Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said more investment is needed in the health service to tackle waiting lists and support workers and patients.
Colm Gildernew said:
“Today’s announcement of funding for an elective care plan to tackle waiting lists is welcome but we need to see more investment in our health service.
“Years of Tory austerity has weakened our health service and impacted on both patients and staff.
“We need to see the British government providing money to invest in our health service to tackle waiting lists and train and retain staff in order to deliver a first-class service.
“We now need to see the minister and department working with health staff, trade unions and patient representatives as part of this plan to tackle waiting lists and transform our health service.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has welcomed the government’s announcement that further and higher education campuses will be open in September but called on the Minister to provide greater clarity.
The Mayo TD said:
“It is certainly welcome that third-level students will be back on campus. Many of these students have not been on campus for over a year.
“But today’s announcement is light on detail and places a lot of the responsibility on the colleges and universities. I will be seeking to engage with the Minister as soon as possible on the plan.
“We are still waiting for the full framework or the associated funding proposal. The announcement also seems to refer to both a full resumption and phased incremental return. It talks about controlling numbers and ‘mainly’ on-site activity for all students, learners, and staff.
“Students will have a lot of questions regarding what it will really be like in practice.
“People understand the challenging environment in which these plans are being made. But they also expect an honest and clear assessment of what they should expect.
“A good news story isn't of any use if it leads to students and families making the wrong decisions around their education, transport and accommodation. These have proven very costly in the past.
“If there are restrictions on numbers based on lecture hall and classroom capacity, then that needs to be explained clearly.
“Last summer we had a disconnect between government messaging and what universities and colleges were saying would be the case on the ground once health guidelines were actually applied before the second wave led to the plan being abandoned.
“But we all want this to be a success and for students to be on campus in a safe way, so today is a positive step in that direction.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has criticised the government representatives on Oireachtas Housing Committee who today voted to remove councillor section 183 powers on land disposals in the Land Development Agency legislation.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“TDs from the Green Party, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on the Oireachtas Housing committee today voted to remove councillor powers on land disposals in the Land Development Agency legislation.
“The local authority manager preparing a report on the sale of council land for the local authority members and the subsequent vote on this is a key local democratic function.
“This section of the LDA bill denies elected members democratic oversight in relation to local authority land.
“The removal of this section of the bill was a key demand of the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG) and opposition TDs submitted amendments on foot of their demand to delete this section.
“Unfortunately, the Green Party, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil members of the Committee didn’t support this request.
“As a result, the powers of our local elected councillors are being diminished.”
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has welcomed more funding for rural roads but has called for more to be done to address the poor condition of local roads.
The Newry and Armagh MLA stated:
“I welcome this increase in spending on rural roads but believe it should have greater priority within the budget.
“With a £1 billion backlog in road maintenance there’s a long way to go to addressing the state of our roads.
“I will continue to call for more investment in our rural roads network in order to address the unacceptable condition of our roads that affects local communities on a daily basis."
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said available and affordable childcare is key promoting a fair economic recovery, particularly for women.
The party's economy spokesperson said:
"It is clear there needs to be a focus on tackling inequalities affecting women if there is to be a fair economic recovery. Childcare is both vital to our economy and fundamental to lifting many young families out of poverty by allowing mothers to earn a wage.
"There is an opportunity coming out of the pandemic to address the longstanding barriers and inequalities faced by women in the workplace by creating female specific opportunities for re-skilling and up-skilling to encourage women back into the workplace and to encourage business start-ups.
"This needs proper childcare provision and recognition of the importance and value of childcare as a profession and more flexible work practices for all workers."
Speaking this afternoon, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, said that the new small company administrative rescue process must be quicker and cheaper than the current administrative process in order for it to work.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“There is unified agreement that there has long been a need for an examinership-lite model as is attempted to be delivered through the Companies (Small Company Administrative Rescue Process) Bill 2021.
“This Bill, while long overdue, is welcome and I will work constructively and thoroughly to ensure that there are no undue delays in implementing it.
“There are many welcome aspects laid out in the General Scheme of the legislation which outlines the new small company administrative rescue process. However, the success or failure of the process will boil down to two things – speed and cost.
“The new process must be not only cheaper than the current administrative process which is estimated to cost on average between €80,000 - €120,000, but it also must be quicker.
“It is hoped that the new process will reduce costs to between €20,000 - €50,000, which is an extremely welcome reduction in costs if that is achieved, however, these costs are only estimates and in practice they could be higher. Regardless, they still look prohibitively high for microbusinesses and small companies. I hope through the passage of the legislation we can work out ways to achieve even greater cost reduction so as to benefit micro and small businesses.
