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Newly elected Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid West Mark Ward today called on the government to support Sinn Féin’s domestic violence paid leave legislation.

Speaking in the Dáil during today’s statements on Domestic Violence, Deputy Ward said:

“Ireland’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention was a landmark for victims of domestic and gender-based violence and abuse. Domestic abuse remains rife in Irish society. Worse still it continues to be shrouded in shame.

“Data published this week by safe Ireland tells us that nine requests for refuge accommodation went unmet every day last year because services will full.

“In my own work I have seen first-hand the incredible work of Saoirse Women’s Refuge in Tallaght. Yet this fantastic service could not accommodate 287 families last year because the refuge was full. As a result of state underfunding Saoirse have to rely on fundraising for the general upkeep of their premises. This puts added pressure on an already over worked organisation.

"Sinn Féin’s alternative budget included an additional €11.8m for capital investment to provide for additional refuge places and domestic violence housing support services for 2020, and we are committed to increase funding for refuge accommodation and specialised supports over the next three years to meet Ireland’s obligations under the Istanbul Convention.

“Saoirse have highlighted the stress a woman has to go through in the legal system. Obtaining a safety order and attending court can add to the trauma already endured by victims. They have no privacy; no space and they often feel unsafe. A simple, humane solution to this would be to allow a video link from the refuge to the family law court to apply for a safety order.

“Victims also need time off work to attend court dates, secure alternative accommodation or attend a GP or Counsellor.

“Last week Sinn Féin introduced legislation that provides for a statutory entitlement to 10 days domestic violence paid leave. This employment rights provision would give victims the time they need to seek support and also addresses unpredictable absenteeism and reduced productivity for employers.

“Victims have a right to a pathway out of abuse without fear of losing their jobs. As legislators it is our responsibility to deliver on that right and to ensure the supports and services victims access are in place and properly resourced.” 

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the passage of Sinn Féin’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill through all stages of the Seanad this evening. 

The legislation would reform insurance contracts, increasing transparency and tilting the balance in favour of the consumer.

It has been described as ‘the most radical change in insurance law in centuries’, while the Alliance for Insurance Reform described it as a ‘game-changer’.

Speaking after the votes in the Seanad, Deputy Doherty said:

“Rip-off insurance costs are squeezing incomes and closing down businesses. People are seeing their premiums go up each year without even making a claim. The insurance market isn’t working for policyholders and too little has been done to hold the industry to account and reduce costs.

“Our Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill will shift the balance in favour of policyholders, by increasing transparency and strengthening the hand of the policyholder during their insurance contract.

“My legislation has been described as the most radical change in consumer law in centuries, and as a game-changer by the Alliance for Insurance Reform. 

"This legislation would require companies to inform consumers of the past 5 years of premiums paid by customers, and claims paid to customers and third parties for all non-life insurance contracts.

“Any company that cancels a policy would have to pay the customer the outstanding balance of the premium paid and make it easier for the customer to withdraw from a contract.

“It would also require a company to inform customers of any claim made against their policy, allowing them to submit their own evidence and informing them of the cost of any claim against their policy that has been settled. 

"After last week’s revelations of some, enabled by the legal industry, engaging in fraudulent claims, this provision is crucial.

"It would ensure that policyholders would be told of any third party claims made against their policy, fraudulent or otherwise, and have a right to submit evidence concerning the claim.

“The legislation would also make it harder for an insurer to wriggle out of paying valid claims on grounds that have nothing to do with the accident or loss incurred by the policyholder.

“I want to thank Minister D’Arcy for his cooperation in facilitating the passage of this Bill. We are now on track for it to be signed into law by Christmas.

“Sinn Féin are in the business of protecting people, not the profits of the insurance industry. This legislation is a big win for consumers as Sinn Féin continue to stand up for workers and families."

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Mark Ward has spoken in the Dáil this evening on the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019, where he highlighted his own work in addiction centres across Dublin including Clondalkin, and the need for those targeting children to sell and deliver drugs to be prosecuted to the highest degree.

