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Sinn Féin Midlands North West MEP Matt Carthy has extended condolences to the family of Lyra McKee at today’s Easter Commemoration at Drumboe, County Donegal.

In a speech delivered at the Drumboe Easter Commemoration this afternoon Carthy addressed the issues of Brexit, Irish reunification and the housing crisis.

Full speech follows:

1916 Easter Rising Commemoration, Drumboe, Co. Donegal – Easter Sunday 2019, Matt Carthy

I want to begin today by paying tribute to the life of the talented young writer Lyra McKee, shot dead in Derry this week.  We extend our deepest condolences to her grieving partner, family and friends. 

The large vigils that have taken place across Ireland to honour Lyra were an outpouring of grief – for the pointless loss of this bright young woman’s life. But they were also a demonstration of our fierce and united determination to never return to the dark days of the tragic conflict that has scarred our island and its people.

That is the true spirit of republicanism: one built on the foundations of unity, solidarity, community, equality, inclusiveness – and fearlessness.

Ireland – a country that fought an empire

A chairde, this weekend Republicans across Ireland and around the world are gathering as we do each Easter to remember those who gave their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom in the 1916 Rising and at other periods of our history.

Here today we remember especially the Drumboe Martyrs: Charlie Daly, Seán Larkin, Tim O’Sullivan and Dan Enright; Irish freedom fighters who were executed by freestate forces on 14th March 1923 during the tragic civil war which marked a pivotal point in the counter-revolution that followed the tan war.

In 1916, Ireland was the little country that fought the most powerful empire in the world.  On that Easter Monday, just 1200 men and women set out to bring an end to British rule in Ireland – in their words, to “strike a blow for freedom”.  The leaders, including the seven signatories to the Proclamation, were all executed by the British in the weeks that followed.

We remember the ultimate sacrifice they made just as we remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by republicans since. 

Of course, we do not just remember the individuals who led the Easter Rising, but also their vision and the ideals they died for. These ideals were best articulated by James Connolly, Pádaric Pearse and the other signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic – of national sovereignty, equality, social justice, and democratic rights for all.

A decade of centenaries 

Over the past few years we have been marking a of a decade of centenaries of pivotal events in Ireland’s struggle for independence.

In 2013 we marked the Centenary of the Great Lockout when the bosses of Dublin declared war on the workers and their families.

The choice presented to the workers was stark. They could obey the bosses, resign from their union and go back to their tenement slums and their poverty with their heads down. Or they could resist. Thousands chose resistance.

Through the summer and autumn and winter of 1913 and 1914 they faced police brutality, press vilification, Church condemnation and starvation. They seemed defeated, but out of their struggle arose a revived trade union movement and a proud working class.

Again and again, in the decades since the Lockout, those whom Wolfe Tone called the people of no property were offered that same choice – resign or resist.

They were told to resign themselves to their fate when Ireland was partitioned and a sectarian Orange state established in the Six Counties. But the followers of Tone and Connolly again resisted, and stood by the Proclamation of the Republic.

Half a century after the Proclamation, the Civil Rights movement stepped forward and was met with the same choice – resign yourselves to the reality of the one-party sectarian state or resist.

They chose resistance. RUC brutality was resisted. Internment was resisted. The British Army was resisted. Criminalisation in the H-Blocks and Armagh was resisted. Collusion and censorship and the demonisation of whole communities were resisted.

The massive Irish and international commemoration of the centenary of the Rising in 2016 showed the clarion call of the Proclamation has echoed down for a full century – and continues to enthuse and motivate us today in our struggle for the unfinished freedom of our country, and for the unfinished equality of our people.

In 2018, we marked the centenary of the General Election, which saw republicans win 73 of the 105 Irish seats available – a resounding roar from the Irish people that they chose a united, independent, egalitarian republic. 

That year the vote was extended to men above 21 without restriction; women had won limited franchise and could vote if they were over 30 and owned some level of property. The extension of the vote to large sections of the working class was decisive in returning the republican TDs.

As they had committed to, and were given a resounding mandate to do, the TDs abstained from the British Parliament and established an all-Ireland parliament – An Chéad Dáil Éireann.

Democratic Programme

During the first session of that Dáil, 100 years ago, TDs adopted the Democratic Programme – a document less well known than the Proclamation but even more significant in terms of it visionary content of the social and economic transformation Ireland required a century ago, and continues to require today. 

One short paragraph from the Democratic Programme read: 

"It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland.”

Compare those words to the brutal, cold reality of Ireland today. 

Reality of housing crisis

Last month the United Nations wrote a scathingletter to the Irish government, pointing out that homelessness has increased exponentially in the Irish state between 2015 and 2018 – increasing by nearly 96% among adults and by 228% among children over the same period. 

They called the denial of the right to a home an ‘egregious and damaging violation’, which is known to be devastating to the lives and wellbeing of children in particular,including to their physical and mental development. 

The UN report does not limit its critique to the government’s failure to provide shelter for those experiencing homelessness. It outlines exactly how this crisis has developed and identifies the precise government policies that have caused it. 

It points to cuts to the public housing budget, and land hoarding by speculators who deliberately restrict supply in order to inflate rent and prices, and most importantly, the policies that have caused the financialisation of housing in Ireland.

The First Dáil couldn’t deliver on its promises because it was immediately driven underground and  the Irish people were subjected to the terror of the Black and Tans, Civil War, counter revolution and Partition.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have failed

But in this state, we’ve now had a centuryof two-party rule by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and the state they have created is simply a paradise for the bankers, the American vulture funds, international finance and domestic gombeens. 

Ireland is now the favourite spot for the Silicon Valley billionaires to shelter their profits from tax, but we leave our own population homeless on the streets at record levels while families, even those with two incomes, struggle to meet crippling rents and have almost no hope of ever owning their own home.

While Ireland has one of the largest and most dangerous shadow banking sectors in the world we are also home to a health service in chaos where the service one receives depends on how much money is in your bank account and in which part of the country you happen to live.  It is a place where those on the frontline such as our nurses have to take to the streets to fight for better healthcare for us all while private corporations make a killing on the back of our two-tier system. 

This is the price for a century of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in power. 

So, it is time that we choose resistance again – united, determined and fearless – and stand together to fight for a future where people’s lives and the environment are considered more important than corporate profits.

