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Speaking after today’s Climate Action Committee, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Justice, Senator Lynn Boylan welcomed confirmation that Ireland’s marine and coastal communities could provide jobs in research and habitat restoration if the political will was there.

Senator Boylan said:

“We hear a lot about the potential from offshore wind farms both in creating jobs and and in reaching our climate targets.  While this is true and is to be welcomed, our marine habitats have enormous untapped potential for job creation and carbon reduction. 

“With the right legal framework and investment there is huge potential for research facilities, tourism, local fisheries and nature based solutions to climate change.   Currently Government Agencies in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment are well below the EU average when it comes to investing in research and development.   This has to change.

“It was heartening to hear all the experts at today’s committee agree that with the right strategy and proper investment our marine environment offers huge potential in terms of jobs and research. We need to start looking at how climate action can benefit communities.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Kathleen Funchion TD, has welcomed the Minister for Children’s publication of legislation to address access to information and tracing services for all adopted people.

Speaking after today’s announcement, Teachta Funchion said:

“The rights of an adopted person to access their full personal information must be at the heart of this legislation.

“Sinn Féin have steadfastly stood with all adopted people in calling for comprehensive legislation to give adopted people access to their birth certificates, care information, adoption records and medical information.  

“And that this information would be released in full and unredacted to an adopted person regardless of their adoption story.

“I am pleased to learn that provision will be given to persons who believe they may be the victim of an illegal adoption, particularly in light of the recent RTÉ Investigates programme which highlighted the shocking and widespread adoption practices of state and church in Ireland in the past.  

“I have consistently advocated on behalf of all adopted people for the right to their personal birth and care information. And to this end I published legislation, which passed in January of this year to give all adopted people the right to access their birth records. 

“This legislation really matters for adopted people and I look forward to working with the Minister and any relevant departments to make this hugely significant legislation a reality.

“I now look forward to the opportunity to discuss this legislation in depth in the Children’s Committee and the opportunity to hear from the relevant groups their views on this proposed legislation. 

"As I have said throughout, the needs of survivors must be central in any process. Survivors, their families and their advocates must now be given time to consider this legislation. The Department must consult closely with survivors to be sensitive to their needs and ensure that any system put in place delivers the information they deserve.

"I want to take this opportunity to once again commend survivors for their tireless and passionate advocacy on this issue and their determination to ensure this important right is no longer denied to them."    

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing Thomas Gould TD has today called on Junior Minister Frank Feighan to begin preparation work for the expansion of capacity at addiction recovery meetings.

Teachta Gould said:

“Last year, the Junior Minister finally got permission for addiction recovery group meetings, such as AA, to return with certain restrictions after a long campaign by myself and many of the groups concerned.

“Now, as we are faced with the prospect of reopening the state, it is time for Junior Minister Feighan to start to put plans in place for the full resumption of meetings beyond the current capacity of 15.

“These plans need to be in line with public health advice obviously, but the Junior Minister must now take a proactive approach. It was until groups had been closed for months last year that he started to put a plan in place for their resumption. We can’t see the same happen now.

“From the original closure of addiction groups to rehabilitation treatment waiting times, the Minister has waited time and again for these issues to become a major problem before taking any action.

“In response to a question I submitted, the Minister indicated he would only start planning for the expansion of these meetings once indoor gatherings were allowed again.

“There is scope for the Minister to take the bull by the horns and devise the plan now.

“Instead of sitting back waiting for someone else to make the decision for him, the Minister could start preparing and seeking public health advice now.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has strongly criticised the Taoiseach for having no plan to stop investment funds snapping up family homes, driving up house prices and charging extortionate rents.

Teachta McDonald said:

"I asked the Taoiseach to tell us his plan to stop these vulture funds from buying up family homes from underneath ordinary people desperately looking to put an affordable, secure roof over their heads.

"Instead of a clear answer, I was met with waffe, delays and excuses. As these wealthy funds look to spread their wings across the state, the government is sitting on its hands.

