Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Dublin Denise Mitchell has strongly criticised the Government for utterly failing to address the scale of child homelessness in Ireland.
Teachta Mitchell said that “we are actively harming children by denying them a home of their own.”
The Dublin Bay North TD said:
“There are almost four thousand children homeless in this State. Four thousand. In 2019, that is the Ireland that this government has created in its image. Where the better off prosper and those without suffer.
“This of course does not account for homeless families who are self-accommodating or doubling up with family and friends. Thousands of children are sleeping two to a bed or sleeping in box rooms as their parents crash on the floor.
“No one can say what effect this will have on our young people as they get older. We are stealing these developmental years from thousands of children. We are stunting their growth in ways that may not become apparent for years to come.
“Homeless children are fair more likely to have poor school attendance, poor diet, inadequate rest, and poor living conditions.
“Numerous studies have shown the detrimental impact that homelessness has on children in terms of physical, mental, and emotional health.
“We are actively harming children by denying them a home of their own. This much cannot be argued.
“The Minister will stand in here and say that the Government understands.
“He will mournfully say that they are doing all they can and that no child should experience such terrible circumstances.
“That is all well and good, but what are they doing about it? Not a damn thing.
“The homelessness numbers have only been going one way since Fine Gael took office and that is up. Month on month, year and year, more and more people are entering emergency accommodation.
“My party put down a motion of no confidence in Minister Eoghan Murphy in September of last year. He survived thanks to the inaction of Fianna Fáil.
“Fianna Fáil are directly supporting this government and shameful record on addressing the housing crisis that is plaguing this State.
“Perhaps they will reflect on that.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called for the establishment of a stand-alone insurance fraud unit within An Garda Síochana to investigate insurance fraud if and when it occurs, including a clamp-down on ‘ghost brokers’ that are taking out fraudulent policies on behalf of unsuspected customers.
Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:
“The activities of so-called ‘ghost brokers’, who take out policies with false information for unsuspected consumers, only for the cover to then be cancelled by insurance companies, must be tackled immediately.
“It is reported that these ghost brokers have taken out more than 10 thousand insurance policies, with hundreds of these policies being cancelled for consumers who are then left without cover when accidents occur.
“These criminals are offering unsuspecting consumers low premiums by providing false information to insurance companies, and taking commission from the sale.
“When companies then discover that these policies were bought on the basis of false information, sometimes using stolen credit cards, the policies are cancelled, leaving innocent consumers out of pocket and without any cover.
“These so-called ghost brokers engaged in organised crime must be stopped, and I commend the unit heading up this investigation.
“However, it is clear that criminal activities in the insurance market are becoming more sophisticated. As a result, Garda operations must become more sophisticated and better resourced.
“That is why Sinn Féin want to set up a stand-alone and specialist Garda Insurance Fraud Unit made of detectives, Garda staff and financial investigators. This unit would be initially funded with reserves built up by the Personal Injury Assessment Board and supplemented with additional public resources as required.
“It would create a hostile environment for organised criminality engaged in fraud, including ghost brokers, and ensure that insurance companies comply with Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act by reporting all suspected fraud.
“Only Sinn Féin have the policies and political will to take on the industry, stamp out fraud, reduce insurance costs and end the rip-off.”
Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane has said that proposed cuts to local councils and increases in council rents, tolls and commercial rates must be resisted as they will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable in our society.
Speaking at Leaders’ Questions today, Deputy Cullinane said;
“€18.4 million in cuts to Dublin and Waterford councils are on the way due to this government and Irish Water.
“This is because the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will no longer fund the commercial rate compensation scheme.
“Because of this, Waterford City and County Council will see a 13.5% drop in rates at €3.3 million; proportionally the highest cut made.
“These are government cuts plain and simple - cuts that are unsustainable and place a burden on local authorities that cannot be met.
“The compensation by DPER that was in place is now being abolished, leaving councils high and dry.
“Dublin city councillors on Monday night refused to pass a budget because of these cuts - a budget that proposed to increase council rents, increase commercial rates on small businesses and increase toll charges.
“Local authority tenants cannot afford a rent increase. Funding for roads, supports for older people in their homes, and housing maintenance should not be cut to save the government’s blushes.
“The chief executive of Dublin City Council said this had to be done because the council was not being compensated by central government, despite promises made.
“In Waterford there are similar proposals to increase rates and cut services.
“This will cut funding for housing maintenance, roads, festivals and local communities.
“The compensation for local authorities affected must be reinstated.
“It is the only way to protect households, families and businesses.”
