Speaking tonight on the issue of student fees Sinn Féin economy spokesperson Caoimhe Archibald MLA said:
“In the south we have costed budget proposals to begin the process of removing student contribution charges, however here in the north we are constrained by the block grant and more challenging budgetary conditions and a lack of fiscal powers.
“Sinn Féin does not support increasing tuition fees.
“Sinn Féin will continue to ensure that Universities are funded to deliver the skills demanded by the economy, particularly the need to build on the knowledge economy.
“Sinn Féin will not agree to any funding reforms in the Higher Education Sector, unless they’re equitable, financially sustainable and affordable into the long term.
“In addition to their State funding, universities need to develop creative and innovative funding streams so they can create a strong economy.
“Sinn Féin will continue to engage regarding the funding arrangements as we endeavour to achieve a sustainable funding system which is grounded in fairness and equal access to third level education.”
"There is no party more ambitious for workers, for families and for Irish society."
Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that "in government, Sinn Féin will deliver solutions that put people first."
The Sinn Féin TD was speaking at the launch of his election campaign in Ballyphehane Community Centre this evening.
Mr Ó Laoghaire said;
"There is no party more ambitious for workers, for families and for Irish society than Sinn Féin.
"The minimum that any person should expect from their government is the right to a roof over your head that you can afford, the right to see a doctor when you are sick and the right to feel safe in your community.
"Fine Gael, and their government partners in Fianna Fáil have failed the people of Cork South Central on these most basic needs.
"Simon Coveney and Mícheál Martin would have you believe no matter who is in government that these failures are beyond the influence of elected representatives. They want us to believe that these problems would remain no matter who is in charge.
"We in Sinn Féin will never accept this lack of ambition. The crises in housing, health and crime can be solved with political will and Sinn Féin has the solutions.
"Sinn Féin will house our people. We will build homes and deliver the largest public housing programme Ireland has ever seen.
"Sinn Féin will deliver a health service that works for ordinary people. We will not only deliver more hospital beds, we will take the pressure off our trauma hospitals by investing more in home help, in community care and in step-down and nursing home beds.
"Sinn Féin will deliver record numbers of Gardaí on our streets. All the evidence shows that visibility of police is the greatest deterrent to crime.
"Cork has been neglected by government when it comes to the allocation of Gardaí. In recent months, we have seen a spate of serious crimes, many of them extremely violent. At the same time most stations in the city have less Gardaí on the beat than five years ago. I have been tireless in campaigning for better resources to tackle crime in our communities and I will continue that campaign.
"We are not in this election, in Cork or anywhere else, just to offer opinions or criticisms. Sinn Féin wants to change things and change things so people see a real difference in their lives, not just a change in the faces in government. That is what drives me as a republican, as an activist, and as a TD for Cork South Central."
Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has condemned those responsible for an explosive device found in the Crumlin area of South Antrim on Thursday night.
The South Antrim MLA said:
“Police have confirmed to me that an explosive device was found in the Lurgan Road area of Crumlin on Thursday night.
“This caused major disruption to people’s lives as a number of residents were evacuated from their homes.
“Those responsible for this reckless and dangerous attack have displayed a complete disregard for the local community.
"In particular, I am deeply alarmed to learn that the explosive device was attached to a car which was driven for some considerable time before it was finally discovered.
“I unreservedly condemn this violent criminal act. My thoughts are with all of those who have been left deeply distressed as a result.
“I would urge anyone with information to bring it directly to the PSNI, or to contact Crime Stoppers.”
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Crime in all its forms has been rampant across north county Dublin and now today we have seen a double shooting at Killeek Lane, St. Margaret's in Swords.
“We have had continued promises of resources for the north of the city and county, but here we are in the aftermath of another shooting.
“The local Gardaí are as overstretched as ever. We need to see extra resources deployed across the north county Dublin area.
“The people of north county Dublin, like everyone else, deserve to feel safe and not in expectation of another gun attack.
“The Government must increase the Garda presence in the area.
“We need more Gardaí on our streets and more patrols.
“I would encourage anyone with any information to contact the Gardaí immediately.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has welcomed the temporary release of Catalan political prisoner Jordi Cuixart and has called for him to be released permanently.
The West Belfast MP said:
"I welcome the news that Catalan political prisoner Jordi Cuixart has been given temporary release for the first time.