The full copy of his speech is available below. Check against delivery.

"I welcome this bill as an opportunity to discuss as legislators both publicly and politically about Ireland's approach to drugs, and how that it is reflected in policy.

"I have worked for many years in addiction centres across Dublin including my own area of Clondalkin where I worked for the Clondalkin Addiction Support Programme.

"I have years of real-life experience working with people right across the spectrum of addiction. From those who live chaotic lives right through to those who have abstained for years and everyone in between.

"One of my most challenging but also rewarding roles was working with a group of under 18s who had falling through the cracks of society. These lads had been excluded from school, from youth clubs and were very vulnerable.

"Anyone who has ever worked with young lads of this age would be very harshly rebuked by them if you called them vulnerable. But that is exactly what they are.

"Drug use and drug selling by young people from disadvantaged areas is not a new phenomenon, however as a director of the Clondalkin Drugs and Alcohol Task Force we have seen a spike in this behaviour over the last 18 months.

"Young people are being targeted by older more experienced drug dealers to sell and deliver drugs.

"Young people are being groomed by these unscrupulous drug dealers and attracted by the flash cars, the new runners, the few bob in their pockets and the status of being a so called somebody.

"We need to look at the underlying issues to what make this lifestyle attractive.

"Poverty and lack of opportunities are always top of the list in my conversations with not only the young people but also the services that are needed to support them.

"As legislators we need to look at the cause and affects. We need to be pro-active and not re-active. We need to target these young people before they end up in the hands of drug dealers.

"However years of underinvestment by successive Governments of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in our communities, including the Local

Drug Task Forces have left a lot of our areas bankrupt of the resources needed to tackle these issues.

"Clondalkin and Lucan for example does not have a specific service to help under 18 drug users, however this year as part of the strategic plan of the Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task force a service will be provided.

"This is not being provided by new monies or new funding but in a restructuring of the current task force budget.

"In order for a new service to be introduced a previously funded service will have to loose out.

"These are the arduous decisions that are having to be made by Task Forces across the country. The failure to properly fund the Local Drug and Alcohol Task Forces demonstrates the government’s indifference to the damage and devastation that drugs cause to people, families and communities.

"The crisis facing communities across Ireland from the illicit drug trade manifests itself in many parts of Dublin Mid West. There is open drug dealing, the use of children as drug mules and couriers.

"There is an increase in intimidation due to alleged drug debts,  increased personal debts, and enormous pressure is being put yet again on our under resourced Community organisations.

"This legislation may have unintended consequences. For example what happens to a child who sells drugs to another child?

"In addition to the child being vulnerable so too are the drug users and it would more productive to direct drug users into treatment and rehabilitation programmes rather than the judicial services.

"I welcome this Bill  today and will  interested to see how it will can improved at committee stage

"The one group who are not vulnerable in this trio of child, drug user and drug dealer are off course the dealers themselves. Those that are engaged in grooming vulnerable children to sell and deliver drugs must of be prosecuted to the highest degree."

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Sinn Féin have today published the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2019 to tackle use of references to the clothing of the complainant in sexual offence trials.

The Bill, co-sponsored by Martin Kenny TD and Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, will also ensure that there are greater safeguards relating to sexual history introduced.

Speaking today, Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said:

“A little over twelve months ago, it was reported that in a rape case in Cork the defence lawyers introduced as evidence a thong belonging to a 17 year old complainant.

“It was appalling, indefensible and was a strategy which clearly implied that the victim was to blame.

“The dreadful approach taken by the defence team in this case rightly drew criticism here and internationally.

“It was clear proof that there are not adequate protections for victims of rape and to prevent this kind of behaviour, which has no evidential value, when they appear before the courts.

“It is as a consequence of this, that myself and my colleague Martin Kenny TD have sought to fix this clear failing in the law.”

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Deputy Martin Kenny said

"The deeply traumatic and difficult experience of many complainants is a huge contributor to the fact that rape is so under-reported. We need to radically change that experience.

