Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly has welcomed greater clarity on the definition of a key worker.
The party spokesperson for children and young people said:
“During the current pandemic, the Department of Health and Department of Education share joint responsibility for providing access to childcare for the children of key workers.
“Unfortunately the two departments did not have a joint approach to the definition of a key worker leading to unnecessary confusion within the childcare sector.
“I welcome any steps towards sorting this anomaly out by combining the separate lists held by the departments.
“I know this is a difficult time for many parents who are trying to return to work and struggling to find appropriate childcare.
“Health and safety must remain at the core of any return to work and childcare arrangements and necessary measures to safeguard children from infection inevitably restricts the availability of childcare.
“I am calling on employers to recognise that and adopt a flexible approach towards any employees experiencing childcare problems during this difficult time.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has urged caution on Emergency Departments waiting time figures.
The party's health spokesperson said:
“Many health services have been repurposed to meet the threat of a COVID-19 surge and this has seen much-needed appointments and services cancelled. It has also seen a considerable drop off in the number of people attending Emergency Departments at the start of the pandemic.
“This clearly has had an impact on the Emergency Department waiting times.
“The figures only take account of the waiting lists until the end of March which means we have yet to see the full impact of the crisis on the health service.
“The challenge now is ensuring that Emergency services are able to respond to regular levels of need while maintaining a capacity to fight COVID-19.
“One of the main underlying issues is the lack of capacity within the health and social care system to reduce waiting lists for a wide range of conditions. This sees people presenting at emergency departments when their condition starts to deteriorate.
“We need to see significant and sustained and meaningful investment in the HSC workforce and transformation.
“The Minister of Health needs to demonstrate that he is committed to a transformation model which is fully funded and co-designed in partnership with those who deliver and those who use services and provide an update on the review into Emergency Departments."
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly has said that the health service will have to totally revaluate the way care is delivered as the Minister for Health revealed under questioning in the Dáil that a quarter of public hospital beds could be closed to ensure adherence to new infection control measures.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“As we begin to re-open the health service to deliver essential care alongside Covid-19, the health system will be under significant pressure.
“We have to be honest, there are significant difficulties ahead for the delivery of healthcare. The revelation that a quarter of all public hospital beds could be closed in order ensure adherence to new infection control measures presents a huge challenge.
“We are facing into the possibility that we will have to deliver acute care with 20-25% less public hospital beds pose many challenges, it is important that the health service quickly reevaluates the way care is delivered across the service.
“The loss of so many beds will exacerbate already increasing waiting lists and this means there needs to be a definitive plan to prioritise the most urgent care.
“The loss of these beds means that the health service will have to be more agile, more effective, and more efficient in the use of resources than ever before.
“In order to help our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers deliver care in this challenging new environment, the State needs to ensure that all sectors of the health service have the funding and resources necessary, from General Practice and primary care, to the acute hospital network, home help and nursing home care.
“We also need to ensure that care is still delivered safely. Therefore, it is welcome that Minister Harris has committed to implementing the safe staffing model agreed with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in our hospitals.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has said the party remains committed to the provision of a victims’ payment based on need and the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement in a human right compliant manner.
The North Belfast MLA said:
“Sinn Féin remains committed to the provision of a victims’ payment based on need and the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement in a human right compliant manner.
“The recent Westminster Regulations will potentially exclude thousands of victims from the Nationalist and Republican community from accessing the payment scheme.
“This is both discriminatory and unacceptable.
“By introducing a hierarchy of victimhood, the British government is undermining attempts to heal the wounds of the past and promote a genuine reconciliation process.
“The British government must honour its commitments made and fulfil their obligations to fund the scheme in full.”
Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has raised concerns that inpatient addiction units may face challenges to reopening, including around ensuring social distancing and safe staffing to meet rising levels of need.
The party spokesperson on mental health and addiction said:
“The Department of Health’s response to my written questions, has confirmed that the inpatient units will reopen in a phased way.
“The units will need to take account of social distancing, and concerns around infection control for those with compromised immune systems.
“The public health restrictions have had a considerable impact on society, but it has had a particularly detrimental impact on those seeking treatment and support.
“The true scale of this crisis is hard to quantify but at an evidence session to the Assembly Health committee, many of the addiction charities echoed the need to see a rapid restoration of services to meet a growing demand.
“This raises serious concerns about the immediate capacity of inpatients services to support those seeking help when they need it most.