"I met this week with Jordi's wife, Txell Bonnet, in Westminster to discuss his ongoing detention and to call for his release.
"Hopefully this is a step towards his full release.
"All Catalan political prisoners should be released and the international community have a responsibility to call on the Spanish authorities to release the political prisoners."
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Donnachadh Ó Laoghaire has urged Minister Joe McHugh to finally address the issue of pay discrimination among teachers, ahead of planned strike action on February 4th.
The Sinn Féin Cork South Central Candidate said:
“Pay equality has been a long standing issue for teachers, and the government has failed to deliver.
“Teachers are already stretched beyond capacity due to the enormous cuts by the Government in recent years.
“It is unacceptable that you could have two teachers sitting in a staff room on two different pay scales despite doing the exact same work
“The principle of equal work for equal pay is a basic and fundamental one, and it is appalling that any government ever allowed this
“Teachers and their unions have been more than patient, and the a department has had every opportunity to deal with this disgraceful discrimination against lower paid teachers.
“The decision to take industrial action is borne out of deep frustration with the ministers failure to address it.
“Our teachers deserve equal pay for equal work, and I am urging Minister McHugh to finally address the issue as his last act as Minister, and to avoid this strike action.
“In government Sinn Féin would ensure that pay equality is delivered for our teachers, and that pay discrimination would be a thing of the past.
‘Home help waiting lists are serious indictment of government’ – Carthy
The fact that 303 people were waiting on home help in the Cavan/Monaghan area, according to the latest HSE figures, ‘is a serious indictment of the government’, according to Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy.
The Midlands Northwest MEP made the comment after Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson, Louise O’Reilly revealed figures she had obtained from a parliamentary question to the HSE earlier this month.
The latest statistics showed there were 303 people waiting on home help hours in the Cavan/Monaghan area, the highest number in the HSE’s CHO1 area, which includes Donegal and Sligo/Leitrim.
Carthy said the numbers represented 303 families who were ‘desperately waiting for help for their loved ones so they can be cared for in their own homes’ and were a result of a government freeze on home help hours since last year.
“The government policy of freezing the allocation of home help hours in the third quarter of 2019 means that the numbers of local people waiting has exploded.
“On one hand, the stated government policy is to have people stay in their own homes for as long as possible, preventing them from needlessly entering hospitals and nursing homes, but on the other, the policy is to stop allocating home help hours.
“It is a ridiculous situation and a tragic one for the older people who are waiting. These people are assessed as needing and being entitled to the care, but they are subject to a postcode lottery for who gets these vital services and who doesn’t.
“These figures show how Fine Gael and their government partners, Fianna Fail, are utterly failing older people in Monaghan and Cavan, and around the State”.
Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd has expressed his sympathies to family and friends of the young man killed in Craigavon last night.
John O’Dowd said:
“I would appeal to anyone with information about this young man's death to contact the PSNI immediately.
"It would appear this young man lost his life in a very violent attack.
"The culprit or culprits must face the courts."
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has challenged the Irish government to catch up with the mood of the people of Ireland and begin actively preparing for Irish unity.
Speaking during an address to the Brehon Law Society in New York, the north Belfast MP said:
“The debate on Irish unity is already under way. The question is not about if there will be a unity referendum but when will there be a unity referendum.
“Sinn Féin believes there should be one within the next five years.
“If Brexit demonstrates anything it is for the need for a respectful and informed debate in advance of a unity referendum. No Irish government should or could be neutral on the issue of Irish unity.
“Yet Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael try and close down the discussion.
“They say now is not the time. Now is exactly the time. The debate is underway, demographic change is happening, the political sands are shifting. The old certainties are gone, and new alliances are developing. Since the Brexit referendum, which the majority of people in the north did not vote for, people are looking to the future and what type of society they want to belong to and shape.
“There is an obligation on an Irish Government to prepare and to plan.
“Failure to do so is a derogation of their duty to safeguard the interests of the Irish nation.
“I would hope that the incoming Irish government reflects on this reality.
“That means the Irish government need to begin to plan for a referendum, promote the discussion and build a vision of a new and united Ireland.
“A referendum will not be won by waving a flag, it will not be won by sitting on the sidelines and will not be won by excluding sections of the community or failing to address their fears.”
Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on mental health, Órlaithí Flynn MLA, has expressed her concern at the scale of drug-related deaths, following the publication of NISRA statistics which show 189 people died in 2018 in drug-related incidents.
