Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has called on the British government to make Orkambi available to people with cystic fibrosis in the north.
The West Tyrone MP said:
“I along with my Sinn Féin MPs have signed a cross-party letter that the Cystic Fibrosis Trust delivered to Theresa May on the 16th May. That date is significant as it marked one year since the British Prime Minister called for a speedy resolution to access to medicines on the NHS for those with Cystic Fibrosis.
“While this serious illness cannot be cured, Orkambi has been proven to significantly slow the rate of decline of lung function. I have been able to see the positive impact that Orkambi has had on the life of a constituent who has been able to access the drug as part of a medical trial.
“This medical treatment is already available in the south of Ireland and many other jurisdictions. It is cruel that cystic fibrosis sufferers in the north of Ireland do not have the same access.
“The Department of Health should follow the example of Scotland by beginning the process of making Orkambi available on the NHS through engaging with the makers of the drug, Vertex Pharmaceuticals.
"I have written to Richard Pengelly, the permanent secretary of the Department of Health, asking him to begin negotiations with Vertex Pharmaceuticals to take positive steps towards making this treatment accessible here.
“Time is of the essence, it is imperative that the British Government and the makers of Orkambi, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, reach an agreement to make Orkambi available on the NHS.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has hit out at the government for being in an “ideological cul de sac” on the housing crisis.
Teachta McDonald was reacting to media reports that the government has spent €1.2 billion on buying privately built homes in the midst of the crisis.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“The housing crisis is deep and it is widespread. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Eoghan Murphy are out of touch. They are in an ideological cul de sac. They convince themselves that everything is fine but, in reality, their plan has failed abysmally.
“This government thinks nothing of handing over billions to a private company for broadband in a deal that lacks any clarity over capacity to deliver. We see cost over runs of hundreds of millions in capital projects and yet this government refuse to invest in building homes at the scale required.
“It is time for the government to get off the side off the pitch and understand that the State has to intervene - piecemeal interventions won't do it.
“There are answers and Sinn Féin has presented them time and again. Radical action must be taken; we need to double the number of social and affordable homes being built, we need a rent freeze, and we need to stop the vultures by progressing the No Consent, No Sale Bill.”
Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill MLA has said there is a clear and growing demand for marriage equality and rights for all in our society.
Speaking after attending today's Love Equality rally in Belfast, Michelle O'Neill said:
"It was great to see thousands of people coming out on to the streets of Belfast once again in support of marriage equality.
"The contribution by Sarah Canning, the partner of Lyra McKee was moving and powerful.
"Society is changing north and south; no more should couples who are in love be denied the right to get married.
"The message today has been loud and clear. People want equality and rights for all. They want a modern society, an inclusive society and Sinn Féin is very proud to march with them and campaign for the delivery of those rights.
"I want to commend the organisers of today's march for putting together a welcoming and inclusive event. They sent solidarity to others in society, to Irish language speakers, the victims of institutional abuse and victims of the conflict and to women campaigning for appropriate and compassionate healthcare services.
"They want an end to the denial of rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else in these islands.
"And today’s march and rally was supported by all the progressive political parties who support an end to the Tory government and the DUP’s denial of rights.
"We’re currently engaged in a fresh round of political talks and I believe we can resolve the outstanding rights issues and establish an Executive which is credible, sustainable and free from DUP financial scandals.
"Sinn Féin wants a local assembly to make decisions on the implementation of those rights.
"In the absence of an Executive and assembly we have called on the two governments to work through the British Irish intergovernmental conference to ensure that citizens here have an equivalence of rights.”
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has said the PSNI investigation into historical child abuse in Fermanagh must address the failings of previous investigations.
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP said:
“The recent revelations about historical child abuse in Fermanagh raise serious questions about previous police investigations into the matter.
“It is clear there were serious failings in the initial police investigation that let victims down and allowed this abuse to continue.
“The new PSNI investigation needs to address these failings, identify how and why they happened and ensure it can never happen again.
“I will be seeking a meeting with the PSNI to discuss these concerns and the need for the current investigation to be thorough and address the needs of victims and survivors.
“I want to commend the courage of those who have come forward to tell their story and those who have helped them do so and I’d encourage anyone else who had information that can help to also come forward.
“The needs and concerns of the victims and survivors of this terrible abuse need to be central to this process and they should be kept up to date at every stage of this investigation.