“The reduction in services is also mirrored in community services with the Department of Health confirming that the supervised opioid substitution treatment within community pharmacies is still being reviewed, but is still not operational.
“As part of the Health Department’s response to addressing the impact of COVID19 on addiction services the Minister for Health should publish a new drugs and alcohol strategy and provide greater investment into wider addiction services."
Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has expressed concern at the firing of rubber bullets against Black Lives Matter protesters in the USA and has extended Sinn Féin's solidarity and support for their call for justice and equality.
Francie Molloy said:
“It is deeply troubling to see images online and to read reports of deadly violence being inflicted on protestors and journalists in the US.
“The horrific murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis serve as reminders of the cost of failures in policing and abandonment of the principle that all are equal before the law.
"There can be no place for racism, discrimination and injustice. For far too long the black community in America has been failed by the police and under protected.
“Sinn Féin MPs have added our support to the cross-party call for the British government to cease its sale of tear gas, rubber and plastic bullets, and other anti-crowd equipment.
“We have seen their impact in Ireland, in the US and across the globe. The British government cannot be allowed to profit from weapons turned on peaceful protestors.
“As was demonstrated during the conflict here, rubber and plastic bullets are anything but ‘non-lethal’. There is no excuse or justification for their use ever.
“Sinn Féin wishes to send its solidarity to those who protest injustice and peacefully face down brutality. The voices of the black community need to be heard and heeded because Black Lives Matter.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has warned that the government must guarantee funding for additional cleaning costs for schools to ensure schools and parents are not unfairly hit with the cost.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“Worrying reports have emerged that the Department for Education estimates that costs for additional hygiene measures in schools could be in the region of €25 million, as schools are required to undertake more frequent and intensive cleaning of their buildings due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There can be no question of schools having to shoulder these extra costs. School budgets are already stretched to beyond breaking point following years of austerity and under investment.
“Before the pandemic hit, many were already struggling to afford the cost of basic cleaning services and some have been put in the difficult position of asking pupils parents to fork out monthly contributions for cleaning costs to help plug ongoing funding gaps.
“Due to the pandemic, it is clear that extra cleaning and hygiene measures are absolutely essential for schools in order to protect the health of pupils, teachers and the wider community.
“The government needs to ensure that sufficient additional funds are allocated for this extra cleaning, so schools can prioritise safety without having to worry about struggling to pay the cost.”
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has written to the Infrastructure Minister on the need for a specific safe passing law and other improved safety measures for cyclists following a report on the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in the north during 2014-2018.
The North Antrim MLA said:
“Figures published today show the annual average number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in 2014-2018 is 74% greater than in the period of 2004-2008.
“This amounts to 265 cyclists killed or seriously injured on our roads within these four years.
“It is clear that the safety of cyclists is a major concern which is deterring people from taking up this great form of transport.
“We need to look at ways to maximise safety for cyclists, such as cycling lanes separated from traffic, as well as improving other road users’ respect for cyclists.
“This could be done by the inclusion of increased education around cyclists as part of driving lessons and tests.
“Furthermore, I have written to the Infrastructure minister on the need to consider a specific safe passing law.
“It is vital that action is taken on this issue immediately in order to preserve the increased popularity of cycling as a mode of transport during the Covid-19 crisis.
“Yesterday we celebrated world bike day and the bike as a great mode of sustainable transport.
“However, these figures released today clearly indicate more needs to be done to improve cyclist safety on our roads.
“If we really want more people to adopt cycling, these vital safety concerns need to be properly addressed.”
Sinn Féin MLA John O’ Dowd has said the announcement of 500 job losses at Thompson’s AreoSpace in Portadown while not unexpected is still shocking.
The Upper Bann MLA said:
“Today 500 men and woman have been told they are losing their jobs.
“This is part of the economic devastation caused by Covid-19 and is the other side of the human tragedy of death and suffering.
“The global airline industry has all but collapsed as a result of Covid 19. The economic realities of old are changing.
“A new economy must recognise and protect workers and their families.
“Our Executive must be given the tools, including fiscal powers, by the British Government to rebuild our economy and create jobs.”
Sinn Féin MLA and Education Spokesperson Karen Mullan has called on Education Minister Peter Weir to urgently engage with schools on guidance on the reopening of schools.
Speaking the Foyle MLA said:
“The Education Minister must ensure that he continuously engages with schools and communicates plans for their safe reopening as an urgent priority.
“Schools cannot be left in the dark on this issue.
“The input and views of schools must also be central to the developing of any guidance.