"The use of clothing or past sexual history as part of a defence strategy is used to imply consent on the part of the complainant and attack their character.

“This legislation ensures that it will not be possible to introduce either clothing in evidence, unless the Judge is sure that to not allow it would mean the defendant could not get a fair trial. 

“Where an application is made by the defendants legal team to allow either clothing or sexual history as evidence, then the complainant shall have legal representation at any hearing for such an application.

"I believe this would address the instance of the case in Cork and would be a significant step forward in tackling victim blaming strategies in court.”

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Shauneen Baker, Sinn Féin Councillor in North Belfast, has offered condolences following the tragic death of another resident.

Cllr Baker said:

"In light of another untimely death, mental health and emotional well-being provision is one of the key priorities for all political parties in North Belfast.  We are working continually with statutory agencies and service providers to ensure that appropriate needs are met.

"Unfortunately, North Belfast has lost too many of its best and its brightest and we continue to work with individuals and families on a daily basis to assist them in accessing the appropriate care and services.

"If anyone is going through a difficult time we would urge them to remember that it is OK not to be OK and also urge them to reach out for help and support.

"There are many support organisations working across our local community.  Sinn Féin will continue to support families and individuals and below is a list of professional service providers:

Bridge of Hope: 02895 438707

PIPS: 02890 805850

New Life Counselling: 02890 391630

Lighthouse: 02890 755070

Samaritans: Freephone 116 123

Health & Social Care: 02890 744447

Extern: 0845 2590520

Lifeline: 0808 808 8000"

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Martin Kenny TD has welcomed the report by Dr. Johnny Connolly of the University of Limerick's Centre for Crime, Justice and Victim Studies, on 'Building Community Resilience – a response to criminal networks'.

Deputy Kenny said:

“Dr. Connolly's research, which works within the scope of the criminal justice system and covers the difficulties of breaking the cycle of criminality, is to be welcomed.

“The government and the Gardaí must take its recommendations on board and try to change the situation where whole communities have lost confidence in the policing and criminal justice systems which they can see are not solving their communities problems.

“It is striking that an academic based in Limerick can say with authority that the South Inner City of Dublin has 650 people with links to crime in two criminal gangs.

“He goes on to report that its members are between the ages of 12 and 39 and are loosely categorised as career criminals, street dealers and children being groomed into criminality.

“An Garda Siochána has not responded effectively to this situation and must do so with immediate effect.

“There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people in Dublin's South Inner City want to get on with their lives in peace, free of anti-social behaviour, intimidation and criminality.

"They have a right to live peacefully in their community and there must be an engaging, effective and consultative response to this situation.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has today published a document entitled “In Their Words - The Humans of the Housing Crisis”.

The document details a snapshot of hundreds of submissions received by Teachta McDonald following the housing debate in the Dáil last week.

The Sinn Féin President called for people to tell their story via a Facebook post following the vote last Tuesday.

Teachta McDonald said:

“Fianna Fáil sat on their hands on the night of the no-confidence vote in the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and backed the government. 

"Fine Gael in their arrogance continue to claim that their housing plan is working, despite all the evidence to the contrary. All of this, combined with the grubby deals that were done to save the government’s bacon, made me so angry that I decided to put out a call.

“I uploaded a video to my Facebook page asking for people to tell their story of the housing crisis. Nothing could have prepared me for the responses I received. The suffering, the hurt and the despair that is felt by people the length and breadth of the State is staggering.

“I received hundreds of messages and I have pledged to make their voices heard. That is why I am publishing this document and I have also given copies to Leo Varadkar, Eoghan Murphy and Micheál Martin. They need to see the consequences of their failed housing policies.

“There are solutions to this crisis - rent reduction alongside a rent freeze, a large-scale public housing build programme and legislation to clip the wings of vulture funds to name a few. It doesn’t have to be this way. People do not have to suffer. What is needed now is the political will to make a difference. It is time for the government to act.