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has called on the government and the HSE to look at adopting the Scottish Patient and Clinician Engagement process for medicines approval in order to reduce waiting times for patients to access medicines.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) have reported that patients in this State are waiting three times as long for the same medicines as patients in other European countries.
“I know from speaking with many patients and patient groups that these waiting times and a lack of consultation and engagement in the medicines approval process is incredibly frustrating.
“For some time now, we have known that the medicines approval process is broken and needs to be fixed. It is also clear that the level of funding levels for new medicines is well below other European countries and needs to be increased.
“Scotland faced similar problems regarding difficulties with their medicines approval for policy before they implemented the successful Patient and Clinician Engagement (PACE) process which gives patient groups and clinicians a stronger voice in decision making around medicines.
“A medicines approval process like PACE allows for the consideration of additional aspects of value beyond cost-effectiveness.
“This is not to say that the cost of medicines being submitted by pharmaceutical companies is not a problem, more often than not it is the root cause of the problem.
"It is of the utmost importance that patient considerations are put front and centre by the HSE, the government, and pharmaceutical companies when it comes to drug purchasing policy.
“We need to re-evaluate our medicines approval and purchasing process and we also need to deepen our co-operation with other EU countries for the bulk purchasing of medicines in order to counter large pharmaceutical companies who seek to profiteer off the illnesses and difficulties of vulnerable people.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has described as “totally unacceptable” that only one third of the €13m in funding available for traveller accommodation has been drawn down to date in 2019. He has called on Minister Damien English to press ahead with recommendations of the expert group as a matter of urgency.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Figures released to me in response to a parliamentary question indicated that just €4m out of a budget of €13m was draw down for Traveller Accommodation to date in 2019.
“This means that nearly 70% of the €13m remains to be drawn down over the next six weeks before the end of the year.
“Some local authorities are continuing to underspend on traveller accommodation, with 14 local authorities failing to draw down any funding yet this year.
“2019 is currently on track to be the greatest underspend since I started tracking this.
“In 2018 there was 48% underspend in traveller accommodation budget by local authorities.
“It was a similar story in 2017 where only €4.8m was drawn down out of a budget of €8.7m.
“Minister English must implement the recommendations of the expert group on Traveller accommodation as a matter of urgency."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Climate Breakdown, Caoimhe Archibald MLA, has today called for all parties to engage in serious and meaningful debate on how climate breakdown can be avoided.
The comments came following the publication of a UN Environment Programme report which stated current levels fossil fuel production are more than double what can be extracted to reach 1.5 degree target of warming.
The East Derry MLA said:
"The release of this UN report is another shocking wake-up call for world leaders, for our society, but also for political parties during this election campaign.
"The so-called ambitious pledges agreed at COP21 are still propelling the world towards 3-4 degrees of warming - this would be catastrophic.
"To put it bluntly, the current efforts to tackle climate breakdown will still lead to irreversible and profound damage to our natural environment and our way of life.
"The time for tinkering around the edges is over. We need a Green New Deal that will transform our society and the economy, raising living standards and reducing emissions at the same time.
"All parties must make clear that they understand the urgency and seriousness of tackling climate breakdown.”
Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Deputy Louise O’Reilly, said the government are being dishonest about home help after she received a Parliamentary Question reply from the HSE which shows the number of home help hours promised in Budget 2020 is less than half of what is needed.
Speaking this evening, Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The government have had a freeze on home help hours for most of the year and it has meant that the waiting list for home help has exploded to 7,225.
“Fine Gael then tried to pull a fast one in Budget 2020 by making out the provision of one-million hours of home help would clear the whole waiting list.
“Sinn Féin called them out on this trickery at the time and we now have proof from the HSE that one-million hours will barely cover half the people on the waiting list and thousands will be left without home help.
“The numbers provided to me by the HSE show that some 2.5million home help hours would be needed to clear the waiting list in 2020 and give everyone 6.5 hours of care per week, at a cost of €59million for the year.
“Instead of delivering for those who need home care, we had a cynical attempt by the government to try and trick the public.
“This situation is ridiculous – we have people entitled to home help not getting their hours, we have a postcode lottery for who can and cannot get care, and we have a government wasting huge sums of money on private home help providers instead of investing in a working public home help system.
“It would have only taken €59m to ensure everyone on the home help waiting list got the home help they need, but Fine Gael couldn’t give a toss about the people on that waiting list – their actions for the last 8 years show that.”
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams this afternoon attended a farewell reception in the Mansion House for the Palestinian Ambassador Ahmed Abdelrazak.
Speaking at the event, Gerry Adams praised Ambassador Abdelrazak for his “dedication and hard work in promoting and defending the rights of the Palestinian people. It has been an honour to have worked with you.”