“Sinn Féin has called for the establishment of an inclusive forum consisting of teachers, school leaders, parents, trade unions and public health experts in advance of any reopening of schools.
“News today that some schools have begun to write their own guidance in the absence of communication from the Department of Education is concerning.
“Minister Weir must urgently communicate with all schools to update them on any progress with guidance.
“This guidance must take account for international best practice and provide maximum protection for staff, pupils and parents.
“I will be raising this issue with the Education Minister as a matter of urgency."
Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has said safety improvements on the A1 road must continue to be a priority.
The Newry and Armagh MLA said:
“Delivery of safety improvements on the A1 road must be absolutely paramount.
“I’ve seen first-hand the dangers that the gaps in the central reservation can cause as cars try to cross the carriageway.
“These improvements are especially significant for those who have lost loved ones on the A1.
“We need to invest in our roads to make sure they are at a standard high enough to make us feel confident and safe when we use them.
“I have written to the Minister for Infrastructure to ask whether the progression of the A1 safety improvements will be a priority for her Department; and if funding will now be committed, following the conclusion of the public inquiry.”
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has asked the Minister for Infrastructure to clarify what measures are in place to deal with road safety concerns.
The Newry and Armagh MLA said:
“The current health pandemic has meant that less cars are on the road, but that doesn’t mean that our roads are any safer.
“The month of May saw six people tragically lose their lives on the roads; this is double last year’s figure.
“I have once again written to the Infrastructure Minister to what measures her department are exploring to address these road safety concerns.
“This should include looking at targeted road safety campaigns during Covid-19 as well as rolling out of initiatives such as 20 mile per hour zones outside schools.
“In Dublin, there are plans for speed limits to be cut to 30km/h across the city and its suburbs. The north should explore similar measures.
“The department also needs to advance larger schemes that are vital for road safety including the A1 and A5 roads.
“Road safety is an imperative and the Minister for Infrastructure should be fully exploring measures to address road safety concerns.”
“WiFi hotspots for rural towns and villages would be a welcome boost for many communities” - MacManus
Sinn Fein MEP Chris MacManus is encouraging local authorities to apply for EU initiative
Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus recommends local authorities apply for the WiFi4EU initiative, which proposes setting up WiFi hotspots in public areas to the benefit of communities.
Speaking from Sligo MacManus said:
"I am pleased to see this positive scheme is being continued and a new call for applications has now open. It is a fantastic opportunity for communities in Ireland to apply for a WiFi hotspot to be developed for everyone in those communities to use. It will be particularly advantageous for our rural towns and villages, which have been internet blackspots for far too long.
"Access to the internet is now as fundamental as access to electricity or water. Families residing in rural areas deserve to be able to live and work in their communities and not have to move to where internet connectivity and other resources are accessible. It is unacceptable that rural broadband connectivity is still unavailable to many across the Midlands North-West constituency, unlike other EU regions.
“The Wifi4EU initiative provides an opportunity for rural areas to avail of internet connectivity in public spaces and I will work to ensure rural communities are aware of the developments to apply to the Wifi4EU scheme” ENDS
Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has welcomed today’s findings at the Court of Appeal quashing the Boundary Commission’s report into proposed changes to Westminster constituencies in the north.
Speaking after this morning’s ruling at the Court of Appeal, the Mid Ulster MP said:
“I welcome today’s ruling at the Court of Appeal quashing this report from the Boundary Commission.
“The Court found that the Commission had misapplied the law in relation to its use of the controversial Rule 7 - which would mean that not all votes would carry equal weight.
“It also found that the Commission failed to give adequate reason for this.
“The Court also ruled that the Commission did not give equal consideration to all responses to its consultation into the proposed boundary changes and fettered its discretion in considering responses received later in the process, effectively creating a hierarchy of responses.
“These proposals created considerable anger among nationalists and, if implemented, would have led to thousands being disenfranchised.
“Today’s ruling quashes these proposals and is a victory for democracy.
“It also clarifies the role and obligations of any Boundary Commission and ensures that any future proposed changes to the electoral boundaries will have to be fair and transparent.”
Sinn Féin MLA Emma Sheerin has said that the DUP cannot be allowed to manipulate Tuesday night’s motion to cynically try to prevent access to women’s healthcare.
She said the Health Minister must now put in place a proper, safe, legal service to which women are now legally entitled.
Emma Sheerin said:
“This motion was put forward by the DUP as a Trojan Horse. In devising it, they were well aware that if passed it could be cynically used at Westminster to undermine the entirety of abortion regulations and service provision. However, the motion only referenced a small part of the legislation.