“We will continue to listen and update this document as more submissions are received. Sinn Féin will continue to make people’s voices heard.”

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Dublin Denise Mitchell has said that Fine Gael’s failure to address the housing crisis represents “a disregard of the duty of a government to its people”.

Teachta Mitchell continued to say that “housing is a right, not a privilege of the wealthy few”.

Speaking during the Dáil debate on Sinn Féin’s Rent Freeze Bill, the Dublin Bay North TD said:

“Sinn Féin are on the side of workers and families. We always have been and always will be.

“Rents in this State are too high and are continuing to rise. It is time to freeze rents and put money back into the pockets of families and workers.

“The Government have had four years to tackle the housing crisis and is simply not delivering.

“4000 children are homeless. More and more people are being moved on to HAP. Rents and house prices continue to soar.

“In my own constituency, rents stand at almost €2000 a month, representing a five percent rise in just a year.

“Rebuilding Ireland has failed and real change in housing policy is needed. This is beyond a shambles. This is a disregard of the duty of a government to its people. We need to do something to halt more rent rises and reduce costs for tenants.

“While tonight, we are discussing putting a halt to the cycle of record breaking rents quarter after quarter, there are solutions to the housing and rental crisis facing families.

“This Bill will seek to introduce a state-wide rent freeze and a refundable tax credit to all renters, equivalent to one month’s rent.

“Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget for 2020 committed an additional one billion euro to delivering affordable rental homes

“This Government has given tax breaks to developers, landlords and first-time buyers. It is time to give renters a break.

“Being in government is about making choices. About taking a stand. Sinn Féin stand with families and workers.

“We make our stand with those trying to keep a roof over their children’s head. We choose to do what’s right and end this cycle of exploitation that is the housing crisis in Ireland.

“Housing is a right, not a privilege of the wealthy few.” ENDS


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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on all parties in the Seanad to support Sinn Féin’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill, which reaches all stages in the Seanad tomorrow. 

This legislation would reform insurance contracts, increasing transparency and tilting the balance in favour of the consumer.

The journalist Charlie Weston described Sinn Féin’s legislation as ‘the most radical change in insurance law in centuries’, while the Alliance for Insurance Reform described it as a ‘game-changer’.

Speaking ahead of the Seanad’s vote on the Bill, Deputy Doherty said:

“Rip-off insurance costs are squeezing incomes and closing down businesses. People are seeing their premiums go up each year without even making a claim. The insurance market isn’t working for policyholders and the Government have done little to hold the industry to account and reduce costs.

“Sinn Féin want to stamp out fraud, ban unfair pricing by insurance companies, recalibrate the value of awards and increase protections for consumers in insurance contracts.

“Our Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill, which reaches all stages in the Seanad on Wednesday, will shift the balance in favour of the consumer by increasing transparency and strengthening the hand of the policyholder during their insurance contract.

“My legislation has been described as the most radical change in consumer law in centuries, and has been described as a game-changer by the Alliance for Insurance Reform. 

"This Bill would require companies to inform consumers of the past five years of premiums paid by customers, and claims paid to customers and third parties for all non-life insurance contracts. This would increase transparency and strengthen everyone’s hands when they look for a better deal each year.

“Any company that cancels a policy would have to pay the customer the outstanding balance of the premium paid and make it easier for the customer to withdraw from a contract.

“It would also require a company to inform customers of any claim made against their policy, allowing them to submit their own evidence and informing them of the cost of any claim against their policy that has been settled.

"After last week’s revelations of some, enabled by the legal industry, engaging in fraudulent claims, this provision is crucial. It would ensure that policyholders would be told of any third party claims made against their policy, fraudulent or otherwise, and have a right to submit evidence concerning the claim.

“The legislation would also make it harder for an insurer to wriggle out of paying valid claims on grounds that have nothing to do with the accident or loss incurred by the policyholder.

“I am urging all parties and Senators to stop talking about insurance and start helping policyholders by voting for this Bill.