“It must also be ensured that victims and survivors get the help and support they need.”
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald today attended a memorial event marking the 45th anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
Speaking following the event Ms McDonald said:
"Today, we gathered at the memorial on Talbot Street to remember the families of the 33 civilians and one unborn child who died in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings in May 1974.
"The Dublin-Monaghan bombings were carried out by the Glennane gang based in South Armagh which included UVF, MI5, RUC, as well as UDR members.
"The co-ordinated, no warning bombings resulted in the highest amount of deaths and casualties in the conflict and yet, no one has ever been brought to justice.
"In 2008, 2011 and 2016, the Dáil unanimously passed motions on the bombings, which called on the British Government to release any relevant files that they hold and for the Irish Government to press them to comply with this reasonable request.
"The British government has, however, remained steadfast in its refusal to release the files.
"Today is a day to remember those lost as we resolve to continue the campaign for truth. I wish to pay tribute to the families and to Justice for the Forgotten.
"Their struggle and search for truth and justice has been a long and a difficult one and continues to be delayed by this British Government. This must end."
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Karen Mullan has welcomed the official opening of the new £7 million Omagh Integrated Primary School.
The Foyle MLA said: “This is a fantastic day for the pupils and staff of Omagh Integrated Primary School as they celebrate the official opening of their new school.
“It is a wonderful facility comprising of 14 classrooms catering for over 330 pupils, a nursery unit for up to 26 children and a wrap around care centre.
“The Department of Education has invested over £7 million in the build and I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work in bringing it to fruition.
“And I wish the staff, students and their families every success in their incredible new school.”
A litany of Electoral Office incompetence is directly impacting on voters in North Belfast, Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said.
The North Belfast MLA was speaking after the Electoral Office admitted an error in polling cards issued ahead of Thursday’s European election.
She commented: “This is just the latest in a series of bad decisions and mistakes by the Electoral Office which are directly impacting on the voters of North Belfast.
“In the recent local government election, disabled voters were told they could not get access to Cliftonville Integrated Primary School in order to cast their vote. That was a disgraceful situation.
“Then there was the removal of Fortwilliam Presbyterian Church as a polling station against the wishes of many within the local community. This decision has now been compounded by the poling cards issued for the EU election which lists Fortwilliam as the official polling station.
“Sinn Féin immediately raised this with the Electoral Office which confirmed that Fortwilliman remains closed as a polling station and the cards had been issued in error.
“New polling cards will now be posted but the damage has already been done and even more confusion caused by the actions of the Electoral Office.
“This litany of incompetence has to end and Sinn Féin will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Electoral Office to demand that steps are taken to ensure we never again see the kind of errors and bad decisions that have occurred over these recent elections.”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has condemned broadcaster RTÉ for its enthusiastic participation in the Eurovision song contest being held in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The Midlands North West MEP said:
“Israeli war crimes and apartheid are nothing to sing about. Palestinian artists and cultural organisations have for several years called for nonviolent pressure to be applied by the international community in the form of boycotts on Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law.
“RTÉ has ignored the thousands of Irish citizens and organisations who have petitioned for a boycott of this year’s Eurovision. Local councils in Sligo, Derry City, Strabane District Council and Galway City Council are among those who have adopted motions urging the state broadcaster to boycott this year’s Eurovision.
“The Israeli government is shamelessly exploiting the Eurovision song contest to whitewash its war crimes against the Palestinian people, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even calling last year’s winner Netta Barzilai ‘the best ambassador of Israel’.
“Just two days after Barzilai won last year’s contest, Israel massacred 62 Palestinians in Gaza, including six children. Just two weeks ago, 29 Palestinians were killed during a vicious Israeli military assault, including a baby and two pregnant women.
“In 2015, a UN report accused Israel of committing war crimes during its 2014 assault on Gaza, which killed 2,251 Palestinians including 551 children and 299 women. The people of Gaza have lived under siege for more than a decade in an open-air prison, under constant threat of bombardment, with extremely limited water, electricity, food and medicine.
“If there was ever any doubt that Israel has constructed an apartheid state, it should have been dispelled by last year’s ‘Jewish Nation-State Law’, which constitutionally sanctions institutionalised discrimination. It unambiguously defines Israel as a state that belongs exclusively to the ‘Jewish people’ despite the fact that one in five citizens of Israel is a non-Jewish Palestinian.
