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Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Communities Carál Ní Chuilín that that the Partnership Panel consisting of the Executive and local government will be reconvened. 

 

Speaking the West Belfast MLA said: 

 

“Ensuring a strong and joined up approach between the Executive and those in local government is crucial to providing for the needs of citizens.

 

“The reconvening of the Partnership Panel will provide a platform to build relationships at all tiers of governance and to discuss initiatives to benefit local communities.  

 

“We have already witnessed the enormous potential of joined up working between the Executive and local government during the height of the covid-19 pandemic when real and practical support was provided to vulnerable citizens. 

 

“As we continue to move through this pandemic and edge toward recovery, the Executive and local government must work collaborative to ensure a fair, balanced and just economic recovery which places citizens wellbeing at the core.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has offered his condolences to the family of 15 year-old Lewis Fleming who died in an incident at Powerscourt Waterfall while on holiday in County Wicklow. 

The North Antrim MLA said:

“I am greatly saddened to hear of the news that a 15 year-old young local man has tragically lost his life at such a young age, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the deceased following this tragic incident.

“The local community are also in shock by this tragic loss of life. 

“As always at times of such heart-breaking tragedy the local community will rally round in love and solidarity in an effort to provide some comfort to the Fleming family in what will be difficult days ahead.”

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Kathleen FunchionSinn Féin spokesperson on Childcare Kathleen Funchion has expressed serious concern for the future of childcare provision in the wake of eight childcare provider closures in County Kildare alone in the first six months of this year.

Limerick, Sligo and Kilkenny also saw the closure of childcare facilities. The Carlow-Kilkenny TD has said that immediate government intervention is needed to stem the tide of childcare closures.

Speaking today, Teachta Funchion said: "I have consistently warned that without taking significant measures to increase investment in this sector, there would be inevitable childcare facility closures. 

"It is so frustrating to witness small, well run businesses that have invested heavily in staff, training and infrastructure now close their doors.

“Last month I looked for the government to establish a sustainability fund to address chronic underfunding in the sector, warning that without investment we would face significant issues with childare capacity.

"Just as we encourage women to return to work, we are taking away their childcare facilities through underfunding.

"I know many in the sector were bitterly disappointed to learn the government parties voted against my private members motion.

"In order to ensure that this sector has a future the government has to get serious about investment in childcare."

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Denise MitchellDenise Mitchell, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay North, has welcomed the announcement of a renewed inquest into the Stardust fire on the night of the 14th of February 1981.

Teachta Mitchell said: “I welcome the announcement that a fresh inquest is going ahead early next year. It has been a long time coming.

“I would hope that this is the beginning of a process that ensures the families of both victims and survivors of that tragic night get justice.

“The establishment of the website is also to be welcomed and will be valuable going forward.

“It is important to acknowledge the role of Christine Keegan, and it is saddening that she is not around to see this eventually come to pass.

“I hope this process can get underway as soon as possible.”

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Rose Conway WalshSinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Rose Conway-Walsh has called on Further and Higher Education to be made accessible and affordable for everyone irrespective of their age, geography or financial circumstances.

Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin’s Student Funding survey, Teachta Conway-Walsh said:

“Too many students and their families are being pushed into poverty trying to pay for higher level education. Many working families are excluded from education grants because the assessment criteria does not accurately reflect income available to the household. This needs to change.

“Assessment on gross income instead of net income is wrong - as is ‘dependent’ assessments for mature students living with their parents and adult students who are estranged from their parents.

"Part-time students must be eligible to apply for SUSI grants. If these elements were changed to enable access to SUSI, then the hardship endured by thousands of students and their families would be eased. We are campaigning to have these and other issues addressed.

"The level of award for the SUSI grant has not bee increased since 2012. The cost of increasing this by 10% would be just over €16m and would represent a sound investment.

“The survey Sinn Féin is launching today seeks to capture the ‘real story’ surrounding access to and participation in higher level education. I am asking that students complete this three-minute online survey to help highlight the reality facing them. The results will be published later this month.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented many additional challenges for students, families and education institutions.

"A severely underfunded system combined with a sharp decline in family incomes makes for a perfect storm of inequality and exclusion. The recent USI report on ‘Student Priorities for the new Government’ outlines the need for change.

“One leaving cert student put it straight to me earlier this week when I asked him if he was going to college.

