Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said today that the antics and bluster at Westminster will do nothing to allay the Brexit fears of workers, business or farmers.
Mary Lou McDonald said:
“Today we have witnessed more farce and dysfunction in the British ' House of Chaos'.
“What happened today has nothing to do with Ireland, our interests, our economy or our agreements. No one should be under any illusion about that.
“Today’s antics and bluster will not allay the fears of Irish workers, business or agri foods producers and our border communities.
“The majority of the people of the north did not consent to Brexit.
“It is being foisted on them against their democratic wishes.
“Sinn Féin will continue to work to defend Ireland from the worst impacts of Brexit and ensure there will be no hard border, no unionist veto and that the Good Friday Agreement will be protected.”
Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, today called for the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privilege to investigate how Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley was recorded voting six times in the Dáil last Thursday despite not being present in the chamber.
Teachta Quinlivan also called for last Thursday’s Dáil votes to be re-taken, due to the “disgraceful behaviour of Fianna Fáil TDs who brought the integrity of the votes and that of the Dáil into disrepute.”
Speaking today Deputy Quinlivan, who had brought forward the Sinn Féin motion on the Living Wage which was part of the compromised votes, said;
ʺLast Thursday Sinn Féin brought forward an important motion on the Living Wage and sought the Dáil’s support for our policy on introducing a Living Wage for workers.
ʺI was delighted our Living Wage motion was passed by the Dáil, but unfortunately the behaviour of two particular Fianna Fáil TDs has brought this positive result into disrepute.
ʺI will be asking the Ceann Comhairle, in line with Standing Orders 76 and 77 which deal with irregularities of Dáil votes, to have these votes retaken next week, in order to remove this cloud of wrong-doing from the result.
“I will also ask the Ceann Comhairle to have the Committee on Procedure and Privilege to investigate the matter fully as well.
ʺI appreciate the retaking of the vote on our Living Wage motion may not deliver the same positive result, however I would prefer a genuine result, rather than one that had been tarnished by a compromised vote.
ʺIt’s an absolute disgrace that Fianna Fáil TDs think they can act with such disregard for the rules and show such a level of arrogance by voting in the name of another TD not present in the Dáil Chamber.
ʺI have no doubt the Ceann Comhairle will fully investigate serious wrongdoing, and I would expect Deputies Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins to at the very least apologise to the Dáil next week for their dishonest behaviour. ʺ
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said the Department of Education needs to prepare and plan properly for the rapid growth in Irish Medium education.
The West Belfast MP said:
“I welcome news that Coláiste Feirste is to increase its enrolment from 600 to 910 pupils.
“But it is disappointing that the planned expansion into North Belfast to provide for the growth in that area on a separate site cannot proceed as no suitable site was found.
“The North Belfast site would help cater for the increasing demand in Belfast for children who wish to continue their education in Irish after attending Irish medium primary schools.
“Coláiste Feirste will accommodate pupils in temporary classrooms at the existing school in west Belfast, but this is only a short-term fix.
“It is disappointing for the pupils, parents and staff of Coláiste Feirste that the Department of Education does not have a long-term strategy to meet this growth and fulfil their statutory obligations to encourage and facilitate Irish Medium.
“Sinn Féin is calling on the Department of Education to prepare and plan properly for the rapid growth in Irish Medium Education.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the decision of the Governor of the Central Bank to look into the issue of dual pricing in the insurance market, but has warned that anything short of banning the practice will be a bad result for Irish consumers.
Deputy Doherty wrote to the Governor of the Central Bank requesting an investigation into the practice of price discrimination on 25th September, and on 16th October submitted a formal complaint to both the Central Bank and CCPC requesting an investigation and justifying a banning of the practice of dual pricing in the insurance market. The Central Bank Governor responded to Deputy Doherty’s request this afternoon.
Teachta Doherty said:
“On September 25th I wrote to both Chairperson of the CCPC and the Governor of the Central Bank requesting an immediate investigation into the practice of dual pricing, or price discrimination, by the insurance industry. I also got the agreement of the Finance Committee to investigate this practice.
“On 16th October I submitted a lengthy complaint to both the Central Bank and CCPC requesting an investigation into the practice of dual pricing and justifying a ban of the practice in the market.
“Insurance companies in the Irish market are using dual pricing to target vulnerable customers who are more likely to renew and less likely to switch or shop around, and then charge them with extortionate prices. This is known as the loyalty penalty.