Local elections campaign

We need to do this through every means we available to us – at the local elections, at the European elections, in trade union struggles, and in progressive community campaigns. 

This May, Sinn Féin will be running in election campaigns in local councils across the North and South promoting our message of radical republicanism.

Sinn Féin councillors are delivering real change for communities across Ireland.  They are working hard for the people and the communities we represent, delivering social and affordable housing, community infrastructure and facilities. They are making cities, towns and village better places to live.

Today I want to especially commend the mighty team of Sinn Féin members on Donegal County Council – Gary Doherty, Liam Doherty, Marie Therese Gallagher, Gerry McMonagle, Albert Doherty, Noel Jordon, Jack Murray, John Seamais Ó Fearraigh & Aidy Glacin and to wish them and our new candidates Maria Doherty, Brian Carr, Terry Crossan and Michael McMahon all the best on 24thMay. 

With every additional Sinn Féin councillor elected, the stronger is our ability to create progressive change.  It’s hard work but we can take pride in the fact that we literally improve people’s lives and our local communities every single day.

EU elections 

I said earlier that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have failed us for a century – but this is nowhere made more clear than in the EU.  Some voters may think the EU elections are not important.  But the alarming fact is that these parties are consistently selling us short in Europe.

I have been fighting hard for Ireland as an MEP on issues such as getting the best possible deal for farmers in rural Ireland under the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy. 

We have been fighting the EU tooth and nail on a new proposal that aims to give even more free rein to vulture funds and debt collectors while there hasn’t been a whimper from the other parties. 

Just last week, through my work in the European Parliament, we exposed that the ECB had made profits –yes, profits! – of €73 billion from the so-called aid programmes they granted during the economic crisis.  Not a single Irish media outlet has reported this huge story.

Sinn Féin MEPs are working hard, all day every day, to fight for a radical change in the economic governance of the EU’s economic structures; for social and labour rights for workers; for rights for women and the LGBT community.  We are fighting for real action on climate change, such as forcing the ECB to divest the billions it hands over to the biggest polluters– instead of imposing punitive carbon taxes on the people who have done the least to cause the climate crisis.

We will resist the efforts of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to impose additional charges on working families in the guise of carbon tax hikes.

This EU election will be an all-Ireland election. It’s another opportunity to return an all-Ireland Sinn Féin team to Brussels to fight for Ireland’s interests, to oppose any hard border in Ireland, to oppose the neoliberal agenda, federalisation and the creation of an EU army. 

Sinn Féin has extreme problems with the nature and direction of the EU – but having one part of our country dragged out of the EU against the expressed wishes of the people is a recipe for disaster.

Fighting for Ireland

A lot has been said about Brexit in the past two years.  

And, Ireland has been, of course, central to the Brexit story.  There’s a reason for that.

Actually, it’s four reasons.  It was the Sinn Féin team in Brussels that brought the Irish concerns, particular concerns regarding the border and the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to the heart of Brexit deliberations.  While others accused us of being naïve when we first raised the notion of special status for the north, our efforts ensured that that became, essentially, the position of the Irish government and subsequently the EU.

Our work is not done, so let me make this promise,every day Sinn Féin has representation in Brussels will be a day spent working to ensure that Irish interests, the rights of Irish citizens, and particularly the border regions, are protected.

Ireland did not vote for Brexit.  We do not consent to a hard border.  We believe that the ‘backstop’ contained within the Withdrawal Agreement is a vital insurance policy to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and must be upheld.  It is the absolute bare minimum that is required.

Brexit is clearly causing people to question the constitutional future of the North and encouraging support for an all-island economic, political and social framework. 

The debate on Irish Unity is now mainstream.

Opinion polls must always be taken with a pinch of salt but the overwhelming trend of those carried out in the past two years is clear. The results reflect three important trends. First, there has been a consistent rise in the proportion of people who say they would vote for a united Ireland. 

Second, this trend is most pronounced among young people. 

And thirdly, these trends reflect the continuing major influence of the Brexit debacle on shaping attitudes on this issue in the North.

Now is the time for all of us who believe a united Ireland will provide a better future – parties, community groups, trade unions, businesses and individuals – to work together to seize this historic opportunity. 

We need to build popular support for the demand for a referendum while also working patiently to convince those who disagree that their voices will be heard and respected.

The British and Irish governments need to acknowledge theses changing attitudes and agree to hold a poll so the people can have their say.

We have the right to a referendum on reunification under the Good Friday Agreement and we will not be denied that right.

Our message to those other political parties that sometimes espouse support for Irish unity?  The work must begin now!

So, to Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the SDLP and others we say – join us now in framing the conversation; let us take the conversation to the next level, let’s include all stakeholders and communities and let us map out how we can secure a referendum on unity, win it and make a united Ireland a success for all the people of our country.

We’re up for it.  We’re up for working together to achieve the goal of Connolly and Pearse and the Drumboe Martyrs – it’s time for others to let it be known who is with us.

A chairde, as we leave this spot today be assured that we’re on the road towards a united Ireland.  It will take a lot of work but it is going to happen sooner, I suspect, than many people realise.  So concurrently we need to work to ensure that the united Ireland we deliver is one that allows us to reach our full potential as a nation, that it becomes a Republic worthy of it’s name, one that delivers on the promise of Proclamation and the Democratic Programme. 

That will be the most fitting commemoration we can give to all those we honour here today.

 Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.

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Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill today called on those who brought guns on to the streets of Derry to disband and end their futile actions.

Speaking at the Easter Commemoration in Derry today the Sinn Féin Deputy Leader said;

“Let me take a moment to address what happened in this city in recent days with the brutal murder of a young woman and journalist, Lyra McKee.

“The people who brought guns onto the street, and those who organize them do not represent any version of Irish republicanism.

“They have no politics, no strategy, and no popular support amongst the vast number of ordinary people from this city or anywhere else in the country.

“Their actions are a barrier to Irish unity.

“Sadly, what we have here is a small number of people caught in a time warp who have self appointed themselves to carry out actions which are pointless, anti-peace, anti-community and frankly, antiquated.

“They are living in a fools paradise if they think they are any type of rival to Sinn Féin and the Nationalist/Republican and progressive people of Derry or the 32 counties.