Gerry Adams described the response of the international community to the ongoing Israeli assault on Palestinians as “shameful”.
Teachta Adams said:
“The Israeli apartheid regime has inflicted great hurt. It’s use of institutional violence, the killing of civilians, the theft of Palestinian water rights and land, the construction of illegal settlements are an affront and make the work of peace building incredibly difficult.
"The Israeli government is in breach of international law and of UN resolutions. There is an obligation on the international community to demand that these be honoured.
"We are all Palestinians. The people of Palestine deserve our full support.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has condemned the US’s change of position on illegal settlements in Palestine.
Speaking from a meeting in Helsinki, Martina Anderson said:
“The Trump administration publicly claiming that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are legal is a direct attack on International law. They are doing this to appease the hard-line Israeli government and the hard right in the US.
“This would appear to be in direct response to the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice that any food or drink produced in illegal Israeli settlements will need to be clearly labelled in the EU.
“The ruling rightly reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the West Bank constitute illegal population transfers beyond a state’s borders and that these territories could in no way be considered ‘Israel’.
“Illegal Israel settlements have been the main obstacle to the two-state solution and peace.
“The Trump administration has demonstrated an alarming increase in active support for the violent oppression inflicted by the Israeli state.
“We saw this first when the US agreed to move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“They have facilitated Israel in getting away with decades of oppression of the Palestinian people and a constant disregard for human rights and international law.
“I am calling on the Irish government to show leadership and implement the Occupied Territories Bill to ban and criminalise trade with and economic support for illegal settlements and to recognise the Palestinian State.
“The EU must speak out against this callous disregard for international law.”
Responding to comments made by the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster today Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said:
“This is transparent distraction by the DUP who are attempting to wash their hands on this issue and talk about anything rather than their reckless Brexit agenda.
“The banners erected by hooded loyalists targeting John Finucane and his family are clearly aimed to help the DUP candidate.
“All parties should unite in calling for these banners to be removed and on those responsible to desist.
“The DUP’s relationship with loyalist paramilitaries exposes entirely their hypocrisy and their selective attitude to violence and sectarianism.
“There is no single and agreed narrative to the past and Sinn Féin is not interested in refighting the battles of the past.
“Our party has had members killed including our vice-president Máire Drumm who was murdered in her hospital bed.
“There is a responsibility on all political leaders to engage fully in the efforts to build the peace and the process of reconciliation and healing by implementing the mechanisms agreed at Stormont House to support victims and their rights to truth and justice.”
Speaking this morning Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Deputy Louise O’Reilly, has called on the Minister for Health to brief the opposition on the results of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists review into smear test results by the CervicalCheck programme.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“There have been a number of reports in the media today regarding the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) review which re-examined the slides of over 1,000 women who were tested under the CervicalCheck programme.
“It is important now that the full facts of the review are established and any leaking of the results to the media are stopped.
“The initial reports are, however, quite worrying in that large numbers of previously missed abnormalities have been uncovered through the course if the review.
“Indeed, if the reports are correct that a significant number of women screened under CervicalCheck were given the all-clear and later developed cancer, then this is another worrying development to a scandal littered with tragedy.
“As public representatives we have a duty to uncover the truth about what went wrong within the CervicalCheck programme, but we also have a duty to ensure confidence is maintained in public health services such as the current cervical screening programme, but to do that we need to be briefed on this report as a matter of urgency.
“The Minister for Health needs to brief the opposition on the results and the contents of the RCOG review today, and any drip feeding of the report to the media must stop.”
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The general scheme of this Bill follows a familiar trend of this government facilitating developer led planning, which is to detriment of the democratic process.
“The government has requested that the Oireachtas Housing committee should waive pre legislative scrutiny in order to fast track the Bill and the Committee refused.
“We refused on the grounds that this is a significant proposed change to the planning process. It is essential that full scrutiny of the proposals is undertaken by the Committee before any decisions are taken.
“I requested that Committee seeks independent legal advice on whether any aspect of the general scheme breaches Ireland's obligations under the Aarhaus Convention and EU environmental law.
“I further requested that the Committee seeks independent research on judicial reviews from the Oireachtas Research Service.
“When the committee members have this independent legal and research information we will then proceed to consider the general scheme of the Bill. Sinn Féin’s approach to this legislation will be guided by our belief in ensuring our planning system is open transparent and ensures full participation by all relevant stakeholders.
"As it stands we are not willing to support the general scheme of this Bill as it stands.”
Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has sharply criticised the US government after it announced that it would no longer consider Israel’s illegal colonial settlements in occupied Palestine as ‘inconsistent’ with international law.