“Sinn Féin want to take on the insurance industry and ending the rip-off. By stamping out fraud, protecting consumers, banning dual pricing and bringing down premiums. This legislation is a part of that work."

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has today called on the government to urgently increase funding for domestic violence refuge accommodation.

The Sinn Féin leader said:

“Today marks Human Rights Day and the end of the annual 16 Days Campaign against gender-based violence.

“Figures released by Safe Ireland tell us that 9 requests for refuge accommodation went unmet every day last year because services will full.

“That’s 3,256 victims of domestic abuse or violence who having got themselves to the point of asking for help were unable to secure the safe accommodation and support they needed.

“The Istanbul Convention ratified by Ireland earlier this year requires the government to provide sufficient refuge accommodation and specialised support for all victims.

“Yet current provision of domestic violence emergency accommodation in Ireland meets just 31 per cent of actual need.

“Sinn Féin’s alternative budget included an additional capital investment of €9m for domestic violence refuges and an additional €2.8m domestic violence housing support services for 2020.

“We are also committed to increase funding for refuge accommodation and specialised supports over the next three years to meet Ireland’s obligations under the Istanbul Convention.

“The human cost of not fulfilling our obligations is immeasurable.”

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Carthy to host Western Rail Corridor public meeting in Athenry this Thursday

The potential European funding available for the Western Rail Corridor will be explored at an important public meeting in Athenry on Thursday evening, hosted by Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands North West Matt Carthy.The meeting, entitled: ‘The Western Rail Corridor - Can EU Funding get Athenry on track?’ will feature contributions from the European Parliament member, along with Louis O'Hara, Cllr. Gerry Murray and members of community group FLAG (Forward Looking Athenry Group) who believe the Western Rail Corridor can bring much needed investment and tourism opportunities to the Athenry area.

Mr Carthy will give an update on the current situation with the Western Rail Corridor and will outline potential EU funding streams for the project.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Carthy said: ‘I would encourage everyone in the Athenry area to come along and support the campaign for the Western Rail Corridor, which was included on the EU’s 10 T map, a core travel network identified as priorities by the EU institutions for connectivity between and within EU member states.

‘We managed to secure overwhelming support from MEPs right across Europe in a vote for the Western Rail Corridor to be included in the core network list. Being included on this list means that governments and regional authorities are able to draw down funding and support from the EU.

‘But during negotiations with the EU Council, which the Irish government was party to, the Western Rail Corridor was removed from the core network list. There has been no explanation for this, but it’s only in the last few weeks that Transport Minister Shane Ross has written to the EU Commission asking for the Western Rail Corridor to be put back on the core network projects list – just months away from a general election here.

‘There has been utter failure from successive governments to commit to the Western Rail Corridor, but the door is now open to EU funding, which will be crucial in getting this much-needed train network up and running’.

The ‘Western Rail Corridor - Can EU Funding get Athenry on track?’ meeting takes place on Thursday December 12 at 8pm in Athenry Town Hall.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD, speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, has raised the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s ‘Growing Up in the Cold’ report which highlights the fact that 140,000 children are living in homes with leaks, damp or rot.

He has called on the Taoiseach to act on a 2017 Sinn Féin motion on standards in the private rented sector; including the introduction of an NCT-type certification system for private rented housing, the provision of adequate resourcing to local authorities to ensure meaningful inspection and enforcement, and the conducting of a review of penalties for non-compliant landlords.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“Today, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has launched its ‘Growing Up in the Cold’ report that exposes the grim reality of thousands of families living in energy poverty.

“One in six households are spending more than 10% of their income on heating and electricity, with older people and lone parents particularly affected. This report shows that 42% of children living in the private rented sector experience energy poverty, with 36% of children living in social housing experiencing likewise.

“The report clearly shows a relationship between poor quality accommodation and energy poverty, and it finds that 140,000 children are living in homes with leaks, damp and rot.