“To those young people circling these people, consider what type of future you want for your kids and grandkids – there are two futures on offer – one of peace, opportunity and Irish reunification, or one of death, imprisonment which serves no cause, community or people.

“Ask yourself what type of life and what type of Ireland do you want to be part of.

“It is high time these people disbanded and ended their futile actions which are a barrier to achieving Irish unity.”

ENDS

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Speaking at the Easter commemoration in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery today Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said that the current political stalemate in the north cannot continue.

And the Sinn Féin leader said that in the absence of the power-sharing institutions a new British Irish partnership – a joint authority - is required to implement the agreements and safeguard rights.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

“It’s now more than two years since Martin McGuinness called time on the DUP; on the lack of respect, the denial of rights and the scandals that fatally undermined the power-sharing institutions.

“For more than two years Sinn Féin has stood ready to re-establish sustainable power-sharing, to resolve the outstanding issues and to serve in government.

“Today we are ready for that challenge.

“However the British government and their pact with the DUP have stalled and stymied the political process.

“The current stalemate cannot continue.

“Last year we reached agreement with the DUP leadership to re-establish the power-sharing but they walked away and in so doing they refused to honour the agreements and work in genuine power-sharing.

“We are left with political instability and a continuing stalemate. 

“This British Government by way of response threatens direct rule.

“Let me say clearly that such a move would be an effective binning of the agreement and its power-sharing institutions.

“This cannot and must not happen.

“So if the DUP is not up for genuine power-sharing, delivery of rights and equality, then the Irish government must act.

“There is an urgent need for the convening of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

"In the absence of the power-sharing institutions the alternative is not direct rule but a new British Irish partnership – a joint authority - to implement the agreements and safeguard rights.” 

The full text of Mary Lou McDonald’s address below

Mary Lou McDonald Keynote Address Belfast Easter Sunday Commemoration

Go raibh míle maith agaibh a gcairde agus a gcomrádaithe.

Táim lán-sásta seasamh anseo libh i mBéal Feirste inniu.

Agus is mór an onóir dom an óraid a thabhairt ar an ócáid stairiúil seo - ag comóradh Seachtain na Cásca 1916.

It is an honour to address you today.

There is no more fitting place for a republican to be on an Easter Sunday than at the graveside of our patriot dead.

Revolutionaries that gave all; years lost to prisons and lives cut short. 

We stand with the families of our patriot dead, humbled by your dignity and inspired by your resilience.

Tá muid fíor bhuíoch daoibhse go léir.

Across Ireland republicans gather to remember.

To remember the Rising. To remember the generations that came before and those who came after.

Generations separated only by time; united forever by a thirst for equality, freedom and sovereignty.

Ideals that are shared with many across the world.

I would like to welcome the delegation of American Trade Union leaders who are with us today.

You remain our exiled children, our friends and our family.

The inheritors of James Connolly, proclaiming that the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland and the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour.

There would have been no rising without America and there would be no peace process without American activists.

We thank you for your constant support as we continue our journey.

It is particularly fitting that you visit on the one hundredth anniversary of An Chéad Dáil.

In 1918 Republicans won a landslide victory.

It was the last All-Ireland election and the people voted for freedom. 

It became known as the Sinn Féin election. 

The new MPs decided to use their mandate in the only way fitting for republicans. They turned their back on Westminster and declared An Chéad Dáil.

They were proud abstentionists. We remain proud abstentionists.

Our place is here, our place is in Ireland.

That election returned the first woman elected to Westminster; Constance Markievicz the most unmanageable of revolutionaries.

One hundred years ago this month Markievicz was appointed Ireland’s and Europe’s first female cabinet Minister.

This was a truly revolutionary generation.

A generation that put equality into practice.

A generation that was betrayed by a counter revolution and a carnival of reaction.

An orange state was born, repression, discrimination and pogroms were used to consolidate a perpetual unionist majority.

Revolutionary ideals were lost to a civil war. Freedom, unity and equality were betrayed, home rule did indeed become Rome rule.

Sons and daughters exiled, women condemned to the Mothers and Babies homes and republicans interned and executed.

The legacy of the counter revolution lives with us still.

Our island remains partitioned, our people separated. Inequality persists and poverty remains. All of this is an affront to Irish republicanism.

The establishment parties refuse to plan and act to end partition. Fine Gael ‘The United Ireland Party’, Fianna Fáil the ‘The Republican Party’ without a hint of irony or shame declare, ‘now is not the time to talk about Irish unity’.

Let me say, over one hundred years on from the rising, now is the time to talk about unity. Now is the time to build for unity.

We have a British government that believes it can act with impunity.

That they can continue to deny the truth of their dirty war in Ireland and continue to shield their soldiers and armed forces from justice.

They did not count on the determination and dignity of the families of Ballymurphy, Springhill and Bloody Sunday.

Truth will win out. The crimes of Britain in Ireland will be exposed. The shoot to kill, the collusion and the corruption of justice.

We have a British Government that believes it can decree that Irish citizens in the North are by default British.

Belfast is a shared city, there are those who are British citizens. That is their right. Their entitlement and I respect that.

We are not British, with an aspiration to being Irish. We are Irish citizens. No British government can change or challenge that fact.

The Taoiseach has said that Irish citizens in the north will never again be left behind.

Now is the time to put that to the test. A time for the Irish government to assert and safeguard the rights of Irish citizens in Belfast. To stand by, and to stand up for the Good Friday Agreement.

Taoiseach, hollow words are no good, Irish citizens need action.

It’s now more than two years since Martin McGuinness called time on the DUP; On the lack of respect, the denial of rights and the scandals that fatally undermined the power-sharing institutions.

For more than two years Sinn Féin has stood ready to re-establish sustainable power-sharing, to resolve the outstanding issues and to serve in government.

Today we are ready for that challenge.

However the British government and their pact with the DUP have stalled and stymied the political process.

The current stalemate cannot continue.

Last year we reached agreement with the DUP leadership to re-establish power-sharing but they walked away and in so doing they refused to honour the agreements and work in genuine power-sharing.

We are left with political instability and a continuing stalemate. 

This British Government by way of response threatens direct rule.

Let me say clearly that such a move would be an effective  binning of the agreement and its power-sharing institutions.

This cannot and must not happen.