"He said: ‘Both my parents are working but they cannot afford to pay for me to go. I have younger brothers and sisters. They have to pay the mortgage, car loans and other bills. I’m not eligible for SUSI. I have always worked part-time and full time during the summer but lost this due to Covid-19. I was counting on that.’   

“We must listen to those most impacted and put the necessary measures in place to address these inequalities. The grants system ignores the financial reality for students and families. Hard working families need a break and students need investment not exclusion. 

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Rose Conway WalshSinn Féin spokesperson  on Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Rose Conway-Walsh has called on Further and Higher Education to be made accessible and affordable for everyone irrespective of their age, geography or financial circumstances.

Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin’s Student Funding survey, Teachta Conway-Walsh said: “Too many students and their families are being pushed into poverty trying to pay for higher level education. Many working families are excluded from education grants because the assessment criteria does not accurately reflect income available to the household. This needs to change.

“Assessment on gross income instead of net income is wrong - as is ‘dependent’ assessments for mature students living with their parents and adult students who are estranged from their parents.

"Part-time students must be eligible to apply for SUSI grants. If these elements were changed to enable access to SUSI, then the hardship endured by thousands of students and their families would be eased. We are campaigning to have these and other issues addressed.

"The level of award for the SUSI grant has not bee increased since 2012. The cost of increasing this by 10% would be just over €16m and would represent a sound investment.

“The survey Sinn Féin is launching today seeks to capture the ‘real story’ surrounding access to and participation in higher level education. I am asking that students complete this three-minute online survey to help highlight the reality facing them. The results will be published later this month.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented many additional challenges for students, families and education institutions.

"A severely underfunded system combined with a sharp decline in family incomes makes for a perfect storm of inequality and exclusion. The recent USI report on ‘Student Priorities for the new Government’ outlines the need for change.

“One leaving cert student put it straight to me earlier this week when I asked him if he was going to college.

"He said: ‘Both my parents are working but they cannot afford to pay for me to go. I have younger brothers and sisters. They have to pay the mortgage, car loans and other bills. I’m not eligible for SUSI. I have always worked part-time and full time during the summer but lost this due to COVID 19. I was counting on that.’   

“We must listen to those most impacted and put the necessary measures in place to address these inequalities. The grants system ignores the financial reality for students and families. Hard working families need a break and students need investment not exclusion."

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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has requested urgent action by health authorities following a cluster of COVID-19 in Newcastle, Co.Down.
The South Down MP said:

“In recent days it would appear that a COVID19 cluster has developed in the Newcastle area. 

“Myself and local Sinn Féin Councillor Willie Clarke have now requested that the Public Health Agency urgently locate a mobile testing centre in the Newcastle area in response.

“In recent weeks we have seen a significant rise in visitors to Newcastle and the growing concern of the local community is that many visitors are too relaxed when it comes to adhering to guidelines on social distancing and face masks.

“This lack of compliance not only puts the immediate person at risk, but also the frontline hospitality staff, retail workers and the local community and further easing of restrictions.

“While I also welcome and thank the vast majority of businesses who have invested large sums of money to ensure maximum protection for staff and customers, it is concerning and unacceptable that a small minority have not done so.

“All staff must have access to PPE, awareness training and their working conditions made safe to ensure minimal risks to staff and customer alike.

“In Newcastle and indeed across the North, we need to see increased social solidarity.

“I am encouraging the public to download the stop covid app and to wear face masks; for businesses to take all possible steps to protect staff and customers; and of course the statutory agencies to play a more proactive role in ensuring facilities are safe and adhering to the rules.

“The last thing that we want is a localised lockdown in a popular tourism destination such as Newcastle, this would be hugely damaging to the local family run businesses in the town, many of who have done tremendous work in preparing for safely reopening.

“However public health must be paramount, and if the PHA and Department of Health determine that is the only course of action, then the local community will have to brace itself once again for such a measure.

“Sinn Féin will continue to do all that we can to ensure that all possible measures are implemented to protect the health and wellbeing of the community in Newcastle and to minimise the spread of COVID-19.”

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Brian StanleySinn Féin TD and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Brian Stanley has expressed concern at the cost to the taxpayer of Public Private Partnerships.

Deputy Stanley was speaking following a response to his parliamentary question, which outlined that €256.9m was spent on PPPs in 2019.