“Not only is this done without the knowledge of consumers, but it is known to target low-income and vulnerable groups, with some being charged premiums more than 100% higher than the average price for the same risk profile.
“A recent study by the Financial Conduct Authority in Britain found that price discrimination resulted in 6 million policyholders being overcharged a combined £1.2 billion in 2018 alone. They are now considering regulatory intervention that would ban the practice.
“In the United States, dual pricing has been made illegal in as many as 17 states, including California and Florida.
“Irish consumers deserve the same protections as anyone else. But Irish regulators have done nothing to confront this practice.
“I welcome Governor Makhlouf’s response to my complaint. However, I would view with caution his plan to carry out a ‘review’ of the practice.
“We want an investigation into this issue immediately, with a clear and short timeline for its conclusion.
“Following an investigation, we want to see the practice banned.
“The Consumer Protection Code 2012 makes clear that insurance companies should act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of consumers.
“Dual pricing is practiced without the knowledge of consumers, discriminating against vulnerable groups and loyal customers, and undermining the integrity of the insurance market.
“While the Central Bank has no role in setting premium prices, it is able to ban pricing practices that are not compliant with the principles of fairness and transparency.
“It is clear therefore that the Central Bank has the power to ban dual pricing. Irish consumers deserve no less.
“I will be meeting with the Governor in the coming weeks to discuss my submission and make the case for banning the practice of price discrimination by the insurance industry.”
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has said the British government cannot be allowed to trample over the rights of Irish citizens and the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking after addressing a rally in Guildhall Square, the Foyle MP said:
"Today people came out on to the streets of Derry and Belfast to show their anger at this latest attempt by the British government to trample on the Good Friday Agreement.
"There is widespread anger that the British government is blatantly disregarding the Good Friday Agreement provision that people born in the north of Ireland have the right to be Irish, British or both.
"That right cannot and will not be taken away from us and no British court will tell us that we have to identify as British rather than Irish.
"We need to see an end to British government reneging on Good Friday Agreement commitments."
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan has called on the Belfast Trust to publish its plan to address the staffing crisis within Muckamore Abbey Hospital.
This follows news that the Belfast Trust has spent £4m on agency staff to cover the staffing vacancies within Muckamore Abbey Hospital.
Pat Sheehan said:
“The Belfast Trust has been in crisis mode with regard to Muckamore Abbey Hospital following the revelations of alleged instances of abuse last year.
“A considerable number of staff in Muckamore have been suspended and a police investigation is currently underway.
"Staff face ongoing and increasing pressures within Muckamore Abbey to deliver safe and effective care to those still in the hospital.
“The use of agency staff has been necessary in the immediate term but it is not a long-term solution.
"Every effort must be made to ensure continuity of safe and quality health care for patients in Muckamore Abbey Hospital.
“Sinn Féin calls on the Belfast Trust to detail its plans to stabilise the situation and to be open with patients and the public as to how it will meet the needs of those still in the hospital.” CRÍOCH/ENDS
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has called for people to join protests tomorrow to defend the Good Friday Agreement.
The Foyle MP said:
"This week's court decision on Emma De Souza's citizenship has caused widespread anger among the nationalist community across the north.
"The Good Friday Agreement clearly states that people born in the north of Ireland can be British, Irish or both. The British government is now riding roughshod over that by pursuing Emma De Souza in the courts.
"This Friday a series of protests will be held across the north to give people the opportunity to stand up for the Good Friday Agreement and send a clear message to the British government that we are Irish too.
"The Irish government, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement also need to stand by the Agreement and not allow the British government to trample over it and should be protecting our citizenship and identity rights as it has pledged to do.
"I would call on as many people as possible to come along to the public rallies in Derry and Belfast to stand up for the Agreement and stand up for our rights."
A Sinn Fein delegation led by Party President Mary Lou McDonald has met with Tánaiste Simon Coveney to seek clarifications regarding the Brexit deal agreed between the European Union and the British government.
Speaking following the meeting Teachta McDonald said:
"I welcome the fact that an agreement has been reached.
“I am satisfied following a meeting with An Tanaiste Simon Coveney, that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland and no veto will be given to the DUP.
“It is important to note that there is no such thing as a good Brexit. Ireland did not consent to Brexit. It is being foisted on the north of Ireland against the democratic wishes of the people.
"As a party, Sinn Féin has worked to defend Irish interests from the worst impacts of Brexit.
"It was Sinn Féin who first made the case for a ‘designated special status for the north within the EU’ and it was Sinn Féin who insisted on the protection of the Good Friday Agreement and no hard border on the island of Ireland as bottom lines.