So if the DUP is not up for genuine power-sharing, delivery of rights and equality, then the Irish government must act.

There is an urgent need for the convening of the  British Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

In the absence of the power-sharing institutions the alternative is not direct rule but a new British Irish partnership – a joint authority -  to implement the agreements and safeguard rights.

Seo an rialtas céanna sa Bhreatain a chreideann gur féidir leo a thoil a bhrú ar Éirinn.

Creideann siad gur féidir leo an Breatimeacht a bhrú i gcoinne mhianta an phobail agus leasa ár náisiúin. Creideann siad gur féidir leo teorainn chrua a bhrú orainn. Ní féidir leo.

Tá an bealach chun an Breatimeacht a shárú soiléir. Tá an bealach chun an teorainn in Éirinn a ghlanadh. Tá an bealach ar ais chun an Aontais Eorpaigh soiléir fosta.

As Brexit looms against the democratic will of the people and threatens to undermine our agreements, our rights ad our economy. The way forward is increasingly clear.

The Good Friday Agreement provides for a referendum on Irish Unity. That referendum must be secured and won.

The perpetual unionist majority is gone. Time is up for partition.

A new and united Ireland is emerging.

It will not be easy and it will not be without challenge.

This generation can deliver a united Ireland and a republic worthy of the name.

The sacrifices of our patriots do not need to be repeated.

They fought because there was no other way. The denial of democratic rights and repressive regimes left no other pathway to unity.

But now we have a democratic and peaceful pathway to unity.

This is the agreed and only way for Irish republicans.

We saw on the streets of Derry the brutal killing of Lyra McKee.

We extend our sympathy and solidarity to her family, to Sara and to all who loved her.

There is no cause progressed by armed actions.

There is no justification for armed actions.

There is no support for armed actions.

This Easter the people of Derry and beyond have said that with one voice.

The war is over.

A new and united Ireland is emerging. It will be built by the community. It will be built through dialogue and respect.

It will be built peacefully and democratically.

So it is past time for these groups that masquerade as republicans to pack up. To cease their activities and let the people get on with building the Ireland we all want.

An Ireland that will be a tribute for our patriot dead and for all those who died.

The Ireland in which Lyra McKee should have lived.

It is the job of our generation of republicans not just to remember the dead but to realise their hopes and dreams by our deeds and words.

The new united Ireland we build; must be the legacy of all those who have died.

A united Ireland of equal citizens

Equal citizens with equal rights and due equal respect.

That celebrates our diversity; the right to speak our native language, the right to marry the person you love, the right to truth.

A united Ireland of shared prosperity and equal opportunity.

In which there can be no place for poverty, homelessness or the erosion of workers’ rights.An Ireland of opportunity, the opportunity to learn, to work, to raise a family and to grow old; with the security of a home, health care and a helping hand.

A United Ireland peaceful and reconciled.

Where respect is afforded to all citizens. Where you can be British, Irish, both or neither.

One community, free from segregation and separation.

There are some who object to us asserting our political identity. They object to us remembering our dead.

To them I say no one has the right to censor or deny grief. 

We all have the right to remember with dignity and respect.

In her poem ‘why some people be mad at me sometimes’, African-American poet and civil rights activist Lucile Clifton simply wrote. 

'they ask me to remember

but they want me to remember their memories

and I keep remembering mine.’

A reconciled Ireland must be a place for all with all our experiences and memories.

A place to express our politics, our aspirations and our hopes.

A place  to sing our songs, tell our stories and remember our dead free from rancour or objection.

A place resounding with the laughter of all our children. A tribute to the vision of Bobby Sands and his comrades.

The time for building a united Ireland is now.

In the coming weeks we will have elections North and South. This is an opportunity to put forward our vision of a new and united Ireland. To do so with confidence and generosity.

Electing Sinn Féin councillors across Ireland makes the difference.

Electing Sinn Féin MEPs makes the difference.

Sinn Féin is a party that thinks nationally and acts locally.

We are internationalists and value Ireland’s place in the world. Standing against injustice and persecution. Standing for peace and equality. 

Our struggle is one of hope and perseverance. Of hard work and sacrifice.  Of standing up for what is right and refusing to bow down. That is the republican way.

So it was when James Connolly came to Belfast as a union organiser.

He described the Belfast mills as, ‘slaughter houses for the women and penitentiaries for the children’.

In his address to the Linen Slaves of Belfast, co-signed by Ellen Gordon and Winifred Carney, whose graveside is nearby.

He wrote.

‘Sisters and fellow-workers, talk this matter over, do not be frightened by the timid counsels and fears of weaklings. Be brave. Have confidence in yourselves. Talk about success and you will achieve success.

The future is ours to shape.

We are building a new united Ireland.

That work starts in homes, workplaces and communities across Ireland.

Be brave. Be confident. Be patient and be generous.

This is our time, this is your time.

The day is coming, Irish Unity is within our grasp.

We will have a republic worthy of the sacrifice of our patriots.

It will be a home to all. 

So sin é a chairde.

Leanaigí ar aghaidh leis an obair.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.

Up the Republic.

An Phoblacht Abú! 

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Speaking after a rally was held in Belfast this afternoon, demanding the rights of Irish citizens in the North be fully protected and legislated for under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said;

“I want to commend those who took a respectful stand in defence of our rights today. 

“A core tenet of the Good Friday Agreement states that a person born in the North can identify and crucially, be accepted, as Irish, British or both, and therefore is afforded equal treatment with regard to their rights. 

“The assertions from the British Government in recent weeks that, ‘as a mater of law’ everyone born in the North is British, is a flagrant breach of the GFA.

“The message from today’s rally was clear, the British and Irish Government must take urgent and practical steps to fully codify in law their joint-obligations on citizenship contained within the Good Friday Agreement.

“This week in the Seanad we again heard encouraging words from An Taoiseach in relation to our rights - it’s now time we saw action. We are Irish. We are citizens. We will not accept being second class.” 

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A chairde agus a chomrádaithe, 

It is great to see you all here today at this local commemoration where we gather to commemorate our republican patriots and our fallen dead who we honour and remember today, and over the course of this Easter weekend.

In January past, we commemorated the First Dáil and its adoption of the Democratic Programme – a seminal moment in Irish republican history.

