Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said that Friday is an opportunity to pass judgment on an out of touch and incompetent government and to elect Sinn Féin candidates who will stand up for ordinary people and deliver.
Speaking as she canvassed in Dublin City centre this afternoon, Teachta McDonald said:
“This government is out of touch and incompetent. They are wasting billions of euro of your money. The answers are there – the problem is the government won’t take them. They refuse to build affordable homes, they refuse to get rent under control and nobody is every held to account.
“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael should not be rewarded for leaving a generation with no prospect of owning their own home, they should not be rewarded for 21st century tenements where 42 people are expected to share a kitchen. They should not be rewarded for children growing up in B&Bs.
“On Friday, you can give your verdict. Don't let them use your vote to endorse Eoghan Murphy's record in housing.
“I am asking you to vote Sinn Féin in the local government and European elections.
“Sinn Féin will stand up for you. Sinn Féin will deliver locally and in Europe. Sinn Féin will make a difference. Vótáil Sinn Féin.”
A United Nations report into the impact of austerity and welfare cuts is a damning indictment of British Government policy, Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has said.
The party’s Welfare Spokesperson was commenting after the report by the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty warned that ‘ideological’ cuts to public services since 2010 have led to ‘tragic consequences’ in Britain with an increased reliance on food banks, homelessness and child poverty.
“This report is an absolutely damning indictment on the impact of the Tory government’s austerity and welfare cuts agenda,” Alex Maskey said.
“It lays out in stark and devastating detail how the social safety net has been ‘deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos’.
“The consequences of this have been devastating for countless families and communities. And if the British Government cares one iota about the impact of its policies on vulnerable citizens, then it would abandon this approach.
“Thankfully, here in the north, we have been shielded from the worst impacts of the welfare cuts agenda by the top-up package secured as part of the Fresh Start Agreement.
“However, that does not mean that people here are not suffering as a result of relentless Tory cuts - they very much are.
“But this report once again underlines the devastating consequences we would face without the current mitigations package. It should serve as a reminder to all parties that we need to work together now to ensure that a second round of mitigations are in place when the current one expires in March 2020.
“While we must continue to oppose British Government cuts to welfare, we must also seek continuation of mitigation measures.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has hit out at the government’s support for co-living developments which have been described as 21st century bedsits.
Teachta McDonald described the proposal as “bonkers”.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“Over the past number of weeks, the Minister for Housing has championed the concept of ‘co-living’ as a solution to the rental crisis. He has gone so far as to say that people ‘should be excited’ about this plan.
“One proposed development in Dún Laoghaire by Bartra Capital Property Group includes 208 studio dwellings that are around the same size as a parking space. On one floor, it is proposed that forty-two people would share one kitchen with rents in excess of €1,300 per month.
“This bonkers proposal is not the solution to the rental crisis. It amounts to modern day tenement living.
“It is the measure of a government that is so out of touch that they could for one second think that this is an acceptable way to address the rental crisis. This crisis that has been manufactured by Fine Gael and perpetuated by Fianna Fáil through confidence and supply.
“The government should abandon this insulting proposal and take immediate action to tackle spiralling rents including a rent freeze and the introduction of tax relief for renters.”
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called for the serious overcrowding issues in Clare health services to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Speaking in Clare this morning, where she was campaigning with local candidate Donna McGettigan, Ms Ní Riada said;
“The closure of the Emergency Departments in Ennis in 2009 was terrible decision by the Fianna Fáil government.
“The refusal of Fine Gael to invest in our public hospitals has compounded the situation with the awful overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick.
“It is absolutely crazy that ambulances responding to accidents in West Clare, under pressure to make the golden hour, rush past a closed A&E in Ennis to a chronically overcrowded Emergency Department in Limerick.
“At the time of the reconfiguration, the closures were justified as part of wider plan for deliver high quality and safe service closer to be patient's home.
“We were also told that the plan would ensure shorter waiting times and cut trolley figures.
“This has proven to be false in the most dramatic fashion.
“In the context of bad government policy, it is very clear that it is unsafe to keep the Emergency Departments at Ennis and Nenagh closed in the absence of the serious under capacity being addressed. It is putting lives in danger and threatening outcomes for patients
“It is also obvious that maintaining the closures is far more to do with cuts and saving money than it is to do with health services improving services.