"Any deal can only mitigate the worst effects of Brexit; a least worst option.
“The ultimate solution to the problems Brexit poses for the island is Irish unity. We want that conversation to start now.”
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has welcomed the Education Authority’s introduction of transgender support guidelines for schools.
The new guidelines cover a range of issues including uniforms, naming, and the use of toilets and changing rooms.
Speaking shortly after the announcement, the party’s spokesperson for education said:
“This is a hugely positive step, which follows a comprehensive consultation process initiated in late 2018.
“There are many children in our school system who identify as transgender and these guidelines will ensure the approach our schools take in supporting and assisting these students will be consistent.
“The guidelines will provide some level of comfort for parents as well as an additional element of support for teachers in the classroom.
“I also wish to note some of the good work and the pro-active steps many schools took in the absence of guidelines up to this point.”
Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has highlighted the need for further investment in Rural Transport and supporting projects, such as the local link service in Mayo and across underserved parts of the country.
Speaking after attending an event in Attymass to present the work of Local Link for a Pride of Place Award, Senator Conway-Walsh said:
“Good rural transport is key for our communities here in Mayo and the rest of rural Ireland. Without good reliable transport too, many services and activities are beyond the reach for people.
"The increase in Carbon Tax in the recent budget highlighted the fact that we need to invest in rural transport. On a daily basis I receive calls from people who have difficulty in getting to medical appointments and accessing services and activities.
"This government emphasizes investment in Trains, DART and Luas services, but this focus on urban centres does not help our people in rural Ireland.
"These services are based around large towns and cities, but the government offers limited solutions regarding how anyone in rural Ireland can even get to these services.
"I commend the bus drivers who go above and beyond what they are paid to do so that elderly people in particular get around safely.
"The Westport to Dublin train is overcrowded but it’s a case of we must wait two years before we get new carriages. This is not acceptable.
"Projects such as Local Link are vital in our rural communities and we need to increase funding so that more routes can be developed.
"Forward and joined up thinking is needed from all transport stakeholders to put a good strategic plan in place to improve the transport service in rural Ireland so that people can move more freely and get to where they need to go.”
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay North Denise Mitchell has described the news that Go-Ahead bus firm are to be fined for failing to meet punctuality targets on almost half their routes as “only further proof that prioritising privatisation over investment only ever harms customers”.
The Dublin spokesperson for Sinn Féin said:
“The reports today that Go-Ahead has failed to achieve a punctuality rate of at least 65% between April and June this year only confirms what those of us who were against the privatisation of the bus routes said from the start.
"Choosing to privatise rather than invest was only going to harm customers who would be left at the mercy of a private company who treats public transport not as a public service, but as a solely for profit enterprise.
“In my own area, I had highlighted the 17A, a major satellite route, as one that was particularly important to transport through my constituency. It is also one of the routes highlighted as suffering from a lack of punctuality by the new provider.
“The Government need to radically rethink their agenda of privatisation before more customers are left out in the cold.”
Sinn Féin TDs Maurice Quinlivan and John Brady today welcomed the Dáil’s affirmative vote on a Sinn Féin motion calling for the introduction of a Living Wage of €12.30 per hour for workers next year.
Speaking this afternoon, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Workers’ Rights and Pay Equality Maurice Quinlivan TD said;
“I am delighted our motion on the Living Wage passed in the Dáil this afternoon.
“This motion condemned the government’s recent decision not to increase the minimum wage and called for the government to introduce a Living Wage of €12.30 per hour next year.
“Sinn Féin highlighted how punitive and unfair Fine Gael’s recent minimum wage decision was, and I am glad a majority of the Dáil has agreed with us on that.
“We need a Living Wage of €12.30 per hour to ensure workers are not living in poverty, and the government must now make this a reality.
“Sinn Féin have a published plan outlining how we would introduce a Living Wage, whilst also protecting financially vulnerable businesses. Sinn Féin is the party of the Living Wage and in government we will deliver on this.
“After today’s vote I am looking forward to seeing other parties bringing forward their proposals on a Living Wage to implement this decision of the Dáil."
Sinn Féin’s Employment Affairs spokesperson John Brady TD said;
“The government must now follow through with action and implement the aims of this motion; to immediately reverse their decision not in to increase the national minimum wage; and to introduce a Living Wage of €12.30 per hour in 2020.
“Workers have waited long enough for proper pay and conditions.