Three years ago republicans the length and breadth of Ireland and internationally commemorated the centenary of the Easter Rising and 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

I am proud to say that here in Tyrone that history was brought to life.

We remembered then, as we do today, all those who dedicated their lives and gave themselves selflessly to the ideals of the Republic in every era over the past century of struggle – including the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na gCailíní, na Fianna, Cumann na mBan and Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Today we remember and we recommit to the cause of Irish freedom, the cause of equality and the cause of Irish unity. 

Ireland is again at a point of great change. 

The orange state is gone. 

The perpetual unionist majority in the north has ended. 

The forces of conservative Ireland no longer enjoy the unquestioning support of citizens. 

The old orange and green is now part of a rainbow of colours and identities. 

And a new Ireland is emerging.

We are a changing party, a growing party. 

We are a new leadership building on the legacy and work of all those who came before us.

Over the past two decades the entire island of Ireland has been transformed as a result of the Irish peace process, where we have emerged from decades of political conflict and towards a better, peaceful and democratic society.

The Good Friday Agreement provided an end to conflict and provided a peaceful, democratic alternative and a huge opportunity for us all to design a better society for ourselves and succeeding generations to live in.

It was, and remains a precious gift of peace to our young people and it is indispensable. 

At this time everyone knows that Theresa May’s Government is wholly reliant on the DUP to stay in power, and she is therefore prioritising this self-serving agenda over the peace and political processes.

All roads will lead back to the negotiating table and we stand ready to enter any Talks process that is serious and credible, which confronts the issues which need resolved in order to have proper power-sharing Government which commands public confidence.

This includes respect for our Irish national identity and citizenship, including our language, and other important matters.

This includes dealing with the past where they are attempting to protect British State forces and deny truth and justice to the many families who lost love ones at the hands of the British army and Crown forces during the conflict.

It is beyond time the British government implemented the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in a human rights compliant manner.

If we are serious about dealing with legacy then we must ensure that families no longer have to pursue due process in this long drawn-out manner.

It is a disgrace that families are still waiting on truth and justice.

Sinn Féin will continue to stand with all families in their pursuit of truth and justice for their loved ones.

When Martin McGuinness resigned he said that there will no going back to the status quo.

Sinn Féin is wholly determined to deliver on his word.

Despite the current political vacuum a new Assembly and new type of politics is possible.

The onus is squarely on both governments to remove the obstacles to restoring the Assembly.

There is no going back.  We must only go forward.

Let me take a moment to address what happened in Derry city in recent days with the brutal murder of a young woman and journalist, Lyra McKee.

The people who brought guns onto the street, and those who organised them do not represent any version of Irish republicanism.

They have no politics, no strategy, and no popular support amongst the vast number of ordinary people from Derry, or anywhere else in our country.

These groups should disband and end their futile acts of violence.

We extend today our sympathies and condolences to Lyra McKee’s family and partner, her friends and her colleagues.

Today I believe we are facing the greatest change in Irish politics since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, not least because of the unwanted Brexit being foisted upon us.

Brexit undermines our hard-won agreements, rights and prosperity of citizens. 

I have said that Brexit belongs to the British and if they wish to leave the EU good luck to them, but the Good Friday Agreement belongs to Ireland.

We will defend our national interests at every turn.

Sinn Féin has worked to protect the Good Friday Agreement, citizens’ right and to prevent any hardening of the border.

The Westminster parliament is complete chaos and Sinn Féin won’t send republican representatives to be part of that mess.

We are proud abstentionists.

Now is the time to look to the future and to begin to plan for a unity referendum in line with the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin has been clear that in the event of a no-deal crash-out Brexit then the two governments have the responsibility to call referenda on Irish Unity under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, thus providing a route back into Europe for the whole of the island.

The Local Government Elections on May 2nd come at a pivotal time in our political process.

It’s your opportunity to stand against Brexit and the DUP/Tory toxic pact which is poisoning our politics locally and continues to deny people their rights.

A strengthened Sinn Féin vote is the best way of combating this destructive agenda.

Integrity and genuine power-sharing are not negotiable. They are essential. 

Sinn Féin want a new Ireland based on equal treatment and rights for all citizens.

Sinn Féin is the only party capable of delivering this future.

We are building it every day. 

In every corner of Ireland. 

In communities, in council chambers where we deliver for all citizens and all communities.

On 2nd May the people across the North have an opportunity to come out and vote for this new Ireland.

Here in Coalisland Sinn Féin will stand 4 candidates – Niamh Doris, Joe O’Neill, Ronan McGinley and Mickey Gillespie.  

Despite all of the political challenges, this is an exciting time for republican politics.

Irish unity is now a mainstream debate.

We’ve seen in recent weeks prominent voices coming out including Jarlath Burns, Mary McAleese and others who are saying that Brexit has now opened up the debate on reunification.

The political landscape is rapidly changing North and South and it is a time to be part of this change.

We have an opportunity to end the union, to end partition and build a new and united Ireland.  

We are for a New Ireland, a fairer Ireland, and a united Ireland.

If you want unity you need a credible vehicle to get there.  

Sinn Féin is that vehicle. 

We want more people to come on board and join us and be part of this change.

A Unity Referendum is coming and we are preparing for it.

We have to build Sinn Féin into a mass movement and build alliances with other progressives in the trade union movement, civic society and other parties.

We must be a credible political party which is fit for purpose who can organise and deliver such change – and which the people of Ireland want to give their support to.

We must sell our vision.

Political organising and campaigning has been the bread and butter of Sinn Fein since its inception in 1905 and a century of struggle.

The party is standing 400 candidates in the local elections across Ireland in May.

We are a party on the move.

I not only appeal to you to help us win more support and get people voting Sinn Féin, I want to invite you to join us. Become a member of the party and give whatever you can.

Irish unity is within our grasp.

We are making history.

This is a time for confidence.

To push ourselves and challenge ourselves.

A time for us to be generous.

This is a time for Irish Unity.

And we use this Easter weekend to recommit ourselves to build a new and United Ireland which is a fitting tribute and honour to our patriot dead and those who have struggled for freedom.

Beirigí Bua.

Míle buíochas agus go raibh mile maith agaibh go leor.

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Speaking today Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

“Easter weekend will see republicans gather to remember the patriot dead and look towards the new and united Ireland.