The PPP model has been criticised by numerous bodies, including the European Court of Auditors, for not delivering value for taxpayers’ money and being inefficient at delivering projects on time and within budget.

Speaking today, Deputy Stanley said: “It is alarming to see that almost €260m was spent on PPPs last year. This is a model which has been shown to waste taxpayers’ money.

“Whether it is in the Education, Health or Transport, the PPP model has been proven to be inefficient with public money and to lack proper transparency.

“The answer to the PQ which I have received outlines that a total of €98.3m was spent on transport infrastructure, €75m on education and €35m on courts in the Justice sector.

“These are substantial sums of money which are being funnelled into private companies and the taxpayer is seeing very little value for money.

“For example, the National Convention Centre received a total of €24.1m last year and despite this huge investment, we have had to rent out the very same building at a cost of €25,000 a day for Dáil sittings – it is farcical.

“What is equally frustrating is a reluctance upon successive governments to move away from the PPP model.

“The National Children’s Hospital, at €2b, is already set to be the most expensive hospital in the world, and the final cost to the state has yet to be confirmed.

“The National Broadband Plan has already cost €13.5m of taxpayers' money in 2020 with a further €3b committed over 25 years - a particularly dreadful PPP which doesn’t even return the infrastructure to state-ownership after the contract.

“As Chair of PAC, I will work to ensure that we hold these PPPs to account, and that we see the greatest level of oversight and transparency possible."

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has welcomed further progress towards the 2021 opening of the medical school at Magee University. 

The Foyle MLA said:

“I’m absolutely delighted that the new medical school at Magee has passed through the quality assurance process at the General Medical Council.

“This news, alongside funding from the Executive, has allowed Ulster University to begin recruiting the first staff and students to open the doors in September 2021.

“The benefits for the city are far reaching - boosting our economy, increasing student numbers and training more doctors and medical professionals to support our communities.

 “Students can apply now via UCAS. I look forward to seeing the new medical school up and running in September 2021.”

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Colm Gildernew has said the shortcomings of the review into leadership and governance in Muckamore Abbey hospital released today emphasise the need for an independent public inquiry.

Speaking after the Department of Health published the findings of the review, Colm Gildernew said:

“The reviews finding that ‘the Belfast Trust had appropriate governance structures in place’ but they just weren’t implemented effectively, is absurd.

“It is also deeply hurtful for family members of those harmed in Muckamore.

“If governance structures aren’t implemented properly they are clearly not appropriate, and we know this was the case in Muckamore.

“A lack of recognition of these failings further emphasises the need for an independent public inquiry as called for by the Muckamore families.

“I welcome the Health Minister’s announcement that he intends to establish an inquiry into the scandalous treatment of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

“He needs to listen to the families, patients, and former patients and ensure there is a meaningful independent inquiry to get to the truth of the mis-treatment and abuse of patients in Muckamore and how the system allowed it to go on."

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John BradySinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady today expressed his heartfelt sympathies to the people of Beirut following yesterday's explosions that have cost the lives of at least 135 people.

Speaking in Leinster House today, the Wicklow TD said:

“What we have witnessed in Lebanon yesterday is an absolute tragedy - one compounded by the ongoing challenges of the economic meltdown, and the ongoing pandemic.

"We now know that at least 135 people have lost their lives and that around 5000 have been seriously injured.

"I can only imagine the impact this tragedy has had on a local health service that is close to the point of being overwhelmed by Covid-19, with frontline staff exhausted and close to breaking point.

"Strong connections which have been developed over many decades exist between the Irish and Lebanese people. 

"I know that the government, ever mindful of the compassion and generosity of the Irish people, will lend whatever aid that we can. Our thoughts are with the Lebanese people at this terrible time.” 

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Lynn BoylanSinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan has welcomed the establishment of an official Stardust Inquest website by the Coroner’s Court.

Relatives and friends have been campaigning for justice and accountability since the Stardust fire of 1981, which cost the lives of 48 people, while over 200 more suffered burns or injuries.

The website - stardustfireinquests.ie - has been set up in advance of the pre-inquest hearing, which is due to commence in September at Dublin Castle.

Speaking tonight, Senator Boylan said: “The setting-up of a dedicated website is a very welcome step and will no doubt prove to be a very valuable tool as the inquest progresses.  

"I believe that it is the first time such a website has been created for an inquest.

"I am also pleased to see that Dublin Castle has been confirmed as the location for the inquest.  