“One parent quoted in the report said: ‘There are six of us with two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. We have one small heater and we move it from room to room’

“This is a clear breach of minimum standards and two years ago the Dáil passed a Sinn Féin motion on standards in the private rented sector; including the introduction of an NCT-type certification system for private rented housing, the provision of adequate resourcing to local authorities to ensure meaningful inspection and enforcement, and the conducting of a review of penalties for non-compliant landlords.

“Two years on and what has changed? Last year just 9% of private rental properties were inspected, and of those 82% failed to meet minimum standards. It’s a shocking situation.

“The government’s failure to resource the enforcement of minimum standards is leaving tens of thousands of people living in the cold and the failure to properly fund the maintenance of Council housing is leaving thousands of the State’s tenants in unacceptable conditions.

“So, I would implore the Taoiseach to fully implement the proposals from the 2017 Sinn Féin motion that was passed without opposition in the Dáil and to implement the seven recommendations contained in today’s St. Vincent de Paul report.”

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Measures urgently required to deliver meaningful Beef price increase - Matt Carthy MEP

 

The Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has reiterated his party’s call for urgent measures to be put in place that will secure a meaningful price increase for Beef Farmers.

 

The Monaghan based representative was speaking this week as IFA protests continued at retailer & distribution centres and following the publication of figures from the Beef Price Index reveal that Irish prices are 50c/kg behind the price in Britain.  Carthy also described the price increased announced by ABP last Friday as ‘minimal and wholly insufficient’.

 

Matt Carthy said: “I welcome the fact that the Beef Taskforce is up and running. The lifting of injunctions related to the summer beef protests is also to be welcomed but were too late in coming to secure any good will among the farming community.

 

“The images of further farm protests this week show that the fundamentals of the beef sector remain imbalanced and unfair, farmers continue to operate at a loss and this is entirely unsustainable.  Farmers, and the communities that depend on them, need a substantial and realistic increase in the base price they receive.  The small increase announced by ABP is minimal and wholly insufficient.

 

“The Beef Price Index has indicated that prices secured by Irish farmers are 20c/kg behind the EU average (€80 per animal) and 50c/kg behind British prices (€180 per animal).  This is happening in a scenario where Irish beef is among the best in the world.

 

“The differences in the prices secured by Irish family farmers with their counterparts across Europe is the difference between our farmers surviving or being forced out of business.

 

“The price discrepancies point to margin manipulation by both factories and retailers.  Big money is being made from Irish beef but it is not going to the primary producers.  Instead, retailers and factories are making a killing and it is little wonder that farmers have felt that they have no choice but to take to the picket lines.

 

“If the Beef Task Force is to deliver then it needs to quickly ensure the removal of arbitrary rules such as the 30-month upper age limit and the four-movement restriction which simply serve to distort the position of the farmer in the market chain.  

 

“Fundamentally, transparency throughout the supply chain is required so that the public can see directly who is making a profit from beef and who is being ripped off.  That is what Sinn Féin’s Beef Price Transparency Bill seeks to deliver by providing such transparency to not only farmers but for consumers too.  I am calling on both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to support our legislation to order to give farmers a level playing field.

“In the meantime Sinn Féin will continue to support those farmers who participate in protests aimed at highlighting the inequalities they face and we will join them in demanding a fair price structure for our family farmers”.

ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has urged all parties and none to support the Rent Freeze (Fair Rent) Bill 2019, which aims to reduce and freeze rents across the State.

 Teachta Ó Broin said:

 “Rents across the State are far too high and Rent Pressure Zones are not working to ensure rental inflation remains within 4%.

 “This Bill, if passed, would put up to €1,500 per year back in the pockets of renters, alongside freezing rents for a period of three years.

 “Renters across the State are paying inflated rents, they are trapped in the rental sector and cannot move because there is nothing affordable to rent or purchase and they cannot save for a deposit.

 “Everyone is affected by this; students, pensioners, workers, families and young people.