“Fine Gael’s decision not to increase the minimum wage in the recent Budget was completely wrong, and to blame their decision on Brexit fooled absolutely no one.
“Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil spoke against our motion on Tuesday night, highlighting their out of touch approach on this issue.
“We hope this signals a policy shift in Fianna Fáil’s Living Wage position, which up until now has changed from person to person depending on who you asked.
“Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for low paid workers, and in government we will deliver a Living Wage.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has accused the Government of hiding behind figures instead of tackling the growing child homelessness crisis.
Speaking at Leaders’ Questions today, Deputy Doherty said;
“Last week in this Chamber as your Government and Fianna Fáil announced the Budget for 2020 I said that ‘the housing crisis had become wrapped up in statistics and figures, instead of focusing on the people behind the statistics’.
“Earlier this week a group of volunteers who offer food and clothes to the Dublin homeless posted a photo online.
“The photo showed a 5 year-old boy eating dinner from a sheet of cardboard on the ground in this city. Sam is 5 years old. He goes to school like any other child, but Sam is homeless.
“The volunteer group who met Sam made clear that his mother is trying her best to provide nutritious home cooked meals for her children.
“Like so many parents of homeless children in this State, their emergency accommodation strictly forbids families from cooking meals for their children.
“This is Sam’s life. Without a home, he is left without the comfort and security that should be the right of every child.
“That is the life that Fine Gael have condemned nearly 4,000 children like Sam to.
“Behind the statistics the Minister for Housing tries to bamboozle the public with, this is the stark and dark reality of our housing crisis.
“The moral stain of child homelessness is creating a lost generation of children who are having their childhood stolen.
“This is the Republic you are building.This is not a Republic of Opportunity that cherishes all the children equally.
“These are the parents and children you are failing. It is a national shame.
“Our alternative budget would have invested an additional €1bn in public housing, affordable rental and affordable purchase homes and introduced a rent freeze and refundable tax credit for renters.
"These are the solutions that are needed to deal with the housing and homelessness crisis. Instead, you and your partners in Fianna Fáil chose to ignore these people in a budget without ambition, ideas or much needed investment that would have given workers and families a real break."
Sinn Féin spokesperson for the Community and Voluntary Sector Emma Rogan has called on the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) to provide additional public engagement events during its consultation process on the allocation of Dormant Accounts Funding (DAF).
The release of the funding from dormant accounts will provide an injection of £16 million for Community and Voluntary Sector.
"Having advocated for such a process I welcome the NLCF's decision to launch a public consultation on a Dormant Accounts Fund, which will consider eligibility criteria and themes associated with the fund.
“However, it is concerning that only four public engagement events are being held for community groups across the north.
"Smaller organisations in some areas will have a limited opportunity to attend these scheduled engagements and may not have the capacity to facilitate their own engagement events in their locality.
"Community groups in the areas of South Down, North Antrim and West Tyrone in particular appear to be disadvantaged with no public engagement events scheduled there.
"I will be writing to the National Lottery Community Fund to request additional public engagement events so that community groups across the North have an equal opportunity to have their voices heard on the development of Dormant Accounts Funding.
Sinn Féin will also be making our own submission to this consultation and we will be engaging with community groups through the process.”
Irish government must allow Adoptees access to birth information - Matt Carthy MEP
Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North-West, Matt Carthy MEP, has expressed concern that Ireland remains the only EU country to deny adoptees accessing their identity and birth information.
Speaking on the difficulties this has caused for adoptees, Carthy said:
“As reported by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Ireland is the only EU country that does not grant adoptees the right to access adoption files and information relating to their biological family, such as access to their birth certificate or to their health history.
“This is just one of many instances of Ireland lagging behind other EU countries when it comes to providing fundamental rights and equality. While other EU countries granted adoptees access to information decades ago, the Irish government is dragging their heels on this issue, making access to a birth certificate an ordeal. This results in generations of adoptees in Ireland being prevented accessing their own health, heritage and history information because our government allows only the minimal information to adoptees via a register of voluntary participation.
“In a recent survey carried out by Aitheantas, (Adoptee Identity Rights), 84% of adoptees who completed the survey stated that their lack of access to medical information has affected them.
“The government has obligations to uphold its commitments to international human rights laws that it cannot ignore. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates the child’s ‘right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.’ Furthermore, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in respect of Inter-Country Adoption states that authorities shall preserve information on ‘the child’s origin, in particular information concerning the identity of his or her parents, as well as the medical history.’ This should not be any different for adoptions that occurred within Ireland.