Deputy Crowe said:
“International law is extremely clear on this issue. Israel’s colonial settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal under international law. There is no legal nuance on this, they are in clear contravention of international law.
“Israel has illegally built thousands of these colonial settlements on stolen Palestinian land and over 600,000 illegal colonial settlers live in them. This violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its population to the area it occupies.
“This US change of position will have a destabilising effect on the region, it is dangerous and morally and legally wrong.
“The Irish government needs to robustly challenge the US government’s support for Israel’s repeated violations of international law and Israel’s apartheid regime in Palestine.
“I believe the Irish government must now respond by abiding by the Dáil motion that called on the Irish government to formally recognise the State of Palestine, which was unanimously passed in 2014.
“I believe Tánaiste Simon Coveney should also end the government’s opposition to the Occupied Territories Bill, which would make trade with illegal settlements a criminal offence in Ireland. He must work with all the other parties in the Dáil who support the Bill to ensure it is urgently passed and made law.
“This would send a strong message to the US and Israeli governments that Ireland will not ignore the illegality of Israel’s colonial settlements in Palestine and the suffering of the Palestinian people under Israel’s apartheid regime.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has criticised a “deeply dishonest” briefing provided to media which indicates that the government is looking to strip housing delivery powers from local councils.
Commenting on the story Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Minister Eoghan Murphy and his Department are desperate to deflect from their housing policy failures by laying the blame on county councils.
“A dishonest briefing by an “unnamed government source” on half thought out plans by the government to strip local councils of even more powers is beneath any Minister for Housing.
“The Minister has form on this with the introduction of his apartment planning guidelines and his fast track planning regulations.
“Neither of these changes have resulted in the speedy delivery of good quality, affordable accommodation.
“The delays in social housing delivery is caused by central government policy and procedures.
“For example, the four step approvals process for the procurement of social housing needs to be reformed and currently causes greater delays than planning issues.
“Councils need more funding to deliver social and affordable planning projects not less.
“Removing the council’s power to debate and vote on significant planning and housing decisions is a retrograde step.
“Councillors represent their local communities and they are answerable to them.
“Using the O’Devaney Gardens debacle to strip councils of some of the only significant powers they have left would harm local democracy and would give unelected council officials license to run roughshod over local communities.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on Insurance Ireland to come clean on the activities of insurance companies in the Irish market at today’s annual conference in the Convention Centre in Dublin.
Deputy Doherty said that while Sinn Féin want to see the establishment of the Personal Injuries Commission immediately, and would set up a stand-alone Garda Insurance Fraud Unit, the industry is waging a public disinformation campaign on fraudulent claims.
Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:
“The insurance industry has waged a public disinformation campaign on the level of fraudulent claims to justify the extortionate premiums it is charging consumers.
“Companies have repeatedly said that 20 percent of all claims are fraudulent and are causing premiums to rise. But under questioning at the Finance Committee it was revealed to me that companies only report a small fraction of claims to the Gardaí as fraudulent.
“For example, AXA reported only 1 percent of all claims to the Gardaí as fraudulent in 2018, not 20 percent. For Aviva it was 4 percent and for Allianz, as little as 1 percent.
“Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act makes clear that it is an offence for companies to fail to report known crimes such as fraud. So either the industry is exaggerating or breaking the law.
“Insurance Ireland should set the record straight, and call these companies out for willfully dis-informing the public on the level of fraudulent claims.
“According to Insurance Ireland’s own figures, the number of motor claims from 2014 to 2017 went down by 22 percent; 55,000 less. Despite this, the average motor premium rose by 45 percent in the same period.
“This is also in the context of total personal injury awards being paid out through the Courts and Personal Injuries Assessment Board falling by 15 percent from 2014 to 2018.
“It is crucial that Insurance Ireland speaks out on the fact that premiums have risen despite the falling number and cost of claims.
“Sinn Féin supports the establishment of the Personal Injuries Commission to deal with the level of personal injury awards, and are critical of the Government’s slow action in setting it up.
“We would also set up a Garda Fraud Unit to stamp out fraud if and when it occurs. But we will not accept what has become a public disinformation campaign by the insurance industry in a bid to hide the insurance rip-off.
“We now know that companies are using aggressive and anti-consumer pricing practices to charge customers with artificially high prices, without their knowledge. Insurance Ireland should focus on increasing transparency, ending unfair pricing and getting the facts straight."
Sinn Féin communications spokesperson David Cullinane today said that while rural broadband is a necessity, the government’s plan is not. There were other options on the table, but Fine Gael’s arrogance will end up costing the state billions.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“It is disappointing that Cabinet has signed off on a flawed and compromised broadband plan that is billions over budget.