 “Until a programme of affordable cost rental accommodation is rolled out, there are few affordable rental homes to be found for workers and families on ordinary incomes.

 “A refundable tax credit for all renters and a three-year rent freeze provides tenants with some breathing space.

 “But this is not all Sinn Féin are proposing. We have also made it clear that we want to deliver the biggest public housing programme in the history of the State to deliver a properly functioning housing sector for all.”

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Speaking about the tragedy in Ballycastle Sinn Féin Councillor Cara McShane, who is related to the person who lost their life, said:

“From a family point of view we are shocked and devastated at this awful tragedy.

“The wider community in Ballycastle is also in shock but I want to thank those who tried to help this morning and of course the emergency services for their efforts. 

“I have no doubt the people of Ballycastle will rally round and offer support to help through the time ahead.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady has said that confirmation this afternoon of the closure of Rondo Food in Arklow is 'a devastating blow’ for workers and their families two weeks out from Christmas.

Teachta Brady said:

“I have had continuous engagement with the workers at Rondo Food since news first broke of what many believed to be the imminent closure of Rondo Food in Arklow. Sadly, that news has been confirmed this afternoon.

“While Rondo Food have again alluded to their 30 day consultation period in their latest press release this afternoon, I do not think anyone believes that Rondo Food considered any other options aside from re-location. I believe that decision was made long before any consultation period.

“Today is about the workers at Rondo Food and their families. These workers have given years of commitment to Rondo Food and unfortunately Rondo Food are not showing any ounce of commitment in return. The fact that Rondo Food refused to do the right thing by the 157 workers they are letting go and engage with the Workplace Relations Commission bears that out.

“The government now need to step up to the mark. Rondo Food has received sizeable amounts of taxpayers’ money over many years; €400,000 in funding from Enterprise Ireland since 2011, as has been confirmed to me. We now need to see the same level of investment by government in Arklow as Rondo Food closes its doors at the end of January.

“In fact, some of that Enterprise Ireland funding should be recouped, particularly if it does not meet the terms in which it was granted to Rondo Food who have now decided to cut and run.

“All of our energy now must go into ensuring that an Employment Taskforce is established and that all available resources, including action by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, are put into ensuring that alternative employment is developed in the Arklow area. I will work with all stakeholders to make this happen.”

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Sinn Féin's Francie Molloy has condemned a gun attack on house in Coalisland. 

The Mid Ulster election candidate said: 

"This gun attack on a house in Coalisland was wrong and I condemn it utterly. 

"Thankfully no one was injured in this incident but it must have been a frightening experience. 

"There is no place for guns in our society and those behind this attack need to end these futile actions immediately."

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Sinn Féin MLA and candidate in the forthcoming Westminster election, Declan Kearney said the election on 12 December comes down to a straight choice between the strongest Leave and the strongest Remain candidates.

Speaking today the South Antrim candidate said:

“The Westminster election on the 12 December presents a stark choice for voters in South Antrim. That choice is to back Leave or to reject Brexit by voting for the strongest Remain candidate standing in this constituency.

“Brexit has been driven by a reckless Tory and DUP agenda, disregarding any concerns raised about the impact on the north of Ireland and the island of Ireland as a whole.

“It will be a disaster for the local economy in South Antrim. It will destroy small and medium enterprise, reduce funding for agricultural and rural programmes, and decimate funding for the community and voluntary sector.

“Sinn Féin has relentlessly opposed Brexit at all levels and successfully secured concrete protections, by using our political strength and influence in Brussels, Dublin and in the United States.

“Sinn Féin is the strongest and most consistent anti Brexit party in South Antrim.

“Our Party has ensured that the British government will not be permitted to leave the EU, unless there are firm guarantees for the north remaining in the Customs Union, Single Market and with full protection for the Good Friday Agreement, and our all Ireland economy.

“While others have dithered, Sinn Féin has delivered - and we have done so where it really matters - right at the heart of the EU.

“As a member of our Party's national leadership I have been to the fore in advancing Sinn Féin's pro Remain strategy across Europe, and here at home.