“In 1998 the vast majority of citizens voted for the Good Friday Agreement, for rights and equality, for power-sharing and for a peaceful and democratic way forward.

“There are some that opposed the Good Friday Agreement. They have sought to undermine the peace process, the agreements and to drag Ireland back to conflict.

“They have attacked the peace process and the people for over twenty one years. They have failed and they will not succeed.

“In the latest of their outrages they killed a young journalist and activist Lyra McKee.

“Their actions serve no cause and their continued existence only bring hardship, injury and death. The war is over, the future is in the hands of all who share this island.

“A new and united Ireland will not come from conflict, but by dialogue, agreement and democracy.

“It is time for these gangs, masquerading as republicans to end their futile actions and let the community get on with building a future of all the people.

“Now is the time for political leaders and the community to stand in defence of our agreements, to stand for power-sharing and rights.  

“That is the only fitting tribute we can pay to Lyra.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for health Pat Sheehan has voiced his frustration at the lack of response from the Department of Health to concerns raised about the Breast Assessment consultation process.

Mr Sheehan said: "I wrote to the department over two weeks ago raising a number of concerns with the Breast Assessment services consultation and as yet I have not received answers to my questions.

"We are now three weeks into the consultation process and the department have failed to provide the clarity needed, particularly with regard to the evidence underpinning their proposal, to reduce breast assessment services from five sites to three.

 "It was only after being challenged by Sinn Féin that the Department published an Equality Screening and Rural Impact Assessment.

"There are genuine concerns that the department have pre-determined the configuration of breast assessment services by putting forward only one option in the consultation and that this could have future implications for other breast cancer services such as treatment and surgery. 

"Meaningful partnership working with those who use and those who deliver services is fundamental to any transformation of health services and requires the evidence underpinning proposed changes to be made available.

"The department needs to demonstrate fully how its proposal reflects meaningful partnership working and provide the clarity I and others have been seeking. 

"The department needs to stop running down the clock on this consultation and address the genuine concerns that are being raised. 

"Failure to be open and transparent undermines confidence in the Breast Assessment consultation process and transformation more broadly." 

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Carthy: Fine Gael complicity for EU army is a betrayal of Irish people that will cost us millions

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has slammed the Irish government for its continued complicity in the relentless EU drive to create an EU army.  The Midlands North West MEP was speaking following the final voting session of this parliamentary mandate, in which MEPs voted to establish a European Defence Fund and finance it with €13billion of taxpayers’ money.  One Fine Gael MEP voted in favour and while others abstained on this dangerous proposal.

Carthy said: “We often hear that the European Union’s greatest achievement is that it has been a successful ‘project of peace’.  Peace projects don’t need armies!

“It is astonishing that EU elected representatives would sign up to providing €13billion to set up a new European Defence Fund, a key staging post in the development of an EU army.  That they would do so while simultaneously reducing funding to key funding programmes such as CAP and the Cohesion programme and at a time when public services are at breaking point is mind-boggling.

“All the while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are complicit in this aggressive militarisation drive.

“Despite Sinn Féin MEPs warning for years of the dangers of this agenda, and the threat it poses to Irish military neutrality, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have remained, at best silent, and often openly complicit.  The fact the Fine Gael MEPs have either voted for or abstained on this latest proposal is truly a disgrace and a betrayal of the Irish people and our constitution.

“Europe is still exporting weapons of war on a mass scale to Saudi Arabia, responsible for the ongoing starvation of the people of Yemen. Britain and France top the export list among EU states but many other EU member states, including Ireland, are also selling weapons or dual-use items to arm Saudi Arabia – despite the European Parliament's repeated demands for an EU arms embargo on this pariah state.

“Sinn Féin’s group in the European Parliament, GUE/NGL, tabled a minority report completely rejecting the proposal - on the grounds that it advocates the rapid further militarisation of the EU and Member States; promotes an arms race; and subsidises investments in defence and military research and development, in spite of the social crisis and environmental impact of these activities.

“I have raised the illegality of the EDF directly with the Commission, as it breaches Article 41(2) of the Treaty, which clearly prohibits defence-related funding measures being taken from the general budget of the EU. I based these questions on an important legal study carried out by the University of Bremen, which concluded that EU funding of such an instrument breaches EU law.

“In the Orwellian double-speak of the Commission, it responded to me by claiming ‘the EDF would foster the competitiveness and innovativeness of the Union’s defence technological and industrial base by supporting defence-oriented research and development activities, without providing any funding to operations having military or defence implications’.

“This is pure nonsense. The establishment of the EDF, and its funding by the general EU budget is illegal.  Full stop.

"The election of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil MEPs next month will accelerate the drive to an EU army, with all of the costs, risks and dangers that this entails for the Irish people.

“Sinn Féin representatives are needed at European level to demand that our country does not contribute increased sums to an EU budget that prioritises military expansion ahead of delivering public services, creating sustainable jobs and securing EU funding where it is needed most."

ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA Declan Kearney has strongly condemned the latest theft of two ATMs which was carried out at Tesco in Crumlin last night.

Declan Kearney said:

“The latest ATM theft carried out at Tesco in Crumlin last night will have serious repercussions for the people of Crumlin and the wider community.

“This is not a victimless crime. Those behind this criminality have demonstrated absolute contempt for the residents of Crumlin and the wider rural community, which depends on these ATMs for everyday needs. As a result the local Tesco store will remain closed today. 

“Those responsible are criminals. Their actions represent a criminal attack upon this local community. They must be put before the courts and held accountable for these actions.

 “Anyone with information relating to this theft which will assist the PSNI inquiry should contact police or Crimestoppers and ensure the criminals involved are brought before the courts and put off our streets.”

Speaking from the scene of the theft this morning, Sinn Féin Councillor and election candidate for the area, Anne Marie Logue, also appealed for help to apprehend the criminals.

Cllr Logue said:

“The Crumlin community are devastated to find that they are now the latest victims of this spate of ATM thefts. 

“This is not only an act of wanton theft and destruction of property, it is an attack on the whole community who rely on the ATM services which are now no longer available to them.

“The fact it has happened in the run up to Easter will be an added inconvenience and source of huge disruption to the people of Crumlin and the surrounding areas.

“I would ask the public to pass any information about this theft directly to the police by ringing their incident line 101, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.” 