"The Stardust Inquest will be the largest inquest in the history of the State, and the families of those who died wanted a location that would be accessible and appropriate for such a significant undertaking.  I believe that Dublin Castle is a fitting choice of location.

"I hope that the inquest itself can now get under way without delay.”

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Louise OR' ReillySinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers' Rights Louise O’Reilly has called on Bank of Ireland to pause cost-cutting plans which aim to axe over 1,400 jobs.

Speaking this afternoon, Teachta O’Reilly said: “The news that Bank of Ireland are aiming to cut over 1,400 jobs in an effort to reduce costs is incredibly worrying for all staff at the bank.

“Job losses on such a scale are harrowing in normal times, but it is even more concerning given the current circumstances.

“Immediately pivoting towards cutting jobs to reduce costs is a very disappointing move from Bank of Ireland, even if it is via voluntary redundancy in the first instance.

“To paraphrase the Financial Services Union (FSU), to ask people to make such a huge and life-changing decision during a pandemic is extremely insensitive.

“Beyond the stress of having to live with this virus, many workers have additional stresses from trying to get children back to school or childcare, possibly dealing with a partner on reduced hours or who has lost their job, to caring for an elderly relative who is cocooning from the virus.

“For Bank of Ireland to then ask workers to consider voluntary redundancy at this confusing and stressful time is incredibly insulting.

“I would encourage Bank of Ireland to pause any redundancy plans and engage with workers and their trade unions in order to allow staff at the bank time to process what is going on, and have the space to come to an informed decision at some stage in the future as to whether taking early retirement or voluntary redundancy is for them.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has welcomed a £3.2 million funding boost announced by Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín to help local councils deal with COVID-19. 

Liz Kimmins said: 

"I welcome today's announcement of a £3.2 million funding package from Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín to help Councils support the community and voluntary sector deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"This funding will help local community and voluntary groups across the north who are working to help and support communities at this challenging time. 

"In particular, it will be used to support groups who are helping those who are already struggling with poverty and those whom the pandemic has hit hardest. 

"Community and voluntary groups have been doing excellent work, particularly in ensuring those most in need have access to food, and this funding will support that work and help rebuild communities that have been impacted by coronavirus." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Catherine Kelly has called on the Education Minister to urgently publish a clear plan outlining to parents and schools how pupils can safely return to education in the upcoming weeks.  

 

The West Tyrone MLA said: 

 

“On a daily basis parents are contacting local Sinn Féin constituency offices and schools seeking information on the return of schools

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“Unfortunately, we are limited in the advice that we can provide as Minister Weir has yet to announce his plans on the safe return of schools. 

 

“The Minister has had months to consider what measures and procedures he can take to maximise the safety of pupils and staff while guaranteeing their access to education.

 

“However, only weeks away from the reopening of schools there is still no clear guidance from the Minister. 

 

“I am reiterating the calls of my Sinn Féin colleagues, pupils, parents and staff for the Minister to urgently bring forward proposals for the return of schools.

 

“Quite simply - pupils, parents and school staff deserve much better than this.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Jemma Dolan has called on the Department of Infrastructure to act immediately to resolve issues at Galliagh Shore, Enniskillen.

Speaking the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said:

“It is absolutely unacceptable that after almost 15 years since these houses at Galliagh Shore were constructed, residents do not have an adequate sewage system.

“Regardless of the inadequacies and failures of the builders to ensure compliance with regulations and access to the sewage system when constructing these homes, the Department and NI Water must act without any further delay to take ownership for the connectivity and maintenance of the sewage systems of these houses.

“Despite paying their rates for the delivery of services, these residents have had to pay for their own access to the sewage system for years. 

“Worryingly this access to the sewage system has now ceased due to complications resulting in toilets not flushing and sewage running onto the streets.

“It is the firm view of Sinn Féin that all citizens across this island have a fundamental right to safe and adequate housing with proper sanitation. 

“Michelle Gildernew MP, Cllr Tommy Maguire and I will continue to work with local residents, NI water and the minister to help bring about a resolution to this issue.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has said a party delegation will meet the PSNI this week to raise concerns over a recent police search in the city in which a 14-year-old child with special needs was arrested and subsequently released within minutes.

The Foyle MLA said:

“A party delegation will meet the PSNI this week to directly raise concerns about reports of heavy-handed policing during a recent police search in the city in which a 14-year-old child with special needs was arrested and subsequently released.