The West Belfast MLA said:
"These figures once again point to a shocking level of drug misuse which continues to claim the lives of citizens, particularly young men.
"Crucially, it is not just the prevalence of illicit drugs causing these tragic deaths. Widespread misuse of prescription medicines and alcohol all play a role.
"We must have a mature and public conversation about drug misuse, and the other social and economic factors involved in drug related deaths. We must confront this issue head on.
"All attempts to do this must involve grassroots communities, and particularly deprived communities which are five times more likely to suffer a drug death than a more affluent areas.
"This is precisely Sinn Féin's approach to harm reduction and tackling the epidemic of drug deaths.
"We laid out this position in a response to a recent consultation on a follow-up strategy to the 'New Strategic Direction for Drugs and Alcohol'."
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has echoed calls from Fr. Peter McVerry and campaigner Anthony Flynn for an independent inspection regime to be introduced for all emergency homeless accommodation.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The government has committed to rolling out more emergency accommodation to cater for the growing number of homeless people needing shelter due to rising rents and long waiting lists.
“The majority of the hostels ran by the NGOs are fine, however as Fr. Peter McVerry stated this morning, there are a number of cases where people who are clean are sharing confined spaces with drug users.
“Homeless people themselves have stated that they prefer to stay in tents because they feel safer, then in dormitory type accommodation.
“We need to ensure that these hostels are safe spaces.
“We also must see the end of the use of dormitory style accommodation.
“We also need a fully independent inspection regime for all emergency accommodation conducted by HIQA or a body with similar powers.
“In June 2018 I published my own Bill to this effect.
“The Emergency Homeless Accommodation and Direct Provision Independent Inspection Bill granted HIQA the power to inspect all emergency homeless accommodation and direct provision centres funded by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Department of Justice.
“We need to do better. People using emergency accommodation deserve good quality standards.”
Note to editors: Link to Bill https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/bill/2018/60/eng/initiated/b6018d.pdf
Newly appointed Chair of the Health Committee, Sinn Féin's Colm Gildernew MLA, has welcomed today’s announcement by health unions that they will suspending their industrial action.
The decision follows the announcement by the Executive that pay parity for health and social care workers and commitments on safe staffing levels will be delivered.
Speaking following the announcement, Colm Gildernew said:
“I welcome the decision by health unions to suspend planned health strikes and industrial action.
“This decision follows the announcement by the Executive earlier this week to implement pay parity for health and social care staff in the coming weeks and a commitment to produce a costed implementation plan for safe staffing levels in the near future.
“There must be an inclusive approach to drafting the safe staffing plan which recognises and includes the important contribution of health unions and workers.
"I commend the fortitude of the health workers and their representatives during the industrial action and I welcome their decision to suspend the strike having secured pay parity and a commitment to safe staffing levels.
“The workers were left no other option and took the decision to strike in the best interests of staff and patients alike.
“It is vitally important that moving forward both the British and Irish Governments deliver on their financial commitments in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal to allow for the proper resourcing of the health and social care service, education and other public services.
“Sinn Féin will continue to support our health and social care staff in the time ahead and work with the Minister and the Department of Health to ensure these commitments are lived up to.”
Sinn Féin economy and climate spokesperson Caoimhe Archibald has written to the Minister for Economy and Minister for Infrastructure to call for action on concerns about gold mining.
Caoimhe Archibald said:
“Over the past few years there have been concerns raised and community opposition to gold mining, and specifically the planning application by Dalradian Gold Ltd. to carry out exploration and mining.
“Sinn Féin’s position is that there should be a public inquiry on the planning application by Dalradian Gold Ltd due to its complex and controversial nature and the need to consider the views of stakeholders, including the local community.
“The regulatory framework for mineral licensing should be reviewed and amended with any future licensing system ensuring the highest standards of environmental protection.
“There should be a moratorium on the granting of any new prospecting licences for precious minerals, or renewal of existing licenses until the regulatory framework for licensing has been reviewed and amended.
"I have written to the Minister for Infrastructure to call for a public inquiry on the planning application by Dalradian Gold Ltd for a gold mine and related infrastructure in the Sperrins.
"I have also written to the Minister for Economy to ask that she review the framework for mineral licensing and in the meantime place a moratorium on the issuing of mineral prospecting licences.
“We need to protect our natural heritage and environment for future generations and any economic development must be considered in that context.”