"These investment funds are now moving into Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway with leading developers saying they will be selling more than 40% of their new homes to these funds in the years ahead.

"This is a win-win for investment funds and a lose-lose for home buyers and renters. 

"The Taoiseach's response to the vulture funds issue mirrors the anemic response of his government to the housing crisis.

"At a time when the government should be moving heaven and earth to make housing affordable again, they continue to encourage these funds to buy up family homes.

"There is a very clear way to stop these vulture funds. The first step is to end the sweetheart tax advantages bestowed upon them by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

"The second step is to double the state's capital investment for affordable and social housing as called for by Sinn Féin and echoed by the ESRI. The answer is to build public housing on public land. 

"The days of the developers and vulture funds being king need to be brought to an end if we are going to fix housing. Where is the Taoiseach's plan to rein in these funds?"

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Dublin City Council last night voted unanimously in favour of a Sinn Féin motion calling for immediate government action to stop vulture funds pricing workers, families and struggling home-buyers out of home ownership.

A separate motion by Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD and spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin that calls on the government to legislate to end the tax advantages enjoyed by institutional investors in the housing market will be debated in the Dáil this evening.

Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan said:

"The vote was hugely important. Sinn Féin's motion demanding immediate government action on vulture funds received unanimous support. 

“The largest local authority is speaking in one voice on vulture funds.

"Vulture funds preying on the Irish housing market is wrong. They are pricing workers, families and struggling home-buyers out of home ownership.

“This should not be allowed, but it is nothing new. Recent crocodile tears shed by government representatives just will not wash with the public.

"This hasn’t just landed from the sky out of nowhere, it has been going on for several years.

“Investment funds have been allowed to buy up 13,026 residential properties in Dublin between 2016 and 2020. 

“This is as a direct result of Fine Gael housing policy, supported and continued by Fianna Fáil, and is having a very negative and immediate impact on Dublin's housing crisis. 

“These investment funds force up the cost of family homes and condemn people to being locked in to the precarious private rented sector or to languish on City Council's spiralling housing lists.

"Dublin City Council demands that this government takes immediate action to tackle vulture funds. We also propose solutions to this crisis. We have land and plans to deliver social and real affordable to buy or rent homes.

“What continues is a lack of government cooperation and action on plans for Oscar Traynor Road and St Míchael's, Inchicore.

“We need to make housing affordable again for ordinary workers and families, and stop lining the pockets of developers and investment funds.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has described today’s inquest verdict as a vindication of the campaign of the families of all those killed by members of the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy 50 years ago.

She said, however, that today will be bittersweet as the British government will now attempt to block justice by walking away from their agreement with the Irish government on dealing with the past.

Teachta McDonald said:

“In August 1971, over a three-day period in Ballymurphy in West Belfast, 11 people were killed by members of the Parachute Regiment and, for the last five decades, the families have battled to get truth and justice.

"I want to commend them for their determination and to extend to them my solidarity and support.

"Today, after 50 years, the families have been vindicated and facts have been laid bare before the world. The families always knew the truth and people across Ireland always knew the truth and today it has been proven.

"But today will be bittersweet as the British government confirms that they will now attempt to block the families from getting justice, in defiance of an international agreement signed with the Irish government on dealing with the past.

"The Stormont House Agreement was about facilitating the pursuit of truth and justice in a balanced, transparent and fair manner. 

"In February, members of the Dáil stood as one in calling for the British government to honour their commitment to introduce legislation to implement the Stormont House Agreement. 

"British claims that Stormont House is not working are totally disingenuous. The reason that Stormont House is not working is because the British government have blocked it and have refused to introduce legislation to implement it. That is the problem.

"Their intention to now totally walk away from the Stormont House Agreement is totally unacceptable and it cannot go unchecked and unchallenged.

"Making agreements is important but keeping agreements is even more so. We will be raising this with the Taoiseach today, and it is critical that every political, diplomatic and legal option is now considered by the Irish government.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed today’s announcement of an expanded Summer Provision programme this year.