“This vulnerable child has been very badly affected by his ordeal. 

 “The public rightly expects the very highest policing and human rights standards and we will hold the police to account when their actions fail to meet those standards.”

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Louise OR' ReillySinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment,and Workers' Rights Louise O’Reilly has said the government must compensate ‘wet pubs’ which will now have to stay closed following the decision to keep them closed in the interest of public health.

Speaking this morning, Teachta O’Reilly said: “All decisions as regards the reopening of different aspects of the economy must be guided by the advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

“While the decision has been taken in the best interest of public health, the continued closure of these pubs is putting considerable strain on workers and proprietors.

“These ‘wet pubs’ have looked on as other pubs licensed to serve food were allowed to reopen, and they had hoped that they would be issued with similar opening guidelines so they could recommence service.

“This is now the third time that ‘wet pubs’ have had their reopening pushed back, and they have remained closed since March 15th.

“The situation for these pubs - many of them rural - is understandably quite difficult now that reopening has once again been pushed back.

“As the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) have said, ‘the sympathy being expressed by Government figures will not save pub businesses or jobs’.

“These ‘wet pubs’ need a meaningful support package from the state. 

"The government should look at increasing grants for these pubs as well as the extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) for workers in these ‘wet pubs’.

“‘Wet pubs’ may be allowed to reopen in three weeks, at the earliest, with the TWSS to end in less than four weeks. It is therefore important that the government look at elongating the scheme specifically for workers in these pubs.

“In addition, these ‘wet pubs’ should also be issued with additional grand aid of either €12,000 or €25,000 depending on their size.

“Sinn Féin previously proposed these measures in the run-up to the July Stimulus, and the opportunity is still there for the government to act.

“If something is not done for these pubs, then many will simply not be able to reopen and these businesses and the jobs will be lost.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said confirmation from the Economy Minister that she intends to bring forward legislation in the north that will ensure furloughed workers losing their jobs will be eligible for redundancy pay based on their normal wages and not the furlough rate will provide important protection for workers.

The party’s economy spokesperson said: 

“Last week the British government brought forward legislation which will ensure furloughed workers losing their jobs will get their full pay-off and I wrote to the Economy Minister asking if she intended to do something similar here in the north. 

“This correspondence from the Minister outlining that she intends to bring forward similar legislation will help provide important protection for furloughed workers who are facing redundancy as they will be eligible for redundancy pay based on their normal wages and not the furlough rate.  

“While this may be cold comfort to any workers losing their job, it is important that workers get their full entitlements. 

“I also called on her to further improve redundancy pay and entitlements by introducing legislation which would provide redundancy payments of three weeks’ pay per year of service for all age groups and to calculate redundancy payments to include regular overtime payments."

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Mary Lou McDonaldSinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has described today's announcement that sectors of the economy will not reopen in line with the planned roadmap as a major disappointment for workers and employers.

Deputy McDonald re-emphasised the need for caution and to be guided by public health advice. However she stated that the latest setback will increase anxieties in sectors, and additional recovery packages now need to be put in place.

Speaking today, Teachta McDonald said: "The increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks is of great concern and serves as another reminder that the threat of this virus is very real and has not gone away.

"There is a responsibility on all of us to heed the public health advice. Great sacrifices have been made by all to get ahead of this virus to the point where we could start reopening  the economy.

"With every step of reopening the economy comes risk, and we must exercise caution with every step we make.

"We cannot take excessive risks that threaten public health or delay important steps, such as plans to reopen schools.

"I welcome the announcement that face coverings will now be mandatory in shops and shopping centres.

"But this is now the second time pubs have had a false dawn. I completely understand the frustration that employers and employees in this sector feel.

“Many pub owners have spent considerable sums to ensure that they are compliant with social-distancing and hygiene guidelines in anticipation that they would be in a position to reopen next Monday. 

“Sinn Féin has advocated an approach to the opening of this sector based on whether social distancing can be adhered to and measures put in place to ensure cleanliness and good hygiene, while regular checks be carried out to ensure guidelines are being adhered to.

“If the medical advice is that these alternative options are too risky than additional bespoke compensation and recovery packages need to be put in place.

"Public health is our number one priority but there needs to be greater consultation from state bodies with the sector as to the best way forward, or we risk losing businesses and jobs for good."

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