Former Sinn Fein Louth TD Gerry Adams and Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú – who is the chair of the Louth Drug & Alcohol Forum - today met with Minister Catherine Byrne, and other local representatives and six drug awareness service providers which cover Louth.
They discussed the government’s lack of adequate funding for the work of these groups and the viability of the services they provide.
The individuals and groups involved are:
· Andy Ogle - Coordinator, North East Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force.
· Tim Murphy Cavan Monaghan Drug Awareness.
· Andrew Jackson - ISPCC Childhood Support Programme.
· Cathy Whelan - Meath Community Drug & Alcohol Response.
· Louise Mahony - The Red Door Project.
· Nicki Jordan - Turas Counselling Services
Speaking after the meeting Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú said:
“The recent savagery and gun attacks in Drogheda are evidence of the level to which drug gangs will stoop.
"The Minister acknowledged at our meeting that front line drug addiction services are inadequately funded.
"Front line staff are under severe pressure. Greater government intervention is needed to secure the future of these projects and to improve their effectiveness in tackling addiction.
"The government has a responsibility to ensure that we have fully resourced policing and that service providers have sustainable funding.”
Gerry Adams said:
“In our discussion with Minister Byrne and her officials we made the case that this is now an emergency and the government needs to deal with it as an emergency. This requires a Minister dealing with this issue sitting at the Cabinet table.
The current situation is untenable. There must be zero tolerance of drug gangs and criminality.
This Fine Gael government has not taken the issue of drug addiction seriously. It has significantly underfunded vital public services for years."
Latest Farm Protests signal of despair within rural communities – Matt Carthy
The latest farmers’ protest in Dublin on Wednesday ‘clearly shows that beef farmers are at breaking point’, according to Monaghan MEP and general election candidate, Matt Carthy.
The Sinn Féin representative confirmed that he has been in contact with members of the protest, which gathered in Dublin city centre, and that he supports their demands for a fair prices for beef in order to sustain their livelihoods and the communities depending on them.
Matt Carthy said:
“This latest protest, which saw some 400 tractors on the streets of Dublin, highlights, yet again, that farmers are at breaking point in counties like Monaghan because, despite the promises of Minister Michael Creed and the government, nothing has improved for farmers since they last protested in November 2019.
“I have been in contact with members of the protest and have assured them of my support and that of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. This government, just as successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments, has shown complete disregard for farm families and rural communities.
“The ongoing Beef Taskforce has yet to deliver the required reforms and this farmers have returned to the streets of Dublin to signal their despair.
“Throughout recent years farmers have articulated the crisis they are in. Rather than enacting real and meaningful measures to address that crisis the government has overseen its exacerbation. The free rein that has been given to the factories and retailers to manipulate the market position of farmers has been such that the emergence of these types of protest has come as no surprise.
“Farmers are not asking for anything radical: they are simply requesting that they receive a fair price for their product and a guarantee that they will be paid more than the cost of production.
“Unless the underlying issues of inequalities that are the hallmarks of the beef sector in Ireland today are addressed, once and for all, then these protests will continue. I commend those farmers who have taking a stand and who have now placed the challenges they face at the centre of this election campaign.
“For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to stand with farmers on the picket line for as long as it takes because we understand that without our family farmers rural Ireland as we know it will not survive. In government we will enact the legislative measures necessary to ensure that farmers receive a fair price for their product – we will stand up to the beef barons and multinational retailers!”
Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has said the latest comments from the British prime minister on dealing with the legacy of the past are ludicrous and unacceptable.
The Mid Ulster MP said:
“It is ludicrous for the British Prime Minister to suggest that the British Crown Prosecution Service is pursuing unfair or vexatious prosecutions against former British soldiers.
“British soldiers who committed crimes in Ireland, including the murders of Irish children, cannot be above the law.
“The families of the victims of British soldiers have waited up to 50 years for truth and justice.
“That is wrong and unacceptable.
“The British government needs to end its foot-dragging and stalling and implement the mechanisms it agreed in 2014 in the Stormont House Agreement in a human rights compliant manner to deal with the legacy of the past.”
Responding to comments by DUP MP Sammy Wilson, Finance Minister Conor Murphy MLA said:
“The New Decade, New Approach document was drawn up by the two governments and presented on a take-it-or-leave it basis. Rather than prolonging the 3 year collapse of the institutions the parties rightly restored the power-sharing Executive and begun negotiations on additional funding.