However, he has urged caution that the Minister must deliver on her promises, and not disappoint children with additional needs and their families.

Speaking from Leinster House, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“Despite the best efforts of everyone – teachers, school staff, families and the students themselves – it is unfortunately still the case that many children have lost out, and that there has been a learning loss.

“This is particularly the case for children with special educational needs. They have missed out hugely and their routines were turned upside down.

“Sinn Féin recognised this, and called on the Minister to plan for a very substantial summer programme – one which ensures that every child who wants to take part in this programme can, and one which goes beyond the DEIS schools that traditionally availed of summer camps in tackling disadvantage.

“I am glad that the Minister listened to the calls of Sinn Féin and others, and has announced today an expansion of the Summer Provision programme. This year more than ever, it is important that all children who need that additional assistance are supported.

“The Minister must now urgently release guidance to schools, so that they can properly prepare for the programme this summer. In a normal year, the guidance would already have long been released to schools.

“It is unfair on schools and teachers, who will now be expected to pull together a comprehensive summer programme in the space of just a few weeks.

"We want to see as many children as possible avail of the programme; it isn’t good enough that schools are still waiting for comprehensive guidance on how the programme will work this year.

“Many schools will be facilitating summer programmes for the first time this year, and the Minister must provide adequate funding and guidance to support schools through this process.

“I hope that the Minister has done the proper capacity planning, and the preparation required to see this to fruition. I would have some concern that families may end up disappointed, if the Minister overpromises and under-delivers.

“The Minister today has announced that the largest ever number of children will be eligible for the programme this year. The reality is, however, that eligibility doesn’t translate to a guaranteed place on the programme, without the proper capacity planning having been done.

“I sincerely hope that the Minister has put in the work, to ensure that there are teachers and SNAs available to facilitate the programme. I am looking forward to hearing further information on the earlier payment of teachers – removing all disincentives will be crucial to ensuring that the number of spaces available can be maximised.

“Each year, the task for families of trying to find a home-tutor for their children is like finding a needle in a haystack.

"I again today reiterate the call to the Minister to put forward a centralised database of teachers and SNAs who are willing to provide tuition for families, to try and counter these difficulties.

“Today’s announcement will be a great relief to many children and their families. I sincerely hope the Minister will make good on her promise of an expanded Summer Provision programme this year, and I look forward to engaging constructively with her to achieve this."

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill has said today is a day for truth and for the Ballymurphy families as the British state's murder has been exposed. 

Michelle O'Neill said: 

"My first thoughts today are with the families of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre. All were innocent and today their families have been vindicated. 

"For five decades they have campaigned with dignity and determination for the truth about what happened to their loved ones and despite all the setbacks they have kept going with such resilience and resolve. 

"Today is their day; it is a day for truth. 

"What happened in Ballymurphy was state murder and for decades the British government have covered it up. Now the truth has been laid bare for all to see. 

"But still this British government are attempting to slam the door to justice closed in the face of these families and others killed by the state or as a result of collusion. 

"As the findings from the inquest were being read, the British government was announcing its plans to legislate to cover up its role in the conflict and to put current and former British soldiers beyond justice and the law. 

"British state forces cannot be above the law. We must deal with the past, including the British state's role, and the Stormont House Agreement must be implemented immediately."

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has praised the swift action of the Fire & Rescue Service in dealing with a fire Drummard Drive, Coleraine in the early hours of this morning.  

The East Derry MLA said: 

“This could have been a very serious incident but thankfully the fire crew who attended the incident were able to bring it under control quickly and rescue those inside.

“Police have started an investigation and reports are that a bin had been placed against the door of the flats and set on fire. 

“I would appeal for anyone with information to come forward." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has welcomed the Assembly’s backing of his motion calling for a longer-term autism strategy produced in partnership with families, carers and those with autism. 

The party’s spokesperson for health said: 

“I am pleased the Assembly backed my motion calling for a longer-term autism strategy produced in partnership with families, carers and those with autism. 