“The people of Clare and the surrounding areas deserve much better. They deserve access to timely and quality healthcare. It is time to reverse the closure.”
Speaking following a meeting between Sinn Féin representatives and Queen's University on equality issues, Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said:
"We had a positive discussion on the university's new draft Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy; and on issues such as visibility of the Irish Language.
"It is welcome to see the progress and positive steps towards inclusion in terms of accessibility for those with disabilities, linguistic diversity and support for minority groups.
"University campuses should be welcoming to all and reflective of society, their students and staff.
"Queen's has extended the consultation on its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy for 12 weeks until 9th August.
"This gives people the opportunity to add their views to the previous consultation."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson met today with the families of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre.
Martina Anderson said:
"Today I, along with my party colleague Paul Maskey MP met with relatives of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre to discuss the ongoing inquest into the 1971 shootings.
"We also wanted to reassure the families that Sinn Féin will continue to oppose any proposals coming from the British government's Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and other Tory MPs which would create an amnesty for current or former British soldiers.
"No one can be above the law.
"We also reiterated Sinn Féin's support for the Ballymurphy families and other victims of British state violence in their campaign for truth and justice."
Sinn Féin Ard Mhéara of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane has said he will not be deterred after the PSNI warned him that loyalists were planning to attack him in his family home.
Speaking after being told of the threat against him, John Finucane said:
“Last night the PSNI came to my home to tell me of a threat by loyalists to attack me in my family home.
“I am committed to serving and representing all the people of this city and I will not be deterred from that by threats from anyone.
“This is not just a threat against me but it is also a threat against democracy.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said:
“This reprehensible threat against John Finucane has to be condemned.
“The reference to his family home was clearly deliberate, given this is where his father was murdered by loyalists.
“It is a cowardly attempt to intimidate the newly-elected first citizen of Belfast. And while this must be a very traumatic experience for John and his family, I know that he will not be deterred from representing everyone as Ard Mhéara.”
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has accused Fine Gael of wanting to bring back tenements.
Ms Ní Riada said:
“Minister Eoghan Murphy’s so-called ‘co-living’ model is just a sanitized way of describing the herding of working class people into cramped and congested living space.
“Instead of focusing on real solutions to the housing crisis, Fine Gael are planning to resurrect the tenement.
“By describing this as an exciting proposal, the Minister has shown just how patronizing Fine Gael is towards those caught up in the housing crisis. It truly beggars belief.
“This government’s housing policy is about looking after landlords, developers, banks, and vulture funds. It is not about delivering fair solutions for young renters.
“Instead of proposing ridiculous concepts, the government should focus on the rollout of a cost rental plan. This would represent a real answer for young people who are struggling with exploitative rents and the sky-high costs of insurance and education.”
Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD set out Sinn Féin’s proposals for the introduction of independent multi-agency domestic homicide reviews.
The Cork South-Central TD said:
“Earlier this month Sinn Féin published proposals for the establishment of an independent multi-agency domestic homicide review (DHRs) system similar to the framework in place in Britain since 2011, and due to be introduced in the north.
“Our proposals reflect the system of review called for by domestic violence support services such as Women’s Aid and Safe Ireland and victims’ families, and in place in other jurisdictions such as Canada and New Zealand.
“Reviews are automatically established following a domestic or familial homicide and are undertaken by an independent multi-agency review panel. Family, friends and work colleagues are also encouraged to participate in the process.
“DHRs in Ireland are currently Garda led and are limited to the examination of the adequacy of Garda policies, their interactions with other external agencies and with the individuals and family concerned.
“Today the Dáil debated Fianna Fáil legislation that extends the power to initiate a domestic homicide review to the Minister for Justice and enables the appointed reviewer to seek information from relevant state agencies and non-statutory organisations.
“Sinn Féin will support this legislation however as the Fianna Fáil Justice spokesperson has stated in the Dáil the Bill requires the resources and involvement of the Department of Justice and Equality if it is to progress.
“The intention of the legislation is to replicate the independent multi-agency system of review in England and Wales, but to do so the legislation will require significant amendments which will in effect make it a money bill. In order for a money bill to progress it will require government support.
“I have today called on the Dáil to work together to establish an independent multi-agency domestic homicide review legislative framework. It’s what the families impacted by domestic and familial homicide have asked of us, so we deliver.”
Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill has said the British government and parliament need to realise the Irish backstop cannot be negotiated or voted away.
Michelle O'Neill said:
"The majority of people of the north did not consent to Brexit and rejected it at the polls.
"The 'new offer' announced by British prime minister Theresa May contains little new thinking.
"Westminster is in chaos and what we heard today from Theresa May will do little to convince the business community or anyone else here that is likely to change.
"The backstop as already agreed represents the only legal guarantee to avoid a hard border.
"The backstop is not open to renegotiation. It represents the minimum protections the people of Ireland require.
"It cannot be negotiated, wished or voted away by the British government or British parliament.
"Brexit will be disastrous for the economy. The north cannot withstand exclusion form the customs union and single market.
"Theresa May has proposed a role for a future Assembly and Executive in deciding on Brexit but she and whoever succeeds her as British prime minister needs to realise that there can be no unionist veto."
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has welcomed the announcement that the BBC will broadcast three Ulster Championship games live on FM radio this year.
The South Down MLA said:
“It’s welcome that the BBC has increased its coverage of the GAA by broadcasting three Ulster Championships live on FM radio.
"This is a sign that the BBC and others are beginning to listen to the voice of Gaels who feel frustrated at the previous lack of live coverage.
“Sinn Féin has been highlighting this issue for two years and have consistently lobbied the BBC and other broadcasters to ensure there is equal access to GAA coverage.
“While this is a welcome increase, more can and should be done to ensure parity of esteem for Gaels and licence payers.
"Sinn Féin will continue to press broadcasters, including the BBC and RTÉ, on the need for fair, equitable and accessible access to Gaelic games for everyone right across Ireland.”
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“The work Liadh has done with fellow Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy who sits on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee has been to ensure that vulture funds are held accountable and that banks are not able to operate with impunity."
The Cork TD added that stopping an EU directive on non-performing loans which promotes vulture funds, exacerbating the current housing crisis, will be top of Sinn Féin's agenda in the next European Parliament. The directive is being supported by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s EU political groups.
“Earlier this month, Ulster Bank announced it would be flogging more mortgages belonging to Irish families, ripping their homes from under them and handing them to faceless vulture funds.
“We all know about the vultures – secretive international investors hovering over the Irish economy, seeking out families in mortgage distress, and then doing whatever they see fit to turn a quick profit. If this means turfing a family out on to the street, so be it.
“This is being gleefully championed by the European Commission and the Irish Government, led by Fine Gael and backed by Fianna Fáil, who are rolling out the red carpet for Vultures, allowing them to target Irish families and letting them avoid taxes for the pleasure of more profit margins.
"Across Ireland, communities are demanding a fundamental step-change in the EU’s and the government’s approach to the banks and vultures – and for emergency measures to be implemented that will tackle the housing and homelessness crisis immediately and effectively.
“Sinn Féin is standing with these communities and campaigning for policies that will benefit the people and not the banks and vultures at the local, state and EU level.
“This makes the return of the strongest team of Sinn Féin MEPs to the European Parliament all the more important for the Irish people and so I call on everyone to vote Liadh Ní Riada No.1 for Europe.”
Reacting to the statement from British Prime Minister May today, the Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said:
"Tory party theatrics and Westminster side shows cannot be allowed to distract from the very real threat that Brexit poses to Ireland.
"The British government has a responsibility to uphold the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no diminution of Irish rights and agreements. We will not be held to ransom by the Tory Brexit agenda and party in-fighting.
"Whatever is brought forward by Prime Minister May next week must be consistent with the Withdrawal Agreement which she herself negotiated.
"There is no good Brexit. But the backstop is the bare minimum needed to protect Irish interests and avoid a hard border in Ireland.
"On the question of a second referendum - it should be remembered that people in the north voted to remain in the EU. Any second referendum must include the option to remain. The democratic choice made by the people in the north must be respected and binding."
Sinn Féin’s deputy spokesperson for Public Expenditure & Reform, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has described Fianna Fáil’s recent criticism of the Government’ spending mismanagement as a 'last ditch attempt to appear different from the party they keep in Government before the upcoming elections'.
Speaking this afternoon, the Cork North-Central TD said:
“Fianna Fáil’s recent suggestion that the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council should carry out an examination of the Government’s budgetary projections seems to be another instance of all bluster and no substance.