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Carthy forces ECB to reveal it profited by 73 billion from eurozone misery

 

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the increased transparency at the ECB that he was instrumental in achieving, but condemned the organisation for making massive profits from the peripheral economies during the darkest days of the Eurozone crisis. 

 

Carthy successfully amended a European Parliament report responding to the ECB’s Annual Report 2017, demanding the the ECB “disclose the full amounts of profits made by the Eurosystem through ANFAs and SMP from 2010 until the full expiration of he programme, with a specific breakdown per countries which have been subject to SMP purchases (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy)”. He tabled the amendment jointly with Belgian Green MEP Philippe Lamberts.

 

Speaking today, Friday, Carthy said: “After years of fighting in the European Parliament for increased transparency over ECB decisions and policies, strongly supported by civil society organisations – particularly Positive Money – we now have access to the figures the ECB previously kept secret.

 

“What was long suspected – that the ECB has been profiting from the Securities Market Programme (SMP) it used to purchase 218 billion euros of bonds from the peripheral economies at the height of the sovereign debt crisis – has now been confirmed. 

 

“The shocking figures in the new data from the ECB reveal that from 2010, the ECB has made 73 billions euros in profits on debt lent to Spain, Ireland, Italy, Ireland and Greece at the height of the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis – a crisis that the ECB in fact played a major role in creating. 

 

“This includes the ECB making profits of almost 6 billion euros from Ireland under the SMP. The supposed ‘rescue mission’ of the ECB in purchasing country’s bonds turned into a massive profit-making venture.

 

“The ECB was bound to provide this data under its obligation to provide ‘feedback’ to the European Parliament’s annual report on the ECB. I welcome the fact that the majority of MEPs backed my amendment demanding the release of this information, and that the ECB actually provided it. 

 

“But it is the totally unaccountable Eurogroup, which does not even have any basis in EU law, that makes decisions on any refunds to Member States of these funds. The Eurogroup is notorious for its point-blank refusal to be subjected to any form of public scrutiny and has refused to provide any information on this whatsoever.

 

“I and other progressive MEPs have been backing the WeMoveEU and Eurodad campaign – supported by almost 150,000 EU citizens – demanding the full return of the profits made out of the SMP and ANFA programmes to Greece, after its fiscal waterboarding by the Troika.

 

“Every cent of profit that the ECB has sucked from the countries worst affected by the crisis, in their hour of need, must be returned to those countries in full and without delay.” ENDS

 

Note to editors: 

The ECB's feedback document is here: https://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/other/ecb.20190401_feedback_on_the_input_provided_by_the_european_parliament~4bb38cfab0.en.pdf?8a3e7a59fb072f5f3c6d4054cf8372fc

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“We want to express our condemnation in the strongest terms possible at the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

"The murder of Lyra McKee is first and foremost a devastating loss for her grieving partner, family and friends, and our thoughts are with them at this awful time.

"Lyra’s murder was also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes.  

"It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere.  

"We are united in rejecting those responsible for this heinous crime.

"They have no support in the community, must be brought to justice and should disband immediately. 

"We reiterate our support for the PSNI, who while carrying out their duties were also the target of last night’s attack. We call on anyone with any information to bring that forward to the police and assist their inquiries.

"This is a time for calm heads.” 

Michelle O'Neill  (Sinn Féin) 

Arlene Foster  (DUP) 

Robin Swann  (UUP) 

Colum Eastwood (SDLP) 

Naomi Long  (Alliance) 

Clare Bailey  (Green Party) 


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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has urged people to attend a community-led vigil in response to last night’s events where a young woman was shot dead in Creggan. 

The Foyle MP said:

“There is shock and sadness in the community following the reprehensible killing of young journalist, Lyra McKee. 

“The so-called dissidents responsible for this senseless killing offer nothing to our community or the people of Creggan. 

“The murder of Lyra McKee is an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace process and on the Good Friday Agreement.  

“We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who have claimed another life on our streets last night. 

“Community leaders will hold a vigil today at 2pm at Fanad Drive - I am calling on people to come out, stand together and send a clear message that this killing is not in our name.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has extended her condolences to the family of Lyra McKee who was killed in Derry last night.

Teachta McDonald, who is travelling to Derry today, condemned those responsible for Ms McKee’s killing and called on anyone with information to bring it forward to the PSNI.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

“It was with great horror and sadness that I learned of the killing of Lyra McKee on the streets of Derry last night.

“Ms McKee will be remembered as kind, caring and passionate journalist and advocate. 

“Her contribution to society stands in marked contrast to those who brutally took her life

“I extend my condolences to her grieving family. 

“These so-called dissident groups who took her life offer nothing only hardship and suffering. 

“As a society and a nation we are looking to a peaceful future. A future that has no place for violence.

“They do not represent the community, the people of Derry or wider opinion. 

“The murder of Lyra McKee is an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace process and on the Good Friday Agreement.  

“It is well past time for these groups to go, to end their actions and let the society get on with building a peaceful future.

“I will be travelling to Derry today to stand by the people of the city and to reject those who brought death onto its streets last night.

“This is a time for calm heads and for the community to unite in opposition to those responsible for this act and I urge anyone with any information on this murder to bring it forward to the police.”

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has said her thoughts are with the family of a 29-year-old woman shot dead by so-called dissidents in Derry tonight.

And the Sinn Féin Deputy Leader condemned those responsible for the killing saying it was an attack on all the community, an attack on the peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement. 

Michelle O'Neill said:

“I am shocked and saddened at the tragic news that a young woman has been shot dead by so-called dissidents in the Creggan estate tonight.

“My first thoughts and that of my party are with the family of the woman killed. This is a senseless loss of life.

“The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement.

“I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman.

“We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who care nothing for the people of Derry.

“We remain united in our determination to building a better and peaceful future for all.

“Those responsible should listen to the people, they should disband immediately and end their pointless actions against the community which tonight has tragically claimed the life of a young woman.

“I have spoken with the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton tonight. 

“I am appealing for calm and I urge anyone with any information about this killing to bring it forward immediately to the police and assist their inquiries.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has accused the government of “rolling out the red carpet for vulture funds”.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Teachta Doherty said:

“Last year, Ulster Bank sold a portfolio of loans known as Project Scariff - worth €1.6 billion - to a vulture fund called Promontoria Scariff.