“The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement as a peaceful means of resisting Israeli apartheid is growing around the world. Stars such as Lorde, Lana Del Ray and Lionel Messi have recently refused to take part in events in Israel.
“The participants, the tourist visitors and the broadcasters of this year's Eurovision are complicit in justifying war crimes and apartheid. That RTÉ has ignored the principled calls for a boycott is disgraceful. I urge all Irish people to tune out and refuse to celebrate this year's Eurovision that is casually dismissing the misery and suffering of the Palestinian people.”
Speaking in response to the collapse of talks between the British Labour Party and the Tory on Brexit, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said that the "shambolic handling by the British Government of the Brexit continues".
Teachta McDonald said:
"Yesterday the British Prime Minister post-dated her resignation and committed to again bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement at the beginning of June.
"Today the talks between the government and the opposition at Westminster collapsed without agreement.
"It is clear that the British Prime Minster has lost the confidence of her party and parliament; however this does not alter the essential need to safeguard Irish Interests, our agreements, the rights of citizens and the avoidance of a hard border on the island.
"The backstop, as negotiated by the British Government, is the minimum that is required and is central to the Withdrawal Agreement.
"Sinn Féin has made that clear and the EU has made that clear. A change in leadership of the Tory party or a vote in Westminster will not change that fundamental fact.
"The message going back to the British Government is that the North voted to remain, will vote for in the EU election to remain and that vote must be respected and given effect."
Sinn Féin Victims and Legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon has reiterated her party’s call for the British Secretary of State to immediately compensate victims of historical institutional abuse.
The Mid-Ulster MLA was speaking after Karen Bradley said she is now prepared to consider legislation after her earlier refusal to do so prompted a furious reaction from victims and political parties.
Linda Dillon commented: “The fact that the British Secretary of State has been forced to shift her approach is at least some progress.
“However, her claim earlier this week that the issue should be dealt with in the Stormont negotiations caused a huge deal of upset to victims and, unfortunately, the stalling tactics continue with her insistence that questions remain unanswered regarding the Hart Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse and the subsequent public consultation.
“That simply isn’t the case. These matters were dealt with by the Hart Inquiry and should have been addressed long before now.
“The British Secretary of State needs to stop the stalling and start putting the needs of victims and survivors before her own political priorities and immediately put in place the required legal and financial framework to assist victims and survivors.”
Those who attacked election posters will not deter Sinn Féin from campaigning to return Martina Anderson as a MEP to the European Parliament, the party's councillor JJ Magee has said.
Cllr Magee was speaking after a number of Martina Anderson posters on the North Circular and Ballysillan Roads were removed and defaced with misogynistic language.
“The theft and defacing of election posters is a criminal offence and a direct attack upon the democratic process.
“There is no place for misogynism or any other kind of discrimination in our society.
“Those behind these incidents should realise they will not succeed in deterring Sinn Féin from campaigning to return Martina Anderson to the European Parliament as the strongest voice in defending the interests of the people of Ireland.
“An official complaint regarding the theft and defacing of the posters has been made to the PSNI."
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has urged people across Ireland to come out and support the Raise the Roof demonstration this weekend. The Midlands North West representative said that it has become abundantly clear during his campaigning work that the housing crisis is the most acute issue affecting people in his constituency. He will be joining the protest in Dublin this Saturday.
Matt Carthy said:
“The unprecedented housing crisis in this state has been caused by a series of failures of public policy – a failure to cap rents, a failure to build social housing, and a failure to implement an effective vacant homes strategy.
“The government has not just failed in its duty to provide adequate housing to all citizens. It has not been ‘neutral’ in this situation. Fine Gael has actively promoted the financialisation of housing by inviting in the foreign funds, and granting them a light-touch regulatory framework and special tax treatment.
“In March, the UN special rapporteur issued an absolutely scathing letter reprimanding the Irish government for its policies that have actively encouraged the financialisation of the real estate sector – and which have directly caused the extreme rise in homelessness we have witnessed.
“Specifically, the UN points to cuts to the public housing budget, and land hoarding by investors who deliberately restrict supply in order to inflate rent and prices. The UN authors single out three specific policies that have caused the financialisation of housing in Ireland, including the establishment of NAMA; the promotion of REITs from 2013 onwards; and the sale by the state-controlled banks of non-performing loans to US vulture funds.