"The current delays which force parents to go private for their child's autism diagnosis is unacceptable.

“No parent or carer should ever be forced to pay for an autism diagnosis for a child. 

"This is the first step towards delivering a service which meets the needs of children with autism and their families."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has welcomed the intervention of the AILG and LAMA, the representative bodies for county councillors, in the debate about the Land Development Agency (LDA).

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“I was very pleased to see AILG and LAMA contribute to the ongoing debate on the Land Development Agency Bill at the Housing Committee.

“I was particularly pleased to see detailed, proposed amendments on the Bill tabled by the AILG.

“While it is unfortunate that some members of the Housing Committee tried to prevent these representative bodies from having a public hearing, I am glad now that all members see the value in hearing what they have to say.

“The contributions of these two groups broadly support the view held by Sinn Féin. That is that the LDA will undermine the role of local authorities in the delivery of social and unaffordable homes.

“Sinn Féin is happy to table the AILG amendments along with a substantial number of our own.

“We have long argued that we need an active Land Management Agency and we do not need a centralised state agency to deliver social and affordable homes.

“This role should continue to be done by local authorities, supported by Approved Housing Bodies and Community Housing Trusts.

“We share the very significant concerns that if this LDA bill goes through as is, Local Authorities will be side-lined, with their powers reduced and permanently diminished.”

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MacManus welcomes Human Rights Watch report labelling Israel an apartheid state

Sinn Féin MEP says “Recognition of Palestinian Persecution must result in real action”

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has welcomed a recently released report by the international NGO Human Rights Watch. The report called ‘A Threshold Crossed’ labelled Israel an apartheid state and accuses it of systematic persecution of the Palestinian people, which are accepted as crimes against humanity. 

MacManus, a member of European Parliament Delegation to Palestine, commented:

“The comprehensive nature of this new report must be recognised. It is not a 2-page press statement, but a 224-page document with over 800 references, from an internationally recognised human rights organisation.”

“The report sets out the legal tests in international law for such crimes and methodically illustrates how Israel’s actions meet the criteria beyond any reasonable doubt.”

“This is something we have known for years and was first recognised by the UN in 2017, but it is important that wide consensus is reached in the international community, and this new report is a welcomed step.The events of this week have crystallised the need to act. In the last seven days the sacred Al Aqsa Mosque was attacked by Israeli forces, Palestinian families are battling forced evictions in East Jerusalem and last night 21 people were killed in airstrikes.”

The Midlands Northwest MEP said pressure would mount on governments. “The purpose of building international consensus is to make it politically intolerable for any government to not support the UN referring Israel to the international criminal Court (ICC) for its operation of an apartheid state. The court is already investigating Israel for war crimes against Palestinians.”

“Furthermore, the international community must not meet positive convictions of Israel in these cases, with silence. A deep re-evaluation of how Israel is dealt with, until it ends its persecution of the Palestinian people is urgently required.” 

MacManus concluded, “In the meantime, The Irish Government must permit the advancement of the Occupied Territories Bill and recognise the State of Palestine, as a strong message of solidarity with those suffering.” ENDS

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Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers' Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, has said an ESRI report on intergenerational inequality, which outlined how the pandemic has hit younger workers hardest, should be a wake up call to government and policy makers that we cannot return to business as usual after pandemic.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“This Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report comes hot on the heels of data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistical division, all of which shows the scale of the Covid crisis on young people. Reports from all three organisations have outlined that the pandemic has hit younger workers hardest.

“The latest research from the ESRI outlined that there were 112,000 fewer 15-34 year olds in paid work in the final quarter of 2020 than a year earlier. Proportionally, employment was 14 per cent below its pre-pandemic level for those age 15-34.

“Part of the reason for the disproportionate impact of job losses on young workers is they were more likely to be employed in the retail, hospitality, and arts and leisure sectors, those most affected by the Covid crisis and associated public health measures.

“Nevertheless, the scale of employment in these sectors is also cause for concern, given the overrepresentation of young adults employed in this sector – almost 40 per cent of workers born between 1985 and 1994 were working in these sectors.

