
“I would call on anyone with any information on those responsible for this attack on a home to bring it forward to the police.” Críoch/Ends
Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan has condemned those responsible for graffiti targeting a local UUP councillor.
The South Down MLA said:
“I unreservedly condemn those responsible for graffiti in South Down last night targeting unionist councillor Alan Lewis who lives in our local community.
“Everyone must be able to do their work free from intimidation, harassment and death threats.
“Those behind this threat have nothing to offer the people of this community and their reckless attempts will not succeed.”
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has condemned an attack on the home of a relative of Quinn’s Industrial Holdings director.
Speaking following the weekend attack, Michelle Gildernew said:
“I was horrified to learn of another attack on a family with connections to QIH at the weekend.
“There has been an unacceptable criminal campaign of intimidation against management and staff at QIH over recent years.
“After last years brutal attack on Director Kevin Lunney, the local community had hoped that these senseless attacks had ceased.
“If those involved in these attacks do not stop someone will lose their life.
“It is time for action by the police services on both sides of the border to end this outrageous campaign against people who are going about their business and greatly benefitting the community in this area.
“I would appeal to anyone with information on these attacks to contact the authorities.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has labelled the An Bord Pleanála decision to grant Bartra Capital permission to build a seven-storey 98-unit development on Ardee Road as bad for Rathmines.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The decision by An Bord Pleanála to overturn a Dublin City Council decision and to grant permission for a seven storey, 98 bed development in Rathmines is bad for the local area.
“Units of only 16 sq m metres for tenants are the bedsits of the future.
“I also take issue with the comments of the An Bord Pleanala inspector which state that the co-living development will contribute to realisation of the development plan housing targets.
“Are we now describing what is the provision of incredibly expensive bed spaces as hitting housing targets?
“Sinn Féin in government would ban co-living. We published legislation in the Dáil that would do so and we made a commitment to this in our election manifesto.
“Co-living does not create sustainable apartment living. We need to see instead affordable cost rental homes, not 16 sqm closets.”
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has called for an end to British Tory austerity cuts after a representative of Translink told the Assembly’s Infrastructure that the company’s budgets were in crisis.
The Foyle MLA said:
“British Tory governments have cut the block grant to the North year on year for almost a decade now.
“These Tory cuts have devastated our public services, creating a crisis in health, mental health and education but it has also affected infrastructure and public transport.
“Translink which provides much of our public transport services, and in particular those between rural and urban areas, is now under increased pressure as a result of the continued Tory cuts to public services.
“Public transport is a fundamental service that many people, both young and old, depend on. It is an essential pillar of Sinn Féin’s goal of encouraging sustainable and active travel.
“The British Government must end its austerity cuts and fulfil its financial obligations made in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement to ensure proper investment in infrastructure and public services.”
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has welcomed the opening of the Irish Government’s Reconciliation Fund, and has encouraged organisations across the island to apply.
Speaking following the opening of the fund, Declan Kearney said:
“Since the inception of The Reconciliation Fund, a wide variety of organisations North and South have benefited.
““The fund has helped to finance various educational, sporting and cultural projects that promote respect, tolerance and cross-border links.
“In the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document the Irish Government committed to an increased level of funding for The Reconciliation Fund.
“This increased funding is welcome and I would encourage non-governmental organisations, community groups and voluntary organisations across the island to apply.
“Various projects funded by The Reconciliation Fund have done good work in breaking down stereotypes, promoting mutual understanding, and promoting reconciliation.
“Applications to the fund will remain open until the 10th March”.
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has called on the Audit Office to look into loans made by InvestNI to Wrightbus.
Caoimhe Archibald said:
“The ongoing revelations about Wrightbus, its donations to Green Pastures Church and the use of public money from InvestNI raises serious questions.
“I raised this matter today at a meeting of the Assembly’s Economy Committee and the committee agreed to write to the Audit Office to ask that it look into the £2.5m loan made to Wrightbus.
“Sinn Féin has also tabled questions to the Department for the Economy, the Department for Communities and the Charities’ Commission in relation to this case.
“The public must have confidence in the use of public money; there must be full transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.
"There are serious questions that need answered on this matter.”
Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on Education, Karen Mullan, has reiterated the party’s calls for the ending of transfer tests and academic selection.
The party’s Education spokesperson said:
“There has been a long list of studies from a variety of organisations that have shown that school transfer tests have a hugely negative impact on our children.
“One of the most recent isa report produced by the Right to Education (R2E) group in June 2019. This report found that 92% of teachers felt that transfer testing had a ‘significant negative impact’ on the health of children.
“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Equality Commission, Human Rights Commission, Children’s Commissioner, OECD, the trade union movement and the Catholic Church hierarchy have all called for an end to academic selection and these calls should be heeded.
“There is no other area of public policy that has so much academic evidence stacked against where it would be acceptable for a Minister to defend its continued use and not to be vigorously challenged.
“There is an onus on school board of governors to acknowledge the extent of this evidence and to now prioritise the mental wellbeing and academic development of pupils.
“I reiterate the consistent calls of Sinn Féin for the creation of a fully inclusive and non-selective education system."
Sinn Féin’s Brexit Spokesperson Chris Hazzard MP has slammed British Government Immigration proposals as “unpopular, unworkable and a direct threat to the north’s economic viability”.
The South Down MP was responding to Home Office proposals announced this morning that would overhaul immigration policy in the north of Ireland from 2021.
Mr Hazzard said:
“Far from strengthening the economic wellbeing of our society, these proposals are a direct threat to local industry - including our local hospitality, tourism, retail, and agri-food sectors.
“It is hard not to view these proposals as an elitist, xenophobic attack on overseas and low-paid workers – the vast majority of whom we simply can not live without.
“Indeed most worryingly, these proposals are a cruel attack on our care sector – the wonderful, selfless heroes who we all rely on to take care of us and our families in our hour of need.
“It is abundantly clear that the Home Office have completely ignored our unique and special circumstances and have again shown nothing but contempt for local business and industry leaders who have engaged constructively with British Government officials in recent years.
“Sinn Féin will be raising these concerns directly with the British Government in the weeks to come.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has called for the modernisation of current gambling laws to protect young people and the most vulnerable in society from problem gambling.
The South Down MLA was commenting after submitting the party’s response to the Department for Communities consultation on gambling law.
Sinéad Ennis said:
“The current gambling laws in the north are out of date.
“I have submitted our party proposals to modernise the law to bring it in to line with changes in technology and new forms of gambling, such as online, fixed term betting odds and casinos.
“The reality is, online betting has no closing time. Smartphones are a casino open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We need legislation which is properly equipped to regulate these websites and help protect the most vulnerable.
“Our recommendations include; the establishment of an Independent Gambling Regulator and an immediate age verification process for online gambling.
“Problem gambling does not only affect the gambler; it has wider implications for society and lasting impacts on relationships with family and friends.
“Sinn Féin is committed to tackling problem gambling north and south. The most effective way to do that is through modernised and fit for purpose legislation.”