“I note that adoptees in the north of Ireland can access their birth information - there is need for the Dublin government to ensure all-Ireland cohesion on this issue.
“The Irish government has had no legislation on this area since 1952, meaning there is need to create an updated legislative framework as a matter of urgency. It is therefore regretful to see this issue repeatedly shelved by successive ministers. The Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill must be fast-tracked and must address the concerns of those that it effects most rather than entertaining outdated concepts of adoption.
"I have contacted Minister Zappone urging her to meet with representatives of Aitheantas, which represents adoptees, at the earliest possible opportunity. It is essential that the concerns of adoptees are listened to in the drafting of a new Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill.”
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokespersons MLA Declan McAleer and TD Brian Stanley have restated the need for the all-island Agri-food sector to be protected during Brexit negotiations.
Speaking at the launch of ‘The EU and Irish Unity – planning and preparing for constitutional change in Ireland’ report by the European Parliament , MLA McAleer said:
“We must ensure that we limit the damage that Brexit will have on agriculture and the agri-food industry across the island of Ireland.
“Recent independent reports by the Irish Institute of European Affairs (IIEA) and the Department of Economy confirm that a Brexit presents a doomsday scenario for Irish farming and all-Ireland trade.
“The north will be extremely vulnerable given that agri-food sector on the island of Ireland is highly integrated and farmers are totally dependent on the current levels of direct payments from the EU for their survival.
“We’re potentially looking at a 30% tariff on dairy, 20% on lamb and coupled with the removal of EU subsidies.
“Each year, cross border agri-food trade sees over 800 million litres of milk, 400,000 lambs and a similar number of pigs move between the North and South. All of that faces disruption and restrictions.
“Brexit poses a huge economic threat right across this island.
Speaking alongside MLA McAleer, Deputy Stanley said:
“To avoid the worst impact of Brexit within our all-island Agri-food industry we need to see three things happen.
“First of all, we need to ensure that there is complete regulatory alignment across the island with regards to agri-food rules and regulations.
“Any suggestion that each and every ingredient contained in a product created in the North would require an export health certificate to come into the South is fantasy stuff. It would bring the entire industry to a standstill.
“Secondly, there can be no customs or tariffs on the island of Ireland. What we need to see is the North granted Special Designated Status, which is a policy that Sinn Féin have been pushing for the last three years.
“Thirdly, the CAP Pillar 1 and 2 architecture must be retained in the North regardless of what deal is secured. Farming relies on EU subsidies to survive and to keep food at an affordable price for the consumer'
In conclusion, MLA McAleer said:
“Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the sector, lobby the department and do our best nationally, at EU level, in councils and internationally to highlight the plight that Brexit will inflict on our communities.
“If we are dragged out of the EU against our will, and if the basic demands of the Agri-food sector are not met then people should be given the opportunity to vote to get back into the EU through Irish reunification.”
Sinn Féin Mayo Senator Rose Conway Walsh joined carers from all over the State in their demonstration outside Leinster House earlier today when they voiced their disappointment about the failure of government to recognise the work they do in the 2020 budget.
Speaking in Seanad Senator Conway-Walsh said:
“Urgent changes are needed to support our family carers. It is disgraceful that carers have to protest one week after the budget that does little for carers.
"We saw an increase in the hours carers can work or study outside the home from 15 hours to 18.5 hours each week and remain eligible for carers allowance, carers benefit or carers support.
"However, by not increasing the income disregard for Carers Allowance which has not changed in 11 years, carers who go out and work more hours could see their Carers Allowance cut if their income increases too much because of the extra work.
"We need urgent reform of the means test for carers. As one carer told me earlier today ‘yes we can work and extra 3.5 hours so long as we don’t get paid too much for it.'
"The Government had an opportunity to reinstate the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant which should never have been withdrawn in 2013.
"In rural Ireland and places like Mayo these transport supports are desperately needed to access services that have been centralised as well as to participate in activities to prevent social exclusion.
"Adequate homecare and respite should be an automatic right for any carer. While there was an increase in the allocation of home help hours the government’s own costings stated it would cost €59 million just to clear the waiting lists. Given the government’s failure to deliver on promised hours in 2019 it is unclear as to how many of these additional hours will be required to catch up on this year’s shortfall.
"Minister Regina Doherty told carers today that we needed a citizens assembly to get agreement of the needs of carers. I don’t accept this as see her suggestion as merely kicking the can down the road. Carers deserve better for the millions they save the State and the wonderful work they do every day and night."