“A company called ‘Cabot Financial Ireland’ is now administering these loans and has written to all buy-to-let mortgage holders who are behind in their payments, demanding that all arrears are cleared within 30 days.

“It is telling borrowers to clear their arrears within 30 days or a fixed asset receiver will be appointed. 

“That means they are taking the asset whether there is negative or positive equity. 

“For those in positive equity, they will quickly see this disappear as receiver and legal fees clock up. 

“This is a direct consequence of government policy and Minister Donohoe’s rolling out of the red carpet to vulture funds. 

“And it is precisely because of the actions of Cabot here that people fear vulture funds and fear for their homes. 

“Moving to the final option without any genuine engagement with borrowers is absolutely unacceptable. 

“People live in these properties. They are people’s homes, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.

“It is now time to clip the wings of these vultures once and for all.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Education and Skills Kathleen Funchion TD said that the Minister for Housing was “completely out of touch” with the realities facing children living in homelessness or the impact it has on children’s’ educations.

Speaking today during Statements on Youth Homelessness in the Dáil Deputy Funchion said:
“The difficult day to day circumstances encountered by children living in emergency accommodation has an effect on every aspect of their lives, particularly their education.

“Two main challenges facing children accessing their education is problems with transportation, and no suitable place to study once having left school for the day.
 
“It can’t be guaranteed that emergency accommodation will be located near a student’s school. This often results in students spending large parts of their days travelling to and from school – time which could be spent focusing on homework or study. 

“The Ombudsman for Children’s report ‘No Place Like Home’ launched today depicted a very bleak picture of what children living in hubs face. 

“Dr. Niall Muldoon is calling for an independent evaluation of family hubs and I fully support that call.

“All of these factors created by homelessness create a hugely challenging situation for any child who is homeless to access their right to a fair education and equal start in life.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Deirdre Hargey has urged people to support this weekend’s rally in support of the rights of Irish citizens.

Cllr Hargey said:

“As the Brexit chaos at Westminster continues, so does the threat to our rights as Irish citizens.

“The Good Friday Agreement provides an important framework for rights. Rights that will be lost to Irish citizens in the north.

“The recent declaration made by the British migration minister Caroline Nokes who stated that “as a matter of law” everyone in the north of Ireland is British shows the complete disregard the British government has for the Good Friday Agreement.

“By refusing to even recognise Irish citizens in the north of Ireland, the British government is disregarding the Good Friday Agreement in a reckless fashion.

“The Good Friday Agreement was clear, people born in the north have the right to be British, Irish, neither or both.

“It is time the Irish government as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement stood up for the rights of Irish citizens in the north.

“I would like to commend all those who are fighting for the rights for all Irish citizens who could potentially be caught by this inept and tone-deaf British government.

“Sinn Féin is urging as many people as possible to come out and support this event at 12noon on Saturday at Belfast City Hall.”

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Sinn Féin’s deputy spokesperson for Public Expenditure & Reform, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to change the Development Board of the National Children’s Hospital.

Deputy O'Brien also said that Minister Harris must ensure quarterly progress reports are audited by DPER to ensure the project does not suffer further cost escalations.

Speaking this afternoon, the Cork North-Central TD said:

“The recent PwC report, at a cost of €4,500 per page, revealed little new information beyond confirming what was already known - poor oversight by the Development Board and other governance structures, a flawed procurement strategy and a total disengagement from Government.

“The report was highly critical of the Development Board which has been responsible for overseeing the project for several years, and includes the Chief Procurement Officer in this State.

"It recommended strengthening the Board to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated.

“Last week at the Health Committee I questioned the ability of the Minister for Health to strengthen the Board without removing current members.

"While the Minister had said he could strengthen the Board without removing members, he last night accepted that current legislation prohibits him from doing so.

“The Minister can only strengthen the Board by removing current members.

“I therefore call on the Minister to announce which members he will be removing from the Board to ensure it has the adequate expertise to ensure it is completed on time and without any further cost escalation.

“Further to this, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed that his department has failed to audit any of the quarterly progress reports of the National Children’s Hospital, despite being recommended to do so by the IMF nearly two years ago.

“His Department must ensure that this project is audited from now until completion, and reform its procurement policies to ensure this fiasco is never repeated.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill MLA attended the ceremony to confer an Honorary Degree on Congressman Richard Neal at Ulster University, Magee today. 

Speaking from Derry city she said:

“It is very significant that the US House of Congressional Delegation is visiting Ireland this week to see and hear at first hand the impact Brexit uncertainty is already having on our people, businesses and peace.

“US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has again stated strongly and unequivocally her support for the Good Friday Agreement and for the protection of Irish interests in the face of Brexit.

“I welcome the strength of support from the Congressional delegation, including Chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Richie Neal who we are honouring today in Derry.

“He and 22 other members of Congress recently wrote to British prime minister Theresa May calling on her government to honour the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I welcome his clear support and that of the delegation who have warned that any future free-trade agreement between the US and Britain is not on the cards if there was a return to a hard border on our island.

“Successive US administrations provided critical support to aid our peace process and in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement twenty one years ago.

“Those who seek to undermine our agreements, our peace and our rights would do well to take on board what the visiting Congressional delegation have so clearly stated during their time in Ireland this week.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has welcomed the publication of the report by the Ombudsman for Children’s office on children’s experiences of living in family hubs.

Speaking today after the launch of the report, Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The ‘No Place like Home’ report published today by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office is hugely moving and incredibly important.

“The report uniquely gives a voice to the children and teenagers living in the family hubs across the State. 

“It highlights the challenges they face on the daily basis from a lack of privacy to the stigma associated with living in emergency accommodation.

“It is crucial that all those in authority read the report and act on its recommendations. Sinn Féin fully support the recommendations.

“The children and teens in the report called for the government to address the housing crisis and provide more homes and provide more support to renters.

“The Ombudsman for Children’s Office called for the government to make the necessary legislative changes including creating a legal right to housing.

“They also called for timelines to be put in place to end the practice of self-accommodation and an independent statutory inspection of homeless accommodation is urgently needed.

“While these children wait for proper homes it is important that the hubs they are sleeping in are up to the highest possible standards.” 

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