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Speaking on Newstalk this morning, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Justice and Equality, and candidate in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency, Martin Kenny has said that ninety-nine percent of people from disadvantaged communities are decent people.

Martin Kenny said:

"A recent study by Dr. Johnny Connolly from the University of Limerick shows that, in communities where there is a high prevalence of disadvantage, the overwhelming majority are ordinary, decent people going about their business, with just one percent engaged in criminality.

“These communities are victims of drug dealing and gun violence.

"We have to take a tough line on criminals and the Gardaí must be fully and properly resourced these thugs and these gangs.

"We have to make sure that they can go after these criminals with an immediate response, like was done after the murder of Veronica Guerin.

"Early intervention is also needed and this requires that resources are provided, such as social workers, educational facilities and community policing.

“As a society we have to examine how to deal with all of this and a national conversation must be had to ensure we avoid the horrific consequences of these past weeks.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin has criticised Fianna Fáil and its party leader Micheál Martin for executing another flip-flop on its position in respect of a rent freeze which shows Fianna Fáil cannot be trusted on housing.

He said:

"One month ago, in the Dáil chamber, Fianna Fáil were supporting Sinn Féin’s rent reduction and rent freeze Bill.

"Yet today, the Fianna Fáil leader has flip-flopped on this support.

"This is despite Micheál Martin standing up during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on the 12th of November and stating: 'It is time for the government to consider imposing a rent freeze, given the exorbitant levels of rent people are facing.'

"This is disappointing, but not surprising.

"While Micheál Martin criticises the rip-off rental culture that currently exists he has no interest in helping out hard pressed renters.

"This another empty promise from Fianna Fáil - the party that will say anything to get back into power. t is clear that Fianna Fáil has not learned from its mistakes.

"They supported four Fine Gael Budgets that have resulted in no affordable homes being delivered and they have supported an incompetent Minister for Housing in votes of no-confidence.

"Fianna Fáil simply cannot be trusted to deliver good quality, affordable homes for people who need them.

"Sinn Féin will outline our Housing policy tomorrow and we will show voters how we’re the only party with a plan that will deliver much needed homes.”

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Speaking following comments made by the Taoiseach today, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said:

"The disrespect shown by Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael knows no bounds.

"Retiring from a lifetime of work at 65 is not an 'early retirement' as the Taoiseach has described it.

"I think his remarks will anger a great many people. 

"Leo Varadkar clearly has a poor view of people that have spent decades working hard and paying taxes to fund this State. They also pay his considerable salary and pension, as it happens.

"This really smacks of the 'let them eat cake' attitude that the Taoiseach has demonstrated during his time in politics.

"Sinn Féin is standing up for 65 year olds who wish to retire.

"They are entitled to the respect and dignity of finishing work on a State pension, and Sinn Féin is the only party committed to bringing the pension age back to 65.

"That is what is fair, just and in line with the values of the vast major of the Irish people."

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has strongly criticised RTÉ's decision to exclude Sinn Féin from the leaders debate in the final week of the general election, saying that excluding alternative voices does a disservice to the public interest.

She said:

"This general election has been framed by some as a two-horse race between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil; two parties that have been in a confidence and supply arrangement since 2016.

"Regrettably, this includes the national broadcaster RTÉ, who have chosen to exclude Sinn Féin from its leaders debate in the final week of the election; despite the fact that Sinn Féin has led opposition to their government arrangement over the past four years.

"This decision, quite frankly, is wrong.

"Politics is about people and it is about policies.

"It is about opinions and it is about views.

"It is not about personality contests.

"Yet, this is what RTÉ are proposing to host by facilitating a debate between two parties with no real discernible policy differences and no alternative vision for the country.

"This morning, I have asked Sinn Féin's Director of Elections Pearse Doherty to write formally to RTÉ outlining Sinn Féin's absolute opposition to this decision.

"We are also now seeking legal advice on this matter.

"Because this election is about much more than these two parties.

"It is not a two-horse race and the media - particularly the national broadcaster - has a responsibility to make sure that all voices are heard.

"Excluding other views does a disservice to the public interest and prevents the public from hearing real issues being debated.

"That is Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil's game plan.

"They want this election to be about them.

"But it's not. It is about the Irish people and our future.

"RTÉ should not be playing Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil's game.

"That is a failure of their duty as a public service broadcaster."

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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said Fine Gael has learned nothing after Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s statement that he wants to return to his ministry after the election.

Ms McDonald said the government and Eoghan Murphy, backed all the way by Fianna Fáil, had caused untold hardship in the area of housing.

Ms McDonald was campaigning in Meath today with party candidates Johnny Guirke and Darren O’Rourke and said Sinn Féin would reconnect Navan to the rail network and end commuter misery.

She said;

“Fine Gael have clearly learned nothing. They can’t accept or acknowledge the scale of their failure.

“The statement from Eoghan Murphy that he wishes to return to the Housing Ministry is the starkest evidence of this. The government and the minister have been disastrous in this area.

“Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil were happy to keep Eoghan Murphy in his job but the people are wiser than that.”

Setting out some of Sinn Féín’s transport proposals, Ms McDonald continued;

“Ending commuter misery in places like Navan is a key priority for Sinn Féin. We need to invest in public transport in urban and rural communities, we need to  invest in our public transport network and increase capacity on our rail network by investing in more carriages. Critically for places like Navan, we need to reconnect the town to the rail network, something which would immediately improve the quality of life for thousands of commuters.

“The best way to reduce car dependency is to provide alternatives, and so we need to invest in rail, bus, and active modes of transport such as cycling. This is essential as we move towards a carbon-neutral society.