“As well as seeking that additional funding I am also working to rescue promised Confidence and Supply money. That arrangement between the DUP and the Conservative party collapsed before the money was spent and the British Government is now refusing to guarantee the outstanding sums, including the money for broadband."
Sinn Féin Director of Elections Pearse Doherty has described RTÉ's decision to hold a one-to-one debate between the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as an "utter joke".
"At a time when there is much debate about the role of public service broadcasting, RTÉ has illustrated its failure to live up to its responsibilities.
"Sinn Féin has been the effective voice of opposition in the Dáil for the past four years while Fianna Fáil has propped up Fine Gael in government through their 'confidence and supply' deal.
"There is no difference between these two parties. They have the same ideology and the same outlook, and combined they received less than 50% of the votes of the Irish people at the last general election.
"They have tried to carve up government and opposition, and now they want to carve up this election by excluding Sinn Féin.
"This election is about much more than these two parties and the media have a responsibility to make sure that all voices are heard.
"By excluding Sinn Féin, RTÉ is facilitating the gameplan of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
"RTÉ's decision is an utter joke."
Former Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has confessed to being “emotional” at the prospect of stepping back as a TD for Louth.
Gerry Adams was addressing a party meeting in Dundalk where he briefed activists on the successful negotiations to restore the political institutions in the North.
Gerry Adams said:
“As my term as a TD for Louth comes to an end, I have to confess to being emotional about departing after serving the people of this constituency for nine years.
"I am deeply indebted to the citizens who elected me in 2011 and again in 2016 with Imelda Munster.
"I want to thank all of them and also my comrades in Sinn Féin.
"Throughout my nine years in Louth, my endeavour was to keep a national focus while delivering locally.
"This included developing alternatives to Brexit, advancing the national cause, co-operating with neighbouring border counties and campaigning for projects like Narrow Water Bridge which as recently as last week we succeeded in getting into the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement, which enabled the re-establishment of the power sharing government at Stormont.
"Locally we concentrated on improving the provision of public services – particularly the provision of a Primary Care Centre in Dundalk, Mental Health services, housing provision, a new county ground for the GAA, and much more.
"Sinn Féin, along with civil society and organisations like Border Communities Against Brexit have worked hard to ensure that there will be no physical infrastructure reinforcing the border dividing Ireland.
"But there is much more work to been done to protect our economies North and South and to oppose the efforts by the British to dilute the rights agenda in the North.
"I have mixed feelings about Leinster House. Obviously Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have a common agenda of outright hostility to Sinn Féin because we are United Irelanders and because of our commitment to equality, fairness and our core republican values.
"However, in the last term they took this to the extreme of turning Leinster House into a Do Nothing Dáil.
"The partnership between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael smothered and limited the potential for real solutions to the crises in housing and the health service. It also undermined the potential for advancing the search for Irish Unity in line with the Good Friday Agreement.
"Votes against the government were rendered meaningless as they were ignored by the Taoiseach with the active support of the Fianna Fáil leader.
"I also want to thank everyone who works in Teach Laighean to provide services and support for Oireachtas members.
"The catering staff, the ushers, the civil servants and cleaners, the librarians and research staff, An Garda Síochána and everyone else who ensure that the place functions, have been wonderful to work with.
"So too have my comrades in Sinn Féin’s Oireachtas team led by Mary Lou. I wish them well.
"I welcome the calling of the election and the opportunity for Sinn Féin to persuade voters to elect an even stronger Sinn Féin team. Sinn Féin has strong, costed policies to end the crisis in housing and health, provide childcare, tackle climate change and poverty, and give families and workers a break.
"We also have a clear strategy to win support for Irish Unity. This has been enhanced by the establishment of the power sharing government in the North and I am pleased to have been part of that endeavour.
"If we had listened to the propaganda from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil the durable basis for the Assembly would not have been secured.
"So there is a lot to be done. In Louth, Sinn Féin is standing two excellent candidates – Imelda Munster and Ruairí Ó Murchú - who in their time on Louth County Council, and in Imelda’s time in the Dáil, have proven to be very effective public representatives. I appeal to voters of Louth to return them both.
"I appeal to voters across the state to return an even stronger Sinn Féin team.
"On February 8th, the electorate will have the opportunity to vote for fairness and decency and for Irish Unity and to end the tweedledee and tweedledum politics of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.”