“IFAC already publishes biannual fiscal assessment reports that examine Government’s budgetary and spending projections, with the next report expected in June, and another after the Budget in autumn.
“Fianna Fáil is recommending an examination that is already due to take place.
“We already know that the Government has mismanaged taxpayers’ money and public resources.
“It is the job of the opposition to hold Government to account. Fianna Fáil have failed to do so and are now desperate to find anything that allows them to appear different from the party they keep in power.
“We have provided real alternative solutions to the National Broadband Plan through the use of ESB, and have submitted legislation to ensure tenderers are regulated in the procurement process to ensure future capital projects are delivered on time and on budget.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has told the Government it is time to clip the wings of vulture funds once and for all and that the attitude of these funds towards ordinary people is “utterly disgraceful”.
The Donegal TD was speaking as he received further information that vulture funds are demanding full payment of loans from borrowers within seven days of notice, and failing to provide any alternative arrangements.
Speaking at Leaders’ Questions today, Teachta Doherty said;
“The government has designed a tax system that incentivises vulture funds to buy loans, which banks are more than happy to offload; despite the dire consequences for borrowers.
“Ulster Bank has had a particular fondness for selling off these loans to vulture funds. Last year it sold a portfolio of loans known as ‘Project Scariff’ worth €1.6 billion to a vulture fund called Promontoria Scariff.
“That portfolio consisted of approximately 3,600 owner-occupier loans and mortgages secured to 2,900 buy-to-let properties.
“A company called ‘Cabot Financial Ireland’ is administering these loans and its actions to date in dealing with borrowers.
“I have received correspondence from two such borrowers in recent days Taoiseach who are behind by tiny amounts - around €3,000 in each case, which state that they are now demanding full payment - not in respect of the arrears - but full payment - of their loans within seven days.
“One week Taoiseach; this is utterly disgraceful.
“They are not facilitating any arrangements with the borrowers. The tenants in these properties will be given a notice to quit.
“They will need somewhere to live. It is utter chaos and it runs rough shod over any level of common decency.
“All of this is a direct consequence of government policy and the government rolling out of the red carpet.
“These leeches can do this and get away with it because they know that Fine Gael will do nothing to stop them.
“It is precisely because of the actions of Cabot in this instance that people fear vulture funds and fear for their homes.
“Moving to the final option without any genuine engagement with borrowers is utterly disgraceful.
“Taoiseach, do you stand over this practice? Now time to clip the wings of these vultures once and for all.”
Matt Carthy MEP: FF & FG approach to EU trade deals mean Mercosur agreement imminent
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has warned that the recent news of reopening talks on the proposed EU-Mercosur free trade agreement is very bad news for the Irish agricultural sector, especially beef farmers. He said that the approach of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to dangerous EU trade deals means that a strong showing for those parties in next week’s election will mean that the likelihood of a Mecosur deal will be increased.
The Midlands North West representative said: “Reports of the reopening of talks on the Mercosur deal have intensified in recent days with Brazilian negotiators claiming that France – which had previously taken a position defending the French agricultural sector – has now dropped its opposition in exchange for access to Mercosur countries’ markets for EU industrial goods.
“The perilous position of Irish farmers has been largely ignored by the EU in its drive for new generation trade deals. This is because Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have offered blanket support for all EU trade deals regardless of the cost to Irish agriculture and indigenous businesses. Hence they support the CETA deal with Canada despite the facilitation of a 50,000 tariff-free beef quota and the inclusion of an Investment Court system that will allow foreign companies to sue national governments for enacting progressive legislation.
“The Mercosur deal promises to flood EU markets with further hundreds of thousands of lower quality beef. The very fact that Fine Gael agreed a mandate for the EU commission to negotiate this deal, without a whimper from Fianna Fáil, should be a cause of serious concern to Irish farmers.
“Some of the key issues that led to the collapse of talks previously were transparency and food standards. Unbelievably, the European Commission was prepared to offer Mercosur countries a 99,000 tonne quota on beef just weeks after several Brazilian factories were delisted due to sanitary concerns.
“The European Commission have never prioritised the interests of farmers or rural communities because the lucrativeness of the South American markets for the German automotive industry meant that agricultural access for South American has become a key bargaining chip.
“Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and the Irish government have continuously failed to stand up to the commission in the interests of Irish agriculture across a range of trade deal talks.
“Brazilian negotiations are indicating that they believe the deal will be sealed in coming months, when Brazil takes over the presidency of Mercosur.
“The election of the extreme right militarist Jair Bolsonaro as Brazilian president in November should have been the final nail in the coffin for the Mercosur deal. Bolsonaro has clearly expressed his intention to attack the rights of women, Indigenous people, minorities, LGBTI people and the poor in Brazil. He has already enacted policies doing so.
“Last year I negotiated a report in the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee that warned that there will be a direct downward pressure on prices farmers receive should this deal go ahead. The cumulative impact of this and other deals are setting the sector up for disaster.
“It is absolutely appalling that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been loud cheerleaders of potentially ruinous free trade deals that threaten Ireland’s rural communities, that are conducted entirely behind closed doors with no public scrutiny and that all include secret investment courts where corporations can sue elected governments for enacting policies that they don’t like, just because they may impact on their profits.
“A vote for Sinn Féin MEPs this Friday is a vote against any EU free trade deals that undermines our democratic structures or devastates rural communities & vulnerable economic sectors in Ireland. It will be a vote for progressive free trade and fair trade policies that protect Irish interests while providing access to world markets”.
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on Minster for Housing Eoghan Murphy to stop promoting “co-living” as the solution to rental crisis, describing his “co-living” dream a step on the road to the tenements of the future. He called on the Minister to use the time he is spending promoting the concept of “co-living” to deliver affordable cost rental.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“So called ‘Co-living’ is not a solution to the rental crisis. It is a step on the road to the tenements of the future.
“The Minister’s comments about young people having to make sacrifices in terms of rental accommodation are quite frankly bizarre.
“Young people are facing rising costs for rents, insurance, and education and the Minister’s patronising comments were not helpful.
“Since he took up the role as Minister for Housing, Minister Murphy has reduced apartment standards and removed height restrictions, all so developers can maximise profit by building cramped living spaces.
“The Minister must also stop promoting this as a cheaper alternative to the traditional house share. It is not. Some of the co-living developments will command rents of up to €1,300 per month.
“Minister Murphy’s time would be better spent rolling out affordable cost rental.
“He should also be honest about introducing indefinite leases. These proposals were brought forward many times by opposition parties and were roundly rejected by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
“The so called ‘co-living’ concept has no place in our current dysfunctional rental market.”
The leaderships and candidates of unionist political parties should immediately reject the endorsement of loyalist paramilitary groups, Sinn Féin European candidate Martina Anderson has said.
She was speaking after the Loyalist Communities Council, which is linked to the UDA, UVF and The Hand Commando, issued a statement urging people only to vote for unionist candidates in Thursday’s election.
Martina Anderson commented: “The LCC statement is just the latest example of a group representing loyalist paramilitaries publicly endorsing unionist candidates in recent elections.
“Loyalist paramilitaries are still actively involved in violence, intimidation, drug-dealing and murder. They have no right to tell anyone how they should exercise their democratic entitlements.
“Their endorsement should be immediately and publicly rejected by the leaderships of the unionist political parties.
“Arlene Foster, Robin Swann and Jim Allister should make it clear that these organisations have no place in our society and should disband immediately.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, who as a Stormont minister helped to establish the Hart Inquiry into historical institutional abuse, has said she is appalled at how victims and survivors have been treated by the British Secretary of State Karen Bradley.
Martina Anderson was commenting after Karen Bradley again refused to introduce legislation and compensation as recommended by the judicial inquiry into the abuse.
She said: “As someone who worked closely with victims and survivors to see the Hart Inquiry established during my time as a Junior Minister in Martin McGuinness’s office, I am appalled at the trauma and distress which Karen Bradley has heaped upon them this week.
“How anyone can do that, after meeting these people and listening to the horror of what they have been through is galling. Karen Bradley should hang her head in shame.
“Rather than getting on with implementing the Hart recommendations and putting in place the required legal and financial framework to assist victims and survivors, she continues to stall and to use victims as political pawns.
“That is completely unacceptable and it needs to stop.
“Sinn Féin will be convening further multi-party talks tomorrow in order to keep the pressure on Karen Bradley to belatedly do the right thing and bring forward the required legislation for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.”