“After decades of travelling in secrecy or resorting to desperate and unsafe measures to end crisis pregnancies, the majority of women requiring an abortion can now access it locally. The outpouring of relief and the end to these traumatic and unnecessary journeys was palpable in October 2019.
“Telling women that they are to be refused the healthcare they deserve would be unthinkable. Removing safe and legal abortion healthcare does not prevent abortion. It prevents safe abortion and places women’s lives at risk. That is something which Sinn Féin cannot countenance.
“We would have liked to see abortion services being legislated for across Ireland. We welcome an end to the criminalisation of women, something that punished people in an already difficult position, adding untold trauma to the lives of thousands of women who lived in fear of being found out.
“The end game for the DUP is to prevent any and all regulations and service provision being provided for. If this matter were to be returned to the Assembly, it is no secret that the DUP – who are opposed to abortion in any circumstances – would never legislate for the healthcare that women need and were denied for decades. They would instead force women to travel and ignore the trauma visited upon them by the woefully inadequate and archaic abortion law that existed previously.
"We urge everyone involved to recognise the current failures in provision and to ensure that the regulations as set out by the legislation are implemented and properly funded by the Department of Health to provide a fully commissioned service across all five health Trusts.
“The Health Minister has abdicated his responsibilities on this issue, failing to give clear direction to the Trusts. The Health Minister must now put in place a proper, safe, legal service to which women are now legally entitled.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said women in the north of Ireland are legally entitled to the modern and compassionate healthcare services that have now been legislated for.
The party’s health spokesperson pointed out that the Assembly Health Committee, after a majority decision, wrote to the Health Minister asking him to put in place abortion services based on the legislation.
Colm Gildernew said:
“Sinn Féin welcomed the decriminalisation of women and the passing of legalisation to provide modern health care services for women in the north.
“The new regulations came into effect on 31st March.
“The Minister for Health is legally bound to implement these regulations and to provide, as a matter of urgency, the modern services to which women in the north of Ireland are now legally entitled.
“The DUP’s attempts to roll back the progress made and to deny women rights which are routinely available everywhere else on these islands is wrong, is unacceptable and must be robustly rejected.”
“The latest revelations raise serious questions regarding the policy decision to discharge patients with COVID-19, from hospitals into care homes.
“Care homes are at the epicentre of the fight against COVID-19. The recent announcements to support care homes will go some way to address the initial pressures but more needs to be done
“The social care system is struggling. Staff and care homes need to be supported with a rolling programme of testing, access to PPE and support from Trusts with isolating Covid-19 positive residents.
“Sinn Féin has raised the need to reform social care on multiple occasions and the Minister and the Department of Health must ensure that social care reform is a priority by bringing forward proposals.
“I understand that the Belfast Trust is undertaking a level 3 Serious Adverse Incident investigation into Clifton House care home.
“I would have serious concerns about the SAI processes ability to identify and implement learning and change. The Department of Health must publish in full the existing investigation into social care being compiled by CPEA.”
Sinn Féin TD for Limerick City Maurice Quinlivan today called on the caretaker Government to outline what steps they will be taking to ensure Shannon Airport remains viable.
He warned that the situation is critical as, without urgent government support, the airport may struggle to compete in what is becoming an increasingly difficult market.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Teachta Quinlivan said:
“If the Government is really interested in regional development, then investment in Shannon Airport needs urgent priority.
“Shannon Airport faces a very difficult future. The situation is critical. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of international travel and without Government support the airport will simply not be able to compete.
“A proper bus link and rail line should be developed to get passengers into the city as quickly and conveniently as possible and provide increased access to Shannon Airport from the mid-west. Parking fees at the airport need to be made more competitive. The Transport Minister must ensure that at least every second bus from Cork to Galway serves the airport in the future.
“Shannon over the years has done very well with flights into Shannon for visitors from North America, boosting tourism and benefitting the local economy. The loss of any of these airlines’ services will be a real shame, and will result in hundreds of thousands of fewer visitors arriving into the mid-west. Our economy has already been battered by the pandemic and does not need another blow like this.
“Once the immediate pandemic emergency ends and we turn to putting our economy back on track, a functioning and resourced Shannon airport will be a key part of the infrastructure needed to achieve this.
“Shannon Airport needs to be an attractive option for consumers and airlines, so that they will choose to use the airport over Cork and Dublin. An ambitious plan can only be achieved with the delivery of the necessary Government resources.”