“The data also reinforced one of the greatest threats to our society and economy – the scale of intergenerational inequality which currently exists. Young people are locked out of housing and on top of this their earnings have also stagnated. Indeed, young workers in their early 20s have been earning less in the 2010s than they did in the 1990s or 2000s (adjusted for inflation).

“The fact of the matter is our economy has never worked for everyone, and it has especially failed young people. Successive Governments have rewarded wealth over work and multinational corporations over working families, and the pandemic has exposed this.

“Post-Covid19, we cannot go back to ‘business as usual’ and have a reconstitution of the economy as it was, which was exactly what was done after the financial crisis – we must build back better.

“The State is a critical player in the economy, in economic development, and in economic direction; and as we exist this crisis the government must play their part in delivering building a more robust, progressive economy – a high wage, high productivity, and high growth economy that delivers for young people, for workers and for society.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD has welcomed the commencement of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The conference is intended to give citizens an opportunity to have their say, and to voice their concerns over the future direction of the EU in the coming years.

Teachta Brady has called for citizens from the north of Ireland to get afforded the same opportunity to have their voices heard.

The Wicklow TD said:

“The Conference on the Future of Europe offers an opportunity for all EU citizens to have an input on the future direction of the EU, and I would encourage civic Ireland to take the opportunity to participate and have their voice heard.

"I believe that it is critically important that the citizens of the north of Ireland are provided with a platform that will allow them to engage constructively with the Conference on the Future of Europe.

"Not only are the citizens of the north of Ireland subject to EU rules and regulations, but I believe that their future, and the future of the whole of the island of Ireland lies within the EU.

"“It is also my intention to place the principle of Irish neutrality at the centre of the discourse surrounding the future of the EU.

"Our neutrality has not only served our interests as a nation, but also offers Ireland a unique opportunity to play a significant role on the world stage, as a nation that enjoys the trust and support of the global community as a consequence of our non-aligned status."

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A motion launched by Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD and spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin that calls on the government to legislate to end the tax advantages enjoyed by institutional investors in the housing market will be debated in the Dáil this evening.

The motion also implores government to bring forward measures to reverse their damaging policy and end the displacement of workers, families and struggling home-buyers by these institutional investment funds.  

Speaking today, Teachta Doherty said:

“Institutional investors enjoy tax advantages and exemptions that are distorting the housing market.

“These institutional investors are pricing workers, families and struggling home buyers out of home ownership, and pushing up rents and property prices.

“They are also distorting the activities of developers, who are skewing supply to maximise their incomes, and the incomes of institutional investors, rather than the needs of society.

“This did not happen overnight or by accident.

“It is the direct consequence of government policy, introduced by the Fine Gael government and facilitated by Fianna Fáil.

“These institutional investment funds were granted massive tax advantages by Fine Gael.

“Many of them, such as REITs and IREFs, pay no corporation tax on their rental profit, no capital gains tax, and very little stamp duty. 

“Against them, struggling home buyers don’t stand a chance.

“For years, Sinn Féin has called for these tax advantages to be brought to an end, and for additional taxes to be levied against these funds through a stamp duty surcharge.

“This motion calls on the government to implement these long-held Sinn Féin policies immediately, and to shift the balance in favour of struggling home-buyers.”

Teachta Ó Broin added:

“In addition to closing down the outrageous tax advantages given to vulture funds, we need real reform of the planning system. 

“Emergency legislation needs to be introduced to stop these funds bulk-buying residential developments that should be on the market for first time buyers and other working people looking to buy a home. 

“We also need more far-reaching reform of the planning system to ensure that future planning applications have the right balance of owner-occupier and rental homes determined by local need, not the profit-seeking of large institutional investors.”

The motion can be read here.

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Sinn Féin MLA Emma Sheerin has called on the Irish government to act to end the deepening crisis in Jerusalem and Gaza following days of Israeli aggression and the killing of over 20 Palestinians. 