“Sinn Féin in Brussels have been fighting vigorously to oppose the EU’s new proposed Directive on non-performing loans, which aims to give free rein to vulture funds and debt collectors across the EU, in order to bolster banks’ profits – and I will continue to do if I am re-elected.
“We are demanding a three-year rental freeze, a rent tax relief and a massive social housing building programme, as the preliminary steps in solving this crisis. We want to see the banks taxed and effectively regulated, and the vulture funds kept at bay.
“The UN has accused the Irish government of being in breach of its international obligation under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to ensure the right to adequate housing to everyone. It further accuses the government of breaching the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which declares that states must protect people against human rights abuses by business enterprises within their jurisdiction.
“This week, Sinn Féin has called for a fundamental step-change in the government’s approach to housing the people of this state. Housing needs to be enshrined as a human right in our Constitution.
“It is an absolute disgrace that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voted against a Sinn Féin Bill in support of this, and which called for the people to have their say on this issue through a referendum in the Dáil vote this week.
“I urge all citizens concerned about the housing and homelessness crisis to show their opposition to the government’s failure on housing policy by marching this Saturday in the Raise the Roof rally.”
Sinn Féin TD and Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has said that a strong Sinn Féin presence in local government would serve as a bulwark against the spiralling cost of living and hardship that the Irish people are being subjected to by Fine Gael and their supporters Fianna Fáil.
Launching the party’s local manifesto at Leinster House today, Teachta Ó Broin said:
“The stress of making ends meet is putting those on low and middle incomes under increased pressure and leaving many with little or no reserve for a rainy day.
“Families and young people cannot access affordable housing and the health service is in crisis while public money continues to be wasted by incompetent government ministers.
“Sinn Féin stand for strong local government delivering for the people who rely on it.
“Sinn Féin want to see our councils building homes, not subcontract housing to private landlords. We want to see our water services improved and expanded, not handed over to a quango that only cares about installing meters. We want amenities in local communities paid for fairly by the exchequer, not by a punitive tax on the family home.
“This document contains a suite of measures designed to give ordinary families a break, standing against the spiralling cost of living, and actually delivers on the promise of public office.”
Note: Please see Sinn Féin’s local manifesto attached
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said the destruction of a Martina Anderson election poster on the Strand Road roundabout in Coleraine is an act of anti-democratic vandalism.Caoimhe Archibald said: “The vandalism has been reported to the PSNI. “Sinn Féin will not be deterred by this anti-democratic action.“We will continue to campaign to return Martina Anderson, the strongest voice in defending the interests of the people of the north and Ireland against Brexit, to the European parliament to continue to stand up for the interests of all citizens here.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis has said it is the correct decision to restore money for sports coaching in schools.
The party’s sport, art and culture spokesperson was speaking after the Department of Education announced it is to spend £600,000 on primary sports coaching.
“Sinn Féin vigorously opposed the decision to cut money for sports coaches and it is the correct decision to restore it as children and young people should not bear the brunt of Tory austerity,” Sinéad Ennis said.
“This funding will benefit sporting projects from the GAA and Irish Football Association (IFA) within our local schools and tens of thousands of children.”
Today the six party leaders in the north have written to the British Secretary of State asking her to bring forward legislation to compensate victims and survivors of Historical Institutional abuse.
"The Head of the Civil Service David Sterling has formally asked you as the Secretary of State to progress legislation through Westminster to compensate victims of Historical Institutional Abuse.
"In his appeal to you, Mr Sterling has stressed the need to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion, particularly given the age profiles of those involved.
"You have rejected this appeal from the Head of the Civil Service for legislation to compensate victims of historical institutional abuse, instead claiming that it should be a matter for the Stormont negotiations.
"The parties share the view that despite ongoing Talks aimed at restoring the Assembly that the recommendations of the Hart Inquiry should be addressed without any further delay and a suitable legal and financial framework put in place to begin addressing the needs of victims by you as Secretary of State.
"We look forward to your response shortly."
The letter has been signed by:
Arlene Foster MLA, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
Michelle O’Neill MLA, Assembly Leader and Vice-President of Sinn Féin
Robin Swann MLA, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Colum Eastwood MLA, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
Naomi Long MLA, Leader of the Alliance Party
Clare Bailey MLA, Leader of the Green Party