“In relation to the length of time that the new process will take, it is estimated that there may be little reduction in the length of time it takes to conclude the new small company administrative rescue process in comparison to normal administration. Minister Damien English relayed to me that it could take up to 49 days to produce a rescue plan, and it could take even longer to implement it thereafter.
“This is extremely disappointing, and it is an area that must be improved upon in anticipation of the implementation of the new process.
“There are numerous companies with sound business models who incur significant debts for many reasons, this new process must put those businesses and their workers front and centre and ensuring the new process is cheaper and quicker is central to this.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said pop-up clinics being rolled out to different locations across the north will enable more people to access the COVID-19 vaccine.
The party’s health spokesperson said:
“The targeted programme of pop-up clinics across different locations in the north will help local communities access vaccines and enable more people to access the vaccine.
"The vaccination programme, together with an effective find, test, trace, isolate and support system, offers the best chance in our fight against the pandemic.
"I would encourage everyone eligible to get their vaccine and help play their part in protecting their families, communities and wider society, particularly in light of the emergence of the Delta variant."
Speaking after meeting the British government tonight Sinn Féin Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald TD said:
“This evening we met with the British government and told them that they need to move the Irish language legislation through Westminster.
“A number of weeks ago the British government offered to legislate for Acht Gaeilge in this way.
“At that time we said our preference was that Irish language legislation would be delivered through the Assembly and Executive as was agreed in New Decade New Approach. We have pursued that option vigorously over the last number of weeks.
“We have engaged intensively with the DUP and with party leader Edwin Poots. He has told us that they will not be delivering Acht in this mandate.
“This legislation was negotiated a year and a half ago and it is now incumbent on the British and Irish governments to act.
"This is the only way forward to finally resolve this issue.” E
Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed the passing of the Parental Bereavement Bill through second stage in the Assembly.
The East Derry MLA said:
“The Parental Bereavement BiIl is a welcome opportunity to support workers through the most difficult time in their lives.
"Paid leave for parents who experience stillbirth or loss of a child is an important step forward for workers.
"I welcome the progress of the bill through second stage in the Assembly and it will now come to the Economy Committee for scrutiny and consultation.
"I will be making the case in committee as I did in the debate today that leave upon the death of a child should be a 'day one' right available to all workers, and that paid leave should also be available for workers experiencing a miscarriage during pregnancy."
Sinn Fein MPs have written to the British Government calling for increased investment in the heatlh service and a pay increase for health workers.
Michelle Gildernew MP said:
"Throughout the course of the pandemic, our health workers have selflessly served the public with bravery and distinction.
"Their courageous service must be rightly recognised and rewarded with a higher pay increase than 1%.
"Sinn Fein are urging the British Government to engage meaningfully with, and listen to, Trade Unions representing NHS workers and agree an acceptable pay offer with them.
"At present the Executive lacks the required finances to raise this pay increase, an appropriate and fitting pay settlement here will be significantly impacted by the British Government’s offer, given the Barnett funding formula.
"Sinn Fein will continue to work day and night to ensure our health workers are rewarded for their bravery and courage."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has called on the Minister for Finance to undertake an urgent review of the tax status of Section 110 companies, or vulture funds.
His comments come following reports that three such funds connected to Goldman Sachs paid no corporation tax in 2019 despite collecting €390 million from their portfolios in the same year.
Teachta Doherty said:
“It was reported by Mark Paul in the Irish Times this morning that three vulture funds connected to Goldman Sachs paid no corporation tax in 2019 despite collecting €390 million from their portfolios in the same year.
“For years, Fine Gael have allowed vulture funds buying up distressed mortgages to engage in aggressive tax avoidance and reduce their tax liabilities to zero, despite making huge profits.
“This has resulted in a huge loss of revenue to the Irish public.
“In October 2016, I made a submission to then Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, on the operation of these Section 110 companies and changes that should be made to end the tax avoidance practices that had been facilitated by Fine Gael.
“In 2019, some changes were made, responding to my submission, that restricted the ability of these funds to write off taxable income against certain interest payments.
“These changes came into effect in 2020, however, we need to assess how effective they have been in tackling aggressive tax avoidance by vulture funds.
“Serious gaps remain and have been allowed to remain by government.
“For example, over two years from 2018 to 2019, a subsidiary of vulture fund Cerberus, called Promontoria Oyster DAC, was able to reduce its tax liability by €27 million by writing off its income against asset management fees.
“It just so happens that these fees were paid to a company affiliate in the Netherlands.
“The tax code of vulture funds continues to allow them to use complex company arrangements to reduce their tax liabilities against the interests of the Irish taxpayer.