Speaking from the Assembly today, the Mid Ulster MLA said: 

“Today I requested an urgent discussion in the Assembly on the deepening crisis in East Jerusalem and Gaza as result of aggression by the Israeli military.

“Over 20 people are now dead, including children, and hundreds injured after days of Israeli airstrikes and violent clashes which included a full-scale assault on Al Aqsa Mosque.

“This is deeply concerning and a further extension of Israel’s campaign to expand settlements and forcibly evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.

“The international community and the Irish government must act to end this crisis and defend the rights of the Palestinian people.

“The Irish government must use its position on the UN Security Council to call for an urgent session to demand implementation of the UN resolutions on Jerusalem and occupied Palestine.”

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Sinn Féin spokespersons on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh and John O’Dowd MLA, have launched a survey to look at how we can remove barriers and increase cross-border enrolment in third-level education. 

Teachta Conway-Walsh said:

We are launching a survey to explore why so few students cross the border for third level education and get student views on how we can improve cross-border enrolment.

“Sinn Féin believes in an all-Ireland approach to education that is based on accessibility and inclusion and is free from borders and barriers.

“Despite living on a small island, it is clear that partition has had a huge bearing on where students choose to study – limiting student opportunities. 

“Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, cross-border enrolment on this island has remained low.

“Overall student mobility has declined in the last 10 years by 18 percent.

“In the North, from 2016 until 2019 enrolments from the South accounted for around 4% of the total student population. Enrolments at Further Education Colleges are even lower.

“When we look at colleges in the South, students from the North make up less than 1 percent of the student population. This is despite a lack of third-level capacity in the North.

“Going to University in Belfast should be the same as going to College in Cork.

“Differences in admissions, funding and a general lack of collaboration and information between government institutions has limited student opportunities.

“Detailed analysis is required to examine all barriers that block cross border student movement.

“Until the border is removed, we must do all we can to minimise its ability to divide and separate us."

CRÍOCH/ENDS

Survey Link - https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/X2HVH6D

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Sinn Féin MLA Jemma Dolan has welcomed the decision to proceed with the A4 Enniskillen bypass and said she now looks forward to its delivery. 

The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA stated:

"This is great news for Enniskillen and the local area. 

“I’m delighted that on the day I table the A4 Enniskillen Bypass for debate on the assembly floor, the Minister has agreed to proceed with the scheme.

“This scheme will cut air pollution and congestion in Enniskillen town, while enjoying the overwhelming support of the local area.

“My constituency is one of the worst areas deprived of modern, decent roads. In order to drive regional balance, we need to invest in the right infrastructure that helps us achieve that.  

“I will continue to push for the delivery of this vital scheme."

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Sinn Féin’s Leader in the Seanad, Niall Ó Donnghaile, has welcomed last night’s vote in the Seanad calling for a Citizens' Assembly to plan and prepare for constitutional change.

Speaking this morning, Senator Ó Donnghaile said;

“I was delighted to second the amendment from Senator Frances Black at last night's debate in the Seanad, which called for responsible planning and preparation for constitutional change and supported the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly.

“This vote is a significant one and the adoption of this position by the Seanad is also of great significance.

“It comes after the weekend’s call from over three thousand Antrim Gaels calling for the establishment of a Citizens' Assembly.

“Today’s meeting of the Good Friday Agreement Committee will also hear additional calls for such an Assembly from figures within civic groups.

“The time to plan and prepare for constitutional change is now.

“I hope the government will heed the will of the Seanad.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Nicola Brogan has said the routine use of restraint and seclusion against school children should stop. 

The party’s spokesperson for children and young people was speaking after the Department of Education published interim guidance on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. 

Nicola Brogan said: 

“Restraint should never be used unless a child is at risk of harming themselves or others. 

“Unfortunately, official guidance issued today reinforces out of date notions of restraint as acceptable to maintain discipline and good order while implying the use of isolation is acceptable as long as the door isn’t locked. 

“De-escalation techniques provide a welcome alternative to the use of force and denial of liberty.” 

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