“Sinn Féin will invest an additional €1bn in public transport above what is already committed in the National Development Plan, including doubling investment in rural transport. This is what is required to:

·      Provide free transport for under 18s.

·      Expand rail services including the completion of  the Western Rail Corridor

·      Complete the Cork to Limerick motorway and the A5 from Dublin to Derry/Donegal.

·      Ensure public transport is accessible to those with disabilities.

·      Keep public transport in public ownership.”

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Sinn Féin will resist FF/FG plans to increase the pension age – Matt Carthy

Sinn Féin MEP and General Election candidate, Matt Carthy, has said that the government plans, which are supported by Fianna Fáil, to increase the State pension age to 68 are ‘wrong, unfair and don’t represent the values of the Irish people’.

Carthy, who is running in the Cavan/Monaghan constituency, said everyone has the ‘unquestioned right’ to retire on a State pension at 65 because “at that age, they will have done their heavy lifting, they will have worked hard, paid their bills and paid their taxes to this State”.


He continued:

“But Fine Gael and their partners in Fianna Fáil don't see it that way.  They don't believe that 65-year-olds are entitled to a State pension, and they don't believe that people who have worked for more than four decades deserve it.


“Six years ago, Fine Gael raised the pensionable age to 66.  They have spent their time in government eroding entitlements of retirees while ensuring that millionaire business executives are treated to sweet-heart tax breaks.


“In contrast, Sinn Féin in opposition has battled for retirees because we understand that we are not talking about some abstract age bracket on a page - we are talking about our parents, grandparents, families, friends and our neighbours.


“We are talking about the people who have provided the resources to build our hospitals, our schools and our roads and they are entitled to respect and dignity.

“They shouldn't be put on jobseekers' payments for two years.  Quite frankly that it is an insult.


“Sinn Féin stands up for workers, and we will stand up for a fair State pension age.


“In government, Sinn Féin will reintroduce the State pension for 65 year olds who choose to retire and we will legislate to protect the rights of those who wish to keep working.

“I hope that myself and Pauline Tully will be part of the team that defends the rights of workers to retire with dignity at 65 if that is their wish”.

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has said the community has been shocked and saddened by the deaths of two young people in Derry. 

The Foyle MLA said:

“There is shock and sadness following the deaths of two young people, a man and woman in their 20s, in the Strathfoyle area of Derry. 

“An investigation into the cause of their deaths is now underway. 

“My thoughts are with the family and friends of those who have died at this difficult time.” 

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Speaking following the launch of the Governments social housing policy, Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin described Fine Gael's proposals as "light on detail" and "superficial".

The Sinn Féin Dublin Mid West Candidate said:

"The social housing policy launch by Fine Gael was embarrassing to say the least. It was light on detail and superficial. It showed they remain wedded to the same failed social housing policies that have created record levels of homelessness in recent years.

"Yet again Minister Murphy was manipulating the figures, claiming that the Government had delivered 10,000 social housing last year and would deliver 11,000 this year.

"However the Department of Housing’s own website contains very different figures. Social housing targets for 2019 are 7,870 and for 2020 are 8,536. This is 20% below what the Minister is claiming.

"If Eoghan Murphy cant be trusted on Rebuilding Ireland's current targets, how can we believe his campaign pledge to deliver 60,000 social homes up to 2025.

"On the basis of the actual targets outlined in both Rebuilding Ireland and the National Development Plan, the real figure is likely to be less than 50,000.

"This shows that Fine Gael have neither the will nor the policies to tackle the housing crisis.

"Promising to review the tenant purchase scheme, which has been under review for the last four years, or to introduce a social housing passport, which was first promised in 2014, is just tinkering around the edges. 

"What is needed is a comprehensive housing policy that breaks with the failures of past Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil policies, and invests in a programme of building public housing on a scale large enough to meet social and affordable need.

"On Monday Sinn Féin will outline such a plan."

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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.”

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"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."

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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.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Fingal Louise O’Reilly has called for increased Garda resources across north county Dublin in the wake of the double shooting in north county Dublin. 

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.”

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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."

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly has said Fine Gael is failing older and vulnerable people, as updated figures released to her show that nearly 8,000 people are waiting for home help.
 
The Sinn Féin GE Candidate for Dublin Fingal said:
 
“Home care delivered in the home is the preferred form of care for most older people and their families, and some vulnerable younger and their families people rely on home help to get by day-to-day.
 
“The vast majority of older people want to live independently in their home for as long as possible.
 
"Unfortunately, due to the freeze of home help by Fine Gael with the support of Fianna Fáil, the numbers waiting for home help have skyrocketed and are nearly at 8,000.
 
"At the start of 2016 when this sham of confidence and supply began there were 1,678 people on the home help waiting list, but the actions of these two parties have seen that increase nearly fourfold.
 
“The situation is ridiculous – we have people entitled to home help not getting their hours, we have a postcode lottery for who can and cannot get care, and we have the government wasting huge sums of money on private home help providers instead of having a working public home help system.
 
“My own constituency of Fingal has the third highest waiting lists in the State, with 839 people waiting. Dublin North West and Wexford also have over 800 waiting with the list only going upwards and getting worse.
 
“Immediate action is required to ensure that people across the State can access appropriate care and stay in their home or return home.
 
“This will have huge benefits for those who receive home help and home care, their families and friends, and for the health service as a whole as it will free up beds which are occupied by those who want to, and are ready to, return home.”

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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.

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‘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.

He said:

“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”.

ENDS

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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."

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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.”

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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'."

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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.”

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Note to editors: Link to Bill https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/bill/2018/60/eng/initiated/b6018d.pdf

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