“On the 12 December, in South Antrim, I am calling on the local electorate to renew my mandate as the strongest opponent of Brexit in this constituency, and as the most influential advocate for remaining within the EU.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has criticised the Government for failing to deal with the growing insurance crisis which is set to see businesses, community groups and childcare providers close throughout the State in the coming months.

Responding to reports that Ironshore Europe, one of the biggest insurers in the childcare sector, is set to withdraw from the Irish market, Deputy Doherty called on the Taoiseach to immediately set up and lead a task force with key Ministers to deal with the impending crisis.

Speaking today, Deputy Doherty said:

“Yesterday we heard that one of the biggest insurers in the childcare sector, Ironshore Europe, is set to pull out of the Irish market by January. This will mean the threat of closure for thousands of providers and even higher childcare costs for parents.

“Ironshore Europe were one of two leading insurance providers in the sector. They are now set to withdraw from several Irish markets after being bought over by Hamilton Insurance of Liberty Mutual.

"With the policies of thousands of childcare providers due to expire in January, this will mean one of two things.

“Either these childcare providers will be unable to get alternative cover and close, or the lack of competition will increase their premiums still further, leading to higher childcare costs for parents.

“Without exaggerating, this has become a full-blown crisis across several sectors. Not just childcare, but community and voluntary groups, the leisure sector and small businesses.

“The Government have failed to take the failure of the insurance market, and its impact on businesses, seriously. The Minister responsible for the insurance sector doesn’t even sit at the Cabinet table.

“From the opposition benches Sinn Féin have called for immediate reforms in the insurance sector; from the set up of a dedicated Garda Insurance Fraud Unit to the banning of dual pricing by insurance companies. My Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill, which would strengthen the position of consumers in their contracts, is due to pass all stages in the Seanad this week.

"Despite a Programme for Government and four budgets, Fianna Fáil and the Government have failed to take this issue seriously or address it as a priority.

“It can’t be ignored any longer.

“I am calling on the Taoiseach to set up and lead a Ministerial Task Force to address the insurance crisis; not as just another talking shop but to take immediate action. This Task Force should include the Minister for Finance, Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation and Ministers representing the most affected sectors, including the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs.

“This Task Force should meet with the industry and affected sectors, find solutions and deal with this crisis before it ends with the mass closure of businesses and childcare providers across the State”.

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Food spokesperson Brian Stanley TD has called for beef farmers to be given a fair price for their produce as figures from the Beef Price Index reveal that Irish prices are 50c/kg behind the UK price.

Deputy Stanley was speaking following news that the IFA protests continue outside retailer and distribution centres.

Speaking this morning, Deputy Stanley said:

“First of all, Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that the Beef Taskforce is up and running. We also welcome the fact that all of the injunctions have been lifted.

“However, what beef farmers need to see now is an increase in their base price per kg as that has not yet happened.

“The Beef Price Index is indicating that Irish prices are 20c/kg behind the EU average (€80 per animal) and 50c/kg behind UK prices (€180 per animal).

“20c/kg is the difference between an Irish beef farmer making a living out of this industry or closing down.

“Considering the superior quality of Irish beef produce these price discrepancies point to margin manipulation by both the factories and by retailers.

“Retailers and factories have run the beef sector like a cartel for decades now and it must be put to an end.

“To their credit, Aldi has met with the Beef Plan Movement and with the ICSA in recent weeks and spoke of making progress with regards to the 30-month upper age limit and the four-movement rule.

“However, what Aldi and Tesco need to do is to demand of processors that they give a fair price to farmers.

“The difficulty right now is that we have no transparency whatsoever throughout the supply chain as to who is receiving a fair price and who is being ripped off.

“That is why in September, Sinn Féin introduced the Beef Price Transparency Bill 2019 to provide such transparency to not only farmers but for consumers too.

“I’m calling on both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to get off the fence and to support our legislation to give farmers a level playing field.”

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