“The Minister for Finance should review their tax structure, and the gaps that continue to exist, and close them down.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O’Rourke TD has said that the Minister for Transport’s lack of interest in introducing serial antigen testing in the aviation sector is incomprehensible and shows no lessons have been learned from last year.
The Meath East TD said:
“There has been a considerable amount of research and advancement in the area of antigen testing since March of last year.
“But despite this, the government is refusing to consider the benefits this system of testing could have in the aviation sector.
“Recently the Transport Committee heard from Harvard Professor Michael Mina on the benefits of antigen for the aviation sector, and before that from the government’s own Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Mark Ferguson.
“Their expert testimony seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the Department of Transport.
“While PCR testing is very valuable, it is also expensive, time-consuming, and only gives a snapshot in time, often two or three days before someone travels.
“Serial antigen testing on the other hand, is quick, inexpensive, and can test someone over a number of days for signs of Covid-19.
“We believe both methods have a role to play in the resumption of safe international travel, but the refusal of the government here to even examine antigen testing is bewildering.
“Before Christmas, I said that ‘perfect was the enemy of the good’ when it came to airport testing, after the government insisted on a voluntary, expensive PCR system that was ignored by most travellers.
“Now, as we try to restart safe international travel, the refusal to even consider antigen testing is repeating this same mistake. Antigen testing can help restart the crippled aviation sector, while also providing a level of protection against Covid-19.
“As the government now looks at measures to combat the Delta variant, I can’t understand how serial antigen testing wouldn’t be considered.
“The aviation sector is facing a huge challenge after 16 months of restricted travel, but the hands-off approach of Minister Ryan, and his refusal to introduce measures that will help the sector, is making a bad situation worse.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called on Minister Foley to immediately make a statement regarding the scale of the issues with the Leaving Cert oral exams, and the actions she will take to redress this for students.
This comes following reports that significant numbers of Leaving Cert students were marked down in their oral exams due to shortcomings in the way these exams were conducted.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“I am extremely concerned to hear reports that a significant number of Leaving Cert language students, through no fault of their own, have been marked down due to shortcomings in the way that the oral exams were run this year.
“Students need clarity on whether they have been affected by this, and what this will mean for their results. The Minister must make a statement and provide detail on how widespread this issue is, and what she will do to redress this for the affected students.
“The Minister must listen to students and their views on how to resolve this – be that scheduling another set of oral exams for students who wish to sit them again, affording the SEC flexibility in marking the oral exams in a way that reflect the ability of the student, or providing mitigation in terms of access to third level places. All options need to be explored.
“This will be very worrying and distressing news for students this morning, who are in the middle of their Leaving Cert written exams. The Minister must recognise the potential severity of this situation, and provide reassurances to all students.
“We know that a significant number of students have been penalised through no fault of their own. The Department of Education and the SEC cannot let this lie. I have sought a meeting with the Minister to discuss how she can resolve this in the fairest way possible for the students who have been affected."
Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has said confirmation that the Government of Mauritius will look again at the Michaela McAreavey case is an important step in the campaign for justice.
The West Tyrone MP said:
“For over 10 years, the Harte and McAreavey families have fought a determined and dignified campaign for justice for Michaela.
“No one has ever been brought to justice for this horrible crime.
“Confirmation from the Joint First Ministers today that the Mauritian government will look again at Michaela’s case is an important step in the campaign.
“Every avenue possible must be explored and we will continue to stand with Michaela’s family to ensure that happens.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has encouraged those worried about COVID symptoms to get tested to help stop the spread of the virus and its variants.
Colm Gildernew said:
"The spread of the delta variant of the COVID virus across the north is very concerning.
"Doctors have said that alongside the already known symptoms, those who test positive for the delta variant often have a sore throat rather than a cough as the main symptom.
"I would call on anyone with any symptoms to get a COVID test in order to help stop the spread of the COVID variant so we can continue with our pathway to recovery."
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Pat Sheehan MLA will raise the need for CPR training to be made available within schools with the next Education Minister.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“I will be raising the need for any incoming Education Minister to look at adding CPR training for pupils and staff into the school curriculum.
“While some charities provide this training to schools, and I would encourage all schools to avail of that, learning how to perform CPR and potentially saving a life can not be optional.
“On average, 1,400 people a year in the North suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting.
“And for every minute CPR is not performed on the victim, survival chances decrease by 10%.
“In order to maximise survival chances, it is absolutely crucial that as many people across our society are educated in how to perform CPR.
“Sinn Féin will be raising this issue with the Education Minister and will work to ensure CPR is included in the school curriculum.”