“The government should not be proceeding with this particular option.
“It is one that has received almost universal criticism – from political parties, Oireachtas committees, senior civil servants, and the industry itself.
“Indeed, last month the Dáil voted to keep the network in public ownership.
“There is nobody except Fine Gael who thinks this plan is a good idea.
“It is regrettable that Minister Bruton has chosen to reject Sinn Féin’s call – echoed by the Communications Committee - for full public ownership of the finished network.
“It is also regrettable that the government has decided to reject all other options on the table, including the option of the ESB as the builder and supplier of the network itself.
“We need to see a National Broadband Plan rolled out, but not one that will leave the State carrying the risk and without owning the infrastructure at the end of the contract.
“The build and operate model, which the Department doggedly pursued despite its structural failures, which will end up costing the State for decades.
“We won’t even own it at the end – indeed, the network can be sold off after nine years.
“Once again, ideology and private interests have trumped the common good – the true legacy of eight years of Fine Gael government.”
Mary Lou McDonald has called on the leadership of political unionism to condemn unequivocally the “sinister and dangerous campaign of threats and intimidation against John Finucane and his family”.
The Sinn Féin President said:
“The campaign of harassment, intimidation and threats against John Finucane and his family has been appalling and dangerous.
“It is yet another sinister attack on the democratic process in what is fast becoming a toxic and dangerous campaign.
“Threats like this have no place in any election campaign. North Belfast deserves better.
“John Finucane is Belfast’s First Citizen. The Finucane family have fought for 30 years for justice after the assassination of John’s father Pat in 1989.
“With dignity and complete resolve they will continue to campaign and speak truth to power, and will not be silenced or intimidated by anyone in 2019.
“I am calling on all those in positions of leadership within political unionism, and in particular the leadership of the DUP to unequivocally condemn this in the strongest possible terms.
“We also need to see political leaders supporting the police in taking action to remove banners, inciting people to hatred, and take action against those responsible.
“I will be raising this directly with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister as political leaders have a responsibility to bring this sinister and dangerous campaign of threats and intimidation against John Finucane to an end.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has hit out at the Dublin Agreement Group for “misleading the public and other councillors” on the proposed development at O’Devaney Gardens.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“The Dublin Agreement Group comprising of Fianna Fáil, Labour, Green and Social Democrats have misled the public and other Dublin City Councillors on the proposed development at Dublin City Council.
“Documentation secured by my colleague Eoin Ó Broin shows that there will be no additional affordable rental accommodation at the site. This is despite claims from the Agreement Group that an additional 30% of the development for affordable rental housing had been secured.
“This deal represents a bonanza for the developer at the expense of the local community and working families. Not alone does it make affordable homes unaffordable for ordinary workers, it also will not deliver a single affordable rental home.
"The group knew this when they pushed their deal through Dublin City Council.
"Sinn Féin has long championed housing on the O'Devaney Gardens site. Our councillors are demanding a special meeting of Dublin City Council to discuss these revelations. This should happen without delay.
“Sinn Féin has the solutions to solve the debacle at O’Devaney Gardens and would deliver a development to meet the needs of the local community and working families.
“Our proposals of 33% social rental, 33% affordable cost rental and 33% affordable sale are the way forward. The Dublin Agreement Group’s bad deal should be scrapped immediately."
Speaking today, Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson on Dublin City Council, Cllr. Daithí Doolan said:
"It is clear that the ruling alliance in Dublin City Council misled the council and the public on O'Devaney Gardens. This is totally unacceptable. The alliance of Fianna Fáil, Greens, Labour and Social Democrats made a claim that there was a deal to deliver social and affordable homes.
"This claim has now proven to be false. In a letter to the Lord Mayor, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy confirms no funds are available for this deal. No meeting even took place to discuss funding this new deal.
"We raised these concerns during the recent debate on their proposed deal. We expressed concerns about where this funding was coming from.
"Sinn Féin will be contacting other parties to discuss holding a special meeting of Dublin City Council to discuss these revelations.
"We opposed this deal because we believed it could not and would not deliver affordable housing or decent community gains. That view is proven to be correct.
"Our alternative proposal to allow Dublin City Council be the lead developer still stands. It would deliver one third council, one third affordable to buy and one third cost rental with strong community gain."
North-Inner City Cllr. Janice Boylan said:
"Residents feel very let down by these revelations. They are the real losers in the alliance's game of political football.
"Sinn Féin have always sought the best deal possible for the local community. Our proposals were based on fact not fiction. I have always been open and honest about proposals to develop this site.
"Our community need this developed as soon as possible. But a deal based on falsehoods will never deliver homes or services."